Texas

Right Wing Leftovers

  • Former Indiana Congressman Chris Chocola has been tapped as president of the anti-tax group Club for Growth to replace Pat Toomey who is expected to run again Sen. Arlen Specter.
  • Right-wing activists are upset with the new head of the Massachusetts Republican Party for saying that "social issues are personal issues ... I am not legislating anyone's personal views."
  • Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) has joined the hate crimes scaremongering, saying that if the legislation passes pastors, rabbis, or imams could be charged with encouraging or inducing a "hate crime" if they preach against homosexuality.
  • The Susan B. Anthony List claims that its activists sent more than 25,000 letters to the Senate in opposition to Dawn Johnsen.
  • Steve Deace has a lot more questions than answers about how marriage equality came to his home state of Iowa.
  • Gov. Bobby Jindal knocked down rumors that he was going to run for the Senate in a challenge to Sen. David Vitter.
  • Thomas Road Baptist Church has merged with Gleaning for the World, an international relief organization.
  • Michael Steele will not be attending the Log Cabin Republicans' annual convention.
  • Finally, Alan Keyes appears to have ticked off a lot of Ron Paul supporters by claiming to have taught Paul everything he knows about the Federal Reserve.

The Judicial Nominations Fight, Through the Eyes of the Right

World Magazine has a good article on President Obama and the issue of judicial nominations ... and by "good" I mean an exhaustive listing of all of the complaints and concerns Republicans and right-wing judicial activists have about the process and the future of the judiciary:

Conservatives say Obama missed an opportunity to usher in a more conciliatory start to the often contentious judicial nominating process by naming [David] Hamilton ... In nominating Hamilton, Obama ignored a letter from all 42 Republican senators, asking the president to get the process off to a bipartisan start by renominating several of President George W. Bush's blocked nominees. Bush renominated two of President Bill Clinton's stalled choices soon after taking office ... GOP senators had also hoped to use the "blue slip" tradition, which holds that no judicial nominee can come before the Senate without agreement (in the form of a blue slip) from both senators representing that nominee's state. Republicans have at least one senator in 27 states. But the two GOP senators from Texas are already losing a battle to hold onto this privilege as the White House recently signaled its intention to include that state's 12 House Democrats in the screening process.

So it was Obama who missed the opportunity to be conciliatory by not nominating rather than, say, all the Republicans in the Senate who had pre-emptively threatened to filibuster all of Obama's judicial nominees? Nice try.

Furthermore, Obama did not "ignore" their letter - in fact, he obviously took into consideration their demand that the White House "consult with us as it considers possible nominations to the federal courts from our states" because he obviously did so with Republican Senator Richard Lugar, who immediately praised the nomination:

"I enthusiastically support the Senate confirmation of David Hamilton for U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Hamilton has served the Southern District of Indiana with distinction as U.S. District Court Judge," U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar said.

Thirdly, how exactly are the Republican Senators from Texas "losing the battle" to use the "blue slip"?  As we pointed out before, in situations where the President is of one party and both of a state's Senators are from the other, tradition has generally dictated that opposing party Senators play a secondary role in the judicial nomination selection process - and that is what is happening in Texas. If they don't like Obama's nominees, they are still free to refuse to return their blue slips, so in no way can it be said that they at risk of losing this privilege.

In essence, as the article explains, all of these sorts of gripes are aimed primarily at ginning up opposition to Obama's judicial nominees in order to set the stage for a Supreme Court battle and rally Republican forces leading into the mid-term elections:

The ultimate hope among conservative lawmakers is that if Obama overreaches in his judicial picks, then Democrats may face a backlash in the polls during the 2010 Senate races. Such political costs could force Obama to make marginally more moderate picks in future openings, says Ed Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

The article features quotes from a variety of right-wing groups that work on the issue, including Whelan, as well as representatives of the Alliance Defense Fund, Judicial Watch, the Committee for Justice, and the Heritage Foundation ... so if you are looking for a good run-down of just about every right-wing talking point on the judiciary and judicial nominees, this article offers one-stop shopping.

Right Wing Round-Up

  • Dan Gilgoff wonders why Religious Right groups were all but silent about Tony Dungy's invitation to join the Obama administration's faith advisory council.
  • Pam notes that Rick Warren is now coming under attack from right-winger for his "betrayal" on marriage.
  • Andrew Sullivan continues to hammer away at the National Review's anti-marriage equality editorial.
  • Think Progress reports that Texas State Rep. Betty Brown thinks Asian-Americans should change their names because they’re too hard to pronounce.
  • Steve Benen asks a good question: what is Newt Gingrich talking about?
  • Finally, as a follow-up to our earlier post about Morality in Media's Bob Peters, David Corn digs up this fascinating fact:
  • It might be tempting to dismiss Peters and Morality in Media as marginal, but this group did receive federal funding from 2005 through 2007. The money supported a Morality in Media project, ObscenityCrimes.org, which paid two retired law enforcement officers to review citizen complaints about obscenity on the Internet and to forward the best leads to the US Justice Department for possible prosecution. A total of $300,000 was provided to Morality in Media through two earmarks Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) placed into spending bills, according to Peters. And a portion of that money went to cover Peters' salary. As The New York Times reported in 2007, no obscenity prosecutions had resulted from the Morality in Media's obscenity-tracking work.

The End of Christian America?

In recent days there have appeared two pieces that have generated a lot of attention suggesting that the Religious Right days as a political and cultural force are coming to an end.

The first was Kathleen Parker’s column covering the recent skirmish between right-wing radio host Steve Deace and Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family about James Dobson's and Focus on the Family’s support of John McCain’s presidential campaign. In this fight, Parker sees evidence that “the Christian right [might be] finished as a political entity”:

Deace's point was that established Christian activist groups too often settle for lesser evils in exchange for electing Republicans. He cited as examples Dobson's support of Mitt Romney and John McCain, neither of whom is pro-life or pro-family enough from Deace's perspective.

Compromise may be the grease of politics, but it has no place in Christian orthodoxy, according to Deace.

Put another way, Christians may have no place in the political fray of dealmaking. That doesn't mean one disengages from political life, but it might mean that the church shouldn't be a branch of the Republican Party. It might mean trading fame and fortune (green rooms and fundraisers) for humility and charity.

Deace's radio show may be beneath the radar of most Americans and even most Christians, but he is not alone in his thinking. I was alerted to the Deace-Minnery interview by E. Ray Moore -- founder of the South Carolina-based Exodus Mandate, an initiative to encourage Christian education and home schooling. Moore, who considers himself a member of the Christian right, thinks the movement is imploding.

"It's hard to admit defeat, but this one was self-inflicted," he wrote in an e-mail. "Yes, Dr. Dobson and the pro-family or Christian right political movement is a failure; it would have made me sad to say this in the past, but they have done it to themselves."

A somewhat similar article appears as the cover story of the upcoming issue of Newsweek in which author Jon Meacham predicts that the most recent American Religious Identification Survey showing a rise in the number of self-identified non-believers signals that the United States may be moving into a “post-Christian” era:

This is not to say that the Christian God is dead, but that he is less of a force in American politics and culture than at any other time in recent memory. To the surprise of liberals who fear the advent of an evangelical theocracy and to the dismay of religious conservatives who long to see their faith more fully expressed in public life, Christians are now making up a declining percentage of the American population.

Much of Meacham’s piece is predicated on concerns raised by Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who notes that, according to the survey, “the Northeast emerged in 2008 as the new stronghold of the religiously unidentified” which signals that “the historic foundation of America's religious culture was cracking:

"The post-Christian narrative is radically different; it offers spirituality, however defined, without binding authority," [Mohler] told me. "It is based on an understanding of history that presumes a less tolerant past and a more tolerant future, with the present as an important transitional step." The present, in this sense, is less about the death of God and more about the birth of many gods. The rising numbers of religiously unaffiliated Americans are people more apt to call themselves "spiritual" rather than "religious."

Evangelical Christians have long believed that the United States should be a nation whose political life is based upon and governed by their interpretation of biblical and theological principles. If the church believes drinking to be a sin, for instance, then the laws of the state should ban the consumption of alcohol. If the church believes the theory of evolution conflicts with a literal reading of the Book of Genesis, then the public schools should tailor their lessons accordingly. If the church believes abortion should be outlawed, then the legislatures and courts of the land should follow suit. The intensity of feeling about how Christian the nation should be has ebbed and flowed since Jamestown; there is, as the Bible says, no thing new under the sun. For more than 40 years, the debate that began with the Supreme Court's decision to end mandatory school prayer in 1962 (and accelerated with the Roe v. Wade ruling 11 years later) may not have been novel, but it has been ferocious. Fearing the coming of a Europe-like secular state, the right longed to engineer a return to what it believed was a Christian America of yore.

But that project has failed, at least for now. In Texas, authorities have decided to side with science, not theology, in a dispute over the teaching of evolution. The terrible economic times have not led to an increase in church attendance. In Iowa last Friday, the state Supreme Court ruled against a ban on same-sex marriage, a defeat for religious conservatives. Such evidence is what has believers fretting about the possibility of an age dominated by a newly muscular secularism. "The moral teachings of Christianity have exerted an incalculable influence on Western civilization," Mohler says. "As those moral teachings fade into cultural memory, a secularized morality takes their place. Once Christianity is abandoned by a significant portion of the population, the moral landscape necessarily changes. For the better part of the 20th century, the nations of Western Europe led the way in the abandonment of Christian commitments. Christian moral reflexes and moral principles gave way to the loosening grip of a Christian memory. Now even that Christian memory is absent from the lives of millions."

I have to say I find this temptation from commentators to write the Religious Right’s obituary after every Republican electoral setback rather remarkable.  For one thing, as we pointed out not too long ago, these sorts of pieces appear every few years, only to be overtaken a short time later with pieces marveling that the “sudden” and “unexpected” resurgence of the “values voters" crowd. In addition, despite the gloominess from the likes of Mohler and Deace, the Religious Right is more committed than ever to regrouping as a “resistance movement” to fight for its agenda and eventually regain its position as an influential and powerful political and social force.

And that day may come sooner than many realize. While it might seem at the moment that the Religious Right is on its way out, it is important to remember that the GOP has lost exactly one mid-term election and one presidential election and Democrats have controlled Congress and the White House for less than three months.  

Doesn’t anyone else remember all the talk following George W. Bush’s election, and especially his re-election, about the “values voters” and coming of a “permanent Republican majority” which would give the GOP ironclad control over the reigns of government for decades to come?

Remind me again: how did that all work out?  

The point is that political fortunes change … and often change rapidly. It is far, far too early to be declaring the Religious Right to be dead based on two elections and three months of Democratic government.

Frankly, the Religious Right’s political clout has never really been tested and so it is hard to know just if they are losing power because whenever the GOP wins elections, the Right is quick to claim credit for mobilizing grassroots support, but when the GOP loses the Right is quick to chalk the loss up to the party’s failure to embrace the right-wing agenda.

There are really only two scenarios under which predictions about the Right’s demise can reliably be made.  The first is a situation in which the GOP nominates a hard-line, right-wing true believer - someone like Rick Santorum - as its presidential candidate and sees that candidate get destroyed nationwide on Election Day.  The second is if the GOP can manage to actually nominate a presidential candidate who is fundamentally unacceptable to the Right – someone like Rudy Giuliani – and then have that candidate go on to win election to the White House.

But until the GOP nominates a true-believer and loses or right-wing heretic and wins, the Religious Right will continue to maintain a very significant amount of control of one of our nation’s two main political parties … and no amount of punditry announcing its demise will change that fact.

Right Wing Leftovers

  • At a rally for Bob McDonnell, Mike Huckabee trotted out his line urging McDonnell supporters to deflate the tires of Democrats to keep them from going to the polls on election day.
  • Speaking Huckabee, he spoke yesterday at Rider University where he unveiled two new proposals: "He said there should be term limits for members of Congress. And he said senators should once again be elected by state legislatures, not popular vote."
  • Newt Gingrich is predicting that “if the Republicans can’t break out of being the right wing party of big government, then I think you would see a third party movement in 2012.”
  • Mark Levin is refusing to use the term "liberal," insisting instead on the term "statist" for those with whom he disagrees: "These folks are not liberals, because liberal in its classical sense is the opposite of authoritarian. They are the authoritarians — if you listen to them, they constantly speak of the government doing this and the government doing that. They are government-centric, or Statists. They represent the power of a central heavy-handed government against the people."
  • Texas Governor Rick Perry has proclaimed April as Abortion Recovery Awareness Month.

The Unstoppable 77 Foot Cross

Today just seems to be day for weirdly confusing press releases, like this one from The Coming King Foundation that starts playing music as soon as you open the page.  The release announces that TCKF will soon install a "massive, 70 ton, multimillion dollar, 77'7" steel cross" in its Sculpture Prayer Garden but that the actual date of the installation won't be revealed because of "vandalism threats by atheists." Well, that and the fact that there is also a lawsuit:

TCKF Trustees held a meeting with their attorneys, Barbara Cole, Rit Jons and Ken Zysko to discuss a lawsuit that was filed in December of 2008 to prevent the non-profit, Christian arts organization (TCKF) from raising the giant cross in a 300' long, cross-shaped garden, at the highest point of their 23 acre property.

Neighbors of the TCKF property, living along a "one road" rural, unincorporated development, outside the City Limits of Kerrville, filed a Temporary Restraining Order in the 216th District Court of Texas, on 12/8/08, to stop the erection of the unique seven story, cross sculpture, in The Coming King Sculpture Prayer Garden, now under construction.

The lawsuit was filed just weeks before "The Empty Cross"® sculpture was to be erected on its $100,000 concrete foundation. In January 2009, other neighbors, as Interveners, living along Mesa Vista Rd. joined the lawsuit to seek a Permanent Restraining Order to stop the cross from ever being erected on its foundation.

TCKF is apparently building a 23-acre "Sculpture Prayer Garden" that "by the providence of God, is located half way between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans on Interstate 10, at the same latitude as Israel. It also looks like the Holy Land, with its rolling hills, vegetation, vistas, and thousands of genuine, 2.25 ton limestone blocks."

TCKF reports that it has built the garden without borrowing any money or going into debt because "the Garden is being built entirely on faith in God" and the centerpiece will be the massive, $3 million cross in question:

"The Empty Cross"® design may be the most scripturally meaningful, monumental cross sculpture ever created because of its Biblical dimensions and symbolism.

The 140,000 pound (70 ton) Cor-tin steel cross measures 77'7" tall, with a 40' wide cross bar. It has a square footprint like the "Holy of Holies." The 7 foot wide space, in the center of the cross, will allow visitors look up seven stories and receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, literally at the "foot of the cross", if they wish. The red/brown color of the Cor-tin steel represents the shed blood of Jesus. The open, hollow design symbolizes the "Resurrection", the "Light of the World", the "Iron Scepter" the "Door", and the "Narrow Gate" that all must enter to find God.

As for now, the installation of this sculpture is mired in litigation, but is seems that TKF has some pretty powerful and influential figures on its side:

Well-known Christians who have already prayed over the Kerrville Garden project include: Former Governor Mike Huckabee, US Senator, Dr. Bill Frist, Franklin Graham, Dr. James Dobson, Dr. Rick Warren, Dr. Pat Robertson, Dr. Charles Stanley, Dr. Paul Crouch, Josh McDowell, Ken Blanchard, Coach Bill McCartney, Tony Perkins, Bill Johnson, Rick Joyner, Dr. Mahesh & Bonnie Chavda, Joni & Marcus Lamb and Dr. Bill, Vonette and Brad Bright, to name just a few.

Cornyn's Power Grab

Yesterday I wrote a post noting that Republican Senators John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas were refusing to relinquish control over the state's process of selecting judicial nominations, forcing state Democrats to go over their heads and get the White House to issue a statement declaring that "no federal judge, U.S. attorney or U.S. marshal will be nominated by the president ... unless that person has the confirmed support of the Texas Democratic delegation."

Yesterday, Cornyn and Hutchison both responded by saying that they were looking forward to working with the White House and the state delegation in the new process, but now Cornyn has changed his tune to "drop dead":

A day after the White House said it will consider only those Texas judicial nominees who get the nod from Texas Democrats in Congress, Sen. John Cornyn refused to be bypassed.

"The day that we elect a Democrat to the United States Senate in Texas, they are entitled to function as they would with a Democratic president," he said Thursday. "I'm not going to delegate my responsibility to anybody else."

Cornyn says he intends to have Obama’s judicial nominees be screened by the committee that he and Hutchison have always used in evaluating nominees – a committee he admits is "heavily stacked with Republican lawyers."

And why is that? Because he doesn't want the selection process "to be viewed as a partisan exercise" and this is the only way he can "depoliticize the nomination process."

So when there was a Republican in the White House, Cornyn, Hutchison, and a bunch of Republican lawyers controlled the judicial selection process because that is what the people of Texas elected them to do ... but now that there is a Democrat in the White House, Cornyn, Hutchison, and a bunch of Republican lawyers must maintain control over the process in order "depoliticize the nomination process."

Of course, a more effective way to "depoliticize the nomination process" would be for Cornyn to relinquish control of the process as dictated by custom, as the Congressional Research Service explained just last year [PDF]:

By custom, when neither of a state’s Senators is of the President’s party, the primary role in recommending candidates for district court judgeships is assumed by officials in the state who are of the President’s party. Historically, in the absence of a Senator of the President’s party, the state official or officials who most frequently have exercised the judicial “patronage” function have been the most senior member, or one of the most senior members, of the party’s House of Representatives delegation, the House party delegation as a whole, the governor, or state party officials. In any given state, one of these officials may exercise the recommending function exclusively, or share it with one or more of the others.

...

[A]t the start of presidency of George W. Bush, a Republican, in January 2001, the new Administration looked to other than senatorial sources for advice on judicial candidates in states having two opposition party Senators. The Legal Times reported that in “the 18 states where both senators are Democrats, Bush will be getting advice on potential nominees from a high-ranking Republican House member or the state’s Republican governor" ... By custom, the role of a state’s Senators in judicial candidate selection, when neither is of the President’s party, is secondary to the role of those officials discussed above, who actually choose candidates to recommend to the President. Customarily, in these circumstances, the state’s Senators, if they are consulted by state officials of the President’s party, are consulted for their reactions to candidates under consideration, but not for their own preferences. Where consultations of this sort are done in good faith, negative as well as positive feedback from the Senators would be welcomed, but typically they would not be called upon to make their own candidate recommendations.

 

White House Sets Texas' Senators Straight On the Judicial Selection Process

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about judicial nominations that linked to this Congressional Research Service report from last year entitled "Role of Home State Senators in the Selection of Lower Federal Court Judges" [PDF]. It contained a variety of information on how the judicial selection process works for the various courts under different scenarios, one of which is how it has traditionally been carried out when the President is of one party and both of a state's Senators are from the other.  In such cases, explained CRS, the Senators played a secondary role in the selection process:

By custom, when neither of a state’s Senators is of the President’s party, the primary role in recommending candidates for district court judgeships is assumed by officials in the state who are of the President’s party. Historically, in the absence of a Senator of the President’s party, the state official or officials who most frequently have exercised the judicial “patronage” function have been the most senior member, or one of the most senior members, of the party’s House of Representatives delegation, the House party delegation as a whole, the governor, or state party officials. In any given state, one of these officials may exercise the recommending function exclusively, or share it with one or more of the others.

...

[A]t the start of presidency of George W. Bush, a Republican, in January 2001, the new Administration looked to other than senatorial sources for advice on judicial candidates in states having two opposition party Senators. The Legal Times reported that in “the 18 states where both senators are Democrats, Bush will be getting advice on potential nominees from a high-ranking Republican House member or the state’s Republican governor" ... By custom, the role of a state’s Senators in judicial candidate selection, when neither is of the President’s party, is secondary to the role of those officials discussed above, who actually choose candidates to recommend to the President. Customarily, in these circumstances, the state’s Senators, if they are consulted by state officials of the President’s party, are consulted for their reactions to candidates under consideration, but not for their own preferences. Where consultations of this sort are done in good faith, negative as well as positive feedback from the Senators would be welcomed, but typically they would not be called upon to make their own candidate recommendations.

Apparently, the two Republican Senators from Texas weren't aware that the White House had switched hands and were refusing to cede control of the process, forcing state Democrats to go over their heads and get the White House to put them in their place:

After laboring in the shadows of George W. Bush and Tom DeLay for most of the last decade, Texas Democrats got a fresh taste of relevance Tuesday when the White House publicly declared them the victors in a power play over judicial nominees.

For years, the state's Republican senators screened applicants for lifetime spots on the federal bench in Texas and for powerful U.S. attorney posts. As recently as last week, they refused to cede that prerogative and claimed the administration was behind them.

That left Texas Democrats – the third-largest delegation of Democrats on Capitol Hill – steamed enough to summon the president's top lawyer, Greg Craig, and insist on public reassurance that Democrats get to pick judges under a Democratic administration.

After he got an earful for 75 minutes Monday, his office issued a clarification.

"No federal judge, U.S. attorney or U.S. marshal will be nominated by the president ... unless that person has the confirmed support of the Texas Democratic delegation," the White House said Tuesday.

Both senators now say they are looking forward to working with the White House and the state delegation in the process but are reminding everyone that "they still have the power to hold up nominees they don't care for:"

The senators implicitly threatened to block nominees if they're bypassed or disapprove of candidates who emerge from the Democrats' process.

So don't be surprised if Republicans and right-wing judicial activists now start citing this change as further evidence that the White House and Democrats are creating a contentious and counterproductive atmosphere around the issue of judicial nominations.

Right Wing Leftovers

  • WorldNetDaily reports that "Birther" Orly Taitz flew and drove thousands of miles to confront Chief Justice John Roberts about why the Supreme Court continually refuses to hear their cases and Roberts responded by promising to read all of her documents.
  • Texas Governor Rick Perry will be joined by Gary Bauer for the 2009 State Prayer Breakfast where Bauer will be delivering the keynote address.
  • Could Norm Coleman really be in line to take over the RNC if Michael Steele is ousted?  Could we be that lucky?
  • Tullian Tchividjian has officially been chosen as the next pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, replacing the late D. James Kennedy. As such, it seems worth highlighting this: "Kennedy's preaching against homosexuality and abortion made him one of evangelical Christianity's most divisive figures, and he worked to inject his faith in all aspects of public life and the political process, like his allies the Rev. Pat Robertson and the Rev. Jerry Falwell. Tchividjian insists he holds the same theological positions as Kennedy, but he cuts a far different image."
  • If I were the type to employ the right-wing tactic of taking isolated incidents to make sweeping generalizations, I'd probably have a field day with these two incidents.
  • Finally, the Traditional Values Coalition has announced that it is launching its own blog ... and presumably they'll even get it to actually work at some point.

 

Right Wing Leftovers

  • As expected, President Barack Obama overturned the Bush administration ban on using federal funds for embryonic stem cell research.  Needless to say, the Religious Right is livid: FRC called it a "slap in the face"; Gary Bauer called it "a tragedy"; Operation Rescue called it "morally, unethical and fiscally irresponsible"; and others weighed in as well.
  • It looks like Mitt Romney's appearance at the Club for Growth conference didn't go so well.
  • Human Events reports that Sen. John Thune is the point person for the GOP outreach to conservative groups and regularly meets with the likes of the ACLJ and others.
  • Rob Schenck reports that he has been invited to address a "working session of Christian leaders and other community activists working to preserve traditional marriage in the state of Maryland [that] will meet in the Maryland State Capitol at the invitation of State Delegate Don Dwyer."
  • Chuck Norris announces that he may run for president of Texas and declares that, this Friday, "thousands of cell groups will be united around the country in solidarity over the concerns for our nation."
  • Quote of the Day honors go to Tom McClusky of the Family Research Council: "The Republicans need to take a step back from the big-tent philosophy. All a big tent does is attract a lot of clowns."
  • Finally, the New York Times profiled 14 year-old conservative wunderkind Jonathan Krohn, who declared Barack Obama "the most left-wing president in my lifetime." Matthew Yglesias had a good response to Krohn's sudden stardom:
  • I really struggle to understand why this particular gimmick appeals to conservatives. What does it accomplish to put a 14 year-old front and center at CPAC? What’s the message it’s supposed to send? That the conservative message is childish? That the right’s talking points can be easily mastered by a 14 year-old? That the CPAC audience doesn’t care about the knowledge-base of the speakers there, they just want to hear certain ritual beats repeated? I wouldn’t want to claim that liberals are so high-minded as to be above all that, but I’m hard-pressed to think of an example of liberals trying to flaunt disdain for knowledge and expertise.

An Epic Battle Brewing in Texas

We've covered the forthcoming showdown between Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry and Texas Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison a few times already, primarily to note that state-level Religious Right figures like David Barton and Rick Scarborough have already started to line up behind Perry in what is shaping up to be an epic and nasty primary as Hutchison challenges Perry in the GOP's gubernatorial primary.

Today, Politico reports that players on the ground are expecting a battle like nothing they have ever seen:

Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison hasn’t formally announced she’s running for governor, but Texas Republicans are nevertheless gearing up for a knock-down, drag-out 2010 primary brawl between Hutchison and Gov. Rick Perry, a race that will pit the nation’s longest-serving sitting governor against one of its most popular statewide politicians.

Perry’s campaign has already slammed Hutchison as “Kay Bailout Hutchison” because of her support for President George W. Bush’s bailout legislation last year — and Perry’s State of the State address last month focused on the Republican Party’s failures in Washington. It was reported that a Perry operative was recently digging into City Hall documents in search of unfavorable information about Hutchison’s husband, a prominent bond attorney.

Hutchison’s camp has returned fire by portraying Perry as an ineffectual executive who has worn out his welcome in Texas.Even Sarah Palin has gotten into the act, endorsing Perry and suggesting Hutchison was not sufficiently opposed to abortion rights.

“The level of animosity between these two is unbelievable. In a business that thrives on animosity, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. This is going to be a war,” said one senior GOP operative from Texas. “The governor doesn’t like being nudged out, and the senator believes she’s entitled to the governorship — she gave the guy a chance four years ago.”

“This is one of those races where people avert their gaze, because it portends to be so ugly and nasty that a lot of people don’t want to have much to do with it,” added longtime Texas Republican pollster David Hill.

A recent poll shows Hutchison leading Perry by twenty-five points, and so Perry has gotten to work shoring up support from the state's right-wing base:

Part of Perry’s strategy is to render her unacceptable to conservative voters who traditionally make up a large share of the primary electorate. He recently spoke at an anti-abortion rally, where he touted his support of legislation that would require doctors to show women seeking an abortion a sonogram.

He recently drew headlines as one of several Southern governors who threatened to turn down a portion of the stimulus money directed to their states.

“Perry is clearly catering to the hard-core conservatives. These are people that dominate at the state party level,” said [James Henson, the director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas.]

As Mark McKinnon, the media adviser to former President Bush, put it: "This will be a hall of fame Texas political brawl. Even if you don’t have a favorite, this is a race that will be entertaining just to hear the shoulder pads crack.”

Right Wing Round-Up

Today's best reporting on the Right from around the web:

  • Think Progress has video of "Joe the Plumber" suggesting that some members of Congress ought to be shot.
  • Speaking of Joe, Steve Benen reports that, despite the fact that he seems to be the face of the conservative movement these days, nobody actually cares what he has to say.
  • RH Reality Check explains how the Arkansas legislature just rammed through "Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act" by declaring "an emergency and proclaimed the passage of the bill immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health, and safety."
  • MY DD takes a look at the ad being run by the global warming deniers at Americans for Prosperity featuring the founder of The Weather Channel.
  • Pam reports on Colorado State Sen. Dave Schultheis, who wants babies to get AIDS because it'll demonstrate the negative consequences of promiscuity. Seriously.
  • Is Barack Obama Hitler or the Antichrist?  Crooks and Liars posts a Daily Show video arguing that he is, in fact, both.
  • The Washington Blade reports that donations from the Gill Action Fund made up nearly one-third of the Log Cabin Republican's budget, which is news that is sure to only sharpen the Right's opposition to the group.
  • The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that the Youth for Western Civilization, which was co-sponsor of CPAC and even held its own reception during the conference, has a variety of ties to white nationalist groups.
  • Finally, the Texas Freedom Network reports that the right-wing Free Market Foundation is looking for a new name and offers up several possible suggestions.

Right Wing Round-Up

Today's best reporting on the Right from around the web:

  • RH Reality Check notes that, despite the fact that abstinence-only program are "an unmitigated disaster, proven ineffective in study after study," they are still receiving funding in federal budgets.
  • On a related note, Sarah Posner highlights this new Texas Freedom Network report on the dire state of sex-ed in the Lone Star State.
  • Think Progress reports that the Log Cabin Republicans are not happy with Michael Steele's statement that you'd have to be "crazy" to support civil unions.
  • Good as You posts a letter from ProtectMarriage.com asking for donations because they are under attack from Hollywood and liberal activists like Sean Penn.
  • Finally, CREW has filed an ethics complaint against Sen. Sam Brownback over the fund-raising letter sent out by his allies, saying by "deliberately attempting to mislead recipients of Catholic Advocates’ fundraising appeal into believing they have received a letter from Sen. Brownback in his official capacity, Sen. Brownback has engaged in improper conduct which may reflect upon the Senate."

CPAC is Coming, Lower Your Expectations

The Washington Times reports that organizers of this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference are expecting record turn-out this year as the movement tries to get its act together after seeing its Republican allies tossed out of office during the last several elections:

CPAC is expected to draw nearly 9,000 activists and college students from across the country, up from the record 7,000 who attended last year, when the main attractions were personal appearances by President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and the four remaining Republican presidential nomination hopefuls - former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

American Conservative Union Chairman David Keene says that CPAC is an opportunity for movement leaders to find ways to overcome its current problems and win back the trust of voters … and he sees hope for them all in the fact that GOP is, at the moment, exhibiting an ability to stay on message:

“In calling President Obama's $787 billion plan a 'spending' rather than a 'stimulus' package, the Republican Party finally is showing signs of doing a better job of formulating its message,” Mr. Keene told reporters at the National Press Club on Tuesday.

If Republicans voting essentially in lock-step in opposition to President Obama’s efforts to ameliorate our current economic crisis because it was a “spending” bill rather than a “stimulus” bill is their best evidence that things are turning around for them, then it look like they are going to be wandering in the political wilderness for several election cycles to come.

Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations.

Anyway, CPAC starts tomorrow and the American Family Association will be streaming it live, so you’ll be able to watch it here.

One last thing, I am the only one who finds the AFA's choice of image for its CPAC site a little odd:

Was Mitt Romney's speech dropping out of the presidential race really the highlight of last year's event? How sad is that?

Hutchison Leading Perry in Texas Poll

A few weeks ago, we noted that several right-wing leaders in Texas were targeting Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison as she prepares for her primary challenge against current Republican governor Rick Perry, calling Perry a stalwart champion of the pro-life movement while comparing Hutchison to Barack Obama and blasting her for transferring funds from her Senate campaign to her gubernatorial campaign.

The attacks on Hutchison have been rather low-level to this point, coming mostly from second-stringers like David Barton and Rick Scarborough.  But that will probably change once this starts to get around:

Gov. Rick Perry appears to be wearing out his welcome in Texas, and starts out as the underdog against Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.), according to a new poll.

The Public Policy Polling poll shows Hutchison leading Perry, 56 to 31 percent, in the Republican primary. Hutchison has sky-high approval ratings, with 76 percent of Texans approving of her, with only 15 percent disapproving.

Perry’s approval ratings are also solid, with 60 percent approving and 27 percent disapproving.

But among voters who approve of both Perry and Hutchison, Hutchison leads by 16 points, 49 to 33 percent.

“Rick Perry is in grave danger of losing in the primary,” said PPP pollster Dean Debnam. “It’s partly because he’s worn out his welcome with a certain segment of the Republican electorate, but the even bigger reason is that Kay Bailey Hutchison is just a lot more popular than him.”

It is probably safe to assume that the Right's "stop Hutchison" effort will start to ramp up now that it looks like she might actually have a chance to knock off one of their leading allies.

Right Wing Leftovers

  • Focus on the Family Action has launched a petition drive calling on Congress and President Barack Obama to prevent taxpayer money from funding the abortion industry.
  • Speaking of Focus, the organization is also upset about the marriage of two women on the soap opera "All My Children."
  • Liberty University School of Law hosted Howard Phillips, founder and chairman of The Conservative Caucus (TCC) as well as the Constitution Party, who was praised by Jerry Falwell, Jr. for being "instrumental in encouraging Liberty students to become involved in politics."
  • Personhood USA reports that seven states have introduced bills affirming the personhood rights of pre-born humans from the moment of fertilization.
  • "Atheists Attack in Texas!" So says the Free Market Foundation.
  • What does it mean that Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seeger both performed during the Inauguration ceremonies? Nothing, except that they are both communists and Seeger is a Unitarian Universalist, which is "a false religion that emphasizes tolerance and respect."
  • Finally, Tobin Grant, an associate professor of political science at Southern Illinois University — Carbondale, asks if the stimulus bill is "anti-religious." No, it is not, he says:
  • However, the language in the stimulus bill is neither new nor unusual, since restrictions have been part of federal higher education policy for over 40 years. Rather than inhibit religion, these restrictions make possible federal funding to religious colleges and universities ... The only facilities that would not qualify are chapels, church buildings, and others that are most often used for explicitly religious purposes. The key is to define the primary purpose of a facility. If its purpose is religious teaching or worship, then the building is ineligible. If the facility is used for classes, housing, or study, however, then it can be renovated using funds from the stimulus bill.

The Right In Disarray As Lay-Offs Loom

CQ has a good article noting that both the fiscal conservatives and the social conservatives, two of the core segments of the Republican Party’s base, are in disarray and see no figure on the horizon at the moment who is capable of unifying either movement, much less bringing them together.  In fact, about the only option they have at the moment is to come together in opposition to President Obama and try to derail his political agenda: 

Other movement leaders, such as former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, a Texas Republican who now chairs the grass-roots small-government group FreedomWorks, are dismayed over the $700 billion financial industry bailout, pushed last year by President George W. Bush and supported in the end by almost half the Republicans in the House and two out of three from the GOP in the Senate. “It’s a dangerous time for fiscal conservatism,” he said.

Indeed, many conservatives say they have little hope that congressional Republican leaders will carry their standard, said Richard Viguerie, the conservative direct-mail guru who helped stir the Reagan revolution in 1980. “Who in the world is ever going to follow Mitch McConnell? Who is going to follow John Boehner?” Viguerie asked in reference to the party’s Senate and House floor leaders. “They look weak. They talk weak, and they have no plan or vision.”

Social conservatives such as Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, say Bush was hardly better on their issues. Apart from his down-the-line opposition to abortion rights, Perkins says, Bush was “not a consistent conservative.”

Most movement leaders are arguing for a return to what they see as the tried-and-true conservative game plan of limited government and traditional values. Most of all, they want congressional Republicans to stand up to the new president. That’s why Perkins is among the movement leaders taking heart in the House stimulus vote. “It was the first time in the six years I’ve been in Washington that the Republicans have stood with the conservatives,” he said.

CQ also reports that right-wing groups are in even deeper trouble at the moment because, traditionally, advocacy groups see their donations increase whenever a president representing the opposing ideology is elected. But that is not happening this time around, thanks to the current economic crisis, and now groups like the Family Research Council might be forced to actually downsize: 

If moderate voices don’t knock over the hard-liners, financial pressures might. Often a shift in power in Washington benefits interest groups of the opposite ideology, as was the case for conservative advocates after Bill Clinton was elected in 1992 and for liberal groups after Bush won in 2000. In each case, fired-up partisans increased their donations to interest groups that pledged to fight the new president. But such donor enthusiasm has yet to materialize for conservatives since Obama’s victory.

For example, two weeks after the November election, Focus on the Family, the Colorado Springs-based conservative group, announced it was cutting a fifth of its workforce, or more than 200 employees. The move followed a staff reduction of nearly 50 in September. Now, Perkins says, the Family Research Council may soon follow suit because its revenues are down 15 percent from the previous year.

Targeting Hutchison, Deep in the Heart of Texas

In yesterday's Right Wing Leftovers, I mentioned that both Phyllis Schlafly and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison are scheduled to speak at the Denton County [Texas] Republican Party's annual Lincoln-Reagan dinner in a week or so.

I thought that seemed odd because hard-line Religious Right leaders, like Rick Scarborough, are currently livid that Hutchison is planning on challenging current Republican Governor Rick Perry because they see her as insufficiently right-wing, primarily on reproductive choice issues. But I couldn't find anything from Schlafly or the Eagle Forum going after Hutchison on this, so I didn't mention it. 

But now I see that Matt Lewis at Townhall is reporting that Texas Eagle Forum president Cathie Adams has teamed up with David Barton to undermine Hutchison's primary bid:

Pro-life Activists in Texas, including Texas Eagle Forum President and RNC Committeewoman Cathie Adams and WallBuilders Founder and President David Barton, are also weighing in on the issue by pointing the differences between Rick Perry and Kay Bailey Hutchinson.

An email recently distributed by the two says: “Senator Hutchinson served for many years as an Honorary Advisory Board Member of the WISH List, whose mission is to raise money to identify, train, and elect pro-abortion Republican women at all levels of Government.”

And an accompanying flier notes that, “Governor Perry has always been active in the pro-life movement," and that "Senator Hutchinson supports legal abortion until viability and has called for the removal or weakening of the pro-life plank of the Republican party.”

The biting part is that the flier compares and contrasts John Cornyn and Rick Perry's conservative records versus Kay Bailey Hutchinson -- who is closely compared to President Barack Obama.

That ought to make for some interesting conversation at the Lincoln-Reagan Dinner, since Schlafly just happens to be the national head of the Eagle Forum, who's state affiliate is now attacking Hutchison by comparing her to Barack Obama. 

On a related note, Lewis also linked to this video Rick Scarborough released last month blasting Hutchison for daring to run for Governor and demanding that she return all the donations she received for her Senate campaign:

Right Wing Leftovers

  • Former McCain adviser Meg Whitman plans to run for Governor in California, while Joe Scarborough suggests he might be interested in running for the Senate from Florida.
  • Elaine Donnelly says that if "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is repealed, President Obama "will bear full responsibility for consequences that would devastate the volunteer force."
  • Norm Coleman says God wants him to be in the US Senate.
  • Phyllis Schlafly and Kay Bailey Hutchison are both scheduled to speak at the Denton County [Texas] Republican Party's annual Lincoln-Reagan dinner.
  • You know what America needs now? A conservative answer to Doonesbury published by Richard Viguerie.
  • Grover Norquist is angry that some Governors did not declare last Friday "Ronald Reagan Day" and is accusing them of putting "pusillanimous petty partisanship above patriotism."
  • Finally, Richard Land responds to reports that President Obama will issue an executive order reversing President Bush's ban on federal funds for stem cell research, likening it to cannibalism:
  • Reduced to its basics, killing the tiniest human beings in their embryonic stage of development for the possible medical benefits of older and more developed human beings is quite simply high-tech cannibalism in which we devour our own young for the sole purpose of treating other human beings who are merely fortunate enough to be older and able to defend themselves in a way the tiniest human beings are not.

$200,000 Later, Liberty Legal Gets Back to Basics

Back in September, we wrote a couple of posts noting that the Liberty Legal Institute, a right-wing Texas law firm, was trying to shut down the "Troopergate" probe involving Sarah Palin in order to protect John McCain's presidential campaign. 

Now, the Anchorage Daily News reports that LLI spent nearly $200,000 on the effort:

New state gift disclosures show it cost Liberty Legal Institute and the two law firms working with it $185,000 to represent six Alaska legislators in an unsuccessful lawsuit to halt their colleagues' "troopergate" investigation into whether Gov. Sarah Palin acted improperly in firing the state's public safety director.

The legislators listed a $25,000 gift of services from the Texas-based Liberty Legal Institute. Liberty is the legal arm of the Free Market Foundation, which is associated with evangelical leader James Dobson's Focus on the Family, and lists its guiding principles as limited government and promotion of Judeo-Christian values.

The lawmakers also disclosed a $120,000 gift of services from Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, a national firm that appeared at hearings on behalf of Liberty Legal.

Anchorage attorney Kevin Clarkson represented the six legislators in the case as well, and turned to Liberty Legal for its constitutional expertise. The lawmakers reported a $40,000 gift of services from Clarkson's firm.

That brings the total bill for their lawsuit to $185,000.

The attorneys had hoped to recoup legal fees in a victory. But the suit was dismissed last fall.

The six legislators who filed the suit are Wes Keller, Mike Kelly, Fred Dyson, Tom Wagoner, Carl Gatto and Bob Lynn. All are Republicans.

And speaking of Liberty Legal, Kelly Shackelford, who heads the organization, was just featured on Focus on the Family's CitizenLink website warning its readers that President Obama and the Democrats in Congress are going to destroy their religious freedom by passing the Freedom of Choice Act, repealing DOMA, the Fairness Doctrine, hate crimes legislation and, most ominously, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act:

It essentially forces a national homosexual-rights law into businesses across the country. The original bill included "transgendered" individuals — in other words, a man who dresses like a woman, who feels like he’s a woman that day. This would affect everything. It would mean your teacher in your child’s school, if they were a male and felt like a female, they could go into the women’s bathroom.

It’s very extreme, but it is very likely to pass, and it has huge implications on religious liberty. There are a lot of Christian businesses that try to follow their beliefs and morality, and it would be the federal government forcing their view of morality on everybody and it would trump religious freedom.

It’s not just Christian businesses; it would even do it to nonprofit organizations. It would even affect, depending upon the exemption, church schools. So you can see how invidious this could be because it really is a direct attack on religious freedom.

While we understand Shackelford's fear-mongering on these issues - it is LLI's core mission, after all - we have yet to see a convincing explanation of how this mission was furthered by having this right-wing Texas organization drop a couple of hundred thousand dollars defending Republican legislators in Alaska in order to protect Sarah Palin.

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