The Inevitable Consequences of Anti-Islam One-upmanship

June 15, 2011, 12:14 pm | Posted by

Monday’s Republican presidential debate included a troubling segment in which all of the candidates (with the notable exception of Mitt Romney) tried outdo the others in proving their “anti-sharia” bona fides.

After Herman Cain tried and failed (again) to explain his support for making any Muslim appointees to his cabinet swear a “loyalty oath,” Newt Gingrich stepped in and pushed the envelope even more, seemingly suggesting a return to the Red Scare mass paranoia tactics of the 1940s and 50s. Think Progress has the video:

GINGRICH: I just want to comment for a second. The Pakistani who emigrated to the U.S. became a citizen, built a car bomb which luckily failed to go off in Times Square was asked by the federal judge, how could he have done that when he signed — when he swore an oath to the United States. And he looked at the judge and said, “You’re my enemy. I lied.” Now, I just want to go out on a limb here. I’m in favor of saying to people, if you’re not prepared to be loyal to the United States, you will not serve in my administration, period. We did this — we did this in dealing with the Nazis and we did this in dealing with the communists. And it was controversial both times, and both times we discovered after a while, you know, there are some genuinely bad people who would like to infiltrate our country. And we have got to have the guts to stand up and say no.

Not only is this horribly offensive and unconstitutional, it doesn’t even make sense. Adam Serwer breaks it down:

So in other words, loyalty oaths are useless, because a genuine radical will simply lie. Gingrich, for some reason, regards this as an argument for making Muslims who want to work in government take special loyalty oaths, rather than an example of how pointless they are.

Every time I think I’ve seen a new low in anti-Muslim babbling, I seem to be proven wrong.

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Signs of Fissure Between GOP Establishment and Religious Right

June 9, 2011, 5:17 pm | Posted by

Last weekend’s Faith and Freedom Coalition conference, intended to unify the Tea Party and conservative Christian wings of the GOP base, interestingly highlighted some latent but emerging fissures between these two camps.

In his opening remarks, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said, “We cannot fix the fiscal until we fix the family.” He also made a less-than-subtle jab at Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, who only just recently announced he would not seek the Republican nomination for president because, as he put it, “In the end, I was able to resolve every competing consideration but one. The interests and wishes of my family, is the most important consideration of all.” From Perkins:

You know, the voices of division cry out that America’s fiscal and economic crisis deserve all of our attention. They argue that government spending, budget deficits, and the national debate are out of control, and other matters are unrelated and must be put aside. One prominent political figure, a man who actually has compiled an impressive record on fiscal issues, educational policy, health care, and other topics even called for a truce on the core social issues. Ironically, the priority of his own family–a priority I commend him for embracing–has dissuaded him from seeking higher office.

Perkin’s use of irony here seems to serve as both a subtle personal dig at Daniels and a disingenuous way to suggest his “truce” represented an abandonment of other families.

Most of the presidential and almost-presidential candidates in attendance at the conference kowtowed to Perkins’ prioritization of social issues. However, Mississippi Governor and political heavyweight Haley Barbour, who like Daniels recently announced his decision not to run for president, made a push for party unity by pointing out that, “statistically speaking,” whichever candidate attendees chose to support likely wouldn’t win the Republican primary. Barbour, who ran against an evangelical Democrat in his 2007 reelection for governor, instead told the crowd:

In political campaigns, in great crusades, in the effort to get our country back on the right track, we got to stay focused on the main thing. The main thing is winning the election. We can’t change the country like we want it unless we win the election. Okay? Remember, purity, in politics, purity is the enemy of victory. Okay?

Barbour’s appeal met with a luke-warm reception from the crowd, and caused a bit of a stir among conference speakers. At an afternoon panel on Catholic grassroots action, Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser pushed back on Barbour’s suggestion by warning that “We could win back the Senate, we could win the White House and if we weaken on the fight for life and marriage, we will lose the entire battle and what will it have been for?” But fellow panelist Deal Hudson, President of Catholic Advocate, echoed Barbour’s sentiment, suggesting the governor was just asking social conservatives not to “start getting into the game of ‘are they pro-life or pro-marriage enough,’ don’t start parsing it too far.”

It will be interesting to see how this tension plays out in the coming Republican primaries and the 2012 election, especially if religious conservatives don’t get their candidate of choice.

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What’s the price of xenophobia? Broken systems?

June 8, 2011, 4:36 pm | Posted by

immigration1.jpgThere’s been a lot of talk inside the Beltway about shifting demographics and the GOP’s short-sighted maneuvering on the immigration issue. They’ve been accused of ginning up xenophobic sentiment to galvanize their political base, without taking into account the fact that they’re alienating potential Hispanic supporters. But in a hopeful sign, a Los Angeles Times story last week indicated that some politically astute Republican leaders are trying to change that.

It’ll be interesting to see whether this comes up on the campaign trail and whether Republicans are forced to take a position on extreme measures like Arizona’s SB-1070, which has produced copycat legislation in a number of states including Alabama, whose recent bill may go even further.

And while Democrats have championed immigration reform and the DREAM Act, frustration is mounting with a flawed law enforcement program called Secure Communities, which links local law enforcement to federal immigration agents in order to identify and remove undocumented immigrants, and has fueled a significant increase in deportations of undocumented immigrants for minor offenses. High-profile cases like Los Angeles and New York state backing out of the program, coupled with a strong New York Times editorial today, are increasing the heat on political leaders of both parties to move beyond broken systems and angry rhetoric towards real solutions.

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Huntsman’s Moral Blindspot on Medicare

June 1, 2011, 2:01 pm | Posted by

huntsman.jpgLikely Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman’s semi-endorsement of Paul Ryan’s budget plan in the Wall Street Journal today contains this interesting line:

I admire Congressman Paul Ryan’s honest attempt to save Medicare. Those who disagree with his approach incur a moral responsibility to propose reforms that would ensure Medicare’s ability to meet its responsibilities to retirees without imposing an unaffordable tax burden on future generations of Americans.

I’m glad to see that Huntsman thinks it’s a moral responsibility for political leaders to ensure Medicare meets its promises to our elderly. But I’m confused as to why he doesn’t extend this same obligation to Ryan himself.

Not only does Ryan’s plan fail to meet this moral imperative, it doesn’t even try. Voucherizing Medicare so seniors have to pay increasingly more for their own care is the exact opposite of “meeting Medicare’s responsibilities.” And don’t Ryan’s drastic tax cuts for top earners make our tax structure less fair for future generations of low and middle income Americans (not to mention middle-class families hit hard today by Ryan’s proposal)?

The reality is that critics of Ryan’s approach have released their own budget alternatives that do make honest efforts to answer these difficult questions. The burden of moral proof is on supporters of plans that ignore or obfuscate these issues for political gain. Huntsman would do well to figure out which is which before he weighs in.

Photo credit Flickr/World Economic Forum

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Corporations or Kids?

May 19, 2011, 2:30 pm | Posted by

When we describe the budget as a moral document, we mean that it necessarily involves crucial choices about where to spend our resources. These choices reflect our moral priorities as a nation.

This ad by the non-profit Vote Kids, running in the presidential campaign states of Iowa and New Hampshire does a great job of boiling that point down to its fundamentals.

Good on them for stressing this point that cuts through the conventional wisdom about spending and debt. Candidates should be morally obliged to explain why we “can’t afford” programs that protect children and families even as we lavish tax breaks on corporations and the rich.

Politicians who support draconian budget cuts are fond of saying that it’s wrong to burden our children with debt. I’d love to hear how they reconcile such concerns with their zeal to destroy programs that help America’s youth prepare for a healthy and prosperous future.

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