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Saturday, April 16, 2005

IS THERE SOMETHING IN THE WATER?

By: Thomas McKelvey Cleaver

It's long been the belief not only of political scientists but those who practice practical politics that the American two-party political system works as it does because the Democrats and Republicans try their best to calibrate and aim their messages to appeal to the median voter, those in the broad middle of the political spectrum. It has long been argued that this sort of centrist moderation was created by the fact we have a two-party system.

If it wasn't clear before last November's election, it's clear now that the Republicans are no longer appealing to the median voters. Instead, they are adopting policies, strategies and tactics that feed the fires of their core constituencies: the neo-conservatives, the unilateralists and - most especially of late - the fundamentalists. The GOP's amazing behavior during the Schiavo case, the recent legislative moves for tort and bankruptcy "reform," and their now-open threats against the federal judiciary, are all designed to "excite" their hard core constituencies. While the Democrats continue to believe in the median-voter theory - as advanced most notably by the Democratic Leadership Council and the "liberal people of faith" who call for the party to pay attention to the religious-minded - the Republicans are playing a totally new game, the extremist-activist game. This portends an ever widening, more acrimonious political gulf in America. Bush and his "brain" Karl Rove, have decided that they can govern from the right, that they do not need to practice bipartisanship beyond empty rhetoric and appeals for cooperation that amount to surrender. More and more, George Bush appears willing to be the President of half of America.

The fundamentalists, being fundamentalists, have taken the GOP (which some of them refer to as "God's Own Party") at its word that they were responsible for the re-election of George Bush and are now demanding their pound of flesh. The President has demonstrated his willingness to cut short a vacation for the first time in his presidency and fly across country to at least act as if he is at the beck and call of these people, which only makes them more resolute in pushing forward their demands.

Phyllis Schlafly, Grande Dame of the looney right, has left no opportunity untaken in a career spanning the past 40-odd years to remain on the cutting edge of the Far Far Right. From her days as a John Bircher writing "None Dare Call It Treason" (which many of us at the time called "None Dare Call It Reason") for the Goldwater Campaign, to organizing the fight against feminism and the Equal Rights Amendment, to today when she most recently appeared at the "Justice Conference" in Washington that saw far right activists applauding a speaker who lauded the political strategy of none other than Josef Stalin for dealing with political dissent: kill the opponent and end the dissent. Schlafly herself spoke against judicial review - a concept that was first discussed in "Federalist 78" and has been considered a settled part of government since it was enunciated in "Marbury v. Madison" the Supreme Court decision in 1803 that established the right of the courts to review the actions of both the Executive and the Legislative Branches.

What makes me wonder if there's "something in the water" is that since November the Crazy Right has been making itself more and more public, with increasingly-crazy ideas. And with much of the mainstream media treating them as if they weren't the drooling morons they are, it seems to make no never-mind to them that when they force the government to act on their demands, the public response is 80 percent disapproval of such efforts.

This past week, the ever-more-crazed House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay, was quoted as saying, "I blame Congress over the last 50 to 100 years for not standing up and taking its responsibility given to it by the Constitution. The reason the judiciary has been able to impose a separation of church and state that's nowhere in the Constitution is that Congress didn't stop them. The reason we had judicial review is because Congress didn't stop them. The reason we had a right to privacy is because Congress didn't stop them."

This is absolutely amazing stuff. The second most senior individual in the House of Representatives is campaigning against the First Amendment, "Marbury v. Madison," and "Griswold v. Connecticut." This is the bedrock foundation of what most people consider American freedom to be, that he is assaulting.

Not only is DeLay willing to campaign against the 20th Century, but the Senator Majority Leader has announced he plans to participate in a campaign run by the literal descendants of the creators and defenders of "Jim Crow," calling judicial review an act of "discrimination" against Christians that is as odious as was the decision in "Plessy v. Ferguson," that established the doctrine of "separate but equal." It was these same "people of faith" were involved in the fight against the Court's decision in "Brown v. Board of Education" that overturned segregation (let's recall that the Southern Baptists were formed in 1859 to defend slavery when the rest of the Baptist movement favored emancipation). Whether they admit it publicly or not, most leaders of the Christian Right agreed with Trent Lott when he lamented that "many of today's problems" wouldn't exist if Americans had voted to elect the unreconstructed Confederate traitor Strom Thurmond President in 1948. That these unreconstructed Confederates would now try to compare themselves to Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. - both of whom they still hate - is the height of hypocrisy.

Shortly after the election, I was out at my favorite aviation museum, a place I have enjoyed going to for nearly 30 years. While there, I heard another visitor say that "fossils and stuff like that don't really exist, they were put in the earth by God to test our faith." What surprised me was that no one else who heard this said anything. When I replied "I guess the laws of aerodynamics don't really exist either then, it must be true that airplanes fly because angels hold them up in the sky," I was lectured by a bystander that it's not nice to mock someone's religion.

These people are bolder and bolder. Every poll shows they are no more than 15 percent of the population - at most! - yet they proclaim themselves the mainstream majority and the ones most fit to rule.

In an electoral system where only 48 percent of those who are eligible to vote actually do so - and in which all of this 15 percent of the total turns out to vote en masse - that minority becomes 30 percent of all the voters. With this kind of math, the Republicans who have made their deal with this most dangerous faction in the country can indeed be the majority in both House and Senate, despite the fact that 80 of the American people disagree with them.

This situation happened once before in a democratic country. In 1933. In Germany.

Article added at 8:42 PM EDT
Thursday, April 14, 2005

RUSS FEINGOLD SMELLS THE COFFEE

By: Thomas McKelvey Cleaver

As the vote gets closer in the Senate for the first of the judicial re-nominees who were rejected by the Senate in the last Congress, with the danger escalating that this individual will get his seat on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Senator Russell Feingold has finally woken up and smelled the morning coffee.

The nominee is William G. Myers III, and the issue that has awakened the good Senator is perjury.

To me, the question is: how in hell did the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee miss this back on March 1, when they participated in the show hearings orchestrated by Committee Chairman Arlen Spector as part of his effort to rehabilitate himself to the far right and demonstrate he was indeed worthy of inheriting the committee chairmanship and not one of them questioned Mr. Myers - despite the fact that the information regarding his having perjured himself to the same committee a year ago in his original hearings had been common knowledge around Washington following a stinging critique of the Robbins Settlement issued nearly a month before the second confirmation hearing by Earl Devaney, the Inspector General of the Interior Department, which specifically mentioned the involvement of Myers in the settlement. Were the staffers asleep? What were the eight Democrats on the committee doing?

William G. Myers III was approved by the committee on a party-line vote, 10-8, with only a single question about the Robbins Settlement agreement and his role therein being asked, in answer to which he modified his previous statement by saying he had "brief conversations with Mr. Comer several times during the negotiations," but continuing to claim he had not had any role in approving the settlement. As I noted before, even Republican Senators are rumored to dislike nominees who lie to them under oath to their faces. Had Feingold made an issue of Myers and his previous lies, and questioned him about it to greater length at this second hearing, it is likely the vote would have been different with Myers getting a bipartisan rejection, and Feingold wouldn?t be forced to play catch-up ball now with the possibility of Myers' nomination coming to a vote on the Senate floor in the nest week or so.

Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the committee, is also said to be reviewing the information about Myers. Normally, Leahy and his staff are all over things like this, which leaves this observer scratching his head and wondering - were all the Democrats sound asleep that day?

So, what is that information? What perjury did Myers commit last year?

Specifically, he was asked in February 2004 if he had any knowledge about the Robbins Settlement, prior to reading about it in July 2003, and he answered that he had not had any involvement in negotiating or approving the settlement. (For information on what exactly the Robbins Settlement involves, go read my article The Coming Nuclear War In The United States Senate

Henry Robbins' lawyer Karen Budd-Falen, has made public a memo, including a fax, that "raises questions" about the accuracy of Mr. Myers' response. The fax - sent by Robert Comer, the Interior Department lawyer Myers had authorized to make the settlement, was sent to Myers, several other government officials, and Ms. Budd-Falen on November 13, 2002. In the cover letter of the 17-page proposed settlement, Comer asked the officials - including Myers - if they wanted to make "any other changes to the settlement agreement" that was attached.

Environmental groups opposed to the Robbins Settlement have obtained Myers' calendar records, which show that he and Comer discussed the proposed settlement on November 21, 2002, eight days after the faxed proposal was sent. According to Myers, the discussion was simply an opportunity for Comer to tell him he was "still negotiating" the settlement, which was signed six days later.

As Ms. Budd-Falen pointed out in releasing the memo, "Myers had full knowledge of the settlement agreement and all of its terms" before the agreement was finalized. This memo directly contradicts his statement during his original nomination hearings in February 2004.

So now the Republicans, in their war to put "good" judges in office, are supporting a perjurer. But then, to a "movement conservative," lying to support the cause is merely the act of a good soldier.





Article added at 12:36 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, April 14, 2005 12:45 AM EDT
Sunday, April 10, 2005

THE POPE OF OPUS DEI

By: Thomas McKelvey Cleaver

After a weeklong Pope-A-Thon, at the conclusion of which the resident White House chimpanzee assured a credulous press corps that he had indeed "felt the spirit" while praying over the body of Pope John Paul II, and that while he believed any True Believer must face "doubt," he himself had no doubt in the existence of Our Heavenly Father and His Son, that "my faith is strong." After watching everything else plummet over the past month while the Theocratic face of modern Republicanism was revealed to an American public that overwhelmingly rejected it, this must be Karl Rove's text for insuring the true-believing sawdust-covered snake-handlers show up at the voting booth next year to keep the Republican train from completely losing its wheels.

While the Catholic Church has been mostly responsible in the past 2,000 years for doing its best to bar the door of human progress with such events as bringing on the thousand-year-long Dark Ages through the exhortations of future-Pope Clement of Alexandria to raise the mob and burn down the heart of paganism - the Library of Alexandria, repository of knowledge that is still being rediscovered two millennia later - or threatening Galileo with death for the sin of saying "it moves," the Church has had some momentary lapses in which it stood on the side of progress (an event that is easily explained by probability theory).

In 1891, the former Italian count Pope Leo XIII released the encyclical "Rerum Novarum" which defended the right of workers to organize unions and achieve a living wage.

In 1906, Father John Augustine Ryan wrote "A Living Wage: Its Ethical and Economic Aspects," followed in 1916 by "Distributive Justice: The Right and Wrong of Our Present Distribution of Wealth." In 1931 - in the depths of a world-wide depression - Pope Pius XI published "Quadragesimo Anno," which put papal infallibility behind the ideas Ryan had presented. The Pope followed this by promoting Ryan to Monsignor.

Unfortunately, despite a truly "world-class" publicity machine, the former Karol Wojtyla - Pope John Paul II - didn't come close to Leo XIII or Pius XI. Rather than promote a John Augustine Ryan, John Paul II publicly excoriated Gustavo Gutierrez on the tarmac of Tegucigalpa Airport upon his arrival in Honduras for the crime of believing in "Liberation Theology," a Catholic social movement in direct line from "Rerum Novarum" and "Quadragesimo Anno." John Paul II was great with words that were mere platitudes, that had no meaning because not only were they not followed by action, they were followed by active repression of anyone in the church who would attempt to bring his words alive.

The truth of John Paul II is that he was the Pope of Opus Dei.

Opus Dei is not the organization described by Dan Brown in his best-selling "Da Vinci Code," but that fact doesn't make them any less-sinister. The organization was founded by Monsignor Escriva, formerly the private confessor to General Francisco Franco. Escriva saw Opus Dei as a group that would promote and defend the extremely conservative clericalist Catholicism that had allied itself with Franco in his Nazi-supported rebellion against the Spanish people in the Civil War, the Catholicism of Pope Pius XII - who had no problem turning a blind eye to the Holocaust.

Opus Dei chose John Paul as the candidate for Pope very early in his career, when Karol Wojtyla was Bishop of Krakow. His conservatism and anti-communism were what attracted them.

Immediately after being elected Pope, John Paul designated Opus Dei a special order directly accountable to him, not to the bishops in the respective countries in which it operated.

This was followed by the naming of Opus Dei member Angelo Sodano as Vatican Secretary of State. During his term as Vatican Ambassador to Chile, Sodano had become a close friend and advisor to General Pinochet - Latin America's carbon copy of Francisco Franco. During the Pope's visit to Chile in 1987, he never, called publicly for liberty or democracy in Chile - which he most certainly did when he visited Cuba and was publicly critical of the Cuban regime. As Vatican Secretary of State, Sodano called liberation theologian Leonardo Boff - one of the most popular priests in Latin America - "a traitor to the Church, the Judas of Christ." This was followed by the Pope's excoriation of the rest of the leaders of Liberation Theology during the Second Latin American Conference, presided over by Opus Dei member Monsignor Alfonso Lopez Trujillo. Through Sodano, John Paul II received reports on the "distressing" Jesuit movements in Latin America from William H. Casey, Director of the CIA.

When Bishop Romero of El Salvador - later assassinated in church by the Salvadoran military death squads sanctioned by John Negroponte, our present "Intelligence Czar" - denounced the brutal repression carried out by the fascist dictatorship in El Salvador, he recorded in his personal diary that the Pope reprimanded him for not being "balanced" in his criticisms of the Salvadorian dictatorship, to whom John Paul referred to as "the legitimate government of El Salvador." As Brazilian Bishop Helder Camara once said, "When I called for the role of the Church to be with the poor, I am called a saint; when I'm asked to do something about the causes of poverty, I am called a communist."

The truth is, John Paul's speeches on the poor were generic and sanctimonious, humanistic in character, without ever touching on the cause of poverty. The Pope was profoundly political. He was always on the side of the powerful throughout the Third World. He never spoke to the political causes of poverty, while he marginalized and ostracized the mass religious movements in Latin America that called for major social reforms in favor of the poor. With Cardinal Ratzinger - the guardian of Church orthodoxy who seems now in charge of naming the next Pope - John Paul II condemned these movements and ordered their leading figures to remain silent.

Instead of pushing a social agenda worldwide as the international media machine would have us believe, Pope John Paul II was a major obstacle to such an agenda by making conservative issues - anti-abortion, anti-contraception, anti-homosexuality, and others - rather than social problems the center of political debate. Despite his cries for suffering of those afflicted with AIDS, the policies promoted and pursued by John Paul II - such as forcing women whose husbands are infected to have unprotected sex in order to promote his policy against condom use in all circumstances - are as responsible for the spread of the disease throughout the world as was the Church's mass butchery of cats (the only effective predator against urban rats at the time) during the witch hunts of the Middle Ages responsible for bringing on The Black Death that killed one-third of the population of Europe in the twelfth century.

Under John Paul II, Opus Dei founder Father Jose Escriva was made a saint just 27 years after his death, which is one of the fastest sanctification processes in the entire history of the church. In the meantime, Pope John XXIII and Bishop Romero, still wait in line for sainthood.

John Paul II was indeed the thorough traditionalist he has been called. He stood firmly in the priestly tradition of barring the door of progress, of sanctifying the actions of the rulers as opposed to promoting the real needs of his flock.

No wonder George W. Bush found Pope John Paul II "a man I could respect."

Article added at 2:17 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, April 11, 2005 2:33 AM EDT
Friday, April 8, 2005

THAT SPLINTERING NOISE YOU HEAR

By: Thomas McKelvey Cleaver

I've been hoping for the past four years that each outrageous overreach by the Republican far right would finally be the one that makes the American public sit up and realize what kind of monster-with-the-fur-on-the-inside they've been cheering on.

It appears that - faced with having the American Taliban dictate how they will spend their end days, after having their retirement security handed over to the land sharks of Wall Street after the money they paid into the system is declared a "worthless debt" by the man whose oath of office demands that he defend and protect a constitution that protects and confirms the public debt made for the payment of pensions - may be the moment when the alarm goes off.

It's not surprising. Comics have known for a long time that when YOU slip on a banana peel, it's funny has hell, but when I slip on a banana peel, it's a tragedy.

The good news is, the Far Radical Right is so Far, so Radical, and so Right, that they're even scaring Harry and Sally Suburban, who vote Republican to maintain their property values and keep the government out of their life.

The Republican base is splintering. The Religious Extremist minority of the party that came out en masse last November and put Moron Boy back in office, and then decided that they had created a mandate that required him to do their bidding in the creation of a Fundamentalist Theocracy has finally scared the rest of the party.

One thing the Southern True Believers have never managed to understand is that - for the rest of us in this country - the scariest thing to see is Tobacco Road in full frothing frenzy. That part of the South is still mostly a joke to us, a joke made in hopes that the lunacy will confine itself to rolling in the sawdust in their revival tents and putting only themselves at risk of a rattlesnake bite. But when the sawdust gets spread on the street outside a hospice any of us can imagine ourselves being in, and the rattlesnakes are being waved in our face in public, the rest of us in this country turn away in revulsion.

The Republican Far Right is about to learn the lesson every extremist movement in American history has had to learn: the rest of us don’t like you when you threaten our everyday existence.

Nine weeks after his inauguration, George W. Bush is learning the limits of his "mandate" and the exact amount of his "political capital." Social Security, immigration, gay marriage and Terri Schiavo is splintering the Republican base.

After he won re-election with the support of 9 in 10 Republican voters, Georgie-Porgie is seeing significant chunks of that base balk at his major initiatives, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows.

34% of Republicans say Democrats in Congress should prevent Mr. Bush and party leaders from "going too far in pushing their agenda." 63% of all Americans, a record for Moron-Boy's, want Democrats in Congress to block Bush and the Republicans.

41% of Republicans oppose eliminating filibusters against Mr. Bush's judicial nominees through the "nuclear option" Senate Republican leaders are considering. Americans do not want to see Senate Republicans change the rules in the middle of the game: 50% oppose the change, while 40% support it.

32% of Republicans call it "a bad idea" to let workers invest payroll taxes in the stock markets. After 40 days of the Bamboozlepalooza Tour, that number has held steady since January.

Resistance among Democrats and senior citizens has driven overall opposition to 55% from the 50% recorded when he announced his plan in the State of the Union Address.

On the "nuclear option," And the surprising thing is that 41% of Republicans also reject the change.

By decisive margin of 54%-35%, Americans want the Congress and President to play a less active role when it comes to "social and moral issues facing the country." 50% of Republicans agree.

Amazingly, on gay marriage, of all things, Republicans are narrowly divided, with 48% of Republicans saying Congress should pass a constitutional amendment banning this, while 47% say it shouldn't.

The anti-right trend even covers tax cuts. 54% of Americans say the tax cuts have not been worth the increased deficit and cuts to domestic programs, while only 38% say they have been worth it. Surprisingly, even 25% of Republicans agree that the tax cuts have not been worth the cost.

Bottom line: Bush and Rapture Right are now so scary, they're scaring Republicans.


Article added at 5:09 AM EDT
Thursday, April 7, 2005

HAVE THE REPUBLICANS BLINKED?

By: Thomas McKelvey Cleaver

In the aftermath of the rejection of Republican religious extremism by the American people, who on the way got a good idea of the value of an independent judiciary, there is a hint - the kind of hint that Kremlinologists used to look for when examining photos of who was standing next to whom in which row atop Lenin’s tomb at the annual Soviet May Day Parades - that even a moron like Senator Bill "Kitten-Killer" Frist can tell when the wind is blowing from the city dump that is the Republican far right.

For the past month, anyone with any political awareness has been watching for signs of movement around the question of Frist deciding to invoke "the nuclear option" in the Senate - the revocation of the right of filibuster when it comes to approval of judicial nominees.

The latest Gallup Poll out Wednesday reveals that 55% of Americans believe Republicans are trying to use the federal government to interfere with the private lives of most Americans when it comes to moral values, and by an overwhelming 76%-20% majority they disapprove of Congress' handling of the Schiavo case. Not only that, but a plurality of 39% believes the Religious Right has "too much influence" over Republicans in Congress.

It didn't take the Gallup Poll for the most influential section of the Republican coalition to put their finger to the wind and discover the change in direction. Over the last two weeks of the Spring Recess, Corporate America - worried their so-far successful agenda will come to a screeching halt - are reportedly urging Senator Kitten-Killer not to exercise the "nuclear option" on judicial nominees.

While industry lobbyists and association heads on K Street have so far managed to avoid taking a public position on the escalating debate on stalled judicial nominations, they're using one-on-one conversations with Senate leaders, asides in meetings on other topics and staff contacts to communicate they have concluded that - whatever its merits - the nuclear option isn't worth the price of imperiling their legislative agenda. It comes down to an essential question for the Republicans: do they "follow the money" and acquiesce to the demands of Corporate America, or do they "count the votes" and hope for a continued low voter turnout in 2006, thus making the demands of the 15% of the American electorate that counts itself as the Christian Right their program in a war over the judiciary?

The risk for the Republicans is much greater than has been advertised. If Frist fails to change the filibuster rules, he runs the risk of pissing off the activist base, and would also be weakened and embarrassed after the past months spent grandstanding and making grandiose threats in hopes he can ride that pony into the White House in2008. On the other hand, if he does follow through and as a result the Corporate Republican agenda can't get passed, it will make the K Street lobbyists who channel money very unhappy. One way or the other, he and the other GOP lawmakers run the risk of a public backlash. Even some of the Christian Right true believers might come to see that the bankruptcy "reform" harms their personal interests.

This has made for an interesting week. Following the death of Terri Schiavo last week, "Mr. Personable," Tom DeLay made the threat that the judges who had foiled his declared goal of taking two steps forward on the road to Theocracy would "have to answer" for their decisions.

Following true to form, the second of the Texas Moron Triumvirate rose in the Senate on Tuesday and declared that the actions of a deranged lunatic and a convicted rapist in murdering one judge and the close relatives of another were somehow manifestations of public discontent with an "out of control" judiciary. Even with that, Senator Cornyn backed away from "Hot Tub Tommy" DeLay's remarks, saying "I really don't know what he means." This is likely true, given Cornyn certainly doesn’t know how the republic he is sworn to defend is organized and operates.

Following Cornyn's demonstration of what exactly a Texas Goat-Roper is, the New York Times editorialized that Cornyn "made excuses [for] murderous violence against judges as an understandable reaction to their decisions," noting that it was "horrifying even by the rock-bottom standards of the campaign that Republican zealots are conducting against the nation's judiciary... It was sickening that an elected official would publicly offer these sociopaths as examples of any democratic value, let alone as holders of legitimate concerns about the judiciary."

Congressional GOP sources are privately acknowledging that the American public believes they "overstepped" their authority by inserting the Congress into the Schiavo case.

Frist has distanced himself from “Hot Tub Tommy” by saying "I believe we have a fair and independent judiciary today, and I respect that," while at the same time trying to say that public reaction to DeLay's overreach in the Schiavo case and the demand by the movement conservative base to end judicial filibusters are two different issues. He sounds more and more like a man whistling past the graveyard when he says "I'll have to let Members of this body and others speak for themselves."

Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell also put some distance between himself and DeLay's comments, saying the Schiavo matter had been addressed by the Senate and was now resolved.

The fissure between the Republican's traditional corporate base with its concern for property rights, deregulation and tax reduction, and the Rapture Right constituency with its goal of establishing a Theocracy, makes one wish that we could jump ahead 12 months and get on with the mid-term elections. Not only do a majority of Americans see the Republicans in congress acting inappropriately and in the thrall of the kind of religious nuts who scare most normal people, but a majority now believes the President lied to get us into war, is wrong and getting wronger on his Social Security plan, and has botched the job of handling the economy.

With a little more time, we may witness the Party of God go into free-fall.

Article added at 11:12 AM EDT
Friday, April 1, 2005

MEMO TO REPUBLICANS: KEEP TOM DELAY!

By: Thomas McKelvey Cleaver

I have been dismayed in recent days to learn that at least two Democratic political groups are organizing campaigns to try and get the Republicans in the House of Representatives to dump Tom DeLay as House Majority Leader. Specifically, the Campaign for America's Future, backed by labor and civil rights leaders, said it would spend $75,000 on cable TV ads in DeLay's Sugarland Texas district and in Washington, promoting DeLay's role in leading congressional involvement in the case of Terri Schiavo. "Tom DeLay can't wash his hands of corruption by involving Congress in one family's tragedy," the narrator says. In addition to these ads is a $25,000 campaign by the Public Campaign Action Fund, which is running an online petition calling for DeLay to resign and purchasing ads in the districts of Rep. Doc Hastings, the new chairman of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct; Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee; and Rep. Rob Simmons, who may face a tough reelection race next year.

How can they be so stupid?

Fortunately, the Republican leadership knows better than to listen to Democrats when it comes to political decisions. Now that Tom DeLay has become a household name as a leader of the Rapture Right that he has been for 20 years, a man most Americans see as a threat to their personal liberty to decide for themselves within their families such important questions as how to deal with a loved family member at the end of that individual's life, a man who wants to substitute his absolute knowledge of what God wants for theirs, right wing leaders are crafting plans to launch a public campaign to defend DeLay.

The move follows a meeting this past week among DeLay, Rep. Eric Cantor of Virgina - the chief deputy majority whip - and nearly two dozen "movement conservative" leaders, that included
David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union; Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council; Morton Blackwell, president of the Leadership Institute; and Edwin Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation. The group said they regard the recent attacks on DeLay as an attack on the whole conservative movement, and have talked about holding a salute or tribute dinner for DeLay.

Cantor explained the meeting this way: "It was a rallying cry to our conservative community that we are under assault. We need to fight back. We're going to have a challenging year with the judicial issue bubbling up in the Senate and the impact it may have on our ability to get things done."

Of course, the actions by Democrats sound may sound to activists who have been stung by Republican electoral successes like "the right thing to do" now that DeLay and his corrupt rule and extremist politics are becoming public, just as their campaign against unreconstructed Confederate segregationist Trent Lott as Senate Majority Leader in 2002 resulted in the dethroning of a major conservative. Sorry, wrong! To me, the far right's aggressive response is a welcome development. While the conservative heavy-hitters circle the wagons, the more they publicly defend DeLay, the more the public learns who DeLay is and why he needs so much defending.

In 1994, newt Gingrich rode a campaign against Democratic corruption in government to a new Republican majority by personalizing the campaign in the public mind through his successful effort to dethrone Speaker Jim Wright

DeLay is no Gingrich - he's never been concerned with creating an enduring GOP majority so he can go out and change the world. His ruthlessness - which is the basis of his success - comes from the fact he wants power. Period. He doesn't want it for his friends, his party or his patrons. He wants it for himself.

With any luck, in coming weeks and months, we are about to watch him cash in all the chips, call in all the IOUs. Given he can threaten the lawmakers he installed in power with primary opposition campaigns, we will watch them circle the wagons. The lobbyists he installed through the K Street project will contribute to the fund. DeLay's already preparing for war, constructing a me-against-the-world narrative, saying of his opponents, "Bring 'em on," with the same ignorant bravado that George Bush used that phrase.

DeLay's own belligerence - the very center of his ego - will close off his escape routes, now that he's entered the fight and vowed to win it. For a guttersnipe like DeLay, losing becomes unacceptable. He won't allow it, he can't allow it - to allow it is to die.

For Democrats, this is the best of all possible outcomes. DeLay is the kind of guy who operates under rocks, in the darkness of nights. For the country, watching what will increasingly look like DeLay flailing wildly, will lead to polls taking a nosedive. DeLay, has never been good in front of the cameras, as we have seen in the past two weeks as he has become increasingly rabid in public. He’s no skilled, charismatic media personality, but rather the type of public embarassment more apt to reach heights of sublime absurdity. His public statement that he couldn't get into the Army despite wanting to go in 1970 because minorities snatched up all the spots in the service to get the great benefits, leaving no room for a patriotic white boy like himself became a joke in conservative Vietnam Veteran circles. We've already seen that he is more likely to resort to blistering rage than to turn in a compelling, vulnerable performance.

As DeLay fights to survive, he'll be forced to act in public, to step into the limelight. Given his history, this might kill him on its own, since most Americans dislike unreconstructed Southern primitives when they pull off the mask and reveal their Tobacco Road origins - they're seen as objects of scorn and derision.

The truth is, the more public hits DeLay takes, the more blood is spilled over his omnipresent PAC contributions, his fundraisers, his ties with the rising Abramoff scandal, the more his private peccadilloes become public, the more these will hurt the candidates he designed his system to benefit.

We're lucky. Tom DeLay is too Southern, he's got too much pride to go quietly. DeLay is going to die, and he will be unable to avoid making it as publically painful as Terri Schiavo's ordeal, proving once again that there is indeed balance and harmony in the universe. He won't go clean because he can't. Tom DeLay will writhe and flail, and he'll take many a friend down with him.

For Democrats, one of the underlying goals of taking on DeLay is getting people familiar with him and his corrupt ways, so that the entire Republican system can be publically exposed for the moral swamp that it is. If conservatives want to help us boost DeLay’s name recognition, I welcome the help.

My great-uncle Jim McKelvey, who was a political operative for Harry Truman since they met in an artillery battery in the Argonne Forest of France in 1918, told me as a young man that "the good Republicans are pushing up daisies."

Watching Tom DeLay commit suicide publically will be more fun than kicking Nixon was 30 years ago.

Memo to Democrats: go re-read "B'rer Rabbit And The Tar Baby." We definitely don't want those Republicans to ever think of throwing Tom DeLay in that ol' briar patch.

Article added at 10:29 AM EST

A Closer Look at Bill Bradley's Strategy

by Ryan Oddey
On Wednesday the New York Times ran a piece written by former Senator Bill Bradley that offered his suggestion on how the Democratic Party can return to power. Much of this suggestion involved taking some ideas that the Republicans had done right, in terms of political strategy and planning, and applying them to the Democratic principles. Whenever a well-known Democrat makes a suggestion that involves adopting anything from the GOP, even if it is just strategy, then it is bound to stir the pot. Since that article first ran, preeminent bloggers have been commenting on the suggestion, mostly criticizing Bradley for his idea. However, after reading Bradley‛s suggestion and the responses that came with it I think that some people may have missed the point. We do not need to copy the GOP in its entirety but it would be a mistake not to learn from some of the things they have done right.

Bradley writes:
"Before deciding what Democrats should do now, it's important to see what Republicans have done right over many years. When the Goldwater Republicans lost in 1964, they didn't try to become Democrats. They tried to figure out how to make their own ideas more appealing to the voters. As part of this effort, they turned to Lewis Powell, then a corporate lawyer and soon to become a member of the United States Supreme Court. In 1971 he wrote a landmark memo for the United States Chamber of Commerce in which he advocated a sweeping, coordinated and long-term effort to spread conservative ideas on college campuses, in academic journals and in the news media.

To further the party's ideological and political goals, Republicans in the 1970's and 1980's built a comprehensive structure based on Powell's blueprint. Visualize that structure as a pyramid.

You've probably heard some of this before, but let me run through it again. Big individual donors and large foundations - the Scaife family and Olin foundations, for instance - form the base of the pyramid. They finance conservative research centers like the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, entities that make up the second level of the pyramid.

The ideas these organizations develop are then pushed up to the third level of the pyramid - the political level. There, strategists like Karl Rove or Ralph Reed or Ken Mehlman take these new ideas and, through polling, focus groups and careful attention to Democratic attacks, convert them into language that will appeal to the broadest electorate. That language is sometimes in the form of an assault on Democrats and at other times in the form of advocacy for a new policy position. The development process can take years. And then there's the fourth level of the pyramid: the partisan news media. Conservative commentators and networks spread these finely honed ideas."

Over at Tapped (link), Matthew Yglesias responded to this with some key points and he ends his response with a principle that I believe to be very true. Yglesias writes

"The past 30 years of right-wing infrastructure have served the financial interests of their financiers very, very, very well but they've achieved remarkably little in terms of advancing core ideological principles."

Yglesias is right, the GOP is a pawn of Big Business and the Religious Right because they are the financial base and the voting base of the Republican party and obviously each group falls into some sort of the Republican Pyramid. However, I believe Bradley was suggesting that we take the things that the GOP did right and make them our own. Democrats can do that, in a similar pyramid structure, without falling victim to being a pawn of the lower rungs of the pyramid.

Yglesias also writes:
"it's really not the case that the Goldwater Republicans "didn't try to become Democrats" after losing in 1964. Goldwater ran on a platform of eliminating Social Security, opposing the Civil Rights Act, opposing the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, and opposing a federal role in education finance. By the time Ronald Reagan brought the conservative movement to power in 1981 he had abandoned all of those planks and also had to accept the existence of the EPA and various other innovations of the 1970s. What he did once in power was basically scale back to some extent programs that didn't even exist when Goldwater ran."

All true, but that was in the early 1980's and it has been almost twenty years since Reagan was president. Now we have a President who is trying to eliminate Social Security, has taken stances against affirmative action, and is trying to slash funding for Medicare and Medicaid. It may not be the Goldwater platform, but it‛s a natural evolution of that agenda. Part of the reason for the agendas success, is that same pyramid structure that Bradley mentioned.

The Democrats need to be able to do the same thing in as much that we need core values that will continue to evolve over time while remaining true to our form and we need to be able to do this while building a strong "pyramid" with our own parts designed specifically to help spread the core principles of liberalism.

The key to making the pyramid work for the Democrats will be coming up with our own people and our own parts that fit perfectly and can advance the cause as a whole. Kevin Drum highlights this important fact over at Washington Monthly by writing:

"What conservatives really did was to exploit new levers of power in ways that no one had thought of before. Their answers turned out to be foundations, language, judges, talk radio, and lobbyists, but there's nothing sacred about those particular levers. So while creating our own foundations and talk shows is important, what's more important is that we should be constantly searching for new and underappreciated levers of power and figuring out creative ways to exploit them. Howard Dean's campaign did this in a minor way with its use of internet MeetUps, a new way of organizing grassroots support that took everyone by surprise."

Drum is exactly right, we must not copy the GOP structure in its entirety, but we must take what they have done right and improve upon it while simultaneously coming up with new ways to help the party. Air America Radio and Blogging are steps in the right direction but the party will thrive if we are able to come up with new ideas.
So what are these new ways? I think that no longer conceding the south to the Republicans is a strong move, as well as backing non-traditional Democratic candidates such as Bob Casey Jr in Pennsylvania and Tim Kaine in Virginia will help broaden the appeal of the party without completely abandoning the ideologies of the party.

The ideology of the party is what makes a pyramid scheme for the Democrats tricky to pull off. As Samuel Knight said "We need to think of a way to beat the machine without becoming the machine ourselves." I think we can do it, but its going to take a consistent and prolonged effort from the Democrats to make sure we become the party we know we can be.

Ryan Oddey
Ryan@TAFMess.com








Article added at 10:20 AM EST
Monday, March 28, 2005

DELIVER US FROM THEOCRACY

By: Thomas McKelvey Cleaver

Over the past two weeks, Americans have been treated to a not-so-pretty picture, as religious extremists have come out from under their rocks to participate in the collective public insanity known as The Schiavo Case, an event one can fervently hope will come to an end in the next few days.

The Schiavo Case may come to an end, but what is going on in the streets of Pinellas, Florida, is not going away.

These people may be crazy, but that doesn't mean they aren't dangerous. I was privileged to know the great screenwriter and director Billy Wilder in his latter years, and he told me about the years he spent in Berlin in the 1920s and 30s, watching Hitler and the Nazis rise to power, how they latched onto any public controversy in order to advance their cause. As he pointed out, one reason the Nazis got as far as they did was that the rest of the population considered them crazy, and with that appellation they were dismissed as something not to be taken seriously. "My friends used to call me an extremist, that I took them as seriously as I did," he once told me. On the morning after the Nazis won a plurality of the vote in the 1933 elections and it appeared Hitler would come to power, Wilder put his worldly belongings into a steamer trunk, bought a one-way ticket and caught the Paris Express from the Berlin station. "All my friends, who thought Hitler was crazy and the Nazis were fools, they all ended up dead."

It is easy to dismiss these people outside the hospice as loonies, and to see their Congressional allies as cynical opportunists. In a recent Time poll, 68% of Republicans have stated they are opposed to the intervention of Congress and the President in this matter, with 54% stating a willingness to vote against their Congressional representative for taking part in this. 62% of those identifying themselves as evangelical Christians are opposed to what they are seeing on the streets.

These good, decent, conservatives and evangelicals are not the people I am speaking of. The far fundamentalist right - some have identified them as "the rapture right" - is not "conservative." It is not even "reactionary." It is fundamentally "revolutionary" in the same sense Hitler's Nazis were, because it refuses to make its argument for change within the system of government we have had for the past 218 years. They seek nothing less than the overthrow of the constitution and the substitution of a theocracy no different from that advocated by Osama Bin Laden in its repression.

A friend who is more religiously-oriented than I am once pointed out to me that "Judaism," "Christianity" and "Islam" are all nouns - but when you place the word "Fundamentalist" before them, they become adjectives, merely describing different varieties of the same thing.

In the past 30 years, Muslim fundamentalists have revived a medieval provision of Islamic law called "hisba," which means "bringing to account." The way it works is that an individual who is not directly a party to a particular event, acting on behalf of society, will bring a case when he feels great harm has been done to religion. The best-known example of such religiously-based interference is that of Nasr Hamid Abu Zaid in Egypt. Abu Zaid - a respected modern scholar of Koranic studies - argued that contrary to medieval interpretations of Islamic law, women and men should receive equal inheritance shares. He was accused by Islamic fundamentalists of sacrilege; that charge was then used to bring a suit to have the courts forcibly divorce him from his wife, on the grounds a Muslim woman cannot be married to an infidel. In 1995, the hisba court actually found against Abu Zaid and his wife, who were then forced to flee to Europe, ultimately settling in Holland. The most objectionable feature of this is that persons without standing can interfere in private affairs. A perfect stranger can file a case about your marriage, because they represent themselves as defending and upholding religion and morality.

The Republican far right is increasingly willing to make private, intimate decisions matters of public interest and then bring the courts and the legislature to bear on them, repeating the tactics of Islamic fundamentalists in places like Egypt and Pakistan. Do you think "it can't happen here?" It already is! Back in the 1970s, when living will legislation first gained support, the anti-abortion movement was adamantly opposed to these demands for "death with dignity." Though the religious extremists lost this fight in the 1980s, Schiavo's case has re-energized their opposition to living wills, in the guise of opposition to euthanasia and assisted suicide. Right now, Republicans in the Wisconsin State Assembly have passed a "defense of medical morality" bill that allows doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other medical personnel who morally disagree with the guidelines regarding feeding and hydration tubes to ignore living wills and any advance directives an individual may have made for such a situation. This legislation is likely to pass the Republican-controlled State Senate in coming weeks.

In the past two days, it has been widely reported that, hours after Judge Greer ordered this past Wednesday that Terri Schiavo wasn't to be removed from her hospice and directly ordered every sheriff and chief of police in the state to uphold the order, a team of from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement were dispatched from Tallahassee to seize her and have her feeding tube reinserted. This event was only stopped when local police told them they would enforce the judge's order. For perhaps an hour or so, local police - who have officers around the hospice to keep protesters out - prepared for an armed showdown with the State Department of Law Enforcement, with the police informing the DLE agents that if they didn't have Judge Greer with them, they would be forcibly prevented from entering the hospice. I wouldn't even think for a moment of writing a screenplay with this level of unreality in it. A few hours later, Governor Jeb Bush went on TV to say that evidently he didn't have as much authority as some people thought.

When an executive orders his armed forces to carry out his personal whim, in contradiction of the authority of every other entity in the constitutional system - the state courts and legislature, the federal courts and legislature, federal executive - this is the first step to America becoming an Iranian-style theocratic dictatorship.

As if this wasn't enough insanity, Richard Alan Meywes was arrested without incident at his home in Fairview, North Carolina, charged with murder for hire and the transmission of interstate threatening communications for offering a $250,000 bounty for the murder of Michael Schiavo! He is additionally charged with offering $50,000 to eliminate an un-named judge - most likely Judge Greer - who denied a request to intervene in the Schiavo case.

Meywes may merely be some nut job, but there are people out there who would take this offer seriously. Among the certifiably-looney publicity hounds who came to Florida this past week was James "Bo" Gritz, a long time poseur in the so-called "Militia movement" who has in recent years been associated through marriage with the Christian Identity Church - the leading white supremacist/neo-Nazi movement in the country. Gritz arrived to conduct a "citizen's arrest" of Michael Schiavo.

Gritz has upped the ante by enlisting God against the government and its supporters. He has said, "I can assure you that if I was ever convinced that it was God's Will for me to commit an act of violence against the laws of our land, I would hesitate only long enough to, like Gideon, be certain. I would then do all within my power to accomplish what I felt he required of me. . . If God does call me into the Phineas Priesthood . . . my defense will be the truth as inspired by the Messiah."

For those who have never heard the term before the fundamentalist far right believes the "Phineas Priesthood" is a group one enters by killing someone who has broken "God's law," making it easily the most radical and potentially dangerous component of the extremist right groups. It is certainly only different in degree from the Islamic terrorists we are told we are at war with.

Right now, most people in this country look at the far fundamentalist right in a similar light to that the Nazis were held in by the "Good Germans" before 1933. Indeed, it is easy to dismiss grandstanding demagogues like Randall Terry or Bo Gritz as the pathetic media hounds they in fact are, but this movement they are working every day to create - by taking advantage whenever possible of emotionally-charged situations like that in Florida - is truly dangerous. With right wing Congressional Republicans like Tom DeLay and Rick Santorum having demonstrated their ability to ally themselves with what is going on out on the streets, the "rapture right" - the American Taliban, - now represents the greatest threat to the Republic since the Civil War.

This is about much more than one woman's right to die in dignity. The far fundamentalist Right has made it clear that it wants to run our lives from the moment of conception until death, based on their bizarre interpretation of ancient religious texts. They are not about religion, or politics, other than that those are tools for the realization of the power to dominate this society and transform it beyond recognition, and they have no limits in how far they will go. These haters never really go away. They're demonic versions of the Energizer Bunny. As Randall Terry says: "Our goal is a Christian nation. We have a biblical duty, we are called by God to conquer this country. We don't want equal time. We don't want pluralism. Theocracy means God rules."

Morality is not only for the religious. Morality is in the DNA of good democracies, which forge the framework in which it can thrive. Godliness is not cynical ethics for the public realm. It is private and it should stay that way.

The Bush White House believes that even if only a small fraction of the country supports its intervention in the Schiavo case, they are the people who tend to be more passionate and more likely to vote on the issue, as opposed to the broad mass of the public that disapproves.

If we want to keep America the America we grew up in, it is time to tell George Bush and Tom DeLay and Bill Frist that they couldn't be more wrong.

Article added at 8:13 AM EST

KARMA POLICE OR A PRESIDENCY RUNNING LOW ON POLITICAL CAPITAL?

By: Xaivier Martin

Whether you believe in God, Allah, Buddha, U2's Bono, or you don't believe in any supreme being, there is one universally-undeniable truth: what goes around, comes around. Call it whatever you want; karma, chi, fate or just desserts. Find yourself on the wrong side of it and life just sucks.

November 2004: we all remember hearing or reading about President Bush's first press conference after being declared the winner by everyone, but the eternally optimistic (and bitter) Democrats who held out hope. In that press conference, Bush spoke of the election results serving as a mandate by the people. He also spoke about feeling that he thought he'd earned some "political capital," and he planned to "take it out for a spin" . After all, he'd just had a victory in which he'd received a higher percentage of the vote than Bill Clinton.

March 26, 2005: several independent polls show Bush with an approval rating of 45%, as opposed to the 52% he received in polls taken the last two months. Oh what a difference a few weeks make! Now, as easy as it may be to suggest that Bush and his large, trunk-carrying friends are experiencing the karma backlash that they deserve, we should look a little deeper.

One of the issues that the real "Dr. Evil" - Karl Rove - hit people over their heads with during the election was the thought that if Democrats were in the White House all hell would break loose in Iraq and conditions would just get worse. The only thing is, since November, all anyone hears are about how many more U.S. troops have died on a given day. Undaunted, Republicans nearly broke their arms patting themselves on the back over the democratic elections that took place nearly two months ago in Iraq. Logic says the elections should have given the Republican Party a pretty big boost in public opinion, but as was stated earlier, Bush's approval rating was not affected. How could that be?

Take into consideration that at the same time as the elections, Bush rolled (or more accurately, dragged) out his plan to save Social Security. His legacy would not be weighed down by jobless rates or the worst single attack on U.S. soil. Bush had conquered Saddam Hussein and now set his sights on taming the 400-pound gorilla in the room that everyone else had intentionally ignored. The thing King George failed to realize - that Clinton, Bush's father and others before knew - is that, if provoked, the 400-pound gorilla will retaliate with a political punch the likes of which he'd never seen.

Still, Bush is the same man who entered May 2004 with a 46% approval rating and managed to get elected to office with a one-and-a-half percent majority. Say what you will about Clinton being bulletproof, but with everything Clinton dealt with, his approval rating rarely if ever dropped below 50%. Bush has had more go wrong in his tenure as President on top of terminal approval ratings and so far has managed to come out the other end relatively unscathed. He may not be the smartest man or even a good speaker, but he has been up to this point, the closest thing to untouchable this side of Elliot Ness.

With all of that said, Bush finds himself under siege. He is under siege by his own party, Democrats, the AARP and atheists. With unanimous court rulings coming down on the Schiavo appeals, he can't even get a break from the same Supreme Court that gave him his start in the 2000 election. Alas, this last attempt to take his political capital for a spin may just have taken the Bush train dangerously off track.

Not that he has the time, but if Bush ever watched his fictional counterpart on NBC's "The West Wing," he would have known that the Schiavo case was only worth a meeting and maybe some polling to see what public reaction would be to his involvement. The fictional President Josiah Bartlett (played brilliantly by Martin Sheen) would have handed the Schiavo case over to a senior counsel member and let that be it. Even if Bush and the Republicans had been successful in their attempt to keep Terri Schiavo alive, it would have publicly been seen as the administration and Congress spending valuable time - and tax payers' money - on a situation and person that didn't warrant it.

In the meantime, gas prices continue to skyrocket out of control - the national average is $2.11 a gallon - and people are slowly but surely distancing themselves from Bush's Social Security plan, while the economy seems to be going nowhere but south. During a campaign, the public will become concerned with whatever their candidate says they should be concerned about. After the smoke clears and the pomp and circumstance is through, the people care about themselves - and if they have any reason to believe their needs aren't being taken care of, things get real ugly, real quick.

In the end, the American people don't really care if Iraq has democratic elections and they don't care about saving the life of someone who supposedly doesn't want to live and is in a vegetative state anyway. The public cares about getting their money should they be fortunate to be able to retire and they care about sons/daughters, mothers/fathers and friends/family dying on foreign soil at the hands of those they are supposed to be helping. Lastly, the people care that it takes three or four more dollars to pay for a week's worth of gas.

If Bush wants to stop the bleeding, he'd better start caring about those things as well. The alternative is suffering second term shell shock and a being trapped on a runaway train quickly running short on political capital. Oil prices being as high as they are, it would be a harsh turn of karma if Bush's administration ran out of gas just months out of the gate wouldn't it?

Article added at 8:05 AM EST
Saturday, March 26, 2005

ELMER GANTRY RIDES TO THE RESCUE

By: Thomas McKelvey Cleaver

I was momentarily surprised last weekend to discover what had crawled out from under its rock down in Florida, but after a New York minute's worth of thought it made perfect sense. The Schiavo case had become a sad sick circus, so why shouldn't Randall Terry be the ringmaster? As the biggest camera whore in the Troglodyte Right, it was almost predestined that he would show up.

Listening to National Public Radio "get it wrong" last Saturday on "Weekend Edition" when they identified him merely as the "family spokesman" reminded me that it really is true - those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

I first saw Randall Terry during the "Holy Week of Rescue" back in 1989 when he and the morons of his "Operation Rescue" blockaded the Feminist Women’s Health Center here in Los Angeles, forcing it to close operations despite the efforts of a lot of good people - myself and SWMBO (though we hadn’t met yet then) included - who put their bodies between the clinic’s patients and the deluded fools of what I have since come to see as The American Taliban, aka The Christian Right.

If there is a "leader" of that movement worthy of the mantle of being the new Elmer Gantry, Randall Terry is the guy. Over the four years his Operation Rescue terrorized women across America, over 40,000 people were arrested in his demonstrations outside abortion clinics, most notably in Wichita Kansas over a long summer later in 1989.

As a writer of fiction, I wouldn't dare make up a biography like Randall Terry's. His grandmother was a civil rights activist and his aunts were strong feminists, one of whom would later serve as spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Rochester, N.Y. She would later note with intentional irony that he was raised at the knees of feminists.

As a teenager Terry played a mean guitar and piano, and was a major local consumer of marijuana. Planning to become a rock star, he dropped out of high school and headed west. Several months later, he had his religious epiphany in a diner outside Galveston, Texas. Returning to Rochester, he began talking of God and hellfire, and selling used cars. Enrolling in a Bible school in the early 1980s, he met his wife, Cindy. They talked of serving as missionaries in Central America.

After a vision of using civil rights tactics to save the unborn, Terry began his operation in Binghamton, New York, in 1986. Among his most avid followers there was James Kopp, who would be a trusted lieutenant in the movement when they landed on the American political map with a series of demonstrations in Atlanta in the summer of 1988 where both were imprisoned for 40 days. Ten years later, Kopp was charged in the murder of a doctor who performed abortions in Buffalo, N.Y., who he killed from ambush, shooting the doctor in his home. When he was finally caught several years later after being hidden in the United States, Canada and France by movement supporters, Kopp pled guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

There is additional evidence suggesting that Randall Terry and Operation Rescue may have provoked violence at abortion clinics, including the murder of an doctor and an assistant at a clinic in Pensacola, Florida in 1990.

At an anti-abortion rally in Fort Wayne, Indiana, on August 16, 1993, Terry declared that, "Our goal is a Christian nation... We have a biblical duty, we are called by God to conquer this country. We don't want equal time. We don't want pluralism.... Theocracy means God rules. I've got a hot flash. God rules." Two years later he declared, speaking of doctors who perform abortions, "When I, or people like me, are running the country, you’d better flee, because we will find you, we will try you and we will execute you."

Not only was Terry opposed to abortion, but to family planning in general. He once described Planned Parenthood's founder, Margaret Sanger, as a "whore" and an "adulteress." He also opposed and divorce, writing in his 1995 book The Judgment of God, that "Families are destroyed as a father vents his mid life crisis by abandoning his wife for a 'younger, prettier model.'" Seemingly unaware of the irony, Terry's fall from grace began later in 1995, when he divorced his wife of 20 years, Cindy, and married a much younger woman who had been his housekeeper. The pastor of his church - the Landmark Church of Binghamton, N.Y. - unceremoniously tossed him out when he divorced his wife.

On March 4, 1998, Terry was named in a lawsuit that sought to force anti-abortion leaders to pay for damages caused in clinic attacks, filed by the National Organization for Women (NOW) under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. Terry settled with NOW out of court, agreeing to a permanent injunction against any future actions against clinics, which many took as the end of Randall Terry.

On November 8, 1998, Terry filed for bankruptcy in an effort to avoid paying massive debts owed to women's groups and abortion clinics that had sued him. Terry's use of the bankruptcy laws to avoid paying the judgments against him was what prompted Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) to propose amendments to each of the bankruptcy "reform" bills to specifically prevent abortion opponents from using the bankruptcy code to escape paying court fines. This year, with a 55-45 majority in the Senate, the Republicans defeated the Schumer Amendment that had stalled action on bankruptcy "reform" in 2002 and 2003 when anti-choice House Republicans refused to vote for a bill containing this provision.

Following his bankruptcy, Terry solicited donations from the True Believers, declaring on his website that "The purveyors of abortion on demand have stripped Randall Terry of everything he owned." Unsurprisingly, he failed to mention that the donations would be used to pay for his new $432,000 house in Florida - where he had moved to take advantage of the same "homestead protection law" O.J. Simpson has used to avoid paying civil judgement against him. Terry's explanation was that he wanted a home where his family would be safe and where "we could entertain people of stature, people of importance. I have a lot of important people that come through my home. And I will have more important people come through my home." The same month he paid the deposit on his new home, a court ruled that Mr. Family Values "was not paying a fair share of child support" to his ex-wife for their four children.

Like the proverbial bad penny, Randall Terry resurfaced last summer in Ponte Vedra Beach in northern Florida, where he had formed a new organization, The Society for Truth and Justice, to campaign against homosexuality after his adopted son had outed himself that Spring as being gay. His first campaign was against the U.S. Supreme Court's 6-3 decision striking down anti-sodomy laws, launching an "Impeach the Twisted Six" campaign with a rally in Jacksonville on August 9, 2004.

Thus, it really isn’t a surprise that this camera and microphone hound is where he is. Terri Schiavo's father Bob Schindler, announced in February that "Our family asked Randall Terry to come, and we gave him carte blanche to put Terri's fight in front of the American people. He did exactly what we asked, and more. Randall organized vigils and protests, he coordinated the media, he helped us meet with Governor Bush." In fact, "Terri's Law" signed by Gov. Jeb Bush last October 21 might better be known as "Terry’s Law", memorializing Randall Terry's key role in mobilizing fundamentalists to pressure the Governor and the legislature to intervene in the Schiavo case.

Over this past week, many commentators have said that the lesson of the Schiavo case is that one should be certain to have a living will on file. If Randall Terry and his like-minded troglodytes of the Christian Right have their way, even this won't be any good.

In the 1970s, when living will legislation first gained support, the anti-abortion movement was adamantly opposed to these demands for "death with dignity." The National Right to Life Coalition states on its website that "living wills are used to condition public acceptance of assisted suicide, mercy killing, and euthanasia." Though the religious extremists lost this fight in the 1980s, Schiavo's case has re-energized the movement's opposition to living wills, in the guise of opposition to euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Fr. Frank Pavone, the director of Priests for Life, which is an extremist anti-abortion group involved in the Schiavo case, has called living wills "unnecessary and dangerous for patients, doctors and society." In an article in the Baptist Press News on October 20, R. Albert Mohler, Jr. declared that the Schiavo case is proof "that the culture of death is gaining new ground and that what has been styled as 'voluntary' euthanasia is now turning into involuntary euthanasia."

Republicans in state legislatures have been working hard to overturn the authority for living wills. Legislation currently before the Wisconsin Senate allows doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other medical personnel who morally disagree with the guidelines regarding feeding and hydration tubes to ignore living wills and advance directives. This legislation has already passed the Republican-controlled Assembly and is likely to pass the Republican-controlled Senate. Of course, in Republican fundamentalist cloud-cuckoo land, it will then be perfectly all right for them to pass versions of the Texas legislation Governor George W. Bush signed, allowing hospitals to pull the plug when your bank account and insurance are exhausted.

In Elmer Gantry's America, you only ever get the salvation you pay for.

Article added at 12:17 AM EST

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