The Condition Of Our" Supreme' Court And Ultimately Our Country As Well.
John Dean knows how to get rid of Clarence Thomas (but doesn't think it's going to happen)
For good reason, there has been serious hand-wringing over what to do about the ethical lapses of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. The fact that Supreme Court justices are exempt from the code of ethical conduct which applies to the rest of the federal judiciary; the problem of bringing a sitting justice before the Congress to question the conduct of a constitutional co-equal; the reality that justices cannot easily defend themselves against news media charges; the defiant, in-your-face posture of Thomas—the list goes on but it need not. There is clear precedent for how to deal with the justice. Thomas could be forced off the bench.
As the associate deputy attorney general in President Richard M. Nixon’s Department of Justice, I was there when Assistant Attorney General William Rehnquist outlined how to remove a Supreme Court justice who had engaged in conduct not quite as troublesome as that of Thomas. Rehnquist, of course, would later become chief justice of the United States. His memorandum providing the process for the Department of Justice to proceed against then Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas remains solid precedent and the way to deal with Clarence Thomas. But before looking at the solution, I should explain the problem.
To begin with, there is absolutely no question in my mind that Thomas lied his way onto the Supreme Court in 1991 when he deniedAnita Hill’s chargesthat he had sexually harassed her and some of his other subordinates. If anyone needs proof, please examine the reporting of Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson, authors of “Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas,”which sets forth the case against Thomas with an abundance of clear and convincing evidence (not to mention the evidence corroborating Hill that Joe Biden, then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, withheld).
The way Thomas reached the court is important for two reasons. First, there was once a time when those sitting on our highest bench would never do anything to tarnish the court, and this factors into both his conduct and the chances of his removal. Secondly, Thomas’ deceit during his confirmation hearing has overshadowed all of his behavior since he arrived on the court.
Thomas fooled no one when he dissembled in 1991. Those who embrace his consistently radical conservative voting record often overlook how he arrived on the high court, and a few supporters and admirers even defend him by diminishing the significance of his persistently questionable behavior. Those who are unhappy with Thomas as a justice, not to mention his aggressive polarization of the court, find that he has simply lived down to his standards as a scoundrel and fabulist. No one is particularly surprised that his behavior as a justice just keeps sinking lower and lower, constantly reaching new bottoms. (For a catalog that samples Thomas’ failings, see The Reid Report.)
Many Supreme Court justices enjoy the company of well-off social friends. Few justices have significant wealth, and since their pay is so lowrelative to their stature, almost all live quite modestly. There is nothing wrong with justices having a few friends who can occasionally provide an especially pleasant social interlude while seeking nothing other than making life a bit more pleasant for these dedicated public servants. In fact, I have friends who socialize with justices. I can assure you they are all extremely sensitive to the nature of these relationships and would never exploit the friendships.
Thomas and his friends have no such compunctions. Maybe the way Thomas arrived on the court explains why he operates at the outer edges of court propriety, if not beyond. Maybe because he is held in such low esteem by so many on the bench and at the bar he simply does not care. As his book showed, he is a bitter man. The Washington Post notedthat he used his 2007 memoir, “My Grandfather’s Son,” to “settle scores,” while “scathingly condemning the media, the Democratic senators who opposed his nomination to the Supreme Court, and the ‘mob’ of liberal elites and activist groups that he says desecrated his life.” In short, he sees himself as a victim, so his actions may be his own private revenge. However, for those who have followed his career, as I have, it was not surprising to see the latest revelation in The New York Times, which reports again about Thomas’ “friendship” with Harlan Crow, a Dallas real estate magnate and big-time benefactor of conservative causes.
This relationship is deeply conflicted because Crow’s financial and political interests are frequently before the Supreme Court. Nonetheless, Crow continues to bestow endless gifts and favors on Thomas or fund matters of serious interest to the justice, such as giving Thomas a $19,000 Bible that once belonged to Frederick Douglass, donating $175,000 to finance a library project dedicated to Thomas in Savannah, Ga., and, as was recently revealed, providing not less than $2.8 million to acquire and preserve a crab and oyster cannery near Thomas’ childhood home in Pinpoint, Ga., a project that is operating under Thomas’ supervision.
One suspects this is but the tip of the iceberg because Thomas’ wife, Virginia (known as Ginni), is a Crow-funded conflict of interest with whom the justice literally sleeps. Ginni is not merely a foot-stomping, full-throated tea party activist, but she is a highly paid lobbyist. According to congressional information, in the past few years she has earned some $700,000 for her tea party work. In addition, Crow reportedly provided Ginni Thomas some $500,000 to start her tea party group, Liberty Central, which pays her so well. Ginni Thomas openly lobbies issues that have or will come before the Supreme Court, such as health care reform.
When 74 Democratic members of Congress requested that Justice Thomas disqualify himself from any ruling on the new health care reform law, which is making its way toward the Supreme Court thanks in part to the efforts of the tea party and Ginni Thomas to have that law ruled unconstitutional, he ignored the request. This is his standard operating procedure. Thomas simply is not troubled by those who are concerned that a justice and his wife directly and indirectly receive financial benefits from “a friend” with both financial and political interests before the court.
The question is what can be done about this problem. Early this year, U.S. Rep. Christopher Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, introduced the proposed Supreme Court Transparency and Disclosure Act of 2011 (H.R. 862). When introducing this legislation, which would extend to Supreme Court justices the code of professional conduct that applies to all other federal judges, Murphy cited the conflict of interest and political actions of Justice Clarence Thomas. Recently, the bill received a glimmer of press attention as a result of Thomas’ latest reported shenanigans, and the website Daily Kosis collecting signatures for a petition supporting Murphy’s proposal. In fact, the proposal in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives is the proverbial snowball in hell. Nothing is going to come of it, even if Daily Kos collects 100 million signatures. Plus, the proposal is laden with seriousconstitutional questions and problems. At the top of that list is the likelihood that the Supreme Court would declare it unconstitutional if it were adopted.
There is a way, nonetheless. As a young official in Nixon’s Department of Justice—and, I must admit, with some amazement—I watched a Republican Justice Department and a conservative attorney general go after a liberal Supreme Court justice with remarkable success. Robert Shogan, a former Los Angeles Times and Newsweek reporter, recounted much of the story in “A Question of Judgment: The Fortas Case and the Struggle for the Supreme Court.”I filled in a few missing pieces when I wrote “The Rehnquist Choice.”Rehnquist in those days was the head of the Office of Legal Counsel and prepared a detailed memorandum for Attorney General John Mitchell explaining how to undertake an action that had never before been done, namely for the Justice Department to start a criminal investigation of a sitting justice, not based on hard information but rather based mainly on speculation of a worst-case scenario, i.e., assuming gifts and favors were bribes.
White Supremacist Stampede
A startling number of white-power candidates are seeking public office. Eve Conant reports on their under-the-radar strategy and David Duke’s White House flirtation.
Add to the growing list of candidates considering a bid for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012 America’s most famous white-power advocate: David Duke.
A former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, member of the Louisiana House of Representatives and Republican executive-committee chairman in his district until 2000, Duke has a significant following online. His videos go viral. This month, he’s launching a tour of 25 states to explore how much support he can garner for a potential presidential bid. He hasn’t considered running for serious office since the early '90s, when he won nearly 40 percent of the vote in his bid for Louisiana governor. But like many “white civil rights advocates,” as he describes himself to The Daily Beast, 2012 is already shaping up to be a pivotal year.
Former (and current) Neo Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members, neo-Confederates, and other representatives of the many wings of the “white nationalist” movement are starting to file paperwork and print campaign literature for offices large and small, pointing to rising unemployment, four years with an African-American president, and rampant illegal immigration as part of a growing mound of evidence that white people need to take a stand.
Most aren’t winning—not yet. But they’re drawing levels of support that surprise and alarm groups that keep tabs on the white-power movement (members prefer the terms “racial realist” or “white nationalist”). In May, the National Socialist Movement’s Jeff Hall hit national headlines in a bizarre tragedy: his murder, allegedly at the hands of his 10-year-old son. But before his death, he had campaigned for a low-level water board position in Riverside, California. The swastika-wearing plumber who patrolled the U.S. border paramilitary-style walked away with almost 30 percent of his community’s vote. “That’s a sizable amount of the vote for a person running openly as a Neo Nazi,” says Marilyn Mayo, co-director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. While Hall’s political future—and life—has been cut short, Mayo points out that we should expect more white supremacist hopefuls next year.
Mayo and others date the current spike to 2008, and the election of the country’s first African-American president (an historic marker accompanied by a surge in the percentage of U.S. children born to minorities in 2008—48 percent, compared to 37 percent in 1990). “The immediate reaction after Obama was elected was of rage. They feel if a black man can get elected to office, why can’t someone who represents white interests?” Just a few weeks after Obama’s election, Duke gathered followers in Memphis to expressly strategize what to do next. The solution? If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
Billy Roper, at the White Heritage Days Festival (left) on September 18, 2004. Former Ku Klux Klan leader and congressional candidate David Duke speaks on "Meet the Press." March 28, 1999 (right)., Photos from left: David S. Holloway / Getty Images; Richard Ellis / Getty Images
What followed in 2010, say extremism watchers, was the biggest electoral push by white supremacists in years. “We’ve seen increasing numbers of white supremacists and others on the radical right running for electoral office for several years now and we likely had more in the last election than in any other in recent memory,” says Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center. “Although extremely few of these people are elected, especially if their views become known during the campaign, the fact that there are so many openly running for public office reflects the growth of white nationalism over the last 10 years.”
Potok’s group tracked 23 candidates in 2010 with radical right-wing views, nine of whom they described as white supremacists or white nationalists. (The others had extreme immigration and world-conspiracy views but did not specifically have links to white organizations.) One candidate, the neo-Confederate Loy Mauch, won a seat in the Arkansas House of Representatives, and another, James C. Russell, who has denounced interracial marriage, garnered 37 percent of the vote in his quest for the New York House of Representatives. Some candidates benefited from a new umbrella organization—the A3P, or American Third Position—which was launched in 2010 by a handful of wonkish-looking professors and corporate lawyers to, as they wrote in their mission statement, “represent the political interests of White Americans.” One of their political hopefuls, Atlee Yarrow, who has filed paperwork to run for Florida governor in 2014, says the Southern Poverty Law Center has listed A3P as a hate group “but it has open membership that mirrors the NAACP. They can have identity politics, but if white people do, it’s considered racist.”
“Many of our people are involved in the Tea Party,” says Black. “But much of their leadership is skittish when it comes to talking about racial realities. The Tea Party is a healthy movement but many are too conditioned to run like scared rabbits when called racists.”
” Disappointed with Ron and Rand Paul and other leaders who they feel are close, but not close enough, to their views—the A3P has fielded candidates like Harry Bertram, who ran for the West Virginia board of education last fall, pulling down 14 percent of the vote. He’s now angling for governor. “My platform is conservative like the Tea Party but more racialist inclined,” Bertram says. Another A3P candidate won 11 percent of the vote in a recent run for a seat in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. Those numbers are small, but hardly laughable, especially for a new group explicitly running on a white-interest ticket. “We’re just beginning,” says board member Jamie Kelso, who says the group’s platform includes a complete moratorium on immigration. “But we’re filling a void.”
Some candidates for 2012 are already filling paperwork. “White people need to wake up to the fact that we’re becoming a minority in our country,” says John Abarr, a 41-year-old former organizer for the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, has filed to begin raising money for Montana’s lone U.S. House seat. He’s not worried that the Republican Party isn’t backing him: “I don’t think public opinion is all that much against us. Montanans are independent thinkers.” His key platform? Abolish the Fed, raise the military age to 21 to stop what he calls the “barbaric” practice of sending teenagers to war, end the death penalty, legalize marijuana (he doesn’t smoke or drink himself), establish a 5 percent flat tax, and help whites by fighting entitlements (like affirmative action and immigration) that he says favor minorities. He describes the Klan as a Christian, white civil-rights organization, and glosses over the brutality that has earned the group its bad name. “I can’t agree with lynching anybody for any reason, but that was a different time in our history.” He adds: “We already have a black president, and I’m not sure when we’ll have a white president elected again.”
Another self-described blue-collar, pro-white candidate is The Nationalist Party of America’s Billy Roper. After a long career in neo-Nazi organizations and failing spectacularly in his bid for Arkansas governor in 2010, Roper and a fellow “White Aryan” veep candidate are promising on their 2012 website to continue the fight “for the civil rights of Americans of European ancestry.” Now supported by the A3P, he ran as a write-in candidate for governor, he says, to learn the ropes for 2012. He’s faced censorship, and has come to see it as a political plus. “Let’s just say Facebook wasn’t founded by the Irish. Hundreds of white nationalists like myself have had our pages and profiles deleted, disabled, or frozen. It teaches newcomers that censorship really does exist, and just hardens our resolve.”
One key precinct for politically minded white-rights activists: Stormfront, the nation’s largest white-supremacist website, where thousands of “racial realists” talk about everything from homeschooling and the news to uniting into a single party. Stormfront founder and radio host Don Black tells The Daily Beast the strategy is to start from the ground up, “where we have a chance of winning. It’s impossible to get into the Senate or Congress but state legislatures or smaller offices can work.” Black says the Tea Party’s influence spurred hopes among his ideological soulmates—but that the initial excitement has given way to a realpolitik sense that the Stormfront crowd will have to go it alone. “Many of our people are involved in the Tea Party,” says Black. “But much of their leadership is skittish when it comes to talking about racial realities. The Tea Party is a healthy movement but many are too conditioned to run like scared rabbits when called racists.”
No office is too small. The Neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement’s “Sergeant” Harriet Paletti in Wisconsin, a bubbly working mom with three kids, only takes off her swastika when she’s at work. She’ll be running for her district’s alderman position in 2012 and has just sent in her résumé to the mayor of New Berlin, hoping to fill a seat on either the Crime Prevention Committee, Police and Fire Commission, or the Parks and Recreation Board. “These are volunteer positions which of course will boost my political résumé when I begin my campaign in late 2012.” If and when elected, she says she’ll represent everyone in her mostly white district, regardless of color. She just doesn’t believe in intermingling in private life, part of what she calls a “natural law of self segregation.”
Murdoch Is One Of The Most Vicious, Powerful, Pukes In The World.
Read this and follow the story as it unfolds. If he goes down, the world will be a better place. And to those that have always defended his companies here, know who he really is and how he operates.
Adele M. Stan / AlterNet
4 Ways the Murdoch Scandal Points To Rot at the Top
Gag money, lies, political warfare and conflicts of interest are all in a day's work at Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.
It started with a phone-hacking scandal at a British tabloid, but the scandal now engulfing Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation empire encompasses several of his newspapers, including the once-venerable U.K. paper, the Sunday Times, and points to malfeasance by Murdoch's top lieutenant, Les Hinton, the former executive chairman of News International who is now based in New York in his current role as CEO of Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal. News International is the News Corp division that comprises all of Murdoch's British papers.
Although yesterday's revelations are rich in new details, those details simply reinforce a narrative that has long defined the company ethos of News Corp, an ethos we describe in four points:
* The targeting of Rupert Murdoch's political enemies
* Lying to public officials in official investigations
* Buying the silence of troublesome employees
* Lack of full disclosure of conflicts of interest
First, a Little Backstory
Sunday the scandal exploded once again as the Guardian -- the liberal U.K. paper that has doggedly reported this scandal as it has unfolded over the course of six years -- reported that Hinton may have lied to the British parliament about the number of people involved in the News of World phone-hacking schemes. (AlterNet's reporting on the scandal has raised questions about Hinton's role.) Then the Guardian revealed that the Sunday Times, another News International paper, targeted former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown using similarly underhanded tactics, such as having a private investigator pose as Brown in a phone call to Brown's bankers in order to obtain confidential information about the politician's personal finances. The targeting of Brown took place while Hinton manned the helm of News International.
While Hinton told parliament in 2007, just months before he was rewarded with his current post in New York, that the News of the World phone-hacking practices were limited to the actions of a single reporter and the hacker he hired, the Guardian today brought to light an internal News International investigation that suggested the practice was widespread at the paper. Hinton was among those to whom the memos detailing the findings were made available at the time of the investigation.
The phone-hacking part of the scandal, you'll recall, was first exposed years ago when it was revealed that News of the World, the British tabloid shuttered yesterday by Murdoch, had hired investigators to hack into the voice mail accounts of celebrities and aides to the royal family in order to glean fodder for the gossipy pieces that sold newspapers. But when, last week, the Guardian revealed that News of the World had used similar practices to feed its sensational coverage of a teenage murder victim -- even erasing the victim's voice-mails in order to make room for any new info that might have poured into her mailbox -- the British public turned on its most-read newspaper. A subsequent revelation that News of the World also hacked the voice-mail accounts of victims of the London subway terrorist bombings in 2007 further disgusted the public.
Then there are pay-offs to British law enforcement for information on people the newspapers were looking to find dirt on, payments that may also have yielded a less-than-thorough investigation of the phone-hacking scandal when it initially broke six years ago.
While the tactics of News International papers exposed by the Guardian may represent the most extreme manifestations of the ethical breaches and general malfeasance of News Corporation outlets, a similar pattern of pay-offs, prevarication and political sliming pervades the whole company, including at some of its big U.S. holdings such as Fox News, HarperCollins and the Wall Street Journal. (Four ways explained on next page.)
1. Targeting Murdoch's political enemies. While many newspaper moguls advance their political point of view on their editorial pages, Murdoch's minions are known to launch jihads against their boss' liberal political opponents. Murdoch is not a newspaperman with a political point of view; he's a right-wing political force who owns a number of very powerful media properties.
On Hinton's watch, the Sunday Times targeted Labour Party official Gordon Brown over the course of 10 years, both during Brown's long tenure as chancellor of the exchequer (the British equivalent of the U.S. treasury secretary) and his shorter stint as prime minister. The Guardian reports that as early as 2000, a "blagger" working on behalf of the Times posed as Brown in calls to the Abbey National Bank in a scam to get information about the chancellor's personal finances.
Also suspect, according to the Guardian, is the manner in which News International papers came to know of the cystic fibrosis diagnosis of one of Brown's children just hours after the Browns received the diagnosis, as well as the paper's reporting years earlier that Brown's daughter was dying of a brain hemorrhage. The Guardian also found that the paper had assistance from a police officer in its targeting of Brown and two Labour Party members of parliament.
Here in the U.S., the Wall Street Journal, under Hinton's watch, apparently sanctioned the involvement of an editorial board member in a political crusade to unseat Democrats in Wisconsin and elsewhere, via a program designed to indoctrinate employees of privately held businesses to vote against Democrats in the 2010 elections. As AlterNet reported in partnership with the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute, the Wall Street Journal's Stephen Moore made numerous appearances on behalf of employers at workplaces in Wisconsin and elsewhere to persuade workers that Democratic policies would ultimately cost them their jobs.
Fox News has made no secret of its intimidation of perceived political enemies. During Amanda Terkel's tenure at ThinkProgress, the blog of the liberal Center For American Progress Action Fund, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly dispatched his producers to tail Terkel as she set out on vacation in 2009, and confronted her once she reached her destination.
2. Lying to public officials. There is enough circumstantial evidence to suggest that lying to public officials who are conducting investigations is part of the News Corp ethos. Les Hinton's testimony before the British Parliament -- in which he said that phone-hacking at News of the World was practiced only by a single reporter, despite an internal investigation that suggested otherwise -- echoes, notes Media Matters' Eric Boehlert, advice allegedly given by Fox News chief Roger Ailes to Judith Regan, then an editor at Murdoch's book-publishing company, HarperCollins.
At the time, Bernard Kerik, who had served as New York City police commissioner under former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, had been nominated to the post of Homeland Security secretary by President George W. Bush. In the vetting process, investigators planned to interview Judith Regan, who had had an affair with Kerik. Revelation of the affair would have spoiled the nomination for Kerik and cast Ailes' friend Giuliani, who was floating a presidential bid, in a bad light. In a lawsuit against her employer, Regan alleged that a News Corp executive told her to lie to investigators. An investigation by the New York Times concluded that Roger Ailes was that executive.
3. Paying off troublesome employees to buy their silence. When Clive Goodman, the News of the World reporter who covered the royal family, lost his job after his arrest on phone-hacking charges, he began legal proceedings against his former employer, claiming he had been wrongfully dismissed. Les Hinton had told parliament that Goodman was the "lone reporter" responsible for the newspaper's phone-hacking scandal. Were Goodman to appear in court to tell the phone-hacking story he knew, it's likely that a whole lot of other people -- maybe even Andy Coulson, the paper's editor who would go on to become communications director for Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron -- would likely have been implicated. So News International bought his silence for an undisclosed sum.
When Judith Regan was canned from HarperCollins for her relationship with Bernard Kerik, she, too, prepared to take the matter to court -- which would have exposed Fox News chief Roger Ailes as the guy who told her to lie to the feds. Court documents as prepared asserted that Regan had a recording of the phone call in which Ailes told her to fib about her affair with Kerik. Regan's threats of a lawsuit earned her a cool $10.75 million, according to the New York Times, in exchange for her silence. That took place in 2007, right around the time that Goodman received his own gag money.
Ten Things the GOP Doesn't Want You to Know About the Debt
Just two weeks after he seconded Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's dire warnings about the August 2 deadline to raise the U.S debt ceiling, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor walked out of the budget talks aimed at reaching a bipartisan compromise over deficit reduction. Like Arizona GOP Senator Jon Kyl, Cantor shifted the burden to Speaker John Boehner, Senate Minority Mitch McConnell and President Obama to "get over this impasse on taxes."
For his part, McConnell promised that no deal to end the GOP's hostage taking of the U.S. economy will include tax hikes. But while McConnell boasted that "If they couldn't raise taxes when they owned the government, you know they can't get it done now," left unsaid was the inconvenient truth that the nation's mounting debt is largely attributable to wars, a recession and tax policies put in place under his party's watch.
Here, then, are 10 things the GOP doesn't want you to know about the debt:
1. Republican Leaders Agree U.S. Default Would Be a "Financial Disaster"
2. Ronald Reagan Tripled the National Debt
3. George W. Bush Doubled the National Debt
4. Republicans Voted Seven Times to Raise Debt Ceiling for President Bush
5. Federal Taxes Are Now at a 60 Year Low
6. Bush Tax Cuts Didn't Pay for Themselves or Spur "Job Creators"
7. Ryan Budget Delivers Another Tax Cut Windfall for Wealthy
8. Ryan Budget Will Require Raising Debt Ceiling - Repeatedly
9. Tax Cuts Drive the Next Decade of Debt
10. $3 Trillion Tab for Unfunded Wars Remains Unpaid
Each one of these points is fully explained with references at the link. If you are interested in understanding the vile manipulation that conservatives are using to force their ideology on the country, check it out.
In Bid for Control of GOP, Tea Party Brings U.S. to Brink of Economic Calamity
The Tea Party doesn't care if it has to destroy the United States in order to grab the levers of GOP machinery.
Adele M. Stan
July 23, 2011
For many, it's a head-scratcher. Don't those Republicans see the danger in their hardline stand against allowing the U.S. government to borrow the money it needs to continue operating? GOP members of Congress not only insist on tying any deal for raising of the debt ceiling to a deficit-reduction scheme, they are demanding that such a scheme not raise a dime of revenue -- not even from the wealthiest Americans, who are still basking in their Bush-era tax-cuts. On Friday, House Speaker John Boehner walked out of debt-limit talks with President Barack Obama, even after Obama offered the speaker a plan that would have made $650 billion in cuts to safety net programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
But, really, Boehner had no choice but to walk out -- if he wants to continue on as speaker, that is. The Obama deal, you see, included the elimination of certain tax breaks for the rich, and the closing of corporate tax loopholes, the president told reporters. And Boehner is on notice from the Tea Partiers within the ranks of the GOP that no means of increasing revenue is acceptable, not even for the easing of America's economic woes. Hot on Boehner's heels is the ambition of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
There's a temptation, when assessing the showdown over the debt ceiling that is bringing the United States to the brink of defaulting on its debt, to view the confrontation in terms of Republicans vs. Democrats, liberals vs. conservatives, Obama vs. Boehner.
What we're really witnessing, though, is a ruthless power-grab by the architects of the Tea Party movement for control of the Republican Party. And if they have to destroy House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to do it, they will. Heck, if they have to destroy the United States in order to grab the levers of GOP machinery, they will, content in the knowledge that, as elites, they will have first pick of the spoils.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the newfound love between Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the Tea Party organization founded by David Koch, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., the Tea Party-allied second-in-command of the House of Representatives. Cantor has made a specialty of undercutting his own speaker's negotiating power as Boehner tries to cut a deal with the president.
When, two weeks ago, Vice-President Joe Biden and GOP leaders were close to making a deal that would have given in to Republican demands for budget cuts, Cantor refused to go along because the deal included some tax increases. By walking out of the talks, Cantor won the hearts of Tea Party leaders, and, many said, a shot at the speaker's job. For if Cantor can prevent Boehner from brokering a deal with the president, the logic goes, the speaker could be so weakened as to lose his footing as the House Republicans' top man. That would leave Cantor positioned to step in.
Cantor's intransigence led Tim Phillips to laud Cantor in an interview he gave to Major Garrett in the Atlantic. "He has clearly emerged as the conservative on free-market economic issues," Phillips told Garrett. "Cantor's become the 'go-to' guy. There's no question about that."
Things were not always so chummy between Phillips and Cantor. When Cantor first ran for Congress in 2000, Garrett reports, Phillips, then a consultant to the George W. Bush campaign, opposed him. Phillips helped set up a group called the Faith and Family Alliance, which sent out campaign mailers and issued robo-calls against Cantor calling Cantor's primary opponent, Stephen Martin, "the only Christian in the race." (Cantor is Jewish.) Cantor squeaked out a win with a 263-vote margin, and set out to make friends with the right.
The election of Barack Obama to the presidency in 2008 breathed new life into the institutional right, which created the Tea Party movement on the winds of racial resentment and the economic distress that came with the 2007 bursting of the housing bubble, and the September 2008 stockmarket crash. Cantor, then House Minority Whip, wasted no time cashing in, even meeting in 2009, as AlterNet reported, with a neo-Confederate Virginia group, the Constitutional Sovereignty Alliance, to receive a letter from its Virginia Sovereignty March delegation.
As the August 2 deadline looms for avoiding default on the U.S. government debt, the GOP Tea Party Caucus in the House pushed through a plan for raising the debt ceiling called "Cut, Cap and Balance," which would deeply cut government spending, even on social safety net programs, cap government spending and send a balanced-budget constitutional amendment to the states for ratification. The Washington Post's Ezra Klein and Dylan Matthews write that the plan:
...would increase the debt ceiling in exchange for $111 billion in immediate cuts next year, statutory caps on spending, and a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution that includes a spending cap of 18 percent of the previous year's GDP and would require supermajorities to raise taxes or increase the debt ceiling. If the amendment was ratified, spending would have to drop to its lowest levels since the 1950s -- despite the fact that we now have Medicare, Medicaid, more seniors, etc. -- and taxes would be almost impossible to raise. The White House has promised to veto the bill, saying that deficit reduction does not require changes to the Constitution, and that the cuts involved are draconian.
On Friday, when Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., that chamber's Tea Party kingpin, attempted to put the measure before the Democratic-controlled body, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was having none of it. No sooner was the measure tabled than AFP president Tim Phillips, Eric Cantor's champion, sent out an email to his activists decrying Reid's halting of the bill, and encouraging recipients to click through to a Web-form email instructing members of Congress to reject any deal that includes tax increases.
Note that it was not Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who put the Cut, Cap and Balance deal up for consideration. Thanks to the power of such Tea Party astroturf groups as Americans for Prosperity and Dick Armey's FreedomWorks, McConnell leads only at the mercy of DeMint and his merry band of Tea Party allies, who threaten to launch primary challenges to any Republican Senate candidate who doesn't toe their line. It's a lesson Cantor has taken to heart, doubtlessly observing that while the House Tea Party caucus does not comprise a majority, it does have enough members to deprive the speaker of a majority on any measure behind which its members unite. Like DeMint's cadre of fellow travelers in the Senate, theirs is the power of "no."
Today in the Washington newspaper the Hill, an op-ed penned by Jenny Beth Martin and Mark Meckler of the Tea Party Patriots threw down the gauntlet at the feet of any lawmaker who might be inclined to raise a tax or two in order to prevent any further collapse of the economy that is almost sure to come if a debt-ceiling deal eludes the August 2 deadline. They also took a swipe at Boehner:
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) found time to commend the president for making the case to raise the debt ceiling, saying on July 11: “I would agree with the president that the national debt limit must be raised. I'm glad he made the case for it today.”
It is clear they are not serious about cutting wasteful spending or they would have found a way to do it. When a family is on the brink of bankruptcy and can't make ends meet, what do they do? They cut back on their spending. It's very simple.
Tea Party Patriots is a "grassroots" group founded by FreedomWorks, which is led by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas. (FreedomWorks was also founded with Koch money, although both the organization and Koch say they have parted ways.) Armey earns a total of $500,000 per year from FreedomWorks and its foundation. It's doubtful his family has any trouble making ends meet. But if the cost of pushing Boehner from the speaker's podium in favor of Cantor (or another player more to his liking) is the economic calamity that would almost certainly result if the U.S. government fails to meet its obligations, he probably won't mind a bit. Your family might face financial disaster, but Dick Armey, Tim Phillips and David Koch will still be sitting pretty.
The House speaker has clearly gotten the message. He may not be a Tea Partier himself, but he stands ready to do the bidding of movement leaders. With the debt-limit talks having failed at the executive level, only Congress can provide a solution. And in the House, the Tea Party caucus still carries the power of "no."
Power - Ideology - Greed - Lack Of Empathy - Hatred - Indifference to Reality - Absoloute Disregard For The Country And Its People.
These are the things that conservatives, especially tea-brained ones, care about.
Pukes doesn't begin to describe them. This is a family show.