Alternet - January 4, 2012
10 ways right-wing Christian groups will likely
shove religion down your throat this year
By Simon Brown, Church & State Magazine
The following piece comes from Church and State Magazine, published by Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
You don’t have to look far or wide to see signs that the Religious Right was resurgent in 2011.
From the halls of Congress, where the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly urged public schools to post “In God We Trust” displays in classrooms, to the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., that was attended by 3,000 fundamentalist Christian activists, the Religious Right’s influence loomed large.
Since 2012 is an election year, we expect the Religious Right to use this growing influence to wage an all-out war to shape the U.S. government into a body that will do its bidding.
With that in mind, here are 10 of the biggest challenges, issues and concerns that Americans United expects to confront in the coming twelve months.
Improper Involvement of Religion in the 2012 Elections
Religion has infiltrated the run-up to the 2012 elections on an unprecedented level. Virtually all of the Republican presidential candidates have spent considerable time courting votes from the Religious Right. Nearly all of the major contenders spoke at the Values Voter Summit, and most of those candidates also appeared at a forum in November focusing on “questions of the soul” that was held at a fundamentalist church in Iowa.
The Religious Right is also making a serious push to pick the Republican candidate for president. The Alliance Defense Fund held its annual “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” in October, an event designed to encourage churches to engage in illegal campaign intervention. Last year’s version featured a record number of participants, and activists assume that even more will join in fray in 2012. The Religious Right is also planning to hold voter turnout drives and distribute “voter guides” that pretend to be unbiased but are not.
Religious Right strategists dream of forging fundamentalist and evangelical churches into a disciplined voting bloc to effectively dominate the democratic process.
Sadly, the presidential campaign has already included expressions of religious bigotry. Influential Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress said in October that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who is Mormon, is a member of a cult and cited his affiliation as a reason not to support his candidacy.
Critics have also questioned President Barack Obama’s status as a Christian, charging falsely that he is a Muslim or at best an opponent of the Christian faith.
Article VI of the U.S. Constitution forbids religious tests for public office, and church-state separationists regard attacks such as these as a violation of the spirit of that provision.
School Voucher Onslaught in the States and Congress
The Associated Press reported that 30 states explored voucher subsidies for religious and other private schools in 2011, and that number is expected to grow this year. These efforts have been driven by wealthy right-wing organizations, such as the Alliance for School Choice, which advocates for vouchers nationwide and is run by right-wing activist Betsy DeVos. Her organization and its allies provide vast resources and public relations expertise to push for school vouchers in many states.
DeVos has lots of help from the Religious Right and the Roman Catholic hierarchy because parochial schools and fundamentalist academies would be the primary beneficiary of “school choice” programs.
There is an especially sneaky attempt at voucher legislation underway in Florida, where a ballot initiative set to be considered in 2012 would allow the state to give taxpayer money to religious organizations.
Rabbi Merrill Shapiro, president of the Americans United Board of Trustees, is a plaintiff in a case filed by AU and its allies to get the initiative off the ballot. He and others involved in the litigation say the proposed constitutional amendment misleads voters about its true effects.
Voucher bills may come up on the federal level as well. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) railroaded a voucher program for the District of Columbia through Congress in March, so it’s clear Americans United will have to carefully monitor federal legislation as well in 2012.
The Catholic Bishops’ Crusade for ‘Religious Liberty’
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has launched a formidable new lobbying unit known as the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty. The committee claims to be defending religious liberty, but critics say it actually seeks to preserve taxpayer funding for church-affiliated agencies while maintaining overly broad exemptions from various laws.
A representative of this committee testified in October before the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution regarding the issue of religious liberty in America and made the case that Catholic-run organizations should be exempt from providing birth control or recognizing same-sex marriages but should still receive government contracts and funds. Republicans on the committee seemed willing to consider this position, but Democrats were very resistant to offering such broad religious exemptions and government money.
The Pew Research Center found that Catholic lobbying organizations are the most powerful among Washington religious lobbies as they comprise 19 percent of all faith lobbying. As a result, the Ad Hoc Committee will certainly be one to watch in 2012.
Improper Religious Proselytizing in Public Schools
Some elements of the Religious Right hate the public school system because it doesn’t allow them to indoctrinate students with their version of Christianity. As a result, they look to add prayer or other religious activities to the school schedule whenever they can.
In Missouri, for example, voters will face a religion amendment on the 2012 ballot that, if passed, would open the door for religious activities on any and all public property, including schools. The proposal is so open-ended that school children might have the right to refuse to do homework on religious grounds.
In Florida, a bill is advancing through the state legislature that would let local school boards allow students to offer prayers at school events. Originally the measure stated that the prayers must be non-sectarian but that language was removed. The legislation has been offered several times before and could pass, although AU’s Florida chapters, the ACLU and the Anti-Defamation League all oppose the measure.
Moreover, the Religious Right is always trying to stack public school curriculum and textbooks with religious material and going on creationism crusades, which observers expect will continue in 2012.
‘Faith-Based’ Funding and Hiring Bias
Despite pleas from Americans United and allies, President Obama has yet to act on his campaign promise to make major civil rights and civil liberties improvements to the Bush “faith-based” initiative. Speaking in Zanesville, Ohio, in 2008, he said, “If you get a federal grant, you can’t use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can’t discriminate against them – or against the people you hire – on the basis of their religion.”
Americans United has written to Obama asking him to keep his promise, but he has yet to do so. This issue is likely to remain an ongoing concern in 2012.
Related faith-based funding controversies are also likely. For example, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is considering a new rule allowing the use of taxpayer funds for the construction and repair of religious buildings overseas.
AU has submitted comments to USAID urging the agency to withdraw the proposed rule.
Government Promotion of Religious Symbols
In an election year, politicians often look for easy ways to show their religiosity and that has already begun at both the state and federal levels.
The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a resolution in November that reaffirmed “In God We Trust” as the official motto of the United States and encouraged its display in public schools and other public buildings. The action came even though, as Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) pointed out, no one had suggested that this is not the motto of the United States.
That same month, Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), introduced a bill that would order the Secretary of the Interior to add a Franklin Delano Roosevelt prayer to the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Roosevelt offered that prayer on D-Day as the United States began the military operation that liberated Europe.
Another religious display issue has arisen in Montana, where a large statue of Jesus erected by the Knights of Columbus sits on national forest land. The U.S. Forest Service had planned to remove the statue, but is facing resistance not only from the Knights but also from U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), who wants to save it.
In Georgia, the state legislature will consider a bill that would require all vehicle license plates to be emblazoned with “In God We Trust” unless drivers pay extra to cover up the message.
As election season heats up this year, it is likely these types of efforts will only increase.
Attacks on Religious Minorities
The Religious Right says frequently that America is a Christian nation (despite ample evidence to the contrary), so anyone who doesn’t share that movement’s belief in its special brand of Christianity is often marginalized.
The best example of attempts by the Religious Right to marginalize minorities is anti-sharia legislation. In 2010, Oklahoma passed the so-called “Save Our State Amendment,” which bars enforcement of Islamic law. It received 70 percent of the vote.
Church-state experts note that the U.S. Constitution already bars government support for religion in most cases, so such legislation is unnecessary.
The law has been challenged in court on the grounds that it singles out Muslims for discrimination. Americans United filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case in May, and it is now before the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
While Oklahoma has taken one of the rashest stances in discriminating against Muslims, it is clear that many other elements of the Religious Right would like to see similar laws enforced nationwide and could make a push for that in 2012.
The Marriage War
The Religious Right, along with the Catholic hierarchy and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), are out to fashion state marriage policy so it reflects their doctrinal teachings. They are firmly committed to the idea that marriage is between one man and one woman only, and they are fighting in the courts, in the statehouses and in Congress to make sure the law continues to define marriage according to their theology.
The highest profile case is the challenge to California’s 2008 ban on same-sex marriage that is working its way through the federal court system. More than 40 states have already banned same-sex marriage, but the outcome of this case could set a precedent for reversing that trend. The Supreme Court may take up the issue in 2012.
There is also a referendum in the works in North Carolina that could be on the ballot in May and would, if passed, put a ban on gay marriage into the state constitution.
A referendum banning same-sex marriage is also on the November ballot in Minnesota.
‘Personhood’ Amendments Here, There and Everywhere
Multiple states have faced attacks from groups seeking to pass “personhood” amendments, and that trend looks to continue in 2012.
The latest state to consider one of these amendments is Mississippi, which voted it down in November. Had the measure passed, it would have declared fertilized eggs to be people, made abortion illegal in virtually all instances, including cases of rape and incest, and it would have banned some forms of birth control. So broad was the language of the amendment that women who miscarried could have been subjected to criminal investigations.
Keith Mason, co-founder of Personhood USA, which is a sponsor of these amendments, has said that his organization may attempt another shot at a Mississippi ballot initiative and that his organization is pushing for “personhood” amendments on the 2012 ballots in Ohio, Florida, Montana, Oregon, California and Nevada.
Religiously Based Censorship
The Religious Right is always on the lookout for books, movies, artwork and other aspects of culture to ban based on their religious convictions.
In late 2010, Speaker John Boehner and his allies called for the removal of an exhibit in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery after they learned that it contains a short video of a crucifix with ants crawling on it, as well as works of art with sexual themes. The museum bent to Boehner’s pressure and removed the video.
In Missouri last summer, a school district banned Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five and Sarah Oeckler’s Twenty Boy Summer because a local professor complained that the books advocate principles that are contrary to the Bible.
Similar Religious Right ventures are likely in 2012.
* * *
This is only a short summary of some of the issues Americans United faces in the upcoming year.
In summing up the challenges, AU Executive Director Barry W. Lynn said, “This could be a uniquely challenging year for Americans United, with political candidates claiming God’s endorsement and lawmakers poised to vote on all manner of unconstitutional affronts to the First Amendment.”
OpEdNews - January 5, 2012
Arms dealer Obama will win by default
By Robert Scheer
Barack Obama will be re-elected not as a vindication of his policies but because the Republicans are incapable of providing a reasonable challenge to his flawed performance. On the central issue of our time--reining in the greed of the multinational corporations, led by the financial sector and the defense industry--a Republican presidential victor, with the possible exception of the now-sidelined Ron Paul, would do far less to challenge the kleptocracy of corporate-dominated governance.
As compared to front-runner Mitt Romney, who wants to derail even Obama's tepid efforts at regulating Wall Street, and who seeks ever more wasteful increases in military spending, the incumbent president appears relatively enlightened, but that is cold comfort.
Not only has Obama been a savior of the banking conglomerates that so generously financed his campaign, but he also has proved to be equally as solicitous of the needs of the military-industrial complex. He entered his re-election year by signing a $662 billion defense authorization bill that strips away some of our most fundamental liberties and keeps military spending at Cold War levels, and by approving a $60 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia.
Those two actions represent an obvious contradiction, since the attack on American soil that kept defense spending so high in the post-9/11 decade was carried out by 15 Saudis and four other men directed by Osama bin Laden, a wealthy Saudi primarily using funding from his native land. Now Saudi Arabia is to be protected as a holdout against the democratic impulse of the Arab Spring because it is our ally against Iran, a nation that had nothing to do with 9/11. Saudi Arabia, it should be recalled, was one of only three nations, along with the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan, to recognize the Taliban government that harbored bin Laden before 9/11.
This is the same Saudi monarchy that rushed its forces into Bahrain last March to crush a popular uprising. But that doesn't trouble the Obama administration; for two years it has been aggressively pushing the Saudi arms deal, which includes $30 billion in fighter jets built by Boeing. Forget human rights or the other good stuff Democrats love to prattle on about. As White House spokesman Josh Earnest put it: "This agreement reinforces the strong and enduring relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia and demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a strong Saudi defense capability as a key component to regional security."
The rationale for the first big arms deal with the tyrannical Saudi monarchy since 1992 is that a better-armed Sunni theocracy is needed to counter the threat from the Shiite theocracy in Iran. Once again the U.S. is stoking religious-based fratricide, just as we did in Iraq. Only this time, we are on the side of Saudi Sunnis oppressing Shiites both at home and in neighboring Bahrain. That oppression--along with a U.S. invasion that replaced Tehran's sworn enemy in Sunni-led Baghdad with a Shiite leadership that had long been nurtured by Iran's ayatollahs--is what enhances the regional influence of Iran.
If Iran ever does pose a regional military threat because of its nuclear program or any other reason, real or concocted, it will be NATO forces that will take out the threat, not the Saudis, who will still be polishing their latest-model F-15s as icons of a weird conception of modernism.
The real reason for this deal is that it is the only sort of jobs program that Democrats are capable of pushing through an obstructive Congress. The administration boasts that the arms package will result in 50,000 jobs in 44 states, underscoring the warning from Dwight Eisenhower, the last progressive Republican president, about the power of a military-industrial complex that has tentacles in every congressional district. As Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, an Armed Services Committee member who championed this sale, put it: "The F-15 is a world-class aircraft built by hardworking folks right here in St. Louis. I am thrilled for all of the skilled men and women on the F-15 line that this important, big order that I have stood side-by-side with them in working to secure is finally happening."
A Democrat running for re-election, McCaskill added, "These are important jobs in our community. I will continue advocating for sales of Boeing products wherever appropriate." Being a good Democrat, she doesn't reference Boeing's profits, which are increasingly dependent upon arming the rest of the world.
That's the win-win of government-generated profits and jobs on which the Democrats are counting to defeat the Republicans, both through campaign contributions from the more rational among the wealthy and the votes of ordinary people who, despite being seriously hurt in this economy, have nowhere else to turn.
Robert Scheer is editor in chief of the progressive Internet site Truthdig. He has built a reputation for strong social and political writing over his 30 years as a journalist.
Original Content at http://www.opednews.com/articles/Arms-Dealer-Obama-Will-Win-by-Robert-Scheer-120105-326.html
AlterNet - January 10, 2012
Five founding fathers whose skepticism about
Christianity would make them unelectable today
By Rob Boston
To hear the Religious Right tell it, men like George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were 18th-century versions of Jerry Falwell in powdered wigs and stockings. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Unlike many of today’s candidates, the founders didn’t find it necessary to constantly wear religion on their sleeves. They considered faith a private affair. Contrast them to former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (who says he wouldn’t vote for an atheist for president because non-believers lack the proper moral grounding to guide the American ship of state), Texas Gov. Rick Perry (who hosted a prayer rally and issued an infamous ad accusing President Barack Obama of waging a “war on religion”) and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum (whose uber-Catholicism leads him to oppose not just abortion but birth control).
There was a time when Americans voted for candidates who were skeptical of core concepts of Christianity like the Trinity, the divinity of Jesus and the virgin birth. The question is, could any of them get elected today? The sad answer is probably not.
Here are five founding fathers whose views on religion would most likely doom them to defeat today:
1. George Washington. The father of our country was nominally an Anglican but seemed more at home with Deism. The language of the Deists sounds odd to today’s ears because it’s a theological system of thought that has fallen out of favor. Desists believed in God but didn’t necessarily see him as active in human affairs. The god of the Deists was a god of first cause. He set things in motion and then stepped back.
Washington often employed Deistic terms. His god was a “supreme architect” of the universe. Washington saw religion as necessary for good moral behavior but didn’t necessarily accept all Christian dogma. He seemed to have a special gripe against communion and would usually leave services before it was offered.
Washington was widely tolerant of other beliefs. He is the author of one of the great classics of religious liberty – the letter to Touro Synagogue (1790). In this letter, Washington assured America’s Jews that they would enjoy complete religious liberty in America; not mere toleration in an officially “Christian” nation. He outlines a vision of a multi-faith society where all are free.
“The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation,” wrote Washington. “All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens.”
Stories of Washington’s deep religiosity, such as tales of him praying in the snow at Valley Forge, can be ignored. They are pious legends invented after his death.
2. John Adams. The man who followed Washington in office was a Unitarian, although he was raised a Congregationalist and never officially left that church. Adams rejected belief in the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus, core concepts of Christian dogma. In his personal writings, Adams makes it clear that he considered some Christian dogma to be incomprehensible.
In February 1756, Adams wrote in his diary about a discussion he had had with a man named Major Greene. Greene was a devout Christian who sought to persuade Adams to adopt conservative Christian views. The two argued over the divinity of Jesus and the Trinity. Questioned on the matter of Jesus’ divinity, Greene fell back on an old standby: some matters of theology are too complex and mysterious for we puny humans to understand.
Adams was not impressed. In his diary he wrote, “Thus mystery is made a convenient cover for absurdity.”
As president, Adams signed the famous Treaty of Tripoli, which boldly stated, “[T]he government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion….”
3. Thomas Jefferson. It’s almost impossible to define Jefferson’s subtle religious views in a few words. As he once put it, “I am a sect by myself, as far as I know.” But one thing is clear: His skepticism of traditional Christianity is well established. Our third president did not believe in the Trinity, the virgin birth, the divinity of Jesus, the resurrection, original sin and other core Christian doctrines. He was hostile to many conservative Christian clerics, whom he believed had perverted the teachings of that faith.
Jefferson once famously observed to Adams, “And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.”
Although not an orthodox Christian, Jefferson admired Jesus as a moral teacher. In one of his most unusual acts, Jefferson edited the New Testament, cutting away the stories of miracles and divinity and leaving behind a very human Jesus, whose teachings Jefferson found “sublime.” This “Jefferson Bible” is a remarkable document – and it would ensure his political defeat today. (Imagine the TV commercials the Religious Right would run: Thomas Jefferson hates Jesus! He mutilates Bibles!)
Jefferson was confident that a coolly rational form of religion would take root in the fertile intellectual soil of America. He once predicted that just about everyone would become Unitarian. (Despite his many talents, the man was no prophet.)
Jefferson took political stands that would infuriate today’s Religious Right and ensure that they would work to defeat him. He refused to issue proclamations calling for days of prayer and fasting, saying that such religious duties were no part of the chief executive’s job. His assertion that the First Amendment erects a “wall of separation between church and state” still rankles the Religious Right today.
4. James Madison. Jefferson’s close ally would be similarly unelectable today. Madison is perhaps the most enigmatic of all the founders when it comes to religion. To this day, scholars still debate his religious views.
Nominally Anglican, Madison, some of his biographers believe, was really a Deist. He went through a period of enthusiasm for Christianity as a young man, but this seems to have faded. Unlike many of today’s politicians, who eagerly wear religion on their sleeves and brag about the ways their faith will guide their policy decisions, Madison was notoriously reluctant to talk publicly about his religious beliefs.
Madison was perhaps the strictest church-state separationist among the founders, taking stands that make the ACLU look like a bunch of pikers. He opposed government-paid chaplains in Congress and in the military. As president, Madison rejected a proposed census because it involved counting people by profession. For the government to count the clergy, Madison said, would violate the First Amendment.
Madison, who wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, also opposed government-issued prayer proclamations. He issued a few during the War of 1812 at the insistence of Congress but later concluded that his actions had been unconstitutional. As president, he vetoed legislation granting federal land to a church and a plan to have a church in Washington care for the poor through a largely symbolic charter. In both cases, he cited the First Amendment.
One can hear the commercials now: "James Madison is an anti-religious fanatic. He even opposes prayer proclamations during time of war."
5. Thomas Paine. Paine never held elective office, but he played an important role as a pamphleteer whose stirring words helped rally Americans to independence. Washington ordered that Paine’s pamphlet “The American Crisis” be read aloud to the Continental Army as a morale booster on Dec. 23, 1776. “Common Sense” was similarly popular with the people. These seminal documents were crucial to winning over the public to the side of independence.
So Paine’s a hero, right? He was also a radical Deist whose later work, The Age of Reason, still infuriates fundamentalists. In the tome, Paine attacked institutionalized religion and all of the major tenets of Christianity. He rejected prophecies and miracles and called on readers to embrace reason. The Bible, Paine asserted, can in no way be infallible. He called the god of the Old Testament “wicked” and the entire Bible “the pretended word of God.” (There go the Red States!)
What can we learn from this? Americans have the right to reject candidates for any reason, including their religious beliefs. But they ought to think twice before tossing someone aside just because he or she is skeptical of orthodox Christianity. After all, that description includes some of our nation’s greatest leaders.
Rob Boston is senior policy analyst at Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
AltNet - January 19, 2012
Gingrich, in S.C. debate, shows religious
right is about patriarchy, not family values
January 19, 2012
At the final GOP presidential debate before Saturday's primary in South Carolina, the crowd response to Newt Gingrich's fury when questioned about his ex-wife's explosive allegation yanked the veil from the driving force of the religious right: patriarchy, not family values.
Earlier in the day, ABC broke the story that Marianne Gingrich, the former House speaker's ex-wife, alleged that, while the two were still bound by the marriage contract, Newt asked her for an "open marriage" -- which would allow him to continue his affair with Callista Bistek, the former congressional aide who is his current wife, and, perhaps, other women.
In South Carolina, Gingrich, when taking a break from race-baiting in a state that still flies the Confederate flag on the grounds of its state capitol, is campaigning on a platform of family values, helping to propel him to frontrunner status in the race in the closing days of the Palmetto State campaign.
Evangelical Christians comprise about 60 percent of South Carolina's pool of likely GOP primary voters. These are not just your generic religious Protestants; these are the people who make up the religious right. You know, the people who are so concerned with the "sanctity of marriage" as a rationale for opposing equal rights for LGBT people. The people who say abstinence is the only acceptable way to avoid pregnancy.
But when CNN Chief National Correspondent John King opened the debate by asking Gingrich to respond to his ex-wife's allegations, the fury of Gingrich's response -- directed at media in general and King in particular -- was met with a standing ovation by the crowd in the auditorium.
Here is Gingrich's response to King:
I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country harder to attract decent people to run for office. I'm appalled you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that.
Every person in here knows personal pain. Every person in here has had someone close to them go through painful things. To take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary, a significant question in a presidential campaign, is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine.
Gingrich went on to say that his two daughters by his first marriage (Marianne was his second wife; Callista is his third) wrote to "the head of ABC" to demand that the story be pulled. He categorically denied the allegation, and said that ABC refused to talk to long-time friends of the couple who would have backed him up.
Then he made an allegation of his own: that the news media was engaged in a giant conspiracy to support Obama and destroy Republicans. "I am tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans," Gingrich said.
The crowd roared its approval.
Now, let's break this down a bit, starting with, "To take an ex-wife..."
If anyone took Newt's ex-wife, it would appear to be Newt, who, according to the ex-wife, asked for an open marriage and/or a divorce just after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. (He dumped his first wife while she was undergoing treatment for cancer.) It was Marianne Gingrich who stepped up to the media today to make the allegation that her ex-husband was not morally fit to be president, so it's hard to see where anybody "took" her.
Next, let's examine, "...and make it two days before the primary..."
When, one wonders, would have been a more appropriate time?
Then, "...a significant question in a presidential campaign..."
Apparently when campaigning on a platform of traditional morality, questions of one's own sexual morality are not permitted. At least, if your name is Newt Gingrich. But if your name is Bill Clinton, your sexual morality is fair game for the morally-exempt Newt Gingrich.
And, finally, "...is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine..."
We all know there are no limits to the vast imagination of the self-described big-ideas candidate that is Newt Gingrich. (Gingrich himself, in Thursday night's debate, embraced former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum's description of the former speaker as "grandiose".) He's not only imagined some pretty despicable things, but put them into practice. If Gingrich's jihad against Bill Clinton for the president's adultery -- while the married speaker himself was bedding a congressional aide who was not his wife -- doesn't qualify as despicable, there may be more where that comes from.
Marianne Gingrich alleges that her former husband committed adultery with that congressional aide in the marriage bed of the couple's Washington apartment while Marianne traveled, calling her from the bed with Callista lying silently under the covers. If that's true, it doesn't take much imagination to come up with the word "despicable."
But to many good Christians in the debate hall, Gingrich's behavior toward his wife is beyond question. It's all rather biblical. The big men of the Bible had their harems, after all.
OpEdNews - January 19, 2012
Why the GOP presidential candidates talk race (in code)
By Earl Ofari Hutchinson
South Carolina Democratic Congressman James Clyburn lambasted the GOP presidential candidates for talking race in code. There's plenty of ammunition for the attack with the stream of race tinged references Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Mitt Romney made to food stamps, welfare, work ethics, and an entitlement society. Then there are the racially loaded newsletters from Ron Paul that resurfaced. The candidates when challenged have ducked, dodged, and denied any racial intent, or in the case of Paul's newsletter that he even penned them. The denials seem plausible only because the GOP presidential candidates have made it a practiced art of saying absolutely nothing on the campaign trail about discrimination, poverty, and the gaping racial health care and educational disparities. They are even muter in denouncing the non-stop barrage of racist taunts, digs, slurs, depictions of President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama by some Tea Party leaders and GOP elected officials.
GOP presidential candidates for the past three decades have crunched the voter numbers and the stats. The GOP base is the white South and the Heartland. They deliver more than one third of the electoral votes needed to bag the White House. These are the also the voters that GOP presidents and aspiring presidents, Nixon, Reagan, Bush Sr. George W. Bush, and John McCain and legions of GOP governors, senators and congresspersons banked on for victory and to seize and maintain regional and national political dominance. They haven't disappointed them. Racial code talk has been a key weapon in the GOP's campaign arsenal. It has been the spark to reignite the GOP's traditional conservative, lower income white male loyalists.
The final presidential vote in 2008 gave ample warning of the potency of the GOP's conservative white constituency when aroused. While Obama made a major breakthrough in winning a significant percent of votes from white independents and young white voters. McCain still won a majority of their vote. Overall, Obama garnered slightly more than 40 percent of the white male vote. Among Southern and Heartland America white male voters, Obama made almost no impact. In South Carolina and other Deep South states the vote was even more lopsided among white voters against Obama. The only thing that even made Obama's showing respectable in those states was the record turnout and percentage of black votes that he got. They were all Democratic votes.
McCain would not have been as competitive as he was during campaign 2008 without the bail out from white male voters. Much has been made since then that they are a dwindling percent of the electorate, and that Hispanics, Asian, black, young, and women voters will permanently tip the balance of political power to the Democrats in coming national elections. Blue collar white voters have shrunk from more than half of the nation's voters to less than forty percent. The assumption based solely on this slide and the increased minority population numbers and regional demographic changes is that the GOP's white vote strategy is doomed to fail. This ignores three political facts. Elections are usually won by candidates with a solid and impassioned core of bloc voters. White males, particularly older white males, vote consistently and faithfully. And they voted in a far greater percentage than Hispanics and blacks.
The 2010 mid-term elections was political textbook proof of that. The GOP snatched back the House with a deft play on the long favored racial code themes of tax and spend Democrats, wasteful big government, run-away deficit spending on entitlement programs, and their full blown assaults on so-called Obamacare, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security programs, and labor unions. The major recipients of these programs are and have always been white seniors, retirees, women, and children, and white workers. But these programs have been artfully sold to many Americans as handouts to lazy, undeserving blacks, Hispanics and minorities.
Then there are the always thorny social issues. They slid off the nation's radar scope the past few years mostly because the laser preoccupation and worry of most Americans has been over jobs and the economy. But they didn't completely disappear as potentially inflammatory issues. GOP leaders have long known that blue collar white male voters can be easily aroused to vote and shout loudly on the emotional wedge issues; abortion, family values, anti-gay marriage and prayer. Rick Santorum and before her failed candidacy fell apart Michelle Bachman, have done everything they can to play the family values card to fire up ultra-conservatives and Christian evangelicals.
The GOP's traditional path to the White House has been to stoke the fears of whites over big government and minority encroachment. It failed in 2008 only because of the rage and disgust of legions of white voters at Bush's horribly failed and flawed domestic and war policies, and the GOP's sorry record of scandals, and ineptness. This was not a radical and permanent sea change in overall white voter sentiment about the GOP as the 2010 mid-term elections showed.
The ultimate end game of the GOP presidential contenders is to make Obama a one-term president. If they have to speak in racial code terms to do it, they'll do it. It worked too well in the past for them not too.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour heard weekly on the nationally network broadcast Hutchinson Newsmaker Network.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is a nationally acclaimed author and political analyst. He has authored ten books; his articles are published in newspapers and magazines nationally in the United States.