Jewish Groups Condemn False Charges of Obama Being Anti-Semitic

The latest round of smears on Barack Obama is quickly being debunked, as Jewish groups are joining in to condemn the right wing attempts to connect Obama with anti-Semitism. Richard Cohen repeated some of these claims in a column in The Washington Post. The smears concentrate on relationships between Jeremiah A. Wright, the pastor of Obama’s church, and Trumpet Magazine, a church newsletter, to Louis Farrakhan. The attacks boil down to insinuating that Obama shares views with Farrahkan  because of support for Farrahkan by Wright and the church newsletter. As even Cohen concedes in his column, “It’s important to state right off that nothing in Obama’s record suggests he harbors anti-Semitic views or agrees with Wright when it comes to Farrakhan.”

Obama has previously made it clear that he does not agree with Wright’s anti-Semitic views, and repeated this today:

I decry racism and anti-Semitism in every form and strongly condemn the anti-Semitic statements made by Minister Farrakhan. I assume that Trumpet Magazine made its own decision to honor Farrakhan based on his efforts to rehabilitate ex-offenders, but it is not a decision with which I agree.

One aspect of this smear campaign has been to translate the anti-Obama emails into Hebrew. Several Jewish organizations have condemned this attack in the following letter:

January 15, 2008

An Open Letter to the Jewish Community:

As leaders of the Jewish community, none of whose organizations will endorse or oppose any candidate for President, we feel compelled to speak out against certain rhetoric and tactics in the current campaign that we find particularly abhorrent. Of particular concern, over the past several weeks, many in our community have received hateful emails that use falsehood and innuendo to mischaracterize Senator Barack Obama’s religious beliefs and who he is as a person.

These tactics attempt to drive a wedge between our community and a presidential candidate based on despicable and false attacks and innuendo based on religion. We reject these efforts to manipulate members of our community into supporting or opposing candidates.

Attempts of this sort to mislead and inflame voters should not be part of our political discourse and should be rebuffed by all who believe in our democracy. Jewish voters, like all voters, should support whichever candidate they believe would make the best president. We urge everyone to make that decision based on the factual records of these candidates, and nothing less.

Sincerely,

William Daroff, Vice President, United Jewish Communities

Nathan J. Diament, Director, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America

Abraham Foxman, National Director, Anti-Defamation League

Richard S. Gordon, President, American Jewish Congress

David Harris, Executive Director, American Jewish Committee

Rabbi Marvin Hier, Dean, Simon Wiesenthal Center

Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Phyllis Snyder, President, National Council of Jewish Women

Hadar Susskind, Washington Director, Jewish Council for Public Affairs

Ron Paul Exposed by The New Republic

An unfortunate consequence of the Ron Paul campaign has been to form a strange alliance between more conservative libertarians and extremist groups including neo-Nazis and white supremacists. I’ve quoted from the racist writings in Ron Paul’s newsletter in the past, as well as noted his other connections to extremist groups. James Kirchick has accumulated far more information on Paul’s past at The New Republic. Some selections from Ron Paul’s newsletters can be found here. Besides containing racism and anti-Semitism, the newsletters contained support for the paranoid conspiracy theories which Paul has been associated with:

Paul’s newsletters didn’t just contain bigotry. They also contained paranoia–specifically, the brand of anti-government paranoia that festered among right-wing militia groups during the 1980s and ’90s. Indeed, the newsletters seemed to hint that armed revolution against the federal government would be justified. In January 1995, three months before right-wing militants bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, a newsletter listed “Ten Militia Commandments,” describing “the 1,500 local militias now training to defend liberty” as “one of the most encouraging developments in America.” It warned militia members that they were “possibly under BATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms] or other totalitarian federal surveillance” and printed bits of advice from the Sons of Liberty, an anti-government militia based in Alabama–among them, “You can’t kill a Hydra by cutting off its head,” “Keep the group size down,” “Keep quiet and you’re harder to find,” “Leave no clues,” “Avoid the phone as much as possible,” and “Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.”

The newsletters are chock-full of shopworn conspiracies, reflecting Paul’s obsession with the “industrial-banking-political elite” and promoting his distrust of a federally regulated monetary system utilizing paper bills. They contain frequent and bristling references to the Bilderberg Group, the Trilateral Commission, and the Council on Foreign Relations–organizations that conspiracy theorists have long accused of seeking world domination. In 1978, a newsletter blamed David Rockefeller, the Trilateral Commission, and “fascist-oriented, international banking and business interests” for the Panama Canal Treaty, which it called “one of the saddest events in the history of the United States.” A 1988 newsletter cited a doctor who believed that AIDS was created in a World Health Organization laboratory in Fort Detrick, Maryland. In addition, Ron Paul & Associates sold a video about Waco produced by “patriotic Indiana lawyer Linda Thompson”–as one of the newsletters called her–who maintained that Waco was a conspiracy to kill ATF agents who had previously worked for President Clinton as bodyguards. As with many of the more outlandish theories the newsletters cited over the years, the video received a qualified endorsement: “I can’t vouch for every single judgment by the narrator, but the film does show the depths of government perfidy, and the national police’s tricks and crimes,” the newsletter said, adding, “Send your check for $24.95 to our Houston office, or charge the tape to your credit card at 1-800-RON-PAUL.”

The responses from Paul’s campaign have not been very reassuring as he says the material was written by others, but are we to believe Paul had no idea about the types of people who he was not only associating with, but allowing to publish a newsletter under his name?

When I asked Jesse Benton, Paul’s campaign spokesman, about the newsletters, he said that, over the years, Paul had granted “various levels of approval” to what appeared in his publications–ranging from “no approval” to instances where he “actually wrote it himself.” After I read Benton some of the more offensive passages, he said, “A lot of [the newsletters] he did not see. Most of the incendiary stuff, no.” He added that he was surprised to hear about the insults hurled at Martin Luther King, because “Ron thinks Martin Luther King is a hero.”

In other words, Paul’s campaign wants to depict its candidate as a naïve, absentee overseer, with minimal knowledge of what his underlings were doing on his behalf. This portrayal might be more believable if extremist views had cropped up in the newsletters only sporadically–or if the newsletters had just been published for a short time. But it is difficult to imagine how Paul could allow material consistently saturated in racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and conspiracy-mongering to be printed under his name for so long if he did not share these views. In that respect, whether or not Paul personally wrote the most offensive passages is almost beside the point. If he disagreed with what was being written under his name, you would think that at some point–over the course of decades–he would have done something about it.

What’s more, Paul’s connections to extremism go beyond the newsletters. He has given extensive interviews to the magazine of the John Birch Society, and has frequently been a guest of Alex Jones, a radio host and perhaps the most famous conspiracy theorist in America. Jones–whose recent documentary, Endgame: Blueprint for Global Enslavement, details the plans of George Pataki, David Rockefeller, and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, among others, to exterminate most of humanity and develop themselves into “superhuman” computer hybrids able to “travel throughout the cosmos”–estimates that Paul has appeared on his radio program about 40 times over the past twelve years.

Then there is Gary North, who has worked on Paul’s congressional staff. North is a central figure in Christian Reconstructionism, which advocates the implementation of Biblical law in modern society. Christian Reconstructionists share common ground with libertarians, since both groups dislike the central government. North has advocated the execution of women who have abortions and people who curse their parents. In a 1986 book, North argued for stoning as a form of capital punishment–because “the implements of execution are available to everyone at virtually no cost.” North is perhaps best known for Gary North’s Remnant Review, a “Christian and pro free-market” newsletter. In a 1983 letter Paul wrote on behalf of an organization called the Committee to Stop the Bail-Out of Multinational Banks (known by the acronym CSBOMB), he bragged, “Perhaps you already read in Gary North’s Remnant Review about my exposes of government abuse.”

The evidence of Paul’s extremism has been widely available on line. What is disturbing is the response from his supporters. When I’ve had posts on such topics the bulk of the responses supported the bigoted writings and expressed similar racism, anti-Semitism, or belief in conspiracy theories. Some responses came from more conventional libertarians who found ways to justify Paul’s writings and the acceptance of contributions from people such as Don Black. By finding excuses for Paul’s acts, these so-called libertarians help blur the line which has separated such racism and anti-Semitism as attitudes which have been considered unacceptable in our society. A campaign which started with well-deserved opposition to the Iraq war has turned into one where the main freedom they are defending is the freedom to discriminate and oppress.

What is also remarkable is that upon closer examination Paul’s views are far better characterized as social conservativism with extreme support for states’ rights as opposed to libertarianism. Despite his reputation as a libertarian, Paul is actually hostile towards First Amendment rights where they conflict with his other views. As I’ve previously noted, Paul has incorrectly claimed that, “The notion of a rigid separation between church and state has no basis in either the text of the Constitution or the writings of our Founding Fathers.” He has also supported keeping “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, has co-sponsored the school prayer amendment, and supported keeping the Ten Commandments on a courthouse lawn. Paul has both criticized secularism and claimed that the Founding Fathers envisioned a Christian America. Ron Paul’s version of the Constitution is contradicted in the writings of the founding fathers, many court decisions, and in the view of most historians.

Ron Paul was interviewed by Reason following the publication of the article in The New Republic. Dismissing this all as “old stuff” or “political stuff” is no more reassuring than the statements that the material in Paul’s newsletters was written by someone else. Jim Crow laws and the Holocaust are also “old stuff” but this doesn’t make them something which should just be ignored. A press statement is somewhat better, but raises the question as to why Paul could not come up with a better answer on his own when interviewed:

“The quotations in The New Republic article are not mine and do not represent what I believe or have ever believed. I have never uttered such words and denounce such small-minded thoughts.

“In fact, I have always agreed with Martin Luther King, Jr. that we should only be concerned with the content of a person’s character, not the color of their skin. As I stated on the floor of the U.S. House on April 20, 1999: ‘I rise in great respect for the courage and high ideals of Rosa Parks who stood steadfastly for the rights of individuals against unjust laws and oppressive governmental policies.’

“This story is old news and has been rehashed for over a decade. It’s once again being resurrected for obvious political reasons on the day of the New Hampshire primary.

“When I was out of Congress and practicing medicine full-time, a newsletter was published under my name that I did not edit. Several writers contributed to the product. For over a decade, I have publically taken moral responsibility for not paying closer attention to what went out under my name.”

The problem for Paul is that he has repeatedly failed to disassociate himself from extremist organizations when he’s had the opportunity to in the past, and has still not returned the contribution from Don Black. While he might not personally be a bigot, his lack of understanding of the need to dissociate himself from such beliefs remains disturbing. Waiting until a major publication has exposed him hardly shows a meaningful commitment. He has also admitted his belief in conspiracy theories. Even if Paul really had no knowledge of any of this material in his newsletter, which is rather hard to believe, he is hardly the person I’d trust in making all the appointments which are the responsibility of the president.

Update: On second thought, there is some value to the Ron Paul excuse. It just might come in handy some time.

Update II: Responses from libertarians

Ron Paul Considering Third Party Bid

I’ve noted that in multiple interviews Ron Paul has denied plans to run as a third party candidate, but has also always left the door open a crack (much as Al Gore did much of the year). Paul has widened that opening quite a bit today with The Swamp reporting that Paul is now admitting to thinking about the subject:

If he doesn’t do well in the early primaries, Paul said he would re-evaluate his Republican bid and the possibility of a third-party run depending on how he does in the contests on Super Tuesday, Feb. 5.

“With my staff I’ve never discussed it, but I sort of have that in my mind.”

We will probably have a better idea as to whether there is much point in Paul remaining in the Republican race after the Iowa and New Hampshire votes. While Paul has virtually zero chance of winning the nomination his performances in the first two events might determine whether he is at least covered by the media as a long shot contender or remains lost in single digits. Paul is realistic in his assessment of Iowa, admitting that it is difficult to tell if he can surpass his single digit poll results:

“The one thing that we can’t measure as well as the ordinary polls is will our people be motivated? They seem to be motivated, but will they know where to go and what to do? That’s the big question,” Paul said in a Tribune interview, in between a day of Iowa events.

Should Paul manage to get a bounce out of a third place finish in Iowa, Paul is fortunate that the next state, New Hampshire, is the state where he has the best chance to surpass single digits. New Hampshire both has libertarian sentiments and a primary which independents have a considerable impact upon. If Paul could exceed single digits in New Hampshire, he also has a chance to do better than expected in Michigan. The Michigan Democratic primary is virtually meaningless, with Obama, Edwards, Richardson, and Biden not even appearing on the ballot. Many Democrats might be convinced to vote in the Republican caucus for the sole anti-war candidate.

The problem for Paul is that at best he has a shot of exceeding single digits in some early states, but ultimately the Republicans will not nominate an opponent of the war for their nominee. Paul’s support among liberal opponents of the war and independents will also begin to diminish should he get more publicity in the early states and his views become more well known.

Many people are now interested in Paul’s campaign seeing him simply as an opponent of the war and defender of civil liberties. While they hear he is also a defender of the Constitution, the Constitution which Paul defends is not what the framers intended. In reality, Paul is really advocating a government closer to what was established under the original Articles of Confederation, which was replaced when the need for a stronger central government became clear. Paul’s views of states’ rights, along with his denial of the establishment of separation of church and state, also negate his support for limited powers of the federal government. Paul’s opposition to abortion rights are known to many people, but his views leave open the danger of even further restrictions on individual liberty by state governments.

If concerns over state governments which could be oppressive and even theocratic by out current standards are too esoteric for most voters to consider, Paul’s support will also remain limited by his past writings as well as recent statements which call into question both his ethics and rationality. Paul’s newsletter contains racist articles which describe blacks as being prone to violence and unable to form sensible political opinions. Paul has claimed that others wrote these articles under his byline, but this explanation is hardly reassuring. Paul’s writings on the Israeli lobby have raised similar questions of anti-Semitism. These problems for Paul are exacerbated by his refusal to return a contribution which was identified as coming form Don Black, founder of the white supremacist group Stormfront. Regardless of whether Paul agrees with the extremist groups which support him, Paul’s treatment of such groups as a legitimate constituency in American politics crosses a line which is almost as bad. Paul also shows questionable judgment in his adherence to various conspiracy theories. His recent statement in which he denies evolution also shows a shocking lack of understanding of basic concepts of science for someone who was trained as a physician.

Ron Paul now has a small core of devoted followers, a respectable amount of money, but otherwise nowhere to go. He can neither win the Republican nomination or a general election and what he decides to do might come down to how much he wants to continue using the election to promote his views. Running as a Republican there is a slight but real hope that he could escape single digits and receive further coverage. If he fails to do this by Super Tuesday, then he might consider a third party candidacy in order to remain on the campaign trail until November. Just to be safe, Paul has also filed to run again for his current House seat.

Ron Paul and the Freedom to Oppress

After pulling in another six million dollars you would think that Ron Paul could afford to do the right thing and return that $500 contribution from Stormfront founder Don Black. At very least you would think that, now that he might have a shot at the big time, he would at least realize that returning such a contribution is what any other candidate would do and what he must also do if he wants to be credible. Failure to do so also fuels the suspicions of racism and anti-Semitism on Paul’s part which has been noted in some of his writings. Providing more evidence to those of us who suspect that conspiracy-theorist Ron Paul might be just a little bit out of touch with reality, his campaign has stated yet again that they will not return the contribution.

This is not a matter of ideology. It is a matter of simple decency. Ed Morrissey and I have totally different views on the signature issues of Paul’s campaign such as Iraq but we are in complete agreement that Paul cannot be considered an acceptable candidate in light of his acceptance of this contribution. Morrissey writes:

Keeping the money makes it look like the campaign approves of the source, and that is a very, very bad message to send when one is bragging about the success of recent money-bomb events.

What kind of money will Ron Paul refuse? Drug money? Extortion rackets? Mob skim? Those are the questions people will want answered. Paul’s response does not give confidence in the judgment of his campaign, and by extension its candidate.

Paul and his supporters will defend this decision based upon freedom, but we must remember that when Paul’s supporters refer to freedom it means something entirely different from what most of us mean by freedom. Under Ron Paul, freedom means locking up doctors for performing abortions. Under Ron Paul, who also defends states’ rights, freedom means the right for states to reenact Jim Crow laws. Under Ron Paul, who denies our heritage of separation of separation of church and state, states and local areas would be free to institute theocracies or at least much of the agenda of the religious right. These matters are far more important to most people who are concerned about freedom than whether we go to the gold standard, abolish the Federal Reserve, or withdraw from the United Nations.

I don’t doubt that Ron Paul himself is a decent and tolerant man. A world made up of more people like Ron Paul would in many ways be a more free world as in such a world people at the state and local level would not use states’ rights to oppress. However the world is not made up of Ron Pauls. There are also a lot of Don Blacks, and looking at Paul’s views makes it clear why he would support Paul. Freedom must be vigorously defended. This includes respecting the decision of the founding fathers to create a secular state, and this sometimes necessitates that the federal government steps in to protect the rights of the minority from the majority.

Paul Supporters Receiving Increasingly Negative Press

Last Thursday I presented a somewhat tongue in cheek report on a bipartisan effort to go to war to rid the blogosphere of the problem of the Ron Paul supporters. While the war effort was intended to be humorous, the disdain for many of the Paul supporters among both conservative and liberal bloggers is quite real and the Paul supports are receiving an increasing amount of negative coverage of their actions.

Conservatives have the most problem since Paul is running as a Republican and his supporters have more reason at present to attack other Republicans than Democrats. Shortly after my post on the topic, conservative columnist Mona Charen posted a Memo to Ron Paul Supporters. Charen made the following complaints, with further elaboration in her column: Paul is inconsistent, historically challenged, unserious, and too cozy with kooks and conspiracy theorists. While the bulk of the post is centered around criticism of Paul, it is clear that she is influence by the annoyances of his followers as she writes, “Like every other journalist in America, and who knows, maybe the world or even the universe, I’ve been deluged with your letters and e-mails.”

CQ Politics has a story specifically on the problems of Paul supporters, primarily for the conservative blogs:

Indeed, things have gotten so bad that a growing number of political blogs and discussion boards — not exactly prime outlets of delicacy in public-spirited discourse — have taken the drastic step of barring especially vocal backers of the Texas congressman from their ranks. Two high-profile conservative blogs, redstate.com and littlegreenfootballs.com, have issued selective bans on the more disruptive Paul supporters trolling the sites. And this month, Bobby Eberle, who runs the site GOPUSA.com, addressed an open letter to Paul backers urging civility.

Eberle’s letter took pains to note that he wasn’t singling out Paul supporters per se but rather “the aggressive network of online fans who bombard discussion boards, spam Web sites, flood online polls, and behave in a manner that puts their candidate in an extremely bad light.”

Eberle says that in seven years of running GOPUSA.com, he’s never come across users as routinely abusive as Paul backers can be. “The typical e-mail from a Ron Paul supporter often contains profanity and is filled with name-calling and attacks on the other candidates,” he says. “They throw out slurs such as ‘neo-con’ or ‘fake Republican’ or ‘sheeple’ or ‘jerks’ or worse. They say people are ‘stupid,’ ‘idiots,’ ‘traitors,’ and worse for not supporting Ron Paul.

The story also notes how Paul supporters “have spoiled the fun when the site has sponsored unscientific polls to gauge the popularity of the Republican field.” After describing action taken by other conservative blogs an isolated Paul supporter is quoted as seeing the problems which arise from their actions:

At least some Paul enthusiasts have begun arguing that their online zeal may be on the verge of becoming counterproductive. “Now that Dr. Paul has more attention from the mainstream media, we have to take extra precaution to ensure that we are being as tactful as humanly possible,” one anonymous poster wrote recently on a popular Paul discussion board about the congressman, who’s also a physician. “We cannot afford to give the mainstream media or any of Dr. Paul’s opponents ammo.”

But the Paul campaign says it’s in no position to enforce such message discipline among its supporters. “These are independent supporters that are acting on their own volition,” says campaign spokesman Jesse Benton. “The campaign doesn’t have control of or influence over that.”

The lack of control is only partially true. In 2003-4 there was similar, and probably more widespread, use of the internet by supporters of Howard Dean. Their actions varied from constructive actions (which is also seen by some Paul supporters, such as in fund raising) as well as spamming comparable to that seen by the Paul supporters. Joe Trippi and some Dean supporters realized the harm that the latter were causing and did make an effort to convince them to cease their activities. Naturally they were not 100% effective but their efforts did help reduce the harm to the campaign.

Many Paul supporters, even more than Dean supporters, fail to comprehend that their efforts are frequently counterproductive. They need to decide if their goal is to win arguments (primarily in their own minds) or to actually win friends and influence people. While the problem is greatest in the conservative blogosphere, liberal blogs are also affected. I’ve found that many liberal bloggers, including myself, who were initially sympathetic towards Paul due to his beliefs on the war and civil liberties now have a much lower opinion of Paul which is somewhat due to the conduct of his supporters.

The problems from the Paul supporters include those quoted from the CQ article above but also include many of the attitudes expressed, particularly racism, anti-Semitism, and promotion of a variety of conspiracy theories. They often repeat the same unsubstantiated revisionist history used by the religious right to defend Paul’s absurd beliefs which deny that the Founding Fathers intended to create a secular society. While Paul supporters might believe the false history they promote, along with the conspiracy theories they subscribe to, such claims only convinces others that they are a bunch of kooks. The debate tactics used by Paul supporters are also particularly counterproductive. For example, I’ve had numerous Paul supporters attempt to argue with me by claiming that I believe or that I’ve written something completely different from what I believe or have written. I know what I believe and what I’ve written, and it is ridiculous to believe that taking an except out of context is not going to make me think otherwise. Such tactics will quickly convince me that the Paul supporter is not worthy of conversing with, but is certainly not going to make me any more supportive of their candidate.

While it might not be entirely fair, the conduct of Paul’s supporters does reflect on Ron Paul. It is meaningful that Howard Dean’s campaign made an effort to get Dean’s supporters to behave responsibly but Paul’s campaign does not. Paul also encourages much of the other criticism of him based upon that of his supporters. Paul’s refusal to return the contribution from Stromfront founder Don Black, as would be expected from any serious candidate, seriously harms his credibility. When he has written that this is a Christian nation and writes about the Israeli lobby it comes as no surprise that anti-Semites such as Hutton Gibson, Holocaust denier and father of Mel Gibson, have endorsed him. Often Paul will refrain from totally endorsing the conspiracy theories of his followers, but he suggests agreement with their beliefs in his writings and letters written to contributors. He frequently appears on talk shows hosted by conspiracy theorists and has his column published by neo-Nazis. While Paul generally does refrain from appearing as irrational as his supporters, his actions do raise questions and the conduct of his supporters only makes observers wonder if deep down Paul isn’t just another one of them. While no candidate can benefit from the actions of supporters who come across as kooks, Ron Paul is particularly susceptible to harm from association with such supporters.

Update: Wall Street Journal Joins Coverage of Paul Supporters

Anti-Defamation League Condemns Ann Coulter’s Anti-Semitic Comments

The Anti-Defamation League has issued the following statement in response to Ann Coulter’s comments on Donny Deutsch’s show:

The Anti-Defamation League strongly condemns Ann Coulter for her anti-Semitic comment that Christians “want Jews to be perfected” in an interview with Donny Deutsch on CNBC’s The Big Idea. During her October 8 appearance, Coulter suggested that Jews should convert, adding that, “we just want Jews to be perfected, as they say.  … That’s what Christianity is.”

Ann Coulter may be a political pundit but she clearly knows very little about religious theology and interfaith issues.  Coulter’s remarks are outrageous, offensive and a throwback to the centuries old teaching of contempt for Jews and Judaism.  The notion that Jews are religiously inferior or imperfect because they do not accept Christian beliefs was the basis for 2,000 years of church-based anti-Semitism.  While she is entitled to her beliefs, using mainstream media to espouse the idea that Judaism needs to be replaced with Christianity and that each individual Jew is somehow deficient and needs to be “perfected,” is rank Christian supersessionism and has been rejected by the Catholic Church and the vast majority of mainstream Christian denominations.

Clearly, Ann Coulter needs a wake-up call about the power of words to injure others and fuel hatred.  She needs an education, too, about the roots of anti-Semitism and the shared values of Judaism and Christianity.  Christians and Jews have worked tirelessly for more than 40 years to overcome the past and to promote a more tolerant and pluralistic vision for the future and especially for America.

Donny Deutsch is to be commended for his immediate and forceful denunciation of Coulter’s statements, for calling her remarks personally offensive, and for rightly characterizing her suggestion that Jews are inferior to Christians as anti-Semitism.

Ideological Purity vs. The Big Tent

Michael van der Galien has one of the strongest arguments seen so far against the Bush Dog Campaign which started at Open Left, especially as it comes from a moderate right of center blogger as opposed to the many attacks from the far right. Michael makes some excellent points, but unfortunately also buys into many of the false claims of the right with regards to the war and the liberal blogosphere.

The Bush Dog Campaign’s goal is to put pressure on Democratic House members who have supported conservative measures in order to pass more progressive legislation:

And so, you may have noticed a lot of chatter about ‘Bush Dog’ Democrats over the past few days. That’s not an accident. We’ve been working to identify the group of conservative Democrats in the House who are holding back progressives from being able to effectively govern. These are concentrated in two main caucuses, the Blue Dog Caucus and the New Democrat caucuses. Blue Dogs consider themselves heirs to the Southern conservative wing of the party, and tend to vote for socially restrictive policies and a hawkish foreign policy. The New Democrats tend to be more partisan, but often are key to passing important pieces of right-wing legislation, such as the Bankruptcy Bill. In the last few years, these two caucuses have expanded their numbers, and the Blue Dogs have become the swing vote in the House allowing for effective conservative control of the Congress. We want to put a stop to the embrace of conservative values among House Democrats, and make sure that when Democrats are elected, they act like Democrats.

So who specifically are these people? As Chris Bowers noted, the two biggest defeats for House Democrats so far in 2007 have been the capitulation vote on Iraq, and the vote to allow Alberto Gonzales warrant-less wiretapping powers. We’re calling the Democrats who capitulated on both bills ‘Bush Dogs’, as these are the most likely to capitulate on important fights in the future.

There is a fine line here between supporting Democrats in primary battles who you support over those you don’t agree with and attempting to purge the party of those who do not exhibit ideological purity. As I agree with their views on Iraq and warrant-less wiretapping I am not opposed to this aspect of the effort, but I also share some of the reservations which Michael expresses:

This prospect should – as far as I am concerned – scare the hell out of everybody who thinks that some independence of thought is actually a good thing. We have seen some of this being done by conservative bloggers and activists, but never on the scale as we currently see (it being done by progressives). The intention is clearly to stifle all dissent, and all debate. Whether one is a Democrat or not, and whether one is more progressive than conservative, and left-of-center is irrelevant to these people. Nor do they seem to care that the voters voted these people into office in the first place. They have decided that they are enemies of the Democratic Party (even though they are Democrats themselves) and therefore enemies of the people.

The most important issue according to the progressives? Iraq. it is all that matters. In this instance they decide not to go after someone for not being progressive enough on certain issues, because this person opposes the surge. In other words, one might argue that it is not so much about progressive vs. less progressive, but about anti-war vs. open-minded. Make no mistake about it however: once these people get their way regarding Iraq, they will target politicians who they deem not progressive enough on other issues.

The previous quotation on the goals of this campaign disprove the assertion that the dispute is all about Iraq, but views on the war definitely do shape this debate. One consequence is that Michael looks at this too much from the perspective of a supporter of the war causing him to take an extreme view on this campaign.

That is not to mean that I don’t share some of Michael’s reservations. There is a segment of the liberal blogosphere which has a much more leftist view of economics than is shared by myself, other portions of the liberal blogosphere, and, most importantly, the majority of voters. I’ve already discussed this issue at length in multiple other posts, such as here, here, and here. While the majority of voters do not agree with the left on all issues, there is a growing consensus on opposing the war, opposing the social policies of the religious right, and supporting increased government action in certain areas where it has been found to be necessary such as health care and the environment.

Whether this campaign becomes a problem will depend upon whether it takes on the “totalitarian” undertones which Michael is concerned about. As an independent I also find value in having a portion of the Democratic Party which expresses different views, even if this includes views I do not agree with. I generally prefer divided government, finding the prevention of bad government policy to trump the desire to promote any specific policies. At present we have the problem that for all practical purposes we only have one viable political party. The Republicans have shown that they are totally incapable of governing responsibly from either the Legislative or Executive Branch, and they increasingly promote an extremist agenda which is far too damaging to the nation to allow them any significant influence. Perhaps we have no alternative but to have the “opposition” come from another faction within the Democratic Party itself. Creating a high bar to the passage of new legislation is not necessarily a bad thing.

The Republican Party became extremist by driving out their moderate members. Michael does raise a valid concern in fearing that the more progressive Democrats could do the same to the Democratic Party:

And so, slowly but surely, these people are destroying the Democratic Party. The average American does not favor truly progressive policies nor does the average American think highly of the anti-war crowd (led by Kos and Stoller). They might have their fair share of groupies, but so did other totalitarians in the past. These people are totalitarians because they do not accept any dissent. It is not as if policies are up for debate: they have made up their minds about certain issues, everybody else must agree. If they do not, they have to be targeted. More, Chris Bowers, Matt Stoller and “Kos” are now even making themselves unpopular among local Democratic activists. These activists basically tell Stoller and Bowers to bugger off. They know what is happening in their districts, they know what to do. National activists, they argue, do not have any idea what is going on in certain districts and / or states.

Michael might be overly concerned with Kos. He describes Kos as both a totalitarian who is exerting too much influence upon the Democratic Party but also notes that many members of the party, as well as many bloggers, do not go along with him. He also fails to appreciate the wide variety of views held even at Daily Kos. While I do share the concern about the party developing an ideological purity which would exclude other views, to be of value the party must stand for some principles. There was an excellent response in the comments to Michael’s post to the argument that “The average American does not favor truly progressive policies nor does the average American think highly of the anti-war crowd.” Besides the majority support for ending the war, a majority of voters express a number of other liberal views:

If you strictly mean that the majority of Americans aren’t total adherents to Kos philosphy I agree, otherwise… A majority of Americans think that the government should guarantee health care for all Americans. A majority of Americans are worried about Global Warming and environmental issues in general. Though a majority oppose Gay marriage, virtually the same margin favors civil unions. A majority of Americans also agree with upholding Roe v. Wade. Gee, this strikes me as being rather, I dunno, progressive don’t you think?

On a personal level I also found Michael’s arguments against demands for ideological purity to contradict his own personal actions as he came down on the side of such an attitude earlier this year. Long time readers are aware of how Liberal Values was first formed due to disagreements with attitudes at The Democratic Daily and was followed by a series of personal attacks against me over subsequent areas of disagreement. Disputes centered around my “controversial” beliefs (at least over there) that Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic rants contribute to anti-Semitism and should be discussed, that Holocaust Denial is a serious problem, that Astrology is bunk, that photographs which people claim to be of ghosts most likely are not of real ghosts, that attacks on evolution should be debunked regardless of whether from creationists on the right or from liberals such as Deepak Chopra, that the promotion of violence against those they disagree with is wrong, that it has not been conclusively proven that the 2004 election was stolen, and that belief that the 9/11 attacks were caused by al Qaeda provides a far more convincing argument than the various conspiracy theories blaming the attacks on George Bush. Despite the campaign of personal attacks launched against me for holding these beliefs which counter the beliefs at The Democratic Daily, Michael inexplicably took sides and repeated their rather bizarre justification for such personal attacks on me at his blog.

While this recent blog war is not of much significance I cannot help but be influenced by Michael’s past conduct in support of stifling free thought when I evaluate his post. It is one thing to take a principled stand for a big tent and to oppose the appearance of purging portions of the party. It is another thing to pick and choose based upon your personal feelings about the participants on one side. Between Michael’s stress on Iraq and his labeling of some anti-war bloggers as totalitarians I cannot help but feel that Michael is using the post more to attack opponents of the war he disagrees with than to defend independent thought after he came out on the side of opponents of independent thought in the past.

Update: Cernig of Newshoggers examines Michael’s Kos Derangement Syndrome.

Update II: Michael apparently has difficulty either letting things go or admitting he is wrong whenhe has made a mistake and therefore has a rather bizarre post linking back here. Much of what he says is already responded to in the comments.

Michael got involved in a dispute where he knew nothing about the facts but decided to stick up for someone he freely admitted was a friend. He was unable to separate the actual issues from his personal feelings. Michael does exactly what he accuses me of when he says, “Instead of talking about issues, we are suddenly caught up talking about people.” The whole dispute came because, as a consequence of speaking out on the issues, I have been subjected to continued personal attacks ranging from signs of anti-Semitism to inventing a numerous bizarre personal charges.

Michael has no factual response to my rebuttals of his charges in the comments here and therefore has posted what amounts to a personal attack (even if milder than the others I have encountered). Michael is far too hypocritical to realize that each time he takes sides and uses his blog to join in a the personal vendetta which The Democratic Daily has waged against me he is doing exactly what he accuses me of. His post today is clearly one of talking about people, where I have concentrated on issues. Considering that he brought this up days after the discussion here, he also looks like the one who cannot let things go.

Michael’s use of personal attacks is also seen in his original post under discussion where he basis his argument on calling those he disagrees with totalitarians. As I made clear, preferring to deal with issues as opposed to personalities, Michael did have a number of good points before he got into name calling. He could have had an excellent post if he stuck to the issues and looked at it objectively as opposed to needing to demonize those he disagreed with.

Keith Olbermann’s Special Comment: Go to Iraq and Fight, Mr. President

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMfw65WY4Ug]

Video of Keith Olbermann’s Special Comment above, with transcript under the fold. The previous post contains a discussion with John Kerry of Bush playing the blame game. (more…)

World Net Daily Attacks The Democratic Daily Over Violence and Porn–What Irony

The irony of this blog debate was just too much to ignore after a reader emailed the links. Last year, when Mel Gibson was in the news, I quoted Gibson saying about Frank Rich, “I want to kill him. I want his intestines on a stick… I want to kill his dog.” The Democratic Daily, where my criticism of Gibson was unwelcome from the start, used this as an excuse to shut down discussion of anti-Semitism and criticism of Holocaust denial. Their line was that I was promoting violence–ignoring the fact that this was a quote from Mel Gibson, the subject of my criticism. Less than a year later, The Democratic Daily is in the news, at least at World Net Daily, for advocating violence:

A Democratic Party blogger says he wants to shoot Rush Limbaugh and is calling for volunteers to assassinate rock star Ted Nugent, who champions the Second Amendment.

Hart Williams, a former writer for porn magazine Hustler and who now toils for the Democratic Daily, was waxing incoherent about a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed by Nugent, complaining that it was likely ghost-written.

“How we can remain ‘civil’ in the face of this is beyond my ken,” wrote Williams. “I will only reiterate what I’ve said WHEN they manage to inevitably push their litany of hatespeak into actual bloodletting, and full-blown civil war (for there is no other place that this hatred of American against American can go), well … I’ve got dibs on Rush, as soon as it’s legal and lawful to shoot him. Whoever wants Ted Nugent is welcome to him, but I would prefer that you would call it now, so as to conserve on ammunition. We will need to manage it prudently. But when the day comes that they have finally set brother against brother, and sister against sister in the name of their pocketbooks, I won’t approach exterminating them with anything approaching remorse. They’ve already told me what they think of me, of my friends and of my peers. Now, I’m returning the favor. Put that in your pipe and have the WSJ editorial staff show you how to smoke it, Nugent. Courage.”

The article by Ted Nugent which provoked such a violent reaction is here. Some may disagree with it, but writing this hardly makes one deserve the death penalty. The irony, that The Democratic Daily is fine with advocacy of violence as long as it doesn’t involve criticism of Mel Gibson, is just the start. They’ve launched attacks against me for posts including this cover of Harper’s Bazaar featuring pregnant and nude Britney Spears (with hands strategically placed to allow open sales of the magazine). More recently some of the writers there launched an attack for “misogeny” using a post mocking Lindsay Lohan in which a nipple is vaguely visible as their evidence. Of course, by their standards, most of the popular press would be also be guilty.

So, by the some-time standards of The Democratic Daily I’m a pornographer. In light of those attacks, it was amusing to learn that Hart Williams is a former writer for Hustler. Apparently these rather tame pictures of Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan are pornography and evidence of hating women, but Hustler is perfectly acceptable.

As I suspect readers have realized by now, Hart Williams is the same blogger who thinks he was being clever in claiming I wrote the exact opposite of what I wrote, and then refuting this straw man by drawing out astrological charts. Attacking straw men, along with ad hominem attacks, is quite common when they aren’t advocating out right shootings.

The Democratic Daily has milked this publicity with a number of follow up posts, including one bragging that they have also called for the killing of George Bush and pointing out this selection from a previous post:

Pragmatism can be a form of obfuscation, too. While one should not be principled to a fault, neither should one default on all one’s principles. Values DO matter, the GOP misuse of the term notwithstanding.

I’m very pragmatic about wanting to see Bush hung by the neck until dead — as we hung the defendants at Nuremberg, for many of the same crimes — at high noon on the Washington Mall.

While most liberal bloggers have a pretty low opinion of George Bush (regardless of whether they advocate hanging him by the neck until dead–personally I’d settle for life in prison) I imagine they must hate him even more than most of us. After all, before this controversy, they were also criticized from the right when conservative blogs mocked their belief that George Bush, and not al Qaeda, was responsible for the 9/11 attacks (and note who even added his words of “wisdom” to the comments when I reported on that).

Update: More conservative blogs have picked this story up, unfortunately presenting the advocacy of violence at The Democratic Daily as being representative of liberal thought. Even Sean Hannity quoted from the post on his show–probably being the closest I’ve ever come to agreeing with him.

There appear to be two defenses offered, neither of which holds up. Bloggers at The Democratic Daily argue that Ann Coulter and other conservative writers have advocated similar violence. Even if true, this does not justify others in advocating violence.

They also protest that they are only advocating shooting people when it is made legal, which shows a warped view of morality. Ethical people do not shoot others because to do so is felt to be wrong, and not simply because it is illegal.

Of course Pamela posts her usual attack on Liberal Values, again pretending to be the innocent victim despite all the smears originating from her blog. As usual, she attributes statements to me which I have not expressed, and comes up with yet another distorted account of events.

As always, I criticize the lunacy of both the extreme left and right, including the advocacy of violence and hatred which is seen at The Democratic Daily. This is a sad progression from the atmosphere there where only limited viewpoints may be expressed, and anyone who disagrees is evil and must be purged. The support of anti-Semitism which caused me to leave The Democratic Daily had nothing to do with accepting Mel Gibson’s apology, as she now claims, but was over Pamela’s defense of Gibson, her objection to my criticism of him, and her views on Holocaust denial. For Pamela to fall back on her long standing claims that my protest of the anti-Semitism, promotion of astrolgoy, and conspiracy theories at The Democratic Daily is based upon sexism is just plain pathetic. I criticize such views regardless of who they come from.

Update II: There’s much more on the attacks from The Democratic Daily discussed in the comments including further attacks coming after this post.

Astrology is Bunk

Ezra Klein has repeated my position on astrology in a post entitled Astrology is Bunk.

Ezra’s argument in itself does not disprove astrology, but there are plenty of other arguments beyond this. Ezra quotes Outside of the Beltway:

I caught a few minutes of the Diane Rehm Show on NPR earlier and the host wished a happy birthday to President Bush and the Dalai Lama, both of whom were born on July 6th.

Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page quipped, “What does that say about astrology?”

I wonder if this title will subject him to a round of personal attacks and lies as I was subjected to for saying exactly the same.

Update: In response to several email messages, yes, I do know that they are talking about astrology again and no, I don’t see any point in linking to it.

Update II: One of the writers for The Democratic Daily links here calling me an imbecile after totally misstating what I wrote. Using the typical tactics of insult and attacking straw men which are characteristic of that site, he claims I wrote that Bush and the Dalai Lama having the same birth date disproves astrology. As is clear above, I actually wrote that this item discussed on other blogs “does not disprove astrology.” In other words, I wrote the exact opposite of what he claims I wrote. Then he goes on to show the charts of the Dalai Lama and George Bush showing they are different, and indicating that he believes these have meaning.

I’m not sure which is worse–to call me an imbecile after claiming I said the exact opposite of what I actually wrote, or to believe that these astrological charts mean a thing. Maybe next they’ll repeat the attacks they used for after I criticized them for defending anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, or repeat some of the other lies they’ve been so fond of making up about me.

Here’s a hint: Every time you attack me by falling back on astrology, anti-Semitism, transparently faux-feminism, or other such demonstrations of your ignorance and bigotry, I’m not the one that it hurts.

Another hint: Calling someone else an imbecile and then discussing astrology as if it means something is rather contradictory. The moment you defend astrology you have already lost the debate and shown who the true imbecile is.

Update III: This post is continued here.