Sen. Rand Paul (left) and former Paul aide Jack Hunter.
This week, the Ron Paul-led Campaign for Liberty hosts its fourth annual Liberty Political Action Conference, and the speaking list features a roster of well-known Republican politicians and libertarian activists. The biggest draw of this year's LPAC will undoubtedly be Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who each day inches closer to a 2016 presidential run. Slated to speak at the same event, though, is Paul's ex-aide Jack Hunter, who the senator fired after his past as a neo-Confederate advocate was revealed.
Hunter used to be the social media director in Paul's Senate office, and he co-wrote Paul's 2010 book, The Tea Party Goes to Washington. But in 2013, the Washington Free Beacon revealed that Hunter, under a different identity, had long been involved with the neo-Confederate and southern secessionist movements. For 13 years, Hunter was a South Carolina talk radio host who called himself the "Southern Avenger." In public, he wore a luchador mask bearing a Confederate flag. As the Avenger, Hunter made many a provocative remark, including arguably racist comments. He said that John Wilkes Booth's heart was "in the right place" and that he celebrated Booth's birthday every year. He claimed that Abraham Lincoln would have been romantically drawn to Adolf Hitler. He called the NAACP a "malicious hate group" on par with the KKK. He contended that a "non-white majority America would simply cease to be America."
Hunter also chaired an organization called the League of the South, which advocated "the secession and subsequent independence of the Southern States from this forced union and the formation of a Southern republic." The Free Beacon reported,
"The League of the South is an implicitly racist group in that the idealized version of the South that they promote is one which, to use their ideology, is dominated by 'Anglo-Celtic' culture, which is their code word for 'white,'" said Mark Pitcavage, the director of investigative research at the [Anti-Defamation League]. The ADL said it does not necessarily classify it as a hate group.
The League of the South maintains that it is not racist and does not discriminate in terms of membership.
"When I was part of it, they were very explicit that's not what they were about," Hunter told the Free Beacon. "I was a young person, it was a fairly radical group—the same way a person on the left might be attracted in college to some left-wing radical groups."
After Hunter was unmasked, Paul said that his Southern Avenger commentaries were "stupid" and canned him. A few months later, Hunter wrote a story titled "Confessions of a Right-Wing Shock Jock" and distanced himself from his old comments. "I said many terrible things," he wrote. "I disavow them."
Now, Hunter is back in the fold and back on the speaker's list in the liberty movement presided over by Ron and Rand Paul. The Campaign for Liberty bills him as "the one and only Jack Hunter." Hard to argue with that.
In a recent interview with the Atlantic, Hillary Clinton went to great lengths to separate herself from her former boss, President Obama, in the realm of foreign policy. She unabashedly defended Israel's actions in the ongoing war in Gaza, chalked up civilian casualties in that conflict to "the fog of war," drew a hard line on Iran, and argued that the "failure" of the Obama administration to arm Syrian rebel forces led to the rise of the Islamic State. Asked about the president's unofficial motto for foreign interventions—"Don't do stupid stuff"—Clinton did not mince words: "Great nations need organizing principles, and 'Don't do stupid stuff' is not an organizing principle."
Hillary's talking like a hawk again. Critics on the left and right have said she sounds more like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the grand old hawk of the GOP. How right they are. Can you guess who gave the following quotes—Clinton or McCain?
Tea party protesters wave to passing cars on April 15, 2010, in front of the US federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Americans for Prosperity, the dark-money-funded advocacy group founded by Charles and David Koch, rose to prominence in 2009 and 2010 on the back of the white-hot tea party movement. But today, even though Republicans stand a good chance of retaking the Senate and the conservative fringe has hijacked the House's efforts to pass immigration reform, the tea party grassroots is withering away, according to a confidential AFP memo obtained by Mother Jones.
The internal AFP memo was written in April by Jason Cline, an Arkansas political consultant who left the state's influential AFP chapter this spring. It's clear from the memo that Cline clashed with higher-ups in AFP's national office, including Teresa Oelke, a former AFP-Arkansas director who now is AFP's vice president of state operations. In the memo, Cline responds to various allegations leveled against him by Oelke and others, including that Cline was "sexist toward women," "prejudiced against old people," and mismanaged AFP-Arkansas.
Cline writes in response that he was not biased against elderly activists but rather sought out younger activists for AFP-Arkansas due to a dropoff in support among older tea party followers. He explains:
We have a declining tea party engagement and we need to engage new forms of activists. The comment [made by Cline to a fellow activist] was specifically, 'These old people are not gonna get it done. These kids are workers.' Not in the sense that they can't accomplish it, but that there are too few of them.
The problem of declining support from older tea partiers, Cline continues, is a national problem:
On my very first phone call with Jen Stefano as my new [AFP] regional director, I asked her if declining tea party engagement was just an Arkansas problem or if everyone was experiencing that. Her comment was that it's a problem everywhere.
At the time, Cline and Stefano were prominent figures within AFP. As the director of AFP-Arkansas, Cline led one of AFP's strongest chapters. Stefano is a national regional director for AFP and a fixture on Fox News and Fox Business News. If they believe tea party support is drying up, the problem is probably real. AFP spokesman Levi Russell declined to comment, and Stefano did not respond to a request for comment.
This year's primary season has borne out Cline and Stefano's observations. Unlike 2010 and 2012, when tea party favorites Mike Lee and Ted Cruz ousted establishment Republicans, the 2014 Senate primary season has seen the defeat of every single tea-party-aligned challenger. The major surprise of this election cycle has been economics professor David Brat's victory over then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). Yet neither AFP or FreedomWorks, the two major national tea party groups, spent money to elect Brat.
Of course, establishment Republicans won in 2014 in part because they tacked hard to the right in anticipation of a tea party challenge. Likewise, the Republican Party has become more hardline in the past five years. The tea party, then, has won an ideological victory. But as a source of manpower on the ground, the movement is no longer what it once was.
Read Cline's 19-page memo below (some personal information has been redacted):
In Texas, a resurgent tea party movement has trained its sights on the ongoing crisis at the US-Mexico border, where some 70,000 unaccompanied minors will arrive this year alone. At a July 16 press conference at the state capitol in Austin, tea party leaders ripped Gov. Rick Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott, both Republicans, for not doing more to keep undocumented immigrants out of the US. The activists said they wanted a special legislative session devoted to the migrant crisis and urged Perry to deploy the Texas National Guard to the border. (Days later, Perry announced he would deploy up to 1,000 guardsmen.)
See MoJo's full coverage of the surge of unaccompanied child migrants from Central America.
One of the speakers at the event was Thomas Korkmas, who runs an anti-immigrant group called Texans for Immigration Reduction and Enforcement. In his remarks, Korkmas drew a comparison between the current border crisis and the horrific ethnic cleansing that occurred in eastern Europe after the collapse of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. That Serb-led campaign of ethnic cleansing saw the creation of concentration camps, widespread rape and murder, and a death toll that reached an estimated 100,000. The way Korkmas sees it, where the Serbs systemically eliminated Bosnian Muslims and Croatian civilians, the influx of undocumented migrants to the US is diluting the population of white Americans via "ethnic replacement."
We have an invasion. It has to be stopped. About 20 years ago when Bill Clinton was in office, there was an issue over in what had been Yugoslavia. And it was called at that time ethnic cleansing. What is going on right now in this country could be called ethnic replacement. Because what is happening right now is we are seeing the eradication of our Constitution and its rule of law. We're seeing the elimination of our borders, our language, and our culture. And anyone who does not think that a culture that embraces lawlessness will not become our dominant culture within a few years, I hate to tell you you're wrong. It will be because it already has.
Korkmas seems to have borrowed the term "ethnic replacement" from the right-wing talk radio host Michael Savage. Recently, Savage accused President Obama and his administration of engaging in ethnic replacement—a term Savage claims he coined—by allowing illegal immigrants to "flood America" and replace white Americans.
This isn't Korkmas' first controversial comment on the issue of immigration. Last year, he claimed that the Boston Marathon bombings resulted in part from an insecure US-Mexico border. Every politician who has served in Washington and failed to "close the border" since the Boston attacks, Korkmas went on, "is guilty, as far as I’m concerned, as an accessory to homicide."
As he seeks another six years in office, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has touted his reputation as a true conservative and an unwavering opponent of President Barack Obama. But a newly leaked document written by one of the most prominent figures in the tea party movement claims that McConnell wasn't a strong conservative leader initially when Obama proposed his anti-recession stimulus package—and that McConnell only ended up opposing this signature Obama initiative because a leading tea party group leaned on him to do so.
Mother Jones recently obtained a trove of emails, memos, financial records, and fundraising documents written by officials and financial backers of FreedomWorks, a national tea party group. These records contain a May 2009 memo written by FreedomWorks president and CEO Matt Kibbe and addressed to the group's board of directors. The memo presented FreedomWorks' efforts to combat the Obama administration, just as the new president was settling in and responding to the economic crisis under way. In the document, Kibbe credited FreedomWorks—which has been funded by corporations, wealthy individuals, and grassroots donors—for "fomenting the tea party movement."