Texas Gov. Rick Perry's big break in politics came in 1990, when he won a tight race against incumbent Jim Hightower, a progressive Democrat, to become State Agriculture Commissioner. It might not sound like much, but a statewide office is a statewide office, and Perry, who is now seriously thinking about running for president, won in a pretty rough electoral climate. (He had some help from campaign manager Karl Rove, who zeroed in on ethics lapses by a Hightower subordinate.*)
The gulf between Hightower, an organic-farming booster and later a Ralph Nader supporter, and Perry, an arch-conservative who supports criminalizing gay sex, is pretty wide. How wide? Well, in a 1991 Texas Monthly story, Dana Rubin explains that one Rick Perry's first orders of business was to cancel the agency's subscription to MoJo:
In early January, an employee armed with a video camera swept through the Austin headquarters of the Texas Department of Agriculture, making a record of every office: desks, bookshelves, computers, trash cans. Newly elected commissioner Rick Perry had ordered a top-to-bottom inventory, and his staff wanted to account for every item in the agency. Employees were asked to strip the posters, signs, and comic strips from their doors and hallways. Within days every vestige of the folksy, college dormitory atmosphere cultivated under former commissioner Jim Hightower had vanished. Gone was the rusty old plow from the lobby. Gone were the nostalgic Depression-era photographs from the walls. Gone were the agency's subscriptions to leftist periodicals such as Mother Jones, the Progressive, and the Utne Reader.
Whoa, hey! Governor, the next subscription is on us.
*Note: This section has been edited to clarify that Hightower was not personally implicated in the ethics lapses.
I had thought Glenn Beck's comparison of the massacred Norwegian children to the "Hitler Youth" was the most horrific response to last Friday's terrorist attack in Oslo. But now, via Right Wing Watch, I see that WorldNetDaily and radio host Michael Savage have upped the ante. They've decided that it's just too far-fetched to think that Anders Breivik, the blue-eyed, blond-haired white guy whoadmitted to the crimes, could have possibly committed such a barbaric act. So they've decided it's probably a cover-up by the left-wing Norwegian government:
"The official story makes no sense," Savage told WND. "This looks like a classic conspiracy."
"This has all the appearances of a cover-up," Savage told WND. "They created their Reichstag fire. They found their Timothy McVeigh. They created their Jack Ruby. How could one man have blown up the downtown and then raced to the island to kill the teens?
"This is likely a fabrication of the Labour Party, who needs to hold onto power to enforce their multi-culturalist, Muslim-favoring, anti-nationalist views," he continued, "especially in light of the earlier 'credit' for this atrocity claimed by the radical Muslim group whose leader they were threatening to deport.
"The official story defies logic in the following sense as well," he continued, "if this lone right-winger hated Muslims, as the New York Times is reporting, then why did he slaughter his own people and not Muslims?"
So there you have it. I suppose it's about as plausible as Rush Limbaugh's assertion last summer that the BP oil spill was part of a plot by environmentalists to make the oil companies look bad.
On Monday afternoon, as markets fretted over the possibility of the United States government running out of money to pay its creditors, Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) held a briefing on a crisis that could bring the nation to its knees. "This is about the protection of each and every American citizen who ever resides within our borders," West told the audience in the basement of Rayburn House Office Building.
West wasn't there to talk about Congress' apparent inability to raise the debt ceiling, though. He was there to introduce Peter Leitner of Citizens for National Security, an organization based in Boca Raton, Florida, that is dedicated to raising awareness of the threat of Islamic extremism in American communities. The group, which previously tried to ferret out perceived Islamic bias in Florida public-school textbooks, had been invited by West to present the findings of its latest report: "Homegrown Jihad in the USA: Muslim Brotherhood's Deliberate, Premediated Plan Now Reaching Maturity." CFNS claims to have a list of 6,000 members of the Muslim Brotherhood who are living in America and determined to "penetrate the United States and eventually erode its institutions, policies, and sense of self through the creation of a multifaceted Fifth Column movement within our borders."
That's a serious charge, and in a 45-minute presentation, Leitner backed it up with a series of charts that linked various Muslim organizations, from Hezbollah to the Muslim Students Association, in one giant, overarching conspiracy bent on "destroying the United States as it currently stands."
Two days after it was discovered that Anders Breivik, the Oslo gunman, was an admirer of America's leading anti-Islam activists—including CFNS advisory committee member Daniel Pipes—the American anti-Sharia movement showed no sign of mellowing. Leitner dismissed Breivik ("a bizarre Norwegian farmer") as a nutcase, but, like a number of prominent conservative commentators, allowed that he might nonetheless have been on to something. "He may be correct that there's a certain kind of a threat that we face, depending on his view," Leitner said in response to a challenge from a Muslim audience member, "but he fits the lines of a classic lunatic."
The battle between Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has mostly been a one-sided affair thus far. As Bachmann has jumped to the top of the polls in Iowa and Pawlenty has plummeted, the former governor has stepped up his criticisms of Bachmann, arguing that she's never actually accomplished anything during her decade as a legislator. Bachmann has largely stayed mum, but now, perhaps spying a chance to drive a stake through an opponent who's polling at 2 percent nationally, she's gone on the attack. Here's what she emailed to supporters on Sunday:
Actions speak louder than words. When I was fighting against the unconstitutional individual mandate in healthcare, Governor Pawlenty was praising it. I have fought against irresponsible spending while Governor Pawlenty was leaving a multi-billion-dollar budget mess in Minnesota. I fought cap-and-trade. Governor Pawlenty backed cap-and-trade when he was Governor of Minnesota and put Minnesota into the multi-state Midwest Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord. While Governor Pawlenty was praising TARP—the $700 billion bailout in 2008—I worked tirelessly against it and voted against it.
Hey, this Pawlenty guy doesn't sound so bad! The cap-and-trade and TARP hits were a given—Pawlenty likes to refer to those positions as his "clunkers"—but the budget criticism is something new, and it's especially noteworthy because Pawlenty's claims of balancing budgets and cutting spending are his top talking points on the campaign trail. On this front, Bachmann is right. As I've reported, Pawlenty balanced Minnesota's budget through a series of tricky accounting maneuvers. He would defer payments or take out loans that didn't need to be paid off until after his term was over. Most glaringly, his push to cut taxes and spending at the state level forced local governments to pick up the slack, so real spending did not actually decline. A little bit of accounting wizardry is necessary sometimes; most governors do it. But it's not what comes to mind when you think of the "tough choices" Pawlenty has promised.
Up until now, though, fellow Republicans have been reluctant to call Pawlenty out on his budget bluster, likely because their own ideas are mathematically flawed to some degree. The Paul Ryan budget (which Bachmann supports) would require raising the debt ceiling (which Bachmann opposes). And in Texas, Gov. Rick Perry, seen as Bachmann's top rival in Iowa should he jump in the race, recently employed more or less the Pawlenty method to balance the state's budget. As the AP described it, Texas relied on "accounting maneuvers, rewriting school funding laws, ignoring a growing population and delaying payments on bills coming due in 2013."
On Wednesday, Florida GOP Rep. Allen West dashed off an unhinged email rant to Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.), in which he called her "vile" and "not a lady." That was kind of standard operating procedure for West, who has previously called President Obama a "low-level socialist agitator." And it reminded me of another Allen West email incident in June, in which the congressman trashed his local alt-weekly, the Broward-Palm Beach New Times, in his weekly constituent newsletter. The paper had, in good humor, chided West for violating a federal law—Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 8, Subsection B of the United States Code—by bringing an American flag underwater on a diving expedition with military veterans.
It appears that my taking a U.S. flag down to a sunken wreck (artificial reef) for us all to take pictures and video just riled up some idiot Liberals looking for anything to criticize when it comes to me. Well, doggone sorry, perhaps next time I will put on a tie-dyed shirt and jeans, dance around singing anti-war, anti-American songs, and burn a flag. Perhaps that would endear me to the delusional dummies out there who are probably just jealous because they cannot dive to 80 ft into a hard current and proudly carry an American flag. What a bunch of losers!
Meanwhile, West hasn't backed down from his aggressive language, telling Fox News yesterday that "[T]here are certain ways we talk in the military. I guess I haven't learned the DC-insider talk."