Via Adam Serwer, New Jersey Republican governor Chris Christie delivered some much-needed real talk on Islamophobia on Wednesday. For months, he's been taking heat from conservative groups over his appointment of a Muslim, Sohail Mohammed, to the state superior court (here's Pamela Geller's characteristically calm reaction). With no factual evidence to support their claims, many conservatives fear that Muslims are stealthily forcing a radical strain of Islamic Shariah law on unsuspecting Americans—and Mohammed's appointment, in such a key position, would no doubt speed up the process.
But Christie, who has been known to speak his mind from time to time, has had enough of it:
Shariah law has nothing to do with this at all. It's crazy. It's crazy. The guy's an American citizen who has been an admitted lawyer to practice in the state of New Jersey, swearing an oath to uphold the laws of New Jersey, the constitution of the state of New Jersey, and the Constitution of the United States of America…this shariah law business is crap. It's just crazy. And I'm tired of dealing with the crazies. It's just unnecessary to be accusing this guy of things just because of his religious backround.
It's a reasonable bet that International Baccalaureate, the international advanced placement system for high school students, will not be much of an issue in the Republican presidential race. But you never know.
As I reported this morning, International Baccalaureate actually plays a supporting role in a conspiracy theory hawked by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and many of her boosters back in Minnesota—one that helped kick-start her career when she was a home-school parent in Stillwater. Bachmann got her start in politics in the late 1990s by partnering with a group called the the Maple River Education Coalition to warn Minnesotans about the imminent "state-planned economy" that would turn the state into a mini-Soviet Union. MREC believed, absolutely, that the federal government was in league with the United Nations to create a new global order built on an ideology of radical environmentalism (which is what led then-Gov. Jesse Ventura, no stranger to conspiracy theories, to jest that they "think UFOs are landing next month"). As these conservatives saw it, "sustainability," and more specifically a little-known United Nations agreement called Agenda 21, was the catalyst for a globalist takeover.
What does this have to do with International Baccalaureate? Well, if your goal is to bring the world together under one banner, it obviously helps to indoctrinate the children. These right-wing critics argued that IBO was quietly weaning kids off the antiquated notion of national sovereignty and American ideals and pushing them to become world citizens. (This, among other reasons, is why conservatives were so irked by Obama's statement that he considers himself a "citizen of the world"). IBO students would be taught to revere the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and embrace a doctrine of moral relativsm that values gay rights, redistribution of wealth, and the notion that the earth itself is a living organism (think Avatar, I guess).
Bachmann has been silent on the International Baccalaureate part of the conspriacy. But in 2006, then-EdWatch president Julie Quist did testify before Bachmann's state senate education committee to urge the body to strip all funding for IBO programs. As she explained:
Dr. Ian Hill, Deputy Director of IBO, has said that the goal of IBO is the promotion of world citizenship. [http:/www.ibo.org] Either United States citizenship or world citizenship must have priority in our education program. Which will it be? IB gives priority to world citizenship...
Amendment X of our Bill of Rights assumes that the rights in our Bill of Rights are inherent and inalienable, as is directly stated in the Declaration of Independence. For that reason, IBO is contrary to Amendment X of our Bill of Rights, and therefore undermines all ten amendments that make up our Bill of Rights.
All ten amendments—even the Third! World citizenship, anyhow, is not literally a thing that's in competition with national citizenship, inasmuch as it is impossible to get a "world passport" or pay "world taxes" or vote for a "world president" or compete on the world Olympic team. But a few weeks later, Quist and EdWatch showed up at the GOP nominating convention for the Sixth Congressional District. Bachmann won the nomination with their help, but there was another order of business for the group: They also pushed through a resolution formally opposing IBO. (Minnesota's governor, Tim Pawlenty, supported the program.) Quist and another EdWatch alum, Renee Doyle, went on to take jobs in Bachann's congressional office.
Bachmann frames her education activism and work with Maple River Education Coalition as that of a concerned parent who was worried schools were dumbing down her kids. But the actual fears that she and her allies outlined at the time went much, much deeper than that. For some more thoughts on Bachmann's early career—and why conservatives don't seem to care—read Noah Kristula-Green.
Few issues get Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) going quite like lightbulbs. At campaign stops across the country, she has repeatedly denounced a 2007 law that required manufacturers to develop energy-efficient lightbulb varieties. Bachmann sees the law as an affront to American values. "I think Thomas Edison did a pretty patriotic thing for this country by inventing the lightbulb," she told a New Hampshire audience in March. "And I think darn well, you New Hampshirites, if you want to buy Thomas Edison's wonderful invention, you should be able to!"
In reality, no one's stopping New Hampshirites (or anyone else, for that matter) from buying any kind of lightbulb they please—even the incandescent variety that Bachmann warns will be outlawed unless we pass the Better Use of Light Bulbs (BULB) Act that she supported. (BULB would repeal the energy-efficiency rules.) But Bachmann's crusade is about much more than energy-conserving bulbs: The Minnesota congresswoman is part of a movement that considers "sustainability" an existential threat to the United States, one with far-reaching consequences for education, transportation, and family values. If Bachmann is right, lightbulbs will soon be the least of our worries.
Bachmann's concerns may have been best articulated in an interview she gave to the American Family Association's OneNewsNow in 2008. As Republicans in Washington revolted over the rising costs of gas, the then-freshman congresswoman outlined the stakes:
Perhaps I should backtrack. Last month, GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain publicly apologized for a number of anti-Islam statements he had made on the campaign trail. After calling on authorities to block the expansion of an Islamic community center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee; warning that Muslims were attempting to force a radical strain of Islamic Sharia law on unsuspecting Americans; and pledging not to appoint any Muslims to his cabinet, the former pizza mogul's longshot run for the White House had hit a serious rut. So he met with Muslim leaders in Northern Virginia to smooth things out. It didn't change that fact that Cain was getting his ideas on Islam from debunked conspiracy theories, but he at least seemed to have reached the conclusion that Muslims don't bite.
But now the authors of those conspiracy theories are none too pleased. Frank Gaffney, a Washington Times columnist and anti-Sharia activist who once warned that President Obama was raised a Muslim and might still be one, told Think Progress that Cain might be in league with the Muslim Brotherhood:
The ADAMS Center is a prominent Muslim Brotherhood apparatus in Washington DC. It's one of the most aggressive proponents of its agenda in the city. Specifically, meeting with Mohamed Magid who is the president of the largest Muslim Brotherhood front in the United States, who happens also to be the Imam at the ADAMS Center. It's one of those things, it's a very problematic departure from what I think had been a generally sensible [position]."
Bryan Fischer, the American Family Association issues director who has called for a moratorium on mosque construction in the United States, is also frustrated with Cain's new dance. "Cain had said that any community which does not want a jihadist-spouting mosque in its community shouldn't be forced to have one," he wrote. "And of course, he was right about that, and it's unfortunate that he has retracted the statement. His bobbing and weaving on Islam is leaving his supporters a bit dazed and is hurting his candidacy."
This comes just one weeks after the anti-immigration group Numbers USA gave Cain a "C-" on its candidate report card—despite the fact that he had previously promised to build a giant moat along the entire US–Mexican border, filled with alligators.
Lost amid the last-second push to pass the "sugar-coated satan sandwich" that is the debt ceiling deal, Eli Lake has an interesting piece over at The New Republic exploring the Republican party's collapsing foreign policy consensus. The good news? The cocky, rigid neoconservatism that defined the last decade is less influential now. But that doesn't mean it's being replaced by anything more, well, sane. Here's Lake:
When I started asking around about Bachmann's foreign policy ideas, I heard the same thing from multiple people: that I should talk to Frank Gaffney. Gaffney himself stressed that he had no formal relationship with Bachmann as an adviser. But he did say that he had contact with several of the GOP candidates. And, of Bachmann, he said this: "She is a friend and a person I admire. I hope she is getting the best counsel she can." He added, "We are a resource she has tapped, I'm assuming among many others." When I asked him whether Bachmann had been briefed on the Team B II Report, he replied, "We've spent hours, over several days with her. I think she's got the bulk of what we would tell her in one of the more formal presentations."
Bachmann's connection to the Team B II Report—and her conviction that sharia law is a threat to the United States—helps explain some of the key places that she splits from the neoconservatives. To most neocons, the Arab Spring was good news, because it meant the potential spread of democracy in the Muslim world. But the Team B II crowd was pessimistic. "Ever since 2003, when the thrust of the War On Terror stopped being the defeat of America’s enemies and decisively shifted to nation-building, we have insisted—against history, law, language, and logic—that Islamic culture is perfectly compatible with and hospitable to Western-style democracy," McCarthy has written. "It is not, it never has been, and it never will be."
Gaffney, for the unfamiliar, is a former Ronald Reagan Pentagon official who has become one of the leaders of the right-wing anti-Islam crusade. Team B II was an ad hoc group formed by his Center for Security Policy which last year produced report, Shariah: The Threat to America, on the existential threat posed by radical jihadis in the United States government.
Gaffney has warned that CIA Director David Petraeus is a slave to Islamic Shariah law; that President Obama's missile defense logo represents a concession to radical Islam (it was actually produced by the Bush administration); and that "there is mounting evidence that the president not only identifies with Muslims, but actually may still be one himself." In 2008, he also argued that "there is evidence Mr. Obama was born in Kenya." Gaffney believes that high-ranking members of the Obama foreign policy team are secretly working for the Muslim Brotherhood, and, last fall, he alleged that Americans for Tax Reform founder Grover Norquist was in cahoots with radical Islamists as well—which, in turn, meant that the entire Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) had been compromised.
This all makes Gaffney sound conspiratorial, but that's kind of the point: His big foreign policy idea, which he's presumably counseling Bachmann on, is that is that there is a comprehensive plot by Islamic extremists to infiltrate the United States government and all other levels of society and destroy America as we know it. But then again, considering Bachmann once attended a conference dedicated to framing Middle Eastern politics in the context of End Times prophecy, Gaffney might be a step up.