It's a matter of public record that, at least at this point in the campaign, Republican primary voters really don't like their 2012 options. Hence the constant pining for Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (not running), former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (not running)—even former Supreme Allied Commander and two-term President Dwight D. Eisenhower (deceased). Now, the new hope for discontented GOPers is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a brash former US Attorney who's become a minor deity on the right on account of his contentious exchanges with (usually) public school teachers. Christie has said he's not running, but continues to hold the kind of meetings you'd hold if you were actually thinking of running. On Tuesday, he met with a delegation of influential Iowa Republicans in Princeton. Per the Des Moines Register:
It's too early to say the Iowa GOP mission to draft in-your-face New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to run for president was unsuccessful, two team members said Wednesday.
Although Christie didn't promise to enter the race during the dinner with the seven Iowa Republicans on Tuesday night, he never flatly declared he wouldn't, said Gary Kirke, a business entrepreneur and an organizer of the recruitment trip.
Consider this: Christie had 13 of his people at the table, all trusted advisers, said Michael Richards, a West Des Moines Republican who also went on the 9½-hour trip.
Of course, as my colleague Andy Kroll has noted, Iowa Republicans are pretty much the only folks who actually seem to like Chris Christie, whose approval ratings in New Jersey have plummeted in the last 12 months. Hey, there's always Rick Perry.
I have a story up today on how Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann's millenial theology shapes her political positions (on Israel, monetary policy, and education, most notably). The likely GOP presidential contender, who cut her teeth in politics as a grassroots Christian activist, has been a frequent guest on "Understanding the Times," a radio program devoted to interpreting current events through the lens of End Times prophecy. Bachmann's no novice when it comes to faith; when she raises the spectre of "One World currency" in an interview with a host who believes the arrival of the Antichrist is being expedited by President Obama's policies, she understands full well the connotation of her words.
Now, via the folks at Dump Bachmann, comes an even clearer explication of Bachmann's views...from Bachmann herself. Here she is in 2006 stating that "we are in the Last Days" (picks up at the 1:20):
The idea that we are living in the "Last Days" is not, at least theologically speaking, particularly radical. Last Days is not meant to be taken literally (i.e. "Thursday"), but rather as an indefinite period, and means that we're in the last "dispensation" before the Rapture. But when taken in conjunction with her associations and Left Behind rhetoric, the picture becomes a lot clearer.
It's also worth noting the context: Bachmann's "Last Days" remark came in a prayer for You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International, a heavy-metal ministry that travels to public schools to encourage students to find Christ (on the taxpayers' tab). It's also anti-gay. Very, very anti-gay. As I explained last month, its founder, Bradlee Deen, has suggested that gays caused the Holocaust, and called for gays to be thrown in jail. Until 2009, he was also a member of the Embassy of Heaven, a sovereign citizen organization that's classified as an "anti-government" group by the Department of Justice. (Bachmann has raised money for YCRBYCHI.)
Televangelist Pat Robertson isn't the powerful political force he once was, but as the founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, he's still an influential voice on the Christian Right. Yesterday, on his television show, The 700 Club, Robertson delivered a warning to a weary nation: Muslims are the new Nazis:
Robertson: I was thinking, you know, if you oppose Muslims, what is said? Well, you're a bigot, right? Terrible bigotry. I wonder what were people who opposed the Nazis. Were they bigots?
Co-host: Well, in that day I think they were looked down upon and frowned upon.
Robertson: Why can't we speak out against an institution that is intent on dominating us and imposing Sharia law and making us all part of a universal caliphate? That's the goal of some of these people. Why is that bigoted? Why is it bigoted to resist Adolf Hitler and the Nazis and to say we don't want to live under Nazi Germany?
Not to nitpick here, but people who opposed the Nazis were not "looked down upon and frowned upon" as bigots. This was a few decades ago, so it's understandably a little obscure, but the United States actually went to war with Nazi Germany. There was a movie about it and everything.
As you'd probably guess, this is hardly the first time Robertson has compared a large and diverse group of people to Nazis:
Almost immediately after President Obama's recent Middle East address, in which he reaffirmed his administration's commitment to a two-state solution in Israel, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R–Minn.) sprang into action. Blasting the president's "shocking display of betrayal towards our ally," the tea party icon attacked the speech (which did not actually represent a policy shift) in robocalls and online ads that appeared the key primary states of Iowa, South Carolina, and New Hampshire.
Bachmann's support for Israel isn't simply an embrace of an ally in a historically volatile region; it's rooted in biblical prophecy. As Bachmann explained in a 2010 speech, she believes that if the United States turns its back on Israel, "a curse" will be placed on the land. As proof, she cited Genesis 12:3, in which God says to Abraham, "The one who curses you I will curse." It was an uncommonly explicit blurring of policy and theology from a prominent politician—but for Bachmann, who's expected to formally enter the presidential race in the coming weeks, it was hardly an isolated incident.
On Tuesday, GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain dropped by Glenn Beck's radio program to argue that his previous promise to not appoint any Muslims to his Cabinet had been "misconstrued." As he put it: "I did not say that I would not have them in my cabinet. If you look at my career, I have hired good people regardless of race, religion, sex gender, orientation, and this kind of thing."
Cain's position now is that only radical Muslims would be prohibited from serving in his administration. That sounds reasonable. Except he told Laura Ingraham in April that he's never met a Muslim who didn't fit his definition of a radical—and in the same interview, alleged that Rep. Keith Ellison (D–Minn.), who's Muslim, has pledged his loyalty to Allah, not the Constitution. But even if Cain's original statement, and subsequent defenses of it, were misconstrued, he still hasn't adequately explained the rest of what he told Think Progress back in April.
When asked for examples of the "creeping attempt...to gradually ease" Islamic sharia law into the American judicial system he explained:
One judge did it up in New Jersey, and ruled in a case. Then last week we heard about a judge down in was it Texas? It might have been Texas where a judge said there was a dispute in a mosque and he was gonna consider 'eclesiastical' law in his deliberations, because of a dispute that was going on inside a mosque. This is the United States of America. Just because it's going on inside a mosque doesnt mean you execute the laws based on what's going on in the [mosque]."
Cain is right: This isthe United States of America. But everything else here is inaccurate. In the civil case in question—which was in Florida, not Texas—the judge (a Republican) ruled that he was going to use "ecclesiastical" law because both parties had agreed, per their mutually agreed-upon contract, to settle their dispute through ecclesiastical Islamic law, in the form of a Muslim arbitrator. That's totally normal; Christians and Jews also take advantage of independent arbitrators to settle disputes. If the government were to ban the use of such forums, it would mark a dramatic encroachment on the First Amendment's freedom of religion—I'm fairly certain that Herman Cain doesn't want to run for President on the platform of restricting Christians' free exercise rights. The actual trial, the judge noted, would be conducted according to Florida civil law; he was simply assessing whether the arbitration process had been handled properly.
Anyone can make a gaffe, which is how Cain is spinning his "no Muslims" comment. But the more serious problem isn't that Cain misspoke; it's that he has taken an extreme, unconstitutional position based on a conspiracy theory that could have been debunked in 30 seconds.