Former Speaker Newt Gingrich launched his presidential exploratory effort yesterday, joining a GOP field that also includes pizza mogul Herman Cain and former one-term Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer. Because it's 2011, the media coverage of his announcement focused on his new website, and more specifically, its very obvious use of a stock photo to make it seem as if Gingrich and his wife, Callista, were standing in front of an adoring—and multi-cultural—flag-waving crowd (see relevant Tumblr here). As the Wall Street Journal noted, the photo is called "Large Crowd of People Holding Stars and Stripes Flags," and had previously been used by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.
But what about the photo of Newt and Callista that was photo-shopped on top of the cheering throng? We tracked down the original on Gingrich Productions. It was from a photo shoot for his Citizens United-funded documentary about radical Islam, America at Risk—and there are plenty of others. Here's one, which we'll call "Unhappy Couple Standing in Front of Saplings."
Courtesy of Gingrich Productions
They look pissed!
This one's called "Couple Standing on Wooden Board":
Earlier this week, we told you about the Missouri state legislator who instructed reporters to "Google" Sharia law, because he couldn't think of any real-life examples that would justifiy his proposal to ban it. It's part of a trend: In Tennessee, the author of the state's proposed ban on Islamic law confessed that the bill could probably be phrased a little better; two weeks ago, a South Dakota lawmaker tabled his anti-Sharia proposal after learning that beheading one's wife was already illegal in the Mount Rushmore State.
But this story from Alabama, via the Anniston Star, trumps everything. State senator Gerald Allen introduced a bill to ban Islamic law from state courts, making his state the 17th to consider such a proposal since the beginning of 2010. Just one problem:
[The] definition is the same, almost word for word, as wording in the Wikipedia entry on Shariah law as it appeared Thursday. Allen said the wording was drafted by Legislative staff. A source on the staff at the Legislature confirmed that the definition was in fact pulled from Wikipedia.
Allen could not readily define Shariah in an interview Thursday. "I don't have my file in front of me," he said. "I wish I could answer you better."
As with any half-decent declaration of independence, the group's resolution has a list of grievances: Specifically, the federal government has failed the protect its borders, and "implemented thousands of laws, mandates and agencies in violation of the United States Constitution that have invaded the sovereignty of the State of Texas."
But wait: This story actually gets stranger. As the Houston Press reported, the Texas Nationalist Movement's secession rally is being sponsored by none other than state Rep. Leo Berman. You may remember Berman as the man who introduced a bill to force the President of the United States to prove his citizenship (again), and, when asked for proof, cited YouTube videos he'd seen because, "YouTubes are infallible." He's also sponsoring a bill to save state courts from the scourge of Islamic Sharia law.
So why is a state legislator promoting a secession rally? The Press caught up with Berman, who explained that while he "very strongly" does not support secession (statehouse rallies need a legislative sponsor), he doesn't think it's such a terrible idea either:
He says he has "no qualms" about supporting a secession rally. Is there any group out there whose message is so far out, so radical and dangerous that he would refuse to be a legislative sponsor for them?
"I'm very, very, very strongly pro-life," he says. "So I would not support an abortion-type rally."
Man's got to stand for something.
Support for secession has a long and rich history in the Lone Star State. According to a 2009 poll, 48 percent of Texas Republicans agreed that the state "would be better off as an independent nation." That came after GOP Governor Rick Perry told reporters at a tea party in Austin that if the federal government didn't change its ways, secession might be an option. And in 2009, a Kerr County resident was arrested for claiming to be a sheriff's deputy for the "Republic of Texas." For more, check out our interactive map on US secession movements.
Also of note: Although the group's poster features a severely mutton-chopped Sam Houston calling for Texas independence, the real Sam Houston famously took an unpopular stand against Texas secession on the eve of the Civil War. As he put it: "The Union is worth more than Mr. Lincoln. I was denounced then. I am denounced now. Be it so!"
The big 2012 news this week (well, other than this) is that former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer is forming a presidential exploratory committee. So who the heck is Buddy Roemer? Politico's Jonathan Martin had a must-read take this morning, but here's a closer look:
A former Democrat: Roemer was a four-term Democratic congressman from Shreveport, but switched parties midway through his first and only term as governor. Although he supported President Reagan's economic policies in Washington, Roemer said the party's lingering racism was holding it back: "The only thing that is keeping me from being a Republican is the Republicans." He finally made the switch in 1991 in the hopes that it would help his re-election chances (it didn't). For his switch, Roemer's critics took to calling him a "transvestocrat."
A New-Age Mystic:As part of a very public mid-life crisis, Gov. Roemer began wearing blue jeans and adopted the slogan, "Goodbye to me, hello to we." Here we'll quote from Charlie Trueheart's 1991 Washington Post story:
"[H]e and his erstwhile Roemeristas (so called because of the much-touted but since-wilted "Roemer revolution") have been reduced to mouthing the ridiculous platitudes of Robert Fulghum and other New Age shamans. Cook reports, "He packed himself and his staff off to motivational treats dubbed 'Adventures in Attitudes,' where they learned to banish negative thoughts by snapping a rubber band against their wrists while uttering 'Cancel, cancel.'"
Not a culture warrior: Roemer's no lefty: He supported chain gangs and presided over the execution of a mentally handicapped man who had murdered a state trooper at the age of 17. But in one of the signature showdowns of his political career, Roemer opposed his base: As governor in 1991, he vetoed a GOP proposal that would have banned all abortions, except in the case of rape or incest—and even then, abortions could only be performed in the first 13 weeks of a pregnancy, and the rape or incest victims had just five days to report the crime. The bill passed into law over his veto, but was later blocked by a federal judge. The National Right to Life Committee called Roemer's veto "a betrayal." Roemer also signed a law legalizing medicinal marijuana in Louisiana, and vetoed a bill that would have restricted the sale of profane music like 2 Live Crew.
Yesterday, we flagged an interview in which possible GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee alleged that President Obama developed an anti-colonialist worldview because he was raised by his father and grandfather in Kenya. Huckabee later clarified that he misspoke—he meant to say that Obama was raised by his father and grandfather in Indonesia. Which is also incorrect. Today he doubled down in an interview with the American Family Association's Bryan Fischer, explaining that while his words have been distorted, he really does believe that the Mau Mau Revolution has deeply influenced Obama's thinking.
Adam Serwer says Huckabee threw conservatives under the bus, but maybe the larger concern isn't what Huckabee said but who he said it to. Why is Mike Huckabee appearing on Bryan Fischer's radio show? Let's review the record: Fischer has previously argued that gay sex is "domestic terrorism," that Native American societies were a "slop bucket" that deserved to be wiped out by Christians, that the President is a "fascist dictator," that Muslims should be banned from serving in the military, that gays literally caused the holocaust, and that grizzly bears should be slaughted to appease an angry God.
There's no evidence that Huckabee agrees with any of that, but Fischer's radical views aren't exactly unknown—and it's not the first time Huckabee's been on the show. We've contacted Huckabee's PAC for a response; we'll let you know if we hear back.