Mojo - March 2011

Jon Huntsman Revs Up 2012 Campaign Machine

| Mon Mar. 28, 2011 11:23 AM EDT
Jon Huntsman. Flickr/World Economic Forum

Jon Huntsman, former Utah governor and outgoing US ambassador to China, is inching toward an official run for the White House in 2012. In the latest news out of Huntman's camp, Politico's Mike Allen reports today that the ambassador's political action committee, Horizon PAC, has beefed up its staff to 12, and plans to announce organizers in key primary and caucus states.

To win over fellow Republicans, Horizon PAC will begin doling out donations to local and state-level Republican candidates—a common practice among presidential hopefuls and other top lawmakers. And earlier this month, 18 of Huntman's lieutenants huddled in New Orleans to plot Huntsman's strategies on fundraising, research, communications, and more. Of course, Huntsman himself can't have a role in any of this planning until he officially concludes his ambassadorship at the end of April. But when he does return to the States, he'll have a campaign in a box awaiting him.

Here's more from Allen:

A Horizon strategist told Playbook that the PAC has already been very successful in fundraising, even before holding major events. The strategist said Huntsman, known for his moderate stands on the environment and gay rights, is as “as conservative as anybody in the field"—fiscally conservative and anti-abortion.

The campaign-in-waiting is being masterminded from Texas by John Weaver, who helped make Sen. John McCain a household name, and is a strategist known for winning outside the conventional playbook.

One sticking point for a Huntsman candidacy will be his tenure in the Obama administration. In recent months, the president and his aides have heaped praised on Huntsman, as well as likely 2012 candidate Mitt Romney, in what some have dubbed a death-by-kindness strategy. As Obama once quipped, "I'm sure that him having worked so well with me will be a great asset in any Republican primary."

But Huntsman's strategists are already testing out messages to counteract the poisonous praise of a Democratic administration. As the Associated Press reports, "On Huntsman's link to Obama, they say Huntsman was serving his country, not a partisan administration, and he would be the best positioned to go head-to-head against his former boss." Selling that message, and more generally winning over conservative primary voters with a more moderate candidate, will prove the toughest task for Team Huntsman.

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We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for March 28, 2011

Mon Mar. 28, 2011 4:30 AM EDT

Soldiers from A Company, 101st Airborne Division, Special Troop Battalion air assault into a village inside Jowlzak valley, Parwan province, Afghanistan. Afghan National Police searched the village while Soldiers provided security and conducted key-leader engagements. Photo via US Army.

The Week in Sharia: Terry Jones' Revenge

| Sat Mar. 26, 2011 6:30 PM EDT

Flickr: Jason AdamsFlickr: Jason AdamsEveryone stay calm:

  • Sharia came to Florida, and it was not so bad.
  • Tennessee lawmakers rewrote their anti-Sharia bill to turn it into a material support for terrorism law.
  • Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann demonstrated their presidential bona fides by cozying up to Bryan Fischer, a far-right radio host who thinks the First Amendment doesn't apply to Islam. He's also written that "deaths of people and livestock at the hands of savage beasts is a sign that the land is under a curse." That last sentence was about grizzly bears.
  • As Governor of Minnesota, GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty oversaw a program that helped Muslims get Sharia-compliant mortgages. No big scandal there—just a state housing agency helping people get houses. But Pawlenty wants you to know that he had nothing to do with it: "As soon as Gov. Pawlenty became aware of the issue, he personally ordered it shut down. Fortunately, only about three people actually used the program before it was terminated at the Governor's direction."
  • Chupcabras are, apparently, not real. But in their absence, the Rev. Franklin Graham has a new terrifying bogeyman for you: It's called the Muslim Brotherhood.

Arkansas Moves to Limit Abortion Access

| Fri Mar. 25, 2011 4:17 PM EDT

Anti-choice state senators in Arkansas passed a bill on Thursday that could limit access to abortions for women in the state by subjecting clinics to the same standards as outpatient surgical centers.

That bill would have the anticipated impact of making non-surgical abortions much harder to obtain in a state where it's already fairly difficult. The law would force clinics or doctors that provide women with abortion pills like RU-486 or Mifeprex to follow more stringent rules applied to outpatient surgical centers. The bill's Republican sponsor dubbed it the "Abortion Patients' Enhanced Safety Act"—creating the impression that the bill is only designed to protect women.

The state's Planned Parenthood branch says the measure is specifically designed to target them, since their two clinics in Fayetteville and Little Rock are the only ones that offer medical abortions in the state. They already only offer them up to 8 weeks after conception, and they don't provide surgical abortions, which make the new rules arbitrary, says the group. They would now be required to make major changes to their facilities, including providing recovery rooms and additional bathrooms, with no practical reason to do so.

Abortion rights groups often refer to this type of law as "Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers"—or a TRAP law. The idea is that you make the regulations so burdensome that it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to actually provide legal abortion services. A similar effort was passed last month in Virginia that would make outpatient facilities subject to the same regulations as hospitals.

"It's a burden and it targets us specifically," Murry Newbern, director of community affairs at Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma, told Mother Jones. "This is just a tactic that people that want to reduce access to safe, legal abortion use make it more expensive."

Anti-abortion groups are praising the bill, with Americans United for Life Action claiming in a statement Friday that the measure will "protect women" and address "the problem of dangerous conditions for women in abortion clinics."

Huck, Newt and Haley Palling Around with Anti-Muslim Extremist

| Fri Mar. 25, 2011 2:26 PM EDT

For GOP presidential hopefuls, its become necessary to court the crazy. Earlier today, Tim Murphy told you about Newt Gingrich's remarks at an American Family Association forum in Iowa, where the former House Speaker—and likely Republican presidential contestant—lavished praise on Islamophobe conspiracy theorist David Barton.

But wait, there's more: The Iowa Independent reports that Gingrich, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee are scheduled to appear on Bryan Fischer's radio show today. Fischer, the AFA's issues director, has long been a leading basher of Muslims and gays and lesbians. He has said that inbreeding causes Muslims to be stupid and violent; he has equated gay sex with domestic terrorism; and he has claimed that Hitler and his stormtroopers were gay. Yesterday on his blog, Fischer wrote that the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of religion does not apply to Islam:

Islam has no fundamental First Amendment claims, for the simple reason that it was not written to protect the religion of Islam. Islam is entitled only to the religious liberty we extend to it out of courtesy. While there certainly ought to be a presumption of religious liberty for non-Christian religious traditions in America, the Founders were not writing a suicide pact when they wrote the First Amendment.

Our government has no obligation to allow a treasonous ideology to receive special protections in America, but this is exactly what the Democrats are trying to do right now with Islam.

Fischer also claims that the First Amendment was intended to safeguard "the free exercise of Christianity." According to his reading of history, America's first brush with jihad happened off the shores of Tripoli, during the First Barbary War.

Despite Fischer's hateful rhetoric, GOP heavyweights continue to chase after him to win over social conservative voters, undeterred by the fact that the Southern Poverty Law Center recently classified the American Family Association as a hate group. It was on Fischer's show that Huckabee  repeated his erroneous claims about President Obama's upbringing. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who both harbor presidential ambitions, have also appeared on his show.

In response to the scheduled appearance of Barbour, Gingrich, and Huckabee, People for the American Way wrote letters to each, asking them to denounce Fischer's anti-Islam bias on his show:

Mr. Fischer isn't simply wrong about this point—he is spreading a dishonest and dangerous lie about how America should treat not only Muslims, but people of all faiths or no faith at all.

If you choose to appear with Mr. Fischer today, you have a responsibility to disavow this lie while on the show.

So far, none of the three has indicated that he will heed this call. The GOP presidential aspirants hobnob with Fischer because they believe they need to. After all, it's an easy way to reach out to the extreme, the misinformed, and/or the bigoted voters who will be part of the Republican primaries.

Gingrich Praises Anti-Muslim Conspiracy Theorist

| Fri Mar. 25, 2011 2:20 PM EDT

Courtesy of WallbuildersCourtesy of WallBuildersFormer House Speaker and likely GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich commenced his address at an American Family Association event in Iowa today by lavishing praise on a controversial amateur historian who believes that Jesus opposed the minimum wage and that Islamic extremists have literally infiltrated the Justice Department. "I never listen to David Barton without learning a whole lot of new things," Gingrich said, while inviting his audience to read the Texans' writings on the Founding Fathers. "It's amazing how much he knows and how consistently he applies that knowledge."

Barton is the founder of WallBuilders, an Evangelical organization devoted to breaking down the barrier between church and state—which Barton believes to be a work of pure fiction. Although his work has been torn apart by professional historians, Barton has fashioned himself as one of the leading experts on the idea that the United States is a Christian nation and that its development has been aided at key junctures by divine intervention. (He does have an honorary PhD. from Pensacola Christian College.)

So, what exactly can you learn by listening to Barton? For one, Barton subscribes to a conspiracy theory that has taken hold on the far right: that the Muslim Brotherhood has infilitrated the highest levels of American law enforcement and is planning to destroy America from within. On his radio show last week, Barton, referring to a former FBI agent named John Guandolo, said, "John used to be the guy who briefed the FBI on terrorism and radical Islamic terrorism and so many Islamic folks worked their way into the FBI, they got him thrown out. They said he keeps speaking bad about Islam, he keeps saying bad things about radical Islam, you need to get rid of him.'"

He added, "you can understand why [Eric] Holder and others in the FBI wouldn't want Guandolo around there. These are the kind of people they are chasing off because you're starting to see the Muslim Brotherhood actually get in to some of our institutions." (Actually, Guandolo was forced to resign because he slept with a witness in a corruption case involving former Rep. William "Dollar Bill" Jefferson.)

While Barton concedes that Islam is protected by the First Amendment, he has previously argued that the Bill of Rights does not afford protections to polytheistic religions (like Hinduism or Wicca), and that atheists should not be allowed to hold office or testify in court. After Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) became the nation's first Muslim congressman in 2007, Barton declared concerns about the lawmaker's faith "understandable."

In addition to cozying up to aspiring Republican politicians and helping the state of Texas draft its much-maligned textbook standards, Barton has previously spoken at conferences alongside proponents of Christian Identity—a white supremacist ideology with ties to white supremacists—as well as Holocaust deniers and militia leader Bo Gritz. Barton says he did not know about his fellow speakers' beliefs. Perhaps Gingrich would say the same regarding Barton. The possible GOP presidential candidate, who two years ago converted to Catholicism, has been trying hard in recent years to win support among evangelical Christians. Should Gingrich officially enter the 2012 presidential race, it might be useful for voters to know just what he has learned from Barton.

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The GOP's Russell Pearce Problem

| Fri Mar. 25, 2011 8:23 AM EDT

The latest Census data has prompted a flurry of speculation about the Republican Party's future amid the country's increasingly diverse and increasingly Hispanic population. "We are increasingly metropolitan today, our country is becoming racially and ethnically more diverse over time... and geographically, there are a lot of areas of the country growing in number that have large minority populations," concludes Census Bureau director Robert Groves, as the Washington Post notes. The nation's Hispanic population, in particular, has grown much faster than expected—rising 43 percent to 50.5 million in 2010—and now makes up 16 percent of the country's population. 

The changing demographics cast a shadow over the GOP's prospects, particularly given the party's hard right turn on immigration in recent months. And there's no better example of this Republican conundrum than Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce, the author of the hardline anti-immigration law in the state that set off a political firestorm last year. Pearce hasn't let up on his crackdown on illegal immigrants in the state, and his extreme views have since moved to the mainstream of the GOP as some of his counterparts in Washington have embraced his proposals. The booming Hispanic population could even prompt the party's immigration hardliners to double down—even though rising numbers aren't just a result of illegal immigration, which has actually declined in the last two years.

But in Arizona itself, Pearce is starting to experience a backlash that could foreshadow some of the party's problems ahead. A handful of non-partisan groups have launched an effort to recall the Arizona Senate leader, scrambling to collect thousands of signatures around the state. The groups' members say that Pearce's extreme tactics have gone too far, according to The Mesa Legend:

"We're trying to recall Senator Russell Pearce because he's voted to terminate health care for hundreds of thousands of Arizona families and senior citizens and kids. He slashed public education, and he's just had a general disrespect for the United States constitution," said Geoff Esposito, a member of Citizens for a Better Arizona, while collecting signatures in front of the Mesa Public Library.

The recall effort could send a warning shot to Republicans across the country who've adopted a similarly hardline stance against immigration—a position that could not only alienate Hispanics, but also non-Hispanic swing voters who are put off by the party line. 

That being said, Republicans still have a chance to turn things around. Within Arizona, an anti-Pearce recall movement has also surfaced among moderate Republicans who have been also been put off by his extreme views toward immigrants, including some Mormon leaders—who've generally been more sympathetic toward Hispanics, along with a number of other religious groups. It was only four years ago that George W. Bush tried to pass a comprehensive immigration bill. While the party has taken a hard right turn since Obama's election, moderate voices could still prevail—at some point.

Indiana Prosecutor Suggested Fake Attack on Gov. Scott Walker

| Fri Mar. 25, 2011 7:30 AM EDT
Flickr/jonbloy

Buried among the 50,000 emails sent to Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker during the fight over his anti-union "budget repair" bill, the two-paragraph message from Carlos Lam on February 19 stood out. After praising Walker, Lam wrote: "If you could employ an associate who pretends to be sympathetic to the unions' cause to physically attack you (or even use a firearm against you), you could discredit the unions." Law called the stunt a "false flag" operation, going on to say that such a move "would assist in undercutting any support that the media may be creating in favor of the unions. God bless, Carlos F. Lam."

As the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism reported, Lam was no ordinary citizen. He was a deputy prosecutor in Johnson County, Indiana, in the heart of the Hoosier state. When the Wisconsin Center's Kate Golden asked Lam about the incendiary email, he denied sending it, saying he was "flabbergasted and would never advocate for something like this." He said he was mini-van shopping when the email was sent. But not long after distancing himself from the email, Lam fessed up as the message's sender. He resigned on Thursday.

A spokesman for Walker told the Wisconsin Center that no one in the governor's office had read the email. "Certainly we do not support the actions suggested in [the] email," the spokesman, Cullen Werwie, said.

Lam's email was one of more than 50,000 that flooded Governor Scott Walker's inbox during the early weeks of the protest over his "repair" bill, which would ban collective bargaining for most public-sector unions. A Wisconsin Center analysis found that emails supporting Walker and his controversial legislation outnumbered opposing emails by a two-to-one margin; about one-third of supportive emails came from outside of Wisconsin. A judge last week blocked publication of the bill while the court reviews whether lawmakers violated state open meetings law when they passed the measure in early March.

For those keeping track, Lam is the second Indiana prosecutor to resign for making controversial statements about the Wisconsin protests, which have roiled the capitol, Madison, for more than a month. In February, Mother Jones broke the story that Jeff Cox, an Indiana deputy attorney general, tweeted that Wisconsin police should use "live ammunition" to clear protesters from the state Capitol. Our story went live on Wednesday morning; by Wednesday afternoon Cox had been terminated.

Lam wasn't alone in proposing to undermine unions with sleazy tactics during the Wisconsin protests. The day after Lam sent his email, radio talk show host Mark Williams wrote a blog post urging his followers to cause trouble at a Sacramento solidarity event by wearing Service Employees International Union T-shirts and say outrageous things to embarrass the union. "If I do get the 'in' I am going to do my darnedest to get podium access and take the mic to do that rant from there," Williams wrote. "With any luck and if I can manage the moments to build up to it, I can probably get a cheer out of the crowd for something extreme." This, of course, was the same Mark Williams who infamously wrote a blog post in the voice of black slave who said that slavery was "a great gig."

You expect such buffoonery from Williams. But from a deputy attorney general and a county prosecutor? All in all, it's been a rough month or so for prosecutors in the great state of Indiana.

MoJo's Abortion Top 10

| Fri Mar. 25, 2011 5:30 AM EDT

Since the midterm elections this past November, a reenergized Republican party has forged ahead with plans to dismantle abortion rights on every front, at both state and federal levels. The developments are coming so fast and furious that it can be a little overwhelming, but here's a recap of some of the recent highlights, in order of publication date. 

1. "The Man Who Loved Women Too Much" — Contributor Sara Blustain profiles Harold Cassidy, the lawyer behind a legal strategy that reframes abortion restrictions not as simply protecting the unborn, but rather as protecting women from the consequences of their decisions—in other words, chipping away at a woman's right to choose in the name of…women's rights. (January/February issue

2. "Are You Sure You Want an Abortion?" — Using information provided by the Guttmacher Institute, I put together these maps showing which states have imposed abortion restrictions such as waiting periods, obligatory ultrasounds, or mandatory counseling that includes discredited medical information. (January/February issue)

3. "The House GOP's Plan to Redefine Rape" — Pretty much all abortion restrictions, in this case a ban on the use of federal money for abortions, contain a rape exemption. But DC-based staff reporter Nick Baumann exposed a recent Republican attempt to redefine rape as only "forcible" rape. Boy, did that piss people off. Baumann's story spread like wildfire—even showing up (hilariously) on Jon Stewart. The GOP caved on that provision. (Jan. 28, 2011)

4. "Is Providing Abortions Creating a 'Nuisance'?" — In Wichita, Kansas, ground zero in the abortion wars, Dr. Mila Means wants to replace the murdered Dr. George Tiller as the area's last remaining abortion provider. But thanks to threats from anti-abortion groups, and the ruling of a judge who had previously donated to pro-life causes, nobody will rent Means any office space. Kate Sheppard reports from MoJo's DC bureau. (Feb. 4, 2011)

5. "If You Thought the GOP's 'Rape Redefinition' Bill Was Bad..." MoJo editorial fellow Maddie Oatman reports on a proposal that would let doctors refuse to abort a woman's fetus even if an abortion was necessary to save the life of the mother. (Feb. 8, 2011)

6. "South Dakota Moves To Legalize Killing Abortion Providers" — Kate Sheppard reports on a bill under consideration in the Mount Rushmore State that would have made preventing harm to a fetus a "justifiable homicide" in many cases. Her story caused a national uproar, forcing state legislators to table the bill. Nick Baumann later reported on similar bills introduced in Nebraska and Iowa. (Feb. 15, 2011) 

7. "Revealed: The Group Behind the Bills that Could Legalize Killing Abortion Providers" — Nick Baumann and Dan Schulman, our DC-based senior editor, show us who's pushing all these "justifiable homicide" bills. (Feb. 28, 2011)

8. "Texas Considers Bill to Ban Almost All Abortions" — DC staff reporter Tim Murphy reports on a mind-bogglingly restrictive bill that was penned by anti-abortion activists and introduced in the Lone Star state without even the usual exemptions for rape and incest. Christ. (March 11, 2011)

9. "GOP Bill Would Force IRS to Conduct Abortion Audits" — Were you raped? Was it incest? These are the types of questions the government's tax police would have to ask women who've terminated pregnancies if Congressional Republicans have their way, Nick Baumann reports. (March 18, 2011)

10. "The Limits of Tax Jihadism" — Citing the article above, political blogger Kevin Drum makes the case that Republicans are willing to push their anti-abortion agenda even at the expense of their anti-tax orthodoxy. (March 18, 2011)

Late-breaking honorable mention: "Ohio's 'Heartbeat' Abortion Bill Moves Forward" — Jen Phillips digs into the details of a pending Ohio bill that would outlaw abortions after six weeks of gestation, a point at which point many women haven't even confirmed that they're pregnant. In other words, it more or less outlaws abortion. This one is even making anti-abortion activists nervous, because they're afraid the courts will smack it down, setting a precendent that might come back to haunt them. (March 29, 2011)

Click here for more Mother Jones coverage of reproductive rights.

 

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for March 25, 2011

Fri Mar. 25, 2011 4:30 AM EDT

Soldiers from headquarters company, 172nd Separate Infantry Brigade listen closely as the safety brief is given for the rollover trainer. Photo via US Army.