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The GOP and the Growing Right-Wing Terror Threat

February 27, 2009

As the beaten and battered conservative faithful gather at the CPAC event in Washington, casual incitements to violence against the President, Democratic leaders and liberal Americans once again are filling the air. While former UN ambassador John Bolton produced guffaws with the specter of Obama's hometown being destroyed in a terrorist attack, Joe "the Plumber" Wurzelbacher earnestly suggested some members of Congress should be shot. Meanwhile readers of the web site of Fox News host Sean Hannity voted on "what kind of revolution" they found most appealing, even as Glenn Beck discussed the coming American civil war.
As recent events show, these increasingly frequent episodes are no laughing matter. More disturbing still, whether concerning abortion, gay Americans, immigration or judicial appointments, the line connecting the rhetoric of the Republican Party and the mainstream conservative movement to right-wing terror is a very short one.
Two recent cases shed light on the phenomenon of right-wing terror. In a little noticed story, white supremacist James Cummings murdered by his wife last December in Maine had been assembling materials to manufacture a "dirty bomb." And in Tennessee, a follower not of Hitler but conservative hate merchant Bernard Goldberg cited the author's writings as justification for his July shooting at a Unitarian church. In his suicide note, the shooter James Adkisson informed Americans his was a "hate crime" against "damn left-wing liberals":

"This was a symbolic killing. Who I wanted to kill was every Democrat in the Senate & House, the 100 people in Bernard Goldberg's book. I'd like to kill everyone in the mainstream media. But I know those people were inaccessible to me. I couldn't get to the generals & high ranking officers of the Marxist movement so I went after the foot soldiers, the chickenshit liberals that vote in these traitorous people. Someone had to get the ball rolling. I volunteered. I hope others do the same. It's the only way we can rid America of this cancerous pestilence."

While Cummings and Adkisson may have existed on the fringes of the conservative movement, some of their rhetoric parrots the words of mainstream Republican politicians and right-wing pundits.
The not-too-thinly veiled threats to American judges offer a particularly telling example. In June 2007, Judge Reggie Walton was only the latest to receive threatening calls and letters, just days after he handed down his sentence in the Scooter Libby case.
Sadly, many of the leading lights in the Republican Party have it made clear that judicial intimidation is now an acceptable part of conservative discourse and political strategy. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), himself a former Texas Supreme Court Justice, has been at the forefront of GOP advocacy of violence towards members of the bench whose rulings part ways with conservative orthodoxy.
Back in 2005, Cornyn was one of the GOP standard bearers in the conservative fight against so-called "judicial activism" in the wake of the Republicans' disastrous intervention in the Terri Schiavo affair. On April 4th, Cornyn took to the Senate floor to issue a not-too-thinly veiled threat to judges opposing his reactionary agenda. Just days after the murders of judges in Chicago and Atlanta, Cornyn offered his endorsement of judicial intimidation:

"I don't know if there is a cause-and-effect connection, but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country...And I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters, on some occasions, where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in, engage in violence."

As it turns out, Cornyn was merely echoing the words of the soon-to-be indicted House Majority Leader Tom Delay. On March 31st, Delay issued a statement regarding the consistent rulings in favor of Michael Schiavo by all federal and state court judges involved:

"The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior, but not today."

The impact of tacit conservative endorsement of violence against judges cannot be dismissed. After all, it extends to members of the Supreme Court of the United States. In March 2006, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg revealed that she and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor were the targets of death threats. On February 28th, 2005, the marshal of the Court informed O'Connor and Ginsburg of an Internet posting citing their references to international law in Court decisions (a frequent whipping boy of the right) as requiring their assassination:

"This is a huge threat to our Republic and Constitutional freedom...If you are what you say you are, and NOT armchair patriots, then those two justices will not live another week."

Neither O'Connor nor Ginsburg are shy about making the connection between Republican rhetoric of judicial intimidation and the upswing in threats and actual violence against judges. Ginsburg noted that they "fuel the irrational fringe" O'Connor blamed Cornyn and his fellow travelers for "creating a culture" in which violence towards judges is merely another political tactic:

"It gets worse. It doesn't help when a high-profile senator suggests a 'cause-and-effect connection' [between controversial rulings and subsequent acts of violence.]"

When anthrax spores were mailed to the Supreme Court in 2001, it did not require a leap of imagination to speculate on the ideological persuasion of the culprit. Aided by best-selling conservative author and media personality Ann Coulter, who joked in January 2006, "We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens' creme brulee," the right-wing endorsement of retribution against judges increasingly permeates the culture.
Judges, of course, aren't the only target of conservative venom. [The GOP crusade against gay Americans is a strategic centerpiece of 21st century Republican political strategy. Despite the seemingly endless parade of Mark Foley, Jim West, Ted Haggard, Ed Shrock, Larry Craig and a host of other once-closeted conservatives, the demonization of gay Americans and their supposed "homosexual agenda" by the Republican leadership and its radical right allies like Tony Perkins remains the reddest of red meat for so called "values voters."
The tactics and rhetoric of the gay-bashing are right are tied at the hip. In 2004, same-sex marriage ban ballot measures in key battleground states helped bring Karl Rove's four million new evangelical voters to the polls, ensuring President Bush's reelection. (Ironically, the same tactic failed the GOP during the 2006 mid-terms in the wake of the Mark Foley scandal.) Congressional Republicans uniformly opposed the Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which in 2007 passed the House 235-184 despite GOP maneuvers to bury the bill. President Bush, of course, vowed to veto the bill protecting the workplace rights of gay Americans, on the spurious grounds that it threatens "the sanctity of marriage."
Then, of course, there are the words of the Republican leadership and its echo chamber. Ex-Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) and his one-time Texas colleague John Cornyn equate same-sex marriage to polygamy and bestiality, with "man-on-dog" and "man-on-box turtle" analogies. Columnist Ann Coulter, a Mitt Romney supporter and fixture on right-wing media, called John Edwards a "faggot" and Al Gore a "total fag."
(For her part, Coulter also defended the racist the Council of Conservative Citizens, a successor to the White Citizens' Councils of Jim Crow days. Among those Republicans appearing at CCC events or contributing to its magazine Southern Partisan are former Senator Trent Lott, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and former Attorney General John Ashcroft.)
There is a continuum of hate that runs from the fringe of the conservative movement directly to the Republican leadership; the distance from Fred Phelps to the Republican National Committee is also a short one. As you'll recall, Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, organizes virulent anti-gay protests at U.S. military funerals, complete with signs such as "God Hates Fags" and "Thank God for IEDs," deaths it deems divine punishment for America's tolerance of gay lifestyles. Though Phelps later lost an $11 million lawsuit brought by a grieving father, President Bush and his amen corner share responsibility for giving the likes of Phelps aid and comfort.
Then, of course, there is abortion and reproductive rights. In December 2004, for example, anti-choice forces cheered as Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) were placed on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Brownback has been among the prime architects of so-called "fetal pain" legislation would have required a woman seeking an abortion to be told that the fetus might feel pain. Coburn, the freshman Senator and and obstetrician, has advocated the death penalty for doctors who perform abortions.
The logical leap from Coburn's office to the legions of anti-abortion extremists is a short one. No doubt, Atlanta Olympics and family planning clinic bomber Eric Rudolph or James Kopp, killer of doctor Bernard Slepien, would applaud these Republican leaders. To paraphrase Tony Perkins, "It is hard not to draw a line between the hostility" the conservative movement foments towards reproductive rights advocates and the violence of 2007 would-be Austin, Texas clinic terrorist Paul Ross Evans.
Of course, to former Republican vice presidential candidate and conservative heartthrob Sarah Palin, the likes of Rudolph, Kopp or Evans don't qualify as terrorists. While even Attorney General Ashcroft used the "T" word to describe Rudolph upon his arrest in 2003, during an October 2008 interview with NBC's Brian Williams Palin refused to similarly brand violent right-wing radicals as the terrorists:

WILLIAMS: Is an abortion clinic bomber a terrorist, under this definition, governor?
PALIN: (Sigh). There's no question that Bill Ayers via his own admittance was one who sought to destroy our U.S. Capitol and our Pentagon. That is a domestic terrorist. There's no question there. Now, others who would want to engage in harming innocent Americans or facilities that uh, it would be unacceptable. I don't know if you're going to use the word terrorist there.

Unfortunately for the American people, the GOP this week has again displayed it continued devolution into the Party of Hate. Increasingly, the conservative movement seems to find its strongest support at the dark nexus inhabited by gun rights advocates, religious zealots, white supremacists, anti-immigrant xenophobes, pro-life activists and anti-government crusaders. To be sure, the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995, the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil prior to 9/11, wasn't the product of the liberal media. And thanks to the unintended encouragement of the likes of Joe Wurzelbacher, John Bolton, Sean Hannity and their fellow travelers, Al Qaeda isn't the only terror threat to facing the United States.

8 comments on “The GOP and the Growing Right-Wing Terror Threat”

  1. Thank you. And there's the Nazi GOP heritage down through the decades to the present day. Not just GWB's and Rove's grandfathers, but a whole lot of the GOP infiltrated by ex-Nazis from WWII, as well documented by this book "The Beast Reawakens"
    There are a lot of outright calls to violence on talk radio that go unchallenged, like Limbaugh saying when the woman camped out at Crawford Ranch, "get your cammos on and rifles with long sights, if you know what I mean, heh heh heh". No one calls them on it, Hannity and the rest, never served their country, but call for violence by others. Absolute cowards.

  2. You're kidding right? I find it amazing that people are still asking Joe the Plumber questions concerning the state of affairs in this country and and making his comments breaking news. Now as to what was said, I seem to remember an "art house" AKA "crap" movie made about killing the then president George W. Bush. I also seem to remember a certain presidents former pastor citing hate filled rhetoric for twenty years. I am a republican, former democrat, and have seen conservative talking heads threatened with violence and death on many occasions on the OSU campus. Also, Cornyn's quote was given a pretext before it appeared in the article, coloring views on what he said. It was not a call to arms, but a possible motive. He did not endorse violence against anyone but suggested that violence happened because of their rulings. Here in Cincinnati, we have our liberal city council leaders accusing the police of being murders and calling for violence against them. We have also see a rise in the past few years of calls for violence against out troops fighting overseas from loving liberals in Hollywood and the media. I stand firm however, that Joe the plumber should not be taken seriously. And the next time anyone brings upthe fact that he did not pay taxes, let's remember how many of Obama's nominees seemed to have the exact same problem.

  3. Most, if not all problems on the planet earth are from people like you, people who reject Jesus Christ. Our prisons are filled with people, like you, who reject Jesus Christ. Most, if not all; rapes, murders, robberies and thefts are committed by people, like you, who reject Jesus Christ. AIDS is mainly spread by people who reject Jesus Christ and have sex outside of marriage. Children AIDS get it from people who reject Jesus Christ.
    I hope you will turn from your sins and receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and escape the fires of eternal hell. Turning from your sins and giving your life to Jesus Christ is the only way you can escape the fires of hell and receive everlasting life. If you persist in your sins and continue to turn your back on Jesus Christ, you will be lost forever.
    SAY THIS PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I am a sinner and am headed to eternal hell because of my sins. I believe you died on the cross to take away my sins and to take me to heaven. Jesus, I ask you now to come into my heart and take away my sins and give me eternal life.

  4. Holy Crap!
    And I mean that reverentially. Rev. Spitz, it's people like you that give Christianity a bad name. You may be part of the body of Christ - but that part would be in area of the dorsal peritoneum.
    But thank you for being a perfect illustration of the problem and setting me up for a Reverse Jindal.
    I've been writing about people just like you, saying many of the things condensed in the post you so resent above - since just after 9/11.
    Like you, I pray for the Rapture daily. And not because I want your stuff, for I question your discernment in all matters.
    No, I just want people like you out of the way so that ethical and sane people can grasp the helms of Church and State before the collision kills everyone.

  5. Rev. (sic) Spitz's opinion on the beliefs or actions of others should carry no weight whatsoever. He uses his own website to try to make heroes out of murdering terrorists like Paul Hill, Eric Rudolph, John Salvi, and James Kopp. He is so delusional that he thinks that he was ordained by the International Gospel Crusade, a denomination that only exists in his imagination.

  6. Hey Guys-
    I think most of us can agree that this hate-mongering and calls to violence (I don't care what you say Thomas Guy, Cornyn has been actively although subtly encouraging violence and retribution for secular rulings he doesn't agree with, and that's just bad, bad, bad.) are a thinly disguised reality, but the big question is: What Do We DO About It??!
    There seems to be a built in ethos with those on the Right Wing to automatically treat anyone with different viewpoints with total scorn and derision; I venture this kind of cultural mind set has taken decades to cultivate and is very deeply ingrained in the Angry White Male population (curiously, concentrated in the South but I'm not trying to stereotype anyone, just pointing out an interesting tidbit.)...
    I would like to know how the American People can begin to reverse this ugly trend. America was founded in the fight for tolerance, and it is simply not acceptable to have talking heads and pill popping misfits poisoning people's minds day in and day out with no consequences. Isn't it? Isn't talk about what type of revolution they'd like to see TREASON? Aren't threats against our President illegal?
    I understand that our First Amendment guarantees that Nazis and White Supremecists have the right to say whatever they want and gather and march no matter how ugly their ideology, but it was my understanding that threats, conspriracy and violence was against the law. If we dont' put on some freaking happy programming for all those couch potatoes and arm chair warriors soon, we may find ourselves in deep $#%^&!!! If you get my drift.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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