A Good Year for the Poses

freehandThe 2014 Values Voter Summit wrapped up Sunday in Washington, and Omni Shoreham Hotel staff must be working hard to expunge the building of the heavy stench of gunpowder and cliché. Like previous editions, this year’s version was a consummate freak show with a gaggle of grotesques worthy of Todd Browning, but even speakers making their second, third or fourth appearance seemed to bring a little extra Republican bile, guile and vile to the festivities this time around.

The theme this year was “Defending the Dream, Defining the Future,” a phrase so vague it could be used for a corporate training seminar, a high school valedictory address, or a Shriners convention. But VVS organizers know what they’re defending and defining; they proudly state their intention is to “inform and mobilize citizens across America to preserve the bedrock values of traditional marriage, religious liberty, sanctity of life and limited government that make our nation strong.”

Yes, that’s right. The same snake oil they’ve been peddling since the first iteration of the conclave back in 2006. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s terse description of the VVS really summarizes it much better: “An annual political conference bringing together some of the most extreme groups on the religious right.” That includes host organization and lead sponsor, the Family Research Council (which the SPLC calls a hate group), along with other America-hating organizations like Liberty Counsel (shouldn’t that be “council”?) and the American Family Association (which wants to destroy your family, if you’re gay).

But of course the real, ahem, elephant in the room is, as always, the Republican Party, which coyly maintains no “official” connection to the VVS even as elected Republicans madly stampede to its podium year after year to pander, preen and pose. Why, there’s even a presidential straw poll conducted, which purulent demagogue Ted Cruz topped for a second consecutive year, with up-and-coming conservative clod Ben Carson a close second and perennial pious pseudo-Christian Mike Huckabee a distant third.

As always, though, the real “attraction” was the speechifying. The Values Voter Summit showcases more know-nothing arch-conservative blowhards than any venue outside the even bigger freak show known as the United States House of Representatives, and VVS speakers don’t even have to make a pretense of obeisance to parliamentary decorum. Nor do attendees, who seem to spend much of their time whooping like gibbons on nitrous oxide. Thanks to the event’s video archives, which get sadly more generous every year, we can all experience the horror of being at an event we wouldn’t actually be caught dead attending.

The “values voters” were thrilled by lame duck Congresswoman and future convicted felon Michele Bachmann, who described herself, unasked, as “a normal, real person.” She decried the bailout that saved the automobile industry as “gangster government,” said that the “trillion dollar” stimulus that prevented the economy from collapsing “didn’t work so well,” and bragged about introducing “the very first repeal bill” against Obamacare.

She waxed nostalgic about her “deep dive into the leading foreign policy and national security issues of our day.” She also griped about Benghazi, the Bergdahl prisoner swap, and Iran “racing toward completing nuclear weapons,” called Barack Obama “the first anti-Israel President in American history,” averred that Hillary Clinton will be defeated in 2016, and thundered that “it is never too late to save the country.” The fierce urgency of whenever, you might say.

Ted Cruz smirked more than anyone I’ve ever seen not named Bush. He called Obamacare a “disaster,” which I suppose it is if you hate seeing the number of Americans without health coverage drop by 26% and counting. He made a Cat in the Hat joke harking back to his ludicrous “faux-libuster” last year, to show how charmingly self-deprecating his handlers have coached him to be. He served up a tasteless quip about the White House fence-jumper (which he admitted he stole from Jimmy Fallon), and then added one of his own. He called for a debate between Hillary Clinton and the Little Sisters of the Poor. He called the Democratic Party an “extreme radical party.” In short, he said not a single truthful, worthwhile or remotely intelligent thing. Naturally, the crowd loved his speech.

Rick Santorum has appeared at every one of these things so far, and so most of his speech was heavily recycled from his previous heavily recycled speeches. He spent a little of his time hawking his upcoming book, Bella’s Gift, about raising a special needs child. (Will Bella’s gift be saving her old man from having to get a real job for yet another year? Probably not, but we’ll see.) Santorum called the President “a descendant of the French Revolution,” which – bien sûr – was a refreshing change from years of ridiculous allegations about Kenya. Mostly, though, he stuck with the self-evident and obvious, as in his observing at one point that: “You don’t have any Baptist ministers going on jihad.” Continue reading A Good Year for the Poses

Take Five (Zero Worship edition)

ONE: I Just Can’t Quit Her

She might be an obscure political footnote waiting to happen, but Michele Bachmann will always be heroic to me. Even among her fellow House Republicans, few would even try to yearn to aspire to attempt to emulate her straight-up weirdness, seemingly involuntary lying, and relentless misunderstanding of pretty much everything about everything. Unlike wannabes such as the suspiciously non-contiguous Sarah Palin or the implosion-primed Nikki Haley, Bachmann is truly the GOP’s current It Girl.

As I mentioned a few weeks back, Bachmann kicked off the 113th Congress by unsuccessfully trying to repeal Obamacare. Yes, that’s something the House Majority does compulsively at this point, like meth or knuckle cracking, but Bachmann brought a whole new level of earnest sincerity to this nasty habit:

That’s why we’re here because we’re saying let’s repeal this failure before it literally kills women, kills children, kills senior citizens. Let’s not do that. Let’s love people, let’s care about people. Let’s repeal it now while we can…

ThinkProgress managing editor Igor Volsky covered himself completely with dust and glory in his enviably nimble reporting on Bachmann’s speech:

Moments after calling for the complete repeal of a law that will extend health care coverage to 30 million Americans, Bachmann claimed that her belief in Christ inspires her to care “for the least of those who are in our midst.” After she completed her remarks, fellow Republican Rep. Michael Burgess (TX) observed that the Minnesota Congresswoman “has a way of stating these things that none of us are capable of.”

Yes, she certainly has a unique way of going about all kinds of things, so unique that the Office of Congressional Ethics has apparently developed something of a fascination with it:

The Daily Beast has learned that federal investigators are now interviewing former Bachmann campaign staffers nationwide about alleged intentional campaign-finance violations… investigators have allegedly asked about allegations of improper transfer of funds and under-the-table payments actions by Bachmann’s presidential campaign…

In a piece last weekend, Charles M. Blow of the New York Times insisted:

People like Bachmann represent everything that is wrong with the Republican Party. She and her colleagues are hyperbolic, reactionary, ill-informed and ill-intentioned, and they have become synonymous with the Republican brand. We don’t need all politicians to be Mensa-worthy, but we do expect them to be cogent and competent.

Sorry, but please speak for yourself, Mr. Blow. I expect no such thing, at least from Republicans.

As for you, Michele Bachmann, long may you run, be it for office or from the law.

TWO: Pride and Prejudice and Piss and Vinegar

Bachmann isn’t the ’12 cycle’s only failed Republican hopeful still attracting headlines. Two of her primary rivals are at the center of a fascinating new story by Joshua Green of Businessweek:

As Mitt Romney struggled in the weeks leading up to the Michigan primary, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum nearly agreed to form a joint “Unity Ticket” to consolidate conservative support and topple Romney.

Damn. As much as I loved seeing Barack Obama and Joe Biden beat Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, I reckon I’d have loved seeing Obama and Biden beat Gingrich and Santorum just a little more. Or should that be Santorum and Gingrich?

… the negotiations collapsed in acrimony because Gingrich and Santorum could not agree on who would get to be president.

Poor bastards should have called me; I could have told them the only one who would get to be President was the guy who already had been for four years.

Like Gingrich, Santorum has fallen back on public speaking gigs, continuously augmenting an already lengthy record demonstrating why he’s unfit to hold any elected office, of any kind, anywhere, ever. Santorum, essentially, is very hard to distinguish from a vile little bigot:

… during a speech in Naples [Florida]… Santorum… said he found that Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama lacked leadership in defending the U.S. against the threats of radical Islam.

“I’m not talking about all Muslims, just like I’m not talking about all Christians and all Jews. The Christian faith, the dominant religion in the west, and the Islamic faith, come down to two men, Jesus Christ and Mohammed,” he said.

“Jesus did not fight, rule or reign. Mohammed fought, killed, ruled, conquered and governed,” Santorum said.

In a clear indication that Santorum slept through every stinking thing that happened in the world from his regrettable birth in 1958 right up until the moment he took the stage, his grubby little stem-winder included this astounding pseudo-observation:

“We are about to hand off to our children, grandchildren, the most destabilized, threatening world we’ve ever seen,” he said.

Ironically, he would have been eloquently correct had he been talking about catastrophic climate change, but Santorum is on record as a stalwart climate change denialist, who once sneered on the campaign trail:

“… an absolute travesty of scientific research that was motivated by those who, in my opinion, saw this as an opportunity to create a panic and a crisis for government to be able to step in and even more greatly control your life.”

Vexing as you and I might find it, Santorum’s refusal to go away is a timely morale boost for the vile little bigot wing of the Republican Party (often referred to simply as “the Republican Party”) since said wing might soon have to adjust to the tragedy of life without vile little bigot Gary Bauer. Bauer might be irrelevant now to all but three or four other Republicans – who are probably related to him – and he quite possibly spends most of his time floating in a jar of formaldehyde on a shelf in a dark K Street basement, but he spoke Tuesday at a DC march organized by the National Organization for [some] Marriage, waving his stunted little saber valiantly at the Republican Party and the spring sky over the National Mall, and declaring the preservation of marriage inequality his personal line in the litmus:

“… if you bail out on this issue, I will leave the party and I will take as many people with me as I possibly can.”

I guess I’m a sentimental fool, but somehow I find it touching that Gary Bauer is still out there on the front lines of the 21st century, fighting to keep a Republican Party recklessly flirting with the 20th stuck firmly in the 19th. And the Unhappy Warrior has company, such as the equally post-relevant Mike Huckabee:

When asked by the website Newsmax “if he sees the GOP ever pivoting and backing gay marriage,” Huckabee admitted they might.

“And if they do, they’re going to lose a large part of their base because evangelicals will take a walk…”

As someone who’s been suggesting they take a walk for years now, I for one can’t wait.

THREE: Neighborhood Watch

Speaking of raging bigots, the festering sore on the body politic known as the Westboro Baptist Church is still widely acknowledged as an on-point answer to the question: What’s the matter with Kansas? But Fred Phelps’ hatemongering Topeka “church” couldn’t deter a decorative new neighbor from settling in right across 12th Street, a gay-rights center, complete with rainbow-painted clapboard and a conspicuous Pride flag:

The center is the work of a roving do-gooder named Aaron Jackson, a 31-year-old community-college dropout whose other projects have included opening orphanages in India and Haiti and buying a thousand acres of endangered rain forest in Peru. This year, his charity, Planting Peace, also intends to de-worm every child in Guatemala.

While Planting Peace works for a worm-free Guatemala, the folks across the street will be equally busy. Currently, they’re gearing up to picket not only the Final Four at the Georgia Dome, but Kansas City concerts by Bon Jovi (who apparently “stood by silently” while gay people “took over this nation”), Itzhak Perlman (for killing Jesus), Carrie Underwood (for “promoting sin and shame”) and Fleetwood Mac (because “singer Stevie Nicks proudly joins fellow sodomitical harlots Lady Gaga, Cher and Madonna as a well known ‘gay icon’”).

Is it just me or is Sodomitical Harlots the greatest band name ever? Oh, and call me petty, but why, when I simply want to know what the Westbores are up to, do I have to wander around 10 of their deeply hideous websites? Why can’t they just put everything together under one convenient URL, like GodHatesEveryoneButUs.com? Continue reading Take Five (Zero Worship edition)

Fuck Huck

To: Mike Huckabee (R-Douchebag)

To say that your recent remarks in response to the tragic events that unfolded at Sandy Hook are despicable would be a vast understatement. They were in fact beneath contempt – as are you.

“We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?”

First off, let’s be completely honest with each other, shall we? We both know you are a godless fuck who will say anything to appease the gun-toting voters who have traditionally supported your party.

Rather than risk losing that support by laying blame at the feet of those responsible, you instead choose to conjure up a vengeful God who allows the massacre of children out of sheer spite at not being prayed to in our classrooms, an arrogant God whose need to be worshipped and adored at every turn is so overwhelming, he smiles with glee as his revenge for being somehow marginalized is carried out by a gun-wielding, troubled young man – who was, given his years, not much more than a child himself.

In other words, you would sooner blame God – or the egomaniacal deity you are conveniently proffering as the Almighty – rather than admit to your own failures and those of your party members, who would sooner get down on their knees and felate every NRA member in the nation rather than lose their votes.

It isn’t God who allows assault weapons to be bought and sold, Huck; it’s people like you. It isn’t God who foments bigotry, hatred, intolerance and racism; it’s the idols of your party – like Limbaugh, Coulter and Beck. It isn’t God who loaded his weapons and took aim at a group of six- and seven-year-olds; it was a disturbed young man who never would have had access to such weapons were it not for the GOP’s desperate attempt to hold onto political power by supporting the NRA – and, along with it, every gun-nut who falls through the cracks of the flawed legislation your party seeks to uphold, the consequences be damned.

When President Obama was elected, the first outcry we heard from Republicans was, “He’ll take our guns away,” rather than, “He’ll take our Christianity away.” It was the number of weapons purchased since his taking office that went up – not the number of those attending church, nor the number of Bibles sold. So much for the priorities of the gun-toters whose “rights” your party consistently protects, while you hold them out as good, patriotic, Christian citizens who are merely interested in protecting themselves and their families.

“We’ve made it a place where we don’t want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability – that we’re not just going to have be accountable to the police if they catch us, but one day we stand before, you know, a holy God in judgment. If we don’t believe that, then we don’t fear that.”

As any true Christian can tell you, Huck, their determination to live a moral and ethical life is based on having embraced the teachings of The Nazarene, and not fear of eternal damnation. But then I doubt you are acquainted with any true Christians, so I can understand your not being familiar with the concept.

But the irony is not lost – the irony of hearing a Republican talking about responsibility and accountability, when your party accepts neither. It’s easier to blame a vengeful God of your own making – like that non-existent God who punished NOLA for its gay pride parades by causing Katrina’s devastation, the God who visits hurricanes and floods on innocent people due to their belief in equal rights for their fellow citizens regardless of sexual orientation – rather than accepting responsibility for legislation that allows weapons to be placed in the hands of those too twisted, too full of hatred, too mentally unbalanced to use them responsibly.

“Maybe we ought to let [God] in on the front end and we wouldn’t have to call him to show up when it’s all said and done at the back end.”

Yeah, I hear that noise, Huck – and I remember the perfect case in point. In 1998, one David Huckabee was dismissed from his job as a counselor at a Boy Scout camp after being involved in torturing a stray dog by hanging it from a tree limb and watching it slowly choke to death. One can only wonder what totally fucked-up home that boy was raised in – but apparently it was one in which God wasn’t “let in on the front end”. Maybe the kid’s father was just too damned busy being a hypocrite to notice. Continue reading Fuck Huck

Sunday Talks, 6/10/12

Looks like Walker is taking his victory lap this Sunday, so watch if you dare!

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the conservative Republican who survived Tuesday’s recall election, headlines this Sunday’s television talk shows with an appearance on . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 6/10/12

Take Five (Do Not Disturb edition)

ONE: Fired Up and Ready to Stay Home!

A couple of weeks back, Take Five looked at a CBS News poll which indicated that voter enthusiasm (meaning a lack thereof) could be a huge problem for the Republicans this year.

The Atlantic Wire recently examined other polls that pretty much confirm the hypothesis. A January 30 Pew poll, for example, pegged the number of Republicans happy with their field of candidates at 46%, while those dissatisfied with it were measured at 52%. As has become a cliché this election year, they can’t resist citing yet another Gallup poll purporting to demonstrate that Republicans remain more enthusiastic about this election than Democrats. The only problem with this is that the accumulating empirical evidence suggests it’s not true.

Nate Silver notes that among “Republican identifiers” only, turnout in Iowa was down 11% over 2008 and New Hampshire was down 15%, and while South Carolina’s turnout jumped 20% over the last presidential election cycle, driven by Gingrich zealots, Florida’s was down 16% from ’08. According to CNN, Nevada’s Republican numbers last Saturday were down by one-third from four years ago.

Watch for increasingly desperate and increasingly amusing spin about all this to emanate from Republican Party apparatchiks and pundits in the coming weeks, but they’ll have to really exert themselves to outdo Romney spokesmouth John H. Sununu, who said this with a resolutely straight and characteristically dour face on MSNBC Monday morning:

In an odd sense when turnout is down, contrary to what you are hearing, people are satisfied with the winning and the candidate that’s winning. They are satisfied with Mitt Romney.

Yeah, sure they are. I’m hoping they’re so satisfied they’ll all stay home in November, too. Sununu’s explanation for that will be priceless.

Ron Paul, seemingly unaware that he himself is a candidate, made some caustic remarks about the Nevada and Florida numbers:

“There’s a lot of people not satisfied with any of the candidates out there,” the Texas congressman said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” “And that’s why in many ways we’re seeing a lower turnout right now…”

Mr. Paul said Republicans are wondering why they haven’t been offered someone else besides Mr. Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

The last time I looked, Republicans were also being offered, aggressively, not only Ron Paul but also Rick Santorum, and not long ago they also had such choices as Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman and Herman Cain, not to mention perplexingly premature dropout Tim Pawlenty and even perennial wingnut darling Roy “Ten Commandments” Moore. And then there was the contingent of maybes whose trial balloons, for the most part, never got any altitude: Chris Christie, Donald Trump, Mitch Daniels, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani.

I apologize for taxing your digestive tract with this litany of names, gentle reader, but I think it points up the fact that GOP voters have had no shortage of choices; they’ve only had a shortage of remotely acceptable choices, even by famously lax Republican standards.

So Romney remains the frontrunner, his three remaining challengers – for various reasons – will hang around a while yet, and Republican voters are less than impressed with the whole spectacle. Hey, it’s nice to agree with Republicans about something, I guess.

TWO: Y’all don’t come back now, hear?

The Charleston Place Hotel has filed suit against the Southern Republican Leadership Conference for non-payment of a $227,872 bill. The SRLC disputes the charge and has declared its intention to launch a counterclaim. In a statement released Monday, the organization said:

“After prepaying over $235,000 to the Charleston Place Hotel, we at SRLC 2012 had an unprofessional experience that directly and indirectly breached our contract causing great harm and distraction to our attendees, sponsors, and staff. The Charleston Place’s attempt to mischaracterize this legitimate dispute as the SRLC’s walking away from a bill is in keeping with the pattern of deception and misrepresentation that is a significant part of our ongoing disagreement.

“We continue to seek a reasonable and equitable settlement even as the Charleston Place’s Management seeks to sensationalize. We sincerely hope that cooler heads at the Charleston Place will prevail and they will acknowledge serious errors and actions resulting in a fair agreement.”

The conference lined up a Jan. 19-22 stay… and booked nearly every room in the luxury hotel in the center of downtown Charleston, according to the lawsuit. Political consultant Robert Cahaly signed the agreement on behalf of the group…

The hotel wants to hold Cahaly and others personally responsible for the tab, arguing that the Southern Republican Leadership Conference is nothing but a corporate shell Cahaly uses to hide from his obligations, the lawsuit states.

Cahaly has kept a pretty low profile since threatening to sue the SC SLED before turning himself in on an arrest warrant last fall on charges of making illegal robocalls in half a dozen House Districts in the 2010 election. While there don’t seem to be any recent updates about that case, I’m already looking forward to this new one. If the hotel really has evidence that the SRLC is a corporate front for Cahaly, I can’t wait to read the details. It’s also going to be fascinating to see if the organization’s counterclaim is predicated on something more substantial and credible than Charleston Place management being unprofessional, deceptive, sensationalistic hotheads.

THREE: You’re Nobody ’til Rick Santorum Hates You

Fresh off of telling a seriously ill child and his mother that drug companies should be free to charge whatever the hell they want for the boy’s medication, Rick “Mr. Sensitive” Santorum told a gay Missouri man that he didn’t deserve the “privilege” of marriage. In doing so, Santorum briefly opened a wormhole into the strange and uncharted dimension that is his mind when he said:

“[Marriage is] not a right, it’s something that has existed since the beginning of human history as an institution where men and women come together for the purposes of forming a natural relationship as God made it to be. And for the purposes of having children and continuing that civilization. It is an intrinsic good… And as a result of that, we extend a privilege. We extend certain privileges to people who do that because we want to encourage that behavior…”

Actually, Senator, you don’t need to bother encouraging that behavior, since your enthusiastic advocacy of another type of behavior helps ensure that humans, gay or straight, won’t be around to mess up Creation much longer anyway:

A day before Republicans voice[d] their presidential preferences in the Colorado caucuses, Rick Santorum dismissed climate change as “a hoax” and advocated an energy plan heavy on fossil fuels.

True to form, Santorum couldn’t opine on this without dragging his close personal friend, God, into it:

“We were put on this Earth as creatures of God to have dominion over the earth, to use it wisely and steward it wisely, but for our benefit not for the earth’s benefit,” Santorum told an audience at the Colorado School of Mines where he was a guest speaker Monday at the Colorado Energy Summit.

“We are the intelligent beings that know how to manage things and through that course of science and discovery if we can be better stewards of this environment, then we should not let the vagaries of nature destroy what we have helped create…”

The former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania argued that science has been hijacked by politicians on the left, and that climate change is “an absolute travesty of scientific research that was motivated by those who, in my opinion saw this as an opportunity to create a panic and a crisis for government to be able to step in and even more greatly control your life…

“I for one never bought the hoax. I for one understand just from science that there are one hundred factors that influence the climate. To suggest that one minor factor of which man’s contribution is a minor factor in the minor factor is the determining ingredient in the sauce that affects the entire global warming and cooling is just absurd on its face and yet we have politicians running into the ramparts, unfortunately politicians who happen to be running for the Republican nomination for president who bought into man-made global warming and bought into cap and trade…”

Small wonder that Sarah Palin’s star has faded; with Rick Santorum in the news, fans of nonsensical word salad can get their fill and more. At least until catastrophic climate change leads to their extinction, that is.

Oh, and about that “sauce” he mentioned… never mind. Continue reading Take Five (Do Not Disturb edition)

Take Five (Take My Candidate, Please edition)

ONE: None of the Above, Thanks!

While I can no more imagine voting for a Republican than I can imagine myself conducting the Seoul Philharmonic or being named World Series MVP, that doesn’t mean I’m completely without sympathy for Republican voters. Mostly, sure, but not completely.

Last April, a Washington Post-ABC News poll showed less than half of Republican and right-leaning independent respondents were satisfied with the nascent GOP crop of candidates. The poll’s “field” at the time consisted of Mitt Romney, Donald Trump, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachman, Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty. Two of them never ultimately ran, two of them fizzled out, and one of them was flirting with a run solely for the sake of boosting the ratings of his extraordinarily dim reality show.

A Pew poll conducted the same week found that 53% of people surveyed couldn’t come up with a name – putative, purported, potential, preposterous or otherwise – when asked which candidate they’d been hearing most about.

Fast-forward to January 9, when a CBS News poll found that 58% of Republican respondents still wanted more choices for a nominee. And that was even before Bachmann, Huntsman and Perry dropped out, leaving sad-sack GOP voters with a narrow spectrum of options ranging from an ethics-impaired pseudo-intellectual clod to an antediluvian reptile masquerading as an advocate for liberty to a clueless empty suit who fancies himself a titan of free enterprise to a loathsome pipsqueak who spent more time crotch-sniffing than he ever spent conducting The People’s Business as a senator.

Yet the poll also indicated that 41% of GOP voters described themselves as more enthusiastic than in past elections, something only 21% of the Democrats and independents surveyed said about themselves. So what is it that they’re so enthusiastic about? Who the hell knows? Perhaps they’re enthusiastic about not voting:

The number of Republican voters taking part in the New Hampshire primary and Iowa caucuses dropped significantly this year, a Globe review of data shows.

The drop-off in Republican participation, compared with other years without a GOP incumbent, follows recent polls that indicate a high percentage of the party faithful is less than enthusiastic with the choices offered for the nomination. Analysts say there may be a combination of factors contributing to the decline in party faithful voting.

To paraphrase Saint Paul, Republicans are a piece of work, which passeth all understanding.

TWO: “Incredibly naive, almost stupid”

In the wake of Rick Perry’s decision to vamoose from the ol’ campaign trail, a Christian conservative conclave in Texas was left baffled, bewildered and basically befuddled. Who among the remaining claimants to the Republican nomination strikes the perfect balance between prurient, repressive social conservatism and absolute indifference to vicious capitalist depredation, a balance that so appeals to those who just love ‘em some Jesus and yet despise His message? Rick Santorum, come on down!

Fueled by prayer and passionate speeches, Christian conservative leaders meeting in Gov. Rick Perry’s home state reached a “strong consensus” to support former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum for the GOP presidential nomination, the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins said [January 14].

It took Perkins and his confreres three ballots to settle on Santorum, but I’m not even sure why there was any suspense involved. A few days before he and his mob met to bestow their blessings on a new standard bearer, a report in the Washington Post confirmed that Santorum is their dream candidate. The Post examined a charity Santorum had established to aid low-income Pennsylvanians. As it happens, “Operation Good Neighbor”:

… spent most of its money to run itself, including hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees for fundraising, administration and office rental paid to Santorum’s political allies.

The charity also had significant overlap with the senator’s campaigns and his work on Capitol Hill. Among the leading donors to the foundation were Pennsylvania development and finance firms that had donated to his election efforts and had interests that Santorum had supported in the Senate…

Before it folded in 2007, the foundation raised $2.58 million, with 39 percent of that donated directly to groups helping the needy. By industry standards, such philanthropic groups should be donating nearly twice that, from 75 to 85 percent of their funds.

“That’s exceptionally poor,” Ken Berger, president of Charity Navigator, a national organization that rates charitable groups, said of the Santorum group’s giving. “We would tell donors to run with fear from this organization.”

And well you might, Mr. Berger, but only because you don’t appreciate the intricate construct of hypocrisy, hard-heartedness and hellacious antipathy to truth that candidates like Rick Santorum (and sleazoid snake oil merchants like Tony Perkins) represent.

But there’s just a little more pious goodness to this story:

[Doug Wead,] a leading evangelical and former aide to President George H.W. Bush said he agreed with suspicions voiced by others at the meeting of evangelical and conservative Catholic activists that organizers “manipulated” the gathering and may even have stuffed the ballot to produce an endorsement of Mr. Santorum over former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Mr. Santorum, who nearly upset Mr. Romney in the Iowa caucuses, won the first ballot ahead of Mr. Gingrich in Saturday’s Texas meeting but the margin was too slim for organizers to claim a consensus. It was not until the third ballot, taken after many people had left to catch flights back home, that Mr. Santorum won more than 70 percent of those still in attendance and claimed the endorsement…

Mr. Perkins strongly defended the Texas meeting as “a remarkable gathering of conservatives leaders.”

Yes, it certainly does sound remarkable. Last word to Mr. Wead:

… Mr. Wead, who said meeting participants were warned not to discuss the gathering in the media, was still upset and said the entire exercise was misguided.

“The idea of evangelicals meeting this late to select a candidate always struck me as incredibly naive, almost stupid. It is way too late for that,” he said.

Amen, sir. Amen.

THREE: Way Out West

If there’s one thing Arizona doesn’t need, it’s another hateful dolt in elected office. The state can’t even keep the ones it already has from appearing in cringe-worthy news stories.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio, for example, was recently named Arizona campaign chairman for Rick Perry, who dropped out of the race less than two weeks later, leaving Arpaio with nothing much to do except finalize his “cold case posse” investigation into President Obama’s eligibility to hold the office he’s held for three years and six days now.

Governor Jan Brewer, no slouch herself when it comes to hateful doltishness, mounted her own attack on President Obama just yesterday. Color the Arizona Republic chagrined:

President Obama arrived on Wednesday afternoon for a run-of-the-mill campaign speech using an Intel facility in Chandler as a backdrop. He was greeted by the usual assortment of local dignitaries, including Gov. Jan Brewer.

Which turned out to be Mistake No. 1.

Brewer handed the president a letter and apparently said something about the border and about the state’s economic recovery. Apparently, Obama said something about Brewer mischaracterizing their White House meeting in her book, Scorpions for Breakfast. Apparently, things went downhill from there. Apparently, the president and the governor couldn’t stop talking over each other’s words…

The image of Arizona’s governor wagging a scolding finger at the visiting president on the tarmac at Phoenix International Sky Harbor Airport now pretty much defines this state’s relationship with Washington, D.C., to the world.

Far from offering contrition after her boorish display, all Brewer could talk about afterward was the scary black guy who climbed out of Air Force One:

“I felt a little bit threatened, if you will, and the attitude that he had because I was there to welcome him,” Brewer told reporters following the exchange.

But not so fast, Joe and Jan! For Arizona, the barrel now has a new bottom, and his name is JT Ready. And (as of January 13, 2012) he’s a Democrat: Continue reading Take Five (Take My Candidate, Please edition)

Sunday Talks, 1/8/12

Center stage on this Sunday’s television talk shows is a special edition of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” which is joining Facebook to host the last Republican presidential debate before Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary.

It will be the . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 1/8/12