Conservative media have invoked Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan's Judaism in order to suggest that she may be a radical or that the court would not represent mainstream America if she is confirmed.
"[N]o religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."
-- United States Constitution, Article VI
In April 2004, right-wing activist Manuel Miranda baselessly complained that Democrats had invoked a "religious test" against Bush judicial nominee William Pryor.
In April 2005, Miranda reportedly "distributed talking points to Republicans" claiming that Democrats had created an "abortion litmus test" for judicial nominees that was "nothing but a surrogate for a constitutionally prohibited religious test."
Anti-Semitism marred the confirmation battles of associate justices Abe Fortas, Louis Brandeis, and Benjamin Cardozo, but it was unpronounced and hidden. John Roberts will be only the 11th Catholic (out of 109 justices) to serve on the Supreme Court in its 215-year history. But his confirmation may be a historic first. It marks the introduction, on the record, of a constitutionally prohibited religious test for a Supreme Court nominee. We are going in the wrong direction.
Of course, the claims about Democrats invoking a "religious test" during the Bush years were largely fabrication. Moreover, it was generally conservatives and Republicans -- not Democrats and progressives -- who obsessed over the religious views of President Bush's judicial nominees.
But Miranda did get one thing right: we indeed appear to be "going in the wrong direction" on religious tests.
In a May 12 podcast for the right-wing Accuracy in Media, Miranda warned listeners about Elena Kagan's "background" in the "Jewish socialist culture in New York":
Conservative media figures have attacked Elena Kagan for having grown up in New York City, arguing that her New York origins indicate she "has no clue how real Americans live."
From Parker's April 18 column:
Is the political environment becoming so toxic that we could see another Timothy McVeigh emerge?
No one knows the answer, but fears that anger could escalate into action beyond the ballot box are not misplaced. Ninety-nine percent of angry Americans might be perfectly satisfied to rail at their television sets -- or to show up at a Tea Party rally -- but it takes only one.
The biggest concern for security folks in Washington is the lone operator, the John Hinckley, who tries to take out a president for his fantasy girlfriend. Or some variation thereof.
This is why "Don't retreat. Reload," Sarah Palin's recent imperative to her Tea Party audience, felt so off. Obviously, she wasn't suggesting that people arm themselves, as she has explained several times since. Hunting and military vocabulary are hardly new to politics. We "target" audiences or "set our sights" on policies and politicians all the time. In the world of healthy competition, trophies are victories, not dead people.
But words matter, as we never tire of saying. And these are especially sensitive times, given our first African American president and unavoidable fears about the worst-case scenario. If Jodie Foster could bestir the imagination of Hinckley, a Sarah Palin in the Internet age could move regiments.
All of the above have put the nation ill at ease. Add to the mixture of organic anger and grass-roots momentum the heckling language of Beck, Limbaugh & Co., and one fears that volatility could become explosive. What's next, militias?
From a discussion on washingtonpost.com:
Indianapolis Indiana: I am seeing comments from all over the map on what the GOP will do concerning Obama's Supreme Court selection. Go nuts? Fight like the devil? Pretend to be mad? Do nothing? What is your take on this?
Kathleen Parker: In public, they'll be open-minded; behind closed doors, they'll try to figure out how to derail the nominee. I hope the president will go moderate on this one. I think the nation is suffering battle fatigue and could use a respite. If he does, Republicans will have no basis for opposition.
Right-wing media sources have falsely claimed that funding for community health centers (CHCs) included in the recently-passed health care reform legislation will fund abortions. In fact, CHCs do not perform abortions, and the Department of Health and Human Services states that federal regulations ban the use of the CHC funds for abortions except in cases already allowed under current law.
From Kathleen Parker's March 3 Washington Post column [emphasis added]:
What do people remember from the summit, to the extent they watched? They surely remember Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan hammering the Republican message about deficit spending in the health-care legislation. And, they remember New York Democrat Rep. Louise Slaughter telling about a woman who, because she had no insurance, had to wear her deceased sister's dentures.
There's nothing to laugh at here, obviously. If true -- and she dared us not to believe her -- it's a pathetic tale. Right-wing talk show hosts who have made sport of Slaughter's story don't get much credit for cleverness, but truly, sometimes an anecdote is too strange to be effective.
Maybe Republicans can trade Sarah Palin's "death panels" for Louise Slaughter's dentures and call it a draw.
As a political point, however, the contrast between personal anecdote vs. mastery of health-care economics is stark and telling. If you're in the market for competence, which vendor gets your attention?
In her nationally syndicated Washington Post column, Kathleen Parker echoed Glenn Beck's guilt-by-association efforts to link the SEIU and ACORN. Parker further attempted to link the SEIU to former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and suggested that this "dot-connecting" might "stall" health-care reform.
On September 22, conservative MSNBC host Joe Scarborough announced an "honor roll" for conservatives who are willing to denounce Glenn Beck's "hatred," making specific reference to Beck's statement that President Obama is "a racist" with a "deep-seated hatred for white people." Several media conservatives in addition to Scarborough have denounced Beck's rhetoric as "harmful" and "race-baiting."
From the September 20 edition of The Chris Matthews Show:
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In her Washington Post column, Kathleen Parker described an amendment to the House's health care reform bill by anti-abortion members of Congress merely as a proposal "to exclude abortion from the bills" and suggested that a compromise provision in one of the versions of the House bills would change current law by allowing federally subsidized insurance plans to cover abortion as long as federal funds are not used. In fact, the anti-abortion proposal would effectively ban abortion coverage for those participating in health insurance plans that would be part of the proposed health insurance exchange -- including those who currently have such coverage -- and contrary to Parker's suggestion that "[s]egregating funding" would reverse current law, Medicaid already allows states to cover abortion so long as they don't use federal funds.
In his forthcoming book, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge reportedly claims that politics may have played a role in the question of whether to raise the terror threat levels on the eve of the November 2004 presidential election -- echoing contemporaneous allegations made by several progressives. Media Matters for America presents a sampling -- by no means exhaustive -- of media personalities who at the time portrayed those progressives as suffering from "cynicism" and "paranoia" and obsessed with a "conspiracy theory," despite credible evidence that the Bush administration was using the War on Terror for political gain, particularly in the months before the 2004 election.
In her May 31 column, conservative commentator Kathleen Parker addresses the conservative media's criticism of Sotomayor's 2001 "wise Latina" comment on the basis that a white male could not "get away" with a "comparable" statement:
Nevertheless, most criticism has been aimed at perceived racist-sexist remarks from a 2001 diversity speech in which Sotomayor suggested that she, as a Latina, could be more qualified than a white guy. Pause: Don't most women think they're more qualified than most men when it comes to making wise decisions? Kidding, kidding.
What she said: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life." Sotomayor may be misguided, but she isn't necessarily a sexist-racist. I say this as a mother of white males (perfect in every way) and author of "Save the Males." Notwithstanding the preceding, I see her point.
Could a white man get away with saying something comparable about a Latina? Of course not. After Latinas have run the world for 2,000 years, they won't be able to say it ever again either.
Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker asserted that Republicans "responded" to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's speech before the vote on the financial bailout plan "by voting against the bill," even after House Minority Whip Roy Blunt backed off a claim that a dozen Republicans who might have supported the bill were alienated by Pelosi's speech and several Republicans denied that Pelosi's speech swayed any votes.