A few days ago, right-wing blogger John Hinderaker enthusiastically endorsed a "slick" new video released by a group called Senate Accountability Watch attacking Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) for wanting to "regulate your internet use." It features a military family, two video game-playing schlubs, and an elderly woman all using the internet to enrich their lives until a faceless "Al Franken" pushes the huge red "REGULATE INTERNET" button on his desk and shuts off their internet access.
The message of the video is, as Hinderaker puts it, that net neutrality "is a bad idea because it is being promoted by Al Franken," and the implication is that net neutrality legislation would allow government officials to restrict access to the internet (net neutrality is actually aimed at preventing governments and internet service providers from doing that). The message isn't exactly new or compelling, Hinderaker's endorsement notwithstanding. Far more interesting is the brief, sordid history of Senate Accountability Watch -- an organization founded by a controversial Republican operative for the sole purpose of harassing Al Franken.
Senate Accountability Watch was founded in August 2010 by Jeff Larson, a direct marketing tycoon who worked closely with former Sen. Norm Coleman, whom Franken narrowly defeated in the drawn-out 2008 Minnesota Senate election. Larson just recently signed on as the Republican National Committee's chief of staff. In September 2010, Senate Accountability Watch filed a complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee over an email Franken's campaign committee sent out promoting Franken's role in supporting net neutrality. Larsen filed another complaint with the Federal Election Committee in December claiming that Franken's PAC and other Democratic groups had violated election laws by accepting donations from a "foreign national," British comedian Eddie Izzard.
Neither complaint succeeded. The Senate Ethics Committee dismissed Larson's allegations, saying they "do not merit further review," and Larson actually petitioned to withdraw his FEC complaint when he learned that Izzard is a legal resident of the United States and thus entitled to make political donations. The FEC later dismissed the complaint.
Senate Accountability Watch's failed ethics complaints are only the most recent of Jeff Larson's political misadventures.
Larson earned a considerable amount of notoriety during the 2000 South Carolina Republican primary when his direct marketing firm, FLS, conducted a series of robocalls on behalf of George W. Bush smearing Sen. John McCain. Eight years later, McCain hired FLS to conduct robocalls tying Barack Obama to William Ayers.
Larson was also at the center of two political controversies in the 2008 election cycle. In June 2008, National Journal revealed that Sen. Norm Coleman had been renting a Capitol Hill apartment from Larson at the extremely low price of $600 per month. Larson was a longtime ally and client of Coleman's; FLS billed the senator for $1.6 million in services going back to 2001. The Washington, DC-based ethics group CREW filed an ethics complaint against Coleman, claiming he had "violated the Senate gifts rule by accepting lodging from Republican operative Jeff Larson."
In October 2008, Larson found himself in the spotlight again when it was revealed that the Republican National Committee had reimbursed him for $130,000 in clothing he purchased for then-vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
Thus far there doesn't seem to be any indication that Larson's anti-net neutrality video will air on television, and it hasn't earned much notice beyond Hinderaker's blog.
And what's so funny is conservatives are utterly blind to the double standard in play here.
As we noted last night, Glenn Beck and others are outraged that some union protesters rallying against budget cuts in Wisconsin are waving signs labeling the state's Republican governor a "dictator."
How dare they??
Now adding to the hit parade of offended observers is conservative John Hinderaker at Powerline. Behold his insight [emphasis added]:
A common theme of the union demonstrators in Madison today was that Governor Walker is a "dictator." This showed up on sign after sign. It sheds light, I think, on how public union members in particular, and liberals in general, think. What is going on here is that the voters of Wisconsin have elected a Republican Governor and--overwhelmingly--a Republican legislature, precisely so that they can get the state's budget under control.
Playing the dictator card "sheds a light" on how liberals think, claims Hinderaker, speaking on behalf of a movement that's been calling Obama a dictator for two years running.
Ironic, dontcha think?
Hinderaker goes on to argue that it's not dictators liberals dislike, it's democracy. Of course, last time I checked Obama was democratically elected. In fact, he won in an electoral landslide. And in 2008, Democrats democratically won control of the House and the Senate. Yet the Obama-hating chorus has been calling the president a dictator for nearly 100 weeks now. So what gives?
On that point, Hinderaker offers no insight. Instead, he just plays dumb.
The right-wing media have seized on a Wikileaks cable to claim the Obama administration "betrayed" the United Kingdom by revealing data to Russia regarding the sale of nuclear material. In fact, the information was passed in compliance with nuclear arms treaties and "with respect to the longstanding pattern of cooperation," as officials in both the U.S. and U.K. governments have confirmed.
On Friday, we noted that right-wing blogger Paul Mirengoff of Powerline was publicly, and sternly, rebuked by the chairman of the law firm he works at for a bigoted, thoughtless blog post Mirengoff wrote about the Tucson memorial service that Obama addressed in the wake of the gun massacre. Mirengoff was just one of many Obama Derangement Syndrome bloggers who simply could not control themselves in the wake of the tragic shooting story and just had to ridicule whatever Obama was associated with.
Specifically, the Obama-hating Mirengoff belittled an opening prayer at the memorial service that was given by a Native American. Turns out though, that Mirengoff's Minneapolis law firm practices lots of American Indian Law and Policy business.
One of Mirengoff's fellow law partners wrote that he was "shocked and embarrassed" by the mean-spirited post, and the firm's chairman quickly issued a public apology. He condemned the offensive post as being "insensitive and wholly inconsistent" with the firm's values.
Bottom line? Mirengoff is no longer a blogger for Powerline. He's finished.
I'm surprised this sort of thing doesn't happen more often, as more and more conservative bloggers seem to take leave of their senses in order to criticize any and everything that the Obama White House does. But as TPM notes, a prominent conservative blogger, and practicing attorney, Paul Mirengoff at Powerline really stepped in it when he recently mocked the Tucson memorial where Obama spoke, only to be quickly rebuked by his own law firm.
As for the "ugly," I'm afraid I must cite the opening "prayer" by Native American Carlos Gonzales. It was apparently was some sort of Yaqui Indian tribal thing, with lots of references to "the creator" but no mention of God. Several of the victims were, as I understand it, quite religious in that quaint Christian kind of way (none, to my knowledge, was a Yaqui). They (and their families) likely would have appreciated a prayer more closely aligned with their religious beliefs.
But oops! From TPM:
Mirengoff is a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, a law firm with an American Indian Law and Policy department.
Which lead to this statement form the firm's chairman:
We sincerely apologize for the blog entry posted by Akin Gump partner Paul Mirengoff on his personal blog, powerlineblog.com.
Following President Obama's State of the Union address, right-wing media predictably declared his speech speech "boring," "dull," and "flat" -- terms they have consistently used to describe most speeches Obama has given in the past two years.
Right-wing media figures have called GOP senatorial candidate Christine O'Donnell "a bit of a flake," not "qualified as [a] leader," and someone with a "checkered background" who does not "evince the characteristics of rectitude and truthfulness and sincerity and character." Nevertheless, these media figures have endorsed O'Donnell because, in the words of Karl Rove: "I'm for the Republicans in each and every case."
Two recently released polls show that an increasing number of Americans believe the falsehood that President Obama is a Muslim. According to the Pew Research Center, 60 percent of people who believe this false claim cite the media as the source of that information -- and, indeed, the right-wing media have incessantly promoted this lie.
Powerline's John Hinderaker (Time's 2004 blog of the year) appears to be trying to set a smears-per-word record with his latest attack on President Obama. In just 310 words of original text, Hinderaker calls the president "post-American" (twice), accuses Obama of having an "above-America persona," of "posturing" as "a citizen of the world who has graced America by condescending to be our President and to instruct us," and says Obama has a "lack of connection to any identifiable Christian tradition" (ignoring, for example, Obama's stated Christianity, daily prayers and frequent Bible-reading, and the fact that he was, you know, baptized.)
Most insidiously, Hinderaker repeatedly suggests that it is reasonable to believe, as many people falsely do, that Obama is Muslim*:
The Pew poll, as reported by the Associated Press, finds confusion about Obama's most basic beliefs:
Americans increasingly are convinced -- incorrectly -- that President Barack Obama is a Muslim, and a growing number are thoroughly confused about his religion.
I love that "incorrectly." The AP has evolved into an opinion machine, so it's rare and a little startling to see it stand up so boldly for a "fact." He's not a Muslim, dammit!
Notice the scare quotes around the word fact? And the mockery of the AP for directly saying Obama is not a Muslim? Hinderaker dropped the subtlety in his conclusion:
We're not sure who he is, exactly, but he certainly isn't one of us. Given the currents that swirl through world events these days, being a Muslim is one interpretation of Obama's exoticism. Those who construe Obama in this way may well be wrong, but it is not hard to understand why they interpret his aloof non-Americanism in this way.
Hateful nonsense like this is far more responsible for the false belief that Obama is Muslim than is Obama's own "exoticism."
* Earlier this year, I explained why suggestions that Obama is Muslim are fairly labeled "smears" despite the fact that being Muslim is not a bad thing:
These complaints of "unseemly" denials are reminiscent of hand-wringing during the 2008 presidential campaign about whether it was appropriate to refer to the false claims that Barack Obama is Muslim as "smears." There is nothing wrong with being Muslim -- but of course those were smears. For one thing, they were false. For another, they falsely portrayed Obama as a liar. That's enough to qualify as a "smear" right there. But you also have to consider the intent, and likely effect, of the claims. Those alleging Obama to be Muslim certainly meant to harm him, and it isn't hard to imagine that they did so. Calling that a smear, then seems perfectly reasonable -- indeed, the claims smeared Muslims, too, as they implied that being Muslim is bad.
UPDATE: Slate's David Weigel neatly summarizes Hinderaker's post: "To be American is to agree with John Hinderaker; to disagree is to be a Muslim."