Wednesday, November 8, 2006

The "Wave" That Wasn't -- And The One That Was (UPDATED)

In a mid-term election that, nation-wide, was double-ply, wall-to-wall ugliness for the Republicans, I find something incredibly significant in the contrasting results from two congressional races.

The first was the easy victory of Representative Ron Paul in Texas, a Republican In Name Only in the best sense of that expression: The sole statesman in Washington, Rep. Paul's loyalty is to the Constitution. In Shane Sklar, Dr. Paul confronted a Democratic opponent who did everything possible to disguise himself as a crypto-Republican of the Bushified variety.

Sklar was actually favored over Paul by the National Rifle Association.

"Cheney's got a gun ...
the whole world's come undone..."
(My apologies to Steve and Joe)

This isn't because Dr. Paul favors any restrictions on the individual right to own firearms; he doesn't. It's because he did not favor, on constitutional grounds, federal pre-emption of anti-gun liability lawsuits, which was a measure the NRA actively supported. Gun Owners of America – which, unlike the NRA, is not a concubine in the GOP's seraglio – gave Dr. Paul an “A+” rating.

Early returns projected a landslide victory for Paul, who claimed something north of 60% of the vote on a night many Republican incumbents spent on tenterhooks – or making plans to seek a new job on K Street.

By way of explaining his victory, and defining his priorities, Dr. Paul told the local paper, “I'm always working to shrink the size of government,” and expressed hope that the new Congress would find a way to “wind down the war.”

Meanwhile, over in Arizona, 12-year-incumbent J.D. Hayworth – a Fox News and GOP rant radio favorite who had made immigration the centerpiece of his re-election effort – appears to have lost a close race to Democrat Harry Mitchell, who (in the words of the East Valley Tribune) “appeared to be riding the wave of voter discontent with the status quo....”

Remember that expression, “riding the wave.” We'll return to it anon.

Arizona has been under a state of emergency since last year because of the breakdown of border enforcement. Many state residents along the border with Mexico are literally under siege. About a year ago, Hayworth – with the enthusiastic backing of the GOP-aligned conservative media establishment – published a campaign manifesto entitled Whatever It Takes: Illegal Immigration, Border Security, and the War on Terror.

Among Hayworth's recommendations were the creation of a border security fence and, if necessary, the militarization of our border with Mexico. One of Bush's most dutiful supporters in the “War on Terror,” Hayworth complained that the president didn't display the same “moral clarity” in dealing with border issues, most likely because of the malign influence of Karl Rove.

Hayworth, it seems to me, was one of the most visible congressional “heels” in the Rove-orchestrated immigration “angle” (to use the argot of professional “wrestling” I discussed earlier this year). The congressman obviously had no principled objection to the implementation of police-state measures to deal with immigration; after all, his view was that we had to do “whatever it takes,” which is a pretty open-ended formulation. And he was obviously convinced that this view would be shared by voters in a reliably Republican district in a state where illegal immigration is a crisis.

And he was wrong.

We did see a “wave” last night – a tsunami of voter revulsion over Republican corruption, profligacy, arrogance, and militarism. This was not a mandate for the Democrats; it was an indictment of the Republicans. The long-suppressed gag reflex of the electorate kicked in at last, and voters rediscovered the necessity for divided government, or what the Founders called “checks and balances.”

I'll have more to say later today about the returns, particular regarding some very interesting ballot measures....

Point of personal privilege --

My goodness, who saw the anti-Republican wave coming?

Well – I don't want to feed his already well-fattened ego, but this guy did:

“Unless your Congressman is named Ron Paul, he doesn't deserve to be re-elected. On at least one occasion during the last congressional term, every member of the House of Representatives – Dr. Paul being the sole exception – violated his oath of office by voting in favor of unconstitutional legislation.... If you're content to settle for [the record compiled by the Republican majority] -- if you believe that unchecked profligacy, open-ended foreign war, and canine subservience to a lawless executive should be rewarded -- then by all means, vote Republican this November.”

As I've noted previously, I was fired by The John Birch Society a few weeks ago, in large measure because I persisted in publishing views of the sort reproduced immediately above that set me at odds with the organization's “Ride the Wave” strategy.

By late Spring it was clear to me – if not to Alan Scholl, the JBS's head of Campaigns and Mission – that wedding the JBS to the GOP was not only a betrayal of the organization's constitutionalist principles, but also a disaster from a strategic perspective.

Alan described the “Ride the Wave” strategy in some detail during a phone call last June 23. It amounted to this: Downplay (to the point of invisibility) opposition to the war in Iraq, the creation of a wartime presidential dictatorship, and rampant GOP corruption, while throwing the organization into an immigration crusade that was essentially a cynical White House-approved political gambit intended to preserve a Republican congressional majority.

Well, it turns out that what Alan believed was a Republican “wave” was merely water circling the bowl as the GOP majority was flushed down the commode.

In this fashion the JBS missed a singular opportunity to make itself relevant by taking a stand that would have been both principled and prescient – and, remarkably, popular as well.

I hope that the JBS can regain its institutional independence, and redirect its efforts into an unstinting defense of liberty under law. But this will require new leadership where defining the organization's mission is concerned.

Alan, step aside. Find some other role in the organization. You're the one who made the call to “Ride the Wave,” and it was tragically wrong, for both the JBS and the country. Do the honorable thing.

(And for the record, this the last time I intend to address this subject for public consumption.)

UPDATE-- Neo-Conning the JBS

Honestly, I don't want to keep picking at this scab, but this kind of thing simply can't go without a challenge.

Shortly before I was fired, Alan Scholl complained to be in a phone call that some of what I had written here in Pro Libertate was off-putting to "neo-cons and others we want to bring into the movement."

Heaven fofend that I would give offense to people with an apparently limitless appetite for bloodshed, aggressive war, and other varieties of "creative destruction."

One of the most potent clues that someone is under the influence of the neo-Trotskyite warmongers called "neo-conservatives" is the use of the expression "Islamo-Fascism" or its variants. This deceptive coinage, ignorantly circulated by some and knowingly propagated by others, reeks of the Popular Front sloganeering engaged in by the founding generation of "neo-cons" before and during World War II. This is particularly the case where we find the term "Islamo-Fascism" (or its variants) deployed in the course of accusing some individual or institution of "appeasing" the same.

So it was something of an unpleasant surprise to when, visiting the JBS News Feed in search of information and insight, I read the following comment regarding the display of "Muslim Propaganda" on a plaque displayed at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute:

"What's the motivation behind the plaque? Given the precarious situation the Oriental Institute finds itself in with regard to Iran, it may be trying to appease that nation's Islamofascist regime."

This museum-quality specimen of neo-Trotskyite war rhetoric was written by ... you guessed it, Alan Scholl, director of Campaigns and Mission for the JBS.

The "precarious situation" alluded to involves a lawsuit by victims of an Iranian-backed terrorist in Israel, which resulted in a $423 million award that Iran has no intention of paying. Some attorneys have suggested that Iranian-owned artifacts in the U.S. -- of which the Oriental Institute has a unique collection -- could be seized in lieu of payments. This has prompted concerns on the part of the Institute that the Iranian government might simply reclaim its artifacts. Hence the supposed motivation for "appeasing" Tehran: "Could the posting of the Islamic propaganda plaque by the Oriental Institute be a move by museum staff to appease the Iranians?"

In writing this commentary Alan drew on a piece written by Diana Muir, whom he identifies as an "historian." True enough, Muir is a well-established historian and author, as well as a "professional book reviewer." More to the point of this particular matter, she is also an officer of the Boston-Israel Action Committee (BIAC) and an activist and protest organizer for the Jewish Action Task Force (JAT). She also liaises with the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).

Working with and through those groups, Muir spends a great deal of time scrutinizing books, news reports, and various academic fora in search of "anti-Israel bias," and pressuring news outlets and academic institutions to suppress the same.

There's nothing at all wrong with taking action to counter what one honestly regards as media bias in any form, about Israel or any other subject. As a member of the JAT, however, Muir is quite literally on call, every day, to defend "Israel" -- meaning the Israeli regime, not the Israeli people. As I've pointed out before, to support the former is emphatically not to be a legitimate friend of the latter.

JAT members "pledge just 10 minutes a day to help counter anti-Israel actions and misinformation and to get the truth told about Israel," explains the organization's recruiting pitch. "You receive email messages that give you tasks that normally can be completed within those 10 minutes. Sometimes there are several tasks to choose from...."

Muir's role with CAMERA is to be a deniable asset organizing protests and pressure campaigns against "anti-Israel" media outlets. This was explained in a confidential message circulated to CAMERA's "e-mail team"

"Please do not forward this to strangers or potential anti-Israel activists," the message began. "Forward only to people you personally know to be friends of Israel."

"Many members have asked if we have heard how the May 14 nationwide day of protest against NPR [National Public Radio] went," the message continued. "The protest organizer, Diana Muir of BIAC (Boston-Israel Action Committee), has shared the following reports from people in 22 cities who participated in the nationwide day of protest against NPR's skewed reporting...."

Once again, there's no shortage of bias in the media and academia to protest, and NPR is certainly a worthy target. But this is a clear instance of an organized effort to pressure the media on behalf of a foreign regime -- and it's just as pernicious as anything the Iranian government has purportedly done to pressure the Oriental Institute into allowing "Islamo-Fascist" propaganda to sully its sacred precincts.

Here's how someone committed to the non-interventionist perspective the JBS used to espouse would deal with this matter:

Let partisans of Israel and Iran pitch their intellectual wares as they see fit; we're not taking a side. Our objective is to defend the national independence of the United States and the individual liberties of American citizens, and to that end we follow Washington's wise admonition to avoid passionate attachments to any foreign interest.

Obviously, Alan Scholl takes a different view. As the individual setting the priorities for the JBS, Alan is quietly trying to find a spot for the Birch Society behind the neo-Trot drum majors thumping away for war with Iran.

It's not just that Alan regurgitated Diana Muir's criticism of the Oriental Institute's "appeasement" of Iran; in yesterday's News Feed (November 7), addressing nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, Alan cited some experts who believe that Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other nations are playing catch-up with Tehran. He then opined:

"A more chilling possibility is that nuclear weapons programs in other Islamic nations, instead of intended as a response to Iranian ambitions, actually share a parallel purpose with the program underway in Iran. That disparate Arab nuclear programs should be viewed as driven by a pan-Islamic nuclear ambition is suggested by the anti-Israeli orientation of the nations involved. Iran, for instance, has openly called for the destruction of Israel."

Yes, the prospect of an Islamic nuclear weapons capacity is the stuff of nightmares. But Alan carefully avoids two very relevant questions: Why should Israel assume that it has a right to a regional nuclear monopoly (implicitly enforced by Washington)? And what role did the U.S. invasion of Iraq play in prompting other Muslim nations -- who have been targeted for "liberation" by the same gang that brought us the war in Iraq -- to seek a nuclear deterrent to Washington's aggression?

Neo-cons don't ask those questions. If they had their way, nobody else would be permitted to, either, since skepticism of that sort undermines their plans to conduct humanitarian bloodshed throughout the Middle East. On the available evidence, it would appear that Alan Scholl shares those priorities.

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