Scorched Earth Elections

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Obama Administration

Gov. Scott Walker has been trailing in his re-election bid, so it must be a relief to him to be able to fall back on voter suppression. But there is a new wrinkle, which is voter intimidation by armed pro-Walker goons. The Wisconsin Poll Watcher Militia is not just going to try to look intimidating at polling places; they are actually checking to see who signed the petitions to recall Walker a short time back, identify which ones are Democrats, and investigate them. And if any of those people have outstanding warrants, the militia will not just call law enforcement but will follow them to their homes — I think that’s called “stalking” — and then turn them over to law enforcement.  Digby writes,

They are using information from a website a volunteer has set up to identify people who signed recall petitions. He’s created subsets of those with tax issues, those who are Democratic donors, those who (they claim) are sex offenders, etc., and they are listing the names in a searchable format that includes offenses as minor as speeding. Rush Limbaugh even gave them a shout-out the other day, saying, ”Thanks to his hard work, we finally know who is not paying their fair share of taxes in Wisconsin.” (That’s not actually true; this list only includes those who signed the recall petitions. It’s fair to guess that there are plenty of Scott Walker fans who aren’t big on paying their fair share of taxes.)

Are you putting up with this, Wisconsin? Seriously?

In the Kansas Senate race, Republican Pat Roberts is trailing independent Greg Orman, and the GOP is doubling down 0n the nasty. This is a critical race for keeping the Senate from changing hands. Part of Roberts problem is that he ran a scorched-earth campaign to win his primary against a Teabagger candidate, and the Kansas baggers have not forgiven him. He may yet persuade the Kansas baggers that Orman is a secret communist or worse, an Obama supporter, however.  So we may yet see what baggers are made of. Um, be afraid.

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Forward or Backward?

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Obama Administration

I spent the day at a zazenkai, or short meditation retreat, instead of at the climate march in NYC. I think about half of our sangha must have been in the march, though. Just as we were ending the retreat a couple of people who had been in the march walked in and said it was fantastic, with an estimated 310,000 participants. (See also.)

There really are people who give a damn, you know.

If you didn’t watch the PBS Ken Burns series on the Roosevelts you missed out; it was really good. You can probably watch it on the PBS website. It was a bit depressing, though, to consider how un-progressive the country has grown since then. The great presidents, the great leaders, always left the country with the sense that progress is possible; that the nation could do whatever it needed to do. Those days are sure gone.

In my lifetime I think the last President who made me feel that way was Kennedy, and he didn’t live long enough to accomplish much. I know that conservatives got that feeling from Reagan, but Reagan was leading the nation backward, not forward. For all his economic accomplishments Clinton more or less seemed like a placeholder to me. His motto might have been He Managed to Keep the Right From Screwing Us Even Worse. But I also suspect that if FDR came back to the White House today, he wouldn’t be much more effective than President Obama. There’s just way too much retrograde energy in Washington for anything genuinely progressive to happen.

At Salon, Thomas Franks writes that Gov. Sam Brownback has been so ineffective even the people of Kansas have noticed. Kansas is a state in which the governor and the legislature ran everything according to the Tea Parety/Koch Brothers book, and the results are more than pitiful. They are damn near catastrophic.

“What is going on here is so freakishly self-damaging, so bizarrely self-contradicting that it makes you think of a man trying out his new shotgun on his own foot, or of a president putting a meth addict in charge of the nuclear football.” Brownback is trailing his Democratic opponent, although narrowly. How incompetent does a Republican have to be to be voted out of office? I guess we’re about to find out.

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Dark Money, Dark Science

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Obama Administration

Resolved: Every time someone uses the phrase “settled science” we should all throw a penalty flag. And if this is said by an actual scientist, he should be locked in stocks so that we may pelt him with genetically altered tomatoes. It is not the nature of science to “settle”; there is always doubt; there is always something more to know.

Most non-scientists don’t appreciate this, which makes the myth of “settled science” an easy way to bamboozle the rubes whenever science starts to step on monied toes. The Masters of the Universe don’t have to disprove science when it threatens to cost them money. All they need to do is discredit it enough so that government hesitates to act on it.

A “leading scientist” named Steven Koonin writes in the Wall Street Journal that climate change is not “settled science.” He acknowledges that it is “settled” that climate change is happening, but that since we don’t know precisely how in all details it’s too soon to actually do anything about it.

Let me add that Koonin is a physicist, not a climate guy, who was once chief scientist for BP.

David Atkins writes,

The argument sounds reasonable at first, but it’s absurd on its face. It would be like a doctor refusing to treat a strange new disease because we don’t fully understand all of the effects it might have on the body. It might cause kidney failure and heart failure, or maybe just one, or neither! We just don’t have enough information to treat, so let’s do nothing! Of course, by the time kidney failure occurs it will be too late to save the patient, but oh well.

Of all the cynical arguments against action on climate change, Koonin’s ranks among the most disturbing because it’s so obviously calculated by a very smart person to make a radically irresponsible conclusion just to protect a few entrenched economic elites.

Note also that 2014 is shaping up to be the hottest year on record.

Since Koonin is a physicist I wish someone would ask him about gravity. Science has not settled on an explanation of how gravity works. Until it does, can we walk off cliffs? You first, Steve Koonin.

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The Clinton Ambivalence

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Democratic Party

Those sneaky lefties got caught talking to each other through private secret sneaky leftie emails again, and we learn that a lot of them don’t want Hillary Clinton to be nominated in 2016, which apparently was big news. Not news to me, mind you, but it was a revelation to The Hill. Maybe the Media will adjust the narrative now, though.

At The Atlantic, Molly Ball writes that Hillary Clinton’s unofficial campaign so far is long on pablum, short on substance. Molly Ball has revealed a tendency to be clueless in the past, so a certain degree of skepticism is required here. But Dave Weigel pretty much says the same thing. She’s being covered by media like syrup on pancakes, but she isn’t giving them anything to write about, he says.

Taylor Marsh writes that Hillary Clinton is too making substantive policy statements, but they are statements about women’s empowerment and so they are ignored, because sexism. There’s no doubt something to that. On the other hand, Taylor’s examples are not exactly earth-shattering stuff. Dems have been running on equal pay for decades. And the party generally is no longer running away from reproductive rights as they used to.

Also, too, since when have media covered Dem candidates’ policy positions? Or anybody’s, for that matter? They cover the horse race. They cover personalities. They cover scandals, real and imagined. They cover gaffes. They cover the stuff one candidate claims about the other candidate. Actually reporting on what candidates might do in office, not so much.

I suspect what the reporters tailing HRC are waiting for is a commitment to seek the nomination, at which time they will climb all over each other trying to be the first one to get a report on the Web someplace. They may be so focused on that she could promise to personally fly air strikes over Iraq and no one would notice.

Maybe she knows that, and maybe that’s why she won’t commit.

If she actually is considering not running, she should do the Democratic Party a favor and make up her mind now. If she actually is not running she should get out of the way and let other Dems get the media attention. But she probably is planning to run, and remaining ambivalent as long as possible is part of her campaign strategy.  In the meantime, she’ll get innocuous press coverage about appearing here or there and not saying shit, which may be what she wants for now.

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Sam Harris vs. Islam

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Religion

Sam Harris is very sure that Islam created ISIS, and he criticized President Obama for saying otherwise:

As an atheist, I cannot help wondering when this scrim of pretense and delusion will be finally burned away—either by the clear light of reason or by a surfeit of horror meted out to innocents by the parties of God. Which will come first, flying cars and vacations to Mars, or a simple acknowledgment that beliefs guide behavior and that certain religious ideas—jihad, martyrdom, blasphemy, apostasy—reliably lead to oppression and murder? It may be true that no faith teaches people to massacre innocents exactly—but innocence, as the President surely knows, is in the eye of the beholder. Are apostates “innocent”? Blasphemers? Polytheists? Islam has the answer, and the answer is “no.”

If indeed Islam itself demands that all apostates must die, it’s been weirdly inconsistent about this over the years. Just yesterday I found an article about Muslims who risked — and sometimes lost — their own lives saving Jews from the Holocaust. Harris would probably argue those Muslims were hypocrites (No True Muslim would rescue a Jew?). But I’m sure if we checked we could probably find many examples of amicable meetings between Muslims and non-Muslims that didn’t end in slaughter.

Maybe the relationship between Islam and violence is not what Harris assumes.

In Rethinking Religion I devote a chapter to religious violence and another to the dynamics of mass movements. In the latter chapter I propose that many of the supposed evils of religion — a propensity to violence and dogmatic faithfulness to irrational beliefs — can be found in many kinds of movements, both religious and not religious. And I propose that violent movements of all sorts have two things in common — a “holy” cause combined with a fanatical grievance.

The holy cause does not have to be religious; patriotism will do nicely, too, especially when combined with belief in ethnic or racial superiority or some kind of glorious national destiny. But the fanatical grievance is an essential component, also. I postulate that people who do not feel particularly aggrieved about anything tend to be disinclined to become violent about their holy causes, whether religious or not.

At Alternet, C.J. Werleman addresses atheists’ flawed view of Islamic terrorism. In particular, he addresses Sam Harris’s insistence that terrorism by Muslims is driven entirely by Islam. Werleman documents that a great many factors other than Islam  have been driving terrorism in Muslim countries, and all of this supports my “fanatical grievance” hypothesis. This is not to say that religion is not a factor, but it is not the simple and direct factor that Harris imagines.

At Foreign Policy, anthropologist Scott Atran writes,

… the chief complaint against religion — that it is history’s prime instigator of intergroup conflict — does not withstand scrutiny. Religious issues motivate only a small minority of recorded wars. The Encyclopedia of Wars surveyed 1,763 violent conflicts across history; only 123 (7 percent) were religious. A BBC-sponsored “God and War” audit, which evaluated major conflicts over 3,500 years and rated them on a 0-to-5 scale for religious motivation (Punic Wars = 0, Crusades = 5), found that more than 60 percent had no religious motivation. Less than 7 percent earned a rating greater than 3. There was little religious motivation for the internecine Russian and Chinese conflicts or the world wars responsible for history’s most lethal century of international bloodshed.

Indeed, inclusive concepts such as “humanity” arguably emerged with the rise of universal religions. Sociologist Rodney Stark reveals that early Christianity became the Roman Empire’s majority religion not through conquest, but through a social process grounded in trust. Repeated acts of altruism, such as caring for non-Christians during epidemics, facilitated the expansion of social networks that were invested in the religion. Likewise, studies by behavioral economist Joseph Henrich and colleagues on contemporary foragers, farmers, and herders show that professing a world religion is correlated with greater fairness toward passing strangers. This research helps explain what’s going on in sub-Saharan Africa, where Islam is spreading rapidly. In Rwanda, for example, people began converting to Islam in droves after Muslims systematically risked their lives to protect Christians and animists from genocide when few others cared.

So, evidence suggests religion can bring out the best in us as well as the worst. I propose that without the “fanatical grievance” factor, religion by itself is unlikely to cause people to go to war. An emotionally healthy and reasonably contended individual does not become a mass murderer because of something he reads in scripture, no matter how devout he is.

Religion does not exist in a vacuum. All religions live and grow within a culture of, well, culture. And politics, and society, and history. These things exist together and condition each other in countless ways. Sometimes culture expresses itself through religion. Sometimes religion expresses itself through culture. Sometimes it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. Religious identity often gets mixed into ethnic or national identity, so that “defending the faith” becomes synonymous with “defending my people.”

Very often the factors that push a movement toward violence may have little to do with religion, but at some point in the process religion is trotted out to justify whatever extreme measures are used to achieve ends. More often than not, the truth of this isn’t apparent even to the people fomenting the violence. Religious violence often begins when people become angry or fearful about something, and as a desire to strike the feared or hated thing grows, religion provides a great moral cover for whatever violent impulses want to be expressed. Persuading yourself that you have been anointed to do God’s terrible work makes it much easier to light the fuse or pull the trigger.

Religion, then, is not the root cause of violence as often as it is an accelerant. Scott Atran writes,

Although surprisingly few wars are started by religions, once they start, religion — and the values it imposes — can play a critical role. When competing interests are framed in terms of religious and sacred values, conflict may persist for decades, even centuries. Disputes over otherwise mundane phenomena then become existential struggles, as when land becomes “Holy Land.” Secular issues become sacralized and nonnegotiable, regardless of material rewards or punishments.

We can see from our own home-grown fundamentalists that all kinds of unrelated things can become sacralized. Some American conservative Christians have sacralized capitalism, for example, to the point of claiming free-market capitalism is ordained by the Bible.

As Karen Armstrong and other scholars have documented, religious fundamentalism is primarily a backlash against modernity. The original Christian fundamentalist movement arose in the late 19th century United States in reaction to a spectrum of social and cultural challenges, such as the huge influx of immigrants, many of which were barely connected to religion.

In the broader sense of the word, “fundamentalist” religious movements around the world are reactionary. They tend to be obsessed with creating some kind of sacred enclave where they can be in complete control and free of outside influence. Often, as in the case of ISIS, they venerate a highly mythologized version of the past that they say they want to restore. They place great importance on sacred symbols and moral purity, especially the moral purity of women. But they also tend not to follow their own religions in any kind of holistic way. Any parts of their own doctrines or scriptures that do not support their violent path, such as teachings on mercy and compassion, are studiously ignored.

So, whether Sam Harris likes it or not, there is a solid argument to be made that the root cause of ISIS is not Islam, and that instead Islam has been appropriated to serve as packaging for a veritable compost heap of grievances mostly related to politics and oil. That said, the extent to which the ISIS movement can persuade itself its cause is holy will have a lot to do with how long and hard and effectively the group will survive and keep fighting. So Islam cannot be ignored.

At the same time, it can be argued that what’s fueling ISIS is more of an idea of Islam than Islam itself. Rather than a practice of humble submission to the will of God, this idea of Islam exalts and empowers the leaders and followers of ISIS. And while it’s not up to me to judge what is “true” Islam and what isn’t, I respect arguments that the ISIS version aint’ it.

But Sam Harris says he knows better.

Understanding and criticizing the doctrine of Islam—and finding some way to inspire Muslims to reform it—is one of the most important challenges the civilized world now faces. But the task isn’t as simple as discrediting the false doctrines of Muslim “extremists,” because most of their views are not false by the light of scripture. A hatred of infidels is arguably the central message of the Koran.

The Qu’ran is not my area, but I doubt it’s Sam Harris’s area, either. Harris’s words smack more of bigotry than scholarship. Obviously, Harris has a deep ego-investment in the belief that Religion Is Bad, and that good ol’ confirmation bias backs him up every time. I doubt that his mind could be opened to entertain another view. And that’s why he’s mostly clueless.

Making Islam the enemy is the last thing we should be doing now. For another view, see Salam Al Marayati, “The Key to Defeating ISIS Is Islam.”

Religious violence is a complex topic. Sometimes religious institutions have made cold-blooded decisions to betray their own doctrines and engage in violence, and this is usually related to either ensuring the institution’s survival or spreading its influence.  But examples of this kind of violence have become less common in the modern era, and I don’t know if it applies to any violence going on in the world now.

What I do know is that responses to religious violence coming from a place of knee-jerk bigotry and ignorance are not going to help us deal with it.

Read more about religious violence in Rethinking Religion: Finding a Place for Religion in a Modern, Tolerant, Progressive, Peaceful and Science-affirming World.

[Cr0ss-posted from Rethinking Religion Blog]

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Celtic Uprising Postponed

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Europe

Scotland voted to remain in the UK, which disappointed me a bit because I keep hoping the Great Celtic Uprising will happen while I’m at least around to watch it on the TeeVee and cheer it on. I do hope that at least the vote was enough of a nail-biter to have given David Cameron something to think about.

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Why Dems Lose, Reason # 32

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American History, National Security, Republican Party

This is something I’ve written about at length before — somehow, since about 1950, the Republicans have claimed the mantle of being the “tough” and “effective” party on matters of crime and national security even though there is absolutely nothing in the historical record to show that the nation has been any more or less secure or crime free under Republican Administrations than Democratic ones.Yet this doesn’t seem to sink into voters.

Peter Beinert (yeah, I know, it’s Peter Beinert) writes that Dems are in trouble because the “security moms” are back, possibly alarmed by the thought that ISIS is smuggling Ebola-infested Guatemalan babies across the border. So, naturally, when people are afraid they turn to Republicans because … why, exactly?

Steve M. writes,

Look, I understand that President Obama failed to anticipate the rise of ISIS and failed to prevent the beheading of two Americans, but George W. Bush failed to prevent 9/11, and these “security moms” responded by voting for his party in 2002 and 2004.

As a New Yorker, I’m familiar with the domestic version of this. If you’re a liberal mayor — David Dinkins or Bill de Blasio — the public’s reaction to a crime wave or a horrific crime on your watch is to blame you. If you’re a conservative mayor — Rudy Giuliani or the all-but-Republican Ed Koch — the reaction is to rally around you, because you’re “tough on crime.” A horrible crime on a tough mayor’s watch is considered further evidence that we need precisely the tough guy’s policies.

The 9/11 issue is a particular sticking point with me, and not just because I was an eyewitness to what happened to the WTC. I still don’t think the American people are aware that the Clinton Administration really had been sizing up al Qaeda and taking steps to beef up security, and that as soon as the Bushies took over in 2001 they dismissed all that. They not only brushed off the recommendations of a Senate commission that predicted a major terrorist attack on U.S. soil, they actually stopped the Senate from acting on the recommendations. They downgraded the threat of a Qaeda. They adamantly ignored all the hair-on-fire warnings being given them by U.S. intelligence as well as the intelligence services of several other nations.

When these facts began to come out in 2002 it fueled trutherism, but the truthers continue to ignore several other obvious facts, including the fact that the attacks caught the Bushies absolutely flat-footed. It’s been well documented that after  President Bush left the elementary school, Air Force One spent the next two hours circling Florida while Dubya and Dick argued about what to do next (press were on board; some media actually reported on it). If they had known it was going to happen they would have been prepared with chest-thumping theater, instead of needing three days to pull something together. And if the Bushies had picked a target, no way would they have picked towers full of their people, the captains of finance. They would have found a bunch of regular working stiffs to be martyrs.

I say that if there were a God, any time somebody actually says “Bush kept us safe” a giant hand would reach out of the sky and smack them.

Let us also pause to reflect on Beirut 1983 and Benghazi 2012, and the very different ways Congress dealt with these foreign disasters.

Of course, it’s the same thing with the economy. Everybody Knows Republicans are better for the economy, except history says otherwise. That history guy is either really stupid or knows something the rest of America doesn’t.

Gary Hart wrote,

Reason and facts are sacrificed to opinion and myth. Demonstrable falsehoods are circulated and recycled as fact. Narrow minded opinion refuses to be subjected to thought and analysis. Too many now subject events to a prefabricated set of interpretations, usually provided by a biased media source. The myth is more comfortable than the often difficult search for truth.

It also doesn’t help us that it’s considered “smart” to assume “both parties are just as bad.” The Dems largely are a pack of mutts who get themselves outmaneuvered  way too often, and many of them owe their careers to being Repubican Lite. But no, on the whole, both parties are not just as bad.

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The Wave That Is Not Waving

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elections

The GOP have their hopes pinned on a “wave” election in November, but right now several of the “statistical models” being use to predict the Senate elections are moving in the direction of Democrats. Nate Silver says the Dems have drawn almost even. The Washington Post’s prognosticators  have moved from predicting a huge Republican win to giving Dems a 51 percent edge. The New York Times now says it’s a tossup, although their model has shifted around quite a bit. Sam Wang still says 80 percent Dems.

What seems to be happening with at least some models is that as we move closer to the election the models are giving less weight to history and more to actual polls. We have many conditions in place that history says point to a Republican wave. But in real world land, it appears the wave isn’t waving.

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One of Those Days

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Obama Administration

Nothing is grabbing at me and yelling at me to write about it. We seem to be on a rerun loop. Today’s big items:

The Administration wants to put together an anti-ISIS coalition.

Paul Krugman complains that hardly anyone who influences economic policy is being influenced by competent economists.

Thomas Franks and some other leftie commenters appear to be having a pissing contest.

The crew that Breitbart left in charge of his empire when he died has a collective IQ in the negative numbers. Oh, and they’re being audited by the IRS

Schizophrenia is a genetic disorder. Eight different genetic disorders, actually.  Right now I think I may have about five of them. Just kidding.

Lindsey Graham must be the most terrified man in America.

Here’s the cheerful news: While Nate Silver still shows the Republicans are likely to take the Senate, the odds have changed. Today he’s saying the GOP has a 54.7 percent chance of taking the Senate; on September 9 the GOP had a 63.8 percent chance of taking the Senate, according to Nate. Sam Wang puts the Dems at 80 percent.

 

 

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Why Cruz Got Himself Booed

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Middle East

Last week Ted Cruz was invited to be the keynote speaker at a gala dinner for a group called In Defense of Christians, and he was booed off the stage. The group was made up mostly of Arab Christians, and the Christians they want defending were in the Middle East. Christians are being slaughtered in the Middle East. Homes and churches are being destroyed. They are in serious trouble.

But instead of talking about the crisis Christians in the Middle East are facing, Cruz made the speech about supporting Israel.

On first glance, this looked like an unforced error on Cruz’s part. He could have stood up and given an anti-ISIS, rah rah Christians speech, and they would have loved him. But I have come to believe he deliberately antagonized the group; he wanted to be booed. Read on to find out why.

First, the boos. The real kicker was when he said “Christians have no greater ally than Israel,” at which point a large part of the audience lost it.

Since then all manner of people have tried to understand why Cruz gave such an inappropriate speech. James Zogby:

It is generally known that Ted Cruz can be a demagogue, a quality that makes him immensely disliked by his colleagues. He is also considered to be quite bright and calculating. And so as I have attempted to understand why he did what he did, two distinct scenarios come to mind. It is possible that he went to the IDC conference to provoke a “Sister Souljah” moment — which he could then exploit with his supporters on the fundamentalist right as evidence of his political courage. It is more likely that he had no clue about the reaction his taunting remarks would receive and was, therefore, stunned by the audience reaction — and that it was only mid-stream that he decided that he could use the audience reaction to his political benefit.

In either case, Cruz displayed a shameful insensitivity to the concerns of Middle East Christians and a total lack of awareness of their history and current needs. Like too many of his colleagues, he can only see the Middle East through then lens of what is good for Israel. Because he comes out of the Christian fundamentalist world and now operates in the bubble of Washington politics, he simply had no understanding of his audience and no desire to listen to them and learn from them.

That’s what I thought, too, but I realize now I was wrong. At the American Conservative, Rod Dreher shed some light:

The politics of the Middle East are tangled and almost impossible to understand. Many Maronites despise the Palestinians, for example, blaming them for destroying Lebanon. Within Lebanon, there is no love lost between Maronites, who are Catholics, and the Orthodox. But many Maronites are fond, however grudgingly, of the Israelis, because they see them as the enemies of their enemies, the Palestinians. But not all Maronites feel that way. It’s complicated. Insanely complicated. And everybody suffers from the same conspiracy theorizing that is common currency in the Middle East.

You will appreciate, then, what a diplomatic feat it was to bring a group of top Christian leaders from the Middle East together in Washington for a summit to talk about the crisis of the persecution of Christians in the region. The Washington Free Beacon shamefully characterized the event as a pro-Hezbollah hootenanny, citing the anti-Israel politics of some conference participants as if that were the most important thing about this religious and human rights event. As if Israelis were the only people in the Middle East whose suffering matters.

Look at the Washington Free Beacon headline, which came out before Cruz gave his speech. Just look at it.

A light dawns. He had to get himself booed off the stage or risk becoming a pariah to the wingnut twits who are his base. It was deliberate.

In particular, the Free Beacon, Breitbart, and some other of the more irresponsible far-right propaganda tools named one of the conference attendees, Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai, as a Hozbollah supporter. But in June The Blaze reported,

A Hezbollah member of Lebanon’s parliament is criticizing Lebanon’s top Christian cleric after the religious leader visited Israel last week where he traveled with Pope Francis, prayed with local Christians and met with fighters from the now defunct South Lebanese Army (SLA) who fled to Israel more than a decade ago.

Member of Parliament Ali Meqdad on Saturday addressed Maronite Catholic Cardinal Beshara Rai’s meeting with the former Lebanese fighters, saying, “We do not want agents among us.”

This isn’t my primary area of expertise, but after some digging I get the impression that the Lebanese Christians are in a very precarious position of trying to not get caught in cross-fire between Hezbollah and Israel, and of course Lebanon also shares a long border with Syria, so they’ve got a lot to worry about, and the Patriarch is not averse to talking to people who need placating, including Hezbollah. And in 2011 he issued a statement that said Hezbollah had a right to defend itself against Israel, which may have been an expedient thing to say if you’re a Lebanese Christian. But in the simple minds of the children who run the Free Beacon and Breitbart, this makes the Patriarch and some other conference attendees the enemy.

The Christian Broadcast Network covered the speech this way —

Well, Sen. Ted Cruz had an interesting night in Washington D.C. Wednesday and our Brody File camera crew was there to capture it all.

Middle Eastern Christians booed Cruz off the stage during his speech at a summit in Washington D.C. It was sponsored by a group called In Defense of Christians.

Cruz came to speak about Christian solidarity with Israel but some in the crowd were Palestinian Christian supporters of the Syrian government and even the terrorist group Hezbollah. Things got rowdy.

But the summit was not about Christian solidarity with Israel. At The American Conservative, Daniel Larison wrote,

Cruz’s behavior was unnecessary, it was insulting to his hosts, it was needlessly provocative to the audience, and it was an embarrassment to his voters. Because he has proven time after time to be a shameless demagogue, none of that will bother him.

An important point that has been lost in many of the reactions to this incident is that Cruz was completely out of line to set some kind of ideological litmus test for the attendees that requires them to endorse the “pro-Israel” views that Cruz happens to hold. Cruz is free to hold those views, and many of his voters agree with him, but it is obnoxious to demand that others, including many Arab Christian clergy in attendance, subscribe to those views in order to obtain Cruz’s sympathy for their plight. Not only is “standing with Israel” irrelevant to the reason for the summit, but as this incident has proven it is a completely unnecessary distraction from the work of the organization that sponsored the event.

Even Ross Douthat gets it

WHEN the long, grim history of Christianity’s disappearance from the Middle East is written, Ted Cruz’s performance last week at a conference organized to highlight the persecution of his co-religionists will merit at most a footnote. But sometimes a footnote can help illuminate a tragedy’s unhappy whole. …

… Many conservatives think Cruz acquitted himself admirably, and he’s earned admiring headlines around the right-wing web. There is a certain airless logic to this pro-Cruz take — that because Assad and Hezbollah are murderers and enemies of Israel, anyone who deals with them deserves to be confronted, and if that confrontation meets with boos, you’ve probably exposed anti-Semites who deserve to be attacked still more.

But this logic shows not a scintilla of sympathy for what it’s actually like to be an embattled religious minority, against whom genocide isn’t just being threatened but actually carried out.

And strictly speaking, Arabs are Semites, too, or at least the dictionary says so. But Cruz wasn’t just being stupid. He did what he had to do to help himself.

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