Tea Party movement can't grasp meaning of "socialism"

So the North Iowa Tea Party covered up their Mason City billboard that juxtaposed pictures of Adolf Hitler ("National Socialism"), Barack Obama ("Democrat Socialism") and Vladimir Lenin ("Marxist Socialism") over the slogan, "Radical leaders prey on the fearful & naive." (Here’s a photo.) Activists in statewide tea party circles repudiated the billboard. Ryan Rhodes, chairman of the Iowa Tea Party movement, wants fellow travelers to educate the public about freedom and U.S. history. Rhodes’ problem was the Hitler imagery, not the underlying message that we’re headed toward socialism.

I know I’m supposed to be outraged that right-wingers would compare Obama to Hitler, but I’m too stunned that anyone paying attention to the news could view Obama as “socialist.” I got a window onto the tea party mindset from Bob Johnson, one of the Mason City billboard’s creators. For your weekly dose of unintentional comedy, I recommend Jennifer Jacobs’ interview with Johnson on the Des Moines Register blog. Among his insights:

“It was absolutely not the aim to just create controversy. Nobody’s more surprised about the thing than I am,” Johnson said. “This billboard was misunderstood. I’m not going to say it was a mistake.” […]

“We had some hesitations about it,” Johnson said, “but for those that understand it, it’s just such a powerful billboard, so we said screw it and go ahead with it.” […]

“When we put that Hitler up there, it just totally overwhelmed everything on the billboard,” Johnson said. “That’s the one thing that just destroyed the whole concept we did not realize the power Hitler still has, the emotion.” […]

“When you want to compare the present administration to Hitler, Hitler took over the banks. Gee, what’s this administration doing? Hitler took over the health care. Gee. Hitler took over the transportation and what’s this administration doing? If that wasn’t a direct comparison to socialism, I don’t know what is.”

Let’s consider the so-called government takeover of health care, a major area of concern for the tea partiers. Under socialized medicine (as exists in real socialist countries), the government employs all the doctors and runs all the clinics and hospitals. Under single-payer health care (as exists in Canada), the government pays for medical care, but most doctors and medical institutions are privately operated.

In contrast, Obama had his top aides cut deals with health industry interests, working closely with the most corporate-friendly Congressional  committee drafting a health reform bill. The key staffer charged with writing that committee’s bill, Liz Fowler, came straight from one of the largest health insurance companies. Obama broke many significant campaign promises on health care so as not to tread on corporate interests. As a result, key industries got virtually everything they wanted from the bill that passed. Private health insurance companies are now guaranteed millions of new customers in the coming years, with no new competition from government-run entities. Completing the circle, Fowler is now working for the Obama administration to help implement the health reform law.

Rest assured, no corporate CEO in America is lying awake at night worried about “socialist” health care the way Johnson says he worried people might bomb his house because they didn’t like his billboard.

Most of the Obama administration’s economic team came straight from the Wall Street culture, and the president hasn’t tried to “take over” or even break up major financial institutions.

I have no idea what Johnson is talking about when he suggests the Obama administration has been taking over the transportation sector.

Anyone who has such a skewed view of this corporate-friendly administration could gain perspective from spending a few weeks in a socialist country.

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Take a few minutes to fill out your census form

April 1 is the U.S. Census Bureau’s target date for Americans to fill out and return their census forms. Every 1 percent increase in the census mail-back rate saves the U.S. Census Bureau about $85 million. After April 10, the bureau will start sending out census-takers to households that did not return their forms. President Barack Obama filled out his own family’s form and declared today "Census Day":

The First Ladys mother lives with the family in the White House. Since the census asks for a count of everyone currently living in the household – not just immediate family – the President included his mother-in-law on his census form.

In these difficult economic times its common for extended family and friends to live with another family, yet many households mistakenly leave these individuals off their census forms.

Mr. desmoinesdem and I filled out our family’s form and mailed it back a couple of weeks ago. There are no “long forms” anymore; everyone gets the short survey with just 10 questions.

As of this morning, the national census participation rate was 52 percent; you can click on this interactive map to find participation rates in your area. Today Iowa ranked fifth among the states with a 60 percent participation rate. South Dakota and Wisconsin tied for first place with a 62 percent participation rate, and North Dakota and Nebraska tied for third with 61 percent. Within Iowa, a few towns had participation rates exceeding 80 percent. About 63 percent of households in my corner of the state, Windsor Heights, have returned their census forms so far.

Although some conservatives hyperventilate about the demographic questions on the census form, recording the race and ethnicity of U.S. residents helps the government “execute and monitor laws and programs that are targeted to specific groups.” Like conservative arguments about the legality of health insurance reform, objections to the census questions have no basis in constitutional law:

On numerous occasions, the courts have said the Constitution gives Congress the authority to collect statistics in the census. As early as 1870, the Supreme Court characterized as unquestionable the power of Congress to require both an enumeration and the collection of statistics in the census. The Legal Tender Cases, Tex.1870; 12 Wall., U.S., 457, 536, 20 L.Ed. 287. In 1901, a District Court said the Constitution’s census clause (Art. 1, Sec. 2, Clause 3) is not limited to a headcount of the population and “does not prohibit the gathering of other statistics, if ‘necessary and proper,’ for the intelligent exercise of other powers enumerated in the constitution, and in such case there could be no objection to acquiring this information through the same machinery by which the population is enumerated.” United States v. Moriarity, 106 F. 886, 891 (S.D.N.Y.1901).

The census does not violate the Fourth Amendment. Morales v. Daley, 116 F. Supp. 2d 801, 820 (S.D. Tex. 2000). In concluding that there was no basis for holding Census 2000 unconstitutional, the District Court in Morales ruled that the 2000 Census and the 2000 Census questions did not violate the Fourth Amendment or other constitutional provisions as alleged by plaintiffs. (The Morales court said responses to census questions are not a violation of a citizen’s right to privacy or speech.) […]

These decisions are consistent with the Supreme Court’s recent description of the census as the “linchpin of the federal statistical system … collecting data on the characteristics of individuals, households, and housing units throughout the country.” Dept. of Commerce v. U.S. House of Representatives, 525 U.S. 316, 341 (1999).

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread.

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Steve King has empathy after all (updated)

Representative Steve King doesn’t come across as the most compassionate guy in the world, bragging about opposing aid for Hurricane Katrina victims and questioning the need to stop deporting undocumented Haitian immigrants after last month’s earthquake.

But if you thought King was incapable of feeling empathy, you’re wrong. Over the weekend he spoke to a panel on immigration at the Conservative Political Action Conference:

During his closing remarks, King veered into a complaint about high taxes, and said he could “empathize” with the man who flew a plane into an IRS building last week.

During the question and answer session, the Media Matters staffer asked King to clarify his comment, reminding him of his sworn duty to protect the American people from all sworn enemies, foreign and domestic. In response, said the staffer, King gave a long and convoluted answer about having been personally audited by the IRS, and ended by saying he intended to hold a fundraiser to help people “implode” their local IRS office.

That’s right, King feels empathy for a guy who crashed his plane into a federal building, intending to harm the IRS employees inside. In the process, the man killed a loving family man and longtime federal worker who served two terms in Vietnam.

Following King’s remarks at the CPAC panel, a man with a video camera gave the congressman a chance to clarify his remarks. King dug deeper. (continues after the jump)

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Republican National Committee rejects "purity test"

The Republican National Committee won’t be imposing the "purity test" proposed by committeeman James Bopp of Indiana. During last week’s meetings in Honolulu, a group of state GOP chairs unanimously voted against requiring Republican candidates to agree with at least eight out of ten conservative policy stands in order to receive RNC support during the 2010 campaign.

Bopp withdrew his motion from the floor on Friday after a compromise had been reached. RNC members then unanimously passed a non-binding resolution that “only ‘urges’ party leaders to support nominees who back the party’s platform,” Politico’s Jonathan Martin reported.

Republican candidates for U.S. Senate in Illinois and Delaware would have failed Bopp’s purity test and therefore not qualified for RNC support. The resolution that passed does not penalize candidates who disagree with various “core principles” of the GOP. Still, Bopp tried to spin the compromise as a victory:

“You’ve got to determine that the candidate supports all the core principles of the Republican Party before you support them,” he said, explaining the alternate measure.

But when asked whether it was binding, Bopp was cut off by Oregon GOP Chairman Bob Tiernan, who was standing nearby the impromptu press briefing.

“That resolution passed is not binding; it’s a suggestion,” said Tiernan.

As Bopp began to again make his case for the compromise, Tiernan again interjected.

“There’s nothing mandatory or required in there,” the Oregonian noted.

“Can I answer the question, Mr. Chairman?” Bopp shot back.

Continuing, Bopp explained that he thought the RNC’s decision to, for the first time, make it party policy to urge candidates to pledge fealty to the GOP platform represented a significant step.

But Tiernan, standing just over Bopp’s shoulder, again rebutted his committee colleague.

“I’m not going to take that back and make my candidates sign it, that’s ridiculous,” Tiernan said, gesturing toward the compromise resolution in a reporter’s hand. “We don’t have a litmus test and we rejected the litmus test today.”

As Bopp continued, Tiernan again spoke up.

“There’s nothing binding in there,” said the state chairman.

“Can I finish?” a plainly annoyed Bopp asked.

“Read the words,” replied Tiernan.

“Shut up,” Bopp finally said.

Although the RNC papered over this dispute, clearly tensions remain over whether Republican leaders should insist that candidates be conservatives.

Two of Iowa’s RNC members, Steve Scheffler and Kim Lehman, supported Bopp’s purity test. Our state’s third representative on the RNC, Iowa GOP chairman Matt Strawn, didn’t comment on Bopp’s effort when it first emerged or last week, to my knowledge. I assume he agreed with other state party chairs, who according to various reports strongly opposed the idea. If that is inaccurate, I hope someone will correct me.

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The shrinking Republican tent (part 2)

Not long ago I noted that Republicans are not even considering a socially moderate candidate to challenge Dave Loebsack in Iowa’s most Democratic-leaning Congressional district.

Now some members of the Republican National Committee have the bright idea of cutting off party support for any candidate, anywhere, who strays too far from conservative dogma.

I knew some conservatives were crazy, but I didn’t know they were that crazy.

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