PHOENIX -- The demographic death spiral of the conservative movement has a laugh track. It was recorded live in Barry Goldwater's hometown on Saturday night, in front of a 1,000-person ballroom audience, during a banquet roast of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the gala conclusion to the annual Western Conservative Conference, known until last year as Western CPAC.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne laid down the basic comic framework for his fellow roasters, totaling a dozen conservative dignitaries of local and national reputation. "Apologies to the Civic Center," said Horne, "but half of the kitchen staff was arrested tonight upon arrival of Joe and his deputies. Because of a budget crunch, the sheriff's cutting way back. No more green baloney for prisoners -- just an extra beating at suppertime. Over the years, Joe's touched many people. We know because many are now pressing charges."
Chuckling throughout Horne's routine on stage next to Arpaio was Russell Pearce, a recalled state senator with a documented fondness for neo-Nazi websites, and the primary architect of Arizona's controversial immigration bill S.B. 1070. Pearce smiled as his one-time ally in the 1070 fight, Arizona State Rep. John Kavanagh, began his set asking, "How many Hispanics did you pull over on the way over here, Arpaio?" He later added, "All these years I figured he was rounding up Hispanics because you had a grudge from [fighting in] the Spanish-American War. But if you were in the Korean War, how come you're not rounding up Asians?" Kavanagh was doing a bit about the difficulties of dining out with Arpaio -- "When we go into a restaurant, most of the wait staff and cooks dive out the back window" -- when he spotted a passing waiter who appeared to be Hispanic holding a platter of stuffed chickens, and screamed, "There's a brave one! Get him! Sic 'em!"
The crowd roared; the waiter turned red. Thus did a day of strategy sessions on how to reclaim the White House and build a new conservative majority end with national movement leaders affectionately teasing a divisive deport-'em-all drug-war dinosaur, whose roast material revolved entirely around the three facts of his being old, sadistic, and having a bit of a brown-person problem. The Tea Party's loud rejection of immigration reform shows it has also refused the message of electoral emergency delivered by Barack Obama's 2012 victory map. But if anyone needed another reminder, they now have the image of Joe Arpaio receiving a "Medal of Freedom" award in recognition of his rough detainment and deportation techniques, and a taste for racial profiling so aggressive it has resulted in a federally appointed monitor in Maricopa County.
The man behind the Western Conservative Conference, Floyd Brown, has never been very good at helping the GOP build bridges. In 1988, he created the infamous "Willie Horton" ad that has dogged his party's outreach efforts ever since. But Brown's interests and achievements are more diverse than scorched-earth political advertising. He has been a Zelig-like presence on the right for the better part of three decades, zig-zagging his way through and connecting the worlds of conservative organizing, publishing, opposition research, campaigning, fundraising, marketing, and predatory investment advice.
A co-founder of Citizens United, Brown now runs a marketing company, Excellentia Inc., helping clients "achieve success in the conservative and Christian marketplace." He works as a traveling speaker for groups like the Oxford Group claiming to offer "insider" stock tips and advice. He also pushes gold coins and municipal bonds, sometimes in mutual exclusion of the other, depending on his audience.
All of which makes Brown a perfect impresario for today's conservative grassroots activist circuit, where organizing and politics can seem incidental to the interests of an interlocking constellation of thinly veiled data mining, fundraising, and precious metals operations. This was sometimes the case in Phoenix, where an older, nearly all-white group of activist-attendees from Western states paid $399 to train under the tutelage of organizers from Heritage Action and the Leadership Institute, as well as hear national figures pitch gold coins and radio shows. The bold-face names who appeared live or by video included Sen. Ted Cruz, Gov. Rick Perry, and embattled National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent, who was welcomed despite being under fire for racist attacks on President Obama.
Last week conservative radio host Neal Boortz issued a challenge via Twitter:
Boortz's challenge came after Media Matters shone a spotlight on his claim that President Obama's reelection represented a bigger threat to the United States of America than Al Qaeda and Adolf Hitler.
After Boortz issued his challenge, I replied via Twitter:
Media Matters scheduled an appearance through Neal Boortz's producer and the debate was set up for today from 10:05 to 10:20 AM - or so we thought.
Conservative talk radio host Neal Boortz unleashed an astounding array of attacks on President Obama on Thursday, likening him to figures such as Adolf Hitler and serial killer Ted Bundy, as well as terrorist groups Al Qaeda and Ansar al-Sharia.
Boortz, whose Atlanta radio show is nationally syndicated, was addressing a commentary by Herman Cain, in which the former Republican presidential candidate congratulated Obama on his reelection. Boortz replied: "OK, Herman Cain, that's BS." He continued:
BOORTZ: I would like to congratulate Richard Speck. I would -- you know, I would like to congratulate Ted Bundy on sneaking into yet another sorority house and killing another coed. I would like to congratulate Adolf Hitler on his invasion of Poland. I would like to congratulate the -- Al Qaeda for their successful attack on New York City. I would like to congratulate the Ansar al-Sharia crowd over there in Benghazi for their successful assault on our consulate.
Congratulate Barack Obama? I'm sorry, Herman, love you but you can take that and stick in that phony damn cowboy hat of yours.
He went on to accuse Obama of being "dedicated to the destruction of our economic system" and the "weakening" of America and the U.S. military. Boortz also called Obama a liar and a thief and claimed he gave "away enough to con a bunch of ignorant, stupid voters into giving him the power to carry out his anti-American schemes."
He concluded by saying, "I fear that man," adding, "The Bible, according to Barack Obama: Though shalt not steal, except by majority rule."
During the October 22 presidential debate, conservative media took to Twitter to launch personal attacks against President Obama in an attempt to criticize his performance and distract from Mitt Romney's lies.
Conservative commentator Ann Coulter referred to Obama as "the retard":
Fox News contributor Stephen Hayes wrote, "Seems to me President Obama's condescension has crossed the line from aggressive to disrespectful. Will voters like him mocking Romney?"
Today, the Supreme Court upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as constitutional. Right-wing media figures immediately began venting on Twitter. Here is an hour's worth of the worst right-wing ranting about the Supreme Court decision after it was announced:
After waging an epic misinformation campaign during the debate over the Affordable Care Act and throughout the year following its signing, right-wing media have continued attacking the health care law, claiming that it is the "final nail in the coffin of this country" and that it "makes everyone a slave." As the two-year anniversary of the health care law approaches, Media Matters looks back at the right-wing media's latest attacks on health care reform.
Right-wing talk radio host and frequent Fox News guest Neal Boortz, who has said that President Obama "is a bigger disaster to this country than 9-11," is now comparing Obama to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In a post on his Twitter feed, Boortz wrote: "Trying to convince myself that under the right circumstances Obama wouldn't be another Bashir [sic] Assad. Trying .... but I can't":
The Syrian government is currently engaged in cracking down on an 11-month-old uprising protesting the Assad family's 42-year rule of the country. The brutal suppression has resulted in many deaths. According to human rights organizations, the current military assault on the city of Homs has "killed at least 300 civilians and wounded 1,000." Numerous countries, including the United States, have pulled their diplomatic envoys from the country amid the mounting violence.
In October 2011, Boortz stated that "Barack Obama is a bigger disaster to this country than 9-11." Asked to explain his statement, he added that "killing 3,000 people is a tragedy," but that "killing the individualism, the self-reliance, and the self-respect of the American people, like Barack Obama has done, is much more of a tragedy." Boortz's comments drew fire from 9-11 victims' families, who said the comparison was an insult.
In December 2009, Boortz similarly wrote on his Twitter feed that 9-11 was "[h]orrible," but "the damage Obama and the Dems are doing will surpass this tragic event."
As income disparities continue to increase, and the effective tax rate paid by the rich remains at historic lows, right-wing media figures work hard to make sure none of that changes. They routinely attack the poor and programs designed to assist them, while simultaneously extolling the rich and defending them against any attempt to get them to pay their fair share of taxes.
According to right-wing talk radio host and frequent Fox News guest Neal Boortz, America's poor are "toenail fungus."
ROMNEY: I'm in this race because I care about Americans. I'm not concerned about the very poor, we have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I'll fix it. I'm not concerned about the very rich, they're doing just fine. I'm just concerned about the very heart of America, the 90, 95 percent of Americans right now who are struggling, and I'll continue to take that message across the nation.
Talking Points Memo reported that several conservative commentators chastised Romney for the statement:
"Facepalm," Michelle Malkin wrote of the incident, which she said "could easily have been a Saturday Night Live parody"
Over at the National Review, Jonah Goldberg said the quote raised concerns that Romney is "simply not a good enough politician" to beat Obama.
"There are plenty of things one could say to defend Romney on the merits of what he says here," he wrote. "But great politicians on the morning after a big win, don't force their supporters to go around defending the candidate from the charge that he doesn't care about the poor. They just don't."
"Romney's 'I'm not concerned with the very poor' line may be the most idiotic thing a politician has ever said," The Weekly Standard's John McCormack tweeted.
RedState, whose bloggers have traditionally not been Romney fans, added their voices to the pile. According to co-founder Erick Erickson, Romney "played straight into the liberal caricature that Republicans don't have hearts." He added that "The issue here is not that Romney is right or wrong, but that he is handing choice sound bites to the Democrats to make him as unlikeable as he made Newt Gingrich."
It's unsurprising that Boortz would up the ante while defending Romney's statement. Boortz once said that "single mothers receiving public assistance" are "welfare broodmares." Boortz also called the people of New Orleans displaced by Hurricane Katrina "garbage" and "worthless parasites," who could not "get out of the way of the water when that levee broke." He opined: "When these Katrina so-called refugees were scattered about the country, it was just a glorified episode of putting out the garbage." He earlier referred to Katrina refugees as "debris," saying:
I love talking to you about these Katrina refugees. I mean, so many of them have turned out to be complete bums, just debris. Debris that Hurricane Katrina washed across the country.
Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson claimed that "for the first three years of [Obama's] administration, many people would argue that he was all about raising taxes." In fact, Obama has lowered taxes repeatedly; he called for many tax cuts before becoming president as part of his economic plan; and more than half the cost of the jobs bill he proposed this year came from tax cuts.
From the December 6 edition of Fox Business' Power and Money:
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Radio Host Neal Boortz's attempt to compare President Obama's presidency to the tragedy of September 11 drew harsh criticism from several relatives of people who died on that day.
Boortz, appearing on Fox News' Hannity program Thursday night, stated: "Barack Obama is a bigger disaster to this country than 9-11."
For some of those who lost loved ones that day, the comparison is an insult.
"One of the most unsettling aspects of the aftermath of 9-11 has been the politicization of it," said Donald Goodrich, whose son, Peter, died in the attacks.
"It is a sad commentary on our democracy that the loss of nearly 3,000 innocent civilians of every political persuasion and religious conviction is used to demonize a president of this great country."
Timothy Sumner, whose brother-in-law was a firefighter killed on September 11, said he is no fan of Obama. But he criticized Boortz's comparison
"I think it's a ridiculous comment, it is so far off the topic, how can you emote from that?" Sumner said. "It is not even related to 9/11.
"I have issues with Barack Obama. But when you make comments like that, it is so over the top and out of context it is hard to do anything but laugh at the comment, it seems idiotic."
For Nancy Aronson, whose sister-in-law, Myra, was killed on September 11, the response was shock.
"Oh my God!" she said. "That's just ridiculous. It's politicizing an international tragedy. People from 53 countries died on September 11. Even linking Obama with that, it's just a non sequitur."
Herb Ouida's son, Todd, was killed in the North Tower on September 11. Ouida said the comparison to and criticism of Obama are both wrong.
What a way to mark 15 years on the air. During Fox News' celebratory broadcast from Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, Sean Hannity welcomed radio host Neal Boortz to help mark the milestone. Boortz, who is no fan of President Obama, intoned, "Barack Obama is a bigger disaster to this country than 9-11." The crowd behind him cheered loudly.
From the exchange with Hannity:
HANNITY: You once told me that you always viewed yourself as an entertainer. You don't feel that way anymore. Nine-eleven changed you. The state of the economy changed you. And you told -- remember the conversation that we had?
BOORTZ: Nine-eleven changed me somewhat but -- is AttackWatch -- you think they're -- OK. Barack Obama is a bigger disaster to this country than 9-11.
BOORTZ: And you talk about changing -- if you took the phrase "fair share," "millionaires and billionaires," and "pass this bill" out of his vocabulary, he would be unable to deliver a speech.
[laughter and cheering]
HANNITY: Wait, what do you mean he's more disastrous than 9-11? We've lost 3,000 lives.
BOORTZ: Because, look, the American people developed a fighting spirit after 9-11 and we responded. We went back after them and if allowed to, the defeat would be total. But Barack Obama, what he has done to our economy, what he has done to the American spirit of individual responsibility and self-reliance -- you know, killing 3,000 people is a tragedy, Sean. It is a real tragedy. But killing the individualism, the self-reliance, and the self-respect of the American people, like Barack Obama has done, is much more of a tragedy.
Hannity then stated: "All right. Thank you both for being here on the 15th anniversary. Appreciate you." The crowd could still be heard clapping and cheering wildly as Hannity spoke. He did not revisit Boortz's remarks during the rest of his show.
It's telling that Fox would welcome Boortz to its guest lineup to mark its 15-year anniversary in a city that he openly disparaged just a few months ago. But as we've noted in the past, reckless rhetoric is welcomed on the network.
From the October 6 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Fox News' Steve Doocy and guest Neal Boortz hyped GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain's "9-9-9" tax plan on Fox & Friends, claiming low-income tax payers would "probably still [come] out ahead" under Cain's plan. However, experts have said that lower and middle income families would bear a disproportionately larger tax burden under Cain's plan, while some higher-income earners would see their taxes decrease.