PFAW's Peter Montgomery Discusses the Trump-Pence Ticket and the RNC on Democracy Now!

Last week People For the American Way Senior Fellow Peter Montgomery was in Cleveland, Ohio, covering this year’s Republican National Convention for Right Wing Watch.

On Thursday, he joined Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! to discuss Donald Trump’s selection of Governor Mike Pence as his running mate, the Religious Right’s response to this choice, and Montgomery’s recent piece in Right Wing Watch entitled, “How Would Religious Right Respond to Pence as VP?” Montgomery told Goodman:

“I think he [Trump] probably chose Mike Pence because Mike Pence is close to both the Koch brothers’ political network and to the Religious Right. And those are two hugely important parts of the Republican infrastructure that have not been uniformly excited about Trump.”

While on the program, Montgomery also detailed some instances of hate speech and intolerance that he observed in Cleveland, including misogynistic rhetoric about Hillary Clinton, attacks on Black Lives Matter activists, and attacks on immigrants. “It’s really been a disturbing show,” Montgomery said.

You can watch the full interview here:

[https://publish.dvlabs.com/democracynow/360/dn2016-0721.mp4?start=4548&end=5065]

PFAW

Trump: "I alone can fix this."

Donald Trump’s big speech last night was full of false humility, false promises, false sympathy (for minorities, women, and workers), and outright falsehoods. He affirmed various right-wing tropes for his base, but the speech was -- at its core -- a naked attempt to con the voters Trump and the Republicans need to sway to their side by November.

Trump was introduced by his daughter Ivanka, who was completely out of touch with the Republican Party by claiming that Trump would change labor laws to ensure equality in the workplace for women and, especially, mothers. Of course, the Republican Party has firmly opposed those same policies for years, and the federal judges promised by Trump subscribe to an ideology that shuns protections for women -- not to mention the fact that Trump himself has called pregnancy “an inconvenience” for business.

Citing the recent mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Trump promised to keep LGBTQ Americans, specifically, safe from Islam … but what they really need is to be kept safe from Republican policies.

Trump’s chosen running mate, Mike Pence, is the most anti-gay vice presidential nominee in memory. He once called for HIV/AIDS funding to be reallocated to “gay conversion therapy.”

This Republican Convention, just days before Trump’s speech, passed the most anti-gay major party platform EVER -- including opposition to same-sex marriage, adoption by LGBT people, and protections for transgendered students, as well as support for, you guessed it, “gay conversion therapy.”

And almost the very next part of Trump’s speech focused on the kind of Supreme Court justices he wants to appoint -- the kind that have consistently opposed legal protections for LGBT rights! (Let’s not forget that earlier this year Trump pledged to nominated justices who were against what he called the “shocking” Supreme Court decision affirming marriage equality as a right.)

Trump also distorted statistics to gin up the anxiety and inflame many of the false perceptions driven by right-wing media lies, oversaturation of sensationalistic news stories, and the violent videos and memes that constantly go viral on social media.

The reality is that, despite recent high-profile, and rightfully concerning, tragedies, violent crime is at historically low levels, and has been trending down, not up. Same goes for illegal immigration. And those are just two examples -- Trump also promoted Orwellian notions about our military being “depleted,” refugees not being vetted, and the US being humiliated on the global stage that run directly counter to the actual facts.

As one of my colleagues here at PFAW pointed out, Trump was lying from his very first breath last night, when he said he “humbly” accepts his party’s nomination -- clearly, this is not a man who does anything “humbly.” In fact, Trump seems to believe a previous convention speaker’s assertion that he “is sent from God.”

The entire theme of Trump’s speech was that the country is beset by crises of a historic magnitude and that Trump and ONLY Trump can save us. His speech, which has widely been called "apocalyptic," made the case that Americans are completely unsafe, and are under siege from enemies both within and outside our borders … that the state of the economy is terrible.

He said he would fix all of our problems quickly upon taking office -- make the streets safe, bring back all of our lost manufacturing jobs, expand opportunity for young people and minorities, and more -- but declined to say how.

He also reminded the crowd that his economic “plan” includes the biggest tax cut of all of this year’s candidates in either major party -- weighted heavily for the ultra-rich, of course -- but at the same time promised wildly expensive programs, including his infamous border wall -- the price tag of which analysts estimate would be at least $25 billion (no, Mexico is not going to pay for it). It’s a recipe for a behemoth deficit … but of course, facts don’t matter … and never have for Trump.

Now, as if all of that wasn’t scary enough, here’s the really scary part: There are many -- too many -- Americans that will find all of Trump’s blustery rhetoric and empty promises appealing. If there is anything history has taught, it’s that when people are afraid, they will put power in the hands of strongman leaders who promise safety and national glory. We’re even seeing it right now in other places in the world.

Sadly, no one should be surprised to see Donald Trump get a significant post-convention bump in the polls, both nationally and in key swing states (like the Rust Belt states he is specifically targeting).

We need to keep voters’ attention on the GOP’s radical agenda, and on the hate and extremism that were on display all week long at their convention.

We need to ERASE any polling bounce and success Trump gets from last night’s speech.

And we need to DEFEAT right-wing extremists like Trump and many of the other candidates running in the GOP.

PFAW

Beyond the plagiarism: 9 more important stories from Day 1 of the convention

By now, it’s likely that you’ve seen the reports that last night’s featured speaker Melania Trump, in a move that would seem typical of her husband, PLAGIARIZED Michelle Obama, from the First Lady’s convention speech in 2008.

But while the media today remains distracted by Mrs. Trump’s ironic theft of a Michelle Obama passage about family and community values, it’s vitally important that we try to keep some attention on the truly shocking and frightening -- things that happened yesterday both on- and off-stage at the convention.

Here’s a quick recap of some of the other biggest stories from Day 1 of the GOP Convention.

Anti-Trump delegates attempted a brief but chaotic revolt on the floor of the convention hall -- seemingly more as a show than an actual attempt to seek a different nominee.

The protest, while offering a bit of early drama, was quickly scuttled by Trump loyalists, giving us the day’s first concrete demonstration of the GOP now being, definitively, the Party of Donald Trump -- but just the first example of many.

One of the more high profile offsite events of the day was the “America First Unity Rally,” hosted by unhinged radio conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, a hate radio talker who has been embraced by Trump, and Trump adviser and legendary political dirty trickster Roger Stone. PFAW’s Right Wing Watch was on the ground to cover the event, which definitely did not shy away from inflammatory speakers or topics.

During one of the many media discussions with Republican leaders from the convention hall, Rep. Steve King of Iowa -- one of the GOP’s loudest xenophobic voices -- defended the politics of racial resentment that is driving much of Trump’s movement by insisting that white people have contributed more to civilization than “any other subgroup of people.”

Then it was time for the evening program of speakers…

Grieving family members of people who lost their lives in Benghazi and to crimes involving undocumented immigrants were trotted out as sympathetic and relatable figures to rally viewers against the people the GOP says are responsible for all of those tragedies: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and all 11 million undocumented immigrants living and working in the US.

Scott Baio and Antonio Sabato, Jr. were among the first “celebrities” to take the stage and speak on behalf of their friend Donald Trump. They both gave subsequent interviews in which the former defended his posting of a meme referring to Hillary Clinton as a “cunt” and the latter said he "absolutely" believes President Obama is a Muslim.

An anti-government extremist sheriff gave a taunting speech in which he called Black Lives Matter “anarchy” and celebrated the latest acquittal of one of the Baltimore police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray as a victory over “malicious prosecution.”

Republicans like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani gave characteristically bombastic speeches.

Then, Donald Trump took the stage -- to Queen’s We Are the Champions, a song that the band’s guitarist Brian May was outraged to hear Trump was using on the campaign trail before he specifically asked Trump not to use it months ago. It’s perhaps worth mentioning that Queen’s singer, Freddie Mercury, was a gay man who died of AIDS, and Donald Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, once advocated that money for HIV/AIDS care be reallocated to groups conducting gay conversion therapy (something that is also, incidentally, promoted in this year’s official Republican Party Platform).

During one of the evening’s earlier speeches, Donald Trump had called into Fox News to bash his former primary rival Gov. John Kasich and claim credit for the idea of holding the Republican Convention in Ohio -- a demonstrable outright lie.

It’s going to be an interesting week.

Continue to check PFAW’s Right Wing Watch at rightwingwatch.org for ongoing convention coverage.


 

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PFAW

Senate GOP Keeping Court Vacancies Open So Trump Can Transform America’s Judiciary

This piece originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

The Constitution sets up an independent judiciary as the third branch of government, intended to protect people’s rights and to serve as a check on the power of the other two branches. Our nation’s charter tasks the president and the Senate with the job of selecting and vetting the people who would serve on those courts.  President Obama has been doing his duty by nominating qualified women and men to serve as judges at all levels of the judiciary, including the Supreme Court.

But the GOP-controlled Senate is not living up to its constitutional responsibilities. While this has always been harmful to America, it is even more so with Donald Trump the presumed presidential nominee of his party.

Mitch McConnell and his party have slow-walked or outright blocked so many nominees that the number of circuit and district court vacancies has risen from 40 when they took over the Senate to 80 today. (There are also several vacancies for the Court of International Trade and the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.) In that same time, the number of vacancies formally designated as judicial emergencies has skyrocketed from 12 to 29. The Senate has not been allowed to vote on nominees who were thoroughly vetted and approved months ago by the Judiciary Committee with strong bipartisan support.

Yesterday, Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin went to the floor to draw attention to the problem. She noted that while the Senate GOP’s blockade of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland has been in the headlines, that has not been the case with the obstruction of lower court nominees.

She focused particularly on Seventh Circuit nominee Donald Schott, who not only has Democrat Baldwin’s support, but also that of his other home-state senator, Republican Ron Johnson.  Schott would fill the nation’s longest circuit court vacancy, which has been open for well over six years.  Since the Supreme Court takes so few cases, the Seventh Circuit is usually the last word on the meaning of the Constitution and federal laws for millions of people in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana, and every day that goes by with that vacancy open hurts everyone in those states.  Schott earned strong bipartisan support from the Judiciary Committee, which advanced his nomination to the full Senate four weeks ago.  Baldwin noted that Schott also has the support of a bipartisan group of former Wisconsin Bar presidents.  Saying that “the people of Wisconsin and our neighbors in Illinois and Indiana deserve a fully functioning appeals court,” Baldwin urged McConnell to finally allow votes on Schott and on all of the judicial nominees who have cleared the Judiciary Committee.  Many of them have been waiting for more than half a year for a floor vote, with several having been approved by the Judiciary Committee last year.

But Republicans are fighting to keep vacancies open for as long as possible so that they will be filled by a President Donald Trump.

Donald Trump, who wants to make it easier for the government to punish media sources whose reporting he disagrees with.

Donald Trump, who has said that Latinos cannot serve effectively as unbiased judges.

Donald Trump, who would ban certain people from entering the country based on their religion.

Donald Trump, who has demeaned and humiliated women at every opportunity.

Donald Trump, who has used hate groups’ blatantly anti-Semitic imagery in his campaign.

Donald Trump, who has said he is considering firing all Muslim TSA agents.

With serious discussion among scholars, political figures, and Americans across the political spectrum on whether Trump’s extreme views amount to fascism, we need a strong, effective, and independent federal judiciary more than ever. Yet Senate Republicans are pulling out the stops to allow Donald Trump to move quickly to dramatically transform our judiciary from the Supreme Court on down.

The Senate GOP is abdicating their constitutional and moral responsibility to the American people and to our democracy.

PFAW

We the People versus Donald Trump

This piece originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

Donald Trump is an unhinged con man who regularly fans the flames of racism, sexism and xenophobia. Yet disturbingly, he has become the presumptive Republican nominee for president of the United States. Part of what appears to be bolstering the support he does have is his supposed business success and his claim to be insulated from special interest pressure by “self-funding” his campaign. But these claims, like so many others, are egregiously misleading. Whether it’s the predatory scheme known as Trump University, or his recent slew of fundraising events catering to wealthy donors, it’s clearer with each passing day that much of Trump’s support is built on manipulation and outright deceit.

Trump’s claims about not being beholden to rich donors was understandably appealing to an electorate that’s tired of an out-of-balance political system that shuts out the voices of everyday Americans. Throughout the Republican primary, Trump repeatedly lambasted his opponents for being in the pockets of wealthy donors. When Sheldon Adelson was considering supporting Sen. Marco Rubio, for example, Trump tweeted that Adelson wanted to support Rubio so he could make him into “his perfect little puppet.” But Trump’s actions don’t live up to his rhetoric.

Trump has made raising money from wealthy interests a top priority in recent weeks. As noted in a recent Bloomberg report, last week in New York City a cabal of hedge fund managers and private equity executives held a joint fundraiser for Trump and the RNC, at a price of $50,000 per person, with the hosts paying $250,000 per couple. Trump also recently held a fundraiser at the former residence of the late Senator Barry Goldwater, with attendees shelling out thousands of dollars per seat. Apparently Trump and the donors he was wooing didn’t mind that Goldwater’s widow said the senator himself would be appalled by Trump’s candidacy.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Trump’s campaign is expressing support for a super PAC founded by billionaire hedge fund manager Robert Mercer. The super PAC – called Make America Number 1 – is reportedly soliciting contributions from a who’s who of conservative mega-donors, including casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who has pledged to spend $100 million backing Trump.

Trump is also using this campaign to line the pockets of his own companies. A significant amount of the money that the Trump campaign has spent so far has gone to companies owned by Trump himself. In fact, according to Fortune magazine, an estimated 10 percent of total campaign expenditures thus far have gone to companies that bear his name. That doesn’t include expenditures billed to his estate, Mar-a-Lago, or his private plane, which has its own holding company.

What’s more, Trump has used deceitful, disingenuous and predatory business practices to further enrich himself at the expense of anyone and everyone else. Hundreds of former employees and contractors allege that they still haven’t been paid for work done for companies controlled by Trump, and literally thousands of lawsuits have been filed against him. One high profile example is a class-action suit regarding Trump University. Former employees of Trump University, an institution which never had accreditation, have testified in saying that they essentially “engaged in a methodical, Systematic Series of misrepresentations” designed to separate people from their money. This case is one of many that show Donald Trump for who he really is: a fraud who regularly exploits people for personal gain.

Donald Trump is a dangerous con man of epic proportions, taking money from – and profiting off of – the same special interests he has railed against. He is running on a business record rife with misconduct and malicious practices. The American people cannot afford to sit this one out – there is simply too much at stake. Trump must be taken down by the greatest political force ever known: “We the People.”    

PFAW

Donald Trump’s Evangelical Advisers Revolt

This piece originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign hit a snag on Monday, after several prominent endorsers made statements suggesting his fitness to hold the highest office in our country would be undercut by his own personal behaviors and failings.*

It began with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, who previously stated he had no qualms with Donald Trump “appointing people to the Supreme Court,” lamenting that “the true tragedy in this case is the collapse of the [future-]president’s moral authority.”

Referring to the presumptive Republican nominee’s penchant for wildly gesticulating his hands while telling falsehoods, the Judiciary Committee chairman stated that “he undermined himself when he wagged his finger and lied to the nation on national TV.”

Prominent conservative Christian activists quickly echoed these sentiments. Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry, who released videos arguing that conservative Christians should support Donald Trump’s presidential campaign as early as March, now states he is “a tyrant; he's a monster.” This is in part based on the fact that the presumptive GOP nominee has at least twice violated his marriage vows.

Members of Trump’s newly formed Evangelical Executive Advisory Board also began to revolt against their chosen candidate.

Focus on the Family founder James Dobson proclaimed “character DOES matter. You can’t run a family, let alone a country, without it.”

He went on to state:

I just don’t understand it. Why aren’t parents more concerned about what their children are hearing about the president[ial candidate’s] behavior? Are moms and dads not embarrassed by what is occurring? At any given time, 40 percent of the nation’s children list the president of the United States as the person they most admire. What are they learning from [Mr. Trump]? What have we taught our boys about respecting women? What have our little girls learned about men? How can we estimate the impact of this scandal on future generations?

Dobson was not alone. Ralph Reed, founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, expressed regret over his endorsement of twice-divorced Donald Trump, bemoaning the ease with which marriages can dissolve in the United States. “Do we really want to make it easier for a man to discard the wife of his youth than it is for him to fire his secretary?” he asked.

He went on to state, “Republicans, unlike Democrats, have very systematically adopted a standard of family values and moral uplift."

Jerry Falwell Jr., another member of Donald Trump’s evangelical advisory group, simply referred reporters to Liberty University’s code of conduct. Despite several occasions when Trump spoke at the school, its code prohibits “sexual relations outside of a biblically ordained marriage between a natural-born man and a natural-born woman.”

Trump has previously bragged about his sexual conquests on the Howard Stern Show.  

The Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment on his rejection by evangelical leaders, primarily because I never asked.

*Obviously this is parody. All of the quotes are real but represent statements made about other political leaders or codes of conduct relating to individuals not named Donald Trump.

PFAW

PFAW Launches “Donald Trump’s Year of Hate” Campaign with Dolores Huerta and Former Miss Universe Alicia Machado

On Wednesday, People For the American Way marked the one year anniversary of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign through launching a new campaign, “Donald Trump’s Year of Hate.” Yesterday’s event, which was cohosted by CASA in Action (Virginia), featured six speakers, including actress and former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, civil rights leader and PFAW board member Dolores Huerta, former Arlington County Board Member and Virginia community leader J. Walter Tejada, Virginia State Delegate Alfonso Lopez, CASA in Action’s advocacy and elections specialist Luis Aguilar, and PFAW’s own Lizet Ocampo, who serves as director of Latinos Vote! and manager of political campaigns.

The six speakers discussed how Donald Trump’s candidacy has directly harmed people of color in the United States, particularly Latinos. The bilingual event addressed the negative impact of Trump’s candidacy, the dangers of a Trump presidency, and the need to mobilize the Latino vote in local, state, and national elections. 

The first speaker was actress and former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, who spoke about how Donald Trump humiliated and belittled her when she was just a teenager. Trump referred to her as “Ms. Housekeeping,” in reference to her Venezuelan accent and heritage. Machado said that Donald Trump’s disrespect has compelled her to become an American citizen in order to vote against him. She closed by urging other Latinos living in the United States to vote against Trump and become citizens if they aren’t already.

Following Machado, civil rights leader Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers, president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, and PFAW board member, some of the many reasons why Donald Trump is “unfit to be president.” She cited examples of Trump’s racism, misogyny, homophobia, and xenophobia. She then urged the Latino community to vote against him, saying:

“We can’t let Donald Trump be president, and I know that we won’t. We won’t because we will get out to vote against him, we will talk with our friends and our families and make sure they go out to vote against him as well… We have the power of the vote, and that can overcome the hate that Donald Trump spews day after day after day.” 

Arlington community leader J. Walter Tejada and Virginia’s only Latino state lawmaker, Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington), both called out the hateful rhetoric used by Donald Trump and the divisive nature of his campaign. Lopez stated that the tactics used by Trump are “not worthy of America, not worthy of our heritage, and definitely not worthy of Virginia.” Both Tejada and Lopez stressed the importance of the Latino vote in Virginia, with Tejada pointing out that “the road to the White House goes through the Latino vote,” and Lopez saying, “as Virginia goes, so goes the nation. And as Latinos vote in Virginia, so goes Virginia.” They both closed by urging Latinos in Virginia to register to vote and vote in November in order to protect their communities and protect Latinos everywhere from the negative impact of a Trump presidency.

PFAW’s Lizet Ocampo and CASA in Action’s Luis Aguilar both echoed the same sentiments: a Donald Trump presidency represents a very real danger for women, people of color, and immigrants, especially Latinos. Ocampo said, “Trump is the most hateful, anti-immigrant presidential candidate that any of us have ever seen. His hate harms every one of us and goes against the American values of welcoming immigrants and celebrating diversity.” They both ended their remarks by restating their commitment to mobilizing voters and combating the hateful ideology of Donald Trump. 

To mark the campaign launch anniversary, PFAW has also released a Spanish language ad in eight key target states. The ad, which is running on TV and online, highlights just some of the ways Trump's divisive rhetoric and policies hurt Latino communities, and urges people to stand -- and vote -- against Trump's hate. 

PFAW

Criticism Mounts for Senate GOP Obstruction of Judges

Perhaps the most vital role the United States Constitution assigns to the Senate is the vetting of federal judicial nominees.  An efficient and independent judiciary is vital to those seeking to vindicate their legal rights.  It is also vital to maintaining the separation of powers, which the Founders recognized as a cornerstone of our freedom.

Yet Republicans have done everything in their power to obstruct all of President Obama’s judicial nominees.  Since they’ve taken control of the Senate, Republicans have used their enhanced power to slow down the confirmation rate to historic lows. And by blockading a Supreme Court nominee regardless of his qualifications, they have drawn more attention recently to how they’ve been sabotaging the confirmation process for federal judges at all levels.

Today’s New York Times has a devastating editorial – The Senate’s Confirmation Shutdown – detailing the obstruction.  Beginning with the most prominent example – the refusal to allow President Obama to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court, regardless of the nominee’s qualifications – the editorial sets out a powerful indictment of how the Senate GOP has used its control of the chamber to keep federal courts around the country understaffed:

 This has been enormously damaging to the district courts, which deal with hundreds of thousands of cases annually, and where backlogs drag out lawsuits and delay justice. It also harms the appeals courts, whose rulings are the final word in nearly all litigation, since the Supreme Court hears only about 75 cases a year.

 How bad has it gotten? Compare the current Senate’s abysmal record with the Democratic-led Senate that President George W. Bush faced in the last two years of his administration. By June 2008, the Senate had approved 46 of Mr. Bush’s judicial nominees; they confirmed a total of 68 by September. In contrast, Mr. McConnell’s Senate has confirmed only 20 of Mr. Obama’s judges since Republicans took control in January 2015, the slowest pace since the early 1950s. Appellate judges accounted for just two of those confirmations, fewer than at any time since the 19th century.

Those twenty confirmations during the past year-and-a-half include two for the Court of International Trade.  The other 18 are for district and circuit courts, fewer than the number of post offices they’ve renamed so far this Congress.

The result is a substantial increase in the number of vacancies since the GOP took over the Senate, with the number of judicial emergencies (vacancies with overwhelming backlogs that impede access to justice) skyrocketing to 2½ times what it was at the beginning of this Congress.  The Times continues:

It would be easy to fill most of these vacancies if the Senate did its job. Currently, 37 of Mr. Obama’s nominees remain bottled up in the Senate Judiciary Committee, 30 of whom are still waiting for their hearing; 17 more have been approved by the committee but have not been scheduled for a full Senate vote. To make matters worse, Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has said he will shut down the confirmation process, such as it is, before the presidential nominating conventions in July.

Not mincing words, the Times editorial calls this behavior “disgraceful and disgusting,” warning that Senate Republicans “should not be surprised if, come November, the voters choose representatives who actually do their job.”

Indeed, the message Senate Republicans are hearing from Americans is to #DoYourJob.

They could start by holding a hearing for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.  They could also stop delaying committee votes on nominees like Don Schott for the Seventh Circuit (whose vote today was delayed simply because committee Republicans could delay it).  They could hold hearings for qualified circuit court nominees like California’s Lucy Koh for the Ninth Circuit and North Dakota’s Jennifer Kelmetsrud Puhl for the Eighth Circuit, both of whom have the support of their home state senators.  Republicans could also stop blocking hearings for Indiana’s Myra Selby for the Seventh Circuit, Alabama’s Abdul Kallon for the Eleventh Circuit, Kentucky’s Lisabeth Tabor Hughes for the Sixth Circuit, and Pennsylvania’s Rebecca Haywood for the Third Circuit, all of whom are currently facing obstruction by Republican home state senators who simply want to prevent President Obama from filling these vacancies.

Whether it’s the Supreme Court, the circuit courts, or the district courts, Senate Republicans are keeping as many vacancies open for as long as possible, so that they can be filled by a President Donald Trump, whose racist comments about judicial qualifications and whose attacks on judicial independence should, in a sane party, disqualify him from being given the power to nominate judges at all.

PFAW

Donald Trump Cozies Up to Anti-LGBT Activists

This piece originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

Donald Trump has been called “the most pro-gay Republican nominee ever,” but he hardly deserves that reputation.

He has sharply criticized the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling and pledged to appoint judges “as close to Scalia as you could find,” referring to the late justice known for his broadsides against gay people and the “homosexual agenda.”
Not only would Trump radically reshape the judiciary, where many key LGBT issues are decided, but he has also vowed to sign anti-LGBT activists’ top legislative priority, the misnamed First Amendment Defense Act, which would give legal approval to discrimination against LGBT people, and gave his blessing to Kentucky clerk Kim Davis’ attempt to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
And that’s not to mention the fact that his attacks on women, Latinos and immigrants are also attacks on many LGBT people.

Despite his “LGBT-friendly“ reputation, Trump has cozied up to some of the country’s most extreme Religious Right leaders.

Frank Amedia, a pastor who serves as Trump’s “liaison for Christian policy,” describes HIV/AIDS as “a disease that comes because of unnatural sex.” Trump’s frequent campaign surrogate Robert Jeffress, a Southern Baptist preacher, has blasted gays for living a “filthy,” “miserable” and “perverse” “lifestyle” that he says encourages child abuse and the coming of the Antichrist.

One of Trump’s top advisers, Ben Carson, made waves during his unsuccessful presidential bid with his bizarreludicrous and offensive diatribes against gay rights.
Trump has also partnered with Harlem’s notorious “stone homos“ pastor James David Manning and far-right radio show host Alex Jones, who thinks the LGBT rights movement is a “suicide cult” bent on the destruction of humanity.

Tomorrow, the business mogul is scheduled to speak at the Road to the Majority summit in Washington, D.C., an event sponsored by two anti-LGBT groups, the Faith and Freedom Coalition and Concerned Women for America.

The Faith and Freedom Coalition was founded by Ralph Reed, who got his start in politics when his mentor Pat Robertson recruited him to lead the Christian Coalition in the late 1980s. (Robertson, incidentally, is another anti-LGBT leader who has been courted by Trump.)

Reed started the FFC in 2009, a few years after he lost his own campaign to become the lieutenant governor of his native Georgia, in part thanks to reports that emerged during the election implicating him in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. It turned out that Reed had taken money from casino and lottery interests, including those with ties to Abramoff, to help his consulting firm’s conservative Christian clients wage anti-gambling campaigns that just so happened to block the funders’ potential competitors from entering the market.

Despite the scandal, Reed eventually found a way to return to his old passion of opposing LGBT equality, demanding that the government withdraw an arts grant for repairing the Washington National Cathedral because the Episcopal Church performs weddings for same-sex couples and attacking the Employment Non-Discrimination Act as “a dagger aimed at the heart of religious freedom.”

Concerned Women for America, for its part, is so hostile to LGBT rights that it even opposes the Violence Against Women Act because it includes protections for LGBT victims of abuse and attacked Obama for daring to criticize a Ugandan law that imprisons gay people with up to life terms.

Along with Trump, the upcoming conference will feature Religious Right activists like Jim Garlow, Tony Perkins, Matt Barber and Jason and David Benham, who have allderided gay rights as Satanic.

Later this month, Trump is set to attend an event with many of these same activists, in addition to Cindy Jacobs, a self-proclaimed prophet who believes the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell led to the freak death of birds, and Rick Scarborough, who once suggested filing a “class action lawsuit” against homosexuality and said he was willing to burn to death while fighting marriage equality.

While Trump may focus his stump speeches on building a border wall and torturing prisoners of war, his promise to appoint far-right judges to the bench and his attempts to win the support of radical anti-LGBT activists should give no comfort to those who hope a President Trump might advance LGBT rights.

PFAW

While Trump Makes Racist Attacks On Judge, GOP Holds a Supreme Court Seat for Him to Fill?

This piece originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

It was both completely in character and shamefully beyond the pale when Donald Trump accused Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over two lawsuits against Trump University, of having an “inherent conflict of interest” in the cases because of the judge’s Mexican heritage. On Sunday he extended that charge to Muslim judges, who he also suspects would be unable to remain unbiased. If there was a shred of doubt remaining on the question of whether Donald Trump is fit to make judicial nominations before this attack, that debate is now over. Even GOP senators arespeaking out against Trump’s remarks. But in a contortion act that defies logic, those same senators continue to go to extraordinary lengths to hold open the vacant Supreme Court seat for the very person whose approach to judicial matters they are condemning.

GOP leaders rushed to denounce Trump’s remarks about Judge Curiel, with Republican senators including Kelly Ayotte, Jeff Flake, Rob Portman, and Mitch McConnell speaking out against his comments and House Speaker Paul Ryan calling them “out of left field” even though even a casual observer knows they were coming right from home plate for the past year. Trump has been consistent in his baseless attacks on entire communities since the first day of his campaign, when he smeared Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers. And if some in the GOP are (rightly) condemning Trump’s vision of a justice system in which some judges are prohibited from doing their jobs because of their ethnic background, why are they going to extraordinary lengths to put him in the driver’s seat of our nominating process?

GOP senators are still doing everything they can to block President Obama from filling the Supreme Court vacancy. Rather than follow the Constitution and give fair consideration to President Obama’s extraordinarily qualified and respected nominee, GOP senators are running a campaign of unprecedented obstruction in order to allow Trump to make the Supreme Court nomination instead.

Let’s be clear: Trump had already provided countless reasons to call into question his fitness to nominate judges. This is a man who supports killing the family members of terrorists and wants to “open up” libel laws so he can go after journalists. That he’s now implying whole swaths of people are not fit for the federal bench is one of the most disturbing examples yet of Trump’s contempt for the independence of the judiciary and for Americans different from him. It goes against the most fundamental values of our country, and it is Exhibit A of why he should never be the person nominating judges at the Supreme Court or any level.

It’s no wonder Americans are worried about the prospect of Donald Trump making judicial nominations. Even before his attack on Judge Curiel, a recent poll found that the majority of Americans don’t trust Trump to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, and they’re none too pleased with the senators obstructing President Obama’s nominee.Half of voters say they are “less likely to vote for a senator who opposed having confirmation hearings” for Judge Merrick Garland. For Republican senators in tight reelection battles, their unwillingness to do their jobs is increasingly and rightfully becoming a liability with voters.

The fact that GOP senators are flat-out refusing to do their jobs on the Supreme Court was already an outrage. That they are now working to hold the seat open for a man who thinks some judges can’t do their jobs because of their ethnic background or religion is unconscionable and should be, quite frankly, embarrassing to all Republicans. GOP leaders are in a position of both condemning Trump’s approach to judicial issues and working to make sure he’s the one to make lifetime judicial appointments. Make sense? It doesn’t to me, either.

The choice is now crystal clear. It’s time to call the question and give Merrick Garland a vote.  

PFAW