Romney Working Closely With 'Hate Group', According to Its Leader
When the Southern Poverty Law Center designated the Family Research Council as a "hate group," I had my reservations. And while I still wonder whether that was the wisest strategic move, after a weekend spent at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. -- the annual conference sponsored the council's political arm, FRC Action -- I can confirm that there was a whole lotta hate going on, especially toward Muslims, who were depicted as congenitally dishonest, and bent on taking over the U.S. government. President Obama, of course, was characterized as seeking to deny U.S. sovereignty, and progressives were compared at a plenary session to Hitler and Stalin. It made the usual villification of LGBT people and women's rights advocates seem mild by comparison. (See Zaid Jiliani's report on the Muslim-bashing here.)
But none of FRC's past hate-mongering against a U.S. religious minority, or its routine demonization of its political opponents, kept the Republican presidential ticket away. Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan delivered remarks in person, and Mitt Romney sent a video shout-out.
Asked a press conference Saturday whether the so-called values voters attending his conference were offended that Romney didn't show in person, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins assured BuzzFeed's Rosie Gray that Romney has been extremely cooperative with FRC.
"I would actually say that communications with him and responsiveness to the issues we care about has actually been better than any other candidate I've worked with" during his 10 years at the FRC helm, Perkins said.
"I've been communicating regularly with the campaign. I have met with the candidate," Perkins said. "And I will say he even called me on the day that FRC was attacked in a shooting, he called to extend his condolences, his thoughts, his prayers for our team."
In fact, as AlterNet reported, Romney met with Perkins in Baton Rouge, just a day after FRC hired retired Lt. Gen. William "Jerry" Boykin as its vice president, and, just weeks later, met with Boykin himself in Denver.
Boykin is the former Army officer who got into hot water with the Pentagon while in uniform for casting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as a Christian crusade. Boykin has since said that First Amendment protections -- freedom of religion -- do not extend to Muslims.
At the Values Voter Summit, it was Boykin who compared progressives to Hitler and Stalin, and who called on Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to strike Iran before election day.
From Zaid Jilani's AlterNet report on Boykin's Values Voter breakout session, titled "Israel, Iran and the Future of Western Civilization":
"If we come close to the November 6th election and it appears that there is a high probability that the current administration will return, I think [Israel has] to run a pre-election strike," recommended Boykin. "That is the one secure way to assure [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] has U.S. support for a strike."
These are the people with whom Mitt Romney is cooperating, the people he hopes will deliver him the vote. After all, as he said in May, he needs 50.1 percent of the vote in order to win the presidency. And if he needs hate-mongering retired generals who seek to subvert U.S. foreign policy, then, so be it.
Given that propensity on the part of the Romney campaign, I should perhaps not have been quite as shocked as I was by the introduction given Paul Ryan on Friday by former Reagan administration Bill Bennett, who used the occasion to promote a false and contemptuous narrative of the U.S. response to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, which ended in the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens.
Bennett defended Romney's statement, made the night of the Benghazi attack, in which the candidate falsely accused President Obama of sympathizing with the attackers.
Stevens' body was just arriving at Dover Air Force base as Bennett accused Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of "wonder[ing] aloud whether our constitutional protections go a bit too far."
In fact, Clinton did nothing of the kind.
So I asked Perkins whether he had any response, as the leader of an organization that had itself recently suffered an armed attack, whether he had a response to make regarding the appropriateness of Bennett's remarks, or the fact that his description of the statement the secretary of state made after the attacks was misleading.
"No. Not in particular," Perkins replied. "I have not followed the news closely since we've been here for the last two days. But I will say that, look, in part I think that Bill Bennett, who I have great respect for, was a warning -- that in our tepid response, it could lead to further violence, which, in fact, has happened."
In other words, he's not responding, but he agrees with Bennett.
"We need to be unequivocal as a nation in support of people who are defending -- I don't care if it's a Republican or Democrat administration; I don't care who did it -- they're an ambassador of this country and they represent me and the rest of us here, and in the Marine Corps, we never left anybody behind," Perkins continued. "And to allow an ambassador, and to allow those who represent us to be in a position of vulnerability...and not to respond when they have been brutally murdered, is sending the wrong message. And so I will withhold judgment until this unfolds, but I think Bill Bennett was sending a warning that if it is not contained, it will spread."
Not long after Bennett and Ryan spoke on Friday, I talked with a member of the U.S. foreign service, who told me that Romney's remarks were deeply demoralizing to those working on America's behalf abroad. I can only imagine.