Editor’s note: Below is the video and transcript of the panel discussion “The Radical Transformation of America,” featuring Stanley Kurtz, David Harsanyi, J. Christian Adams and moderator Michael Wienir. The event was part of the Freedom Center’s Texas Weekend, held May 3rd-5th at the Las Colinas Resort in Dallas, Texas.
Michael Wienir: We have three outstanding and prominent and profound scholars and experts. And we’re going to talk about Obamaism and the radical transformation of America. We’ve heard a lot about that already this morning. It reminded me, when I was asked to put this together, about Barack Obama marching into the Correspondents Dinner last week in Washington, DC. Many of you probably saw it — he had rap music playing in the background. And he joked that some in this country consider him a Muslim Marxist. And it’s just that sometimes attempts at humor are perilously close to the truth.
In The Wall Street Journal last Sunday, Peggy Noonan wrote about Obama on a personal level — called him imperious, manipulative, unable to execute or govern, prone to endless interviews and campaigning; characterized by his imperturbable drone; graceless, conveying an aura of superiority and arrogance, and appeared not to be at all awed by the Oval Office. Now, that’s talking about the man.
So we’re going to talk more about, today in this panel, his failures in terms of what you’ve heard about already today — national security, economic security and energy security; his lying, his dishonesty; the policies that serve as a basis for trying to understand this radical transformation of America.
And so I’m going to ask the panel two basic questions, which they don’t know about yet because I’ve kept it quiet from them.
But I want to put this all into perspective in terms of defining what the David Horowitz Freedom Center does.
You heard from my son Jeffrey this morning about the mission statement of the Center, which is to defend free societies from those factors, those organizations, that are attacking our Western civilization, both secular and religious, at home and abroad. And are the policies of Obama — Obamaism, if you will — compatible with the mission statement of the David Horowitz Freedom Center? And second, Obamaism — is it compatible with the core values of the Center? What are those core values?
Some of you have not been to our events before. We believe and work for individual freedom, limited government, the rule of law, and economic freedom and free enterprise, and strong national defense. So is this radical transformation of America, Obamaism — is that at all compatible with those things we believe in at the David Horowitz Freedom Center? I think we know the answer.
But we’ll get more details on that as we go along.
Our first speaker is David Harsanyi.
David Harsanyi: You know, I’ve actually always been ready optimistic about our future. My parents had defected from communist Hungary, they love this country. They sort of instilled that in me.
But recently, my columns are becoming sort of downers, apparently. And I work at — Eagle Publishing, it’s called, and they also have [Regnary], who published my book. And Harry Crocker, who’s an editor to there, came over to me and said, you know — your columns are kind of downers, you know. Doesn’t seem to me that you think the future is as bright — so he came up with the idea for this book.
I did not view myself in that way; I didn’t think this would be the sort of book that I’d want to write. So I thought about it for a bit, and then I realized that I thought we were pretty much screwed. So I had to write the book.
And I say this not because I think America is going to turn into Bangladesh or Somalia but that the iteration we have now is probably over because of this President, but more because I think we’ve maybe lost the American people, which is scarier to me. I called the book “Obama’s Four Horsemen.” But when I was writing it, I realized it’s a reflection of what a lot of Americans think about the world now and how it’s supposed to work.
So I started out thinking about dependency, which to me is the scariest part of what’s going on. And I’m not talking about food stamps, and I’m not talking about welfare programs; though those are important as well. I’m just talking about the way we react to problems, and the way the American people expect government to step in. I think it happens on almost every level of government.
And it happens — I’ll give you a little example. I wrote a short little piece about sugar subsidies, and how ridiculous what the American government does with that industry was. Within 20 minutes of the post going up, I had a sugar lobbyist call Human Events and say — this is ridiculous. And they brought in like four people. This is a small publication compared to National Review or others. I had to sit down with them for about an hour as they told me that red states — that Republicans were for this, that this was a conservative idea to get into an arms race of sort of subsidizing these sorts of industries. So it’s a difficult problem on every level. It’s not just Democrats, it’s conservatives as well.
And then, I thought about debt. Debt, we were recently told by the President, is not really much of a problem, at least not for 10 years. And at the very least, politicians used to pretend to think or care that debt was a problem for us in the long run. We talk about 17 trillion with unfunded liabilities — could be 50 trillion, 100 trillion — we don’t know what we can’t pay for down the line.
There’s a little subculture, and I’d say it’s growing and growing. The Krugmanites and people like them, in pretty mainstream papers — econ magazines, business magazines — are now sort of celebrating debt. They think deficit spending is the way to grow economies. That’s become more and more mainstream. And I think it undermines something very important about governance. So that scared me.
And then I thought about national security, and what was going on in North Africa. And I’m not an expert on this, but it does not look good to me. So the way we deal with the Muslim Brotherhood, the way we allow American government to undermine our values abroad — I just think that is going to lead to terrible things.
And finally, something I didn’t believe that I’d care very much about, but it turns out I’ve changed my mind in a big way, was death — in which I’m talking about abortion, basically — but sort of a culture of death, actually. I’m a Libertarian. I’m not a social conservative at all, but I’m very pro-life, for what I think are scientific reasons and for moral reasons in this country. And I know that there’s some disagreement here, I was told, about that among people who come to this event.
But the way the Democrats celebrated abortion at the National Democratic Convention was nihilistic, almost. They value abortion [above] the First Amendment, certainly the Second, the Fourth, the Tenth — probably all of them. So, something deeply corrosive about that sort of thinking in this country. And I have two young daughters, and I don’t want them to believe that they have to be pro-choice to be pro-woman. I think that’s a dangerous, dangerous idea. And it seemed to me like it’s spreading. We’ll see about that, I suppose.
But within that death chapter, I also talk about how we undermine religious freedom. Now, I’m not pro-gay marriage; I’m pro government getting out of the marriage business. But I do not like what’s going on and what the arguments are on that front, either. I don’t like how others are forced to accept the lifestyles that they don’t want to accept. So I think that there are dangerous areas there as well, and I feel myself being pulled towards and fighting with social conservatives more and more on those issues, which is a weird place for me to be. But, you know, I’m happy to be where I think people are right.
I heard Jonah Goldberg speak two weeks ago in Colorado. And he pointed out something that I think is a really important thing that I’ve been thinking about as well, but he articulates in it a lot funnier and a more compelling way. The idea that our communities are breaking down, that our families are breaking down locally — think about this — Obama, last week or two weeks ago, went to celebrate with a huge abortion mill in this country, with Planned Parenthood. But yet, we know that the best indicator of wealth and prosperity, and personal freedom and wealth and prosperity, is having a family; is waiting to be married, and then having children. Staying together, things like that. Have you ever heard the President celebrate that? Have you ever heard him? No.
So the two things that make us wealthy — free markets and families in local communities — are the two things that are undermined constantly. It’s that kind of — those politics that scare me the most about the future, and why I wrote this book. I’m still sort of a techno-utopian. I think that in the end, technology overcomes government and things like that. But even there, I’m becoming more and more skeptical. Not a good kind of old-fashioned, conservative, Chesterton skeptical, but kind of a sad, my-children-are-doomed kind of skeptical.
So I hope I’m wrong. Because things happen. 9/11 happened, and everything changed. I’m not saying we need a tragedy to change things. But I think that we talk about going over these cliffs all the time — I think we’re over those cliffs. It’s how we deal with the consequences of debt, dependency — those are the two that are more tangible than the others — and how we come out on the other side of that.
I’m nervous that people turn towards more freedom when they’re in trouble; I think they often turn towards more government. And because our communities are falling apart on some level, I think that they’re turning towards Obama because he’s offering them sort of what a church might offer people, what a strong local community and family might offer them. He offers that to them. It’s purely an emotional pitch. And I think he’s winning on many levels. So all of that scares me a lot about our future.
I hate to be such a downer. I was in Colorado, I spoke two weeks ago. I gave the most pessimistic speech of my life. And I was almost like — yeah, afterwards I felt bad about it, in a way. So tried to make a couple of jokes, didn’t work.
So I think that I’m very pessimistic, and I think that’s actually a pretty good way to be about — it’s a good way to approach government and a good way to think about Washington. I mean, I come to these events, and I see people who are ready to stand up and fight and make the arguments. But I’m not sure that we have the Republican Party who’s up to the challenge. I don’t know if we have enough compelling voices making compelling messages to the American people in the right way.
In Washington, they talk a lot about technology and Twitter, and social media and all these things. But I think in the end, you really have to appeal to the American people with a really great message, and I just don’t hear it right now.
But that can change as well. Ted Cruz seems great, and Marco Rubio. And I like Rand Paul pretty much on a lot of things. So that might change. But right now, I think we’re in trouble.
So that’s my pitch. I hope it’s not too depressing. Because I think we don’t know what the future brings. And conservatives, especially on the economic front, never pretend to know what the future will bring. So I think we have to keep vigilant.
Stanley Kurtz: Actually, I do have some reasons that we oughtn’t be so pessimistic, but my talk is not going to be one of those.
So maybe we can get to that in the question period. Because I do see much more positive scenarios as a potential. And I’d love to discuss it.
But before then, I want to really depress you again. And I’m going to do that by speaking about the topic of this second book, which is “Obama and the Suburbs.” And basically, I’m here to tell you that Barack Obama does not like suburbs. In fact, if he had his way, suburbs wouldn’t really exist.
And I know that might sound to some people hard to believe. But I say it because for nearly two decades, Barack Obama has been a huge supporter of a movement whose main goal is to have city governments swallow up and control suburban governments. The idea here is to somehow let cities grab control of suburban tax money. So the bottom line is Barack Obama wants to redistribute the wealth of America’s suburbs to the cities.
You see, these radical Alinskyite community organizers that trained and mentored Barack Obama back in Chicago all those years ago — they hated the suburbs. In fact, they literally wanted to abolish the suburbs. And the reason they were so hostile to the suburbs is that they blamed the suburbs for the problems of the cities. Because when people move out to suburbs, they take their tax money with them.
So these mentors of Obama, these radical Alinskyites, put on their thinking caps — always a dangerous thing — and they started coming up with all sorts of strategies for undercutting the political and economic independence of the suburbs.
And out of that thinking came a movement which they called the regional equity movement. The regional equity movement. Sometimes it’s just called regionalism for short. And there are all sorts of other names for this kind of thinking. You might’ve heard of smart growth. Have people heard of smart growth? Raise your hand if you’ve heard of smart growth. Still not that many people. This kind of stuff travels under the radar, for the most part.
So anyway, Obama’s mentors, his Alinskyite mentors, and the academics they palled around with, came up with this movement filled with these strategies. And when I was researching this book, “Spreading the Wealth,” what I discovered was not only was Barack Obama a charter member and supporter of this movement, but to this very day, from the White House, the Obama Administration is channeling huge support to this regional equity movement. The Obama Administration is a strong supporter of regionalism. And nobody knows about this. The mainstream media doesn’t report on it.
And because the political implications are so potentially explosive, this is not the sort of thing that Obama tends to mention in a State of the Union address or at a news conference. The moment he did, that would put scrutiny on it. And so he doesn’t do it.
But the policies are all there, they’re in place. They’re in cabinet departments we don’t pay much attention to anymore, like the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Transportation. Most people don’t even know who the secretaries are of HUD, Housing and Urban Development; and some of these other programs. Well, they’re all pushing these regionalist policies.
And Obama is working in his administration now not only with the successors of this regional equity movement, but with some of the very same radical Alinskyite organizers who trained him back in Chicago. I mean, this is amazing. If Obama was in the White House coming up with a plan to redistribute America’s wealth in close consultation with Bill Ayers or Jeremiah Wright, obviously people would go nuts. And of course, he’s too smart to do that.
But he is, in fact, working with a guy named Mike Kruglik. Now, how many people have heard of Mike Kruglik? Raise your hand — there you go. Nobody’s heard of Mike Kruglik. Mike Kruglik was one of the original community organizing buses of Obama out in Chicago. He was one of the people who came up with this idea of the regional equity movement, and right now he runs that movement. He’s working with Obama. No one wants to report on it.
Actually, when I came out with this book, I had actually told some folks to get a screen capture of a picture of Obama meeting in the White House with this guy, Kruglik. Because I knew that they would take it down from the Web, you know, when I came out with the book. So I came out with the book. And sure enough, they took it down from the Web. But because I had told some people to capture it, they were able to have stories where they showed this picture of Obama meeting with Kruglik in the Oval Office. But they literally took the picture down from the Web.
So Kruglik and his top people are shaping Obama Administration policy on urban and suburban issues right now. So let me give you some examples of what they’re up to.
Here’s another thing I’m going to ask you about that probably no one will of heard of, unless they’ve heard me give this talk before. Has anybody ever heard of the Sustainable Communities Initiative? Raise your hand. Okay, a couple people. Still not many, but a couple people have heard of it. Most people don’t know what it is. Even if you’ve heard of it, you don’t know what it is. Because what the heck is sustainability? It’s got a name that sounds like gobbledygook. So that’s one reason that people don’t pay attention to it.
Another reason is that this is another one of those programs — like Obamacare itself in many ways, and there are numerous others — it doesn’t really fully kick in until well into Obama’s second term. This is a great example of how he managed to get reelected by backloading the really controversial parts of his agenda into the second term.
So what is the Sustainable Communities Initiative? Well, basically, the federal government spends millions of dollars, handing it to these people who support the regional equity movement, smart growth, all the different names for a philosophy of development that says there shouldn’t be any development in the suburbs. They say smart growth — that’s really kind of a euphemism for no growth. You know, they don’t want any development to take place in the suburbs. They want to channel all development back into the cities.
How do they do that? Well, the most extreme example is in Portland, Oregon, which is sort of the dream model for these people, where they have what’s called a development boundary. They literally have drawn a boundary around metropolitan Portland and said — you can’t do any development around here. And now, the Seattle area, in King County — they also have one of these borders.
But you don’t have to do it with a formal border. There are ways that you can create a kind of de facto development boundary. So you basically, by controlling the regulations over transportation, over highway building, over housing and such, there are ways to block development outside of the cities, prevent new suburbs from being built, prevent old highways that go out to the suburbs from being repaired; and put all the money back into transportation, housing and education only within the city, only, say, into public transportation that can be used by people who live in densely packed apartments that are close enough so that they can walk — basically trying to coerce people out of their cars. In fact, Ray LaHood, the Transportation Secretary who just left, was caught saying — yeah, sure, we want to coerce people out of their cars.
So the Sustainable Communities Initiative technically doesn’t have the force of law. It’s just a bunch of recommendations. But all through this second term, as these planning commissions, federally funded planning commissions, start coming out with these regional plans — plans the structure transportation, housing, education, along with these principles of smart growth — President Obama is going to have the option of starting to make all kinds of federal funding conditional on local adherence to those plans. There’s no guarantee that he’s going to do that, but there’s an excellent chance of it. And that’s what these Alinskyite folks that are still working with him want him to do.
We saw President Clinton do something like this in the state of Georgia in the last two years of his presidency, after there was no more risk of messing up a midterm election. Clinton forced the state of Georgia to knuckle under to these smart growth plans on pain of certain penalties and losing federal funding, and Georgia had to go along. When Clinton left, Georgia went back to it.
Well, the dream of these folks has always been to just have that done across the board. So it could be done through this Sustainable Communities Initiative. And if Obama decided to play hardball on that, it could have a transformative effect on the country. And yet, no one’s debating it, no one knows about it, no one’s talking about it.
Okay. Now, another aspect of this plan turns around a controversy that we’ve seen in Westchester County, New York. Does anyone know what I’m talking about? Raise your hand. See, very few people. Some of heard of it, but very few. Westchester County — well-to-do suburban county in New York State. The federal government, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, has decided to enforce an obscure provision of federal housing law in a way that’s never been done before. There’s something written into the law that says if you receive federal aid on housing, you’ve got to take steps to affirmatively further fair housing, affirmatively further fair housing. Well, it’s never been interpreted this way before.
But the Obama Administration has said — okay, Westchester County, you signed an agreement to this effect. We’re giving you federal money; we’re going to take all that federal money away unless, at your own expense, you build a massive amount of low-income housing. Not only that, but you need to pass legislation eliminating — legislation that we call source of income legislation.
What is that? Right now, if you’re a landlord, you have the option of turning down a tenant who offers to pay with a government low-income housing voucher, the most popular one being a Section 8 voucher. You don’t have to accept someone as a tenant who does that. Obama Administration wants to change that, and HUD is putting heavy pressure on Westchester County.
So there’s been no war going on between Obama Administration and Westchester County now for years. And the Obama Administration has — this is something that has done publicly, but it doesn’t get publicity — it has promised to use the Westchester settlement as a model to export to suburbs all across the country. And no one’s paying attention.
Number three, and the last item — there’s a practice called regional tax base sharing. Regional tax base sharing. This exists right now only in one part of the country, the Minneapolis-St. Paul region. What is it? The Minnesota State Legislature compels all of the municipalities in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region — in other words, the cities and the suburbs — to kick in a big chunk of their tax receipts to a common regional pot. You see, the Constitution actually leaves all powers that are not vested in the federal government to the states. That means technically the states can command localities to do anything they want. By tradition, we don’t do that. But theoretically you can.
So the Minnesota State Legislature was able to override local control. And when everyone kicks in their money, they redistribute it based on a formula, a demographic and economic formula, that effectively takes the money out of the coffers of the suburbs and puts it into the city.
Now, think about it — what have I just described to you? What has just taken place? I’ve told you first about a program that tries to push people from the suburbs to move back to the cities, or that prevents them from moving out to the suburbs to begin with. And then I’ve told you about a program that takes people from the inner cities and moves them out to the suburbs. And then I’ve told you about a program that redistributes the tax money of the people who still live in the suburbs. Now, when you put that all together, presto — you have abolished the suburbs. Sure, the political boundaries still exist. But in everything that’s important, politically and economically, the suburbs effectively have been gutted as independent entities.
So that’s what was on the minds of these Alinskyite organizers who trained Obama. What they really wanted to do was just have cities outright annex suburbs. That’s how they were going to get the control and the tax money. But most state legislatures made annexation impossible after the 19th century — you can’t annex without the consent of the governed. A novel idea.
And so, how do you get around that? And these are the strategies they came up with. Now, is Obama going to go full bore on all of these in the second term? It’s hard to say for certain. You know, maybe if he becomes a total lame duck, he’ll be afraid to do it. Or maybe that will liberate him to do it. But at least we ought to be talking about this. Because the fundamentals of all these have been put in place.
Oh, I didn’t mention that on the regional tax base sharing, Obama is working with this Kruglik and these other Alinskyites, lobbying local politicians, mayors and state legislatures at the White House — it hasn’t been reported — trying to get them to pass regional tax base sharing in their states. So the administration is already pushing all three of the key ingredients of this policy to gut the suburbs. But he doesn’t want to talk about it. And you can read about it there. That’s it.
Michael Wienir: Thank you. You still have –
Stanley Kurtz: I still have two minutes? Shall I tell you why I have some optimism?
Michael Wienir: Yes. Yes, absolutely.
Unidentified Speaker: No.
Stanley Kurtz: Because the nastiest thing about Obama that I was just talking about — which is that he backloads his whole agenda, all the worst parts of his agenda, into the second term — could be the thing that kills him. What if he actually starts to do all this stuff?
Now, everyone says we’re going to have a big train wreck. We don’t know it for sure, but it sure looks like Obamacare is going to be a huge train wreck. It’s going to affect people literally where they live, their lives are going to be at stake. They’re going to get really mad.
Someone talked here a little earlier about the Common Core in education. It’s just beginning to break into consciousness that there’s a kind of national rebellion going on at the grassroots against something called the Common Core. If I had more time, I would’ve told you about how his suburban stuff affects education. He’s got a whole plan to grab a hold of suburban school money and turn it over to city schools. It runs through this thing called the Common Core. They’re federalizing the school curriculum. It’s incredible.
People don’t know about it. But right now, as parents learn about it, they’re starting to rebel, they’re starting to organize. There are more and more stories about it. If he tries to do this suburban stuff, they can only keep it under the radar but so long. If they actually want to enact it, there’s going to be a big battle.
So the very thing that has been so insidious, the way he leaves everything — look, they just had a poll that said that 42 percent of the American public doesn’t even know Obamacare is the law. They don’t even know. So why should I get so depressed that — of course I’m somewhat depressed that they reelected Obama, naturally. But what I’m saying is if 42 percent of the people don’t even know that it’s a law, that means — yeah, sure, that’s bad in one way. But in another way — man, when they find out it is a law –
– and their ox is going to get gored — yeah, sure, some people are going to get subsidies. But a lot of people are going to be in trouble.
So we really shouldn’t give up. Because a lot of this has been done in ignorance, and Obama has kept them in ignorance on purpose.
J. Christian Adams: It is indeed great to be here and see so many old friends and meet new ones.
What I’m going to talk about today is a little different from sort of the broader themes that we’ve heard. And I’m going to share some specific examples of particulars of how the Left has seized the machinery of the law, frankly, and how it’s corrosive.
We’ve heard a lot this weekend about how the Left has seized the narrative. But the thing I like to talk a lot about is how the Left has seized the process — the process of governance, the process of law, the process of our American elections. And that’s really my specialty that I’ll lean toward in my talk.
But I watched this up close when I was at the Justice Department. A quick recap of the New Black Panther case — you guys have, I’m sure, all seen the video of the Black Panthers in front of the polls in Philadelphia. And at the time, I was back in Washington on Election Day manning the Washington desk — I was lucky. All the other attorneys at the Justice Department Voting Section were scattered around the country. Actually, one of the reasons I was there is because the Voting Section chief did not trust the attorney who was normally manning the desk, because he was a leftist who would allow his personal views to affect his Justice Department job. And so you put me in the place of this person.
And this came over the wires — you’ll remember the Philly polling place. And we all thought — wow, that’s a violation of section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act, which says it is against the law to intimidate, threaten or coerce a voter or those aiding voters — doesn’t take a voter, it could be a poll-watcher, for example — or attempt to do the same. Pretty simple stuff. If standing in front of a polling place in a paramilitary uniform of an anti-Semitic hate group with a billy club doesn’t violate the law, what does? I guess you have to start swinging the club.
So we obtained approval from the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Grace Chung Becker, and we filed a voter intimidation case. The defendants never answered the case. Those of you who have ever gotten a parking ticket or a speeding ticket know what happens if you do not respond to this. We had a default entered against the Panthers, but then the Obama Administration ordered us to dismiss the case, except a tiny little part against one defendant that was short in time. That ultimately led to me resigning and writing a book, and having far more fun outside the Justice Department than I did inside.
But I raise this to illustrate something. And this is the main thing I want to leave with you today is — these people view law not as a confining obligation, but rather as a nuisance to be worked around in the implementation of a radical agenda.
There is a stark difference in philosophy between how the Bush Administration handled justice and how the Obama Administration handle justice. I would go so far as to say — and I wasn’t there — that even the Clinton Administration probably handled things much like the Bush Administration did. Okay? But there was a sharp line of demarcation where you could see it happening in daily decisions at DOJ on lots of issues — not just the New Black Panther case — where the law was a suggestion. It wasn’t a rule of law.
Going back, Mike, to your original questions — is this philosophy compatible with the core mission of the Horowitz Center? Well, I would submit it’s precisely the reason that the Horowitz Center exists, is to do battle with this, frankly, relic of another age. Because the rule of law is what sustains us. The notion that parliaments or congresses or legislatures pass the ground rules, and everybody has to comply with them — that is a uniquely Anglo-American idea.
And so this Justice Department began to use the law not as a fence but as a suggestion. And you saw it happen in the New Black Panther case. There’s a lot of other voting cases that I won’t get into. But let me give you a couple of other hard examples to demonstrate my point.
Mohawk Central School District New York. Mohawk Central School District New York had a male child who decided to go to school dressed in drag. This is in 2009. He wore a miniskirt, he wore stiletto heels and a pink translucent wig. This is real, folks. This is America, 2009. And the school said to this eighth-grade boy — you really can’t come here like this, it’s disruptive. So please stop doing it. Well, what does the Obama Administration do? It sues the school. It’s a real case, it’s in my book.
And here’s how they twist and contort the law. The Civil Rights laws protect discrimination on the basis of gender — against women. You know, you’re treated poorly by your boss, for example, because you’re a woman. Well, that gives you a cause of action under the law. But what this Justice Department has done is adopted a radical philosophy of gender identity perception that — and you guys have probably caught whiffs of this lunacy — that if you perceive yourself to be a woman but you’re a boy, that’s a protected federal civil right.
There’s one problem — Congress has never said so. No court has ever said so. But this Justice Department, this Attorney General, used the resources of the federal government to shake down Mohawk Central School District and get a consent decree in place that forces that school to accept the eighth-grade drag queen, to spend $75,000 a year in gender identity sensitivity training, and to spend $150,000 on other things to make the eighth-grade drag queen feel welcome. Okay? Did you read that in the New York Times? Of course not. And if you do read it, it’s going to be presented as something favorable.
But the bottom line is it twists the law. And since we’re a nation of law, we worry about whether something is based in the law, not whether it feels good.
Let’s go to the second illustration. This is Berkeley School District in Illinois. There was a math teacher there in the middle of exams, who said — I want to go to Mecca for the Hajj, for the pilgrimage to Mecca. And the school said — are you kidding? You’re in the middle of finals right now, you’re our only math teacher. You cannot go. Go next year, the moon sets at a different time. I guess it has some relation to the lunar calendar. They said — go next year. And she said — no, I want to go to do the Hajj, I need 21 days off, please. And they said — you aren’t going to get it. And so she quit.
Guess what happens next? The Justice Department sues the school district. Because the school district did not make a religious accommodation for the math teacher who wanted to go on the Hajj. And this was done with much fanfare, no shame — trust me, no shame. They’re very proud of these cases.
And there has never been — let me give you a statute. The statute requires a reasonable religious accommodation. That’s roughly what it says. The school district must be reasonable, an employer must be reasonable. There had never been a court case where more than three days was granted for religious accommodation; she got 21. And the school district got spanked. They got sued, and it entered into a consent decree allowing the 21-day trip to Mecca. It’s another example of how this administration does not view the law as a constraining device, but rather as a nuisance to get around to implement a very radical agenda.
Let me take it now, for a final example, to my area of expertise, and that is elections. When I was in the Justice Department, we found dozens and dozens — actually, 255 — counties across the country that had more voters on the rolls than they had people alive. Okay? Eight states were in this situation — had more people on the rolls than people alive. And the Voting Section Chief, Christopher Coates — who has been on Fox and testified like I did about the Black Panther case — said — hey, we have a case here under what’s called Motor Voter Section 8. Remember Motor Voter in 1993? Well, there was a provision of Motor Voter that said you have to clean up your voter rolls. You can’t just have deadwood on the rolls.
And so we said — we have a case here where these states are violating the law, and it enables voter fraud to occur when there’s people who shouldn’t be voting. We presented this to the incoming Obama Administration simply to open up an investigation — not to sue anybody; just give us the power to make those target inquiries — why do you have so many people on the rolls?
They would not even allow us to investigate these clear violations of Section 8 of Motor Voter. And they actually gathered everybody in the room in the Voting Section and said — we have no interest in enforcing this law, “because it does nothing to increase minority turnout,” spoken by a political appointee, a Deputy Assistant Attorney General named Julie Fernandez.
Once again, the law to them is not something to be executed faithfully, but rather as a nuisance. If it does not suit their ideological agenda, they simply don’t do anything about it.
Right now, there are four million ineligible voters on the rolls, according to the Pew Charitable Trust — two million deads, two million ineligibles — that were on the rolls during the last election. The Left understands process, they understand election laws. They’ve brought hundreds of cases to keep dead people on the rolls, to do all sorts of mischief. And our side has absolutely no response. None. We don’t do it, we don’t engage in these kind of fights. And the party, frankly, runs from them very frequently.
That’s why I’m suing Indiana and Ohio to get them to clean up their rolls. We’re suing in St. Lucie County — I don’t think Congressman West is still here — in his race. We just sued two Mississippi counties last week that have 124 percent registered voters from people alive on the rolls.
But let me leave you with this — in January — and you can read this in Mother Jones — yes, they still publish Mother Jones — the Left met in January and launched what’s called the Democracy Initiative. All the big boys — AFL-CIO, SEIU, NOW, NARAL — pledged $100 million over the next four years to permanently transform America by affecting election process laws. Voter ID, Motor Voter, same-day registration — what they’re doing in Colorado, which is an automatic mail-out of — every single registered voter gets a ballot in the mail even if they don’t request it, including inactive voters who haven’t voted for eight or nine years. These things are all happening underneath your feet. And they’re changing the rules of the game so they maintain a permanent left-wing tilt to the United States.
And that’s what I’m evangelizing, and I will leave it at that. Thank you all for your time and attention.
Michael Wienir: Thank you.
Unidentified Speaker: Thank you. This is to Mr. Adams. I have a question — you said you’re suing these different counties or states. Under what program are you doing that?
J. Christian Adams: Motor Voter Section 8 — the statute that I and others of the DOJ wanted to bring cases against the states — has a private attorney general provision, which means any party — and I don’t mean political; I mean with a heartbeat — can go in and sue places to force them to clean up their voter rolls.
I’ll go down the roster — Indiana — the parties are Judicial Watch and True the Vote. Ohio — Judicial Watch and True the Vote. Mississippi, Jefferson Davis County — the American Civil Rights Union. It’s an organization with Ed Meese, Ken Blackwell, Walter Williams, me, Susan Carlson. True the Vote versus Gertrude Walker, St. Lucie County. So you’ve got Judicial Watch, True the Vote, and ACRU.
Michael Wienir: Let me just take one minute, as long as you were telling us about this. Can you say a couple of words about the organization which you started, the Election Law Center in Virginia?
J. Christian Adams: Well, look — when you’re at the Justice Department in the Voting Section, you learn — David Mamet’s book, please read it — it’s “The Secret Knowledge.” You learn the secret knowledge of what’s going on in the Left in the election area. Because you have to work with them. They are the Justice Department.
And so what we’ve done is we’ve set up sort of this Francis Marion style counterattack, where we borrow their tactics of suing states under the election laws, that they’ve been doing unopposed for 20 years. True the Vote’s taken a big lead. And we’re going in and playing their game, taking a page, frankly, from David’s playbook. And that is to beat them at their own game faster, cheaper and more aggressively. And that’s really what we do.
Frank Gaffney: Can I just ask — Christian, you laid out a number of practical things that you’re doing, and I commend you for them. One that you are also involved in but that you didn’t mention –
J. Christian Adams: I know.
Frank Gaffney: — is kind of the connective tissue on several of the things that you were citing — is something that everybody in this room could help with this week. And I would just commend you to talk about –
J. Christian Adams: Tom Perez? Okay.
The single most radical nominee that would be the most radical cabinet member since — is it Henry Wallace, who was the Ag Secretary for FDR, and frankly was surrounded by Soviet agents — he was probably — but, I can say safely, all of his aides were Soviet agents — Perez would be the most radical cabinet secretary since then. He’s been nominated for Secretary of Labor. These kooky things I told you about, the drag queen stuff — this is all his idea.
And so if you have any relation with your senator, whether Republican or Democrat, call them and say don’t confirm Tom Perez. Something you can do. And we managed to get Perez’s vote delayed, which is a big deal in a Democrat-controlled Congress. It was set for a week or two ago, Frank, I think. And we managed to get it delayed to this coming Thursday because of the questions that have been raised about his radicalism and his competence.
And make no mistake — no other nominee would be worse than Tom Perez. He’s as bad as they get. He is the culmination of 50 years of left-wing fantasies all in the presidential cabinet. He’s probably more radical than Obama.
Unidentified Speaker: In the off-year elections, are we going to have enough people that are just totally dissatisfied with Obamacare? And we’ve heard in the last few days that there’s 42 percent of the Americans that don’t even know what Obamacare is, or anything like that. But is there going to be enough that’s going to hit the fan by the time the midyear elections come out, to dissolution a lot of Americans that, you know, this is just a disaster, and it’s happening? I’ll let you just take the ball from there.
Stanley Kurtz: Right. That’s the $64,000 question. I mean, no one fully knows. I mean, there’s a little bit of a cottage industry of conservative critics of Obamacare who are spinning out all the horror scenarios, and the Democrats are listening. This is why Max Baucus, who helped to write the law, so famously said now that he thinks it’s going to be a train wreck. The Democrats are very afraid that they’re going to lose the midterms and lose them badly because of the number of people who will have their rates raised or who will be booted off of employer insurance and forced into exchanges — they’ll have to get the kind of care that they don’t want; or people whose work is being cut back to part-time work — these are the fundamental bad scenarios.
And, I mean, since Obamacare is essentially redistributing income from all of those people to people who aren’t currently insured, there could be a massive backlash. But on the other hand, there are going to be a lot of people, some of whom don’t even know Obamacare exists, you will discover that now they can get health insurance on these exchanges. And what Obama’s betting on is that when they get their insurance, they may be people who don’t even vote that often necessarily. And now they will say — don’t take this away from us. That will be the whole Tocqueville thing. And nobody knows how the mathematics and politics of all that is going to play out.
But I can tell you that the Democrats are very, very nervous. And Obama put this off to the second term for a reason — because they weren’t completely confident that it would work out to their advantage politically. Their goal is to minimize the disruption of the transition as much as possible, tell people not to pay attention to the bad things happening to them, until enough people get the benefits that they will rebel before they’re taken away. It’s anyone’s guess.
But it’s a close-run thing. That’s why we shouldn’t despair. This could easily go our way very easily.
David Harsanyi: Well, I think we should despair.
But I will say that I think Stanley’s right about Obamacare. You know, after the election was lost, many leftist pundits came out with advice for Republicans — mostly to be more like them was the advice. But quite often they said, you know, stop trying to overturn Obamacare, stop talking about it, it’s law. And that’s terrible advice. Because Obamacare most likely will be a train wreck, if, historically, other programs mean anything. So I think it’s one of the best weapons Republicans have. And we see it happening now.
I think they’re ratcheting up that opposition again, even though we heard Boehner and others say, you know, it’s the law, we can’t do anything. Have you ever heard a Democrat say — oh, that’s the law, we’re going to stop fighting on that?
Or — oh, that was a Supreme Court decision, now we’re done — with Citizens United, that’s the law. So you never hear that, and you shouldn’t hear it from the Right, either — specifically on Obamacare, in my opinion.
Michael Wienir: Patients are getting upset. You come into our office for consultation. And if you’ve had an electrodiagnostic study that we do all the time, it may not have been done properly, and maybe things have changed. Under new guidelines already, we can’t do another study. We can’t do it. The government won’t pay for it. There are more and more restrictions. And this is even before 15 unelected bureaucrats decide how we can work up and evaluate the individual with cerebrovascular disease, or how we can treat somebody that’s had a stroke, or how we can deal with somebody who has multiple sclerosis.
We’ve got all kinds of fancy new drugs, but they’re really expensive. They work, but they’re expensive. And what’s happening is we’re getting more and more guidelines that say — well, you know, you just can’t use these. Maybe people can pay cash for them, but they’ll cost $34,000 or $40,000 a year to pay for the drug.
Our patients are not happy with that. And a lot of these folks are left-wing Medicare patients who realize that even now, even before Obamacare has been completely manifested, their access to healthcare is going away. We tell our patients — they come in for medical care; we give them politics. But that’s just what happens in our office.
And the reality is more people are going to have health insurance. The reality is they’re not going to have healthcare.
Stanley Kurtz: I’d just like to say that this 15-member board he’s talking about is what’s called the IPAB, the Independent Payment Advisory Board — the death panel, quote-unquote. And it’s really interesting — not only did Obama backload the IPAB so that it wouldn’t be formed until his second term; he actually just missed the deadline. He was supposed to have nominated — Congress was supposed to have nominated — the Democrats, basically, were supposed to have nominated this 15-member — they haven’t done it. They haven’t done it. Because they know how furious everyone would be.
Now, in a way, that’s also insidious. Because according to the law, if the board is not formed, the powers devolved to Secretary Sebelius. So now, it’s like the Death Secretary.
And there are a lot of constitutional problems with the IPAB. And I think it becomes even more obvious when some of the outrageous powers that were given, that really are thoroughly unconstitutional in my view, would then be given directly to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. But this is another great example of how Obama, recognizing the bad politics — he hasn’t even done this, even though he backloaded it, and he still hasn’t done it.
Unidentified Speaker: (Inaudible)
David Harsanyi: But he was only going to wait till after 2012. So isn’t it interesting that he keeps having to wait?
So for his agenda to fully come out is potentially very, very bad for him. And it’s got to come out at some point.
David Harsanyi: Could I just address that for a second?
Stanley Kurtz: Yeah, sure.
David Harsanyi: You made a great point about how terrible things will be, and that will essentially be hitching a ride to misery, and then we will turn it around. The problem with that is, you know — FDR, Great Society — when leftists institute — once things get going, they’re very hard to stop. Very hard for us to hold them back. I think about welfare reform. Obama, like that, essentially undid a lot of great work. So that’s what scares me about these sort of large programs that get their hands into every part of American society.
Stanley Kurtz: I’m scared, too. The bad scenarios are very realistic. But I think the good scenarios are, in this case — because this is something — it affects us where we live — our healthcare. People are really going to notice this, they’re really going to get mad. And so many of them don’t even know it exists. What are they going to do when they wake up to the fact that it does? I just don’t know. We’re back to the first question — it could go either way.
Unidentified Speaker: This question is for Christian Adams. I got any mail a few days ago that Obama has once again signed another executive order establishing a Presidential Commission for Election Administration, where he can appoint nine members which, in effect, based on what this article says, takes control out of the hands of the states and into the hands of the federal government. Is this true?
J. Christian Adams: Well, I hope you’re not reading my Washington Times column on that commission that says federalizing state elections — but here’s what that is. In the State of the Union, Obama complained about long lines. And he has a bipartisan commission that members have not yet been named, sort of like that. And they’re going to make recommendations about long lines.
What this is is part of my overall theme of they know how to control process rules. And they’re going to come out with the commission that says — we need same-day registration; all the things — the cornucopia the Left loves — vote-by-mail, weeks and weeks and weeks of early voting, you don’t have to go to your correct precinct — I mean, I could just go down the inventory of left-wing election things they want. That election commission won’t have power to implement any of these things, but it helps push the narrative a little, a little, a little, a little.
Unfortunately, the people who are representing the Republicans I do not believe understand the nature of the Left and how process is important to them. I had a conversation with the Republican Chairman. And I just hope that it comes out positive, but I’m not optimistic.
Here’s a 30 second legal lesson — no, 20 seconds — if a voting law is enacted with a racially discriminatory intent, it violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the 15th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The leftist enemies of Sandy Springs are saying that the decision to incorporate and get away from Atlanta has a racially discriminatory purpose. Because you don’t have to vote with the black people. And they’re going to get some traction in that argument, and they’re going to present expert witnesses.
Unidentified Speaker: (Inaudible)
J. Christian Adams: I know — listen, I’m not on their side. I mean, believe me, anybody who knows me knows I’m not on their side. I’m just articulating how the Left is armed to the teeth over these voting process issues, and they will drag Sandy Springs into federal court for a decade over this.
Stanley Kurtz: And you can see how Christian’s and my — the suburbs issue — you know, they come together here. And in Westchester County, they didn’t even have to allege in Westchester County that there had been no discrimination. In fact, Westchester County had been praised for its non-discriminatory housing. But this provision I was talking about of affirmatively furthering — it’s kind of like a parallel to affirmative action. So they have a lot of ways of coming at you. And in this case, this is kind of an invented way. I mean, no administration, Democrat or Republican, had even enforced it.
So they manage to force all of this on grounds of racial discrimination, without even alleging racial discrimination. It’s just incredible what they’re able to accomplish.
Michael Finch: Michael, if I could, I’d like to ask a quick question. Then we’ll give Carol, I think, the last question.
If the four horsemen arrive, David, as you write about in your book — the worst happens in the next three and a half years — even if we get the next Ronald Reagan, can all these worst things be undone? Or is it going to be too late?
Unidentified Speaker: Don’t have to know.
David Harsanyi: No.
David Harsanyi: I’ve worked in the federal government, okay? I’ve been a federal employee in a bureaucracy. And I’ve written a lot about it at PJ media as much as I can. By the way, there was a great piece at FrontPage I wrote about the left-wing election process control. Please read it if you want to get a full sense of this.
The Leviathan is so entrenched. There is so much inertia. And any time a committed ideological conservative is placed in a political position, at a mid-level position in the federal government, he is annihilated by the Left. And the centrist Republicans flee from the defense, and Leviathan rolls along.
And from my experience in the federal government — I’m sorry to say, there’s no turning this back. It’s too entrenched.
J. Christian Adams: He’s worse than me.
David Harsanyi: Yeah.
Michael Wienir: Resurrect this.
David Harsanyi: On life issues, I think there can be — we can turn it around if you’re on my side on this — because of science, because of the things we see, because I think that’s an issue that connects with people emotionally in some way; I think that can be turned around.
Debt’s going to be a tough one because nothing can get done. You still have the national trauma that sequester was — essentially no cut at all. So I can’t imagine when there’s a real cut. But at some point, interest rates go up. Servicing that debt starts to take a bigger piece of the budget. And people are actually going to see cuts in things they care about, and there could be a backlash. But I think there’s going to be some suffering before we get there.
And dependency — you know, I think Mitt Romney had it wrong when he said the 47 percent, because he had the wrong people. A lot of people don’t pay taxes because they’re young, because they’re older, because they’re — you know, they will or they have. But there is definitely a growing number of people who are dependent on government in other ways, and they’re going to vote that way. So I think that that’s troublesome.
Michael Wienir: Carol, last question.
Carol: Mr. Kurtz, the things that you’re talking about, are those — Agenda 21 — does that even exist, or is that a conspiracy type of thing?
Stanley Kurtz: Right, that’s a great question, and I get that question a lot.
There is something very real called Agenda 21. It’s an agenda, a set of policy recommendations which is very, very similar to everything that I’ve been talking about. And in fact, it was promulgated by the United Nations. It’s real, it exists. However, Agenda 21 and the UN has no real formal power over the United States. It’s just a list of recommendations.
So conservatives tend to use Agenda 21 in two ways. Sometimes they use it as just code for a whole set of policies that are kind of like the policies I’m talking about. But sometimes they mention it as though the chief force behind these policies were the commands of the United Nations. And that’s where the Left jumps on it and calls all of this a crazy conspiracy theory.
What I try to do in the book is basically — I don’t talk much about Agenda 21 — what I basically say is it’s the homegrown groups. After all, Barack Obama was, you know, part-and-parcel of one of these homegrown groups. We don’t even know that these homegrown groups exist. And they very consciously fly under the radar. I’ve got quotes from them. When you read their own literature, they say it’s good not to be able to have to talk about this too much openly. You know, this could be very controversial. Let’s just put it in terms of environmentalism and global warming, and not — so you can actually catch them saying that.
So what I’m trying to do is educate conservatives to focus on the issues raised by Agenda 21 but to recognize the real challenges coming from these homegrown movements that tend to fly under the radar screen, and that we have to educate ourselves about.
Michael Wienir: Well, I want to thank all three of you for participating in this. And I want to thank all of you for staying this afternoon for the panel.
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