The Knives Come Out: Far Right Attacks Brown as 'Too Liberal'
Scott Brown Became the Darling of the Republican Party After His Stunning Upset Victory in Massachusetts' Special Election to Fill Ted Kennedy's Senate Seat, But Now Hard-Line Social Conservatives Are Blasting Him For Being Pro-Choice, Despite His Support for Existing Ban on Late-Term Abortions
It was perhaps inevitable that Senator-elect Scott Brown (R-Massachusetts), who scored a stunning upset victory over Democrat Martha Coakley in the January 19 special election to serve out the remaining two years of the late Edward Kennedy's term -- becoming the first Republican to represent the Bay State in the U.S. Senate in 31 years -- would come under fire from hard-line social conservatives once they learned of his position on abortion. Brown says that a decision whether or not to have an abortion "should ultimately be made by a woman in consultation with her doctor" -- although he does support the existing federal ban on late-term abortions. (Photo: Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe)
(Posted 5:00 a.m. EST Monday, February 22, 2010)
(Updated 2:00 a.m. EST Tuesday, February 23, 2010)
BROWN CASTS FIRST GOP VOTE FOR JOBS BILL
WASHINGTON -- In his first vote since his swearing-in on February 4, Senator Scott Brown (R-Massachusetts) and four other Republicans broke ranks with their fellow GOP senators Monday night and joined with the Democratic majority in a 62-30 test vote on a $15 billion job-creation bill, all but ensuring its eventual passage.
Brown was the first Republican to vote for the measure. He was joined by Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Christopher Bond (R-Missouri). Senator Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska) was the only Democrat to vote against it.
By SKEETER SANDERS
Did hard-line social conservatives -- those who believe that women have no right to reproductive choice and that gays and lesbians are "the scum of the Earth" who have no right to marry -- really expect the voters of Massachusetts to actually vote in as their next U.S. senator a person who shares the hard-liners' vehement anti-choice and anti-gay views?
Get real. This is Massachusetts -- which, along with Vermont, is not only one of the most deep-blue states in the nation, but also the most socially liberal.
If Scott Brown, the Republican who scored a stunning upset victory over Democrat Martha Coakley in the January 19 special Senate election to serve out the remaining two years of the late Edward Kennedy's term, were a hard-line social conservative, he wouldn't have had a snowball's chance in hell of getting elected.
1990: A MODERATE REPUBLICAN DEFEATED A HARD-LINE CONSERVATIVE DEMOCRAT FOR GOVERNOR
Just ask John Silber, the ultra-conservative former president of Boston University, who ran for governor in 1990 as a Democrat -- in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by better than three to one -- only to end up losing to a moderate Republican, William Weld, a former federal prosecutor.
Silber -- whose 20-year tenure as BU president was marked by one controversy after another -- alienated many Democrats and independent voters with his often-incendiary conservative rhetoric on the campaign trail, ultimately prompting many Democrats to cross party lines and vote for Weld, whose liberal social views appealed to them.
Weld became the most popular governor in the modern history of Massachusetts, going on to re-election in 1994 by a record 71 percent landslide.
Now, it appears, Brown my turn out to to be another Bill Weld. That hard-line conservatives have found this out now is something of a surprise, given that Brown has never made any secret of his pro-choice stance on abortion. Indeed, you can't win a statewide election in Massachusetts if you're not pro-choice.
When Republican Mitt Romney successfully ran for governor in 2002, he held moderate to liberal views on abortion, and stated that the legislature should be the driving force behind policy decisions on that issue. During his tenure, however, he became increasingly "pro-life" and -- combined with his staunch opposition to both same-gender marriage and civil unions for gay and lesbian couples -- had a difficult time maintaining his job-approval ratings, which likely factored in Romney's decision to not seek a second term in 2006.
But while Brown made it clear on his campaign Web site that he believes that the decision on whether or not to have an abortion is "should ultimately be made by a woman in consultation with her doctor," he does favor the federal ban on late-term -- so-called "partial-birth" -- abortions. He also believes that parents should be notified when a teen-aged daughter obtains one, but significantly, does not favor requiring parental consent.
BARBOUR: 'WE DON'T NEED PURITY' -- HARD-LINERS SHARPLY DISAGREE
Governor Haley Barbour (R-Mississippi), chair of the Republican Governors Association, recognized as much. Appearing January 31 on CBS's "Face the Nation," Barbour acknowlegded that Brown is "very much a moderate Republican, and I think it's a reminder to Republicans that we don't need purity."
Barbour, a former GOP national chairman, told CBS's Bob Scheiffer that Republicans "need the best we can elect, and Scott Brown is the best senator for Massachusetts. . . He's certainly not as conservative as I am. And that's healthy and good."
But a number of hard-line social conservatives sharply disagree. Alan Keyes, who ran unsuccessfully against Barack Obama for the U.S. Senate in Illinois in 2004, was quick to condemn Brown. Writing on the right-wing Web site WorldNetDaily, Keyes branded Brown "a typical RINO [Republican-in-name-only] who . . . embraces the substance of Obama’s socialist agenda, but 'opposes' Obama by criticizing his implementation of socialism . . ."
Keyes tore into Brown's position on abortion: "[Brown] agrees in principle with the Democrats on the fundamental issues of justice and morality but employs the deceptive rhetoric of personal opinion to evade the questions of public law and policy they involve," Keyes wrote. "Such issues include child-murder and other abrogations of the unalienable right to life, as well as the rejection of the God-endowed rights of the natural family."
SANTORUM: 'BROWN CONFUSED' -- TERRY: 'HE MUST BE REPLACED'
In a January 17 Twitter posting picked up by Politico.com, former Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania) branded Brown "confused" in his position on abortion vis-a-vis the Senate version of the health-care reform bill that's now in limbo.
"Brown campaign confused on conscience clause in health care bills. House bill good, Sen[ate] bill bad, Coakley worst," Santorum wrote.
Not to be outdone, anti-abortion extremist Randall Terry branded Brown "a 'moderate' child-killer." In an incendiary message posted on a conservative Catholic Web forum, Terry wrote that because Brown supports Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, "he supports the brutal murder of children in the womb for any reason; he defends the barbaric practice of those babies being decapitated, or chemically burned to death, and then casting their mangled bodies into sewers and landfills for graves."
Terry concluded his message with an appeal that "We need to replace Scott Brown as soon as we can with a true defender of babies' lives, not a phony who supports their murder."
SOME TEA PARTY ACTIVISTS ARE NO FANS OF BROWN, EITHER
But anti-abortion hard-liners are hardly the only ones on the far right side of the political spectrum in lambasting Brown.
A week before the election, Massachusetts Tea Party activists Carla Howell and Michael Cloud, posted a "Warning!" message on the Meetup.com Web site under "The 9/12 Project," in which they warned that Brown "is an 11-year Big Government Republican state legislator who regularly and repeatedly voted for bigger state government budgets, voted for expanded and new Big Government programs, voted for tax increases, and voted against tax cuts!"
Howell and Cloud accuse Brown of being "a smooth-talking chameleon" on the issue of taxes and government spending. "We know every single real tax cutter in Massachusetts," they write. "We know every major phony and fake friend of taxpayers. Every slick, smooth-talking chameleon who tries to blend in with tax-cutters -- while he votes for tax hikes, votes for property tax increases and campaigns against and votes against a major tax cut!"
The pair branded Brown, a state lawmaker for 11 years, "the worst fake tax-cutter in the Massachusetts Legislature. And a fake ally is more dangerous than an open enemy."
The 'Skeeter Bites Report was unable to determine if Howell and Cloud's "9/12 Project" Meetup site was related to the namesake campaign of Fox News commentator and radio talk-show host Glenn Beck; a review of the Web site of Beck's 9/12 Project found no similar criticisms of the Republican.
ATTACKS LATEST SYMPTOM OF RIGHT-WING 'POLITICAL CANNIBALISM' IN GOP
The attacks on Brown from the far-right fringe should come as no surprise, for it is only the latest manifestation of an ongoing political cannibalism going on inside the Republican Party.
John Avlon, a former columnist and associate editor at The New York Sun, notes that the ongoing debate now roiling the GOP of ideological purity issues "is getting out of control."
In a commentary posted on TheDailyBeast.com, Avlon notes that even GOP icons such as Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt are coming under attack as so-called "RINOs" and "progressive plutocrats" from right-wing hard-liners.
"This RINO-hunting impulse is getting out of control," writes Avlon, whose new book, Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America, is now on sale. "It has been indulged by the party leadership it now seeks to consume.
"Scott Brown’s victory offers Republicans a window in how to win again outside the party’s base," Avlon continues. "But when overheated praise . . . quickly dissolves into bitter intra-party inquisitions, it’s a sign of a deeper instability -- a discomfort with representative democracy when it conflicts with ideology."
In other words, what's going on in the Republican Party poses a serious threat to its long-term electoral survival at a time when America's population is changing -- and that, in turn, could have serious consequences for the future of American democracy itself.
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Copyright 2010, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.