Daily Archives: June 14, 2004

The Toad’s Link to Terrorists

As we all know by now, the radcons are hopelessly single-minded when it comes to defending their own and, as the increasingly indefensible radcon defense of torture and the execrable legal attempts to justify it show, it doesn’t much matter how badly they have to beat up on logic, truth or common sense to do it. But even they, it turns out, draw the line when it comes to Grover Norquist’s support for Islamic terrorists.

A year or so ago, Frank Gaffney, conservative and former Reagan defense official, wrote an article that laid out in detail Norquist’s connections to Islamic terrorists. Arch conservative David Horowitz–a right-wing-whacko who seriously believes, and has written, that liberal leaders are actually members of a Fifth Column who ‘have worked for half a century with the agents of America’s communist enemies and with totalitarian states like Cuba and the former USSR’, and a purported friend of Norquist’s–decided to print Gaffney’s article at his right-wing online mag, Front Page, even though it was highly critical of his friend and Gingrich protege. Radcon uber-blogger Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit) noted its importance and wondered what was taking the left so long to pick up on it. (It may have escaped Glenn’s mind but back in December we were a little more concerned about another of Junior’s little peccadillos–fomenting a pre-emptive and unnecessary war with Iraq using lies, distortions, and faked evidence.) What had them so fired up they’d turn against one of their own? This:

[Norquist’s front, The Reagan Legacy Project, was e]nabling a political influence operation to advance the causes of radical Islamists [that] targeted most particularly…the Bush Administration. The growing influence of this operation–and the larger Islamist enterprise principally funded by Saudia Arabia–has created a strategic vulnerability for the nation, and a political liability for its President.

The core of Gaffney’s problem with The Toad was his close relationship with Abdurahman Alamoudi, a Saudi with strong ties to the Royal Family and a ‘self-described supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah’ who had links to a number of Islamic groups known to be funneling money from rich Saudi businessmen to terrorist fronts. In November, for example, Alamoudi had been arrested for trying to send $340,000 allegedly from Libya’s Moammar Qaddaffi through a bank in Syria to a number of Saudi accounts linked to radical Wahhabist groups.

But that was frosting on the cake. Norquist’s contacts in the radical Islamic community were a lot wider than one man with a Qaddaffi connection. In 1997, Grover set up something called The Islamic Institute. Its office address is the same as his ATR office (Americans for Tax Reform, the anti-tax group that is the core of Norquist’s political power)–it’s a desk in his suite. That desk is worth an estimated $250,000; that’s how much has been ‘donated’ to the Islamic Institute over the past 6 years–that we know of–through sources ranging from Alamoudi ($35,000+) to Palestinian Islamic Jihad operative Sami Al-Arian ($10,000+) to the Safa Trust ($35,000) and the International Institute of Islamic Thought ($11,000). The last two groups were, along with a number of others, raided in March of 2003 on charges that they were ‘supporting terrorist financial networks’.

The Islamic Institute is little more than a front for The Toad to do what he does best–sell access to Republican power brokers. What disturbed Gaffney was that I-I’s focus was squarely on the WH. From Gaffney’s point of view, Grover was using his status as the premier Republican power-broker to mount an ‘influence operation’ designed to bring selected Islamic representatives into the Bush inner circles, and he was uneasy that those ‘representatives’ mostly seemed to be under suspicion by anti-terrorist groups for their radical Islamic affiliations.

For instance, Khaled Saffuri, the nominal Chairman of I-I, had been active in ‘Muslim support groups’ in Bosnia where he was suspected of funneling money from Afghanistan–which the Taliban still controlled at the time–to Islamic revolutionaries in Bosnia. Once in the US, he had immediately joined Alamoudi’s Muslim World League, first established in the 60’s by the Saudi Ministry of Religious Affairs, and served on its board for three years. He is known to be, and has admitted, financially supporting the families of suicide bombers (traditionally the function of whichever group had planned the operation in which they died), and he denounced the US govt for ‘shutting down the Holy Land Foundation, a Saudi charity that the[y had] determined was funneling American Muslims’ donations to terrorist organizations overseas.’

In short, The Toad is playing footsie with some very heavy international gamers, providing them WH access in exchange for ‘donations’ in large amounts from their various front groups (in addition to the $35K gift to I-I, Alamoudi has also payed over $50,000 to ‘Janus-Merritt Strategies, a lobbying firm with which Norquist was associated at the time’, for services rendered; what exactly those services were remains unclear).

When The Toad found out about Gaffney’s article, he was, not to put too fine a point on it, livid.

Gaffney’s remarks enraged Norquist, who responded in an open letter to conservative activists. “There is no place in the conservative movement for racial prejudice, religious bigotry or ethnic hatred,” Norquist wrote. “We have come too far in the last 30 years in our efforts to broaden our coalition to allow anyone to smear an entire group of people. . . . The conservative movement cannot be associated with racism or bigotry.”

[Later] he refused to back away from his incendiary charges about Gaffney, on one occasion calling him a “sick little bigot.” “I’m sorry,” Norquist said. “His whole life screams of bigotry, and what he said is just part of a pattern.” Gaffney could have held higher-up administration staffers responsible for choosing who attends White House briefings, Norquist argued, but instead “decided to single out the Muslim.” He continued: “Frank Gaffney and Osama bin Laden share the same view on the relationship between the United States and Islam. I agree with the president in rejecting Osama bin Laden’s and Frank Gaffney’s worldview.”

Apart from making money by selling them access, Norquist’s interest in bringing them forward has to do with precisely what you might think: he believes American Arabs are a potentially powerful Republican voting bloc. Byron York of the National Review:

Norquist has argued for years that Muslims should be a vital part of the Republican party. In a June 2001 article in The American Spectator, he wrote that Muslims are “a faith-based, naturally conservative community,” noting, for example, that majorities of Muslims oppose abortion and support school choice. Citing surveys by Muslim groups, Norquist claimed that in the 2000 presidential election George W. Bush won more than 70 percent of the Muslim vote nationwide. In Florida, Norquist said, Muslims favored Bush over Al Gore by a 20 to 1 margin: “The margin of victory for Bush over Gore in the Muslim vote was 46,200, many times greater than his statewide margin of victory. The Muslim vote won Florida for Bush.” (And, Norquist did not need to add, the presidency itself.)

Unfortunately, York continues, even if Grover genuinely believes that, he’s talking through his hat.

Norquist’s numbers are open to serious question. Pollster John Zogby says there is not a great deal of information on Muslim voting, but “my data indicates that it was tilted Democratic in 2000. It went more for Gore and Nader than for Bush.” Michael Barone, author of the authoritative Almanac of American Politics, argues that it is impossible to draw an accurate picture of Muslim voters, given the lack of exit-poll information. As for the claim that Muslims gave Bush his winning margin, Barone says simply, “Any 538 voters in Florida can claim credit for winning the presidency for Bush.”

A good point–if you leave out the SCOTUS.

So we come back, as always, to ‘show me the money’. Norquist is clearly far less concerned about the questionable contacts of his Muslim benefactors than he is about the payments that flow into his pockets through them from the Saudi government. Does The Toad know he’s being used by extremists to buy favors, perhaps even protection, from the Bush Administration? And if he knows, does he care? This is, after all, the man who is famous for saying that he makes his living from ‘the 700,000 idiots who think [I’m going to] repeal the 16th Amendment legalizing income tax.’ If he has so few qualms about using his own people to enrich himself personally, why would it bother him to use somebody else’s?

Next up in the Norquist Saga: The Toad and Money-Laundering

Bob Herbert On Ray Charles

From today’s NYT:

Whether he intended to or not, Ray had opened fire on two very distinct cultures at one and the same time: the white-bread mass culture that was on its guard against sexuality of any kind (and especially the black kind), and the black religious community, which felt that gospel was the Lord’s music, and thus should be off-limits to the wild secular shenanigans that Ray represented.But here’s the thing. Ray Charles’s music has touched so many people so deeply for so many decades precisely because it is religious. Listen to the way he transforms “America the Beautiful” from an anthem to a hymn. Listen to the joyous call-and-response of “What’d I Say?” or the slow majestic lament of “Drown in My Own Tears.”

Ray’s music envelops the willing listener in a glorious ritualistic expression of the sweet and bitter mysteries of life without the coercion, hypocrisy or intolerance that is so frequently a part of organized religion.

It transcends cultures. It transcends genres — gospel, rhythm and blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, country, pop. At its best, it is raw and beautiful and accessible, a gift from an artist who bravely explored regions of the heart and soul that are important to all of us.

Republicans Weaken Church/State Separation–Again

A relatively straightforward trade bill that’s coming up for a vote in the House has been used as a vehicle by the Republican majority to sneak a provision into it that would single out politically-active churches with special favors. It’s a blatantly political move to protect the Christian right from the consequences of mixing religion and politics.

Under the proposal, churches that venture too zealously into politics would be allowed three “unintentional violations” of the law governing nonprofit organizations without risking immediate loss of their tax-exempt status. Wouldn’t we all love such tax-code mercies? This transparent bridge across the church-state divide comes as hustings-tempted clergy are already being openly enlisted by White House campaigners as “friendly congregations” for the November elections. The House proposal mocks honest clergy as much as the tax code.

Instead of ‘Three Strikes and You’re Out’ laws, favorites of hard-core ‘law-and-order’ Pubs in years gone by, Republicans are suddenly offering their supporters a ‘The First Three Strikes Don’t Count’ law.

The ‘O, How the Mighty Have Fallen’ Dept

ABC, the network that helped destroy Edward R Murrow’s legacy by hiring Barbara Walters as a ‘reporter’, effectively turning ABC News into ABC Entertainment News by equating an interview with the President with an interview of a movie star, has taken another step into the Pit of Darkness–it’s turning the ‘News Special’ into a mini-reality show and macro-joke.

During her 15 years at ABC News, Diane Sawyer has interviewed presidents and reported stories about biological warfare, terrorist attacks and life under the Taliban. But starting tonight, she’ll train her investigative eye on a far different topic: America’s funniest nuptials.In an unusual programming move, at 10 tonight ABC will premiere “Weddings Gone Wacky, Wonderful & Wild: Anything for Love,” which it calls a “funny and sometimes poignant” five-episode series cohosted by Sawyer and produced by the news division. Although ABC News has produced limited-run prime-time series before — for example, “ICU,” a sober four-part documentary about life in a hospital, ran in summer 2002 — the division has rarely, if ever, devoted so much airtime to such lightweight material.

In fact, on-air promotions for “Weddings Gone Wacky,” focusing on attractive young couples dishing about their connubial bloopers, might even be mistaken for the network’s next reality show, with its title echoing the popular and risque “Girls Gone Wild” videos.

Babwa Wawa, Gilda Radnor’s unforgettable satiric re-imagery of Walters for Saturday Night Live back in the days when it was funny and sharp, would have been proud. She has won, and ABC News is formally giving up all pretense of running a serious news desk–or a credible network.

Is this, at long last, the end of Broadcast News and the beginning of the Reign of the Great Satan at ABC (an event we’ve been expecting for yeeeaaars)? I’ll let you know when Peter Jennings asks Ariel Sharon, ‘If you could be a wombat, what species of wombat would you be?’