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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The New Right wing smear machine

The New Right-Wing Smear Machine By Peregrin by CHRISTOPHER HAYES [from The Nation, November 12, 2007 issue] On February 27, 2001, two members of the American Gold Star Mothers, an organization of women who’ve lost sons or daughters in combat, dropped by the temporary basement offices of the new junior senator from New York, Hillary Clinton. They didn’t have an appointment, and the office, which had been up and running for barely a month, was a bit discombobulated. The two women wanted to talk to the senator about a bill pending in the Senate that would provide annuities for the parents of those killed, but they were told that Clinton wasn’t in the office and that the relevant staff members were otherwise engaged. The organization later submitted a formal request in writing for a meeting, which Clinton granted, meeting and posing for pictures with four members of the group. But the story doesn’t end there. In May of that year, the right-wing website NewsMax, a clearinghouse for innuendo and rumor, ran a short item with the headline “Hillary Snubs Gold Star Mothers.” Reporting via hearsay–a comment relayed to someone who then recounted it to the column’s author–the article claimed that Clinton and her staff “simply refused” to meet with the Gold Star Mothers, making hers the “only office” in the Senate that snubbed the group. At first the item didn’t attract much attention, but it quickly morphed into an e-mail that started ricocheting across the Internet. “Bet this never hits the TV news!” began one version. “According to NewsMax.com there was only one politician in DC who refused to meet with these ladies. Can you guess which politician that might be?… None other than the Queen herself–the Hildebeast, Hillary Clinton.” Before long, the Gold Star Mothers and the Clinton office found themselves inundated by inquiries about the “snub,” prompting the Gold Star Mothers to post a small item debunking the claim on their website. When that didn’t stem the tide, they posted a lengthier notice. “These allegations were not initiated by the Gold Star Mothers…. This is a fabricated report picked up by an individual using the Gold Star Mothers as an instrument to discredit Senator Clinton…. We do not need mischeivous gossip and unfounded lies to promote our organization. Please help stop it now.” That plea notwithstanding, the e-mail continues to circulate to this day. Anyone who’s been following politics for the past fifteen years won’t be surprised to find Hillary Clinton the subject of a false and damning right-wing smear. We’ve all become familiar with the ways the Republican noise machine transmits lurid bits of misinformation and tendentious attacks from the conservative fringe into the heart of American political discourse, the process by which a slightly misdelivered joke by John Kerry attracts the ire of Rush Limbaugh and ends up on the front page of the New York Times. But in some senses, the kind of under-the-radar attack embodied in the Gold Star e-mail–which never made the jump to Fox or Drudge–is even harder to deal with. “It’s a Pandora’s box,” says Jim Kennedy, who served as Clinton’s communications director during her first Senate term. “Once [the charges] are out in the ether, they are very hard to combat. It’s very unlike a traditional media, newspaper or TV show, or even a blog, which at least has a fixed point of reference. You know they’re traveling far and wide, but there’s no way to rebut them with all the people that have seen them.” Such is the power of the right-wing smear forward, a vehicle for the dissemination of character assassination that has escaped the scrutiny directed at the Limbaughs and Coulters and O’Reillys but one that is as potent as it is invisible. In 2004 putative firsthand accounts of Kerry’s performance in Vietnam traveled through e-mail in right-wing circles, presaging the Swift Boat attacks. Last winter a forward began circulating accusing Barack Obama of being a secret Muslim schooled in a radical madrassa (about which more later). While the story was later fed through familiar right-wing megaphones, even making it onto Fox, it has continued to circulate via e-mail long after being definitively debunked by CNN. In other words, the few weeks the smear spent in the glare of the mainstream media was just a tiny portion of a long life cycle, most of which has been spent darting from inbox to inbox. In that respect, the e-mail forward doesn’t fit into our existing model of the right-wing noise machine’s structure (hierarchical) or its approach (broadcast). It is, instead, organic and peer-to-peer. If the manufactured outrage over Kerry’s botched joke about George Bush’s study habits was the equivalent of a Hollywood blockbuster, the Gold Star Mother smear was like one of those goofy viral videos of a dog on a skateboard on YouTube. Of course, some of those videos end up with 25 million page views. And now that large media companies understand their potential, they’ve begun trying to create their own. Which prompts the obvious question: if a handful of millionaires and disgruntled Swift Boat Veterans were able to sabotage Kerry’s campaign in 2004, what kind of havoc could be wreaked in 2008 by a few political operatives armed with little more than Outlook and a talent for gossip? The smear forward has its roots in two distinct forms of Internet-age communication. First, there’s the electronically disseminated urban legend (”Help find this missing child!”; “Bill Gates is going to pay people for every e-mail they send!”), which has been a staple of the Internet since the mid- ’90s. Then there’s the surreal genre of right-wing e-mail forwards. These range from creepy rage-filled quasi-fascist invocations (”The next time you see an adult talking…during the playing of the National Anthem–kick their ass”) to treacly aphorisms of patriotic/religious uplift (”remember only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you, Jesus Christ…and the American Soldier”). For a certain kind of conservative, these e-mails, along with talk-radio, are an informational staple, a means of getting the real stories that the mainstream media ignore. “I get a million of them!” says Gerald DeSimone, a 74-year-old veteran from Ridgewood, New Jersey, who describes his politics as “to the right of Attila the Hun.” “If I forwarded every one on, everyone would hate me…. I’m trying to cut back. I try to send no more than two or three a day. I must get thirty or forty a day.” Mike D’Asto, a 29-year-old assistant cameraman living in New York, received so many forwards from his conservative father he started a blog called MyRightWingDad.net, where he shares them with other unwitting recipients. “I suddenly have connected to all these people who receive these right-wing forwards from their brothers-in-law,” D’Asto told me. “Surprisingly, a very large number of people receive these.” And that, of course, is the problem. Rumormongering and whisper campaigns are as old as politics itself (throughout Thomas Jefferson’s presidency opposition newspapers and pamphlets spread the word of his affair with Sally Hemings), but never has there been a medium as perfectly suited to the widespread anonymous diffusion of misinformation as e-mail. David Mikkelson, who, along with his wife, Barbara, founded and runs the website Snopes.com, knows this better than anyone. Devoted exclusively to debunking (and occasionally confirming) urban legends and e-mail-circulated apocrypha, Snopes attracts 4-5 million unique visitors a month, making it one of the Internet’s most popular sites. In the early days, Mikkelson says, there were hardly any political urban legends, but that changed in 2000. “A lot of the things that were circulating in the world at large, things like ridiculing Al Gore for supposedly inventing the Internet,” started to be passed along via e-mail, as well as “a photograph of Gore holding a gun intended to mock him for not holding it safely.” From the beginning, the vast majority of these Internet-disseminated rumors have come from the right. (Snopes lists about fifty e-mails about George W. Bush, split evenly between adulatory accounts of him saluting wounded soldiers or witnessing to a wayward teenager, and accounts of real and invented malapropisms. In contrast, every single one of the twenty-two e-mails about John Kerry is negative.) For conservatives, these e-mails neatly reinforce preconceptions, bending the facts of the world in line with their ideological framework: liberals, immigrants, hippies and celebrities are always the enemy; soldiers and conservatives, the besieged heroes. The stories of the former’s perfidy and the latter’s heroism are, of course, never told by the liberal media. So it’s left to the conservative underground to get the truth out. And since the general story and the roles stay the same, often the actual characters are interchangeable. “A lot of the chain letters that were accusing Al Gore of things in 2000 were recycled in 2004 and changed to Kerry,” says John Ratliff, who runs a site called BreakTheChain.org, which, like Snopes, devotes itself to debunking chain e-mails. One e-mail falsely described a Senate committee hearing in the 1980s where Oliver North offered an impassioned Cassandra-like warning about the threat of Osama bin Laden, only to be dismissed by a condescending Democratic senator. Originally it was Al Gore who played the role of the senator, but by 2004 it had changed to John Kerry. “You just plug in your political front-runner du jour,” Ratliff says. Even if many of the tropes were consistent, the tenor of the e-mails grew more aggressive between 2000 and 2004. “It got really nasty,” says Ratliff. “You started seeing things reported as real news that, if you looked into it, you realized was opinion or supposition or someone trying to discredit another candidate through character assassination. You saw a lot of chain letters that purported to be from members of the Swift Boat group or firsthand accounts of people who supposedly had experience with Kerry in Vietnam. A lot of them didn’t check out.” Aside from specious allegations about his military service, many of the e-mails attacking Kerry either emphasized his wealth (photos of each of his five residences) or relayed putative firsthand accounts of the senator acting like an imperious prick. Hal Cranmer, a former Air Force pilot, wrote a widely circulated account of his experience flying Kerry around Vietnam and Cambodia in 1991 in which Kerry scarfs pizza meant for the crew, forces the pilots to sit for an hour in an un-air-conditioned plane and boasts that he “never sail[s] on anything less than 135 feet.” (Since it’s a matter of historical record that Kerry has sailed boats smaller than 135 feet, this quote seems highly dubious.) When I tracked down Cranmer during his lunch break at the aerospace manufacturing firm he works for in Minnesota, I was surprised to hear him ruefully recall his brush with Internet fame. “It gave me a real lesson. My wife says one of the reasons she married me is that I don’t talk badly about people,” he said with a laugh. “I really didn’t mean to do that here.” In spring 2004, as John Kerry began to emerge as the probable nominee, Cranmer e-mailed his account to the libertarian website LewRockwell.com, where readers were sharing their personal experiences about meeting Kerry. “I said, OK, I’ll put in my two cents…. I thought maybe I’d get one or two e-mails about it and it would just disappear.” That was not to be. “All of a sudden I was getting fifty e-mails a day. I had an annual meeting with the Air Force pilots, and a friend said, ‘Tell your story about John Kerry,’ and everyone in the room was going, ‘I got that e-mail! That was you?’ I had neighbors walking in and saying, ‘Hey, I got an e-mail about you.’ I was trying to keep this low-key, not try to ruin an election here. I was just relating an experience that happened to me. People drew all kinds of crazy conclusions from it other than I had a bad experience with him.” Added Cranmer, “Maybe he’s the nicest guy in the world, and he was in a bad mood going into Vietnam…. I really didn’t mean this to be as huge as it was.” Cranmer told me he was a libertarian and a big fan of Ron Paul. “I voted for Bush in 2000 and have regretted it ever since. I didn’t even vote in 2004.” He now wishes he’d kept his impressions to himself. Some anecdote of casual thoughtlessness “shouldn’t be what defines the presidency.” But of course, that’s exactly the kind of thing that did define the last presidential election. Cranmer’s e-mail, and those of a similar ilk, were perfectly in line with the broader narrative of the Bush campaign, in which the major knock on Kerry was that he was an elitist, disingenuous jerk–a “bad man,” in Lynne Cheney’s phrasing. Like the other popular e-mails that circulated in 2004, Cranmer’s includes not a single substantive criticism of Kerry’s platform or policy preferences, but the unflattering picture it offers has an effect that’s immediate and visceral. It lingers in the back of one’s head. It was similar gossip that helped spell doom for John McCain during the South Carolina primary in 2000, when a whisper campaign spread rumors that he had a black daughter out of wedlock. “John McCain was done in by leaflets put on cars in church parking lots,” says Democratic campaign consultant Chris Lehane. Forwarded e-mails, he says, “are the digital version of this and potentially more pernicious and far-reaching because of the obvious efficiencies of the online world. I would fully expect to see it manifesting in the GOP primary.” Sure enough, a few weeks after I spoke to Lehane, Mike Huckabee’s Iowa state campaign chair, Bob Vander Plaats, issued a statement denying that he’d written an e-mail that voters had received bearing his name. In that hoax e-mail, someone impersonating Vander Plaats announced that he was dropping Huckabee because of low fundraising numbers and backing Mitt Romney instead and urging others to do the same. Faced with dubious attacks, circulating below the radar, campaigns find themselves in a familiar bind, one that handcuffed Kerry in 2004 when the Swift Boat charges first cropped up in ads, talk-radio and e-mail. If you respond, you run the risk of bringing the original false accusation to a wider audience. This is particularly true when the e-mails don’t even have a putative author attached. “For lots of these e-mails, there’s never any definable source,” says Mikkelson. “They just seem to come out of nowhere.” That leads to the $64,000 question: are these anonymous attacks organic emanations of the diffuse political consciousness, or are they deliberately seeded by professional political operators? Mikkelson is skeptical that anyone could intentionally write the kind of e-mail that would take off virally. “Even people who are steeped in it, it’s very, very difficult to start something deliberately that will catch on.” Still, there’s some evidence it’s been done. Snopes determined that a gushing pro-Bush e-mail from 2004 about watching the President worship in the pews of St. John’s Church in Washington was actually written by the press spokeswoman for Republican Senator Lamar Alexander. Her name is Laura Lefler, and she now works for Senator Bob Corker. I tried to contact Lefler to get a sense of what inspired her to write the e-mail and how, exactly, she disseminated it, but she wouldn’t return my calls or e-mails. The most notorious smear forward of this cycle is the Obama/madrassa canard, which represents the cutting edge of electronic rumor. At least two weeks before the Obama/madrassa smear appeared in the online magazine Insight, on January 17, it had been circulating widely in an e-mail forward that laid out the basics of Obama’s bio in a flat, reportorial tone before concluding thus: Obama takes great care to conceal the fact that he is a Muslim…. Lolo Soetoro, the second husband of Obama’s mother…introduced his stepson to Islam. Osama was enrolled in a Wahabi school in Jakarta. Wahabism is the radical teaching that is followed by the Muslim terrorists who are now waging Jihad against the western world. Since it is politically expedient to be a Christian when seeking major public office in the United States, Barack Hussein Obama has joined the United Church of Christ in an attempt to downplay his Muslim background.Let us all remain alert concerning Obama’s expected presidential candidacy. Did you catch that typo in the crucial sentence? And the strategic deployment of Obama’s middle name? It’s a coldly effective bit of slander: a single damning lie (the school Obama attended was a run-of-the mill public elementary school) snuggled tightly within a litany of mundane facts, followed by dark insinuation. Who wrote it? The unsatisfying answer is, we’ll probably never know. “The thing to keep in mind about e-mail is that there is absolutely zero built-in security or data integrity,” my friend Paul Smith, a software developer with EveryBlock.com, explained to me when I asked him if there was any way I could trace the Obama e-mail to its original author. “That’s why there is spam. I could construct an e-mail from scratch and deliver it and have it seem like it was coming from Steve Jobs, and for all intents and purposes the receiver would have no way of knowing it wasn’t from Cupertino.” But even if the identity of the e-mail’s author was unrecoverable, it was still possible to trace back the roots of its content. The origin proved even more bizarre than I could have guessed. On August 10, 2004, just two weeks after Obama had given his much-heralded keynote speech at the DNC in Boston, a perennial Republican Senate candidate and self-described “independent contrarian columnist” named Andy Martin issued a press release. In it, he announced a press conference in which he would expose Obama for having “lied to the American people” and “misrepresent[ed] his own heritage.” Martin raised all kinds of strange allegations about Obama but focused on him attempting to hide his Muslim past. “It may well be that his concealment is meant to endanger Israel,” read Martin’s statement. “His Muslim religion would obviously raise serious questions in many Jewish circles where Obama now enjoys support.” A quick word about Andy Martin. During a 1983 bankruptcy case he referred to a federal judge as a “crooked, slimy Jew, who has a history of lying and thieving common to members of his race.” Martin, who in the past was known as Anthony Martin-Trigona, is one of the most notorious litigants in the history of the United States. He’s filed hundreds, possibly thousands, of lawsuits, often directed at judges who have ruled against him, or media outlets that cover him unfavorably. A 1993 opinion by the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, in Atlanta, described these lawsuits as “a cruel and effective weapon against his enemies,” and called Martin a “notoriously vexatious and vindictive litigator who has long abused the American legal system.” He once even attempted to intervene in the divorce proceedings of a judge who’d ruled against him, petitioning the state court to be appointed as the guardian of the judge’s children. When I asked Martin for the source of his allegations about Obama’s past, he told me they came from “people in London, among other places.” Why London, I asked? “I started talking to them about Kenyan law. Every little morsel led me a little farther along.” Within a few days of Martin’s press conference, the conservative site Free Republic had picked it up, attracting a long comment thread, but after that small blip the specious “questions” about Obama’s background disappeared. Then, in the fall of 2006, as word got out that Obama was considering a presidential run, murmurs on the Internet resumed. In October a conservative blog called Infidel Bloggers Alliance reposted the Andy Martin press release under the title “Is Barack Obama Lying About His Life Story?” A few days later the online RumorMillNews also reposted the Andy Martin press release in response to a reader’s inquiry about whether Obama was a Muslim. Then in December fringe right-wing activist Ted Sampley posted a column on the web raising the possibility that Obama was a secret Muslim. Sampley, who co-founded Vietnam Veterans Against John Kerry and once accused John McCain of having been a KGB asset, quoted heavily from Martin’s original press release. “When Obama was six,” Sampley wrote, “his mother, an atheist, married Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian Muslim, and moved to Jakarta, Indonesia…. Soetoro enrolled his stepson in one of Jakarta’s Muslim Wahabbi schools. Wahabbism is the radical teaching that created the Muslim terrorists who are now waging Jihad on the rest of the world.” On December 29, 2006, the very same day that Sampley posted his column, Snopes received its first copy of the e-mail forward, which contains an identical charge in strikingly similar language. Given the timing, it seems likely that it was a distillation of Sampley’s work. Despite the fact that CNN and others have thoroughly debunked the smear, the original false accusation has clearly sunk into people’s consciousness. One Obama organizer told me recently that every day, while calling prospective voters, he gets at least one or two people who tell him they won’t be voting for Obama because he’s a Muslim. According to Google, “Barack Obama Muslim” is the third most-searched term for the Illinois senator. And an August CBS poll found that when voters were asked to give Obama’s religion, as many said Muslim as correctly answered Protestant. Oh yeah. And the e-mail continues to circulate. “Everybody started calling me” when the e-mail first made the rounds, Andy Martin told me. “They said, ‘Hey, did you write this?’ My answer was ‘they are all my children.’ “

Evangelical Break up?

The Evangelical Crackup By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK The hundred-foot white cross atop the Immanuel Baptist Church in downtown Wichita, Kan., casts a shadow over a neighborhood of payday lenders, pawnbrokers and pornographic video stores. To its parishioners, this has long been the front line of the culture war. Immanuel has stood for Southern Baptist traditionalism for more than half a century. Until recently, its pastor, Terry Fox, was the Jerry Falwell of the Sunflower State — the public face of the conservative Christian political movement in a place where that made him a very big deal. With flushed red cheeks and a pudgy, dimpled chin, Fox roared down from Immanuel’s pulpit about the wickedness of abortion, evolution and homosexuality. He mobilized hundreds of Kansas pastors to push through a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, helping to unseat a handful of legislators in the process. His Sunday-morning services reached tens of thousands of listeners on regional cable television, and on Sunday nights he was a host of a talk-radio program, “Answering the Call.” Major national conservative Christian groups like Focus on the Family lauded his work, and the Southern Baptist Convention named him chairman of its North American Mission Board. For years, Fox flaunted his allegiance to the Republican Party, urging fellow pastors to make the same “confession” and calling them “sissies” if they didn’t. “We are the religious right,” he liked to say. “One, we are religious. Two, we are right.” His congregation, for the most part, applauded. Immanuel and Wichita’s other big churches were seedbeds of the conservative Christian activism that burst forth three decades ago. In the 1980s, when theological conservatives pushed the moderates out of the Southern Baptist Convention, Immanuel and Fox were both at the forefront. In 1991, when Operation Rescue brought its “Summer of Mercy” abortion protests to Wichita, Immanuel’s parishioners leapt to the barricades, helping to establish the city as the informal capital of the anti-abortion movement. And Fox’s confrontational style packed ever more like-minded believers into the pews. He more than doubled Immanuel’s official membership to more than 6,000 and planted the giant cross on its roof. So when Fox announced to his flock one Sunday in August last year that it was his final appearance in the pulpit, the news startled evangelical activists from Atlanta to Grand Rapids. Fox told the congregation that he was quitting so he could work full time on “cultural issues.” Within days, The Wichita Eagle reported that Fox left under pressure. The board of deacons had told him that his activism was getting in the way of the Gospel. “It just wasn’t pertinent,” Associate Pastor Gayle Tenbrook later told me. Fox, who is 47, said he saw some impatient shuffling in the pews, but he was stunned that the church’s lay leaders had turned on him. “They said they were tired of hearing about abortion 52 weeks a year, hearing about all this political stuff!” he told me on a recent Sunday afternoon. “And these were deacons of the church!” These days, Fox has taken his fire and brimstone in search of a new pulpit. He rented space at the Johnny Western Theater at the Wild West World amusement park until it folded. Now he preaches at a Best Western hotel. “I don’t mind telling you that I paid a price for the political stands I took,” Fox said. “The pendulum in the Christian world has swung back to the moderate point of view. The real battle now is among evangelicals.” Fox is not the only conservative Christian to feel the heat of those battles, even in — of all places — Wichita. Within three months of his departure, the two other most influential conservative Christian pastors in the city had left their pulpits as well. And in the silence left by their voices, a new generation of pastors distinctly suspicious of the Republican Party — some as likely to lean left as right — is beginning to speak up. Just three years ago, the leaders of the conservative Christian political movement could almost see the Promised Land. White evangelical Protestants looked like perhaps the most potent voting bloc in America. They turned out for President George W. Bush in record numbers, supporting him for re-election by a ratio of four to one. Republican strategists predicted that religious traditionalists would help bring about an era of dominance for their party. Spokesmen for the Christian conservative movement warned of the wrath of “values voters.” James C. Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, was poised to play kingmaker in 2008, at least in the Republican primary. And thanks to President Bush, the Supreme Court appeared just one vote away from answering the prayers of evangelical activists by overturning Roe v. Wade. Today the movement shows signs of coming apart beneath its leaders. It is not merely that none of the 2008 Republican front-runners come close to measuring up to President Bush in the eyes of the evangelical faithful, although it would be hard to find a cast of characters more ill fit for those shoes: a lapsed-Catholic big-city mayor; a Massachusetts Mormon; a church-skipping Hollywood character actor; and a political renegade known for crossing swords with the Rev. Pat Robertson and the Rev. Jerry Falwell. Nor is the problem simply that the Democratic presidential front-runners — Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Senator Barack Obama and former Senator John Edwards — sound like a bunch of tent-revival Bible thumpers compared with the Republicans. The 2008 election is just the latest stress on a system of fault lines that go much deeper. The phenomenon of theologically conservative Christians plunging into political activism on the right is, historically speaking, something of an anomaly. Most evangelicals shrugged off abortion as a Catholic issue until after the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. But in the wake of the ban on public-school prayer, the sexual revolution and the exodus to the suburbs that filled the new megachurches, protecting the unborn became the rallying cry of a new movement to uphold the traditional family. Now another confluence of factors is threatening to tear the movement apart. The extraordinary evangelical love affair with Bush has ended, for many, in heartbreak over the Iraq war and what they see as his meager domestic accomplishments. That disappointment, in turn, has sharpened latent divisions within the evangelical world — over the evangelical alliance with the Republican Party, among approaches to ministry and theology, and between the generations. The founding generation of leaders like Falwell and Dobson, who first guided evangelicals into Republican politics 30 years ago, is passing from the scene. Falwell died in the spring. Paul Weyrich, 65, the indefatigable organizer who helped build Falwell’s Moral Majority and much of the rest of the movement, is confined to a wheelchair after losing his legs because of complications from a fall. Dobson, who is 71 and still vigorous, is already planning for a succession at Focus on the Family; it is expected to tack toward the less political family advice that is its bread and butter. The engineers of the momentous 1980s takeover that expunged political and theological moderates from the Southern Baptist Convention are retiring or dying off, too. And in September, when I called a spokesman for the ailing Presbyterian televangelist D. James Kennedy, another pillar of the Christian conservative movement, I learned that Kennedy had “gone home to the Lord” at 2 a.m. that morning. Meanwhile, a younger generation of evangelical pastors — including the widely emulated preachers Rick Warren and Bill Hybels — are pushing the movement and its theology in new directions. There are many related ways to characterize the split: a push to better this world as well as save eternal souls; a focus on the spiritual growth that follows conversion rather than the yes-or-no moment of salvation; a renewed attention to Jesus’ teachings about social justice as well as about personal or sexual morality. However conceived, though, the result is a new interest in public policies that address problems of peace, health and poverty — problems, unlike abortion and same-sex marriage, where left and right compete to present the best answers. The backlash on the right against Bush and the war has emboldened some previously circumspect evangelical leaders to criticize the leadership of the Christian conservative political movement. “The quickness to arms, the quickness to invade, I think that caused a kind of desertion of what has been known as the Christian right,” Hybels, whose Willow Creek Association now includes 12,000 churches, told me over the summer. “People who might be called progressive evangelicals or centrist evangelicals are one stirring away from a real awakening.” The generational and theological shifts in the evangelical world are turning the next election into a credibility test for the conservative Christian establishment. The current Republican front-runner in national polls, Rudolph W. Giuliani, could hardly be less like their kind of guy: twice divorced, thrice married, estranged from his children and church and a supporter of legalized abortion and gay rights. Alarmed at the continued strength of his candidacy, Dobson and a group of about 50 evangelical Christians leaders agreed last month to back a third party if Giuliani becomes the Republican nominee. But polls show that Giuliani is the most popular candidate among white evangelical voters. He has the support, so far, of a plurality if not a majority of conservative Christians. If Giuliani captures the nomination despite the threat of an evangelical revolt, it will be a long time before Republican strategists pay attention to the demands of conservative Christian leaders again. And if the Democrats capitalize on the current demoralization to capture a larger share of evangelical votes, the credibility damage could be just as severe. “There was a time when evangelical churches were becoming largely and almost exclusively the Republican Party at prayer,” said Marvin Olasky, the editor of the evangelical magazine World and an informal adviser to George W. Bush when he was governor. “To some extent — we have to see how much — the Republicans have blown it. That opportunity to lock up that constituency has vanished. The ball now really is in the Democrats’ court.” I covered the Christian conservative movement for The New York Times during the 2004 election, at the moment of its greatest triumph. To the bewilderment of many even in the upper reaches of his own party, Karl Rove bet President Bush’s re-election on boosting the conservative Christian turnout, contending that Bush lost the popular vote in 2000 because four million of those voters stayed home. President Bush missed few opportunities to remind evangelicals that he was one of them — and they got the message. I bowed my head in a good number of swing-state churches in 2004. I saw the passion Bush aroused among theologically orthodox Protestants. And I got to know many of the most influential conservative Christian leaders, most of whom threw themselves into urging their constituents to the polls. Now, as the 2008 campaign heated up in the months before the first primaries, I wondered how the world was looking from the pulpits and pews. And so I went to Wichita, as close as any place to the heart of conservative Christian America. Wichita has a long history of religious crusades. A hundred years ago, Carrie Nation made her name smashing up Wichita’s bars. More recently, the presence of Dr. George Tiller, a specialist in late-term abortions, has kept anti-abortion passions high, attracting Operation Rescue to Wichita for the Summer of Mercy protests in 1991. Two years later, a lone activist shot and wounded Dr. Tiller. Evolution, the flash point that split mainline and evangelical Protestants in the early 20th century, is still hotly debated in Wichita. The Kansas school board has reversed itself on the subject again and again in recent years. At the same time, Wichita is also a decent proxy for plenty of other blue-collar but socially conservative places like Allentown, Pa., and Columbus, Ohio — the swing districts of the swing states that decide elections. A center of aerospace manufacturing, Wichita was a union town and a Democratic stronghold for much of the last century. But all that changed when the conservative Christian movement took root in its suburban megachurches three decades ago, turning theological traditionalists into Republican activists. That story was the centerpiece of the liberal writer Thomas Frank’s 2004 book, “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” He might have called it “What’s the Matter With Wichita?” I arrived just in time for the annual Fourth of July Patriotic Celebration at the 7,000-member Central Christian Church, where Independence Day is second only to Christmas. Thousands of people drove back to the church Sunday evening for a pageant of prayers, songs, a flag ceremony and an American history quiz pitting kids against their parents. “In God We Still Trust” was the theme of the event. “You place your hand on this Bible when you swear to tell the truth,” two men sang in the opening anthem. “There’s no separation; we’re one nation under Him.” “There are those among us who want to push Him out And erase His name from everything this country’s all about. From the schoolhouse to the courthouse, they are silencing His word Now it’s time for all believers to make our voices heard.” Later, as a choir in stars-and-stripes neckties and scarves belted out “Stars and Stripes Forever,” a cluster of men in olive military fatigues took the stage carrying a flag. They lifted the pole to a 45-degree angle and froze in place around it: a re-enactment of the famous photograph of the American triumph at Iwo Jima. The narrator of a preceding video montage had already set the stage by comparing the Iwo Jima flag raising to another long-ago turning point in a “fierce battle for the hearts of men” — the day 2,000 years ago when “a heavy cross was lifted up on top of the mount called Golgotha.” A battle flag as the crucifixion: the church rose to a standing ovation. There was one conspicuous omission from the Patriotic Celebration: any mention of President Bush or the Iraq war. The only reference to the president was a single image in a video montage. Bush was standing with Donald Rumsfeld, head bowed at a grave in Arlington National Cemetery. Every time I visited an evangelical church in 2004, it seemed that a member’s brother or cousin had just returned from Iraq with reports that much greater progress was being made than the news media let on. The admiration for President Bush as a man of faith was nearly universal, and some talked of his contest with John Kerry as a spiritual battle. It would have been hard to overstate the Christian conservative leadership’s sense of the presidential race’s historical significance. In the days before the election, Dobson told me he believed the culture war was “rapidly approaching the climax, with everything that we are about on the line” and the election might be “the pivot point.” The morning after the Republican triumph, a White House operative called Dobson to thank him personally for his support, as Dobson told me in conversation later that day. He bluntly told the operative that the Bush campaign owed his victory in large part to concerned Christian voters. He warned that God had given the nation only “a short reprieve” from its impending “self-destruction.” If the administration slighted its conservative Christian supporters, most importantly in filling Supreme Court vacancies, Dobson continued, Republicans would “pay a price in four years.” On that front, at least, Bush has not disappointed. President Bush’s two appointees, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., have given Dobson and his allies much to be thankful for. Nor has Bush flinched from any politically feasible Christian conservative goal, even when it has been unpopular. He has blocked federal financing for embryonic stem-cell research and intervened to help keep Terri Schiavo on life support. But of course there were moments when the White House seemed to care more about Social Security reform, and in the end the culture did not change. Today the president’s support among evangelicals, still among his most loyal constituents, has crumbled. Once close to 90 percent, the president’s approval rating among white evangelicals has fallen to a recent low below 45 percent, according to polls by the Pew Research Center. White evangelicals under 30 — the future of the church — were once Bush’s biggest fans; now they are less supportive than their elders. And the dissatisfaction extends beyond Bush. For the first time in many years, white evangelical identification with the Republican Party has dipped below 50 percent, with the sharpest falloff again among the young, according to John C. Green, a senior fellow at Pew and an expert on religion and politics. (The defectors by and large say they’ve become independents, not Democrats, according to the polls.) Some claim the falloff in support for Bush reflects the unrealistic expectations pumped up by conservative Christian leaders. But no one denies the war is a factor. Christianity Today, the evangelical journal, has even posed the question of whether evangelicals should “repent” for their swift support of invading Iraq. “Even in evangelical circles, we are tired of the war, tired of the body bags,” the Rev. David Welsh, who took over late last year as senior pastor of Wichita’s large Central Christian Church, told me. “I think it is to the point where they are saying: ‘O.K., we have done as much good as we can. Now let’s just get out of there.’ ” Welsh, who favors pressed khaki pants and buttoned-up polo shirts, is a staunch conservative, a committed Republican and, personally, a politics junkie. But he told me he was wary of talking too much about politics or public affairs around the church because his congregation was so divided over the war in Iraq. Welsh said he considered himself among those who still support the president. “I think he is a good man,” Welsh said, slowly. “He has a heart, a spiritual heart.” But like most of the people I met at Wichita’s evangelical churches, his support for Bush sounded more than a little agonized — closer to sympathy than admiration. “Bush may not have the best people around him,” he added, delicately. “He may not have made the best decisions. He is in a quagmire right now and maybe doesn’t know how to get out. Because to pull out now would say, ‘I was wrong from the very beginning.’ ” Some were less ambivalent. “We know we want to get rid of Bush,” Linda J. Hogle, a product demonstrator at Sam’s Club, told me when I asked her about the 2008 election at her evangelical church’s Fourth of July picnic. “I am glad he can’t run again,” agreed her friend, Floyd Willson. Hogle and Willson both voted for President Bush in 2004. Both are furious at the war and are looking to vote for a Democrat next year. “Upwards of a thousand boys that have been needlessly killed, it is all just politics,” Willson said. The 16-million-member Southern Baptist Convention — the core of the evangelical movement — may be rethinking its relationship with the Republican Party, too. Three years ago, I attended its annual meeting in Indianapolis and tagged along as the denomination’s former president and several of its leaders invited the assembled pastors across a walkway to an adjacent hotel for a Bush-Cheney campaign “pastors’ reception.” Over soft drinks, Ralph Reed, the former Christian Coalition director then working for the Bush campaign, told the pastors just how far they could go for the campaign without jeopardizing their churches’ tax-exempt status. Among the suggestions: “host a citizenship Sunday for voter registration,” “identify someone who will help in voter registration and outreach” or organize a “ ‘party for the president’ with other pastors.” Republicans should not expect that kind of treatment from Southern Baptists again any time soon. In June of last year, in one of the few upsets since conservatives consolidated their hold on the denomination 20 years ago, the establishment’s hand-picked candidates — well-known national figures in the convention — lost the internal election for the convention’s presidency. The winner, Frank Page of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., campaigned on a promise to loosen up the conservatives’ tight control. He told convention delegates that Southern Baptists had become known too much for what they were against (abortion, evolution, homosexuality) instead of what they stand for (the Gospel). “I believe in the word of God,” he said after his election, “I am just not mad about it.” (It’s a formulation that comes up a lot in evangelical circles these days.) I asked Page about the Bush-Cheney reception at the 2004 convention. He sounded appalled. “That will not be happening with me,” he said, repeating it for emphasis. “I have cautioned our denomination to be very careful not to be seen as in lock step with any political party.” Southern Baptists called their denomination’s turn to the right the “conservative resurgence,” meaning both a crackdown on unorthodox doctrine and a corresponding expulsion of political moderates. Page said he considered his election “a clear sign” that rank-and-file Southern Baptists felt the “conservative ascendancy has gone far enough.” Page is meeting personally with all the leading presidential candidates in both parties — Republican and Democrat. (His home state of South Carolina is holding an early primary.) But unlike some of his predecessors, he won’t endorse any of them, he said. “Most of us Southern Baptists are right-wing Republicans,” he added. “But we also recognize that times change.” For example, Page said Christians should be wary of Republican ties to “big business.” Elders like Dobson say the movement has been through doldrums before. Think of the face-off between the Republican Bob Dole and President Bill Clinton in the 1996 election. Dobson later said he had cast his ballot for a third party rather than vote for a moderate like Dole. But then, it was defeat that sapped morale; today, it is victory. Some younger evangelical conservatives say they are fighting just to keep their movement together. (Dobson told me he was too busy to comment for this article.) The Rev. Rick Scarborough — founder of the advocacy organization Vision America, author of a book called “Liberalism Kills Kids” and at 57 an aspiring successor to Falwell or Dobson — has been barnstorming the country on what he calls a “Seventy Weeks to Save America Tour.” “We are somewhat in disarray right now,” he told me, beginning a familiar story. “As a 26-year-old man, I heard there was a born-again Christian from Georgia running for president.” Millions of evangelicals turned out for the first time in 1976 to vote for Jimmy Carter. But then, the story goes, his support for feminism and abortion rights sent them running the other way. “The first time I voted was for Carter,” Scarborough recalled. “The second time was for ‘anybody but Carter,’ because he had betrayed everything I hold dear. “Unfortunately,” Scarborough concluded, “there is the same feeling in our community right now with George Bush. He appeared so right and so good. He talked a good game about family values around election time. But there has been a failure to follow through.” For the conservative Christian leadership, what is most worrisome about the evangelical disappointment with President Bush is that it coincides with a widening philosophical rift. Ever since they broke with the mainline Protestant churches nearly 100 years ago, the hallmark of evangelicals theology has been a vision of modern society as a sinking ship, sliding toward depravity and sin. For evangelicals, the altar call was the only life raft — a chance to accept Jesus Christ, rebirth and salvation. Falwell, Dobson and their generation saw their political activism as essentially defensive, fighting to keep traditional moral codes in place so their children could have a chance at the raft. But many younger evangelicals — and some old-timers — take a less fatalistic view. For them, the born-again experience of accepting Jesus is just the beginning. What follows is a long-term process of “spiritual formation” that involves applying his teachings in the here and now. They do not see society as a moribund vessel. They talk more about a biblical imperative to fix up the ship by contributing to the betterment of their communities and the world. They support traditional charities but also public policies that address health care, race, poverty and the environment. Older evangelical traditionalists like Prof. David Wells of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary near Boston argue that the newer approaches represent a “capitulation” to the broader culture — similar to the capitulation that in his view led the mainline churches into decline. Proponents of the new evangelicalism, on the other hand, say their broader agenda reflects a frustration with the scarce victories in the culture war and revulsion at the moral entanglements of partisan alliances (Abu Ghraib, Jack Abramoff). Scot McKnight, an evangelical theologian at North Park University in Chicago, said, “It is the biggest change in the evangelical movement at the end of the 20th century, a new kind of Christian social conscience.” Secular sociologists say evangelicals’ changing view of society reflects their changing place in it. Once trailing in education and income, evangelicals have caught up over the last 40 years. “The social-issues arguments are the first manifestation of a rural outlook transposed into a more urban or suburban setting,” John Green, of the Pew Research Center, told me. “Now having been there for a while, that kind of hard-edged politics no longer appeals to them. They still care about abortion and gay marriage, but they are also interested in other, more middle-class arguments.” Some rebellious evangelical pastors and theologians of the new school refer to themselves as the emergent church. Others who are less openly rebellious but share a similar approach point to the examples of Rick Warren and Bill Hybels. “What Warren and Hybels are doing is reshaping the perception of what it means to be a Christian in our country and our world,” McKnight says. Warren and Hybels are also highly entrepreneurial. Each has built a network of thousands of mostly evangelical churches that rely on their ministries for sermon ideas, worship plans or audio-video materials to enliven services. As a result, their influence may rival that of any denominational leader in the country. Warren, pastor of the Saddleback church in Lake Forest, Calif., is the author of the best seller “The Purpose Driven Life.” His church has sold materials to thousands of other churches for “campaigns” called 40 Days of Purpose and, more recently, 40 Days of Community. If more Christians worked to alleviate needs in their local communities, he suggests in the church’s promotional materials, “the church would become known more for the love it shows than for what it is against” a thinly veiled dig at the conservative Christian “culture war.” Warren is clearly a theological and cultural conservative. Before the 2004 election, he wrote a letter to other pastors emphasizing the need to combat abortion rights and same-sex marriage. But these days Warren talks much more often about fighting AIDS and poverty. He raised hackles among conservatives last year by having Barack Obama give a speech at his church. And he also came under fire last year when he traveled to Damascus, Syria, where he implicitly criticized the Bush administration for refusing to talk with unfriendly nations. “Isolation and silence has never solved conflict,” he said in a press release defending his trip. Hybels, founder of the Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago, is very possibly the single-most-influential pastor in America; in the last 15 years, his Willow Creek Association has grown to include more than 12,000 churches. Many invite their staff members and lay leaders to participate by telecast in Willow Creek’s annual leadership conferences, creating a virtual gathering of tens of thousands. Dozens of churches in Wichita, including Central Christian and other past bastions of conservative activism, are part of the association. As his stature has grown, Hybels has seemed more willing to irk Christian conservative political leaders — and even some in his own congregation. He set off a furor a few years ago when he invited former President Bill Clinton to speak at one of his conferences. And the Iraq war has brought into sharp relief Hybels’s differences with conservatives like Dobson. Most conservative Christian leaders have resolutely supported Bush’s foreign policy. Dobson and others have even talked about defending Western civilization from radical Islam as a precondition for protecting family values. But on the eve of the Iraq invasion, Hybels preached a sermon called “Why War?” Laying out three approaches to war — realism, just-war theory and pacifism — he implored members of his congregation to re-examine their own thinking and then try to square it with the Bible. In the process, he left little doubt about where he personally stood. He called himself a pacifist. Hybels traced the “J curve” of mounting deaths from war through the centuries. “In case you are wondering about this, wonder how God feels about all this,” he said. “It breaks the heart of God.” At his annual leadership conference this summer, Hybels interviewed former President Jimmy Carter. To some Christian conservatives, it was quite a provocation. Carter, after all, was their first great disappointment, a Southern Baptist who denounced the conservative takeover and an early critic of the Bush administration. Some pastors canceled plans to attend. “I think that a superpower ought to be the exemplification of a commitment to peace,” Carter told Hybels, who nodded along. “I would like for anyone in the world that’s threatened with conflict to say to themselves immediately: ‘Why don’t we go to Washington? They believe in peace and they will help us get peace.’ ” Carter added: “This is just a simple but important extrapolation from what a human being ought to do, and what a human being ought to do is what Jesus Christ did, who was a champion of peace.” In a conversation I had with him, Hybels told me he considered politics a path to “heartache and disappointment” for a Christian leader. But he also described the message of his Willow Creek Association to its member churches in terms that would warm a liberal’s heart. “We have just pounded the drum again and again that, for churches to reach their full redemptive potential, they have to do more than hold services — they have to try to transform their communities,” he said. “If there is racial injustice in your community, you have to speak to that. If there is educational injustice, you have to do something there. If the poor are being neglected by the government or being oppressed in some way, then you have to stand up for the poor.” In the past, Hybels has scrupulously avoided criticizing conservative Christian political figures like Falwell or Dobson. But in my talk with him, he argued that the leaders of the conservative Christian political movement had lost touch with their base. “The Indians are saying to the chiefs, ‘We are interested in more than your two or three issues,’ ” Hybels said. “We are interested in the poor, in racial reconciliation, in global poverty and AIDS, in the plight of women in the developing world.” He brought up the Rev. Jim Wallis, the lonely voice of the tiny evangelical left. Wallis has long argued that secular progressives could make common cause with theologically conservative Christians. “What Jim has been talking about is coming to fruition,” Hybels said. Conservative Christian leaders in Washington acknowledge a “leftward drift” among evangelicals, said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and the movement’s chief advocate in Washington. He told me he believed that Hybels and many of his admirers had, in effect, fallen away from orthodox evangelical theology. Perkins compared the phenomenon to the century-old division in American Protestantism between the liberal mainline and the orthodox evangelical churches. “It is almost like another split coming within the evangelicals,” he said. Wondering how those theological and political debates were unfolding in conservative Wichita, I sought out the Rev. Gene Carlson, another prominent conservative Christian pastor who left his church last year. He spent four decades as the senior pastor of the Westlink Christian Church, expanding it to 7,000 members. He was one of the most important local leaders of the Summer of Mercy abortion protests. He tapped Westlink’s collection plate to help finance its operations and even led a battalion of about 40 clergy members and hundreds of lay people to jail in an act of civil disobedience. Sitting with his wife in a quiet living room with teddy bears on the bookshelves, Carlson, who is 70, told me he is one member of the movement’s founding generation who has had second thoughts. He said he still considers abortion evil. He called the anti-abortion protests “prophetic,” in the sense of the Old Testament prophets who warned of God’s wrath. But Carlson was blunt about the results. “It didn’t really change abortion,” he said. “I thought in my enthusiasm,” he told me with a smile, “that somehow we could band together and change things politically and everything will be fine.” But the closing of Dr. Tiller’s clinic was fleeting. Electing Christian politicians never seemed to change much. “When you mix politics and religion,” Carlson said, “you get politics.” In more recent battles, Carlson has hung back. On the Sunday before the referendum on a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, Carlson reminded his congregation that homosexuality was hardly the only form of sex the Bible condemned. Any extramarital sex is a sin, he told his congregation, so they should not point fingers. “We wouldn’t want to exclude some group because we thought their sin was worse than ours,” Carlson told me with a laugh. Carlson is a registered Republican, though he now considers himself an independent. He volunteered that he now leans left on some social-welfare issues and the environment. He considers himself among the “green evangelicals” who see a biblical mandate for government action to stop global warming. The Westlink church is another member of Hybels’s Willow Creek Association and a satellite location for telecasts of the annual leadership conference. Carlson said he admired Hybels for “challenging some of the sacred cows that we evangelicals have built.” “There is this sense that the personal Gospel is what evangelicals believe and the social Gospel is what liberal Christians believe,” Carlson said, “and, you know, there is only one Gospel that has both social and personal dimensions to it.” He once felt lonely among evangelicals for taking that approach, he told me. “Now it is a growing phenomenon,” he said. “The religious right peaked a long time ago,” he added. “As a historical, sociological phenomenon, it has seen its heyday. Something new is coming.” These days, Westlink has found less confrontational ways to oppose abortion, mainly by helping to pay for a medical center called Choices. Housed in a cozy-looking white-shingled cottage next to Dr. Tiller’s bunkerlike abortion facility, Choices discourages women from ending pregnancies by offering 3-D ultrasound scans and adoption advice. Carlson’s protégé and successor, Todd Carter, 42, said: “I don’t believe the problem of abortion will be solved by overturning Roe v. Wade. It won’t. To me, it is a Gospel issue.” The Rev. Joe Wright, the longtime senior pastor who built Central Christian to 7,000 members, was the third leading pastor in Wichita to step down at the end of last year. He is a tall, heavy man, and he embraced me in a sweaty bear hug the first time we met, at a local chain restaurant. Wright, who is 64, had been another leader of the Operation Mercy protests. But unlike Carlson, he plunged further into conservative politics, eventually as a host of the radio show “Answering the Call,” with Fox. They spent months together traveling the state and lobbying the Statehouse during the same-sex marriage fight. Wright retired in good standing with his congregation, but he told me the political battle had taken a toll. “On Sunday morning when I would mention it, there were people who would hang their heads and say, ‘Oh, here we go again,’ ” he said. “And then, of course, some of them wouldn’t come back.” Wright said he was worried about theological and political trends among young evangelicals, even in Kansas. “If we had to depend on the young evangelical pastors to get us a marriage amendment here in Kansas it never would have happened,” Wright said. He went on to say he was dismayed to feel resistance to his political sermons and voter-registration drives from younger associate pastors at his own church, some of whom moved elsewhere. (Some of his parishioners had already told me the same thing, separately.) “Even in the groups I travel in and grew up in — the preachers who are from the same background I was in, who run in the same circles I ran in, who went to the same schools I did — I don’t find many young evangelical preachers who are willing to stand up and take a stand on the hard issues, because they think they might offend somebody,” he said. “I think the Gospel is offensive, and I think the cross is offensive,” Wright continued. “I think Jesus loved everybody and I think he loved the Pharisees, but he certainly told them how the cow eats the cabbage.” Paul Hill is one of the young associate pastors who left Central Christian after philosophical clashes with Wright. He took a band of young members with him when he started his own emergent-style church, the Wheatland Mission. “Even in Wichita, times have changed,” Hill said. “I think people will hear the Gospel better when it is expressed not just verbally but holistically, through acts of hospitality and by bringing people together. “In the evangelical church in general there is kind of a push back against the Republican party and a feeling of being used by the Republican political machine,” he continued. “There are going to be a lot of evangelicals willing to vote for a Democrat because there are 40 million people without health insurance and a Democrat is going to do something about that.” With Wright, Carlson and Fox out of the spotlight, new religious leaders are stepping to the fore. When legalized gambling was proposed in the Wichita area this year, the pastor who took the lead in rallying other clergy members to stop the measure was Michael Gardner of the First United Methodist Church, a mainline liberal who supports abortion rights and jousted with Fox over the same-sex marriage amendment on competing church telecasts. After decades when evangelical megachurches have exploded at the expense of dwindling mainline congregations, Gardner is poaching the other way. Each Sunday night he convenes an informal emergent church worship group of his own, known as Next Wichita. Several dozen people, mostly 20 to 30 years old, show up to break bread, talk Scripture and plan volunteer projects. “People in that age group are much more attracted to participatory theology, very resistant to being told what to do or what to think,” he said. Patrick Bergquist, a former associate pastor at a local evangelical church who as a child attended Immanuel Baptist, became a regular. “From a theological standpoint, I am an evangelical,” Bergquist, who is 28, explained to me. “But I don’t mean that anyone who is gay is necessarily going to hell, or that anyone who has an abortion is going to hell.” After a life of voting Republican, he said, he recently made a small contribution to the Democratic presidential campaign of Barack Obama. “Is the religious right dead?” Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council told me that question was the title of the first chapter of a new book he is writing with Harry Jackson, a socially conservative African-American pastor. Perkins’s answer is emphatically no — “we are seeing a lot of pastors coming back like never before” — but the 2008 election is the movement’s first big test since the triumph and letdown with President Bush. And so far most Christian conservative leaders do not like what they see. Although all the Republican primary candidates, including Giuliani, spoke at the Family Research Council’s “values voters” meeting last weekend, only the dark horses have consistent conservative records on abortion, gay rights and religion in public life. Of these, Mike Huckabee, a Southern Baptist minister before he became governor of Arkansas, stands out in the polls and in his rhetoric. At last fall’s values-voters meetings, the other candidates focused on establishing their Christian conservative credentials. Huckabee dispensed with that by reminding his audience of his years as a pastor. Then he challenged the crowd to give more money to their churches and talked about education and health care. On the campaign trail, he criticizes chief executives’ pay and says his faith demands environmental regulation. “We shouldn’t allow a child to live under a bridge or in the back seat of a car,” Huckabee said in a recent debate. “We shouldn’t be satisfied that elderly people are being abused or neglected in nursing homes.” Huckabee told me that he welcomed a broadening of the evangelical political agenda. “You can’t just say ‘respect life’ exclusively in the gestation period,” he said, repeating a campaign theme. But the leaders of the Christian conservative movement have not rallied to him. Many say he cannot win because he has not raised enough money. Perkins and others have criticized Huckabee for taking too soft an approach to the Middle East. Others worry that his record on taxes will anger allies on the right. And some Christian conservatives take his “gestation period” line as a slight to their movement. “They finally have the soldier they have been waiting for, and they shouldn’t send me out into the battlefield without supplies,” Huckabee told me in exasperation. He argued that the movement’s leaders would “become irrelevant” if they started putting political viability or low taxes ahead of their principles about abortion and marriage. “In biblical terms, it is like the salt losing its flavor; it’s sand,” Huckabee said. “Some of them have spent too long in Washington. . . . I think they are going to have a hard time going out into the pews and saying tax policy is what Jesus is about, that he said, ‘Come unto me all you who are overtaxed and I will give you rest.’ ” Up to this point, though, most conservative Christian leaders are still locked in debate about which front-runner they dislike the least. Dobson’s public statements have traced the arc of their dissatisfaction. Last October, he observed that grass-roots evangelicals would have a hard time voting for Mitt Romney because he is a Mormon. In January, he said he could never vote for Senator John McCain. More recently, Dobson panned Fred Thompson, too, for opposing a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. “He has no passion, no zeal, and no apparent ‘want to,’ ” Dobson wrote in an e-mail message to allies. “Not for me, my brothers. Not for me!” Finally, at the end of last month, Dobson was the foremost among the roughly 50 Christian conservative organizers who declared they would support a third-party candidate if the nomination went to Giuliani, who is their greatest fear. Some even talk of McCain — once anathema to them — as a better bet. I could see why they were worried. Among the evangelicals of suburban Wichita, I found that Giuliani was easily the most popular of the Republican candidates, even among churchgoers who knew his views on abortion and same-sex marriage. Some trusted him to fight Islamic radicalism; others praised his cleanup of New York. “There are a few issues we are on different sides of — a lot of it is around abortion — and he is not the most spiritual guy,” said Kent Brummer, a retired Boeing engineer leaving services at Central Christian. “But to me that doesn’t mean that he would not make a good president, if he represents both sides. “What I liked about George Bush is all of his moral side and all that,” Brummer added. “But somehow he didn’t have the strength to govern the way we hoped he would and that he should have.” Democrats, meanwhile, sense an opportunity. Now the campaigns of all three Democratic front-runners are actively courting evangelical voters. At a White House event to mark the National Day of Prayer that I attended in the spring, Senator Clinton even walked over to shake hands with Dobson. Visibly surprised, he told her she was in his prayers. All three Democratic candidates are speaking very personally, in evangelical language, about their own faith. What does Clinton pray about? “It depends upon the time of day,” she said. Edwards says he cannot name his greatest sin: “I sin every single day.” Obama talks about his introduction to “someone named Jesus Christ” and about being “an instrument of God.” Many evangelicals are not sure what to make of it. “Shouldn’t we like it when someone talks about Christ being the missing ingredient in his life?” David Brody, a commentator for Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, asked approvingly in response to Obama’s statements. Many conservative Christian leaders say they can count on the specter of a second Clinton presidency to fire up their constituents. But the prospect of an Obama-Giuliani race is another matter. “You would have a bunch of people who traditionally vote Republican going over to Obama,” said the Rev. Donald Wildmon, founder of the Christian conservative American Family Association of Tupelo, Miss., known for its consumer boycotts over obscenity or gay issues. In the Wichita churches this summer, Obama was the Democrat who drew the most interest. Several mentioned that he had spoken at Warren’s Saddleback church and said they were intrigued. But just as many people ruled out Obama because they suspected that he was not Christian at all but in fact a crypto-Muslim — a rumor that spread around the Internet earlier this year. “There is just that ill feeling, and part of it is his faith,” Welsh said. “Is his faith anti-Christian? Is he a Muslim? And what about the school where he was raised?” “Obama sounds too much like Osama,” said Kayla Nickel of Westlink. “When he says his name, I am like, ‘I am not voting for a Muslim!’ ” Fox, meanwhile, is already preparing to do his part to get Wichita’s conservative faithful to the polls next November. Standing before a few hundred worshipers at the Johnny Western Theater last summer, Fox warned his new congregation not to let go of that old-time religion. “Hell is just as hot as it ever was,” he reminded them. “It just has more people in it.” Fox told me: “I think the religious community is probably reflective of the rest of the nation — it is very divided right now. This election process is going to reveal a lot about where the religious right and the religious community is. It will show unity or the lack of it.” But liberals, he said, should not start gloating. “Some might compare the religious right to a snake,” he said. “We may be in our hole right now, but we can come out and bite you at any time.” (Yeah ok whatever you say sparky) MCL Comment: How long can you preach hate for those who are not white, male and straight before people tune that crap out? Sorry dude this is the down fall of the evangelical right and you got yourselves to thank you preach hate towards gays while many of your leaders are falling out of the closet, you guys rather talk about restricting rights than helping the poor.

Kucinich: time to check the shrub's mental health

Kucinich: Is it time to question Bush's mental health? Ron Brynaert Published: Tuesday October 30, 2007
Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, a dark horse contender for the the Democratic presidential nomination, questioned President Bush's mental health on Tuesday, according to a Philadelphia newspaper. "I seriously believe we have to start asking questions about his mental health," Kucinich told The Inquirer's editorial board. "There's something wrong. He does not seem to understand his words have real impact." Kucinich was referring to President Bush's warning of dire consequences if Iran acquires nuclear weapons during a press conference earlier this month. Bush said that he had told world leaders the country must be prevented from achieving nuclear capability "if you're interested in avoiding World War III." "We've got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel," Bush said, responding to Russia's stated cautioning against military action targeting Tehran's suspected atomic program. "So I've told people that, if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon," said Bush. In a press release sent to RAW STORY last week, Kucinich took Bush and other Administration officials to task for trying "to deceive Americans into yet another war—this time with Iran." "After the lies and deception used to lead us to war in Iraq, the belligerent Bush Administration cannot be given leeway with statements that suggest a preemptive attack on Iran is necessary," Kucinich stated. "We are systematically destroying every available route to restoring peace and security in the Middle East. Congress must take back its exclusive authority to declare war from the Bush Administration." Further excerpts from Inquirer article: # Kucinich, who thinks Bush and Vice President Cheney should be impeached and charged with war crimes, is running sixth in most national polls. He said he doesn't believe his comments about the president's mental health are irresponsible. "You cannot be a president of the United States who's wanton in his expression of violence," Kucinich said. "There's a lot of people who need care. He might be one of them. If there isn't something wrong with him, then there's something wrong with us. This, to me, is a very serious question."
MCL comment:
When a dude says God told him to invade a country and bomb brown people back to the stone age you know he has a lot of screws loose.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

GOP: The art of the Hissy fit

The Art Of The Hissy Fit By Digby on October 23, 2007 - 10:53pm. I first noticed the right's successful use of phony sanctimony and faux outrage back in the 90's when well-known conservative players like Gingrich and Livingston pretended to be offended at the president's extramarital affair and were repeatedly and tiresomely "upset" about fund-raising practices they all practiced themselves. The idea of these powerful and corrupt adulterers being personally upset by White House coffees and naughty sexual behavior was laughable. But they did it, oh how they did it, and it often succeeded in changing the dialogue and tittilating the media into a frenzy of breathless tabloid coverage. In fact, they became so good at the tactic that they now rely on it as their first choice to control the political dialogue when it becomes uncomfortable and put the Democrats on the defensive whenever they are winning the day. Perhaps the best example during the Bush years would be the completely cynical and over-the-top reaction to Senator Paul Wellstone's memorial rally in 2002 in the last couple of weeks leading up to the election. With the exception of the bizarre Jesse Ventura, those in attendance, including the Republicans, were non-plussed by the nature of the event at the time. It was not, as the chatterers insisted, a funeral, but rather more like an Irish wake for Wellstone supporters — a celebration of Wellstone's life, which included, naturally, politics. (He died campaigning, after all.) But Vin Weber, one of the Republican party's most sophisticated operatives, immediately saw the opportunity for a faux outrage fest that was more successful than even he could have ever dreamed. By the time they were through, the Democrats were prostrating themselves at the feet of anyone who would listen, begging for forgiveness for something they didn't do, just to stop the shrieking. The Republicans could barely keep the smirks off their faces as they sternly lectured the Democrats on how to properly honor the dead — the same Republicans who had relentlessly tortured poor Vince Foster's family for years. It's an excellent technique and one they continue to employ with great success, most recently with the entirely fake Move-On and Pete Stark "controversies." (The Democrats try their own versions but rarely achieve the kind of full blown hissy fit the Republicans can conjure with a mere blast fax to Drudge and their talk radio minions.) But it's about more than simple political distraction or savvy public relations. It's actually a very well developed form of social control called Ritual Defamation (or Ritual Humiliation) as this well trafficked internet article defines it: Defamation is the destruction or attempted destruction of the reputation, status, character or standing in the community of a person or group of persons by unfair, wrongful, or malicious speech or publication. For the purposes of this essay, the central element is defamation in retaliation for the real or imagined attitudes, opinions or beliefs of the victim, with the intention of silencing or neutralizing his or her influence, and/or making an example of them so as to discourage similar independence and "insensitivity" or non-observance of taboos. It is different in nature and degree from simple criticism or disagreement in that it is aggressive, organized and skillfully applied, often by an organization or representative of a special interest group, and in that it consists of several characteristic elements. The article goes on to lay out several defining characteristics of ritual defamation such as "the method of attack in a ritual defamation is to assail the character of the victim, and never to offer more than a perfunctory challenge to the particular attitudes, opinions or beliefs expressed or implied. Character assassination is its primary tool." Perhaps its most intriguing insight is this: The power of ritual defamation lies entirely in its capacity to intimidate and terrorize. It embraces some elements of primitive superstitious belief, as in a "curse" or "hex." It plays into the subconscious fear most people have of being abandoned or rejected by the tribe or by society and being cut off from social and psychological support systems. In a political context this translates to a fear by liberal politicians that they will be rejected by the American people --- and a subconscious dulling of passion and inspiration in the mistaken belief that they can spare themselves further humiliation if only they control their rhetoric. The social order these fearsome conservative rituals pretend to "protect," however, are not those of the nation at large, but rather the conservative political establishment which is perhaps best exemplified by this famous article about how Washington perceived the Lewinsky scandal. The "scandal" is moved into the national conversation through the political media which has its own uses for such entertaining spectacles and expends a great deal of energy promoting these shaming exercises for commercial purposes. The political cost to progressives and liberals for their inability to properly deal with this tactic is greater than they realize. Just as Newt Gingrich was not truly offended by Bill Clinton's behavior (which mirrored his own) neither were conservative congressmen and Rush Limbaugh truly upset by the Move On ad --- and everyone knew it, which was the point. It is a potent demonstration of pure power to force others to insincerely condemn or apologize for something, particularly when the person who is forcing it is also insincerely outraged. For a political party that suffers from a reputation for weakness, it is extremely damaging to be so publicly cowed over and over again. It separates them from their most ardent supporters and makes them appear guilty and unprincipled to the public at large. Ritual defamation and humiliation are designed to make the group feel contempt for the victim and over time it's extremely hard to resist feeling it when the victims fail to stand up for themselves. There is the possibility that the Republicans will overplay this particular gambit. Their exposure over the past few years for incompetence, immorality and corruption, both personal and institutional, makes them extremely imperfect messengers for sanctimony, faux or otherwise. But they are still effectively wielding the flag, (or at least the Democratic congress is allowing them to) and until liberals and progressives find a way to thwart this successful tactic, it will continue. At this point the conservatives have little else.

Shocking News Fox Noise making things up

Fox News on Democratic tax proposal: "Will it kill incentive to strive for success?" Summary: On the October 25 edition of Fox News' Your World, host Neil Cavuto introduced a segment on the Democratic tax proposal authored by House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY) by saying that "[i]t is being called the mother of all tax hikes" and asking: "So are these tax hikes going to stop people from striving for success?" During the ensuing discussion, with Fox Business Network anchor Cheryl Casone, conservative radio host Ben Ferguson, and Nation writer Ari Melber, neither Cavuto nor his guests addressed whether the tax plan will "stop people from striving for success," though the on-screen text for most of the segment read: "Dem tax plan: Will it kill incentive to strive for success?" In simply noting that the Democratic plan "is being called the mother of all tax hikes," Cavuto omitted the fact that it is congressional Republicans -- such as House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) -- who have referred to it as such. Rangel said on October 25 that the proposal is "revenue-neutral." From the October 25 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neal Cavuto: CAVUTO: Throw in a Fox News alert for you. It is being called the mother of all tax hikes. Democrats unveiling a trillion-dollar tax plan today, it includes a 4 percent surtax on people earning $150,000 a year. Now remember when a million bucks was considered rich only last year at this time? So are these tax hikes going to stop people from striving for success? Let's ask Fox Business Network anchor Cheryl Casone. We've also got radio talk show host Ben Ferguson and Ari Melber, a writer for The Nation. Cheryl, what do you think? CASONE: Well, you know, it's funny, because when you talk about these tax hikes it makes it sound so easy. But $150,000, $250,000 when you're trying to get by in a lot of cities in America -- not all cities in America -- but that amount of money is not what it used to be. And to make -- to put out these numbers, the Democrats put these numbers out there like they did today, it doesn't make sense, and it does hurt people when they're trying to make a better, you know -- make money for their family, make money for themselves. I mean, I think that we're going in the wrong direction. AMT has to go. Has to go. But I think this is the wrong way to do it. CAVUTO: OK, you're talking about the alternative minimum tax. Ari, the rap against this plan is A: Great, get rid of the alternative minimum tax, but bad if it means the definition of rich in less than a year has gone from a million dollars to now as little as 150,000. What say you? MELBER: Well, Chairman Rangel is moving on both fronts. He's cutting the alternative minimum tax. You're talking about making up $80 billion there. And he's also boosting the earned income tax credit and, potentially, if he gets this done, going after some of the offshore income from foreign subsidiaries that the Republican Congress never dealt with. So if you raise the revenue, it looks good for American taxpayers. CAVUTO: All right, I guess not those 150 and over, though. Ben, what do you make of that? FERGUSON(R-ChickenHawk): No, it's not. It's not at all. There's two other major things in here that people aren't even talking about. One, Charlie Rangel wants to get rid of the domestic tax break for actually manufacturing here in America. What a great way to send a bunch of jobs overseas. Not only does this tax people at 9 percent -- not just 4, but 9 percent when they allow the Bush tax cuts to go away, which they've already said they already want to do. You're going to kill people. But, more important than that -- three years ago, they were the ones championing for tax breaks for domestic manufacturing. Now they want to get rid of the same tax break they were in favor of three years ago. This will send everybody to China. CAVUTO: All right, Cheryl, I want to focus on -- MELBER: Well, Ben's point -- CAVUTO: Ari, I will get you in here, my friend, I just want to focus Cheryl on this point, and that is that the definition of the rich keeps changing. Unlike a lot of politicians, at least, you know, Charlie Rangel kind of put figures to that sentiment, unlike a lot of others. But I think that the concern is no presidential candidate has repudiated this, so I would assume that everyone welcomes it. CASONE: Welcomes the actual -- that we tax people who are making $150-250,000? CAVUTO: Right. CASONE: If you've got a wife and kids, two kids, you're making 250, in a lot of cities across America that's not that much money. CAVUTO: Yeah, but a lot people across America look at that and say that's a lot of money -- CASONE: I mean, he's a New York senator [sic]! CAVUTO: That's a lot of money, and I think they've done studies -- and Ari, maybe you're saying this -- they've done studies that say "maybe this isn't our group of voters anyway, so go ahead and gouge them." Is that what's going on? MELBER: Well, I don't know about the political motivations, but the 4.6 percent, Neil, to your question, kicks in after $500,000. And to Ben's point about domestic manufacturing cuts, you know, that was something George Bush opposed last time, so they should be glad, if they're consistent, to get it off the books. The real issue that you're going to hear all the Democrats talk about -- FERGUSON: Is that? Wrong -- MELBER: --is whether secretaries should be paying more taxes than hedge fund managers. A lot of this-- FERGUSON: No, the issue -- MELBER: --is about beating back the class warfare that Bush is doing and making it fair. CAVUTO: All right, so real quickly, Ari, you think this is going to happen? Real quickly, yes or no, is this going to happen? MELBER: It could happen by the end of this Congress. It's not going to happen in a month -- CAVUTO: All right, Ben, is this going to happen? MELBER: --by the end? Yeah. FERGUSON: No, it's not going to happen, and the reason why it's not going to happen is because most people know the people that run small businesses are the people that make $150,000 a year. CAVUTO: Cheryl, is it going to happen? CASONE: No, no. I love you, but no. No way. CAVUTO: OK, we shall see, we shall see.

U.S. CBO estimates 2.4 trillon long term war cost

U.S. CBO estimates $2.4 trillion long-term war costs The U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could cost taxpayers a total of $2.4 trillion by 2017 when counting the huge interest costs because combat is being financed with borrowed money, according to a study released on Wednesday. With President George W. Bush indicating a large contingent of U.S. troops likely will be engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan for many years to come, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated the total tab for the wars from 2001 through 2017. CBO estimated that interest costs alone from 2001-2017 could total more than $700 billion. So far, Congress has given Bush $604 billion for the two wars, with about $412 billion spent in Iraq, according to CBO, which is Congress' in-house budget analyst. In Iraq alone, the United States is spending about $11 billion a month, with costs escalating. Bush is seeking another $196 billion for combat in Iraq and Afghanistan through September 30 and Congress is expected to debate that request over the next few months. CBO estimated that between 2008 and 2017, the wars could cost slightly more than $1 trillion, assuming overall troop strength is cut to 75,000 by 2013. Currently, there are about 170,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and another 26,000 in Afghanistan. Finance charges for the money already spent on the war will total $415 billion from 2001 to 2017, according to CBO. For the next decade, "interest outlays would increase by a total of $290 billion over that 10-year period," CBO told the House Budget Committee, which is reviewing long-term war costs. "To put it all on our credit cards with no accountability, with no plan to pay for it, I think is the height of irresponsibility," said Rep. James McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat who serves on the budget panel and is an outspoken war critic. "It will be just one more toxic legacy of this disastrous war we will have to leave our kids to clean up." With national elections about a year away and public discontent with the Iraq war running deep, Democrats are highlighting the huge costs of the Iraq war as they seek $22 billion more than Bush wants for domestic social programs such as health care and education. Bush has vowed to veto the added funding. CBO estimated that of the $2.4 trillion long-term price tag for the war, about $1.9 trillion of that would be spent on Iraq. MCL comment: And the lying bastards that make up the Republicans rather whine about a tax bill that's not even coming up until next year.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Michelle Malkin calls for ethnic profiling: for Asian-Americans

Malkin touts exposure of Clinton Asian-American donors who she says were "smellier than stinky tofu" Summary: In an October 24 column -- posted on National Review Online (NRO) and Townhall.com -- noting recent coverage by the Los Angeles Times and the New York Post of certain contributions to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-NY) presidential campaign by Asian-Americans, right-wing pundit and nationally syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin referred to "Hillary campaign contributors" who were "smellier than stinky tofu." From her column: Both papers uncovered dishwashers, cooks and other suspect Hillary campaign contributors in New York's Chinatown, Flushing, the Bronx, and Brooklyn who were limited-income, limited-English-proficient and smellier than stinky tofu. One Asian donor admitted to the Los Angeles Times "to lacking the legal-resident status required for giving campaign money." Another, Hsiao Wen Yang, told the New York Post she was reimbursed for her $1,000 donation - setting off clear alarm bells over yet another possible straw donor scheme on the heels of Norman Hsu-gate. The headline of Malkin's column on NRO read: "A Time to Discriminate: 'Profile' foreign donors? Of course!" Malkin also wrote: "I'm going to keep reaching out to everybody in our country. I want to be a president to everybody," said a defiant Hillary in defense of her indiscriminate fundraising. "Asian-Americans in Chinatown and Flushing have the same right to contribute as every other American," Howard Wolfson, a campaign spokesman, told several newspapers. "We do not ethnically profile donors." "Ethnic profiling" is the rhetorical bugaboo the Clintons hope will stave off more investigations and invocations of Asian-American donor scandals past. Learning well from their far-left minority counterparts, these Asian-American groups have tried to turn the debate away from candidate and donor responsibility to the collective "rights" of the entire Asian American and Pacific Islander community. Malkin concluded: "If it's 'ethnic profiling' to be extra-careful of Chinatown donors who can't speak English, live in dilapidated buildings, have never voted, can't tell Hillary Clinton from Hunan Chicken or simply can't be found, then 'ethnic profiling' should be the standard procedure of every responsible campaign."
MCL Comment:
I gotta know one thing who in the hell is signing this woman paychecks? This would be a bad skit on Saturday Night Live but this is a woman who wrote a book about locking up Muslim Americans overlooking the history of America putting Japanese Americans during World War II. And the ironic thing about the ethic profiling comment that most of the knuckle dragging yahoos that read her stuff would lump her in with those smelly, dishwashers, barley speak English in China town.

Fox Noise use 4 year old memo linking Al Qaeda to wild fires

Ill-informed Fox anchors spread fears of al Qaeda link to California fires by David Edwards and Nick Juliano Questionable 4-year-old FBI memo presented as new to stoke terror fears Did al Qaeda start the California wildfires? As more than a million people escaped the flames, Fox News anchors couldn't help speculating about a terrorism link to the blazes ravaging southern California. "I've heard some people talk about this a little bit to me, but have you heard anybody suggest that this could be some form of terrorism," Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy asked Wednesday morning. Correspondent Adam Housley said he's received "hundreds of comments" from readers of his Fox News blog speculating about a link to terrorism. Investigators have determined that one 15,000 acre fire in Orange County was deliberately set, and Housley reported that authorities arrested one man who set a hillside on fire. Causes of most other fires are still being investigated, and there has been little speculation beyond Fox News about a terror plot. A review of Housley's blog posts about the fire reveals that his characterization of the terror fears perhaps was inflated. Of his 15 posts on the fires, just two included speculation from commenters about a terrorism link. "Is anyone asking how these fires started? I see no comments or speculations," observed "clyde teeter" in response to a post Tuesday. "Could it be linked to illegal alien misadventure on the border [...] Terrorism? ... If you are a journalist, then these questions need to be asked and investigated. Your coverage is admirable but the emotional journalism about the loss of peoples homes is not helping to find the causes." Fox & Friends co-host Judge Andrew Napolitano tried to serve as the voice of reason. "That's a fear, Adam, but is there any evidence of it?" the judge asked. Such skepticism could not last, though. Later Wednesday, Fox anchors returned to fanning the terror fears, digging up a four-year-old FBI memo and presenting it as new information relating to an al Qaeda link to the fires. In June of 2003, FBI agents in Denver detailed an al Qaeda detainee's discussion of a plot to set forest fires around the western United States, although investigators couldn't determine whether the detainee was telling the truth, and his plot did not include setting fires in California. Such small discrepancies in dates and details proved to be no obstacles for Fox anchors, who reported that the memo was from "late June of this year" and "is just popping up this morning." The memo was first reported by the Arizona Republic in July 2003, although a Fox anchor said it was reported "five days ago." That confusion seems to stem from an inability to read the date on an Associated Press account of the memo from the time it was first reported. A July 11, 2003, AP story, still available online via USA Today, reported, "The contents of the June 25 memo from the FBI's Denver office were reported Friday by The Arizona Republic." On Fox, that information became, "The June 25 memo from the FBI's Denver offices was reported three days ago, excuse me five days ago, by the Arizona Republic." Further distorting the report, Fox failed to mention a key caveat from the 2003 AP story they appear to have ripped from. "Rose Davis, a spokeswoman for the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, told The Associated Press that officials there took note of the warning but didn't see a need to act further on it."