More on Romney and Fischer

So I was doing my dishes on Saturday morning and decided to tune into the Value Voters Summer in Washington, DC… what can I say, I’d listen to my own show while doing dishes, but that lacks a certain narrative tension for me. I listened to Mitt Romney deliver his standard stump speech, with some variations for the audience at hand — I didn’t hear all of them, as it turns out (see below) – but it seemed serviceable.

Then, sounds started coming out of my computer I couldn’t quite believe — a bizarre parody of arch conservative social notions. I stared at the screen as a guy with perfect white hair — it looked like Marlon Brando’s wig in Superman — told me that all mosques were potential terrorist cells, that the homosexual agenda was threatening America’s basic liberties, and that the seventh inning stretch had saved America from further terrorist attack. Really

The speaker, as it turned out was Bryan Fischer, a conservative radio host and the Director of Issues Analysis for Government and Public Policy for the American Family Association, which might explain why their analyses of government and public policy are so spot on. Anyway, as I was shocked to hear a raving everything-ophobe speak just after the leading Republican candidate for President, I tweeted:

 ”The danger is not radical Islam, but Islam.” Is anybody going to ask the Pres candidates speaking at this event if they agree?

So then I checked in on TPM’s excellent coverage of the Summit, and I discovered some interesting things… first, that Mr. Fischer is a pretty well known provocateur, famed for his accusations against gays, Muslims, liberals, and other perceived enemies, and that further, the Romney campaign knew about him too. In fact, Romney tried to inoculate himself against association with Fischer by including these remarks in his speech:

“We should remember that decency and civility are values too…One of the speakers who will follow me today, has crossed that line. Poisonous language does not advance our cause. It has never softened a single heart nor changed a single mind.”

For which I think he deserves some credit, and if you think that it’s not enough… well, what should he have done? I regret the suggestion in my tweet that all the speakers at the conference should be asked about Fischer’s remarks. Guilt by association is a dangerous game — you knew this guy, or you were on stage with this guy, or after this guy, or before this guy, so you’re responsible in some way for him — and if you start to think about the exponentially expanding circles of associations and you realize that way madness lies.

I do wonder, though, about what the best response is or should be from Romney or the other candidates to the hateful stupid sauce spread by Fischer at this event. I don’t want to demand a denunciation — that’s another infinite loop of stupidity. But I would love to hear Romney or any of the Republicans say something nice, for example, about Muslims or gays or even, God help them, liberals. If any of the candidates win, they’ll be President of those people too.







5 Responses to More on Romney and Fischer

  1. Kevin Morgan October 10, 2011 at 4:42 pm #

    Bryan Fischer isn’t just one guy on this stage – he’s a primary organizer of events like this, and his radio show is pretty much a mandatory stop on the campaign trail for potential Republican candidates. He’s buddy-buddy with Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council – another group like the AFA. Except Perkins, when he managed the failed Senate campaign for “Woody” Jenkins in 1996, he was caught buying the mailing list of former KKK head David Duke and concealing the purchase on campaign finance reports. They were fined $82,000 but got it reduced on appeal (why?).

    I don’t mean to be too critical of you (I think Wait Wait is one of the best shows ever, and I had a fantastic time at the New Orleans taping – PLEASE come back to Louisiana!) but Bryan Fischer, Tony Perkins, and their ilk are no secret. These far-to-the-right nuts guard the gate for Republican nominees as much as big business does. It’s downright scary, especially since probably 20% of the country or more believe exactly as they do.

    Guilt by association? Damned right. If you attend an event put on by the likes of these hate-mongers (Fischer’s group Perkins’ group, and several others have all been documented as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which makes it their business to track these kinds of nuts), and you don’t denounce the ideals of that group, then you’re endorsing them. We wouldn’t tolerate candidates who appeared at and spoke to a KKK rally passing it off as “I don’t agree with everything they say” and we shouldn’t here either.

    • peter October 10, 2011 at 8:09 pm #

      Kevin, I agree that these are not very pleasant people, and that has nothing do with their being “conservative” in any real sense of that term. (I’ve never quite understood what hating Muslims has to do with the marginal tax rate, but whatever.) My point remains, though, about being wary of guilt by association. Here’s a thought experiment, one I mused on under the effect of dish soap fumes: what if President Obama said “To hell with it,” and went down there to address the crowd at the Value Voters Summit? Presumably, he’d want to engage his most committed ideological enemies, in order to “have a dialogue,” as he likes to say. You wouldn’t condemn him for speaking to that group. You’d wait to hear what he had to say himself. I just want to extend the same courtesy to everyone… let’s see what they have to say before deciding what they must think.

      • Kevin Morgan October 11, 2011 at 5:37 pm #

        Peter – In principle, I would agree with you. But I’ve yet to see one political candidate go on Fischer’s radio show and speak *against* anything near and dear to the right wing audience. And you can watch every minute of the speeches at the Voter Values conference and, with the exception of Romney’s mild rebuke, not a single word against the right-wing hate crowd who put the event on.

        Sure, I’m willing to give anyone the benefit of the doubt before they go on. But once they go on, and decline to even address the politics of the sponsors… they are, in my view, agreeing with them. If we have to wait till they stop the “wink wink, nudge nudge” signals and come out publicly endorsing the batshit crazy nuts, we’ll be waiting until doomsday.

  2. Alden October 10, 2011 at 7:59 pm #

    Remember that Fischer also thinks Mormons and Muslims should be denied First Amendment rights. Romney is about as distant from him as one can be.

    • Kevin Morgan October 11, 2011 at 5:39 pm #

      In one sense, Alden, yes – that is, Fischer wants to put distance between himself (and the evangelical community) and Romney. Romney, on the other hand, wants to embrace the evangelical crowd as he knows he can’t get the nomination (or win the election) without their active support. If evangelicals stay home on election day, the Republican is going to lose, no matter who it is.