Looking across the Commonwealth’s politics over the past week sparked a thought: it seems as though Virginia’s GOP has morphed into…
The Party of Crime and Slime.
- VA-02 Crime (and Slime): It appears that Rep. Scott Taylor (R-VA02) staff members engaged in criminal (quite possibly felony) offenses in forging signatures and making false declarations on petitions (potentially with Taylor knowledge and even direction of the criminal activity) in the slimy Taylor effort to get Shaun Brown on the ballot as an Independent as a means to siphon votes away from Democratic nominee Elaine Luria. It doesn’t take a Law & Order devotee to conclude that, if the witness account is true, Representative Taylor’s effort to intimidate and coerce a witness to this criminal activity was, in itself, a criminal act.
- VA-07 Slime (flavored with likely crimes): One of the most intrusive documents one ever has to fill out is the Standard Form 86 (SF86), the basic form for background checks for U.S. government clearances. From information about family members, to work history, to travel, to medical matters, to finances, to… one has to lay out incredible detail about one’s life. And, unless you are tight in the Trump crime family (like Jared Kushner), you have to be explicitly honest in this material or you won’t get the clearances and might even end up being prosecuted for lying on the form. Speaker Paul Ryan’s political PAC got (due to illegal action(s) by someone(s) in the government in releasing sensitive personal information) a copy of Democratic Party candidate and former CIA agent Abigail Spanberger‘s SF86, and has been sending it out to reporters and using it to “attack” Spanberger. Considering the intrusive nature of the SF86 (we’re talking 136 pages of questions people!), the “best” the VA GOP has to attack Spanberger on is that she spent a year as a (substitute) teacher at a Muslim school. Gasp! Seriously, though, putting aside the ugly nature of this attack on teaching youth how to better construct a sentence along with the First Amendment’s guarantees of Freedom of Religion and Association, consider these points:
- At the time, Spanberger had a conditional offer of employment from the Central Intelligence Agency while going through the security clearance process..
- The CIA was fully aware of her employment as a teacher and where she was teaching during this period. And, the CIA gave her the among the most sensitive levels of clearance after a (what was almost certainly) a “POLY-SBI” (“polygraph special background investigation”) clearance investigation (which is long, arduous, intrusive, …).
- Having exposure to other cultures, religions, and societies is valuable to making one a better intelligence operative and analyst. And, with much of our intelligence activities focused on terrorism (including terrorism associated with violent extremist Islamic groups), being exposed to Muslims and Islamic culture might just make one better prepared to deal with extremist Islamic terrorism.
- While engaged in slime associated with a crime associated with Spanberger’s SF86 full release, the VA GOP is engaged in a slimy and stupid attack on Spanberger’s service as an English teacher — and trying to associate someone (Spanberger) with terrorism when she (Abigail) dedicated a decade of her life to fighting terrorists. (As CNBC’s John Harwood put it: “the kind of smear John McCain would recognize”.)
- VA-05 Slime (and maybe even crime): Democratic candidate Leslie Cockburn has a career as a thoughtful and passionate journalist, film-maker, and analyst. One of her works, a co-authored book, examined the US-Israeli intelligence relationship. This 1991 book is clearly not a work close to the heart of AIPAC’s leadership. It is, however, a work well within legitimate space of debate over Israeli politics, policies, and America’s relationship to/support of Israel (even if one does not agree with Cockburn).
“we can say in full confidence—having been the apparently rare people in Virginia politics to have actually read the whole book—that not a single passage attributable to Andrew or Leslie Cockburn in Dangerous Liaison is even remotely anti-Semitic.
Let us repeat that: not one passage. Full stop. No hedges. And even for a sprawling book concerning often-secretive US-Israeli military and intelligence actions, it doesn’t engage in the type of unfounded conspiracy-making about Jews that is the real fodder of so much actual anti-Semitism.
That’s what our honest assessment of this book shows. The charges of anti-Semitism are completely unfounded, without evidence, and should be dismissed without hesitation.
Rather than engage in substance (and even have the intellectual curiosity and honesty to read a book), the GOP has had a relentless sound machine falsely accusing Cockburn of an anti-Semitism on the basis of assertions in an over 25-year old book review by a political extremist. The GOP accusation has simply has no basis in actual fact and does not exist in the work which they are claiming as evidence for that false (libelous and slanderous) charge. Rather than engage Cockburn on substance, they libel and slander her in a most hateful way.
- VA-10 Slime: Extremist Barbara Comstock has a long and (un)distinguished career at the center of professionalizing GOP dirty tricks and distortion of the national (and local) political discussion. Comstock’s first campaign ad out August 24, filled with lies, was right in line with her intensely dishonest political career — falsely representing herself as a so-called independent voice (when she votes with the Trump agenda 98% of the time) and falsely attacking her accomplished opponent, Senator Jennifer Wexton. In terms of just simply slimy, perhaps all of us hate robocalls and spam emails (right above root canal in terms of unwanted intrusions in our life). After Comstock’s questionable (ab)use of the Congressional franking privilege in 2016, Representative Comstock spammed VA10 voters’ inboxes in August 2018.
- Commonwealth-wide slime
- GOP Senate candidate slime: While, sadly, we don’t need even more proof that the Virginia GOP’s top of the ballot is a white nationalist sympathizer, news broke this week that Corey Stewart is an administrator of a fervently “racist Facebook group“. One of his co-administrators is Florida’s Republican nominee for governor, Rep. Ron “Monkey It Up” DeSantis. Oops .. that is, DeSantis was a co-administrator. DeSantis removed himself from that role as news broke of his role with this platform for disseminating “racist, misogynist, and offensive [material], including posts slamming Parkland shooting survivors and disparaging Black Lives Matter activists, comparing both to Hitler.” Last seen, Stewart maintained his relationship with this Facebook group.
- GOP Speaker of the House Slime: After Democratic politicians swept the Northern Virginia House seats, the GOP made a few word change in the rules related to House of Delegates representation on the regional transportation boards. Rather than having to be “members” of the House, the GOP (unreasonably) dominated Rules committee changed added “may be members.” Just breaking: Republican Speaker Cox spurned the voters’ will and appointed defeated Republicans to the boards and did not give a single slot to an elected Democratic Party official.
- VA GOP Slime: In association with the malicious, unethical, and potentially illegal leveraging of the illegal USPS release of Abigail Spanberger’s SF86, the VA GOP has doubled down on the leveraging of the SF86 rather than expressing some form of contrition (‘it wasn’t our fault, we did nothing illegal to get it, but we will stop sharing inappropriate information like her social security number …’) and recognizing of the threat to national security and national security professionals. In addition to the disgusting insult to and disregard to the privacy rights of the 100,000s of Virginians who have either had to file SF86s or whose information are within those filed by family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and/or acquaintances, the Virginia GOP evidently does not believe that the First Amendment’s protection of religious rights extends to Muslims.
Dude, seriously: @RepDaveBrat’s #clearancegate scandal in #VA07 is distracting me from @RepScottTaylor’s #PetitionGate scandal in #VA02 which is distracting me from @CoreyStewartVA’s Nazi fan boy antics which are distracting me from @RepComstock’s #VA10 MS-13 dog whistles, whi… https://t.co/RI1rP4ejHW
— Kindler (@progressive_va) August 30, 2018
This post, quite sadly, could go on for tens of thousands more words, covering such things as Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA06)’s attacks on the FBI in enabling (collusion with) Trump’s (likely treasonous) cozy relationship with Vladimir Putin, to VA06’s Republican candidate Ben Kline’s tight embrace of white nationalist (fellow traveler) Corey Stewart (in his race against Jennifer Lewis) to many VA GOP leadership and member associations and/or close ties with white nationalist groups to …
And, “Party of Crime and Slime” certainly seems an appropriate moniker for the #CultOfTrump Republican Party, from the Oval Office’s occupant spending over $100m of taxpayer money on golfing outings and profiting off the Oval Office and putting white nationalists into positions of power in the Federal government to @TeamTrump cabinet members abusing their offices to GOP Congressman under indictment, etc.
Disgusting behavior by super PAC aligned with Paul Ryan. Many Republican friends who aren't pro-Trump have donated to or worked with CLF (or America Rising, also involved in this), telling themselves Ryan's GOP is different from Trump's. But is it?https://t.co/UtPZao9g2P
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) August 29, 2018
And, the discussion above doesn’t touch upon (essentially) criminal and/or slimy policy and political activity like voter suppression, vaginal ultrasounds, subsidizing corporate profits and enriching the uber-wealthy on the backs of the vast majority of Americans, creating orphans through mismanaged and illegal family separation, undermining enforcement of and reversing life-saving regulation, attacking science, trashing the environment…
No doubt, politics has always had its ugly side. It involves human beings who are flawed and not always motivated by the best of humanity. Regretfully, the Virginia (and national) Republican Party has moved far from occasionally flawed and distasteful to – FAR too much and often – becoming The Party of Crime and Slime, the party of and in the image of Donald Trump.
Consider another set of events and milestones this past week. Senator John McCain‘s death, his letter to the nation, and the stunningly moving speeches about this extraordinary man’s life. Let us be clear, one does not have to have agreed with John McCain on (all) his politics to have incredible respect for him. While having (had) many arenas of (quite) significant policy disagreement (some of significant agreement) and recognizing his life warts and all, McCain demonstrated powerful heroism in both sudden decisions (aboard USS Forrestal in reacting to the fire on the deck of USS Forrestal) and drawn out challenge (incredible heroism over five years in Hanoi Hilton); demonstrated strong personal character with powerful friendship across the aisle (such as multiple, extended visits to Mo Udall in the hospital); and merits credit for saving 100s (likely 1000s and perhaps 10,000s) of lives with his middle-of-the-night refusal to go along with killing the Affordable Care Act. With all due respect to John Mccain, I knew (and, well, was a member of) the Republican Party of his youth and that party simply doesn’t exist anymore and the self-less patriotism of a John McCain doesn’t have a place with those who are so actively abetting likely treason and certainly criminal behavior by those occupying the most powerful offices of the land.
Perhaps, at some time in the future, the Virginia (and national) Republican Party will return to the fold of decency, sanity and normality in its political engagement. Perhaps it will return to be a Party deserving of a true American hero like John McCain. Until such time, as put by #NeverTrumpers like Tom Nichols, there is a simple rule of thumb when going to the voting booth:
the party of crime and slime,
up and down the ballot.