[Photo via Judd Legum at ThinkProgress]
Seems there was a very good reason Tim Pawlenty decided not to show up for that pre-debate Tea Party rally in Greenville, S.C., last night: It was being run by some of the wingnuttiest, far-right elements in America:
According to [its] official program, the pre-debate “Freedom Rally” is sponsored by several extremist groups, including the Oath Keepers militia group and the radical anti-communist John Birch Society. You can see a picture of the program here.
And the speakers were straight out of casting central for rattle-eyed nutcases -- right along side GOP stalwarts like their new governor:
The rally also featured a cadre of high profile speakers, including Judge Roy Moore, the former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice who lost his job after refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building, and Nikki Haley, South Carolina's first female governor.
Yep, that would be the same Roy Moore who flirted with a presidential bid under the banner of the militia-friendly/far-right Constitution Party. And while the local press reported that Haley "fired up" the Tea Partiers while mostly sticking to "policy issues" in her speech, she couldn't help brushing up against the nutcases everywhere she turned:
She followed John Birch Society president John McManus, who equated neo-conservatives with socialists, and Greenville Republican activist Dan Herren, who urged the tea party to try to work within the GOP to make it more conservative.
On top of that, she spoke with that huge Oath Keepers banner right behind her. That's one of the rally's chief sponsors -- and it's one of the most bizarre, paranoid and extreme -- not to mention potentially dangerous -- of the Tea Party factions.
After all, let's recall the 10 points that Oath Keepers proclaim as their oath:
- 1. We will NOT obey any order to disarm the American people.
- 2. We will NOT obey orders to conduct warrantless searches of the American people.
- 3. We will NOT obey orders to detain American citizens as “unlawful enemy combatants” or to subject them to military tribunal.
- 4. We will NOT obey orders to impose martial law or a “state of emergency” on a state.
- 5. We will NOT obey orders to invade and subjugate any state that asserts its sovereignty.
- 6. We will NOT obey any order to blockade American cities, thus turning them into giant concentration camps.
- 7. We will NOT obey any order to force American citizens into any form of detention camps under any pretext.
- 8. We will NOT obey orders to assist or support the use of any foreign troops on U.S. soil against the American people to “keep the peace” or to “maintain control."
- 9. We will NOT obey any orders to confiscate the property of the American people, including food and other essential supplies.
- 10. We will NOT obey any orders which infringe on the right of the people to free speech, to peaceably assemble, and to petition their government for a redress of grievances.
But the reality about the group is that what it's really about is the fear that martial law is about to be imposed, that Americans are about to be herded into concentration camps, that foreign troops are going to be put down on American soil. The Oath Keepers says specifically, we will not obey these orders, we will refuse orders to put Americans into concentration camps. Now, is that dangerous? It seems to me the danger is that these are men and women, in the case of police officers, who are given a real power over the rest of us, sometimes the power of life and death. They make very important decisions. And if these men and women are animated by the idea that, you know, foreign forces are about to come into this country and put us under martial law and throw us all into concentration camps, I think there is a certain danger associated with that. ... They're operating on the basis on crazy theories that may cause one of them to draw a gun one day.
The Oath Keepers are also extensively involved in the Tea Party movement, having helped co-sponsor their national convention in Tennessee last year, as well as a host of local Tea Party gatherings, such as that full-bore Patriot gathering I attended in Montana.
Then there's the John Birch Society -- whose paranoiac fantasies spun over many long decades have given birth to many of the paranoid fears trotted out by folks like the Oath Keepers and Alex Jones: they're the true godfathers of American right-wing extremism, and the true godfathers of the Tea Party movement as well.
Rachel Maddow exposed them a little while back and they didn't like it one bit. That's too bad: after all, the Tea Partiers often betray their true Bircher lineage in polls, as well as in the overt agenda of their movement leaders. Indeed, movement icons like Glenn Beck promote Bircherite conspiracy theories on Fox News. In the past year, it seems, they've become mainstream Republican again.
Which tells you just how insane the Right really has become.