Fischer Used To Only Be Covered By Right Wing Watch-- The New Yorker Picks Up The Ball
Thursday evening NPR had a long and insightful interview by Terry Gross with journalist Jane Mayer about her much-discussed new feature in the New Yorker, Bully Pulpit. She said that although the subject, right-wing fanatic Bryan Fischer, has extreme views, he was engaging and even fun to talk to. I doubt Richard Grenell, the gay spokesperson jettisoned by the Romney campaign when Fischer went on one of his anti-gay jihads would enjoy a conversation with the Tupelo neo-fascist and radio hate show host. And, according to Mayer, the Romney folks she talked to aren't exactly enamoured of Fischer either. Actually, they hate his guts and consider him a dangerous pest. But because he can rally the brain-dead religionist right zombies that Romney desperately needs to win in November, they ask "how high?" when he says "Jump!" Fischer is no fan of Romney's either and says he backs him-- but with a "clothespin on his nose." The far right that Fischer claims to represent doesn't trust flippity floppy Willard and considers the relationship "a marriage of convenience." They only think they like about him is how malleable he is and how easy it is to push him further to the right than he's ever been.
"He wants to shape the policy of the Republican Party because he hopes to change America," says Mayer. "He's evangelizing to make America more in line with his biblical views. On his own, he probably defines such far out views that there's a tendency to dismiss him. But what makes Bryan Fischer worth paying some attention to is that he's part of a larger group-- a bloc of voters, the evangelical white voters-- who have become a very well-organized and very significant part of the Republican Party at this point."
And Fischer has every intention of holding Romney's Mormon feet to the fire and forcing him to embrace positions that mainstream voters are uncomfortable with, positions that are steeped in hatred, hysterical homophobia, bigotry and the kind of greed and selfishness that Fischer claims is mandated by the Bible. (Did you know Jesus was against a progressive income tax, against an inheritance tax and fiercely opposed to capital gains taxes? You didn't learn that in Bible class? You better tune into Fischer's hate talk American Family Association radio program-- 200 station in 35 states.)
The A.F.A. is a tax-exempt charitable organization, and it is supposed to remain strictly nonpartisan. Yet Fischer has spread doubts about the authenticity of Obama’s American birth certificate and Christian faith, and has claimed that the President’s aim is to “destroy capitalism.” Obama, he has said, “despises the Constitution” and “nurtures a hatred for the white man.” Fischer recently accused the Administration’s Department of Homeland Security of buying so much ammunition that it was causing a shortage. His source on this, he said, was a law-enforcement officer. “Who are they going to turn that ammunition on?” he asked his listeners. “They’re going to turn it on us!
Fischer thinks that Islam is a violent religion, and argues that Muslims should be stopped from immigrating and barred from serving in the U.S. military. He believes that the country was a Christian nation when the Bill of Rights was written, and therefore non-Christians “have no First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion.” He has said that Native Americans are “morally disqualified” from ruling America, and that African-American welfare recipients “rut like rabbits.”
America, to designate the American Family Association as a hate group. Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the center, says, “It’s astounding that a twenty-million-dollar-a-year organization that claims to represent Christ allows this man to speak for them.”
Yet, during this campaign season, nearly all the Republican Presidential candidates have been guests on Fischer’s show, including Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Tim Pawlenty. (Fischer has not invited Romney.) Many senators and congressmen have also been interviewed by Fischer, including South Carolina’s Jim DeMint, the rising voice of the Tea Party in the Senate, and Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, the Republican Party’s top-ranking member in the Senate. Peter Montgomery, a senior fellow at People for the American Way, a liberal group that monitors the religious right, says of these politicians, “Fischer has an audience they want, and they’re willing to associate themselves with him to reach it.”
...Fischer’s demands center on policy. He wants the next President to advocate criminalizing all abortions-- even in the case of rape victims—and making contraception available only to married couples. He wants schools to be able to teach “intelligent design” alongside what he calls the “morally and intellectually bankrupt theory of evolution.” Indeed, he believes that America will never be safe with “a President who believes that man evolved from slime.” Though Fischer frames his arguments with charged language, his religious viewpoint is hardly unusual: a recent poll showed that sixty-six per cent of Republican voters in Mississippi [see video below] don’t believe in evolution.
...Fischer’s sister, Sharon, particularly has struggled, and since 1999 she has lived off welfare and Social Security disability payments. Her situation has not tempered his view that such programs violate both the Bible and the Constitution. As he told me, “The Scriptures say, ‘If a man will not work, don’t let him eat.’ ” Fischer has not seen his sister in about a decade.
In 1969, Fischer enrolled at Stanford. He recalled it as “nothing more than a reëducation camp,” sounding much like Rick Santorum, who has called universities “indoctrination centers for the left.” At Stanford, Fischer became furious with the professor in a freshman Western Civilization course, who, he asserts, “ridiculed Christianity” and “implied you have to be a hayseed from Ohio to believe in this stuff.” Fischer said, “His effort to destroy my faith just strengthened it.”
Finding fellowship with David Roper, a chaplain at Stanford, Fischer began teaching extracurricular Bible studies on campus and attending Roper’s evangelical church, the Peninsula Bible Church, in Palo Alto. Fischer describes its attraction in terms of manliness. “It was the first time I’d been around a real muscular Christianity,” he told me. “It had a kind of strength and virility to it that would appeal to men."
Roper, for his part, finds this description odd, saying, “I think religion is for all genders.” He and Fischer are no longer close; he says that he finds Fischer’s “political discourse unduly harsh.”
...Fischer had become convinced that Christians needed to fight directly for Bible-based policies in America. In the early nineties, he protested President Bill Clinton’s decision to allow gays to serve in the military, and later successfully pressured a family that owns Hallmark stores in Idaho not to carry gay-friendly greeting cards.
His growing political activism paralleled a larger shift among Christian conservatives, many of whom had previously refrained from secular engagement. One movement, Christian Reconstructionism, holds that true believers need to “reconstruct” America as a Christian nation in order to set the stage for the Second Coming. Matthew Sutton, the author of Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America, says, “Apocalyptic fears have helped push politics to the right.” Similar anxieties, he notes, helped animate anti-government movements in the nineteen-thirties and forties, and “could help define the 2012 campaign as well.” A recent survey by the Pew Research Center showed that a majority of white evangelicals believe that Jesus will return by 2050. Such ideas drive the foreign-policy views of evangelicals who believe that Jewish control of the Holy Lands must coincide with the Second Coming. Many offices at the A.F.A.’s headquarters are decorated with miniature Israeli flags. “Evangelical Christians now rival the American Jewish community in their support for Israel,” Ralph Reed says.
...[After his misogyny got him fired from the Idaho church he founded and led], he decided to become a full-time political activist, and started his own nonprofit advocacy group, the Idaho Values Alliance... In March, 2004, he led a protest against local officials who wanted to remove a statue of the Ten Commandments from a public park. A dozen of his followers were arrested, which had been part of the plan and resulted in significant media coverage. (Fischer, however, did not put himself in a position to be arrested.) In 2006, Fischer says, he helped draft an amendment to the Idaho state constitution banning same-sex marriage. It passed, and he describes this legislative achievement as “one of the more satisfying things on my C.V.”
...Fischer says that progressive income taxes and estate taxes violate the Eighth and Tenth Commandments, because the government “steals” and “covets” others’ wealth. The only government functions sanctioned by the Bible, he likes to say, are national defense and the administration of justice. Hospitals should not be legally required to treat the poor, even for emergencies, and the poor should turn to private charities for help. The government should also get out of the education business. And environmentalists, Fischer says, practice a false religion that values the earth over God and man.
Rachel Tabachnick, a former Southern Baptist who chronicles religious conservatism for the liberal Web site ProtectPluralism, characterizes such talk as “Ayn Rand’s free-market gospel refashioned by religious fundamentalists.” She says, “They glorify capitalism as holy. Over time, their followers really believe the Bible supports these Draconian free-market economic policies.”
Mitt Romney has played to this constituency by renouncing the kind of government-mandated health care that he established as governor of Massachusetts. More recently, he declared his support for a program that would enable parents to use public-education funds to send their children to parochial or private schools. (Fischer told me that this was a “step in the right direction,” though he wants Romney to extend his program to include homeschooling, and believes that government should “have no role in regulating the curriculum.”)
...Fischer warned his audience, though, that evangelicals needed to hold Romney’s “feet to the fire.” Last year, at the Values Voter Summit, Fischer laid out a partial list of demands. The next President, he said, must reject what he called “the mythical separation of church and state,” and must accept that Islam is “a religion of war and violence and death.” And, he warned, the next President must appoint judges who will overturn Roe v. Wade, eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, and define marriage “as the union of one man and one woman.”
On May 9th, Fischer got one of his wishes. That day, Obama announced that he personally supports the concept of same-sex marriage. In response, Romney declared that he is against it. He also expressed opposition to gay civil unions, a stance that puts Romney to the right of George W. Bush. Fischer was elated. “Ladies and gentlemen, Barack Obama just stuck a fork in himself,” he told his listeners. “He’s toast in November! It’s over!”
Though national polls show that public opinion slightly favors same-sex marriage, in the two vital swing states of Ohio and Virginia the issue appears poised to hurt Obama. Fischer, meanwhile, is convinced that people don’t tell pollsters the full truth about their opposition, “because nobody wants to sound like a bigot.”
Fischer was more ebullient than ever now that Romney was moving in his direction. He said, “Never forget, as last night and today has proved abundantly: we are fighting a winnable war!”
Their vision, ultimately, is a theocracy although the picture Stephen Goldstein paints in Atlas Drugged: Ayn Rand Be Damned! gets down to the nitty gritty of what that world would turn into. Of course, so does Alexandra Pelosi's controversial video about Mississippi Republicans: