Sunday, April 30, 2017

On Which Garbage Heap Will Jim DeMint Turn Up Next?


Who remembers Jim DeMint? He was an ad guy in Greenville, South Carolina who was elected to the House in 1998 and then the Senate in 2004. He was a Tea Party guy before there was a Tea Party and was the staunchest proponent of ending Social Security and of reactionary politics in general while he served in Congress, often a pariah among establishment Republicans. Reelected to the Senate in 2010, he resigned 2 years later to become president of the Heritage Foundation, then a somewhat staid right-wing think tank. He was fired on Friday for... being the kind of asshole Jim DeMint has always been. 5 years of it was too much for Heritage and the Board of Directiors is behind a move to finally oust him.
DeMint’s short tenure was fraught with controversy as he tried to change Heritage from a research-oriented think tank that had good relations with most Republicans into a hard-edged activist organization that frequently provoked anger from GOP leaders.

According to multiple people familiar with DeMint’s time at Heritage, his confrontational political strategy was initially welcomed by the majority of the non-profit’s board members who had received negative reviews from donors large and small about how Heritage conducted itself during the term of former president George W. Bush. During those years, Feulner and his top aides cultivated close relations with the White House. But when Bush’s political popularity collapsed thanks to Hurricane Katrina and continued violence in Iraq, Feulner’s low-key, policy-centric approach was blamed by Tea Party-aligned conservatives as feckless.

DeMint was eventually promoted as a man who could save Heritage from irrelevance due to his fame among conservatives for angrily opposing Senate Republican leaders. His oft-repeated claim that he could accomplish more with 30 hardcore conservatives than with 60 moderates became a bit of a catchphrase among some activists. Although some Heritage staffers remained suspicious of his politician pedigree, he initially faced few complaints. Soon, however, his fiery style and the inexperienced staffers he brought in began to rankle some of the more scholarly Heritage employees. A number of them began heading for the exits, particularly as DeMint and a newly created lobbying sister organization, Heritage Action, eagerly joined a foolhardy GOP bid to shut down the government in 2013. Republican politicians who had long relied on the Heritage Foundation to make them smarter were incensed that the think tank was promoting stupidity.

DeMint dialed back his flinty style afterwards but his reputation was severely damaged among some employees and donors who had previously reserved judgment. The writing was on the wall for DeMint after that.
The crazy, right-wing Washington Examiner website painted a picture of hysteria at Heritage on Friday with neo-fascist snowflakes weeping and weeping and melting away to nothing-- and referring DeMint's ouster as "a putsch" with staffers "drawing battle lines on an otherwise sunny day."
"It's shameful how all this is being handled," an irate department director said. "I just can't believe Heritage brought DeMint in from the Senate, then stabbed him in the back. I guarantee they purge his people next."

So far, though, Heritage hasn't issued an official statement. Communications staffers have been warned not to speak with media. And after multiple interviews with current and former Heritage employees speaking on condition of anonymity, a prevailing narrative has emerged:

DeMint lost his job, in large part, for crossing Heritage Action CEO, Mike Needham.

Dismissing reports that DeMint was ousted for being too political, the department director argued instead that "basically this is one big Mike Needham power play." According to the source, Needham has been "trying to take over Heritage forever" and will use Feulner "as proxy to control the place."

Needham, who served as Feulner's chief of staff, did not respond to requests for comment.

While both men tend to agree on ideology, they disagree on method. A senior policy expert complained that DeMint wanted to remake Heritage in his own image, pointing to the policy services and outreach department as well as the organization's media arm, the Daily Signal (where I used to work).

"Basically he treated the place like it was his giant Senate office," the policy expert said. "That ended up being a significant departure from the vision set out by the board and Feulner."

While Needham helped bring DeMint to Heritage in 2013, their relationship began to fray during the presidential election. It reached a breaking point, two separate sources confirmed, after DeMint suggested making major changes to Heritage Action or abolishing it altogether.

"That really wasn't a smart move," the policy expert explained, "because Needham is Feulner's guy."

When the board asked DeMint to step down last weekend, the fiery conservative refused and has tried lobbying board members to keep his job. If he doesn't go quietly into the dark, the board can vote him out as soon as Tuesday when they convene in Washington, D.C.
DeMint was making over a million dollars a year and his contract was going to expire at the end of 2017. It was DeMint who got right-wing ideologue Neil Gorsuch, who Trump had never heard of, onto the Supreme Court.

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At 4:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Despite being toxic trash, DeMint will never have to scrounge dinner from dumpsters. He will be taken care of by some fat wallet for services rendered.


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