The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Europe

Kevin Roberts

Youtube Screenshot

The Heritage Foundation is ranked as the third most influential think tank – left or right – in the U.S. A right-wing Washington, D.C. organization, it’s where Donald Trump went to deliver a speech in April when he was trying to reposition himself as someone who was getting ready to run for president again, this time with “policies.”

Policies are what once made the Heritage Foundation the jewel of the conservative movement. It provided Ronald Reagan with the backbone of his body of work that transformed the American right into what it was until Trump took it over. It’s now home to at least four former top Trump administration officials, including former Vice President Mike Pence.

Critics on both sides of the aisle overnight were stunned and outraged when the new head of the Heritage Foundation, Dr. Kevin Roberts, applauded Italy’s election this weekend of a fascist, Giorgia Meloni, to be its new prime minister.

“Italy’s far-right coalition led by Meloni wins election, exit polls say,” is the headline at European news agency France 24, calling her a “neo-fascist.


Here in the U.S., ABC News’ headline reads: “How a party of neo-fascist roots won big in Italy.”

“A century after Benito Mussolini’s 1922 March on Rome, which brought the fascist dictator to power, Meloni is poised to lead Italy’s first far-right-led government since World War II and Italy’s first woman premier,” an article from the Associated Press makes clear.

It also makes clear Meloni’s fascist focus: “Yes to the natural family. No to the LGBT lobby. Yes to sexual identity. No to gender ideology,” the AP says she “thundered” at a rally.

The Heritage Foundation has assets of around $400 million. Its latest annual report, 2021, is titled, Always on Offense. The cover boasts a flattering quote praising the organization from former Trump secretary of state and possible 2024 presidential hopeful Mike Pompeo.

Dr. Kevin Roberts leads Heritage. He’s the former CEO of the far-right wing Texas Public Policy Foundation, based in Austin, Texas.

TPPF has received funding from Koch Industries, is a big supporter of school vouchers, and an even bigger supporter of climate change denialism.

Its Fueling Freedom Project, it says, is working to “Explain the forgotten moral case for fossil fuels.”

Back in 2016 Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott proposed nine major changes to the U.S. Constitution. He chose to make his announcement at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Those proposals could have led to the elimination of many federal LGBTQ protections, including same-sex marriage.

Dr. Roberts is a former president of Wyoming Catholic College. In 2015 he decided to opt out of accepting federal financial aid, citing the school’s religious beliefs against LGBTQ people as part of the reason.

“Roberts said that his university loves all people and has charity towards all, but they would have problems with the admissions and employment of transgender individuals or people with a same-sex sexual orientation,” Fox News reported at the time.

So perhaps it’s unsurprising that Roberts celebrated Italy’s election of a fascist leader with a strong anti-LGBTQ agenda Sunday evening – urging conservatives to fuel more elections of people like Meloni.

“If exit polls are right, then conservatives will come to power in Italy, just weeks after conservatives in Sweden won,” he tweeted, glossing over the fascistic aspects of their "conservatism."

“This can be a trend,” he urged, “conservatives everywhere need to define the choice as what it is—US vs THEM, everyday people vs globalist elites, who’ve shown they hate us.”

Roberts was highly criticized, even by fellow conservatives.

Tom Nichols, a staff writer at The Atlantic who is the popular and now retired U.S. Naval War College professor and an expert on Russia, nuclear weapons, and national security, blasted Roberts.

“The president of a DC think tank explains how he’s just a regular guy helping the little people against the globalists, and not all aligned with a political movement that trades in hateful rhetoric,” tweeted Nichols, a Never Trump conservative.

Former Bloomberg Opinion columnist Noah Smith who writes about economics at Substack, mocked Roberts.

“‘Globalist elites’? Man, you have a PhD and you’re the president of a think tank that fights for free trade. Who do you think you’re kidding??” he tweeted.

Brian Riedl, a senior fellow at the right wing Manhattan Institute, slammed Roberts’ remarks.

“I’d just like a party that stands for free markets, less government, originalist judges, strong defense, and against woke excess. Count me out with this Pat Buchanan-style tinfoil hat populism,” he tweeted, referring to the far-right anti-immigration former Nixon-Ford-Reagan advisor.

A former editor for the right wing Cato Institute also criticized Roberts.

“When the president of your think tank is cheering on the electoral victories of actual fascism, that’s probably a sign it’s time to resign from the organization if you’re an employee, or pull your dollars if you’re a donor. American conservatism mustn’t continue down this path,” warned Aaron Ross Powell.

“Recovering libertarian” writer and editor Jay Stooksberry also mocked Roberts.

“Careful, Kev. If I saw somebody with the title ‘Ph.D. and CEO of one of the largest, most influential think tanks in D.C.’, I’d assume they were one of the ‘global elite’. Us-versus-them populism is some raunchy, anti-intellectual, and dangerous thinking, my dude.”

Conservatives weren’t the only ones criticizing the Heritage Foundation head, with some seeing his “globalist elites” remarks as anti-Semitic.

“American fascists, crawling out of their holes,” wrote Jay Bookman, author and award-winning journalist.

“We see you and your cutesy code words. You want to embrace fascism? We will stop you and your ilk. Our democracy will destroy your fascism,” David Sugarman, an Oregon attorney, wrote.

Writer and director David Avallone did not mince words in response to Roberts’ remarks.

“L’Shanah Tovah, you absolute fucking Nazi scumbag,” he tweeted. “Stop being a pants shitting coward. Just say ‘Jews’ when you mean Jews.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Viktor Orban

Youtube Screenshot

Nobody should still pretend to be shocked that the Conservative Political Action Conference, an entity no longer "conservative" in any meaningful sense, would feature an appearance by an authoritarian leader like Viktor Orban. The Hungarian autocrat is the idol of the international far Right. He has repeatedly enjoyed the bootlicking attentions of Tucker Carlson on Fox News and indeed, CPAC chairman Matt Schlapp led his gang to celebrate Orban in Budapest earlier this year.

What makes Orban so alluring to the American far rightists is his example as an illiberal politician who, unlike their idol former President Donald Trump, has managed to corrupt Hungarian democracy so thoroughly as to guarantee his own continuing rule.

Trump attempted to steal the 2020 election by an assortment of tactics that included mob violence but failed (although he and his followers are poised to try again). Trump complains about the news media, while Orban seized control of media outlets in Hungary and ruthlessly suppressed his critics. Trump blurts out racist and anti-Semitic allusions, but Orban openly encourages bigotry against Jews, immigrants, gays and lesbians along with state action against the vulnerable targets of his Christian nationalist dogma — which echoes the fascist ideology that once ruled his homeland. Both of these pseudo-populists decry "globalism," whatever that means (and what it means can change instantly according to political convenience).


In short, the Orban regime is just what Republicans like Schlapp and Carlson envision for America's future, with or without Trump himself.

Behind the aggressive rhetoric of the Budapest boss, however, lies a less imposing reality. In Dallas, Orban exhorted the boisterous CPAC crowd to join his angry movement against "the globalists." That conspiratorial rubric includes the European Union, of course, despite the inconvenient fact that Hungary is an EU member state. "We must take back the institutions in Washington and Brussels," he thundered.

To the cowboy fascists, Orban must sound like one tough hombre — except that he is currently on his knees before the European authorities, ten-gallon hat in hand, as he pleads for their financial assistance. Years of his incompetent rule have inflicted fiscal and monetary disaster on Hungary, and he is begging the "globalists" to bail him out. But his admirers in the West are much too polite (and dishonest) to mention these embarrassing realities.

Consider inflation, the rallying issue that Republicans hope will create a "red wave" in midterm elections. Nearly every day, outfits like CPAC issue broadsides against President Joe Biden that blame him and Democrats for rising prices. They won't acknowledge the real inflationary pressures caused by pandemic disruptions and the Russian assault on Ukraine.

And what CPAC won't ever mention is that inflation in many other nations is higher than here — including Hungary, where year-on-year prices have spiked by almost 12 percent so far and are expected to keep going up. Orban recently made matters worse for the average Hungarian family by ending a price cap on household utilities, but his mismanagement left no other choice. The same inexorable forces led him to raise taxes on small business, which will be passed on to consumers.

The Hungarian currency is plunging to new lows, along with its stock market, while the country's deep budget deficit has yet to reach bottom. Naturally, the middle-class and working-class voters who voted to back Orban are infuriated by his failures - and thousands of them have taken to the streets in protest. They didn't mention that in Dallas either.

In Brussels, meanwhile, the European Union leaders have given Hungary's finance ministry a long list of demands that Orban must meet before any bailout funds will be released. The conditions include restoring the rule of law, curbing the government's dictatorial tendencies and dealing more transparently with Hungary's rampant corruption. Rather than defying the EU as he suggested in Dallas, Orban meekly stopped baiting Brussels over LGBTQ issues — and has instead proclaimed his eagerness to make a deal.

Yes, like most bullies, he retreats when anyone his own size hits back.

Americans should beware the populist temptation offered by thuggish politicians of Orban's stripe. They promise to lift up the "forgotten man," whom they invariably betray in favor of plutocratic cronies and corrupt plunderers. And they consistently seek to shift public anger toward minorities, immigrants, feminists, gays, transsexuals, public school teachers and any other scapegoats perceived as too weak to resist.

Not long before his CPAC appearance, Orban spoke on immigration in Romania, declaring that Europeans "do not want to become peoples of mixed race." So horrified was one of his closest advisers that she resigned publicly, denouncing the speech as "a purely Nazi diatribe worthy of Joseph Goebbels."

That sickening incident didn't disturb Orban's CPAC fans at all, of course. Everyone knows that's what they like about him.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.