Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.
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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.”
If exit polls are right, then conservatives will come to power in Italy, just weeks after conservatives in Sweden won. This can be a trend: 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.— Kevin Roberts (@KevinRobertsTX) September 25, 2022
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.
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Christian nationalist Russ Vought recently appeared on Turning Point USA co-founder Charlie Kirk’s radio show to discuss plans to purge at least 10% of federal career staffers under a new Trump administration. Vought described that portion of the federal workforce as “the roots of the problem” that prevented former President Donald Trump from fully implementing his agenda. During the interview, Kirk suggested that the next Republican administration subject civil servants to “ideological purity tests.”
Vought ran the powerful Office of Management and Budget under Trump and now heads up a right-wing think tank called the Center for Renewing America, whose mission is to “renew a consensus of America as a nation under God.” While at OMB, Vought helped develop a policy called “Schedule F” as a tool that would allow a new conservative administration to circumvent job protections typically enjoyed by federal workers who aren’t politically appointed.
Speaking on the September 23 edition of The Charlie Kirk Show, Vought claimed to have reclassified 90% of the workers in his own office under that job category.
“Schedule F is an authority that we discovered and developed at the end of the Trump administration to give the president the ability to reclassify career civil servants, who normally have permanency within the bureaucracy, to turn them into essentially at-will employees,” Vought told Kirk.
When asked by Kirk how many career employees he’d like to potentially sack using this authority, Vought set the floor at 10% of current workers, but suggested that he considers as much as 80% of the federal workforce to be ideological opponents.
“I would say that within my agency, we had, you know, 80% of it was left-leaning,” Vought said. “Their paradigms were all rooted in this permanent class, ruling class that defines the milieu of Washington, D.C.”
“And you can reason and work with that crowd, but there is about a 10% of activists that are animated by the wokeism, the anti-racist movement, to be able to come into these agencies and they're just activists,” Vought added.
Vought then told Kirk that someone in the human resources department at OMB described themselves and their colleagues as “committed anti-racists.”
Kirk responded by calling that person the leader of “a sleeper cell of a woke communist ideology who's just right there within our federal government.”
“You're going to have to figure out how to solve that, I don’t know,” Kirk continued. “But ideological purity tests are an interesting approach, but let's break up the federal government first and then we'll go from there.”
In July, Axios reported on discussions Trump allies were having about staffing their next administration, with the Schedule F being central to the framework. Vought reportedly has been a leader in these efforts: As Media Matters reported a week prior to Axios’ story, Vought stated publicly that he wants to build an “army” of hard-right activists with “Biblical worldview” to run the federal agencies that he can’t outright destroy. He’s been very clear that the goal is to get “ideologically committed individuals up and down the agencies,” and he’s been similarly clear that Schedule F is the way to do it.
Right-wing propagandist Christopher Rufo – known for launching bad-faith attacks on critical race theory and targeting children’s hospitals that provide care to trans youth – has pushed for a similar course of action.
“The idea is to centralize ideological control over the federal agencies in the White House and create a team at the Office of Management and Budget to enforce it,” Rufo said in an interview with conservative website IM-1776 in July.
In furtherance of those shared goals, Vought has attempted to turn the Center for Renewing America into a shadow government-in-waiting for Trump or another conservative president. In June, Vought brought on Jeffrey Clark, a former Department of Justice environmental lawyer and Trump’s top coup architect, as senior fellow at CRA. Kash Patel, another key figure in Trump’s attempt to subvert the 2020 election, is a CRA senior fellow as well.
In the recent interview with Kirk, Vought expressed a common regret among former Trump officials that the administration wasted precious time in its first years adjusting to the steep learning curve of running the government.
“My hope is that we don’t have to do that again because we're laying the groundwork now,” Vought said, later adding, “We want to make sure that can never happen again and make sure that from day one, we can ensure that the agenda is being done.”
Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.
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