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Monday, December 09, 2019

Tag: josh hawley

McConnell, McCarthy Challenged As Hill Republicans Bicker Over Wreckage

Calls are growing from within the GOP for their Congressional caucus to hold off on leadership elections in light of the party’s underwhelming midterm performance and narrowing path to victory in both chambers.

As things stand, the partisan breakdown of the forthcoming 118th Congress remains unclear: Major networks called the Arizona Senate race for Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) late Friday, putting Democrats in a prime position to grasp a 51 - 49 majority in the U.S. Senate, with incumbent Democratic senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Raphael Warnock (D-GA) favored to outdo their Republican challengers.

NBC News currently projects a slim GOP House majority of “220-215” in the next Congress, with a “+/- 7” margin of error, positing — regardless of insurrectionist Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO)’s sudden lead in Colorado’s third Congressional district race — the slight but real possibility Democrats could hold the House, albeit by a tiny margin.

Despite this remarkable outcome on the horizon, which has stunned lawmakers of both parties, Senate GOP leaders reportedly plan to hold leadership elections next week, inciting the ire of other right-wing lawmakers demanding a delay and posing a direct challenge to McConnell.

Senators Cynthia M. Lummis (R-WY), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Mike Lee (R-UT), Rick Scott (R-FL), and Ted Cruz (R-TX) have publicly demanded the postponement of next week’s secret election, in which McConnell is expected to win re-election, the Washington Post reported Friday.

Hawley and Cruz have called for a stay in GOP Senate election proceedings until after the Georgia Senate runoff on December 6, the Post noted in its report.

“We are all disappointed that a Red Wave failed to materialize, and there are multiple reasons it did not,” Johnson, Lee, and Scott wrote in a letter circulated to other GOP senators, according to Politico.

“Holding leadership elections without hearing from the candidates as to how they will perform their leadership duties and before we know whether we will be in the majority or even who all our members are violates the most basic principles of a democratic process,” the senators added.

Rubio tweeted Friday that leadership elections should not hold until the party is “sure that those who want to lead us are genuinely committed to fighting for the priorities & values of the working Americans,” a sentiment Hawley quickly agreed with.

A Rubio advisor told the Post that the senator wants “Senate Republicans to figure out ‘what in the world happened’ before they elect their next leaders” and didn’t rule out Rubio, who won his race by a large margin, going for a leadership spot.

According to CNN, the internal back-biting may have been incited, to some extent, by the beleaguered former President, Donald Trump, who is seeking to shift blame for the GOP’s devastating midterm losses to McConnell, presenting a new headache for the Senate minority leader.

Representatives for McConnell didn’t return the Post’s request for comment. However, Senate GOP leaders are moving forward with plans to hold the election despite the bubbling dissension, reports Politico.

“After presentations from candidates, and there is every opportunity to address questions from every member, we will complete leadership elections,” Sen. John Barrasso, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, wrote to his colleagues on Friday afternoon in a letter, an excerpt of which Politico published.

Tough Reality For House Republicans

Republican lawmakers in the U.S. House, who — like their Senate counterparts — believed they would cruise to a smashing victory, are finally contending with the reality that the GOP might fall short of a large majority, if they win at all, quashing their prospects of enacting pre-planned legislation and leadership maneuvers.

The Post reported that House Republicans understand Democratic votes would be crucial in a lower chamber narrowly dominated by the Republican Party.

“It’s an unworkable majority. Nothing meaningful will get passed,” a senior House Republican told the Post on the condition of anonymity.

In a statement to the Post, outgoing Rep. Peter Meijer (R-MI) blamed the Republican party’s grim outlook on the extremism perpetuated by its conspiratorial far-right caucus, which culminated in the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters.

“By midnight on January 6, it was obvious that if we continued to sleepwalk down the path of crazy we’d face a rude awakening,” Meijer said.

“Instead of facing those facts, the GOP spent the last two years heading in the same direction and actively avoiding any internal reckoning. After Tuesday, we have no choice but to heed voters when they say that ‘the grass is green, the sky is blue, and by the way, you just got your ass handed to you.’ But waking up to that reality is going to be rough,” he added.

Like McConnell, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has pushed on with his speakership bid, defying opposition from factions of House Republicans opposing his efforts.

On Friday, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) said in a tweet that the House GOP ought to “put our star players in a position to shine brightest so that we can attract more people to our policies and ideas” and denounced McCarthy and his allies as the “C-team.”

“There are people who swear upon firstborn children that they’ll never vote for McCarthy,” an aide to a senior Republican lawmaker told the Post, anonymously discussing internal party consternations.

Members of the House's far-right pro-Trump faction, the Freedom Caucus, have also reportedly withheld their support for McCarthy’s drive until its laundry list of demands is met, per reporting by the Post and CNN.

Senate Republicans Insist They Won't Ban Abortion, Despite McConnell Gaffe

For decades, Republicans have assailed pro-abortion Supreme Court rulings — for instance, 1973’s Roe v. Wade and 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey, among others -- but with the end of Roe reportedly imminent, conservative Congressional representatives are quickly dialing back their anti-abortion rhetoric, fearing public reaction could cost them in the midterms.

Despite secretly meeting with leading anti-abortion activists to brainstorm plans for a federal ban on abortions nationwide, GOP lawmakers were quick to dismiss Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s weekend suggestion that the party could soon turn its sights to enacting a total abortion ban.

"I don't think it's really an appropriate topic for Congress to be passing a national law on," said Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), according to CNN.

Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), a religious rightist, echoed Cornyn, telling Newsweek, "No, I don't support a federal ban on abortion after Roe vs. Wade, if it's overturned in the first instance."

Hawley added, "I think it would be better for states to debate this, allow it to breathe and for Congress to act where there's national consensus."

Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), the third-ranking Senate Republican, noted that the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion suggested that states should regulate abortion. "I want to see the states have that opportunity and the authority to do so," Barrasso said when asked for his thoughts on a potential federal abortion ban.

Republicans in Congress are trying to keep focus trained on inflation, crime, and border security, as recent polls show that most Americans oppose national legislation to ban abortion. So they want to talk about almost anything else.

“You need — it seems to me, excuse the lecture — to concentrate on what the news is today,” McConnell himself said last Tuesday. “Not a leaked draft but the fact that the draft was leaked.”

Last week, in an interview with USA Today, McConnell promised that Republicans, if they win back the Senate, won’t scrap the filibuster for a total abortion ban by a simple majority vote.

"If the leaked opinion became the final opinion, legislative bodies — not only at the state level but at the federal level — certainly could legislate in that area," the minority leader told the paper. "And if this were the final decision, that was the point that it should be resolved one way or another in the legislative process. So yeah, it's possible."

However, McConnell dodged questions from CNN on whether he’d bring an abortion bill to the floor of a Republican-controlled Senate.

Democrats immediately decried McConnell’s abortion ban suggestion, and GOP lawmakers, sensing a rapidly spreading wave of public outrage at attempts to overturn abortion rights, have expressed little interest in it or noted that there wouldn’t be enough votes to enact such a ban.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) played down the notion his party would have the votes for a total national abortion ban. "It's about as possible as this vote we will take on Wednesday," Graham told CNN, referring to an upcoming Democratic effort to codify in federal law .

"Let's see what happens. I'm not going to get into what-ifs," Senator Shelley Moore Capito said, declining an opportunity to weigh in on the matter.

Senator John Thune (R-SD) declared his support for an abortion ban with exceptions, but noted that his stand might not be a consensus within his party. "That's my personal position," Thune said. "That's certainly not a caucus position. I don't think we have any idea at this point about any of that."

Despite sudden Republican back-pedaling on abortion, Democrats have signaled their intention to use the looming Supreme Court ruling to ask voters to punish Republicans in November.

The 'Soft On Crime' Party? It's Not The Democrats

"Soft on crime" is the old dog whistle that Republican senators like Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley used to smear Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as they attempted to derail her historic Supreme Court nomination. Their racist deception failed. Jackson is almost certain to be confirmed — and her strong public approval ratings rose after the disgraceful performance of Cruz, Hawley and their GOP colleagues during her nomination hearings.

But let's consider the Republican regurgitation of that familiar phrase, certain to be heard over and over again before November's midterm election. Look back in history, look around today, and one fact is pretty obvious: It's the Republican Party and its leadership that are ridiculously squishy on crime, perhaps due to their continuing propensity for criminal behavior.

The president who most memorably deployed that epithet in my own early political experience was Richard M. Nixon, whose campaigns relied heavily on racialized crime rhetoric. Of course, he resigned from office just ahead of the prosecutors who could easily have sent him to prison for a long roster of felonies — from bribery, extortion, obstruction of justice and witness tampering to conspiracy and tax evasion. His vice president Spiro Agnew also departed under a cloud of criminal prosecution and barely avoided prison after acknowledging various petty bribes.

"I am not a crook," Nixon lied. (His symbolic legacy can be seen in a tattoo on the back of political crook Roger Stone, who made his bones as a low-level Watergate offender and whose more recent felony convictions were pardoned by Donald Trump — but we'll get to that.)

Despite Nixon's epoch-making scandal, he was surpassed in at least one respect by Ronald Reagan, another loud critic of Democrats' supposed coddling of criminals. By the end of Reagan's two terms, his administration had established a new and still unsurpassed record for the number of felony convictions of federal officials in American presidential history. In scandals that ranged from Pentagon procurement scams to influence peddling, perjury and the sale of arms to the Iranian mullahs, the Reaganites displayed an impressive range of delinquency — including Edwin Meese, the law-and-order attorney general who came within a hair's breadth of indictment in a defense contracting scandal and resigned his office in disgrace.

Given that tawdry history, it may be hard to believe that those were the good old days. Yet the Republican Party has since developed an even greater tolerance for villainy of every kind, as epitomized by its Dear Leader and would-be 2024 nominee, Donald J. Trump.

Trump had mastered the art of escaping accountability for felonious misconduct even before he entered the Oval Office — as we know from looking back at his numerous alleged tax crimes, swindles and perjuries. It is an art he has since perfected, as anyone can see by consulting the handy catalog provided by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group. Included there is the copious evidence revealed by former FBI director Robert Mueller, a lifelong Republican, that Trump committed numerous obstructions of justice. He couldn't be prosecuted because he was president.

Certainly, no president has ever been as "soft on crime" as Trump himself. He repeatedly abused the pardon power to protect his own hide from potential testimony by his criminal associates — notably including the aforementioned Stone, his former campaign manager and massive tax criminal Paul Manafort and his former adviser Steve Bannon, who escaped trial for swindling gullible conservatives in his "We Build the Wall" crowdfunding scam. Trump also pardoned Chris Collins and Duncan Hunter, two former Republican members of Congress convicted on a raft of felony charges — but then again, Republican voters had already reelected both scoundrels.

If he could, Trump would surely exonerate the mob that attacked police officers, vandalized the Capitol and sought to murder his own vice president on Jan. 6, 2021 — many of them losers, like Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, with extensive prior criminal records. In fact, he praised them even before their excrement was mopped up from the Capitol hallways. To Trump and many of the Republicans in his political entourage, those insurrectionist thugs are "patriots."

Still, the criminal and other deviant behavior among Republican politicians is now worrying party leaders, who fear that prominent GOP midterm candidates are just too sleazy to win. Why is it even possible for a man like Eric Greitens — who resigned as Missouri governor because of his violent crimes against women — to return as a serious contender in that state's U.S. Senate race? Well, Greitens boasts the support of that law-and-order avatar Rudy Giuliani, now under criminal investigation, and members of the Trump family. The former president has enthusiastically endorsed other candidates credibly accused of similar offenses, including Herschel Walker in Georgia and Max Miller in Ohio.

Maybe the Republicans should stop calling anybody "soft on crime" — unless they're talking about themselves.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Gallup Poll Shows Americans Overwhelmingly Support Judge Jackson

Despite unwarranted attacks from odious Republican Senators Cruz and Hawley to malign SCOTUS nominee Judge Jackson, a majority of Americans are behind her.

According to a new Gallup poll, 58 percent of respondents said the Senate should vote in favor of her historical nomination to the nation's highest court.

The poll, which was taken in the weeks ahead of Jackson's confirmation hearings, shows that 30 percent of those polled said the Senate should not vote in favor of confirming her; an additional 12 percent had no opinion.


"Jackson's support is thus 10 percentage points above the historical norm, while the percentage without an opinion is 11 points lower," Gallup said.

But Jacksons' favorability certainly didn't stop Republicans from stooping to new lows in their pathetic partisan attacks on Judge Jackson. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) brazenly pandered to the lowest common dominator that makes up today's Republican Party by focusing on such paltry nonsense as a children's book about race. Nevertheless, Judge Jackson remained impeccably cool and did not once dignify any of the Republican's infantile attacks.

Michael Hayne is a comedian, writer, voice artist, podcaster, and impressionist. Follow his work on Facebook and TikTok

As Prosecutor, Hawley Sentenced Violent Sex Abuser To Probation -- Not Prison

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) has spent the past few weeks attacking Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson for her sentencing record, including falsely accusing her of showing leniency for sexual predators. But Hawley's own record as a prosecutor may not match his current rhetoric.

Last Wednesday, Hawley began his assault on President Joe Biden's nominee to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer with a lengthy Twitter thread. The Missouri Republican's widely debunked accusations falsely asserted that "Judge Jackson has a pattern of letting child porn offenders off the hook for their appalling crimes, both as a judge and as a policymaker" and showed an "alarming trend of lenient sentencing."

This week, Hawley used his time at Jackson's confirmation hearing to grill the nominee — the first Black woman nominated to the high court in U.S. history — over her handling of sex crime cases.

Noting one case, in which an 18-year-old offender received a three-month prison sentence for child pornography violations, he repeatedly demanded to know, "Do you regret it?"

Hawley then asked whether it would "surprise" Jackson to learn that another offender whom Jackson sentenced to 57 months in prison was "a recidivist," meaning that he had engaged in additional crimes later.

Jackson responded noting the totality of her record and observed that "there is data in the Sentencing Commission and elsewhere that indicates that there are recidivism — serious recidivism issues — and so, among the various people that I have sentenced, I am not surprised that there are people who re-offend and it is a terrible thing that happens in our system."

While Hawley has never served as a judge, he does have experience prosecuting sex crime cases as Missouri's attorney general from 2017 to 2019. Although that office has only a small prosecutorial role in the state's criminal justice system, Hawley's brief tenure was marred by criticism of his handling of sexual abuse claims by victims.

In January 2021, the Kansas City Star published a guest column by Pam Hamilton, a former Hawley appointee who questioned his handling of human trafficking cases. "I was on Josh Hawley’s human trafficking task force," the headline of Hamilton's story read. "He sought TV cameras, not justice."

One prosecution Hawley did handle as attorney general was a 2018 sexual abuse and domestic assault case against former Knox County Sheriff Robert Becker. According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol's probable cause statement, Becker was charged with violent sexual encounters against his former partner, who alleged he "choked" her with a shirt in one instance.

Instead of bringing the case to trial, Hawley agreed to a plea deal in which Becker served no jail time and instead received two years of probation and resigned his office.

"There is no place for law enforcement officers who abuse their power," Hawley said at the time. "As a result of today's plea, Mr. Becker can no longer serve in any law enforcement capacity. The Knox County community is safer as a result of today's action."

Hawley stepped down as Missouri's top law enforcement official in January 2019 after he was elected to the U.S. Senate. His successor, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, eventually filed probation violations in court against Becker. In November 2020 a judge ruled that Becker had failed to complete the mandatory sexual offender counseling required under the plea bargain and sentenced him to 20 days of "shock incarceration" — jail time intended to "shock" an offender into avoiding future crimes.

A spokesperson for Hawley did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

How Media Normalized The QAnon Smear Of Judge Jackson

Signaling that the Republican Party would not allow the Supreme Court confirmation hearing of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to be an entirely serious and dignified one, Republican senator Josh Hawley began trafficking vile claims about the first Black woman tapped for the Court.

For the last week, Hawley and his allies have been trying to turn Jackson, arguably the most qualified Supreme Court nominee in the last half-century, into a child-pornography apologist. It’s breathtaking, unconscionable and straight out of the QAnon cult playbook— but the press doesn’t care. In their eyes, there is no decency line that the GOP can ever cross. Nothing is out of bounds for them.

On Fox News, Hawley specifically described Jackson as protecting pedophiles when it came to sentencing: “I haven't been able to find a single case where she has had a child porn offender, a pedophile, in front of her where she hasn't given him the most lenient sentence she possibly could.”

Still, the New York Times downplayed the outlandish GOP smears against the mother of two, describing the claims as merely “hostile critiques,” and Republicans “forcefully attacking Jackson’s record.” In a puff piece highlighting four GOP senators this week, the Times elevated Hawley as one “to watch” during the confirmation hearings.

The allegation that Jackson operated as some sort of pro-child pornography outlier on the bench because she sentenced below federal guidelines is obviously false, as ABC News, among others detailed [emphasis added]:

Federal appeals court Judges Joseph Bianco of the Second Circuit and Andrew Brasher of the Eleventh Circuit, both Trump appointees, had each previously sentenced defendants convicted of possessing child pornography to prison terms well below federal guidelines at the time they were confirmed with Hawley's support.

Hawley didn’t make the bogus claims because he thought they were valid, or that they could withstand a moment of scrutiny. He made them to link Jackson to the odious phrases “child pornography” and “pedophile,” which are signaling mechanisms for the QAnon cult.

Signaling that the Republican Party would not allow the Supreme Court confirmation hearing of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to be an entirely serious and dignified one, Republican senator Josh Hawley began trafficking vile claims about the first Black woman tapped for the Court.

For the last week, Hawley and his allies have been trying to turn Jackson, arguably the most qualified Supreme Court nominee in the last half-century, into a child-pornography apologist. It’s breathtaking, unconscionable and straight out of the QAnon cult playbook— but the press doesn’t care. In their eyes, there is no decency line that the GOP can ever cross. Nothing is out of bounds for them.

On Fox News, Hawley specifically described Jackson as protecting pedophiles when it came to sentencing: “I haven't been able to find a single case where she has had a child porn offender, a pedophile, in front of her where she hasn't given him the most lenient sentence she possibly could.”

Still, the New York Times downplayed the outlandish GOP smears against the mother of two, describing the claims as merely “hostile critiques,” and Republicans “forcefully attacking Jackson’s record.” In a puff piece highlighting four GOP senators this week, the Times elevated Hawley as one “to watch” during the confirmation hearings.

The allegation that Jackson operated as some sort of pro-child pornography outlier on the bench because she sentenced below federal guidelines is obviously false, as ABC News, among others detailed [emphasis added]:

Federal appeals court Judges Joseph Bianco of the Second Circuit and Andrew Brasher of the Eleventh Circuit, both Trump appointees, had each previously sentenced defendants convicted of possessing child pornography to prison terms well below federal guidelines at the time they were confirmed with Hawley's support.

Hawley didn’t make the bogus claims because he thought they were valid, or that they could withstand a moment of scrutiny. He made them to link Jackson to the odious phrases “child pornography” and “pedophile,” which are signaling mechanisms for the QAnon cult.

Reprinted with permission from PressRun

Josh Hawley’s Vile Attack On Judge Jackson Blasted From Left And Right

As the Senate prepares to hold the confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman to be nominated to serve on the Supreme Court, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) has falsely claimed that she has argued that certain child pornography offenders are "less serious."

On Monday, writing for MSNBC, commentator Steve Benen observed how these attacks are quickly backfiring on him.

"The GOP senator’s line of attack did not go unnoticed, but fact-checkers quickly dismantled Hawley’s nonsense. The Associated Press said the senator’s claims 'don’t stand up to scrutiny.' Fact-check reports from the Washington Post and CNN came to the same conclusion," wrote Benen. "Others were even more direct in their denunciations. Vox’s Ian Millhiser described Hawley’s attempted smear 'genuinely nauseating.' In National Review, a leading conservative publication, Andrew McCarthy concluded that Hawley’s allegation 'appears meritless to the point of demagoguery.'"

All of this is beclowning not just Hawley but the entire Republican Party, Benen claimed, in light of GOP leadership's promise to be more high-minded than Democrats supposedly were with the sexual misconduct allegations against Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh. "In reality, it’s rather easy to defend the ways in which Democratic senators handled the credible allegations surrounding Thomas and Kavanaugh. But putting that aside, the assurances about the GOP staying away from 'the gutter' and approaching Jackson’s nomination in a 'respectable' way look ridiculous in the wake of Sen. Josh Hawley’s attempted smear."

"But the fact remains that Senate GOP leaders have made no effort to follow Hawley’s lead; observers from the left, right, and center have been quick to shred his baseless smear; and by mainstream standards, Hawley’s attack backfired," concluded Benen. "The Missouri Republican meant to make Jackson look awful. He denigrated himself in the process."

You can read more here.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Behind Josh Hawley's Disgusting QAnon Slur Against Judge Jackson

Of all the Senate Republicans who regularly engage in gutter politics, none is more likely to scrape bottom than Josh Hawley. The junior senator from Missouri was best known, at least until now, for his pseudo-macho fist-pumping display outside the besieged Capitol on January 6, 2021 — and his seditious attempt to deny Electoral College certification to President Joe Biden on that same day.

But Hawley has found a new way to drag our politics into the partisan sewer with a false, grotesque, and inflammatory attack on Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, just days before her Supreme Court confirmation hearings begin. Seizing upon a handful of cases and a comment she made in law school, he has smeared her as "soft on child pornographers."

At the outset of his Twitter thread, Hawley lied: "Judge Jackson has a pattern of letting child porn offenders off the hook for their appalling crimes, both as a judge and as a policymaker. She's been advocating for it since law school. This goes beyond 'soft on crime.' I'm concerned that this (is) a record that endangers our children."

With that foul smear, Hawley joins an undeniably psychotic element of his party — the growing cohort affiliated with the QAnon conspiracy cult, which proclaims constantly that prominent Democrats and Hollywood stars are sexually exploiting and even murdering children. There is no evidence for these sick accusations, but that hasn't stopped the fascist-leaning wing of the GOP — including no less a figure than Trump's disgraced national security adviser Mike Flynn — from endorsing them.

Before examining the real friends of kiddie porn in American politics, it is vital to unpack Hawley's fabricated assault on Jackson, a highly qualified and upright Black female jurist whose nomination has turned her into a target for the usual collection of racists and misogynists on the Right. What he accuses her of doing is what literally hundreds of judges of both parties have done regularly in sentencing child sex abuse and child pornography offenders. In law school and since, she has made the same observation as many of her fellow judges and even some prosecutors: Federal sentencing guidelines on those crimes require adjustment in the interest of justice.

According to Ohio State law professor Douglas Berman, an expert on federal sentencing policy, the guidelines on child porn are broadly "considered 'too severe' and poorly designed to 'measure offender culpability' in the digital age." Which is why, Berman writes, "federal judges nationwide rarely follow them." In fact, Berman reports that judges deliver sentences below the guidelines in two out of three child porn cases, with "typical sentences of 54 months below the calculated guideline minimum."

Among nine examples cited to support Hawley's smear, five were cases in which the prosecution advocated a sentence lower than the federal guidelines — and reiterated Jackson's point that the current guidelines cannot reflect mitigating factors or congressional intent. (That is why she suggested in law school that they should be revised.) In eight of the nine cases, Judge Jackson's sentence was less than two years lower than what prosecutors recommended.

In short, Hawley's smear shows either that he's too stupid to understand how federal sentencing works or he's deliberately distorting the facts to foster an ugly untruth. Anyone surprised by his behavior hasn't been paying attention.

By mimicking QAnon, Hawley invites an unflattering question: Which political party is actually preferred by child sex offenders? The conspiracist cult has always looked suspiciously like a perfect cover for such predators. The cult began on an internet channel that has long hosted child pornographers — and its apparent founder, Arizona GOP Congressional candidate Jim Watkins, profited from Web domains that were apparently used to promote child porn.

Beyond QAnon itself is a seemingly endless rogues gallery of child porn and sex abuse criminals associated with the Republican Party. Finding them on Google is a simple and revealing exercise. Last year, federal investigators busted an online kiddie porn ring that included Ruben Verastigui, a digital strategist for the Trump campaign, and Adam Hageman, a Trump Commerce Department official, while separate probes busted Republican consultant Anton Lazzaro, as well as Trump's Oklahoma campaign chair Ralph Shortey and Trump Kentucky delegate Timothy Nolan.

Those are only the most recent entries on the docket, which infamously includes right-wing "Christian" TV personality Josh Duggar — the Arkansas pal of the Huckabees who admitted to molesting young girls, including two of his sisters, and is facing child porn charges. (Not long before Duggar's indictment, Huckabee praised him for leading "a responsible and circumspect life.") And let's not forget Trump associate and influence peddler George Nader, who will spend a long time behind bars for trafficking a child into the United States for sex and distributing child porn.

As noted, it's a long and grimy list. And Republicans who try to suggest that their opponents are "soft" on pedophilia and child porn — currently a favorite theme in right-wing media —-should take a hard look at their own gamy milieu before repeating those disgusting slurs.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.