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The Quiet Revolution

Over the past quarter century, an increasingly influential legal movement on the far right has been working stealthily to impose a narrow social agenda on the broader body politic. The basic idea is to get judges appointed to the federal bench who will shred popular laws protecting workers, consumers and public health while expanding executive power--at the expense of basic civil liberties.

"If they succeed," says University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein, "we will, without really seeing it happen, end up with a very different country--one that's both less free and less equal."

This story is succinctly exposed in a new, short documentary (The Quiet Revolution) produced by the Alliance for Justice (AFJ), a national association working to oppose reactionary court appointments, to strengthen the public interest legal community's influence on public policy, and to foster the next generation of progressive legal advocates.

As the visionary Nan Aron, president and founder of AFJ, explained to a Nation editorial meeting recently, the failed nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court in 1987 forced a change in tactics as the right learned that being open and honest about its views--as Bork had been during his confirmation hearings--would trigger widespread opposition to its nominees. So the fictitious "liberal activist judges" became the enemy and rightwing nominees learned how to duck, charm and dissemble--a strategy perfected last year by the ultra-smooth John Roberts.

As Aron explained on the Huffington Post on October 12, "most people would never buy the far right agenda if it were clearly labeled. Most people want the government to protect public health and safety, our environment, our civil rights and our reproductive freedom. So the right relies on stealth marketing behind the smokescreen of abortion, gay marriage and other hot-button issues. That's how George W. Bush was able to appoint two Supreme Court Justices with only token resistance from Senate Democrats."

The AFJ's film is one attempt to blow away this smokescreen. Narrated by actor Bradley Whitford of West Wing fame, The Quiet Revolution traces the growth of the far right legal community's development and exposes extremist hopes for reshaping American law and life around a narrow agenda alien to much of the American citizenry.

What You Can Do:
Watch Quiet Revolution online by clicking here. Better yet, order a free copy and share it with your friends and neighbors. Write letters to your local newspaper, comment on blogs, and call talk radio shows to explain how court decisions affect our daily lives.

If you are a student or a professor, click here to find out how to arrange an event on your campus.

If you're not a student, please consider contributing just $20 to Alliance for Justice to help distribute the film to schools, libraries, student groups, nonprofit organizations and activist groups all over the country, as well as to ordinary Americans nationwide.

Whose Morality?

A version of this post appeared in The Guardian's Comment is Free blog.

In 2004, the American news media made much of the finding that a fifth of voters picked "moral values" as the most important issue in deciding their vote--as many as cited terrorism or the economy. Many pundits quickly concluded that moral values were ascendant as a political issue. What soon emerged, however, was that this poorly devised exit poll --and a dose of spin --threatened to undermine our understanding of the 2004 presidential election. What the poll failed to address, for example, was the definition of "moral value." It's common sense to understand it's a phrase that means different things to different people. But many in the media quickly concluded that "moral values" only appealed to people who oppose abortion, gay marriage, and stem-cell research. But why not consider that "moral value" also appeals to people who oppose torture, poverty, war, the death penalty and environmental degradation?

Fast forward to 2006 and the midterm Congressional elections. It's still hard to predict but I think the minimum wage will emerge as the moral values issue of November's midterm elections. Two large reasons: the war and the economy. The other, and related to the first two: "hot button" social issues like same-sex marriage or abortion have dimmed in importance. In Ohio, where one of the hottest Senate races in the country is being waged (it looks like the populist Democratic candidate Sherrod Brown will win) on-the-ground reporting shows that not much is being said on the campaign trail about what are often called the three "Gs"--gays, guns and God. One article quotes a longtime Republican--someone who saw President Bush in 2004 as a man who reflected his own moral and Christian beliefs--as fed up with how his party has "overplayed its churchiness."

What's resonating this year in Ohio--and in most parts of the US--is the reality that the economic prosperity President Bush and the GOP constantly tout isn't to be found in factories or on Main Streets around the country. It certainly isn't benefiting people who are working harder than ever just to keep up with mounting personal debt, healthcare costs and pension obligations. And it isn't benefiting Ohio's economy --where 200,000 jobs have been lost since 2000. That's why the minimum wage ballot initiative is capturing some 70 percent support. (The initiative would raise the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $6.85 and index it to inflation. And, according to Policy Matter Ohio, a progressive think tank, increasing it would benefit about 700,000 low wage workers.)

Advocates of the measure --a coalition of faith groups, labor unions and progressive activists --are consciously framing an increase in the minimum wage as a moral values issue. As one activist put it: " Rewarding hard work with a fair wage is not just an abstract pocketbook economic issue but a statement of values." And it's made easier considering that for nearly a decade a Republican-controlled Congress has repeatedly refused to raise the federal minimum wage from its shameful low of $5.15 per hour, yet they have raised their own salaries nine times--to about $165,000 a year.

The "Let Justice Roll" coalition (letjusticeroll.org) --an alliance of religious denominations, including Baptists and evangelicals--community, labor and business groups--is playing a leading role in five states (Ohio, Montana, Missouri, Arizona and Colorado) where raising the minimum wage is on the ballot. In a recent statement, "Let Justice Roll" organizers pointed out that "The Golden Rule--Do to others what you would have them do to you--is the most universal value, found in most religions. CEOs who make millions while paying poverty wages, Congress members who approve pay raises for themselves while denying a raise to low-wage workers: these are widely seen as violating the Golden Rule."

In just a few days, we'll know whether the minimum wage is the values issue of the 2006 election. And we'll also find out if we're witnessing the emergence of a new economic populism in America.

Duncan Hunter Mulls a Run for President

Who needs The Onion when you can find this report on the AP wire? (Hunter is Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.)

Washington (AP) -- California congressman Duncan Hunter looks like hemay be mulling a presidential run.

A party official says the San Diego-area Republican plans to announceMonday that he's considering a bid in 2008.

Hunter is the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee -- aposition he would lose if Democrats take control of the House afterthe November 7th election.

Hunter spokesman Joe Kasper won't comment on the congressman's plans,except to say that he would be holding a press conference in San DiegoMonday morning about plans for 2008.

Hunter's announcement comes as a surprise to leadership in theRepublican Party in Washington.

He has not been discussed as one of the many candidates considering apresidential bid, among them Senator John McCain of Arizona andMassachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

Dirt On Your Shoulder

If this political season seems especially nasty, that's because it is. In fact, the Republican game plan centers around fear and smear.

In 2000, 40 percent of presidential television advertisements went negative. That number jumped to 50 percent four years later. Now Republicans are spending more than 90 percent of their $50 million ad budget attacking Democrats.

If you only watched Republican TV spots, you'd think Democrats want to abort black babies, dial phone sex hotlines and let convicted child molesters into the country.

"In general, '06 is the most negative campaign in recent memory," says John Geer, a Vanderbilt University professor who studies political advertising.

But there's a distinction between the two parties. "The Democrats are, on average, running more attacks on issues," says Geer. "The Republicans are more likely to go personal."

In other words, while Democrats talk about Iraq, oil companies and Jack Abramoff, Republicans focus on Playboy parties, sex scenes in novels and attacking Parkinson's victims.

It's deeply ironic that the party responsible for the most scandals in decades now wants to question the personal integrity of the other side.

Does Dick Armey Believe the GOP Deserves To Lose?

Last week, I noted that when I was interviewing former House Republican majority leader Dick Armey for PajamasMedia.com, the retired congressman told me that his Republican pals in Congress might deserve to lose the coming elections for having made the wrong call on Iraq. I did not quote Armey directly on this point; I paraphrased our conversation. And Armey's office complained to Pajamas about my posting, saying that Armey had expressed no such sentiment. I have reviewed the audio of the entire interview--a video excerpt of which can be viewed here--and below is what he said. You can decide if my "might deserve to lose" formulation fits Armey's remarks.

Armey noted that "the war in Iraq is the 800-pound gorilla in the room." He remarked that the war was of "questionable necessity" and "questionable execution." He added, "As long as Democrats can keep the discussion on Iraq, our party loses ground. That's why you see Republicans, particularly in Senate campaigns, expressing some different points of view....The war in Iraq, is, I think, the big, big issue of the election." I reminded Armey that he is quoted in the book I co-wrote with Michael Isikoff, Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, saying he deeply regretted his vote to give President George W. Bush the authority to launch the war on Iraq. I asked:

Do you still regret that vote today and if so, if people like you, if Republicans voted the wrong way, is it not, according to the rules of the marketplace, a good thing to sort of pay a price now, at least in political terms. Should people hold your party to account for making the wrong vote?

Here's how Armey replied:

I think it was the wrong vote. I felt it at the time....And yes, if you make a bad vote, in the final analysis, you need to expect to live with it. And to some extent that is happening now--with current officeholders. You might say, "Well, Armey, he dodged the bullet because he made his bad vote and then retired by the time the country woke up to it." But right now I don't think very many people seeking office are going to be running around to very many constituents and saying, "You better reelect me because I voted to get us into Iraq."

Armey went on to say

I'm not clear why we got in here [in Iraq] in the first place. We're mired down here. It doesn't seem to me we're making any progress. I wonder if they're doing it right and how in the heck are we ever going to get out of it. And then you take a look at that and say, who's to blame? Well, there's only one guy to blame, and that's your commander in chief...I don't know how you get out of [Iraq]. Sooner or later, there's going to have to be a decision to get out, probably with some disregard for the consequences.

This is how I read Armey's remarks: (a) he believes invading Iraq was misguided and that Republican members of Congress should not have voted to hand Bush the authority to launch that war; (b) legislators sometimes have to pay for a "bad vote." Does that mean he wants the Republicans to be voted out of office? Clearly, not. He hopes that his party--despite this grave mistake--keeps its stranglehold on Congress. And he's certainly not calling for Bush to resign. But, at the same time, he recognizes that the Republican party's unabashed and across-the-board support of the Iraq war is indeed legitimate cause for voters to boot it out of power.

Armey's great passions in life are free-market economics and country and western music. He cannot deny the workings of the political marketplace: you screw up, you ought to be voted out of office. Does that mean he believes the Republicans "might deserve" to lose?

For Hubris, Armey recalled for us a moment in December 2002--two months after he had voted to give Bush the authority to attack Iraq. He was driving along a stretch of Texas highway when a country song came on about a fellow who looked in the mirror and saw a stranger. The line hit him hard. Against his better instincts, he had voted for the war, though he had serious doubts about the intelligence on Iraq's WMD that had been presented to him personally by Vice President Dick Cheney. Listening to this song, Armey thought that he had become that stranger. He had been untrue to himself. And he was thankful that he was about to retire from the House.

Now it seems that he will have no beef with those voters who on Election Day punish his Republican colleagues for having committed the same mistake he did. Armey might even be able to suggest an appropriate song for his party-mates that day: "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry."

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FOR INFORMATION ON HUBRIS: THE INSIDE STORY OF SPIN, SCANDAL, AND THE SELLING OF THE IRAQ WAR, click here. The New York Times calls Hubris "the most comprehensive account of the White House's political machinations" and "fascinating reading." The Washington Post says, "There have been many books about the Iraq war....This one, however, pulls together with unusually shocking clarity the multiple failures of process and statecraft." Tom Brokaw notes Hubris "is a bold and provocative book that will quickly become an explosive part of the national debate on how we got involved in Iraq." Hendrik Hertzberg, senior editor of The New Yorker notes, "The selling of Bush's Iraq debacle is one of the most important--and appalling--stories of the last half-century, and Michael Isikoff and David Corn have reported the hell out of it." For highlights from Hubris, click here.

Reading Virgil on Midterm Eve

Maybe there's something to the timing. As Americans turn against a war and occupation whose origins and conduct are defined by arrogance, mendacity and lawlessness, a new translation of Virgil's epic poem about empire, "The Aeneid," is being published this week.

In an interview in Monday's New York Times, translator Robert Fagles speaks of the timelessness and timeliness of the epic --and of its relevance for the contemporary situation. "It's a poem about empire," Fagles explains, "and was commissioned by the emperor Augustus to celebrate the spread of Roman civilization. To begin with it's a cautionary tale, about the terrible ills that attend empire--its war-making capacity, the loss of blood and treasure both. But it's all done in the name of the rule of law, which you'd have a hard time ascribing to what we're doing in the Middle East today."

"It's also a tale of exhortation. It says that if you depart from the civilized, then you become a murderer. The price of empire is very steep, but Virgil shows how it is to be earned, if it's to be earned at all. The poem can be read as an exhortation for us to behave ourselves, which is a horse of relevance that ought to be ridden."

Isn't it time we rode that "horse of relevance"?

Republican Flip-floppers

Remember back in 2004 when delegates at the Republican presidential convention waved those flip-flop sandals and Republican crowds throughout the campaign then chanted with delight, "flip-flop, flip-flop," mocking, in part, John Kerry's I-voted-for-it-before-I-voted-against it Iraq CV. At the time, Democrats were vociferously claiming that Kerry's "resolute" opponent was, in fact, the Flip-Flopper-in-Chief, but they could never make the charge stick, while Republicans had the times of their political lives with those "whichever way the wind blows" windsurfing ads.

Two years have passed. Another election season is more than upon us and, though no Democratic-sponsored waffle ads are out there, nor are Democrats waving beach footwear or shouting flip-flop mantras, the fact is top Republicans have been performing Olympic-level flips and flops recently. George W. Bush, for example, suddenly cut-and-ran from his signature Iraq phrase: stay the course. Our steadfast president turned chameleon in the face of politically terrifying polling figures on the Iraq War, congressional performance, and himself. In Florida, visiting a company that produces devices to detect roadside bombs, no longer was he the plodding "stay the course" guy of the last year. Instead, he was suddenly a maestro of "change," a darting, dashing Wile E. Coyote of a president, zipping off a cliff while saying things like: "We're constantly changing. The enemy changes, and we change. The enemy adapts to our strategies and tactics, and we adapt to theirs. We're constantly changing to defeat this enemy." Change or flip flop?

Or take Tennessee's Bill Frist, Republican Senate majority leader. As the political season was just heating up in June, even before the President and his advisors launched their seven-speech terrorism and Iraq August/September assault on the Democrats, Frist was already leading the political charge with his election issue of choice. He was standing in the Senate "slamming" Democrats and thundering: "This amendment effectively calls on the United States to cut and run from Iraq. Let me be clear: retreat is not a solution. Our national security requires us to follow through on our commitments."

Like the president, deep into September he was still excoriating the Democrats not just for their positions on the Iraq War, but for their "surrender" policies in the war on terror. As he put it in a PBS interview with Jim Lehrer on September 14th:

"I'd say, ‘Wake up, Harry Reid. Wake up, Harry Reid…' I think that [the president] has got it right, that we're not going to do what Harry Reid wants to do, and that is surrender, to wave a white flag, to cut and run at a time when we're being threatened… as we all saw just three or four weeks ago, in a plot from Britain that was going to send 10 airplanes over here."

He then characterized the Democratic Party as a group "who basically belittle in many ways this war on terror, who do want to wave this white flag and surrender."

This was to be the election program of the Republican Party that would be resolutely repeated over and over until… uh, but then those polls started pouring in and the course got a little bumpy to stay on. Recently, according to Washington Post reporters Peter Slevin and Michael Powell, Frist offered the following succinct advice to congressional candidates: "The challenge is to get Americans to focus on pocketbook issues, and not on the Iraq and terror issue."

Call it waving the white flag or cutting and running, if you want… or, if the occasion moves you, why not just start up that chant: flip-flop, flip-flop...

Ned Lamont Refocuses on the War

Ned Lamont has had a rough fall.

After beating incumbent Senator Joe Lieberman in the August 8 Connecticut Democratic primary, Lamont's campaign lost both its focus and its momentum.

With the tacit support of the Bush White House and the Republican National Committee, as well as a "who's who" of special-interest groups and their Washington lobbyists, Lieberman pieced together a sophisticated reelection campaign on his own "Connecticut for Lieberman" independent line. With relative ease, the senior senator and consummate Washington insider successfully repositioned himself as a reformer who wanted to put an end to partisanship.

The Lamont camp should have been able to expose the absurdity of Lieberman's claims and put the incumbent on the defensive in the fall campaign – just as the challenger and his supporters did so ably in the primary race. Instead, the challenger's campaign fumbled. Lamont's campaign manager, Tom Swan, admitted in mid-October that, "We had a slow start after the primary. It was a short-term mistake…"

Precious time was lost in late August and early September, as the Lamont camp tried to frame new themes for the fall campaign. Instead of driving home the message that Connecticut can and must send a message to George W. Bush and those members of Congress – like Lieberman – who have steered the country into a disastrous war, the Lamont campaign seemed to edge away from the smart and effective anti-war message the took its candidate from obscurity to the Democratic nomination.

Perhaps most unfortunately, the Lamont campaign started to sound petty. The daily attacks on Lieberman wore thin. There was too much picayune pondering of whether the incumbent had broken a term-limits promise, and too little emphasis on "Bring the Troops Home" fundamentals.

The Connecticut Senate race was becoming less and less a referendum on the war and more and more a referendum on Lieberman – a candidate who, despite his flaws, had a long history with Connecticut voters. As the crucial month of October slipped away, the Hartford Courant reported that Lieberman and his aides were "confident they [had] made the race about more than an unpopular war."

Polls have reflected that assessment. Lieberman has opened up a wide lead – 52 percent for the incumbent, 37 percent for Lamont, 6 percent for orphaned Republican Alan Schlesinger, in a Quinnipiac University survey conducted two weeks ago. Yet, the same poll found that 67 percent of Connecticut voters disapprove of George Bush's handling of the war – and, by extension, the senator's pro-war position.

Aware that they are in very real danger of losing a race they should be winning, Lamont and his advisors are focusing anew on the anti-war message that proved so powerful in the primary. "There are other issues, but everything else pales in comparison to the war," Tom D'Amore, a Lamont adviser, explained on Sunday. "It is the issue of our time."

To deliver the message that Lieberman is on the wrong side of the issue, the Lamont campaign is banking on retired General Wesley Clark, who served as NATO's Supreme Allied Commander before leaving the military and emerging as one of the most outspoken critics of the Bush administration's military misadventures.

In a new television ad for the Lamont campaign, Clark declares, "I'm retired General Wes Clark. Joe Lieberman introduced the resolution authorizing the War in Iraq. That was a mistake. Joe Lieberman voted for that resolution without asking the tough questions. That was also a mistake. And now, three and a half years into a failing mission in Iraq, Joe Lieberman can't seem to say we should change the course. And that's a REAL mistake."

Clark concludes: "Re-elect Joe Lieberman? Well, there's a word for it. ‘Mistake.'"

The ad delivers the right message, and it is being echoed with appropriate urgency by Lamont. Recalling how he began thinking about challenging Lieberman in November 2005, after the senator penned a Wall Street Journal opinion piece about his support for Bush's war, the Democratic nominee is telling Connecticut voters that "Joe Lieberman and George Bush are as wrong on [the war] today as they were a year ago, when I got into this race."

The question now is whether the right message is coming in time to renew Ned Lamont's prospects in an election that is barely a week away.

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John Nichols' new book, THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure for Royalism is being published this month by The New Press. "With The Genius of Impeachment," writes David Swanson, co-founder of the AfterDowningStreet.org coalition, "John Nichols has produced a masterpiece that should be required reading in every high school and college in the United States." Studs Terkel says: "Never within my nonagenarian memory has the case for impeachment of Bush and his equally crooked confederates been so clearly and fervently offered as John Nichols has done in this book. They are after all our public SERVANTS who have rifled our savings, bled our young, and challenged our sanity. As Tom Paine said 200 years ago to another George, a royal tramp: 'Bugger off!' So should we say today. John Nichols has given us the history, the language and the arguments we will need to do so." The Genius of Impeachment can be found at independent bookstores and at www.amazon.com

Limbaugh's Savage Crusade

Rush Limbaugh is not just making an issue of Michael J. Fox's campaign ads for Democratic candidates who support stem-cell research. The conservative talk-radio personality is making it the issue of a fall campaign that gets stranger by the day.

While it may be hard to figure out why anyone with Limbaugh's political pull and national prominence would declare war on the guy who played Alex P. Keaton -- one of television's most outspoken, if eccentric, conservatives -- in the series "Family Ties," there is no denying the intensity of the assault.

For the better part of three hours each day this week, the radio ranter has been "Swift Boating the television and film star for daring to do what Limbaugh -- who freely admits that he is an entertainer -- does every day.

In Limbaugh's warped assessment of the political process, it's fine for him to try and influence the votes of Americans. But woe be it to anyone else who attempts to do so.

Since Fox began speaking up in favor of candidates who support science over superstition, the television and film star who suffers from Parkinson's disease has been accused by Limbaugh of "exaggerating the effects of the disease" in campaign commercials in which he points out that Democratic candidates for the Congress and governorships in the battleground states of Missouri, Maryland, Illinois, Wisconsin and now Iowa favor a serious approach to stem-cell research while their Republican opponents do not. Limbaugh was relentless in his assault on Fox. "He's moving all around and shaking and it's purely an act," the conservative commentator says. "This is really shameless of Michael J. Fox. Either he didn't take his medication or he's acting."After it was pointed out to Limbaugh everyone, literally everyone, who knows anything about Parkinson's disease, Limbaugh declared, "Now people are telling me they have seen Michael J. Fox in interviews and he does appear the same way in the interviews as he does in this commercial. All right then, I stand corrected. . . . So I will bigly, hugely admit that I was wrong, and I will apologize to Michael J. Fox, if I am wrong in characterizing his behavior on this commercial as an act."

That should have been the end of it.

But Limbaugh wasn't backing off. His new theme became: "Michael J. Fox is allowing his illness to be exploited and in the process is shilling for a Democratic politician."

One problem with that line of attack is that Fox was the one who volunteered to cut the ads, with the express purpose of helping voters see beyond the spin and recognize the stark choices that they will be making on November 7. Another problem is that, two years ago, Fox cut an ad supporting a top Republican, Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, who supports embryonic stem-cell research. But the biggest problem is with Limbaugh's emphasis on the Fox's physical appearance, as opposed to what the actor is saying in the ads? Why blather on and on about whether Fox, an actor, might be acting?

Because it is easier to criticize the way that Michael J. Fox looks than it is to criticize the content of his message.

Fox's ads are fact-based. They reference the voting records, public statements and policy initiatives of the Democratic and Republican candidates he is talking about.

That being the case, beating up on the "Back to the Future" kid would not seem like a smart political strategy. And it certainly is not going to help Limbaugh soften his image as a partisan hitman who knows a little too much about what it means to be on or off particular medications.

So why are Limbaugh and other readers of Republican talking points continuing to accuse Fox of "acting" sick, and of lying his own disease and about the role that stem-cell research may play in the search for treatments and a cure? Why devote so much time and energy to attacking one ailing actor and one set of commercials?It has a lot to do with the powerful lobby that is opposing serious stem-cell research.

Unspoken in much of the debate over this issue is the real reason why candidates such as U.S. Senator Jim Talent, the embattled Republican incumbent who is the target of Fox's criticism in Missouri, and U.S. Representative Mark Green, the Republican gubernatorial candidate who is mentioned in Fox's ads in Wisconsin, so vehemently oppose embryonic stem-cell research.

It is not because they think the research is unnecessary -- no one who has heard from top scientists and groups advocating on behalf of the sick and suffering, as both Talent and Green have, would take such a stand. Rather, it is because Talent, Green and other politicians who are campaigning not just against their Democratic opponents but against scientific inquiry want to maintain the support of the groups that oppose serious stem-cell research: the powerful and influential anti-choice political action committees that in each election cycle spend millions of dollars in questionable cash to support candidates who are willing to echo their faith-based opposition to research that could identify treatments and perhaps even cures for for life-threatening illnesses such as Parkinson's disease, Lou Gehrig's disease, Type I or Juvenile Diabetes, Duchenne' Dystrophy, and spinal chord injuries.

Groups that oppose reproductive rights are central players in our politics because they have established networks that serve as some of the most effective hidden conduits for special-interest money that is used to pay for crude attack campaigns against mainstream candidates.

They also mobilize voters on behalf of contenders who cynically embrace the ugliest forms of anti-scientific dogma to make the rounds since the evolution deniers ginned up the Scopes trial.For this reason, the antiabortion machine gets what it wants when it wants it.

Politicians who align themselves with antichoice groups are willing to attack anyone who challenges them -- and for good reason. In states across the country, so-called "Right-to-Life" and "Pro-Life" groups spend freely on behalf of the candidates they back. And much of that spending goes essentially undetected, as the groups often do not give money directly to candidates but instead run "issue ads" and mount independent-expenditure campaigns.

Republican politicians like Talent and Green fully understand that, without the behind-the-scenes work of antiabortion groups -- most of which flies under the radar of the media and campaign-finance regulators -- they could not possibly win. And Limbaugh, whose stated goal is to maintain Republican hegemony, is perhaps even more aware of the fact than the candidates he is working so feverishly to elect.That's why the radio personality is on a personal crusade against Fox. That's also why Limbaugh has been willing to stick to his outlandish claims about the actor, even while acknowledging that he's gotten the facts wrong.

Like the Republican politicians who are scrambling to smear Fox, Limbaugh is doing the bidding of one of the most powerful behind-the-scenes political forces in America -- a force that is essential to Republican prospects. And he is not going to let a little thing like the truth make him back off.

Politics is a cynical game. But, sometimes, the cynicism becomes so extreme that the word "unconscionable" doesn't quite seem to capture the ugliness of it all.

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John Nichols' new book, THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure for Royalism is being published this month by The New Press. "With The Genius of Impeachment," writes David Swanson, co-founder of the AfterDowningStreet.org coalition, "John Nichols has produced a masterpiece that should be required reading in every high school and college in the United States." Studs Terkel says: "Never within my nonagenarian memory has the case for impeachment of Bush and his equally crooked confederates been so clearly and fervently offered as John Nichols has done in this book. They are after all our public SERVANTS who have rifled our savings, bled our young, and challenged our sanity. As Tom Paine said 200 years ago to another George, a royal tramp: 'Bugger off!' So should we say today. John Nichols has given us the history, the language and the arguments we will need to do so." The Genius of Impeachment can be found at independent bookstores and at www.amazon.com