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Tilting at Windmills

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September 27, 2010

COOPER PUTS THE CRAZY ON FULL DISPLAY (AGAIN).... There have been more than a few offensive attack ads this year, but right-wing congressional candidate Renee Ellmers took the discourse to new depths last week. In a television ad, the North Carolina Republican pushed the detestable envelope, using the words "Muslims" and "terrorists" interchangeably, while apparently basing her campaign on a Park51 plan nowhere near her state or district.

On Friday, CNN's Anderson Cooper invited Ellmers on for a nine-minute interview, which is well worth watching. (If you can't watch videos from your work computer, the full transcript is online, though it really doesn't do it justice.)

It was a reminder that unintelligent, extremist candidates, when subjected to even mild scrutiny, tend to fall apart pretty quickly. On Friday night, for example, Ellmers suggests Feisal Abdul Rauf might be a terrorist, before conceding she doesn't really know much about him.

Challenging Ellmers' notion of "victory mosques," Cooper went on to press the Republican congressional hopeful on an interesting point: "Don't all religions do that? I mean, you're Catholic. Rome was conquered from the pagans and their altars destroyed so the Vatican could be built. Christian conquistadors and pilgrims to America all destroyed local religions and built their own houses of worship. Is the Vatican a victory church?"

After hemming and hawing a bit, she replied, "I guess what I could ask you is, are you anti-religion? Are you anti-Christian in your thinking?"

Cooper replied, "That's like the lowest response I have ever heard from a candidate, I have got to tell you."

It's worth noting that Cooper may be creating a bit of a niche for himself. A month ago, he pressed Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) on his bizarre "terrorist babies" theory, and to his credit, Cooper kept his cool, tried to conduct a serious interview, and challenged the deranged congressman in a direct but professional way, leaving his guest looking like a fool. He did the same thing on Friday with the equally-nutty Renee Ellmers, with the same result. (The niche may not last -- I can only assume more ridiculous Republicans will simply stop appearing on Cooper's show, and rely exclusively on Fox News.)

What's more, Paul Waldman raises a good point about the larger political context of Ellmers possibly joining the House of Representatives: "One might say, well, this one person seems to be a bigot and an ignoramus, but so what? She's just one person. That's true, but if things work out for the GOP, she could be one of the people making our laws. Whether the Democrats hold on to their majority in the House, one thing we can be almost certain of is that the number of members who combine breathtaking ignorance with shockingly radical views will increase significantly. How much damage this army of Gohmerts and Bachmanns can really do, we don't know. But there will be a lot more of them."

Steve Benen 2:50 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (34)

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"Is the Vatican a victory church?"

That's got to be the worst argument I've ever heard. Maybe it will win you points in the debate club, I don't know, but you are basically embracing Ellmers' notion that the terrorists won, and that is why they are building a mosque.

Do you think Cooper actually convinced anybody with that one?

Posted by: DR on September 27, 2010 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

When they aren't making Victory mosques/churches, the victorious religious groups also degrade the religious architecture of the defeated peoples. The Taliban destroyed some huge Buddhist statuary that offended them.

England's Puritans were a little subtler. To show their objections to the Rome-ish tendencies of the Anglican church, they converted Salisbury Cathedral into a huge stable for their horses. But it's basically the same idea.

I don't think it replaced anything else, but about as far East of Ground Zero as Park51 is north you will find Our Lady of Victory, a Roman Catholic Church.

Posted by: Edward Furey on September 27, 2010 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

Why is that a poor argument? Cooper merely pointing out how nutty a case these fools are making. I have the argument several times and generally fell on John Olivers "Am I the only who believes a Catholic church shouldn't be built by a playground". Cooper at least addresses the foolish argument head on. I'll start using that one as well.

Posted by: KK on September 27, 2010 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

'Extremism in the defense of Christianity is no vice!'
Good for Cooper standing up to another nitwit.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on September 27, 2010 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

" Is the Vatican a victory church?"

To which the HONEST Catholic would have replied, "Hell yes! the founding fathers of Christianity paid with their BLOOD so that they could triumph over the heathen Hellinists with their decadent philosophies of enjoyment of life on Earth which sent millions to Hell unnecessarily. Crossianity Triumphed and it was God's will that it should and continue to do so."

These stupid Teapublicans don't have the courage of their convictions - sexist, theist, racist bastards that they are. Peter denied Jesus three times. Will the Teapublicans do the same?

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on September 27, 2010 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

Please keep in mind that AC's "Is the Vatican a victory church?" is in reference to the political commercial he had just played. The spot made the argument that when Muslims conquered Jerusalem, Cordoba and Constantinople they built victory mosques. Cooper is making the point that, in those days, every conquering religion did. The idea is that, just because they did it then doesn't mean that the ICC is one now.

Calling it a "Victory Mosque" suggests that we were attacked by Muslim moderates on 9/11, which is precisely the sentiment the GOP is going for here. Anderson Cooper appears to be the only MSM journalist interested in challenging this.

Posted by: chrenson on September 27, 2010 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

It was a reminder that unintelligent, extremist candidates, when subjected to even mild scrutiny, tend to fall apart pretty quickly.

That fact either proves that the "liberal media" exists, or that conservative extremists have run a decades-long propaganda effort to work the refs and create excuses from when their candidates fall apart.

Guess which one I pick.

Posted by: Gregory on September 27, 2010 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

It ALSO proves that calling yourself a 'christian' doesn't MAKE you one. These people are so eager to ask 'WHAT? Are you anti-religion?' when they don't even know the history of THEIR supposed religion. Steven Colbert did a better job of putting his religion on display without attacking or proselytizing. And for that matter so did AC.

Posted by: SYSPROG on September 27, 2010 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

Gregory, the fact that the unintelligent, extremist candidates are only subjected to mild scrutiny strongly suggests the non-existence of a "liberal media." Meanwhile, I've seen plenty of evidence of the decades long propaganda effort you describe.

Posted by: chrenson on September 27, 2010 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

He's President, not a superhero: The left has been too quick to jump ship

Reply to this

Posted by: Alki on September 27, 2010 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

I think the more important part of the piece, which hasn't gotten nearly as much comment, is Ellmer's (and her handlers / mentors, obviously) contention that her ignorance of the community center backer's leanings (he is a Muslim Moderate by any stretch of the imagination, trusted by the Bush and Obama State Departments to represent US interests abroad) means he should be deemed by default a terrorist.

"I don't know that much about the imam. I don't think any of us know that much about the imam."

About the State Department trusting him:

"Yes, sir, he -- you are correct. And those are some of the concerns that we have. ... Sir, I don't know what his intentions are. I do not know that."

In other words, he's guilty of being a Muslim Extremist, because he's Muslim backing a community center which includes a mosque, and despite the fact that the State Department under both Republican and Democratic rule has trusted him. Yet, "I am not intending to say that all Muslims are terrorists."

No, of course not. That would be silly. Not all Muslims are terrorists. Just those who pray in mosques.

Posted by: Tom Dibble on September 27, 2010 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

I heard some Republican strategist soft peddling concerns about Sharron Angle's positions by focusing on her craziness. "Well, she's just one person, it's a crazy idea, isn't it. she can't do it on her own, yadda-she's-not-Harry-Reid-yadda..." I think there's a strategy there.

Posted by: Sandtress on September 27, 2010 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

Why is it OK for Republicans to call 9-11 a victory for terrorists? From my point of view, they struck an effective blow. But New York wasn't conquered, which is not surprising since that really wasn't the point of the attack. Of course terrorist sympathizers celebrated their "victory," but that's because 9-11 exceeded their expectations. Next to nobody expects to conquer the U.S., or even to regain Spain, least of all by means of terrorism.

Bin Laden may well want the muslim world to become something that could build "victory mosques" on infidels' lands; I'd still aver that's not a primary goal of his. But on 9-11 there was no such political/religious situation, and there still isn't.

Posted by: Half Elf on September 27, 2010 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

The niche MAY not last? Who are you kidding?

Posted by: Mary Contrary on September 27, 2010 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK


That's a GREAT argument to make, as it posits two similar, if not identical, circumstances and exposes the illogic of the interviewee's contention in arriving at two very different conclusions.

That's why she had to attempt to change the subject by attacking AC's religious beliefs, which has to be the WORST argument I've ever heard and clearly an act of desparation.

Believe it or not, logic has an important role to play in testing the veracity of one's arguments. You shouldn't discount it so easily.

Posted by: bdop4 on September 27, 2010 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

On a separate note, could it be that AC has seen the light and will try to act like a responsible journalist? Or will his CNN overlords rein him in?

Here's to hoping for the best.

Posted by: bdop4 on September 27, 2010 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

Calling it a "Victory Mosque" suggests that we were attacked by Muslim moderates on 9/11, which is precisely the sentiment the GOP is going for here.

I would go a step farther.

It suggests that 9/11 was a part of a holy war on the part of the mass body of Muslims against the United States (and presumably Christianity), and, most importantly that it was a victory for these fictitious Muslims, on par with the capture of Jerusalem or Cordoba.

From Cooper's point about "Christianity does 'victory churches' too", I think he needn't have gone any further than the Cordoba Mosque Ellmer cites in her ad.

What was the first thing that happened when Cordoba was captured by Christian forces in 1236? The Great Mosque - which had stood in that location since the Muslims conquered the land from the Visogoths in 785 - was sealed up and a portion converted to a Catholic cathedral. THAT, far more than the original mosque, was an act in celebration of a military victory.

Anyway, one has to remember that Ellmer's core audience has no idea of history. "Cordoba" is just another exotic-sounding name of what might be a foreign city somewhere. They know Jerusalem, so if Cordoba was also sacked and had a mosque built, damn those Muslims sure do have a bad habit of that! Arguments using facts and history as ammunition are lost on these willfully ignorant masses and the idiolatti behind the scenes pushing their buttons.

Posted by: Tom Dibble on September 27, 2010 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

By saying that building a Mosque on the ruins of the World TRADE Center is the same as Building a "Victory Mosque" on hallowed ground are Conservatives, BPublicans, and Teabaggers, at long last, admitting that the official religious tradition of this nation is not JudeoChristian but Capitalism?

As far as I know, the World Trade Center was a towering monument to commerce and the aquisition of money (the root of all evil in several traditions).

The only attacks, in recent memory, on Churches that I'm aware of came from so-called Christion anti-abortion terrorists in Christian churches.

Shoot up a church all you want to but, if you cap one off in the Bank of the Blessed Redeemer you will burn in the hell for all eternity.

Posted by: Winkandanod on September 27, 2010 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

The crazy caucus in congress is already far too big for comfort, and the efforts over the past two years to elevate inexperience and stupidity to a virtue, largely thanks to the brain dead corporate media, will make it even larger.

The ideological supporters of these lunatics are immune to facts, history, reasoning, and logic, but many in the boobocracy are not. Cooper's approach to questioning morons at least challenges their most cherished assumptions, which they are not used to defending with with rational responses. This is a most welcome development even if Cooper is not entirely on point.

Posted by: rrk1 on September 27, 2010 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

"Ellmers seems to be a bigot and an ignoramus"

-not in her voting district, and that's the only place that counts, podnuh!

Posted by: DAY on September 27, 2010 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

60 min had a story on the "mosque" last night. Apparently the praying part has already been going on for months.....

Posted by: ET on September 27, 2010 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

"That's like the lowest response I have ever heard from a candidate, I have got to tell you."

Lol. LOVE it!

Up next on Fox, "lamestream media" attacking poor, innocent Ellmers. Darn those "librul" media guys are just so mean!

Posted by: Layla on September 27, 2010 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

Another C#nt for Christ...

Posted by: Trollop on September 27, 2010 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

I think it may have been Kristol or one of the other rightie pundits that commented earlier wondering if people in other states were really going to vote against local republicans because of wingnut candidates like paul, angle, raese, bachmann, et al in other states. I agree with Mr. Waldman, and I answer with a resounding HELL YES I will vote against republicans in my state (TX, argh, I know!) anything I can do to reduce the number of republicans in congress is a step in the right direction. Keeping their numbers in check is important - and if that's the means to the end, yes, I will be voting against all republicans.

Posted by: Jilli on September 27, 2010 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

What Anderson Cooper does is meaningless and pointless...

First, he is on CNN, which everyone knows is an extreme part of the 'liberal media' which never presents a 'fair and balanced' viewpoint.

Second, he is a f@ggot and therefore has no credibility!

Posted by: RepublicanPointOfView on September 27, 2010 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

.....sigh... wtf.....sigh...wtf.....huge sigh....

Posted by: cmm on September 27, 2010 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

I thought the most interesting revelation from the Ellmers interview was that apparently there is a religious test for being represented in the 2nd Congressional District of North Carolina:

"I am running for the people of District 2, North Carolina, who are good, hardworking, Christian people, who just want to turn this country around."

Posted by: kk on September 27, 2010 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

Well, at least with this diversionary tactic, we don't have to hear what Ms. Ellmers will do for America if elected, so therefore her feet cannot be held to the fire if/when she does gets elected.

Those who vote for her only need know that she was against "them" and for "us".

Sounds like a solid conservative campaign plan, too many pathetic variations of same will fill seats in Washington come November.

Posted by: Skip on September 27, 2010 at 7:55 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, Cooper's totally wrong about Christianity "conquering Rome from the pagans" and the Vatican being erected as a "victory church". Constantine converted to Christianity and promoted it, and Rome was made officially Christian by Theodosius I. So it was the current legitimate rulers of Rome that converted it. There was no "victory" in the sense of conquering and expelling an existing polity.

That said, she's still an idiot.

Posted by: Rick on September 28, 2010 at 1:10 AM | PERMALINK

I was waiting (in vain) for Cooper to ask her if it was wrong that a strip club was located even closer to Ground Zero than Park51 would be. Wish he had...

Posted by: Hannah on September 28, 2010 at 4:47 AM | PERMALINK

The WTC had a prayer room. North Carolina should keeps it's nose out of New York zoning laws. What would they like, a trailer park in NYC? STFU you trailer trash hicks!


Posted by: flyonthewall on September 28, 2010 at 6:05 AM | PERMALINK

The deal is if some group wins a military victory and takes over a certain territory, then some of that group are then living in the newly acquired territory. If they are living in this new territory, they have to worship there too. Ergo, unless they took over the territory from co-religionists, they have to build churches/temples/mosques or what have you. Its nothing peculiar to Muslims.

The saddest thing about dolts like Ellmers is that "mainstream" Republicans are willing to vote for her. Those Republicans should be ashamed of themselves and if they are not, they should be made to feel shame about their shanefully irresponsible political behavior.

Posted by: The Fool on September 28, 2010 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

Rick, this may break your illusions, but Constantine did not, himself, convert until he was on his deathbed. Throughout his active life and reign, he remained a Pagan, even after forcibly converting the people he ruled. When he knew he was dying, he asked his Pagan priests if he would be called to account in the afterlife for his misdeeds in this world if he died as he was. When they told him he would, he asked the Christian priests if he would go to heaven if he allowed himself to be baptized before he died. When they assured him that baptism would give him a clean slate, he let the ceremony be performed.

People may come and people may go, but Christian hypocricy stays the same.

Posted by: Nunuv Yerbiznezz on November 3, 2010 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

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