Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sen. Lamar Alexander won't denounce John Birch Society

In an interview with Brian Goldsmith of the Atlantic, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has refused to distance himself from the views of the John Birch Society. (Read here.)

BRIAN GOLDSMITH: But I'd imagine you would repudiate some of the more extreme elements in the Tea Party movement like the John Birch Society.

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER: Where did you come up with that? The John Birch society still exists?

BRIAN GOLDSMITH: Evidently they do, and they were welcomed and helped sponsor the CPAC Conference.

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER: Maybe they do. Look, I don't go around endorsing organizations. I go around trying to persuade people that I'm right.

BRIAN GOLDSMITH: But do you think there are any elements inside the Tea Party movement--for example, the John Birch Society--that are beyond the pale, that are too extreme? Or would you embrace all of it?

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER: I really don't know how to answer a question like that. This is a big complex country. Those of us who are elected to office state our positions and attract support where we can find it. I don't go around announcing every day who I don't like and from whom I don't accept support.

The rest of the interview focused on Alexander's views on heath care reform (he opposes it) and the teaparty movement (he supports it).

In courting the teaparty crowd, Sen. Alexander has gone where many of his mainstream Republican predecessors have refused to go. Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, William F. Buckley, and most other prominent Republican figures until very recently have had no difficulty renouncing the John Birch Society's views as extreme.

The John Birch Society is most notable for its promotion of conspiracy theories concerning Communist influence at the highest levels of U.S. government, purported plots by the Rothschilds, Rockefellers, Council on Foreign Relations, U.N., Bilderbergers, Illuminati, etc. to institute "one world government", and opposition to fluoridation of drinking water. It's founder, candy magnate Robert W. Welch, Jr., infamously charged at various times that President Dwight Eisenhower was either a Soviet agent, a Communist Party member, or had been installed by a Communist conspiracy (read here). Welch and his JBS also helped keep alive the isolationist smear campaign which alleged that President Roosevelt knew about Japanese plans to attack Pearl Harbor, but deliberately allowed it to happen in order to force the United States to enter World War II. In many ways, the John Birch Society provided the template which other conspiracy theory advocates -- including birthers, truthers and death panelists -- have followed.

Sen. Alexander's courting of the teaparty crowd may not be quite as successful as he hoped.  The John Birch Society's magazine, The New American, gives Alexander's voting record a score of 22% on their "Freedom Index" scale.  (Read pdf here.  See page 10.) 

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