Stand for America and fall for anything
I read Nikki Haley's weirdly dated conservative policy book so you don't have to
In 2014 a Texas televangelist named John Hagee predicted that a series of four lunar eclipses coinciding with Jewish holidays would be a sign of the Biblical end times. This was known as the “blood moon prophecy.”
The eclipses came and went in 2014 and 2015, the trumpets didn’t sound, and Jesus didn’t return to conquer the earth. Still, Hagee made a lot of money with a bestselling book called Four Blood Moons: Something is About to Change.
As often happens when prophecy fails, the false prophet faced no consequences. Hagee has churned out books of numerology and pseudo-astrological doomsaying ever since, including this year’s The End of the Age: The Countdown Has Begun.
You know where else John Hagee has gotten published? In a new policy book released this month by Stand for America, a thinktank founded by former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley. The book is called American Strength: Conservative Solutions Worth Fighting For. Hagee contributed a whole chapter, “Why Every American Should Stand With Israel.”
Giving a platform to John Hagee was certainly a choice. Hagee is interested in Israel because he wants to usher in the War of Armageddon. He believes Jerusalem is “the epicenter of the universe” where apocalyptic battles will bring about 1,000 years of God’s reign on earth.
As a result of his blood-soaked eschatology, Hagee has some interesting ideas about foreign policy. Here’s a passage from The End of the Age:
In modern terms, Israel rightfully owns all of present-day Israel, all of Lebanon, half of Syria, two-thirds of Jordan, all of Iraq, and the northern portion of Saudi Arabia. When Messiah comes, the seed of Abraham will be given that land down to the last square inch.
In his tenure as chairman of the right-wing Zionist group Christians United for Israel, Hagee has elaborated on a worldview that’s plainly Islamophobic, anti-Palestinian, anti-Catholic, and, yes, antisemitic. Famously, he believes that Adolf Hitler was sent by God and descended from “murderous half-breed Jews,” and that Jewish people brought the Holocaust on themselves by disobeying God. John McCain had to distance himself from these comments after Hagee endorsed his run for president in 2008.
Anyway, that’s who Nikki Haley’s thinktank chose to write a chapter on Middle East foreign policy.
I’ve been fascinated by Nikki Haley’s political career since she left the U.N. in January 2019. As a native South Carolinian, I’ll always think of her as our former governor, and one who did her best to demolish our public schools and infrastructure while she was here.
I started looking into Stand for America after the organization mailed my parents a Venezuelan banknote and a Bircherite anticommunist screed in the spring of 2021. Based on the scant public records and IRS filings I could find, Stand for America appears to be a funnel that moves millions of dollars from megadonors to political consultancies and Facebook’s advertising department. (More about that at the link below if you’re interested.)
Stand for America also serves as a conservation park for some endangered species of conservatism dating back to the Bush II era and even to the latter days of the Cold War. In her speeches and op-eds, Haley sometimes name-drops deep bench players from the Reagan and Bush I administrations such as Jeane Kirkpatrick, Reagan’s UN ambassador who justified a right-wing coup and death squads in El Salvador.
When Stand for America published American Strength in December, I was interested not so much because of its content — the usual sadistic nonsense — but because of the neoconservative has-beens Haley tapped to contribute. Newt Gingrich co-wrote a chapter a mere 27 years after leading the 1994 Republican Revolution.
Y’all remember Newt Gingrich?
The stars in this book are all faded. Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska wrote a chapter in defense of the fossil fuel industry, 13 years after stepping down as Bush II’s assistant secretary of state for economic and business affairs. In a chapter complaining about Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, we get to hear from Florida Congressman Mike Waltz, who got his seat because Ron DeSantis left it to run for governor, and who hasn’t been in the White House since serving as Dick Cheney’s counterterrorism advisor for South Asia.
This thinly sourced policy book went a long way toward answering a question I was puzzling over with the guys on the Left Reckoning podcast in November: What flavor of conservatism is Nikki Haley selling?
Notably absent from American Strength are any of the big-name intellectuals from Donald Trump’s orbit. Haley couldn’t get Charlie Kirk or the My Pillow guy or any of the prolific legal cranks who tried to throw out the 2020 election results. No Steve Bannon, no Don Jr., not even Stephen Miller graces the pages of this dry, dim policy book. The only names you might recognize from Trumpworld are short-lived national security adviser H.R. McMaster and David Friedman, Trump’s ambassador to Israel, who wrote a chapter arguing for stronger sanctions against the “evil empire” of Iran.
For the most part, Stand for America has chosen to publish the works of Beltway creatures like Brett D. Schaefer, currently doing make-work at the Heritage Foundation. His chapter, “American Leadership is Required in International Organizations,” is a mild reminder that the United States can do whatever it wants at the UN because it holds the purse strings. Several of the chapters are padded out by political back-benchers biding their time at Heritage, AEI, or the Hoover Institution.
American Strength is a free self-published e-book targeted at a general audience, but for the most part it’s about as electrifying as a county GOP prayer breakfast at the local IHOP.
The most recognizable name of the bunch might actually be Dennis Praeger, proprietor of the Facebook video factory PraegerU. His chapter, “The Tragedy of American Education,” is an extended Facebook post about how teachers are too mean to Christians, too nice to LGBTQ people, too judgmental of the slaveholding Founding Fathers, and so on.
American schools not only do not teach; they pervert the minds and souls of far too many American students. For decades, I have said that sending one’s child to an American college or university is equivalent to playing Russian roulette with his or her values. Today, this is equally true with regard to sending one’s child to many American elementary schools and high schools — private as well as public.
I’m sure this is all riveting material for people who are already committed to the project of strangling public education, or of starting the next arms race, or of convincing themselves that “America is not a racist country.” Haley repeats that last mantra in the introduction.
Some of the voices featured in American Strength, such as Hagee’s and Praeger’s, are depressingly relevant to the political moment again. But at least to an outsider, the other entries in this book seem a bit dated. The Republican Party has no need for people who make polite explanations for their cruelty. Naked avarice and open racism are back on the table. Many of the ideas contained in American Strength, and the people expressing them, are from a different time and a different world that we might never see again.
Brutal South is a newsletter and podcast about class struggle, education, and brutalist architecture in the American South by me, Paul Bowers, a South Carolina socialist and father of three. You can subscribe to get it for free in your inbox every Wednesday, or you can become a paying subscriber ($5/month) to support my work and get access to exclusive stuff, like the upcoming Wikipedia Year in Review podcast episode with Mike Baumann of The Ringer.
Peace be with you. The 2021 Weirdly Specific Holiday Book Guide is available here.