A good fifteen months out from the 2018 Republican convention, we have three announced candidates for the SDGOP’s nomination for attorney general. Lawrence County state’s attorney John Fitzgerald announced Thursday that he wants the job Marty Jackley has held since 2009.
Fitzgerald has been a state’s attorney (Butte County first, then Lawrence County) for 37 years. McGuigan has worked in the A.G.’s office in Pierre for 26 years. Ravnsborg has held his part-time public prosecuting position in Union County since just last June.
One would think that the GOP delegates to next year’s convention would put experience first and choose either of the career prosecutors over a mostly political choice. But be careful, old guard: Fitzgerald, McGuigan, and any other Jackley wannabes sensing their moment could split the sensible vote, and the Trumpy core that made Saudi agent, Steve King pal, and former Union County commissioner Dan Lederman the SDGOP chair could stay united around Islamophobic saber-rattler Ravnsborg. Surrounded by GOP activists who can put fear and slogans over qualifications (see also 2016 Presidential election), Ravnsborg could beat two men who should beat him.
As a Democrat, I would much rather run against Ravnsborg than either of the experienced, qualified Republican choices for A.G. But come on, SDGOP: I’m counting on you to run the best people for the job, not the best rabble-rousers. McGuigan, Fitzgerald, you have 15 months to make nice and figure out who gets to be whose deputy.
Life seems so unfair sometimes: a guy works hard networking, running around the state to more than 50 meetings to beat back ballot measures for the party, drives all the way to a big party party in Pierre to announce he’d like to be the nominee for attorney general, and what response does he get? A friend of Marty who’s been in the office for 26 years cuts in front of him in line.
Wait a minute: Ravnsborg lives in Yankton County, right? SDCL 7-16-13 says deputy state’s attorneys must have the qualifications required of state’s attorneys. SDCL 7-16-31 says, “In any county with a population of less than five thousand persons, no state’s attorney is disqualified from holding office for failure to be a resident of that county if the state’s attorney is a resident of a county which is contiguous to the county in which the state’s attorney holds such office.” That residency requirement waiver indicates that in counties with a population of 5,000 or more, like Union County, the state’s attorney and hence the state’s attorneys deputies need to reside in the county.
There must be some other exception to that residency requirement, since I wouldn’t think qualified lawyers would go blatantly violating a simple statutory requirement. But we have precedent for such a willful violation: Bennett County spent several years with a state’s attorney who lived two counties away, in direct violation of the residency requirement.
Democrats, if Ravnsborg is the SDGOP’s only offering for Attorney General, your chances of winning the Attorney General’s seat in 2018 just increased 50%. Any smart, articulate young Dem with a law degree can easily outshine Ravnsborg on the campaign trail and in debates. Let’s start recruiting!
Less than two weeks after lawbreaking Saudi agent Lederman wrests the SDGOP chair from sitting chair and mainline SDGOP pick Pam Roberts, Ravnsborg announces his bid for a nomination that will be decided at the Lederman-controlled 2018 SDGOP convention.
And I strongly hope that the good counsel from Yankton will show a more robust and intellectual grasp of our ballot measures than our Governor’s lazy position of “vote no on everything but the one my rich buddies like.”
Yankton lawyer, Army Reservist, and Yankton County GOP chair Jason Ravnsborg brought his “Islam and ISIS” slideshow to Aberdeen today. He gave about 50 Brown County Republicans (plus at least a couple non-Republican observers) the 40-minute version of a presentation that he says sometimes runs a couple hours.
Ravnsborg tells me he’s not running for anything; he’s just touring the state (ten events so far on this topic, and more to come) to educate South Dakotans about Islam and the self-proclaimed Caliphate in Syria and Iraq.
The audience questions and comments following Ravnsborg’s lecture suggest South Dakotans need a lot of education:
There are a lot of Muslims on our government. Are they in the CIA?
I heard there are ISIS cells in every state!
Why do we have to buy oil from ISIS?
What government agency did you say was invaded by Muslims?
I heard Obama appointed Muslim Brotherhood members….
I heard Obama gave money to the Muslim Brotherhood….
Don’t the Muslims want to bring Sharia law here? I heard court rulings in 26 states have followed Sharia law and not the Constitution….
I heard 80% of mosques in this country are training jihadists.
All of those comments were made by audience members. Jason Ravnsborg did not affirm any of them. He outright contradicted the third, saying we don’t buy oil from ISIS. He said there are people of all faiths in all parts of our government. He said he does not want people to come away from his presentation thinking all Muslims are bad, but he acknowledged that the Muslims fighting for the Islamic State are fighting for their version of Armageddon—for Muslims, the battle heralding the end of the world takes place at Dabiq, in Syria—and folks convinced the end times are coming can be hard to reason with.
Yet I get the uneasy impression that Ravnsborg’s restrained responses to those comments did little to dispel the evidently rampant misinformation. In fact, his history lecture, far from educating conservative listeners away from their media-stoked Islamophobia, may actually stoke their irrational fears:
What do you mean, irrational? I know all about the history of Islam, now that I’ve listened to that Yankton guy’s 40-minute slideshow. He’s an expert, and now I’m an expert, and I know those Muslims are coming to get us!
Ravnsborg told his audience that he deals in facts and sources. His presentation stuck mostly with historical facts. Yet even Ravnsborg could not filter all Islamophobic misinformation from his slides.
Ravnsborg presented the above slide near the end of his presentation, where it likely stuck in his viewers minds more vividly than most of his detailed material. “ISIS: Map of 5 year plan”—a black plague exploding from the cradle of the Prophets and seizing Saudi Arabia, India, North Africa, and (gasp!) the Iberian Peninsula in five years.
Four, actually: this map was published last year. Let’s look more closely at that map, which Ravnsborg appears to have borrowed from Breitbart:
Oh, what the heck—let’s look at that map in Arabic, because it’s the original and it’s scarier:
…[E]xperts say the graph does not represent the traditional mindset of a caliphate, which is what ISIS declared itself June 30 when it also changed its name to the Islamic State.
“The idea of the map is kind of screwed up,” Hossein Kamaly, an expert on Middle Eastern history and Islamic studies at Barnard College, said.
…[T]here is no clear evidence that ISIS played a part in making and distributing the map. In fact, experts say, if ISIS had made the map, it shows the groups’ “idea of [the] Muslim past is flawed,” Kamaly said [Erin Banco, “That Map of the ISIS 5-Year Conquest Plan? Flawed, Experts Say,” International Business Times, 2014.07.07].
“It’s an old image put out by fans of the group,” says Aaron Zelin, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who also maintains a blog, Jihadology.net, that analyzes primary source material produced by Islamist movements. “There is nothing official about it nor is there some alleged 5-year plan” [Tim Fernholz, “Don’t Believe the People Telling You to Freak out over This ‘ISIL’ Map,” Quartz, 2014.07.01].
Before the questions got ugly, a woman in today’s Brown County GOP audience asked Ravnsborg, “Are you an advisor to the White House? You should be!” Yet Ravnsborg can’t fact-check a simple map that was shown a full year ago to be the product not of Islamic terrorists drunk on the apocalypse but pro-White Fascists.
Ravnsborg also appears unaware of the current realities of U.S. strategy against the Islamic State. When I asked Ravnsborg whether ISIS represents a sufficiently dire threat to justify a full-on U.S. invasion (you know, like in the good old days, when America declared real war and solved problems John Wayne-style) and, if not, what most urgent and responsible steps he would recommend. At no point did Ravnsborg embrace unilateral U.S. war-making. Instead, he complained that first we need to establish a plan, which he said President Obama has admitted recently we do not have.
The president did not call for more bombs or more troops, but instead announced a shifting focus to counter ISIL’s public relations machine while training local forces to sustain progress made on the ground there.
“There’s a cause, a coalition that’s united countries across the globe, some 60 nations including Arab partners,” Obama said, flanked by his top military advisers at the Pentagon briefing room. “Our comprehensive strategy against ISIL is harnessing all elements of American power across our government — military, intelligence, diplomatic, economic development, and perhaps most importantly the power of our values.”
While the vast majority of the coalition’s airstrikes have focused on targets in Iraq, Obama also signaled a growing emphasis on targets in Syria.
“Indeed, we’re intensifying our efforts against ISIL’s base in Syria,” he said. “Our airstrikes will continue to target the oil and gas facilities that fund so much of their operations” [John Parkinson, “President Obama Revamps Strategy to Fight Islamic State,” ABCNews.com, 2015.07.06].
That sounds to me like a strategy. And that sounds to me an awful lot like Ravnsborg. While the audience today in Aberdeen seemed to think that “this President” (a term uttered with clear contempt by one audience member) lacks the political will (Ravnsborg did speak of will) to fight ISIS, the above strategy sounded almost exactly like Ravnsborg recommendation that we attack ISIS on multiple fronts, not just military but also economic, cut off their cash flow and resources, and build an Arab coalition.
Ravnsborg offered a mostly fact-based speech, a product pretty much any college-educated person could put together from a few hours Googling and reading Wikipedia. Unfortunately, Ravnsborg’s educational effort included too-typical right-wing distortion—inclusion of an ISIS map not created by ISIS, and criticism of President Obama’s purported inaction twinned with advocacy for the action President Obama is actually taking—that only reinforces the misinformed fears of his conservative audience.
* * *
p.s.: Reality check: how would we react if a Muslim were touring the state “educating” us about Christianity?
The Yankton lawyer, Army reservist, and former GOP Senate candidate will present “The History of Islam and the Islamic State” at the Brown County Republicans’ Reagan Lunch at Mavericks, 720 Lamont Street South, Aberdeen. (Hey, at Mavericks, shouldn’t we be calling it the McCain Lunch?). Mavericks serves a pretty good buffet, and the Republicans let darn near anyone have lunch with them, so mark July 9 on your calendar, come listen to Ravnsborg’s speech, and grill him afterward!