April 2008

Perfect Timing

As we noted last week, ever since courting John Hagee and receiving his endorsement in February, John McCain hasn’t been quite sure how to handle the controversy that came with it, at times trying to distance himself from Hagee and then turning around and bragging about his close ties with him.  

When he was asked about the endorsement by George Stephanopoulos over the weekend, McCain basically summed up his have-it-both-ways position by saying it was probably a mistake to seek it while maintaining that he is glad to have it.

While McCain has gone out of his way to repudiate Hagee’s anti-Catholic statements and views,  he’s hasn’t weighed in on Hagee’s other controversial views, such as his belief that New Orleans was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina because the city “had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they were recipients of the judgment of God for that.”  

McCain was probably hoping that Hagee would stop saying outrageous things like that and that the controversy would eventually go away – but that is not what is happening because, as Think Progress reports, Hagee continues to insist the New Orleans was targeted for destruction by God because a “homosexual rally” was being planned for the following Monday:  

[Dennis] Prager followed up by asking [Hagee] if all natural disasters are a result of “the divine hand” and if there is “any natural disaster that is not the result of sin?” Hagee responded by saying “it’s a result of God’s permissible will” and “that there was going to be a massive homosexual rally there the following Monday,” which he said “was sin”

PRAGER: Right, but in the case, did NPR get, is this quote correct though that in the case of New Orleans you do feel it was sin?

HAGEE: In the case of New Orleans, their plan to have that homosexual rally was sin. But it never happened. The rally never happened.

PRAGER: No, I understand.

HAGEE: It was scheduled that Monday.

PRAGER: No, I’m only trying to understand that in the case of New Orleans, you do feel that God’s hand was in it because of a sinful city?

HAGEE: That it was a city that was planning a sinful conduct, yes.

Considering that McCain is scheduled to be in New Orleans tomorrow, this might be a good time to get him on the record again about just how glad he is to have Hagee’s endorsement.

Expulsion: Far Right Loves Ben Stein

Ben Stein’s anti-evolution attack film, “Expelled,” has finally arrived, grossing $3 million over the weekend, thanks to a church-based roll-out by the marketers that brought you “The Passion of the Christ.” Critics have savaged the documentary—which claims widespread persecution of creationists in academia and warns of a direct link between the theory of evolution and the Holocaust—as a dishonest work of propaganda, but, not surprisingly, the movie has a lot of fans among the Religious Right.

“Expelled” has been promoted heavily in right-wing media this month. Stein appeared on Focus on the Family radio, where the movie received the “enthusiastic” endorsement of James Dobson. Producer Mark Mathis appeared on WallBuilders Live, the radio show of premier church-state integrationist David Barton, to discuss “the persecution of the many by an elite few.” Rush Limbaugh exuberantly promoted it on his show; apparently, the movie taught him that “Darwinism, of course, does not permit for the existence of a supreme being, a higher power, or a God.”

Stein was also interviewed by the American Family Association’s OneNewsNow, while executive producer Logan Craft hit WorldNetDaily. Baptist Press, the official outlet of the Southern Baptist Convention, featured an op-ed by Stein and a series of articles pushing the film. The producers gave a private screening to Brent Bozell of the far-right Media Research Center. (He loved it.)

“Expelled” is also featured by the late D. James Kennedy’s Coral Ridge Ministries, which offers its own product line equating Darwin and Hitler. While some “Expelled” cheerleaders express sympathy for the “Intelligent Design” advocates who have been “persecuted” supposedly (the National Center for Science Education has their realistic back-stories here), most on the Right seem to be especially enchanted by the film’s reliance on a half-baked linking of evolution to Nazism and Stalinism.

Expelled,” wrote World magazine editor and faith-based initiatives architect Marvin Olasky, “rightly equates Darwinian stifling of free speech with the Communist attempt to enslave millions behind the Berlin Wall.”

The real question is: Did Darwinism bulwark Hitlerian hatred by providing a scientific rationale for killing those considered less fit in the struggle for survival?

The answer to that question is an unambiguous yes.

Richard Weikart of the “Intelligent Design” group, the Discovery Institute, defended the Darwin-Hitler connection as critical: “[W]hat is most objectionable about the Nazis' worldview? Isn't it that they had no respect for human life?” Weikart, who wrote a book entitled “From Darwin to Hitler,” added, “the Nazis' devaluing of human life derived from Darwinian ideology....”

Gary DeMar of American Vision was so inspired he branched out on his own, linking evolution to the fundamentalist polygamist cult that’s been in the news recently.

Given the worldview shift that has taken place in America, none of this is of any consequence. Evolutionary and atheistic assumptions are standard worldview thinking in every public school classroom in America. So then, why is it wrong with having forced sex with young girls? It’s evolution in action. …

The secularists should be proud of what these polygamists are doing. They are confirming the evolutionary thesis of Dawkins and his selfish gene hypothesis.

Dusting Off the Dirty Playbook

It looks like the man responsible for 1988’s infamous Willie Horton ad is back and has his sights set on Barack Obama:

Starting Tuesday, a group of conservative activists led by Floyd Brown, author of the famous Willie Horton ad used so effectively against Michael Dukakis in 1988, will begin a campaign to tar Obama as weak on crime and terrorism, a strategy that aims to upend Obama's relatively strong reputation among Republican voters.

Brown's new ad focuses on a 2001 vote by Obama in the Illinois Senate to oppose a bill that would have expanded the use of the death penalty if the perpetrator of a crime belonged to a gang. The links between Obama's vote on that issue and the deaths of three Chicago resident's are indirect and tenuous, as is the further connection the ad draws between the issue of Obama's position on the death penalty and the issue of international terrorism.

Time reports that the ads will be funded by a PAC called the National Campaign Fund “which had $14,027 in the bank at the end of March,” which probably explains why Brown is focused on creating the “most Internet-intensive effort for an ad debut ever” and hoping to gin up free media coverage to make up for the ad’s lack of funding, much like Mike Huckabee did, or at least tried to do, with his campaign ads (it is worth noting that Ari Berman of the "The Nation" reports that Brown's efforts are being "run by Bruce Hawkins, a former field organizer for Pat Buchanan and Pat Robertson who recently worked for Mike Huckabee in Iowa.")

And speaking of free advertising, it looks like a pastor in South Carolina is trying make a name for himself by suggesting that Obama might secretly be Muslim:

ObamaChurch.gifPastor Roger Byrd of Jonesville Church of God put the sign up which reads "Obama Osama humm are they brothers?"

Pastor Byrd says the sign is not meant to be racial or political but rather to make people think. "His name is so close to Osama, I have a feeling he might be Islamic therefore he doesn't recognize Christ," Pastor Byrd said.

Of course the ad is not political and was merely designed to make people think … that Obama is a Muslim and possible a terrorist.

McCain Has It Both Ways with Hagee

When John McCain picked up the endorsement of far-right televangelist John Hagee, it was only the loud protests of the Catholic League that got the media to notice, and eventually, got McCain to issue a weak statement: “I repudiate any comments that are made, including Pastor Hagee’s, if they are anti-Catholic or offensive to Catholics.”

The story more or less dropped after that, as journalists seemed much less interested in Hagee’s views about things other than the Catholic Church—such as his statement that Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment for a sinful New Orleans (or perhaps for policy in the Middle East?) or his position that the U.S. should launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran to usher in the second coming of Jesus. In any event, McCain continued to promote his ties to Hagee.

And in an interview with George Stephanopoulos yesterday, John McCain reiterated that he was “glad to have” televangelist John Hagee’s endorsement. Yet the ABCNews.com headline reads, “McCain Admits Hagee Endorsement Was A Mistake.”

McCain appears to be trying to have it both ways, assuring the media that it was “probably” a mistake to court Hagee’s support, while maintaining to the base that it was a mistake he’s “glad” he made.

Stephanopoulos. A lot of Senator Obama’s allies and others say that you should condemn the comments of Reverend John Hagee, an evangelical pastor …

McCain. Oh, I do. And I did. I said that any comments he made about the Catholic Church I strongly condemned, of course.

Stephanopoulos. Yet you solicited and accepted his endorsement.

McCain. Yes, indeed, I did. And I condemned the comments that he made concerning the Catholic Church.

Stephanopoulos. Yet you’re going to hold on to his endorsement. Your own campaign acknowledges that you should have done a better job of vetting pastor Hagee …

McCain. Oh, sure.

Stephanopoulos. So was it a mistake to solicit and accept his endorsement?

McCain. Oh, probably. Sure. But I admire and respect Doctor Hagee’s leadership of his church. I admire and appreciate his advocacy for the state of Israel, the independence and freedom of the state of Israel. I condemn remarks that are made that has anything to do—which is condemning of the Catholic Church. …

McCain. I’m glad to have his endorsement. I condemn remarks that are any way viewed as anti-anything. And thanks for asking. (Laughs.)

(Watch the video here—remarks at 16:45.)

Huckabee: No Hard Feelings

Mike Huckabee’s decision to sign on with an entertainment talent agency might suggest he intends to take his act to late-night television, but in the meantime, he’s shoring up his political base.

First, Huckabee’s breathlessly promoted announcement was simply the formation of a PAC—pretty standard stuff for a politician. Likewise, it’s hardly a shock to hear he’s going to be campaigning for John McCain.

But it was a big surprise to see Huckabee grant a very friendly interview to the Club for Growth, an anti-tax attack group that started off early and aggressively running TV ads against Huckabee in Iowa. The candidate bit back over the last year, scandalizing conservative fusionists by calling the group “the Club for Greed.” Now, here he is chatting about vice-presidential picks for a Club for Growth web video.

And he’s scheduled to do a fundraiser for the Family Policy Institute of Washington, a state affiliate of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family. He’ll be appearing alongside Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. Dobson and Perkins were among the Religious Right “political bosses” who Huckabee felt snubbed him in favor of candidates like Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson—in fact, just a few weeks ago, Huckabee was blaming them for sinking his campaign:

Mike Huckabee can't definitively explain why he couldn't win the Republican presidential nomination, but he thinks the desire of Christian leaders to be "kingmakers," media coverage and Mother Nature all had something to do with it.

"Rank-and-file evangelicals supported me strongly, but a lot of the leadership did not," the former Arkansas governor says. "Let's face it, if you're not going to be king, the next best thing is to be the kingmaker. And if the person gets there without you, you become less relevant."

Huckabee may be looking at another presidential run in 2012, or he may try to parlay his mailing list into a career as a Religious Right “political boss” himself, but in either case, it appears he’s taking a page from McCain’s post-2000 playbook: find your enemies and suck up to them.

Robertson: Separation of Church and State 'Insane'

'Obey These Laws'

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that making a portrait of Jesus the central decoration of the Slidell, Louisiana courthouse was an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment’s separation of church and state. “To know peace, obey these laws,” read an inscription on the painting in the courthouse foyer, which depicted Jesus holding the New Testament. Slidell had already changed its display to present the Jesus portrait among other historic figures, an arrangement the judge okayed for its apparent secular purpose.

On yesterday’s “700 Club,” Pat Robertson deplored this decision and other court rulings on the separation of church and state:

You know, we’re following this insanity that’s been brought about by several Supreme Court decisions … The Supreme Court has really violated the Constitution, and they’ve brought out something that was never intended in the First Amendment. The First Amendment doesn’t say what they say it says. They have done violence to the religious traditions of this nation. America was founded as a Christian nation—in 1892, the Supreme Court said, “This is a Christian nation.”

(AP photo by Judi Bottani.)

New Washington Times: Same As Old Washington Times

Let's not get too excited about new management. AP story headlined "Immigration crackdown costs grow" (see here) printed as "Illegal immigration costs grow."

Anti-Immigrant Ordinance in Virginia Suburb Causes Exodus

“Left unchecked, illegal immigration will almost certainly put our county on a downward spiral, similar to the patterns to be found in the Third World countries these illegal immigrants left,” Prince William County Supervisor John Stirrup wrote last year of his affluent D.C. suburb, as he promoted its police crackdown on undocumented immigrants.

NPR reported Monday on the effects of this effort to “drive out illegal immigrants,” as residents relocate out of fear and businesses catering to Latinos stand “deserted.”

Members of Prince William’s school board cited the immigration policy last month when they announced more than 600 students learning English as a second language had left in the middle of the year. The chair of county commissioners lauded that as proof of the policy’s success.

Hispanic soccer teams have also relocated out of the county, saying fans were afraid to show up at games. Even legal residents say they’ve moved out, concerned for relatives who are undocumented.

This exodus and economic slump fits the pattern of local anti-immigrant ordinances passed over the last few years in places like Valley Park, Missouri and Riverside, New Jersey. And there are more direct costs. Although the county has only just started its crackdown, the county executive is projecting a $500,000 budget overrun for enforcement of this law. Nevertheless, county supervisor Corey Stewart, urging his colleagues not to back down, called the program a “stunning success.”

While the title of NPR’s story described the crackdown’s consequences as “unintended,” it seems that deporting or driving away undocumented immigrants—along with documented residents and Hispanic businesses—was actually the point of the program. That’s how Tom Tancredo explained the purpose of these local anti-immigrant ordinances in a 2006 speech. By that measure, Stewart can call it a “success”—even if it’s the crackdown that causes the county’s downward spiral.

Keyes Makes It Official

Alan Keyes has officially left the Republican Party: "Former Republican presidential candidate Alan Keyes announced Tuesday night that he has left the GOP and is considering joining the Constitution Party. Keyes, who also ran as a Republican to challenge Barack Obama's U.S. Senate bid in Illinois in 2004, says he is talking with leaders and rank-and-file members of the Constitution Party."

Perkins' Invitation Lost in the Mail?

Yesterday we wrote a post about various Religious Right figures blasting the “Compassion Forum” that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama participated in over the weekend. Among those most bitter about the event was the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins who dismissed the entire thing as a sham mainly because he wasn’t invited to take part:

[O]rganizations like FRC, which have historically addressed faith issues, were not invited to participate or even submit questions to the candidates. Instead, the event's radical board, which included pro-abortion and homosexual advocates, used the forum as an opportunity to chip away at the traditional agenda of the faith-based community.

Well, as it turns out, the folks over at Faith in Public Life, who organized and co-sponsored the event, have something to say about that:

Perkins claimed that he was not invited to the Forum. In fact, Perkins was invited to attend the Forum AND the VIP reception for faith leaders held beforehand. He never responded to the invitation.

So much for that complaint.

But while we are rehashing old blog posts, we may as well note that the other part of that post dealt with the fact that John McCain subbed the event entirely and the fact that nobody on the Right seems too upset about it. In fact, someone from McCain’s religious outreach team reached out to the Brody File to spread the word that McCain’s faith is “extremely private” and that he won’t be talking about it. 

Needless to say, that sort of attitude isn’t going over too well with the Right:

Pastor Rob Schenck of the National Clergy Council says not much is known about McCain's personal faith, except that he was raised in a family that believed religion was to be kept private. But Schenck contends that does not comport with the beliefs, customs and practices of evangelicals.

"We live with a mandate to preach the gospel, to unashamedly testify what Christ has done in our lives, to generously share that information with others," says Schenck. "... And John McCain has yet to give that kind of public testimony, and it's undermining the confidence of evangelicals in John McCain."

Schenck believes McCain's reluctance to talk more in-depth about his faith is not a good thing for him, his support base, or the country.

McCain’s faith may be private, but if he wants to win over the Religious Right, he’d better start offering up some public testimony, because that is what they want to hear.

But McCain had better not be too open about his faith because Schenck will just start criticizing it as “woefully deficient” and saying that it shows that he has "no real moral philosophy."  Oh wait, no he won’t – he reserves that sort of criticism for Democrats.