Pawlenty Plans Ahead for 2012

Last summer, when names were being floated as potential running mates for John McCain, one of the names that kept popping up was Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.  Around that same time, Pawlenty suddenly started showing up on the national Religious Right scene, conducting outreach on behalf of the McCain campaign by sitting down with CBN's David Brody where he talked about the importance of "my faith in Christ" and promised that McCain would "make evangelicals proud."

He didn't get the position as McCain's running mate, but that didn't stop him from continuing with his outreach to the Religious Right, this time on his own behalf, like when he showed up at CPAC a few months later and exhorted the audience to make sure that faith in God remained at the “forefront of the values, principles and issues” of the conservative movement and then made similar claims at the recent Values Voter Summit about how "Judeo-Christian values are ... the basis for so much of our country."

All of this outreach to the Right suggested that Pawlenty was seriously considering making a run for the White House in 2012.  And indeed that looks to be exactly the case:

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) has enlisted a number of GOP strategists from John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, another sign that he’s planning a run for president in 2012.

Pawlenty has snagged a stable of well-known Republicans to help host his first fundraiser for the Freedom First PAC, his new political action committee, according to an invitation to the kickoff event in Washington obtained by The Hill.

Shoring up the party’s brightest political minds early could prove to be an integral step toward mounting a presidential bid. He’s also making his first official trip of the new presidential cycle to Iowa next month, another important move.

Freedom Federation Welcomes Huckabee

We've written several posts about the new right-wing supergroup known as the Freedom Federation over the last few months.  Consisting of various right wing groups including the Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, Eagle Forum, the American Family Association, Traditional Values Coalition, Wallbuilders, Vision America, and many others, the group's mission is to create a unified political front for the Religious Right.

Today, Deacon Keith Fournier writes in Catholic Online that he was recently invited to attend a meeting of the Freedom Federation's steering committee but was reluctant to go ... until he found out that they were going to have a special guest speaker - Mike Huckabee:

I have made some inspiring new friendships with champions such as Rev. Sam Rodriquez and Bishop Harry Jackson. And, it is a joy after several years to renew old ones with my friends Ken Blackwell and Matt Staver. However, the drive to Washington D.C., even with good “beltway traffic” is at least four hours for me since I moved back to Chesapeake, Virginia. I am “swamped” these days, on every front of my life. So, let me be honest. I accepted the invitation because a special guest had promised to drop by and share his thoughts. That special guest is one of my favorite public servants, the former Governor of Arkansas and former Presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee.

I have long admired this genuinely good man. I had the privilege of interviewing him for Catholic Online during the last Presidential campaign. We have published those interviews as related stories under this article. When he entered the meeting, filled with dedicated people (mostly evangelical protestant leaders, though this time I was not the only Catholic) who themselves possess leadership gifts, he filled the room with his presence. Real leaders have a presence about them which just fills the room. His warm smile and attention to every person he greeted was impressive. His warmth toward me made the long drive worthwhile. However, it was his insights, shared over the course of a long and dynamic meeting which convinced me that this is a man who has not even begun to give his gifts to the service of his Nation.

I sat next to the Governor and, I must admit, I invited some of his responses through my own questions and observations. I could say he “had me” when he called my champion, the late Servant of God John Paul II, “one of the great spiritual and Christian leaders of our lifetime” and shared anecdotal stories from the late Pope’s life. However, there was much more to come in the rich content of his intelligent public policy positions. It was the substance of those deeply held positions on the issues which matter most which won the day and only deepened my admiration for the man. He breaks the molds of the empty political labels of “left/right”, “liberal/conservative.” He espouses truly human, just and concerned positions. I will be returning to them, I am sure, in future articles. However, permit me to share just one of his comments.

In the context of discussing the fundamental human rights issue of our age, the right to life from conception, to birth, throughout life and up to and including a natural death - what I call the “whole life/pro-life” position, which the Governor clearly embraces - he said these words: “To say that one person has value, but another does not, that one has human dignity but another does not, or somehow has less… that is the kind of thinking that slavery was built upon, and worse… . The dignity of every human person and the value of every human life must be the pole star of all public policy.” These words are not a slogan, they are a creed to the Governor, a deeply help vision of life and worldview. They flowed from the heart of a man who cares deeply about this nation and about our future together.

Many of the leaders of the Freedom Federation's member organizations backed Huckabee's presidential bid back in 2008, but many others did not, for which Huckabee regularly and roundly blasted them as sell-outs.  Since then, he has been hard at work positioning himself as the Religious Right's most ardent defender and the effort has recently begun paying dividends.

Huckabee continues to insist that he has not decided on whether he will make another run for president in 2012 ... but he certainly seems to be working hard to win over and unify the Religious Right behind him in case he decides to do so. 

Bush: "I Redefined the Republican Party"

I recall being at the 2008 CPAC Conference on the day before President Bush was set to address the gathering for the only time during his presidency and seeing people lining up outside the main conference room preparing to camp out all night in order to get a seat to see him speak the following morning. 

While attendees were thrilled to have Bush in attendance at CPAC, it looks like Bush did not necessarily share their excitement, at least according to this piece by Byron York on a new book written by former White House speechwriter Matt Latimer:

Bush was preparing to give a speech to the annual meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC. The conference is the event of the year for conservative activists; Republican politicians are required to appear and offer their praise of the conservative movement.

Latimer got the assignment to write Bush's speech. Draft in hand, he and a few other writers met with the president in the Oval Office. Bush was decidedly unenthusiastic.

"What is this movement you keep talking about in the speech?" the president asked Latimer.

Latimer explained that he meant the conservative movement -- the movement that gave rise to groups like CPAC.

Bush seemed perplexed. Latimer elaborated a bit more. Then Bush leaned forward, with a point to make.

"Let me tell you something," the president said. "I whupped Gary Bauer's ass in 2000. So take out all this movement stuff. There is no movement."

Bush seemed to equate the conservative movement -- the astonishing growth of conservative political strength that took place in the decades after Barry Goldwater's disastrous defeat in 1964 -- with the fortunes of Bauer, the evangelical Christian activist and former head of the Family Research Council whose 2000 presidential campaign went nowhere.

Now it was Latimer who looked perplexed. Bush tried to explain.

"Look, I know this probably sounds arrogant to say," the president said, "but I redefined the Republican Party."

The Oval Office is no place for a low-ranking White House staffer to get into an argument with the president of the United States about the state of the Republican Party -- or about any other subject, for that matter. Latimer made the changes the president wanted. When Bush appeared at CPAC, he made no mention of the conservative movement. In fact, he said the word "conservative" only once, in the last paragraph.

Suddenly, CPAC Rejects WND Craziness

The Los Angeles Times reports that organizers of next year's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) have rejected a request by WorldNetDaily to host a panel on the Birther issue:

In one symbolic development, organizers of next year's Conservative Political Action Conference -- the country's biggest annual meeting of activists on the right -- said last week that they had rejected a request to schedule a panel on whether Obama was a native-born U.S. citizen.

"It would fill a room," said event director Lisa De Pasquale. "But so would a two-headed monkey. There really are so many more important issues, and it's only a three-day conference."

CPAC officials said WorldNetDaily's [Joseph] Farah asked the group to hold the panel.

Yeah, CPAC certainly wouldn't want to associate with the lunacy spouted by the likes of Farah or WND now would it?

Joseph Farah addressing CPAC in 2008.

If You Boycott WND, You Boycott Everyone

Yesterday Jon Henke over at The Next Right wrote a post blasting the sort of nonsense spewed by WorldNetDaily as well as those organizations and individuals who "choose to support WND through advertising and email list rental or other collaboration":

In the 1960's, William F. Buckley denounced the John Birch Society leadership for being "so far removed from common sense" and later said "We cannot allow the emblem of irresponsibility to attach to the conservative banner."

The Birthers are the Birchers of our time, and WorldNetDaily is their pamphlet. The Right has mostly ignored these embarrassing people and organizations, but some people and organizations inexplicably choose to support WND through advertising and email list rental or other collaboration. For instance, I have been told that F.I.R.E (The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) - an otherwise respectable group that does important work - uses the WND email list. They should stop.

No respectable organization should support the kind of fringe idiocy that WND peddles. Those who do are not respectable.

As Terry Krepel of Media Matters quickly pointed out, one of the organizations that has rented WND's mailing list is the Republican National Committee.

I'd like to add a few more: what about Mike Huckabee and Representatives Michele Bachmann, Tom Price, and Steve King who will all be appearing at the upcoming How To Take Back America Conference, which features WND among its sponsors and has WND founder, editor and CEO Joseph Farah serving on it host committee?

Or what about the 2007 Values Voter Debate featuring GOP presidential hopefuls like Huckabee, Sam Brownback, Duncan Hunter, Tom Tancredo, and Ron Paul, where Farah served as a moderator?

Or, for that matter, what about CPAC, where Farah has been a speaker and panel participant?

Henke is threatening to "boycott any of those organizations that will not renounce any further support for WorldNetDaily" ... but if he did that, he'd literally have to boycott the entire right-wing political movement.

Mike Huckabee And Friends

I've written a lot of posts recently (and not so recently) about the sorts of right-wing figures that Mike Huckabee regularly associates with, especially in light of his upcoming appearance at the How To Take Back America Conference which is being hosted by a gaggle of radical right-wingers such as Rick Scarborough, Janet Porter, Phyllis Schlafly, Don Wildmon, and others.

One of those others is Mat Staver, who is the founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, the group that was selling the "proud to be a right-wing extremist" cards earlier this year, and who recently declared that gay marriage would lead to an entire generation of violent criminals and also blasted the state of Vermont for granting marrige equality, saying "if [elected officials] can't understand this basic human relationship between a man and a woman, then they absolutely are not competent for public office" and warning that "what we are seeing in America is literally the beginnings of another revolution" from the "silent majority" who will draw a line in the sand, leading to "another American Revolution."

Staver also served on Huckabee's Faith and Family Values Coalition during his presidential campaign. But it seems as if Huck's relationship with Staver is not limited purely to domestic political needs because, via Marc Ambinder, we see that the two of them are heading off to Israel together:

This February I am headed back again [with] my wife Janet, Mat Staver of the Liberty Counsel and Congressman Bob McEwen and anyone interested in seeing the Holy Land. This will be one of the most unique trips I have ever put together as it will not only include the biblical points of interests, but it also will provide a unique insight on the political and governmental aspects of the State of Israel, including an international town hall with government officials from Israel.

Staver has also been deeply involved in the Religious Right's efforts to scuttle any healthcare reform, both through the Freedom Federation and through his own group, Liberty Counsel.

Which brings us to this new piece which took a look an email analyzing healthcare reform legislation that has been rocketing around conservative websites and inboxes for the last few weeks that FactCheck says is almost entirely false:

Our inbox has been overrun with messages asking us to weigh in on a mammoth list of claims about the House health care bill. The chain e-mail purports to give "a few highlights" from the first half of the bill, but the list of 48 assertions is filled with falsehoods, exaggerations and misinterpretations. We examined each of the e-mail’s claims, finding 26 of them to be false and 18 to be misleading, only partly true or half true. Only four are accurate.


We can trace the origins of this collection of claims to a conservative blogger who issued his instant and mostly mistaken analyses as brief "tweets" sent via Twitter as he was paging through the 1,017-page bill. The claims have been embraced as true and posted on hundreds of Web sites, and forwarded in the form of chain e-mails countless times. But there’s hardly any truth in them.

The conservative blogger to which FactCheck points is Peter Fleckenstein and his "Common Sense from a Common Man" blog at

As I was reading through the list of false claims that FactCheck examined, they seemed very familiar ... and in fact, they were.  And that is because Liberty Counsel recently released is own "analysis" of the healthcare reform legislation called "Obama Administration’s Health Care Plan." And just take a guess as to where most of the claims came from?

And, of course, once Liberty posted it's piece, that gave the false claims added "legitimacy" and so it became a "source" for others on the Religious Right looking to spread them.

Huckabee: A Right-Wing True Believer

When Mike Huckabee was seeking the Republican Party's nomination during the last election, the Religious Right's DC powerhouse insiders wanted nothing to do with him, forcing him to seek support from a variety of second and third-tier activists and leaders who inhabit the fringes of the movement. 

When John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and Fred Thompson all wisely chose to skip the Values Voter Debate organized by Janet Porter and other such activists (though they were grilled by the organizers nonetheless) on stage stood Mike Huckabee, smiling as a choir sang "Why Should God Bless America?" and assuring the organizers that though "many [other candidates] come to you. I come from you."

Huckabee's appearance led Porter to declare him the "David among Jesse's sons" and not long thereafter she became co-chair of the Huckabee campaign's Faith and Family Values Coalition where she was joined by the likes of Rick Scarborough, David Barton, Mat Staver, Don Wildmon, and Star Parker.

When Huckabee wrote a book following the end of his campaign, he singled out these supporters as a "new wave of leaders…[with] prophetic voices…[who are] determined to follow their convictions instead of the conventional wisdom."

In the months since President Obama's election, many of these people have gone completely off of the deep-end and, whenever I have written about them, I have included a mention of the fact that they once served as part of Huckabee's campaign coalition.  I did so because I was operating under the assumption that, given how radical his one-time supporters have become in recent months, his first order of business were he to make another run for the GOP nomination would be to distance himself from these people. 

But obviously I didn't need to keep reminding people of his ties to these fringe figures because, as it turns out, he apparently intends to keep right on courting them, which is why he'll be a featured speaker in September at their How To Take Back America Conference:

Just look at this list of organizers and hosts:

Michael Farris is the founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association and Patrick Henry College, as well as the author of the Parental Rights Amendment.

Don Wildmon is Chairman of the American Family Association, the boycott-happy right-wing group that recently went after Miley Cyrus for Twittering her views that Jesus loves everyone, whether they are gay or straight.

Joseph Farah is the founder of WorldNetDaily, one of the main forces behind the "birther" movement and just about every other right-wing conspiracy.

Phyllis Schlafly of the Eagle Forum believes that married women can't be raped by their husbands.

Mat Staver is the founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, the group that is still selling the "proud to be a right-wing extremist" cards, who, earlier this year at CPAC, declared that gay marriage would lead to an entire generation of violent criminals.

Rick Scarborough of Vision America recently traveled to Notre Dame to protest along with Alan Keyes and Randall Terry and, just last week, issued a statement decrying the administration's recognition of LBGT pride month, saying that gays have nothing to be proud of and that those "who engage in unnatural acts should hang their heads in shame."

But none of Huckabee's former supporters has become more deranged than Janet Porter of Faith2Action, who declared that anyone who votes for Obama will go to hell, has used her column at WorldNetDaily to advance the birther conspiracy against Obama and lead the fight against hate crimes legislation, dubbed the "Pedophile Protection Act", by inundating Congress with faxes, all while simultaneously leading the right-wing effort against the Department of Homeland Security report on right-wing extremism by launching an ad campaign demanding Janet Napolitano's resignation.

Just about every insane right-wing conspiracy theory currently in circulation has been embraced by one or more of the organizers of this event, all of whom have actively worked to spread the fear that Obama and the Democrats are out to destroy Christianity and turn America into a socialist hellhole. 

And Mike Huckabee, instead of trying to distance himself from the lunacy of his former supporters, openly and willingly continues to associate with them. 

Absolutely amazing.

The Best Thing Ever To Happen to Huckabee

It is rapidly becoming clear that the emergence of the National Council for a New America is just about the best thing that could have happened to Mike Huckabee politically. The new organization, with its obvious effort to push social conservatives aside, has allowed Huckabee to establish himself as a bona fide champion of those who feel they are being marginalized by the Republican party and solidify his effort to position himself as their candidate of choice in 2012. 

Even though Rep. Eric Cantor has been working to appease Huckabee (and by extension the Religious Right groups who have suddenly discovered Huckabee's appeal) it doesn't look like Huckabee is about to let this "controversy" dissipate, at least not without one last shot:

A new group was recently formed that is calling itself a group of experts for the purpose of making the Republican Party attractive to voters again. The strategy is supposedly to go on a listening tour so they can talk to the American people and hear what people are concerned about.

It's hard to keep from laughing out loud when people living in the bubble of the Beltway suddenly wake up one day and think they ought to have a listening tour; even funnier when their first earful expedition takes them all the way to the suburbs of Washington, D.C.


In my book, "Do the Right Thing," I dedicate an entire chapter called "Politically Homeless" to the unfortunate attitude between some in the party who treat values voters as if they were embarrassing distant cousins who are allowed to come to the family gatherings a couple of times a year, but aren't expected to be seen beyond that. Values voters are conservative on social issues, and economic ones as well.

For those on the listening tour, listen to this: If the party elite want to abandon principled leadership to protect life, support traditional marriage while going along with deficit exploding spending, interference and micro-managing of private business and failing to police corruption and govern competently, then hearing aids or a panel of experts won't help.

The ironic thing is that while this opportunity for Huckabee to establish himself as the Religious Right's most stalwart and committed advocate fell right into his lap, Huckabee himself may have been undermining his ability to capitalize on it because, ever since the election, he's been busy poking his eyes of all of those Religious Right leaders who did not support him. 

As he says in his column, he dedicated a whole chapter to the "politically homeless" values voters ... but what he doesn't mention is that the focus of the chapter was on the fact that he was now "politically homeless" because those who were leaders of the social conservative movement had refused to support him during the primary, as I explained in my review:

What is astonishing is the outright contempt with which Huckabee treats the religious right establishment and its leadership. His sense of betrayal courses through the chapter on the subject, in which he laments that he has now been made “politically homeless,” declaring that the “generals” of the movement are going to be surprised with they see their foot soldiers abandon them for true leaders—presumably, Huckabee and the gaggle of right-wing figures who supported his campaign.

“[I]n so many ways, I was the perfect choice for them. I was not coming to them, I was coming from them,” Huckabee writes, going on to complain that “none of the candidates had accomplished more on the life issues than I had—no one,” and that “no one in the race supported traditional marriage more strongly than I did.” And yet the religious right establishment was not only lukewarm to his candidacy, most were downright hostile. Huckabee attacks the influential Arlington Group for jerking him around and goes after several high-profile leaders by name: Pat Robertson, John Hagee, Rod Parsley, Bob Jones III, and especially Gary Bauer, whom he calls “politically clueless.”


In the end, Huckabee declares that the movement is no longer led by “clear-minded and deeply-rooted prophets with distinct moral lines,” but rather by “political operatives…whose goal was to be included and invited” to hobnob with the insiders. Yet Huckabee concludes that, in the end, it was probably best that the religious right establishment didn’t back him because they would have just “thought that they were solely responsible for any success I might have had.”

The fact that Huckabee was able to do so well without their support is clearly a great source for pride for him, so much so that he declares that the success of his campaign will be the harbinger of a “new wave of leaders…[with] prophetic voices…[who are] determined to follow their convictions instead of the conventional wisdom.” Those constituting this “new wave” of leadership, according to Huckabee, is a veritable who’s who of fringe right-wing second-stringers like Janet Folger, Don Wildmon, Michael Farris, Rick Scarborough, Mat Staver, and David Barton. The one thing they all have in common, interestingly enough, is that they endorsed Mike Huckabee.

If Huckabee really wants to become the Right's choice in 2012, he's going to have to start doing a lot more defending and a lot less criticizing of its leadership. 

Will The Right, Unwilling to be Turned Aside, Turn to Huckabee?

Last week Steve Benen wrote a post about the National Council for a New America and its agenda for re-branding the Republican Party.  As he noted, the agenda covered issues like tax cuts, healthcare, energy, and national security while social issues were noticeably missing:

[W]hat may be the most interesting thing about this new group's "policy framework" is what it doesn't say. There's no mention of gays, abortion, state-sponsored religion, guns, or immigration. It's almost as if Republicans don't feel like fighting a culture war anymore.

Hey, activists in the GOP base, is sounds like the Republican Party is trying to throw you under the bus. Are you going to take this lying down?

As it turns out, the Religious Right isn’t about that take this lying down, judging by this Washington Update from the Family Research Council:

In another step away from its conservative roots, Republican members of the House unveiled The National Council for a New America in hopes of recasting the Party's ailing identity. The effort only underscores the Republicans' present identity crisis, as the GOP leadership kicked off the campaign devoid of the values that once caused voters to identify with the party.

The group's priorities, which were unveiled at a pizza parlor press conference, include the economy, health care, education, energy, and national security. Notice anything conspicuously absent? Former Gov. Jeb Bush explained the values void by saying it was time for the GOP to give up its "nostalgia" for Reagan-era ideas and look forward to new "relevant" ideas. (Yes, because that worked so well for Republicans in 2006 and 2008!) Bush ignored the fact that abandoning the array of principles that Reagan espoused is exactly what got the GOP into this mess. No one is suggesting that we try living in the past, but President Reagan's principles are the ones that guided our nation from its very inception. Turning away from those fundamental truths would be a death knell for the GOP as little would be left to distinguish the Republicans from the Democrats.

Too many Republicans leaders are running scared on the claims of the Left and the media that social conservatism is a dead-end for the GOP. If that were the case, why are pro-family leaders like Mike Huckabee creating such excitement in the conservative base? The Republican establishment doesn't draw a crowd. Governor Sarah Palin does. Also, take a look at the recent Pew Research poll, which showed overall support for abortion in America has dropped eight percentage points in the last year and support for it among moderate and liberal Republicans has dropped a whopping 24%. Based on that, how can the GOP suggest that life is a losing issue? If there were a road sign for the GOP on this new journey, it would read: Welcome to the wilderness. You're going to be there for awhile.

The interesting side-note here is that FRC is, for the first time that I can recall, approvingly citing Mike Huckabee. During the GOP primary campaign, they and pretty much every other “mainstream” Religious Right group were decidedly unexcited about him and conspicuously unsupportive of his candidacy – something which Huckabee repeatedly complained about during the campaign and continues to complain about even today.

Since then, Huckabee has been working to position himself as the champion of the social conservatives within the party and now it is looking as if his efforts might be starting to pay off.  The Religious Right, growing concerned that the GOP could start shoving them aside in an effort to start winning elections, might soon find that the man for whom they had no love the last time around to be the one to whom they’ll have to turn to try and save their place in the party.

Gingrich Seeks to Bridge The Divide

Dan Gilgoff reports that Newt Gingrich is unveiling a new effort, called Renewing American Leadership, designed to bring together both the economic and social conservative wings of the Republican Party’s base under a common banner:

Gingrich will be working with David Barton, with whom he has struck up a strong relationship in recent years, as well as working to convince fiscal conservatives to start making nice with their socially conservative allies in order to take advantage of their shared ideology and values:

At a time when many religious conservatives say the Republican Party is ignoring their issues and taking their support for granted, former House speaker and GOP idea man Newt Gingrich is turning his attention to the concerns of conservative Christians like never before.

Gingrich has launched an organization devoted to bringing conservative evangelicals and Catholics into the political process and to strengthening the frayed alliance between economic and religious conservatives. Called Renewing American Leadership, the group is led by Gingrich's longtime communications director and includes some of the country's top conservative Christian activists on its board.

This spring, Gingrich will speak to a handful of large gatherings for politically conservative clergy that have been organized by David Barton, an influential evangelical activist who spearheaded the Republican National Committee's rigorous outreach to pastors in 2004.

Just this week, Gingrich's new group partnered with the American Family Association—the conservative evangelical organization headed by Don Wildmon—to encourage churches and religious groups to participate in no-more-taxes rallies across the country on April 15. Rick Tyler, who served as Gingrich's spokesman before becoming founding director of Renewing American Leadership, says that on the first day of the largely Web-based organizing effort, 5,000 people signed up to attend the rallies.

The antitax rallies illustrate the new group's quest to unite religious and fiscal conservatives, two flanks of the Republican base that have squabbled with one another since Election Day. "There's too much finger-pointing between economic conservatives who say we're losing ground because of social conservatives and social conservatives who say the opposite," says Barton, who sits on Renewing American Leadership's board. "Instead of having a circular firing squad, we need to start identifying real allies and the real opponents."

To accomplish the goal, Renewing American Leadership has prepared a PowerPoint presentation it plans to show conservative economic groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Tax Reform, laying out the case for taking religious conservatives more seriously. The PowerPoint slides list Republican senators and congressman with the highest ratings from the National Right to Life Committee and juxtapose them with ratings for the same elected officials from Americans for Tax Reform. The conclusion: politicians with the strongest socially conservative records also have the strongest antitax records.

"Secular conservatives often operate from a perspective that says, 'Why should I care about evangelical voters?' " says Tyler. "And I show them why: because when you turn out evangelical voters who support socially conservative candidates, you also get conservative economic policies."

As we pointed, these two groups share much of the same agenda but often have different priorities and it looks like Gingrich is trying to get them to come together for their mutual benefit.  

Of course, the success of this effort depends largely on the GOP’s ability to field candidates who appeal to both groups.  The problem with Rudy Giuliani, for instance, was that while fiscal conservatives might have been willing to consider supporting him, social conservatives most certainly were not. Conversely, while the social conservatives had much to admire about Mike Huckabee, the economic conservatives did not. In the end, the GOP ended up with John McCain, whom neither side particularly liked.

The key to success of this project is to get economic and social conservatives to work together to find candidates that both side can support. And that seems to be what Gingrich is focusing on by getting the fiscally conservative groups to realize that they have an ally in the Religious Right and that by finding candidates that appeal to them they not only guarantee the Right’s substantial political support, but will end with candidates that will push both the social and fiscal conservatives’ agendas.

This is a politically smart undertaking but it might take someone with more credibility than Gingrich to make it work, considering that just last year he was saying that the reason the GOP keeps losing elections is because it keep playing to its base and, in the process, "drives away the non-base." On top of that, many right-wing leaders voiced concerns about Gingrich's past when he was contemplating his own run. Gingrich has since confessed his failings to James Dobson and is currently mulling over the prospect of making a run for the White House in 2012, so perhaps this effort should be seen primarily as a means for Gingrich to rally both the economic and social conservatives behind his own potential campaign.

Huckabee's Loyalists: Where Are They Now?

Since dropping out of the Republican Primary last year, Mike Huckabee has settled into a lucrative career as a television host, radio commentator, author, public speaker, and political pundit. While he is enjoying his new-found roles, his former supporters are increasingly going off the deep end.

When he was running for office, he rounded up a gaggle of second-tier Religious Right figures to serve on his Faith & Family Values Coalition and increasingly that list seems to be becoming the primary source for much of the craziness that is engulfing the movement. 

Since Huckabee’s campaign ended, Jerry Jenkins has been seen discussing whether Barack Obama is the Antichrist or merely a pre-cursor to the Antichrist; Star Parker has been heard declaring that public schools are “cesspools” designed to indoctrinate students with “anti-Christian worldviews”; Mat Staver has been proclaiming that letting gays get married will lead to a whole generation of violent criminals; Jerry Cox has been hard at work ensuring that gays cannot adopt children; Kelly Shackelford has been spending hundreds of thousands of dollars defending Sarah Palin and warning that gays are out to destroy Christian businesses; and Rick Scarborough has been complaining about the relentless persecution of Christians in America.

But nobody has gone more off the rails than Janet Porter, the co-chair of Huckabee’s coalition (though her last name was Folger at the time). Starting with her declaration that anyone who voted for Obama was going straight to hell and her prayers to God to keep him out of office and continuing through to her joining up with the Birthers and allegations that Obama’s presidency was the culmination of a decade-long Communist conspiracy, Porter has been a one-woman source of right-wing lunacy.

Just last week she declared that our nation is currently being cursed by God for electing Obama and now she is warning that a massive catastrophe is on the way. Citing Teen Challenge founder David Wilkerson, who claims that weeks before September 11th he had been warned by God that a calamity was coming and so he stayed up all night on Sept. 10th making sandwiches, Porter declares that another, even worse, catastrophe is on the way because Wilkerson has prophesied it and, as she says, “we'd be crazy not to listen” to him.

Here is Wilkerson’s warning:

For ten years I have been warning about a thousand fires coming to New York City. It will engulf the whole megaplex, including areas of New Jersey and Connecticut. Major cities all across America will experience riots and blazing fires—such as we saw in Watts, Los Angeles, years ago.

There will be riots and fires in cities worldwide. There will be looting—including Times Square, New York City. What we are experiencing now is not a recession, not even a depression. We are under God’s wrath … God is judging the raging sins of America and the nations. He is destroying the secular foundations

First, I give you a practical word I received for my own direction. If possible lay in store a thirty-day supply of non-perishable food, toiletries and other essentials. In major cities, grocery stores are emptied in an hour at the sign of an impending disaster.

As for our spiritual reaction, we have but two options. This is outlined in Psalm 11. We “flee like a bird to a mountain.” Or, as David says, “He fixed his eyes on the Lord on his throne in heaven—his eyes beholding, his eyelids testing the sons of men” (v. 4). “In the Lord I take refuge” (v. 1).

I will say to my soul: No need to need to hide. This is God’s righteous work. I will behold our Lord on his throne, with his eye of tender, loving kindness watching over every step I take—trusting that he will deliver his people even through floods, fires, calamities, tests, trials of all kinds.

Unfortunately for us, Wilkerson says he does not “know when these things will come to pass,” but does know that they are coming and it is up to each of us to “do with the message as you choose.”

Most people would choose to ignore it, but not Porter:

With the election of the most pro-abortion president (and Congress) in history, there's no question that we deserve God's judgment … The bottom line is that we are economically and morally bankrupt. And it's reported that Iran now has all they need to build nukes.

So, when the guy who made the 2,000 sandwiches on Sept. 10 warns us: "AN EARTH-SHATTERING CALAMITY IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN," I think we would do well to heed it.

So it is just worth pointing out once again: Porter was co-chair of Huckabee’s faith coalition and hailed by him in his book as "one of the main catalysts" for his success in the Republican primary.

Right Wing Leftovers

  • As expected, President Barack Obama overturned the Bush administration ban on using federal funds for embryonic stem cell research.  Needless to say, the Religious Right is livid: FRC called it a "slap in the face"; Gary Bauer called it "a tragedy"; Operation Rescue called it "morally, unethical and fiscally irresponsible"; and others weighed in as well.
  • It looks like Mitt Romney's appearance at the Club for Growth conference didn't go so well.
  • Human Events reports that Sen. John Thune is the point person for the GOP outreach to conservative groups and regularly meets with the likes of the ACLJ and others.
  • Rob Schenck reports that he has been invited to address a "working session of Christian leaders and other community activists working to preserve traditional marriage in the state of Maryland [that] will meet in the Maryland State Capitol at the invitation of State Delegate Don Dwyer."
  • Chuck Norris announces that he may run for president of Texas and declares that, this Friday, "thousands of cell groups will be united around the country in solidarity over the concerns for our nation."
  • Quote of the Day honors go to Tom McClusky of the Family Research Council: "The Republicans need to take a step back from the big-tent philosophy. All a big tent does is attract a lot of clowns."
  • Finally, the New York Times profiled 14 year-old conservative wunderkind Jonathan Krohn, who declared Barack Obama "the most left-wing president in my lifetime." Matthew Yglesias had a good response to Krohn's sudden stardom:
  • I really struggle to understand why this particular gimmick appeals to conservatives. What does it accomplish to put a 14 year-old front and center at CPAC? What’s the message it’s supposed to send? That the conservative message is childish? That the right’s talking points can be easily mastered by a 14 year-old? That the CPAC audience doesn’t care about the knowledge-base of the speakers there, they just want to hear certain ritual beats repeated? I wouldn’t want to claim that liberals are so high-minded as to be above all that, but I’m hard-pressed to think of an example of liberals trying to flaunt disdain for knowledge and expertise.

Huckabee: Everything to Everyone and Unloved By Them All

Mike Huckabee is something of an odd political animal: a Republican politician who insists the he is both a fiscal and social conservative but can't get support from either the fiscal or social conservatives in the party.

He made this point when he spoke last week at CPAC, saying that the two issues were fundamentally intertwined.  For his effort, he was rewarded with a measly seven percent of the vote in the conference's straw poll, well behind winner Mitt Romney whom he absolutely loathes and views as the incarnation of everything wrong with the Republican Party.

In his recent book, Huckabee referred to himself as "politically homeless" and didn't hesitate to lash out at the both wings of the GOP base, calling the fiscal conservatives a bunch of East Coast blue-blood snobs and the leaders of the Religious Right a bunch of sell-outs ... something that will undoubtedly not help his efforts to win them over if he decides to make another run at the White House.

But just because nobody in the Republican Party is moved his insistence that he alone represents everything the GOP claims to stand for doesn't mean he is going to stop saying it ... or criticizing those in the party who refuse to buy it:

Q: Despite you being a reasonably successful two-term governor, the Republican Party bosses didn't seem to like you or seem to appreciate your entrance onto the stage for the primaries. Why?

A: Part of it was that I had the audacity to suggest that there was a Washington-to-Wall Street axis of power that was ruining the party. Now, what I was excoriated for proves out to be that I was prophetic.

Q: In a line or two, what kind of a Republican are you?

A: I would describe myself as a "total conservative, a conscientious one." And that I believe that one doesn't separate the fiscal and social issues because they are tied together. The theme of my book was that if families and a culture start breaking down, it is going to lead to a larger government and far more expensive government.


Q: Were you at all punished by conservative Republicans for being too soft on social issues, in the sense that you were too willing to use government to address social issues?

A: I never wanted government to be the first line of defense. In fact, I think really what I got punished for was not having enough money to defend myself against the attacks of the people who had enough money to frame me in a way that was totally inaccurate. Once people started doing their own research and homework, I don't think they ever came to those conclusions.

When asked if he plans to run again, Huckabee responds that he just doesn't know but vows that, if he does, he's not going to change a thing:

I wouldn't change any positions because those are convictions. That's one of the problems I have with people who take a poll to find out what they believe this week. I think one of the reasons that I got as far as I did was because people knew that what I was saying was consistent with what I had always said and what I had always done.

Considering that that worked out so well last time, we can only hope that he follows through on the pledge.

Gingrich and His Ego Contemplate Another Presidential Run

Apparently Newt Gingrich was so moved by the rousing, presidential-like reception he received at CPAC, that he is once again mulling over the possibility of a presidential bid (via Ben Smith):

Newt Gingrich, the conservative former Speaker of the House, didn't rule it out tonight in Ashland, before he was to address a packed house of 650-plus at Randolph-Macon College.

"Callista and I will look seriously and we'll probably get our family totally engaged, including our two grandchildren, probably in January, 2011, Gingrich told reporters during a sit-down interview before last night's speech.

"We'll look seriously at whether or not we think its necessary to do it. And if we think it's necessary we'll probably do it. And if it isn't necessary we probably won't do it."

So if, two years down the road, Gingrich decides it is "necessary" for him to run for president, then he's in.  If not, then he's not.  What, aside from his own ego, could ever make a Gingrich campaign "necessary"?

There certainly isn't any reason to think that a future run will be any more successful than the last one he contemplated when, just days after saying that if he could raise $30 million he'd run, he announced that he wasn't going to run after all and then blaming the whole thing on campaign finance laws:

After months of teasing—all the way up to last week—former House Speaker Newt Gingrich announced over the weekend that he would not, in fact, run for president. According to Gingrich, his plan to campaign for $30 million in commitments would conflict with his role as chairman of “American Solutions for Winning the Future” due to “misguided and destructive campaign finance laws.” Reactions on the Right ranged from relief (“there were lots of people ... who are glad that he made the decision not to run,” said Marvin Olasky) to bitter disappointment (“Was it a scam? That's what people are sort of hinting at,” speculated long-time Gingrich ally Matt Towery).

Gingrich founded the futuristic American Solutions (zen-like motto: “Real change requires real change”) as a 527, the controversial IRS category known for its use as a way to channel unrestricted “soft money” toward “issue advocacy,” occasionally—as with the Club for Growth and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth—for the transparent purpose of supporting or opposing the election of candidates. When Gingrich founded his group, it was immediately suspected as a way for him to build a mailing list and rehabilitate his national profile while avoiding the protracted primary season, which he called “stupid.” Maintaining leadership of the 527 while dropping the pretense that he was not running would have made the group’s practical aim almost explicit, despite his cheeky claim that it is “a unique non-partisan institution -- the only 527 of its kind.”

“It was a curious argument, since both the 527 group and Gingrich's apparent White House ambitions have been around for about a year. Why did it take so long for Gingrich and his crack team of lawyers to realize that he couldn't have it both ways?” asked the National Journal blog.

The Right: CPAC Versus The Values Voters

People who write about the conservative movement, as I do, tend to sometimes group together all of the intertwined but separate elements of the movement under umbrella terms like "the Right" for the sake of simplicity. While such terms are useful, especially when discussing the movement as a whole, it can sometimes lead to confusion.

While "the Right" shares much of the same overall agenda and many of the same goals, the various wings of the Republican Party's base do not necessarily share the same priorities - something of which I was reminded when taking a look at the results of the CPAC straw poll [Powerpoint document] which showed that limiting government out-polled "protecting traditional marriage and protecting the life of the unborn" by a 5 to 1 margin among CPAC attendees:

Compare that to the results of the straw poll held at the 2007 Values Voter Summit where abortion and marriage were considered far and away the most important issues by some 60% of attendees and limiting government wasn't even included:

Obviously, this is not a perfect comparison, but it does illustrate an important point that "the Right" is not necessarily monolithic or even in agreement about what its priorities ought to be and that the people who attend events such as CPAC are not the same people who attend events like the Values Voter Summit.

Pawlenty: Faith in God Must Drive The Conservative Movement

Back when speculation was flying about whom John McCain would name as his running mate, one name that kept popping up was Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.  He was, and remains, relatively unknown on the national scence but, when his name started floated as a potential VP pick, he quietly started making the rounds and doing a bit of outreach to the Religious Right.

For instance, last June he sat down for an interview with CBN's David Brody where he assured Evangelicals that they could support John McCain and that he would make them proud, as well declaring that his own value system was defined by his committment to Christ:

I am defined by my commitment to Christ and people always say well there is an official role and there is but I don’t think people in public life should shy away from sharing their faith perspective because it informs others about their value system and what they believe and who they are and so I am a committed Christian and I am someone who is proud to say that my value system, my beliefs are shaped my faith and my faith in Christ and I think that is informative for people to know and I’m not bashful about that.

After getting passed over for Sarah Palin, Pawlenty sort of disppeared from the scene - at least until he showed up at CPAC and exhorted the audience to make sure that faith in God remained at the “forefront of the values, principles and issues” of the conservative movement.

That sort of talk obviously pleased OneNewsNow, which tracked him down for some follow-up and Pawlenty again delivered:

In an interview with OneNewsNow, Pawlenty reiterated that "faith in God" should be at the forefront of the conservative movement.

"If you go back and look at why and how this country was founded, people who envisioned America and the American dream first and foremost said we need to acknowledge and be grateful to God," the governor stated. "And it's reflected in our founding documents; it should be reflected in our daily lives, our political values, our political principles, and our own behavior.

"It all starts with that," he emphasized. "That is the foundation upon which we build our house -- literally and figuratively."

Pawlenty insists to ONN that he currently has no presidential ambitions, but with talk like that he might soon find himself being courted by Religious Right leaders who are desperately searching for a presidential candidate to lead them out of the wilderness.

Right Wing Round-Up

Today's best reporting on the Right from around the web:

  • Steve Benen examines Michael Steele's pathetically abject apology to Rush Limbaugh.
  • Speaking of Limbaugh, Media Matters catches Tony Perkins proclaiming that Limbaugh "is more in touch with the conservative base of the Republican party than most Republican leaders."
  • The Southern Poverty Law Center says that "the Mississippi Legislature has voted once again to honor an occasion organized by a staunch white supremacist."
  • RH Reality Check catches Life News calling Catholics United a bunch of "fake Catholics."
  • Americans United's Rob Boston is "underwhelmed by the news that James Dobson will no longer serve as chairman of Focus on the Family."
  • Crooks and Liars has posted a good clip from the Daily Show's coverage of CPAC.
  • Finally, Media Matters posted a big collection of quotes from Republican Senators who had previously challenged the constitutionality of filibustering judicial nominees.

Right Wing Leftovers

  • Like pretty much every Republican before him, Michael Steele is pledging to turn around the GOP's dismal showing when it comes to getting votes from African Americans.
  • The easy applause line at CPAC was to attack "socialism."
  • As it has been threatening, on Friday the Liberty Counsel filed suit to force the Florida Bar to remain neutral in the case regarding the state's ban on adoption by gay couples.
  • At CPAC, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty called upon those in attendance to ensure that God remains at the “forefront of the values, principles and issues” of the conservative movement.
  • The New York Times reports that a new video and other incidents are reviving questions about the role that religion is playing in the military and whether a pro-Christian culture permeates the armed forces.
  • When life gives you Buttars, turn it into "Buttars-Palooza."
  • Kevin "Musclehead Revolution" McCullough tries to goad Rachel Maddow into covering him by explicitly comparing Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler.
  • Finally, the Washington Post's "On Faith"blog interviewed Liberty University basketball coach Ritchie McKay and asked if he'd ever considered recruiting a player who was an atheist, to which he replied with this non sequitur:
  • I don't think Dr. Falwell would have ever excluded anyone from attending his university, and I don't think it would bother me if [the player] didn't have the same beliefs as me. Now, if he was practicing some type of illegal or immoral or unethical behavior, then he can't be a member of our team.

Right Wing Round-Up

Today's best reporting on the Right from around the web:

  • Was Rick Santelli's televised rant part of some right-wing astroturf plot?
  • Niger Innis takes his bogus "stop the war on the poor" campaign to CPAC where, Media Matters reports, he declared that today's environmentalists are the same as racists who desire to keep minorities from getting an equal opportunity.
  • Mother Jones notes that Mitt Romney wowed the CPAC audience: ""[T]he crowd loved him. It felt a little like a campaign rally. If Romney runs for president in 2012, this will be his base." It also explains why he won the CPAC straw poll.
  • David Neiwert says that CPAC's popularity contests tell us a lot about the current state of the Right.
  • Slate hung out with Grover Norquist at CPAC where he unleashed a stream of metaphors "designed to advertise [conservative ideas that] have never been more out of fashion. It's as if he's trying to sell beepers to a nation of iPhones."
  • Pam reports that other members of the Utah Senate are defending Sen. Chris Buttars, saying that the "people in Utah agree with 90 percent of what he said."

Rick Santorum Just Like All Those Other Losers

Last week we noted that one of the defining messages at the Conservative Political Action Conference was that Republicans have lost control of Congress and the White House not because the voters had rejected the conservative agenda, but because they GOP had failed to fully embrace that agenda.

You see, conservative principles can never and have never failed and so the GOP's political losses can only be attributed to the party's failure to adhere to those principles, leading to strange statements like the one made by Rep. Paul Ryan explaining that Democrats massive victories in the last two elections are proof that it is really conservative values that are winning.

This sort of logic also leads to odd statements such as this

Former Pennsylvania Republican Senator Rick Santorum says conservatives lost the majority in Washington because they were unethical, incompetent and unprincipled.

Santorum told the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington that even though the media claims conservatism failed in 2008, it was “conservatives who failed conservatism and that failed America.”

He said the Republican Party became rife with dishonest politicians who claimed to carry the conservative mantle but were not willing to implement conservative principles.

I see.  So it was all those unethical, incompetent and unprincipled “conservatives who failed conservatism" that were thrown out of office, causing the GOP to lose its majority in Congress and control of the White House? 

An interesting theory, especially coming from Former Pennsylvania Republican Senator Rick Santorum.

Is that how he lost his seat to a Democrat in 2006, by being an incompetent and dishonest politician who failed conservatism? 

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CPAC Posts Archive

Brian Tashman, Tuesday 02/15/2011, 10:10am
While the Conservative Political Action Conference may be over, the controversy over the gathering’s handling continues. RedState Editor-in-Chief and CNN commentator Erick Erickson first criticized GOProud, the gay conservative group whose involvement in CPAC sparked a Religious Right boycott, for attacking prominent right-wing leaders. Now, Erickson is going after Grover Norquist, the head of Americans for Tax Reform and a GOProud adviser who knocked CPAC boycotters as “loser organizations.” Norquist has long been a target of far-right groups for his outreach to Muslim... MORE >
Brian Tashman, Tuesday 02/15/2011, 9:29am
Michele Bachmann New Hampshire: Announces intention to visit New Hampshire at CPAC (Minnesota Independent, 2/14). CPAC: Uses faulty tax math at her CPAC speech (WaPo, 2/11). Health Care: Says that repealing reform law is “the driving motivation of my life” (RWW, 2/10). Haley Barbour Immigration: Lobbied for Mexico to support the extension of an “amnesty” program (Salon, 2/14). Lobbying: Politico looks into conflicts of interest as Governor after lobbying for tobacco industry (Politico, 2/14). Iowa: Plans to address a Republican fundraiser in Iowa on March 15 (The... MORE >
Brian Tashman, Tuesday 02/15/2011, 9:29am
Michele Bachmann New Hampshire: Announces intention to visit New Hampshire at CPAC (Minnesota Independent, 2/14). CPAC: Uses faulty tax math at her CPAC speech (WaPo, 2/11). Health Care: Says that repealing reform law is “the driving motivation of my life” (RWW, 2/10). Haley Barbour Immigration: Lobbied for Mexico to support the extension of an “amnesty” program (Salon, 2/14). Lobbying: Politico looks into conflicts of interest as Governor after lobbying for tobacco industry (Politico, 2/14). Iowa: Plans to address a Republican fundraiser in Iowa on March 15 (The... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 02/14/2011, 6:01pm
Justin Elliott @ Salon: Pamela Geller versus CPAC. Steve Benen: Taking union busting to a whole new level. Joe.My.God: Rumsfeld Endorses DADT Repeal. Stephanie Mencimer @ Mother Jones: Tea Party Patriots Investigated: "They Use You and Abuse You." Jason Hancock @ Iowa Independent: Pawlenty, Santorum to attend event hosted by Ralph Reed’s Iowa organization. Advocate: Tammy Bruce Leaves GOProud Post. Igor Volsky @ Wonk Room: GOP Congressman: Gay-Friendly Passport Change Will ‘Undermine The Traditional American Family.... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 02/14/2011, 6:01pm
Justin Elliott @ Salon: Pamela Geller versus CPAC. Steve Benen: Taking union busting to a whole new level. Joe.My.God: Rumsfeld Endorses DADT Repeal. Stephanie Mencimer @ Mother Jones: Tea Party Patriots Investigated: "They Use You and Abuse You." Jason Hancock @ Iowa Independent: Pawlenty, Santorum to attend event hosted by Ralph Reed’s Iowa organization. Advocate: Tammy Bruce Leaves GOProud Post. Igor Volsky @ Wonk Room: GOP Congressman: Gay-Friendly Passport Change Will ‘Undermine The Traditional American Family.... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 02/14/2011, 5:48pm
Ron Paul wins the CPAC straw poll and then gets booted off the board of the Young Americans for Freedom. John Boehner takes a bold stance regarding the Birthers: "It's not my job to tell the American people what to think." Live Action, Susan B Anthony List, 40 Days for Life, Students for Life of America, Concerned Women for America, and the Family Research Council joined together for a protest against Planned Parenthood today. Richard Land, Mat Staver, Elaine Donnelly, Gary Bauer, Penny Nance, Tom McClusky, and Tom Minnery continue to press Republicans to... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 02/14/2011, 3:18pm
In an article last week about the conflict at CPAC over the inclusion of the gay conservative group GOProud and the subsequent boycott by various Religious Right leaders and organizations, GOProud's Chris Barron called ACU board member Cleta Mitchell "a nasty bigot" for opposing the organization's participation. In a piece on FrumForum the very next day, Barron apologized for the remark, apparently in response to news that incoming ACU Chairman Al Cardenas was reconsidering GOProud's continued participation in the conference. On Friday, Alan Colmes had Barron on his... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 02/14/2011, 3:18pm
In an article last week about the conflict at CPAC over the inclusion of the gay conservative group GOProud and the subsequent boycott by various Religious Right leaders and organizations, GOProud's Chris Barron called ACU board member Cleta Mitchell "a nasty bigot" for opposing the organization's participation. In a piece on FrumForum the very next day, Barron apologized for the remark, apparently in response to news that incoming ACU Chairman Al Cardenas was reconsidering GOProud's continued participation in the conference. On Friday, Alan Colmes had Barron on his... MORE >