Saving America One Right-Wing Event at a Time

It is almost time again for the annual Values Voter Summit, the political conference sponsored by the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, American Values, and others where right-wing activists gather to rant and rave, attack homosexuals, and suggest that the anti-Christ is gay while Republican presidential candidates fall all over themselves to pander for votes.   

Heading into this year’s event, FRC unveiled a new ad urging right-wing activists to attend or risk “losing America”:

Are we losing America? Radical activists redefine marriage. Your tax dollars put towards abortion providers like Planned Parenthood. Your parental rights erased. Your religious liberties expunged. Your basic freedoms eliminated. Are we losing America? Unless we act now, the answer is YES! That’s why this year’s Values Voters Summit in Washington, DC is so vital. This September, you’ll discover how you can make a difference. We’ll equip you to protect the tradition of marriage, the innocence of your children, and the sanctity of your faith. Join leaders like Newt Gingrich, Bill Bennett, Chuck Colson, and others for the Values Voters Summit September 12-14 in Washington, DC … Are we losing America? We don’t have to.

While the Values Voter Summit is one of the Religious Right’s premier political events filled with pomp and professionalism, the same cannot be said for the 9th Annual Freedom21 National Conference, which is taking place right now in Dallas, TX.  Whereas FRC can boast of heavy-hitters like Gingrich, Sen. Sam Brownback, and James Dobson, the best Freedom21 could do was land the likes of Rep. Michele Bachmann, Jerome Corsi, Phyllis Schlafly, and third party presidential candidate Chuck Baldwin … and with third-rate entertainment and lackluster attendance such as this, it is not hard to see why:

Perkins Wants To Run The Show

FRC's Tony Perkins seems to think that he has a right to be included in every political event that is focused on religion and is now dictating questions to be asked during the upcoming Obama/McCain event at Saddleback Church:"Saddleback Church has the rare opportunity to crystallize the debate over abortion and homosexuality before FRC Action's Values Voter Summit in September. The candidates should be asked: 1. What is your position on man-woman marriage? 2. Where do you stand on partial-birth abortion and the killing of nearly-born babies? 3. Would you sign the Freedom of Choice Act into law? 4. How can the federal faith-based initiative survive without hiring protections for religious charities?"

FRC Demands That McCain Talk Religion Like They Want

In its most recent “Washington Update,” the Family Research Council appears to be trying to call out John McCain on the fact that his website just isn’t religious enough:

A quick tour through the candidates' official websites may do more to predict who our next president will be than months of polling data. On one nominee's site, visitors can select from featured articles called, "When Faith Is Front and Center," "Reconciling Faith and Politics," and "Strengthening Families." In another section, they can scroll through the priority issues of "ethics," "faith," and "family" and read excerpts from speeches, watch video clips, and peruse editorials devoted entirely to this senator's religious conviction. If you attributed that content to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), guess again. The site belongs to Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), whose party is vying for the "values void" created by the GOP's near-silence on its core issues. Unlike Obama's site, McCain's homepage is dedicated to "energy security," "global competitiveness," and "Iraq." Nowhere is faith or family referenced. With the exception of a blurb on human dignity, found on the bottom half of his issues menu, McCain's commitment to and record on social values are glaringly absent … Is it any wonder then that the gap of support between McCain and Obama is shrinking in the religious community? As of Friday, McCain was leading by only five percent among those who said that religion is an important aspect of their everyday life. The GOP's silence on marriage, particularly at this critical juncture in California, is deafening.

Oddly, if you actually bother to compare the two candidate’s websites, they don’t seem nearly as different as FRC makes them out to be.

Obama does have a “Faith” page consisting mostly of a link to a speech he delivered to Call to Renewal's Building a Covenant for a New America Conference in 2006 and a link to a document entitled “Barack's Faith Principles. Other articles FRC cites look to be run-of-the-mill campaign issues - concerns about the issues such as “Ethics” and “Family” certainly are not unique to the so-called “Values Voters” FRC claims to represent and the "When Faith Is Front and Center” article they cite is basically a link to an op-ed by Obama supporter Douglas Kmiec.  

It’s not clear why FRC is so high on Obama’s website relative to McCain’s. FRC praises Obama for having a “Family” page even though it contains proposals for a bunch of things FRC loathes, such as providing a living wage and universal healthcare. On McCain’s site, what FRC dismisses as a “blurb” is actually a long “values” page dedicated to Human Dignity and the Sanctity of Life which is chalk full of the issues FRC and its ilk care about and even starts off by pledging to overturn Roe v. Wade which, for groups like FRC, has long been its top political priority:

John McCain believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned, and as president he will nominate judges who understand that courts should not be in the business of legislating from the bench.

The page goes on to set out McCain’s views on the importance of protecting marriage, protecting children from internet pornography, and restricting stem-cell research. It concludes with a declaration that “decency, human compassion, self-sacrifice and the defense of innocent life are at the core of John McCain's value system and will be the guiding principles of a McCain Presidency."

McCain’s website also contains articles such as “John McCain: Keeping Faith, On His Own Terms” as well as others about his efforts to reach out to the GOP’s conservative Christian base and even the text of his remarks to FRC’s own Values Voter Summit.

FRC’s one-sided review of the websites seems to be an exercise in pressuring McCain into publicly discussing his faith more openly. As FRC’s Tony Perkins explained back in February:

“[McCain] must make social conservatives feel that he, No. 1, understands their issues; No. 2, believes in their issues; and No. 3, will advance them as president.”

Apparently, the only way McCain can do that, despite all the pandering he has already done, is to spend a lot more time talking about religion in a manner that FRC deems acceptable.

Bishop Harry Jackson: “Registered Democrat”

Ever since Bishop Harry Jackson first emerged on the political scene a few years ago, he has used the fact that he is a “registered Democrat” as a means of gaining traction in the media in order to assist the Religious Right in furthering its agenda. 

And push the right-wing agenda he has: fighting against hate crimes legislation; participating in right-wing events like the “Justice Sunday” rallies and Values Voter Summits; hobnobbing with the Religious Right powerbrokers in The Arlington Group;  serving as a loyal foot-soldier fighting the War on Christmas; and writing columns criticizing Barack Obama and others minimizing concerns about the thousands of people being killed in the war in Iraq by contrasting those deaths to the “genocidal murder” of “millions of black babies.

Most recently, Jackson has been paling around the country with the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, with whom he wrote a book entitled “Personal Faith Public Policy” and now, joining Perkins for regular video features called “The TRUTH in Black and White” (Jackson is black, Perkins is white, get it? If you don't, Perkins kindly points it.)  

Through out it all, Jackson has steadfastly maintained and exploited his status as a “registered Democrat” in order to give himself the appearance of nonpartisanship and independence instead of admitting that he is just another right-wing operative.  And now this “registered Democrat” is penning columns urging John McCain to take a firm stand against marriage equality in order to win right-wing votes by demonstrating fealty to “our cause”:

Yet, we also need to urge John McCain to raise a clear banner for social responsibility. The only way McCain will be able to beat the Obama Express is to rally social conservatives and give evangelicals a reason to get excited about his candidacy. Although many Christians don’t want to acknowledge that we are in a cultural war, millions will gather to support a leader who champions our cause. Let’s ask McCain if he will rise to the challenge.

Of course, the fact that Jackson is supporting McCain isn’t as much of a surprise as it is a sign of just how bogus his “registered Democrat” shtick truly is ... but he’s sticking with it because, as he explained back in 2006, it is something he maintains solely because it suits his political needs:

I voted for President Bush, but here in Maryland—a primarily Democratic state—in order to vote in the primaries that affect the election, you need to be a Democrat. That's where I started. Over time, however, I've found that I have very little in common with the Democratic Party in terms of national moral values issues. Still, being able to say I'm a registered Democrat disarms many of the people who want to write me off as an "Oreo" or an "Uncle Tom."

Perkins Pal Runs for Congress

Former state legislator Woody Jenkins won the Republican nomination Saturday for the special election to replace Louisiana Rep. Richard Baker, who retired this year to become a lobbyist. During Jenkins’s unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaigns in 1978, 1980, and 1996, he received his strongest support from far-right groups such as the Christian Coalition, Americans for Life League, and the Christian Action Network, and this run is no different: He’s received endorsements from James Dobson, Paul Weyrich, Tim LaHaye, and Family Research Council Action, as well as the Club for Growth’s PAC.

While it’s unusual to see FRC Action making an outright endorsement of a candidate, it should be no surprise, as FRC President Tony Perkins managed Jenkins’s 1996 Senate campaign. Many will recall that Perkins gained some notoriety for his role in buying Ku Klux Klansman David Duke’s phone bank list for Jenkins’s campaign and attempting to cover up the payment.

But what’s not commonly known is that Jenkins helped found the Council for National Policy in 1981, serving as its first executive director. “One day before the end of this century, the Council will be so influential that no president, regardless of party or philosophy, will be able to ignore us or our concerns or shut us out of the highest levels of government,” claimed Jenkins. For the past year, at least, Republican candidates for president have been hard pressed to ignore the secretive Religious Right gathering’s finicky vetting of candidates and its brief threat to ditch the GOP entirely. Even after he won, John McCain felt he had to go back before the council and plead for their grudging support.

What can voters expect from Jenkins? The Weekly Standard wrote in 1996 that he was “best known for leading the 1990 fight to pass what would have been the nation’s most restrictive abortion law and for occasionally bringing a plastic fetus onto the floor of the legislature.”

The Next Values Voter Summit

FRC Action announces that the next Values Voter Summit will be held in DC on September 12-14. According to an email: "invited speakers such as Newt Gingrich (confirmed), Chuck Colson, Lou Dobbs, Bill Bennett (confirmed), Lt. Col. Oliver North, Gov. Bobby Jindal, Gov. Mike Huckabee, Star Parker (confirmed), Justice Clarence Thomas, Patricia Heaton, Roger Hedgecock (confirmed), House and Senate leaders, and all the 2008 presidential nominees."

Huckabee and Giuliani: BFF?

The Swamp notes that Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee have suddenly started saying nice things about one another, with Giuliani saying that Huckabee makes him laugh and that he has “great respect for him” while Huckabee appeared to defend Giuliani’s anti-abortion claims.    

It is not surprising that Giuliani would be making nice with Huckabee, considering that Huckabee is a becoming increasingly popular with the right-wing base Giuliani so desperately needs to win over, having come out on top at the Values Voter Debate in Florida, which Giuliani blatantly snubbed, and having “won” the straw poll at the Values Voter Summit, where Giuliani came in second to last.  Perhaps Giuliani is recognizing that, in the words of Rich Lowry, Huckabee could be a “natural fit” as his vice presidential candidate should he win the GOP nomination. 

But it is odd that Huckabee would return the favor, considering that elsewhere he is criticizing Sam Brownback for even thinking of supporting Giuliani:

During a lunch with reporters on Tuesday in which a confident Huckabee insisted he can win the GOP nomination and general election, the former governor said that he reached out to Brownback the day the senator withdrew from the race and that he wants Brownback’s support.

“It makes perfect sense. It’s a good fit for a lot of Sen. Brownback’s supporters,” Huckabee said. “I would be shocked if he endorsed Mayor Giuliani.”

Huckabee said he would be surprised because on the issues Brownback was so “adamant” about during his failed presidential run, namely abortion rights, Brownback and Giuliani are “at opposite ends of the political spectrum.”

Huckabee also refused to say definitively that he would support whoever the eventually GOP nominee is, calling that a hypothetical question. He did say he would have trouble supporting the candidacy of Rep. Ron Paul (Texas) in the unlikely event the insurgent candidate won the nomination.

Huckabee is clearly feeling confident about his chances in light of his increased fundraising and rise in the polls - so much so that he is amping up his criticism of those right-wing leaders who have so far refused to back him:  

Huckabee continued to dismiss the criticisms of social conservative leaders like Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and Gary Bauer of American Values. The conservative leaders have said in recent weeks that Huckabee lacks the foreign policy credentials to win their support or that of the American people.

“They would never have gotten behind Ronald Reagan,” Huckabee said, adding that some past presidents like Reagan who were originally thought to be novices on foreign policy emerged as heroes in that arena because they had “character and clear convictions.”

This is not the first time Huckabee has gone after the Religious Right’s political leaders over this, but this is a pretty hard hitting criticism … after all, saying they wouldn’t have supported Reagan is the political equivalent of calling them Pharisees.   

Huckabee Supporters Demand a Recount

“Religious Right Divides Its Vote at Summit” was the headline of the New York Times article on the Values Voter Summit, and indeed, Mitt Romney only edged out Mike Huckabee by a few votes in the straw poll, 1595 to 1565, with other candidates trailing significantly. But that headline had to be a real disappointment for Huckabee boosters, dreaming of pushing him up from the second-tier, who believe that official tally is illegitimate because it allowed FRC members to vote online. Among actual conference-goers, Huckabee, the crowd favorite, walked away with a majority vote, besting Romney 488-99.

Janet Folger, who endorsed Huckabee soon after he won the straw poll at her Values Voter Debate, accused Romney of “ballot-box stuffing”:

Efforts to try and skew the results of the Internet poll, such as the e-mail sent by Mark DeMoss (now on the Romney campaign), complete with a link and instructions to stack it, gained Romney a .5 percent edge for his prominently announced "win." By the way, when that announcement was made following fanfare, including a drum roll, the audience (who were 5-to-1 Huckabee supporters) sat stunned. Had they announced the results of the real grass-roots activists who actually attended the event, we would have heard explosive applause instead of the sound of crickets and the clapping of a few Romney shills.

A harsh allegation, to be sure, but hardly out of character: Romney managed to win the CPAC straw poll last spring solely on the basis of students he sponsored, and he similarly paid for votes at the straw poll in South Carolina. After announcing that he was scaling back his efforts at the Ames, Iowa straw poll, Romney’s campaign spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to get the best tent and the most buses to ferry Republicans to the event, presumably with their tickets paid in exchange for a vote commitment (as is common at Ames). Considering that membership to FRC Action and the code to vote in that straw poll could be purchased for a $1 donation, this latest effort was a steal. Then there’s money Romney pays to prominent right-wing figures, such as $25,000 to a company owned by Jay Sekulow, who endorsed Romney.

Alabama activist Randy Brinson, head of the state’s reconstituted Christian Coalition chapter as well as a voter mobilization effort and an ally of Huckabee, thinks it’s that kind of cash that keeps people like Tony Perkins pooh-poohing Huckabee’s prospects. From U.S. News:

[Brinson] says he believes that "gatekeepers" like Bauer, Perkins, and Dobson are more interested in Romney or Thompson because their campaigns have money to pay for consultants from the big conservative evangelical organizations, ensuring them access to the White House if either of them wins.

Look Who’s Coming to Dobson’s Dinner

Cloistered away in a not-so-secret meeting during the Council for National Policy conference in Utah last month, a who’s who of right-wing leaders, led by Focus on the Family’s James Dobson, emerged to issue a not-so-subtle message to the Republican Party:  if frontrunner Rudy Giuliani gets the nomination, we’re gone.  The threat alone was enough to prompt Giuliani to rethink his plans and suddenly decide to appear at this weekend’s “Values Voter Summit,” convened by Dobson’s allies at the Family Research Council.

With just over a year to go before the next presidential election, the Republican Party faithful are in some disarray, with wails of discontent over the field of primary contenders deemed insufficiently committed to advancing the “social conservative” agenda, or insufficiently willing to talk about their faith, or insufficiently likely to make it through the primaries.  While the campaigns of Fred Thompson, Mitt Romney, and Mike Huckabee have managed to pick off a few leaders and activists here and there, the only thing keeping the Right even somewhat unified at this point is Rudy Giuliani’s lack of anti-gay, anti-choice credentials and the threat of what his candidacy would mean for their influence within the party.  

The resolution drafted in Salt Lake City says that if “the Republican Party nominates a pro-abortion candidate we will consider running a third-party candidate” – but who exactly is “the Republican Party”?  It’s not as if RNC strategists pick the nominee.  That’s up to the voters who participate in GOP primaries and caucuses.

So in essence, the Right is not so much threatening “the Republican Party” as it is Republican Party voters and trying to blackmail them by saying that if they think Giuliani, as his campaign likes to point out, is “the only Republican candidate that can beat” Hillary Clinton, they had better think again -- because he can’t do that if anywhere from a quarter to a half of their activists refuse to vote for him.     

FRC's Perkins Suggests Romney Better Than Huckabee on Religious-Right Issues

In a press call this morning, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins downplayed recent talk about religious-right leaders threatening to bolt the GOP for a third-party presidential candidate. Perkins, promoting FRC’s Values Voter Summit in Washington next weekend, said he was “optimistic” that the GOP field would “solidify” and a candidate acceptable to the Right would emerge out of the conference’s straw poll.

Rudy Giuliani’s decision to participate in the FRC event threatens to deflate this optimism, however. If Giuliani gets significant support from among the FRC members participating in the straw poll—as he has from among the national constituency these leaders claims to represent—then the threats by James Dobson and others to spoil the election could fall flat. “I’m not saying he won’t get some social conservative support,” cautioned Perkins, “but some social conservative support is not enough to win.” Despite Perkins’ claim that Giuliani will receive a “cordial” reception, we can expect many speakers—not just other candidates—to directly or indirectly attack, in Perkins’ phrase, “the pro-abortion rights candidate.”

And while some right-wing activists are hoping that the Religious Right will coalesce around one of their second-tier favorites—such as Mike Huckabee—Perkins seemed to downplay that option, panning them as unacceptable to economic- and foreign policy-oriented Republicans. In fact, Perkins spoke glowingly of Mitt Romney, saying that “in my opinion, [he’s] the strongest on these core social issues”—and not only that, but his “conversion” on wedge issues has been “genuine.” In fact, Perkins said Romney is stronger than Huckabee and the others on such issues.

During the campaign cycle, he has made these issues more front-and-center in his message than I think other candidates who are social conservatives have, I mean that have a track record of social conservatism. I think he has staked out ground on these issues so much so that he would have a very difficult time ever backing away from them; he would lose all credibility. He has really brought emphasis to these issues. And I do think, yes, more than Mike Huckabee and some of the others.

Meanwhile, Alan Keyes can’t get no respect. Despite his wide-open schedule, he’s not on the list of speakers at the Values Voter Summit; nevertheless, FRC’s Charmaine Yoest declared that “we have all of the major GOP candidates.”

Dobson Says Jump, GOP Says How High

It took awhile, but every one of the four leading Republican presidential hopefuls who skipped the “Values Voter Debate” in Florida have now agreed to attend the upcoming “Values Voter Summit” in Washington, DC being sponsored by the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, American Values, and others. 

In early September, Mitt Romney agreed to attend and, a short while later, so did John McCain.   Fred Thompson held off – at least until a message from James Dobson blasting him as unacceptable to the Religious Right made its way into the press, and then the Thompson campaign suddenly got the message and quickly agreed to attend as well.  

Still, a few weeks went by with Rudy Giuliani being the only candidate refusing to attend – until again Dobson and his right-wing allies lashed out, announcing that they would consider abandoning the Republican Party if Giuliani gets the nomination, with Dobson taking to the pages of the New York Times to explain that “If neither of the two major political parties nominates an individual who pledges himself or herself to the sanctity of human life, we will join others in voting for a minor-party candidate.”

And guess what happened? 

Giuliani has now announced that he too will be attending the FRC/FOF event. 

It is quite a testament to the influence of James Dobson that despite having publicly savaged McCain, Giuliani, and Thompson, these candidates are tripping over themselves to attend an event that is scheduled to culminate with a “Family, Faith and Freedom Gala Dinner Honoring Dr. James Dobson.”   

Dobson Claims Unity

James Dobson has decided to publicly weigh in on the reports that various right-wing leaders are considering abandoning the Republican Party should Rudy Giuliani win the presidential nomination with an op-ed in the New York Times:

After two hours of deliberation, we voted on a resolution that can be summarized as follows: If neither of the two major political parties nominates an individual who pledges himself or herself to the sanctity of human life, we will join others in voting for a minor-party candidate. Those agreeing with the proposition were invited to stand. The result was almost unanimous.

Dobson goes on to explain that they are not willing to compromise their anti-choice, anti-gay principles in order to ensure electoral success for the Republican Party and that “winning the presidential election is vitally important, but not at the expense of what we hold most dear.”

But the main reason Dobson penned this op-ed was to dampen reports that the Right is in disarray leading into the 2008 election:

One other clarification is germane, even though unrelated to the meeting in Salt Lake City. The secular news media has been reporting in recent months that the conservative Christian movement is hopelessly fractured and internally antagonistic. The Los Angeles Times reported on Monday, for example, that supporters of traditional family values are rapidly “splintering.” That is not true. The near unanimity in Salt Lake City is evidence of much greater harmony than supposed. Admittedly, differences of opinion exist among us about our choices for president.

That divergence is entirely reasonable, now just over a year before the national election. It is hardly indicative of a “splintering” of old alliances. If the major political parties decide to abandon conservative principles, the cohesion of pro-family advocates will be all too apparent in 2008.

It is true that many - but not all - “supporters of traditional family values,” as Dobson refers to his right-wing allies, are of the same mind when it comes to opposition to a Giuliani nomination, but beyond that, they are all over the place

Thompson Sets Off a Dobson-Land War

Several months ago we noted that Richard Land was trying to position himself as a key player within the Religious Right hierarchy and had been publicly challenging James Dobson on a variety of fronts, including immigration, global warming and, most importantly, the candidacy of Fred Thompson.

From the get-go, Land has been a vocal advocate of Thompson, issuing fawning praise of him at every opportunity – so it must have come as a rude surprise when, last week, Dobson weighed in and declared Thompson unacceptable:

In a private e-mail obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, Dobson accuses the former Tennessee senator and actor of being weak on the campaign trail and wrong on issues dear to social conservatives.

"Isn't Thompson the candidate who is opposed to a Constitutional amendment to protect marriage, believes there should be 50 different definitions of marriage in the U.S., favors McCain-Feingold, won't talk at all about what he believes, and can't speak his way out of a paper bag on the campaign trail?" Dobson wrote. "He has no passion, no zeal and no apparent 'want to.' And yet he is apparently the Great Hope that burns in the breasts of many conservative Christians? Well, not for me, my brothers. Not for me!"

Obviously, this didn’t sit well with Land, so it is not surprising that he has decided to strike back, reaching out to CBN’s David Brody to defend Thompson and blast Dobson:

“I’ve received phone calls and emails from Southern Baptists about Senator Thompson. They are all furious at Doctor Dobson. They just feel that first of all there was a mischaracterizing of his positions. Do I wish that he supported the marriage protection amendment? Of course I do.  To say that he is for 50 different views of marriage in 50 different states is a gross mischaracterization of his position. Secondly, do I wish that he attended church every Sunday? As a Baptist pastor, of course I do. But does that make him a person of unbelief? That’s harsh and unwarranted.”

Land defends Thompson’s opposition to a marriage amendment by claiming that Thompson is simply so principled that he will not jettison his staunch “federalist” convictions for political gain, before winding it up by proclaiming that Thompson is “one of us”: 

“Fred Thompson grew up in a very modest means in a small town in America just like Ronald Reagan grew up in very modest means in a small town in Illinois. You acquire not only an understanding of but a respect for everyday folk when you come from the background that you don’t get otherwise and people sense it. That this is a guy who respects me, a guy who understands that we are the backbone of this country, we are the salt of the Earth and he not only understands us, he’s one of us. He’s a successful one of us but he’s one of us and they trust a guy like that. They give a guy like that a larger margin of error. Nobody gets everything right but its core values. My assessment is that this guy is a whole much like Reagan including his Teflon quality. The press has been beating up with him for these types of gaffes and he continues to climb in the polls.”

It is exceedingly rare that anyone on the Right dares to criticize Dobson, much less do so publicly.  In fact, the last people to do so ended up getting booted out of the movement.  

This sort of high-profile fight cannot be helping the Right as it struggles to figure out how to maintain its influence going into the 2008 election.  But at least it ought to make the upcoming Values Voter Summit all the more interesting, since both Land and Dobson are going to be there.  

FRC Succeeds Where Values Voter Debate Failed

As we noted several times over the last several weeks leading up to the Values Voters Debate, not one of the top-tier candidates was willing to accept an invitation to appear – something which did not go over too well with the organizers of the event. 

We also noted that, though he was not willing to attend the Values Voters Debate, Mitt Romney was more than willing to make time in his schedule to attend the Values Voter Summit in October, hosted by the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, American Values and others.

Well, it looks like Romney will now have some company:

Today FRC Action announced that GOP presidential candidate Senator John McCain (R-AZ) will speak at FRC Action's Washington Briefing 2007: Values Voter Summit on Friday, October 19. This is Senator McCain's first appearance at an FRC Action event.

Senator McCain will be joined by Governor Mitt Romney, Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA), and Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO). No Democratic candidate has accepted the invitation to speak. We await responses from Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Senator Fred Thompson.

The five GOP presidential candidates will appeal for support from the gathering of pro-family activists who will participate in the first Values Voter Summit Straw Poll. The straw poll will be a defining moment as candidates see where they stack up with one of the most crucial voting blocs in the country. The straw poll will begin at noon on Friday, October 19, and will conclude the next day at 1 pm. The winner of the straw poll is expected to be announced at 3 pm on Saturday.

The Summit website also lists Mike Huckabee as confirmed, as well, so it looks as if FRC will have not only several of the candidates who attended the Values Voter Debate, but at least two of the four candidates who skipped the debate as well.  

We Want Your Votes, But Not Your Questions

As we’ve chronicled several times over the last few weeks, the “Values Voter Presidential Debate” is scheduled for September 17 in Florida.  Featuring a variety of right-wing leaders, the event is designed to give Republican presidential candidates an opportunity to directly address the concerns of, and answer questions from, figures like Phyllis Schlafly, Don Wildmon, Paul Weyrich, Roy Moore, Janet Folger, and Rick Scarborough.

Unfortunately for the organizers of the event, not one of the four top GOP candidates is willing to be seen with them:

The festivities, however, look likely to go off without a marquee name. Queried yesterday by The New York Sun, the McCain campaign cited a scheduling conflict. "We are not attending," a spokeswoman for Mr. McCain, Brooke Buchanan, replied by e-mail. "It's the last day of the No Surrender tour — we will be in South Carolina."

Likewise, the Romney campaign's Florida spokeswoman, Gail Gitcho, told the Sun that the former Massachusetts governor had "declined due to a scheduling conflict."

Mr. Thompson's press office also is citing "another event on his calendar that day."

The Giuliani camp didn't even bother with the scheduling-conflict ruse, providing the Sun with the text of a letter the former mayor's campaign manager, Michael DuHaime, sent to the debate's organizers on Friday. "Thank you for your kind invitation for Mayor Giuliani to attend a presidential debate hosted by Values Voters," Mr. DuHaime wrote. "Unfortunately Mayor Giuliani will be unable to accept your invitation."

Undoubtedly, that snub is not sitting well with them – and it is probably only being made worse by this:

Today FRC Action announced that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney will speak in a prime-time slot at the Washington Briefing 2007: Values Voter Summit on Friday evening, October 19.

So Romney is willing to show up at a “values voters” event hosted by the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, American Values and others that features the likes of Tony Perkins, James Dobson, Gary Bauer, Robert Knight, and Richard Land but won’t have anything to do with the other Values Voter folks?  

It seems as if Romney is willing to accept an invitation to speak to right-wing leaders and activists but is unwilling to actually take questions from them.  While FRC and FOF tend to be considered more “reputable” right-wing groups than the Eagle Forum or Vision America, there is, in actuality, no substantive difference between the views, rhetoric, or mission of these groups.  In fact, several of the participants in the Values Voter Debate are also participating in FRC’s Values Voter Summit, including Star Parker, Bobby Schindler, and Phyllis Schlafly.

So why is it that Romney is willing to pander to the Right at the Values Voter Summit, but is unwilling to actually answer questions from them at the Values Voter Debate? 

Could it be because, while they want their support, they hope to achieve it in a way that allows them to avoid publicly pandering to them by answering questions such as “Do you believe the Ten Commandments should be posted on public property?" or “Do you believe that homosexuality is a sin?”

Dobson’s Low Profile Hides Focus on the States

Following the rejection of the Right’s political agenda in the last election, there have been a number of news articles written in recent months about a potential split emerging within the evangelical political community, with newer leaders pushing to incorporate issues such as the environment and poverty into the agenda, while old-school leaders seek to quash any efforts to dilute their traditional anti-choice, anti-gay message.  

From this split, some new right-wing leaders appear to be emerging, such as Richard Land who seems to be attempting to position himself as the Right’s new powerbroker, seemingly at the expense of James Dobson.  For his part, Dobson has been keeping something of a low profile, perhaps chastened a bit by the controversy he generated when he suggested that presidential hopeful Fred Thompson was not a Christian.   

Other than appearing from time to time to declare that he won’t support or vote for Rudy Giuliani or John McCain, Dobson has been relatively quiet as of late – but that doesn’t mean that his organization, Focus on the Family, has become any less influential or involved in politics, especially at the state level. Just in the last two days, it has been reported that FOF has hooked up with a new “state policy council” in Washington and is affiliated with a similar organization in West Virginia, both of which have a similar goal:  pushing the right-wing agenda at the state level and energizing right-wing voters ahead of the upcoming elections. 

Cause or Effect?

Wayne Slater, writing in The Dallas Morning News, says that while Rudy Giuliani might not be much liked by the Republican Party’s social conservative, right-wing base, he might not be totally unacceptable either, especially if they are faced with the prospect of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee:

As the most powerful movement in American politics for several decades, conservative Christians insisted that above all else, their candidates adhere to their positions on social issues, particularly abortion and gay marriage. But as their movement changes, many are placing the fight against Islamic extremism at the top of the list as well.

For the last several years, the “fight against Islamic extremism” has never been a key issue for the Right.  While it has been an issue they’ve mentioned occasionally, its importance has always paled in comparison to their primary goals of fighting for restrictions on abortion, passing a federal marriage amendment, and controlling the federal judiciary.  As a matter of fact, the issue of terrorism was nowhere to be seen on last year’s Congressional scorecard [PDF] put together by the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family, which claimed to be a “compilation of significant votes representing a cross section of issues affecting the family.”

So what could explain this relatively sudden rise in the importance of national security issues and terrorism for the Right?

Mark Your Calendars

Prepare yourself, because the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, American Values, and the Alliance Defense Fund announced that they will be hosting a follow-up to last year’s “Values Voters Summit.”

Apparently not only are they committed to mobilizing their activists for 2008, they are also hoping to influence the primaries as well, which would explain why they’ve scheduled the event a full year in advance of the actual election:

FRC Action President Tony Perkins and cosponsors Dr. James Dobson, Gary Bauer and Alan Sears will once again be joined by a distinguished line-up of speakers addressing grassroots leaders from across the country.

"This event is a call to action for voter participation, education and training and a rallying event for people who want to transform the political landscape on issues such as the sanctity of life and marriage, religious freedom, health care, radical Islam, judicial activism, immigration reform, geopolitics, the media and much more," said FRC Action President Tony Perkins.

But more importantly, the organizers state that “this year, all 2008 presidential hopefuls and a number of noteworthy conservative leaders will be invited to speak.” 

Does that include Democratic candidates?  That remains to be seen.  

Rest assured, we’ll be keeping an eye on developments to see just which “presidential hopefuls” agree to join the likes of James Dobson, Tony Perkins, and Gary Bauer at this year’s summit.  

FRC Rebuts SOTU, PFAW Rebuts FRC

The Family Research Council was not overly-impressed with the President’s latest State of the Union address, complaining that President Bush “failed to challenge the new majority to advance core family and cultural issues”:

[T]he President failed to challenge the new majority to advance core family and cultural issues, issues that many in the new majority campaigned on last year. These same issues will motivate pro-family Americans to rally around an administration that needs support.

"With two years left in the Bush Presidency, the stakes for families couldn't be higher. What will become of the culture of life, the defense of marriage, and permanent family-friendly tax policies?

Mr. President, fight for the American family and American families will stand with you!"

The FRC was so unimpressed with the President’s speech that FRC’s Tony Perkins released his own video response in which he warned that “today we have the most anti-family leadership in Congress that Washington has seen in over a decade,” saying the “stakes for the American family could not be higher”:

It seems as if FRC is sticking with its delusion that Republicans merely need to dedicate themselves to advancing the right-wing agenda in order to win the support of the American people.  

And if FRC is going to keep making this argument, then we’ll just have to keep reminding them of the uncomfortable truth:

Mitch McConnell: <em>Minority</em> Leader

What can be expected from Senate Republicans in the upcoming term?  Other than gridlock and blatant partisanship, apparently not very much.

Over the weekend, new Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned that, unless Democrats acquiesce to votes on President Bush’s judicial nominees, the Republicans would not hesitate to resort to the filibuster

The Senate's next Republican leader issued a veiled threat Friday to block action on legislation if Democrats refuse to allow confirmation votes on President Bush's troubled judicial nominations.

Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who will become minority leader Jan. 4, told the conservative Federalist Society not to feel bad about the Senate election results because Republicans will hold 49 seats in a body that requires 60 votes to end a filibuster and bring legislation or presidential nominees to a final vote.

If the “Democrats want our cooperation, they'll give the president's judicial nominees an up-or-down vote,” McConnell said.

As we’ve noted before, if McConnell and others are really concerned about judicial nominees not getting an up-or-down vote, perhaps they can start hounding Sen. Sam Brownback to lift his hold on the nomination of Janet Neff.

In addition, considering that just last year McConnell was chomping at the bit to get rid of the filibuster once and for all when it came to judges, it is sort of odd that he’d now be threatening to filibuster other things if judges don’t get votes. And does McConnell really think that even lower court judges who are voted down in Committee must get a vote, despite the clear practice to the contrary on judges as well as legislation in Senates controlled by both parties?  

This sort of bogus “Democrats-had-better-do-as-we-say” claim to bipartisanship looks to be a key part of McConnell’s strategy heading into the new session, positioning the GOP in such a way that they can try and blame Democrats for any showdowns in the Senate

“I think that they’ll have to deal with us.”

Soon-to-be Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s confidence could fool you. You’d think he wasn’t giving up majority digs for minority ones, the way he talks.

But he is — though you had better believe he’s ready to fight for minority rights.

In a brief interview at the Capitol with National Review Online on Thursday, the Kentucky Republican said that he has “a good personal relationship” with incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, but plans on “cooperat[ing] only if they move to the center” policy-wise. He’s as curious as everyone else is if the buzz about there being more conservative Dems in the Senate now is true. “We’ll see if they really mean it.”

It is hard to understand why McConnell thinks Democrats need to “move to the center,” considering that they just picked up six seats in the Senate – five of which were held by Republicans Senators who had received 100% ranking from the joint Family Research Council Action/Focus on the Family Action voter guide and the endorsement of Gary Bauer’s Campaign for Working Families.

If anyone needs to “move to the center” it ought to be Senate Republicans, since it was five of their own right-wing colleagues who lost their seats in the last election. 

After all, it is because of these losses that McConnell is now the incoming Senate Minority Leader.

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FRCAction Posts Archive

Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 07/21/2010, 1:52pm
Last night the Family Research Council hosted a webcast entitled "Mission Compromised: How the military is being used to advance a radical agenda" which featured several members of Congress along with Religious Right activists discussing both efforts to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell and efforts to allow abortion at military facilities.  In this first clip, Oliver North tells Tony Perkins that conservative, home-schooled kids who read the Bible instead of looking at porn will stop joining the military if DADT is repealed because it will eventually lead to NAMBLA members... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 06/16/2010, 11:41am
Yesterday I noted that Family Research Council President Tony Perkins had co-authored an op-ed opposing the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell with General John Sheehan who earlier this year blamed the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica on gay soldiers. Today I noticed that FRC has scheduled an event for next week that will address DADT, ENDA, and other such issues that includes not only Sheehan, but also Sen. Jim Inhofe and the AFA's Bryan Fischer:  FRC will be tackling these topics -- and more -- next Tuesday, June 22 with the people who know this issue best. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 05/17/2010, 5:26pm
The ACLJ calls Arizona's anti-immigration law "sound and constitutional" and "plans to file an amicus brief in support of defending the law." The Family Research Council says there is only one option for Obamacare: Repeal! On a related note, groups that fought abortion coverage in health care reform are now using a provision in the bill to try and limit abortion coverage by private insurers. Along with Fred Barnes, Marco Rubio addressed the Florida Family Policy Council dinner, which also honored Don Wildmon of the American Family Association.... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 03/22/2010, 9:37am
Last night, the House of Representatives voted to pass the Senate's version of health care reform legislation, making it the latest step in what has been a long and bitter process to overhaul the nation's health care system.  And given how vehemently opposed the Right has been to this effort, it doesn't come as much of a surprise to see that their response to this development has been nothing short of apoplectic, starting with the Susan B. Anthony List which had been planning on giving Rep. Bart Stupak its "Defender of Life" Award but has now publicly rescinded the offer:... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Thursday 03/18/2010, 3:23pm
The other day we noted that it was seemingly impossible for any Religious Right figure to be deemed so radical that Republican members of Congress would decline to appear at events with them, highlighting the fact that the American Family Association's militantly anti-gay Director of Issue Analysis for Government and Public Policy, Bryan Fischer, was being featured in a Family Research Council hosted health care webcast along with Rep. Tom Price, (R-GA), Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN). The event aired earlier this week and, as it turned out, Fischer wasn't even the... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Friday 02/12/2010, 12:59pm
The Family Research Council announces a day long summit is being held in Rhode Island at the end of the month featuring a variety of right-wing groups: Don't miss this valuable opportunity to learn about the cutting-edge family, life and marriage issues affecting Rhode Island and all New England! Experts from the Family Research Council, National Organization for Marriage Rhode Island, Alliance Defense Fund, and Family Policy Councils from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine and Connecticut will discuss the latest state legislative trends affecting you and your family. Don't miss this... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Friday 01/29/2010, 6:19pm
The Family Research Council is seeking signatures for a petition opposing efforts to end Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Self-proclaimed King of the Tea Partiers Dick Armey tells Michael Steele that he has to gain their trust by proving his bona fides on fiscal issues. Gov. Tim Pawlenty's PAC took in $1.3 million in its first few months. Rep. Michele Bachmann has $1 million in the bank for her re-election bid. Religious Right activists are holding a prayer vigil outside of CBS headquarters in support of Focus on the Family's anti-choice Super Bowl ad. Finally,... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 12/14/2009, 10:53am
On Wednesday December 16, Reps. Michele Bachmann and Randy Forbes and Sens. Jim DeMint and Sam Brownback will be joining forces with the likes of Lou Engle, Tony Perkins, Jim Garlow, and Harry Jackson for a "prayercast" organized by the Family Research Council during which they will seek God's intervention to prevent the passage of healthcare reform:  Did you know that deep within the Senate health care bill is a tax penalty for couples that are married? Or that in Nancy Pelosi's version of health care "reform" that not only is tort reform not included - but trial... MORE >