McCain's Pastor Problem Foreshadows Conflict

Soon after breaking with televangelist John Hagee, John McCain rejected another right-wing pastor who had campaigned with him, Rod Parsley. While Parsley, like Hagee, subsequently withdrew his endorsement, it remains to be seen whether he will put his Ohio-based “Patriot Pastors” machine in motion on behalf of the Republican candidate before November.

But the McCain campaign may be more concerned about fallout greater than these two pastors and their television audiences. In working for the Hagee endorsement and incorporating Parsley into the campaign, McCain was no doubt hoping to solidify the Religious Right credibility he has been sweating over for the past two years. While Hagee and Parsley are influential and well-connected, meeting with the president and lobbying Congress, they are active primarily outside of D.C., in the megachurch, “prosperity gospel” world of Trinity Broadcasting Network. As this blog and others revealed some of the pastors’ rough edges—just a sample—McCain was forced to walk a fine line between losing his “maverick” reputation among independent voters and alienating the right-wing base he feels he needs.

McCain’s decision to dump Parsley and Hagee has prompted some warning shots from the Right. “This move may cost him the mainstream evangelical vote. At the very least it will make the Senator suspect to other pastors and millions of unconvinced believers,” wrote Bishop Harry Jackson, who added that the two televangelists have “10 times the outreach muscle” of Barack Obama’s controversial ex-pastor Jeremiah Wright.

Star Parker wrote, “John McCain wants Americans to elect him to provide tough leadership in a dangerous world. But when it just takes some mud slung from a few left-wing websites to drive him under a rock, you have to wonder.”

And Gary Bauer, an ally to both McCain and Hagee, said that “radical left” blogs managed to “drive a wedge” between evangelicals and McCain.

But as CBN’s David Brody reports, the McCain campaign is at the same time stepping up its efforts to woo the Religious Right by running weekly meetings with Bauer and other activists and consulting right-wing groups such as the Family Research Council and the Eagle Forum. Brody writes:

Look, here's the bottom line: The McCain campaign is gearing up for a true battle over Evangelicals this fall. They are NOT taking them for granted. They know they have work to do but what we are seeing here is a ramped up effort that is fully supported by the head guy, John McCain. The Hagee endorsement and subsequent retraction was not the campaign's best moment but the system they have in place now is starting to make headway.

It’s likely McCain’s efforts will pay off in getting the support, explicit or implicit, of the Religious Right groups and activists who have long wedded their politics to the GOP’s—especially if he keeps meeting their demands on judges and other issues. But as they continue to pull McCain to the right, the conflict between the base and independent voters—the conflict McCain saw with Hagee and Parsley—will expand.

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."

Huckabee Angling for VP Slot?

While most right-wing activists who opposed John McCain in the Republican primary are falling in line with him now that his nomination is secure, there remain a few holdouts. WorldNetDaily editor Joseph Farah recently outlined the general principle guiding stragglers: “All things being equal, I'd rather watch the Democrats destroy America for the next four years, holding out hope that a new kind of Republican leadership might arise to fight back in 2012.”

Mike Huckabee is not one of these holdouts. Or is he?

In his most recent column, Robert Novak suggests that Mike Huckabee and his supporters, despite their announcements of support for John McCain, are secretly hoping that McCain loses in November so that Huckabee can run again in 2012:

[R]eports out of the evangelical community dispute Huckabee's support. One experienced, credible activist in Christian politics who would not let his name be used told me Huckabee in personal conversation with him embraced the concept that an Obama presidency might be what the American people deserve. That fits what has largely been a fringe position among evangelicals that the pain of an Obama presidency is in keeping with the Bible's prophecy.

Novak admits that Huckabee denies these allegations, but that didn't stop him from writing his column anyway, which prompted Huckabee to write his own blog post on his HuckPAC website calling the anonymous sources behind Novak's column liars and challenging them to either put up or shut up:

On another note, I was very disturbed by a column by Robert Novak that quoted some “anonymous source” in saying that while I strongly supported Senator McCain, I thought that maybe America “deserves Obama,” as if to say that I secretly hoped he won.

Where do people dream up this stuff? Forget the “anonymous” sources—there’s nothing anonymous about my stand and here it is. We don’t “deserve” Obama—we DESERVE a President with the character, convictions, experience, and wisdom to see the problems we face and try to lead us to solve them. We deserve a President who truly loves this country and from whom there is no doubt as to his respect for Faith, Family, and the kind of Freedom that those before us have given their lives to pass on to us. John McCain meets that criteria and that’s why I am campaigning for him and not hoping for Obama. The nonsense that I want Obama to win this year so I can run in 2012 is absurd. I love my country more than my own ambition. So let the record and truth be clear. And let the “anonymous” sources either show the courage to stand up and be accountable for their comments or shut up and leave commentary to people who aren’t afraid of their own shadow.

Huckabee's response was certainly vehement and swift ... do you suppose this has anything to do with that?

Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas and defeated contender for the GOP presidential nomination, is currently at the top of John McCain's short list for a running mate. At least that's the word from a top McCain fundraiser and longtime Republican moneyman who has spoken to McCain's inner circle.

More on the Right's 'Double Standard' for Religion in Politics

Radio talker Michael Medved complains about some imaginary “double standards” he saw following remarks by Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama at a Compassion Summit earlier this month:

From most commentators, Hillary received high marks for her thoughtful, surprisingly intimate answers to such questions. … Nevertheless, the generally positive reaction to her comments raises obvious questions about faith, Democrats and double standards.

Imagine that George W. Bush told a public forum that he had “felt the enveloping support and love of God” since childhood, and that on “many, many occasions” he “felt like the Holy Spirit was there with me.”

It’s not hard to imagine the derisive tabloid headlines: “Bush: God Is With Me” or “Prez Sees Spirits” or “W. Talks About His Imaginary Friend.” Howard Dean might comment: “It sounds like Bush is once again saying that he talks to God, so we better watch out. The last time that happened, he took us to a war based on false intelligence.” …

Why is it less controversial when liberals talk about their religious outlook than it is for conservatives to speak about our faith?

Controversial? In fact, it’s difficult to name any recent candidate for any major office who didn’t talk about his or her faith. And now that he mentions it, we might point out that it’s been the liberal candidates (along with poor Mitt Romney) who have had their faith questioned by the Right. When the right-wing media hasn’t been whispering that Obama is a secret Muslim, they’ve been speculating about the particulars of his pastor’s theology. One activist conducted his own investigation and declared Obama’s Christianity “woefully deficient.”

Likewise, Clinton’s faith is considered fair game for attacks from the Right. For evidence, look no further than four paragraphs later in the very same article by Michael Medved, when he cavalierly asserts that “no one objects to Hillary’s God-talk because, in essence, nobody fully believes it. Her frequent encounters with the Holy Spirit sound no more formidable than Dennis Kucinich’s sighting of a UFO (in the company of Shirley McLaine – now that’s a problem).”

As for Hillary, she can’t point to a single issue in which her supposedly “deep commitment to my Methodist faith” actually shaped her thinking, beyond a very bland and generalized concern for the poor as “the least among us.” She doesn’t scare non-believers because all the religious overtones in her speeches and interviews can’t erase the overwhelming impression they receive that “she’s one of us” – and her positions on abortion, homosexuality, stem cells, and most church-state issues further reassure them that she’s still on their side on the culture war.

According to Medved, “no one in the country” takes Clinton’s “well-advertised interaction with the Holy Spirit” as genuine.

While Clinton’s membership in a Capitol Hill prayer group is common knowledge, her fellow members in the group—such as Rick Santorum and Jim Inhofe—are taken at face value when they talk about how their faith influences their politics. Clinton, as Medved demonstrates, is not—apparently because the Right doesn’t like her political positions. What’s the term for that? Oh yeah—“double standard.”

Right Wing Joins Conversation About Race

A few voices on the Right have expressed partial praise for Barack Obama’s speech on race, but by and large, right-wing commentators have stuck to the script, picking over the parts where Obama mentioned the country’s racial wounds, excoriating him for failing to disavow affirmative action or liberal economic policies, and generally promoting the idea that Obama is some kind of Manchurian candidate who secretly hates both America and white people.

But if Obama hoped to start a national conversation about race, he succeeded, in a way. Many right-wing commentators have proved willing to redirect their attacks on Obama to a discussion of their views on African Americans in general. Cal Thomas opined that “black people should be listening to” Bill Cosby, not Rev. Wright. Ann Coulter announced that she had had enough of blacks talking about racism:

But the "post-racial candidate" thinks we need to talk yet more about race. How much more? I had had my fill by around 1974. How long must we all marinate in the angry resentment of black people? …

We treat blacks like children, constantly talking about their temper tantrums right in front of them with airy phrases about black anger. I will not pat blacks on the head and say, "Isn't that cute?" As a post-racial American, I do not believe "the legacy of slavery" gives black people the right to be permanently ill-mannered.

Unfortunately, the online videos of Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s church appear to be the first exposure some on the Right have had to blacks or the African American church. Human Events reporter Ericka Anderson admitted as much: “Those of us outside the black community lack any deep knowledge of black churches. The only black minister we are very familiar with was Martin Luther King, Jr.” Anderson added, “He never damned America.”

George Neumayr, editor of the Catholic World Report, was apparently scandalized by what he described as the “feverish” church-goers in the videos “hopping up and down like hyperactive children” as they follow their “buffoonish[],” “sashaying” pastor.

Perhaps we should leave the final word to Pat Buchanan, who has made a career out of claiming that “white America” is under constant threat from other ethnicities. Before Obama’s speech, Buchanan pined for the “Negroes” of the 1950s:

That Wright is a revered preacher in black America also tells us that, far from coming together, we Americans are further apart than we were in the 1950s, when Negroes could be described as Christian, conservative and patriotic. Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad did not speak for black America then. Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young and Dr. Martin Luther King did. But Jeremiah Wright makes Stokely Carmichael and Rap Brown sound like the Mills Brothers.

After the speech, Buchanan was more blunt, writing that “Wright ought to go down on his knees and thank God he is an American.”

What is wrong with Barack's prognosis and Barack's cure?

Only this. It is the same old con, the same old shakedown that black hustlers have been running since the Kerner Commission blamed the riots in Harlem, Watts, Newark, Detroit and a hundred other cities on, as Nixon put it, "everybody but the rioters themselves."

Was "white racism" really responsible for those black men looting auto dealerships and liquor stories, and burning down their own communities, as Otto Kerner said -- that liberal icon until the feds put him away for bribery.

Barack says we need to have a conversation about race in America.

Fair enough. But this time, it has to be a two-way conversation. White America needs to be heard from, not just lectured to.

This time, the Silent Majority needs to have its convictions, grievances and demands heard.

What’s Obama To Do?

As a way of dealing with the controversy surrounding the various remarks made by his pastor Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama is set to deliver a speech tomorrow where he promises to talk “about not just Reverend Wright, but the larger issue of race in this campaign .”

Regardless of what he says in this speech, it’ll probably do little to appease the rank-and-file conservative Christian voters in the Republican Party who never liked him anyway and now seem to really, really dislike him, at least judging by most of the comments mailed into CBN’s David Brody:

I am sure Obama was listening to rev Wrights sermon about "America causing this to happen...and that the chickens came home to roost...etc."Right there Obama has lied on TV, to news reporters and to his supporters-claiming he knew nothing of these awful hate filled sermons.

Obama being a member of this church for over 20 years and calling this guy his spiritual mentor and having him at present on an advisory committee is political suicide. He should pull out the race now, make a statement that he is leaving this radical black church and try to salvage whatever political career he has left. If he is the dems nominee they are handing the white house to the Republicans. It has been said time and time again that this guy should have been vetted. He is now, which is only the tip of the iceberg. The media has given him a pass.

[N]ow that he has made that statement, I await the video of Wright spewing a bunch of crap while Obama's family is shown applauding in the pews. I wouldn't be surprised if it's coming.

Of course, the fact that Brody himself has posted on the Obama/Wright issue a total of ELEVEN times so far (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11) - versus the two times he posted about John McCain and John Hagee and the zero times he posted about McCain and Rod Parsley - might have something to do with that.

Anti-gay right-wing activist Harry Jackson also weighed in, saying that it is entirely reasonable that Obama be held responsible for the words of his pastor:  

“Should Mr. Obama be judged because of the acts of his pastor.” My answer is yes! Pastor Wright’s worldview and his understanding of race, culture, and religion of the bible will in some measure affect how Barak Obama views the world. Only time will tell whether Obama’s life and message have been helped or handicapped by the ministry of Jeremiah Wright. If Obama says nothing elese, many people will simply label him as a hypocrite who says one thing in public but acts differently behind closed doors. During the next few months it will be important for Obama to set the record straight concerning his faith.

Does that mean that the congregants at Jackson’s own Hope Christian Church ought to be made to answer for Jackson’s anti-gay rhetoric?   Presumably. 

For his part, Obama has publicly distanced himself from Wright’s comments, calling them “inflammatory and appalling” … and now that has gotten him in trouble with the Right as well:

The National Clergy Council finds Dr. Wright's recent comments extraordinarily indiscrete, inapt, inaccurate and ill-considered, yet we find Mr. Obama's disloyalty even worse. We adjure Mr. Obama to remain faithful to the man who in so many ways shaped him for the campaign he now undertakes.

Mr. Obama's tossing of Dr. Wright under the bus for political advantage is a painful spectacle and is a classic politics-as-usual move.

The National Clergy Council adjures Mr. Obama to stay faithful to his father-in-the-faith and take whatever criticism comes.

Considering that the head of the National Clergy Council, Rob Schenck, has been on a one-man crusade to convince the world that Obama’s Christian faith is “woefully deficient” and that he might really be a Muslim, it is probably safe to assume that his “stand by your man” advice is not being dispensed with the purest of intentions.

"Even Fair Tax Co-Founder Didn't Support Huck"

So reports Matt Lewis: "Robert McNair, co-founder and Finance Chairman of the Fair Tax was actually a major donor to Romney, Thompson, and Giuliani -- but I can't find where he donated a dime to Huckabee."

Romney Picks Up Where He Left Off

In the early going, before the entrance of Fred Thompson and the rise of Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney set out to be the preferred candidate of the Religious Right.  And he was well positioned to do so, since Rudy Giuliani and John McCain were (and are) widely reviled by the Religious Right establishment and their supporters.  

Back then, Romney was hard at work meeting with Jerry Falwell and others, hobnobbing with right-wing leaders at their events, and buying victories in conservative straw polls.  But then Fred Thompson appeared on the scene and began siphoning off potential right-wing supporters while Mike Huckabee staked his claim as the most religious candidate in the field on his way to winning the support of a wide-range of Religious Right leaders.  

Through it all, Romney plodded along, picking up a handful of right-wing backer here and there, but the pickings were slim.  But now, with Thompson out of the race, it looks like things might be turning around for his campaign:

Joining Romney for President after having served as National Co-Chair of Lawyers for Fred Thompson, Victoria Toensing said, "Appointing strong judges is one of our President's most important responsibilities. The next President will make a number of appointments, and I am confident Governor Romney will nominate judges in the mold of President Bush's nominees, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito. I am proud to work with Governor Romney and this outstanding group of legal minds."

Also joining the Advisory committee from Lawyers for Fred Thompson are Lizette D. Benedi, Rachel L. Brand, Reginald Brown, Charles J. Cooper, Joseph E. diGenova, Michael R. Dimino, Viet D. Dinh, Noel J. Francisco and Eileen J. O'Connor.

And with Huckabee’s campaign slowly collapsing due to lack of funds, Romney is able to starting picking up the support of right-wing leaders once again

Dennis Baxley, David Caton, Carole Griffin and Anthony Verdugo, representing over fifty years of combined pro-family leadership in Florida, support Mitt Romney in the Florida Presidential Preference Primary.

Mitt Romney is clearly the most conservative candidate among the top three competitive candidates (Giuliani, McCain, Romney) appearing on the Florida Presidential Preference ballot in Florida.

Dennis Baxley is the incoming Executive Director for Christian Coalition of Florida and former Florida State Representative for District 24.

David Caton is the Executive Director of Florida Family Association.

Carole Griffin is a pro-family lobbyist in Tallahassee and heads the Eagle Forum in Florida.

Anthony Verdugo is the president of Christian Family Coalition.

So, with the field thinning, things are starting to look up for Romney, at least as far as being the Republican candidate most willing and able to pander to the Right is concerned.

DeLay No Fan of McCain

Tom DeLay says "There’s nothing redeeming about John McCain." Wonder if this has anything to do with the animosity? Rick Santorum doesn't like him either.

Dangling Participle Confuses Romney's Steps to Counter Huckabee's Evangelical Appeal

"As a Christian minister, understanding fully as an evangelical Christian, this man has those values and belief systems that will absolutely give this nation the direction that it needs," said Traditional Values Coalition founder Lou Sheldon---but "this man" is Romney, not minister Huckabee. More effective: Jay Sekulow, ACU's David Keene, and Mark DeMoss conference-calling 20,000 households.

Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment on Ballot in Florida

It’s been a banner year for Florida’s Religious Right. In 2006, activists failed to get enough signatures to put their anti-gay marriage amendment on the ballot (despite help from the Republican Party), and its favored candidate for governor lost the GOP primary, leading one conservative commentator to declare that “the once-mighty ‘organized’ Christian-conservative voting bloc is no longer intact.”

The last few months have been a different story. In September, dozens of national religious-right activists converged on Fort Lauderdale for the Values Voter Presidential Debate, including Don Wildmon, Phyllis Schlafly, and Rick Scarborough. Even more headliners came to the state just days later for the Family Impact Summit, including Tony Perkins and Richard Land. All the attention must have paid off: Florida 4 Marriage succeeded in gathering enough signatures to put an anti-gay marriage amendment on the 2008 ballot.

Meanwhile, a CBN report warns of the threat of the “gay agenda” in Washington State, which recently passed a domestic partnership law, and in California, where anti-gay activists are in a frenzy over a recently-passed law that bars schools from promoting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. While this protection is already in effect when in comes to discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity, according to “700 Club” host Pat Robertson, when it comes to gays it’s a matter of “trying to recruit more of the straight population.”

Smells Like Christmas Spirit

It’s mid-November, and we are well into this year’s “War on Christmas,” the seasonal campaign in which a melodramatically aggrieved Right—occupying a fantasy world where we’re not all surrounded by Christmas music and commerce—claims that Christianity is under attack, pointing to retailers that say “Happy Holidays” and the decoration regimes of a handful of small-time local administrators.

Yesterday morning, for example, the American Family Association sent an alert to its members warning that Lowe’s was selling Christmas trees without using the word “Christmas” enough in its catalog. “Lowe's evidently did not want to offend any non-Christians, therefore they replaced ‘Christmas tree’ with ‘Family tree.’ Of course, if Christians are offended that is evidently ok,” sniffed AFA. (AFA retracted the alert later in the day after assurances from Lowe’s that “Christmas trees” would appear in its advertising.)

Long before 2005, when Fox News host John Gibson penned a book on how it was all a “liberal plot,” right-wing commentators have reached for a conspiracy theory that would place such petty gripes in a context they would be able to use to attack their political opponents, and this year is no different.

Radio Host: Romney Presidency 'Could Spell the End of America'

Gregg Jackson: "The idea that Romney's Mormon beliefs would not have a profound effect on America is irrational and unbiblical."

How Not to Win Friends and Influence People

Ted Olson, who is serving as Chairman of Rudy Giuliani’s Justice Advisory Committee, sat down with Hugh Hewitt last week to discuss a range of issues, including the right-wing opposition to Giuliani’s campaign.  Olson was not particularly sympathetic or conciliatory:

HH: Jim Dobson penned a New York Times editorial. I’m sure you’re familiar with it, that if it’s Rudy Giuliani, he’s just sitting it out. What’s your response to that, and to the idea that you can’t trust Rudy with Supreme Court nominees?

TO: Well, A) you can trust Rudy with Supreme Court nominees. He’s the person in America that I trust the most in connection with this. If someone wants to sit out the election because they’re not satisfied with some aspect of Rudy’s background or Rudy’s policy, then he might as well just vote for Hillary Clinton, because that’s what’s going to happen. I think it’s exceedingly important for Republicans and conservatives and moderates alike to take a deep breath, if there’s a high likelihood, as I think there may be, of an even greater Democratic control of both houses of Congress. A Democratic president is going to appoint Supreme Court justices, appellate court judges, and other federal judges, and increase taxes, and increase the federal spending, and doing lots of things that only a Republican president can prevent. And Rudy Giuliani, in my judgment, is the most qualified and the most electable Republican. And anybody on the conservative side that thinks they’re going to sit that out, they might as well contribute to the Democratic victory, and then take responsibility for what happens, because it will be their fault. 

If Giuliani has any desire to actually win over any of the right-wing leaders or voters currently unwilling to support his campaign, having surrogates out there telling them that they may as well “just vote for Hillary Clinton” if they aren’t going to back Giuliani probably isn’t going to help.    

The Right Can’t Even Agree on How to Abandon the GOP

Amid the reports and speculation about the potential for the Religious Right to abandon the Republican Party should Rudy Giuliani be its presidential nominee in 2008, it looks as if even those who participated in the ultra-secretive deliberations don’t even agree about what the purpose of such a move might be.  

While Gary Bauer was primarily concerned about what sort of dangerous and counter-productive implications such talk might have for the Republican Party and the right-wing movement, Tony Perkins was stating that while they have no desire to abandon the GOP, they would do so if necessary:

[T]he intent here is not to create a third party. What -- what we`re saying is -- like myself, you know, I came to the political process. I ran for office, held office, because of the issue of life. And -- and the vast majority of social conservatives came to the Republican Party because of the life issue and the other social issues. If the party leaves those issues, I think it`s unreasonable for them to demand that they stay in the party. And I don`t think they will.

And then you have Richard Viguerie, who was also at the meeting, telling Matt Lewis of something else entirely:

Viguerie believes the conservative movement has been lied to by the establishment Republicans for 45 years, and that it may be time to launch a true conservative party.  He resents the idea espoused by some Republicans that conservatives "have no other place to go." 

He tells me that the 3rd party rumor isn't an ad hoc one-time effort to stop Rudy Giuliani, as was reported (I wonder how the rumors that this was about Rudy got started???).  Instead, it is a long-term paradigm shift in which conservatives will forever leave the GOP, it's natural home since Ronald Reagan:

"If we do this, we're going to do a very well thought-out, well-planned effort ... this is not something that will be effective just for the '08 presidential election."

Unlike other years when conservatives have fielded candidates merely to make a point, Viguerie tells me this new idea "goes far beyond the '08 elections".

While Bauer’s main goal is to maintain the Right’s standing and influence within the Republican Party and Perkins says there is no desire to create a third party alternative to the GOP, Viguerie appears intent on destroying once and for all the bond between the Right and the political party he feels has done nothing but lie to them. 

If these right-wing activists and leaders had hoped that by threatening to abandon the GOP they would in some way help unify the movement heading into 2008, it looks as, so far, they’ve only managed to accomplish the exact opposite.  

Michael Medved Is Making Sense

Medved asks a good question about Alan Keyes' third vanity run for President in light of his statement that he'd consider Mike Huckabee or Sam Brownback as possible vice-presidential candidates: "How can Dr. Keyes on the one hand praise his two rivals for their moral clarity and decency then on the other hand condemn the entire Republican field as so lacking in morality and decency that he needed to join the fray yet again? "

Religious Right Rally against Marriage Equality in Florida

Just days after the Religious Right’s B-team gathered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida to question Republican candidates for president (including the ones who didn’t show up), a number of more prominent right-wing figures are convening in Tampa for the Family Impact Summit, sponsored by the Focus on the Family-affiliated Florida Family Policy Council, the Tampa-based Community Issues Council, the Family Research Council, and the Salem radio network.

Advertised topics range from “Christian Citizenship” to “Homosexual Agenda,” but the focus will no doubt be on the 2008 election, and in particular, the effort by Florida’s Right to put a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage on the ballot—even though gays are already prohibited from marrying by statute.

Below is some background on the featured speakers, from Tony Perkins and Richard Land to Katherine Harris and Ken Blackwell.

Tony Perkins

Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council, considered the leading religious-right think tank in Washington, DC. Before coming to FRC, Perkins was a state legislator in Louisiana, and as a campaign manager for a Republican candidate, he reportedly bought David Duke’s e-mail list.

Under Perkins’s leadership, FRC, along with Focus on the Family, put together several “simulcasts” of political rallies held in churches, including three “Justice Sunday” events in 2005-2006—“Stopping the Filibuster Against People of Faith,” ”God Save the United States and this Honorable Court,” and “Proclaim Liberty Throughout the Land”—featuring religious-right luminaries such as James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, and Phyllis Schlafly, along with politicians like Rick Santorum and then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, arguing that opposition to Bush’s extreme judicial nominees constituted an assault on their faith or Christianity itself. A fourth event just before the 2006 elections, “Liberty Sunday,” promoted the idea that gays and their “agenda” were out to destroy religious freedom.

That fall, FRC also organized a “Values Voter Summit,” in which Dobson and other activists exhorted their constituency to turn out for the GOP; the conference showcased a number of future presidential candidates, including Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and Sam Brownback. A second Values Voter Summit is planned for next month.

Also appearing from FRC at the Family Impact Summit are David Prentice and Peter Sprigg.

Richard Land

Since 1998, Richard Land has served as president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, which is “dedicated to addressing social and moral concerns and their implications on public policy issues from City Hall to Congress.”   

Land has been an active and influential right-wing leader for many years and in 2005, was named one of “The Twenty-five Most Influential Evangelicals in America” by Time Magazine, joining the likes of James Dobson, Chuck Colson, David Barton, Rick Santorum, and Ted Haggard.

Land also hosts three separate nationally syndicated radio programs and has written several books including, most recently “The Divided States of America? What Liberals and Conservatives are Missing in the God-and-Country Shouting Match!,” which Land claims seeks a middle ground between the right and the left on the role of religion in the public square.  In reality, the middle ground Land stakes out consists mainly of standard right-wing positions on political and social issues that are made to appear moderate in comparison to ultra-radical positions put forth by far-right fringe elements.  

In recent months, Land has been positioning himself to play a much more high-profile role in the presidential campaign than he has in the past, repeatedly asserting that he and other Evangelicals will not support Rudy Giuliani or Newt Gingrich, should he run,  while regularly bolstering the campaign of Fred Thompson, who Land calls a “Southern-fried Reagan.”

Harry Jackson

Jackson, pastor of a Maryland megachurch, has become a frequent spokesman for right-wing causes in recent years. In 2004, he played a prominent role in urging blacks to vote for George Bush, and in 2005, he started the High Impact Leadership Coalition and unveiled his “Black Contract with America on Moral Values”—an agenda topped with fighting gay marriage—at an event co-sponsored by the far-right Traditional Values Coalition. Jackson spoke at “Justice Sunday,” a religious-right rally in favor of Bush’s judicial nominees, as well as “Justice Sunday II, where he promised to “bring the rule and reign of the Cross to America.” He is a member of the Arlington Group.

Since then, Jackson has continued to urge blacks to vote for right-wing causes and candidates. “[Martin Luther] King would most likely be a social conservative,” he wrote in one typical column. His most recent efforts have focused on opposing hate crimes protections for gays, falsely claiming that a proposed bill would “muzzle our pulpits.”

In an article in Charisma magazine, Jackson wrote that the “wisdom behind” the “gay agenda” is “clearly satanic,” and he called for an aggressive “counterattack.” He asserted to The New York Times that “Historically when societies have gone off kilter, there has been rampant same-sex marriage.”

Don Wildmon

Wildmon is the Founder and Chairman of the American Family Association, which exists primarily to decry whatever it deems “immoral” in American culture and lead boycotts against companies that in any way support causes, organizations, or programs it deems offensive, particularly anything that does not portray gays and lesbians in a negative light. 

Over the years, AFA has targeted everything from the National Endowment for the Arts, Howard Stern, and the television show “Ellen” to major corporations such as Ford , Burger King, and Clorox.  AFA has also been particularly focused on Disney, declaring that the company’s “attack on America’s families has become so blatant, so intentional, so obvious” as to warrant a multi-year boycott.

Recently, AFA has been busy warning that proposed hate-crimes legislation is designed to lay the “groundwork for persecution of Christians,” attacked presidential candidate Mitt Romney over his time on the board of Marriott Corporation because the company offers adult movies in its hotels, and warned that the US Senate was “angering a just God” and bringing “judgment upon our country” by allowing a Hindu chaplain to deliver an opening prayer. 

Gary Bauer

Gary Bauer is a long-time right-wing activist and leader.  After serving President Ronald Reagan's administration for eight years in various capacities, Bauer went on to become President of the Family Research Council, which was founded, in part, by James Dobson of Focus on the Family, where Bauer also served as Senior Vice President. 

Bauer stepped down from FRC in 1999 when he launched an unsuccessful campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.  After dropping out of the race, Bauer made a surprising endorsement of Sen. John McCain at a time when many of the other right-wing leaders had lined up behind George W. Bush.  

Bauer’s standing took a beating when he defended McCain’s attack on Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson as “agents of intolerance” and he was ostracized by many for quite a while after McCain lost.  But Bauer pressed ahead, creating his own non-profit, American Values, and gradually reestablished himself in right-wing circles.  

Since then, Bauer has been active in various right-wing campaigns, most notably joining with likes of Tony Perkins and James Dobson in defending and pressing for the confirmation of John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.  

William Owens

Owens, a graduate of Oral Roberts University and a Memphis pastor, founded the Coalition of African American Pastors to combat equal marriage rights for gay couples. Owens reportedly told the “Rally for Traditional Marriage” held in Mississippi in 2004 that “homosexual activists of today have hijacked the civil rights cause,” adding: “We're going to fight until we win,” he said. “We're going to have crusades and rallies like this until we win. We're going to let our political leaders know ‘if you don't stand for God, we won't stand for you.’” Owens lent the CAAP name to the Religious Right’s judges campaign, signing on to the “National Coalition to End Judicial Filibusters” and holding a press conference in support of Samuel Alito’s Supreme Court nomination.

In 2004, Owens formed an alliance with the Arlington Group, a coalition of powerful religious-right leaders that was widely credited with being the driving force behind the effort to put anti-gay marriage amendments on the ballot in 11 states in that year’s election. Owens is now on the group’s executive committee, alongside James Dobson, Gary Bauer, Bill Bennett, Tony Perkins, Paul Weyrich, Rod Parsley and others.

Alan Chambers

"Ex-gay" Alan Chambers is president of Exodus International and executive director of Exodus North America, which claim gay men and lesbians can be “cured" and "change" their sexual orientation to heterosexual. Exodus' board includes long-time anti-gay activist Phil Burress of Ohio's Citizens for Community Values, his wife Vickie Burress – founder of the American Family Association of Indiana – and Mike Haley, who replaced discredited "ex-gay" John Paulk at Focus on the Family as chief spokesperson on homosexuality and gender issues. Exodus also co-sponsors a series of "ex-gay" conferences across the country with Focus on the Family. One recent Love Won Out event was particularly mired in controversy when it was revealed that one of its presenting organizations had published a racist column that appeared to justify slavery. During a 2006 CPAC conference panel, Chambers insisted "lifelong homosexual relationships are not possible" and the battle for marriage equality was solely being promoted by the liberal media.

Other representatives of the “ex-gay” activist community scheduled for the conference include Scott Davis and Mike Ensley of Exodus and Nancy Heche, whose book “The Truth Comes Out” describes “how to respond lovingly, yet appropriately, to homosexual family members and friends,” such as her husband, who held secret “homosexual affairs,” and her daughter, whose open relationship with Ellen DeGeneres Heche called “Like a betrayal of an unspoken vow: We will never have anything to do with homosexuals.”

Robert Knight

Robert Knight is something of a journeyman within the right-wing movement.  After starting out as a journalist and editor for various newspapers, Knight has held a series of jobs with various right-wing organizations including Senior Director of Cultural Studies at the Family Research Council, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, and director of the Culture & Family Institute at Concerned Women for America.

Currently, he is the head of the Media Research Center’s Culture and Media Institute at the Media Research Center and a columnist for

His hostility toward gays is well-known, as evidenced by his response to the news that Mary Cheney, the lesbian daughter of the Vice President, was expecting a child with her partner: 

"I think it's tragic that a child has been conceived with the express purpose of denying it a father," Knight said.

"Fatherhood is important and always will be, so if Mary and her partner indicate that that is a trivial matter, they're shortchanging this child from the start."

"Mary and Heather can believe what they want," Knight said, "but what they're seeking is to force others to bless their nonmarital relationship as marriage" and to "create a culture that is based on sexual anarchy instead of marriage and family values."

John Stemberger

Stemberger, a personal injury attorney and former political director for the Florida GOP, is the president and general counsel of the Florida Family Policy Counsel/Florida Family Action, a state affiliate of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family.

Stemberger is leading the petition drive to put on next year’s ballot a constitutional amendment to ban equal marriage rights for same-sex couples, which is already banned by statute. While a 2006 effort fell short, as of September 5, claimed to have gathered 594,000 of the 611,000 signatures they need to submit by February 1, making it likely that the amendment will be on the ballot in 2008.

Ken Blackwell

Blackwell is most famous as the controversial Ohio secretary of state during the 2004 election, overseeing voting laws while moonlighting as state co-chair for Bush/Cheney. But he has a long history of far-right activism on economic and civil rights issues, and in 2004 Blackwell forged an alliance with the Religious Right as he campaigned for an anti-gay ballot measure. By 2006, when Blackwell ran for governor, this alliance had grown into a church-based political machine, with megachurch pastors Rod Parsley and Russell Johnson taking Blackwell to rallies of “Patriot Pastors,” who signed on to a vision of a Christianity under attack by dark forces, in need of “restoration” through electoral politics. “This is a battle between the forces of righteousness and the hordes of hell,” declared Johnson.

Blackwell’s gubernatorial bid failed, but he continues his career as a right-wing activist with affiliations with the Family Research Council and the Club for Growth, as well as a column on

Katherine Harris

Harris is well known for her controversial role in Florida’s 2000 presidential election debacle, when she served as both secretary of state, overseeing a “purge” of voter rolls as well as the recount itself, and as a state co-chair for Bush/Cheney. She was elected to the U.S. House in 2002 and 2004, and spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference in both 2002 and 2003.

In 2006 Harris made a quixotic Senate run, during which she heavily courted the Religious Right. In an interview with the Florida Baptist Witness, she implied that her opponent, Sen. Bill Nelson, was not a Christian, saying, “[I]f you’re not electing Christians then in essence you are going to legislate sin. They can legislate sin. They can say that abortion is alright. They can vote to sustain gay marriage. And that will take western civilization, indeed other nations because people look to our country as one nation as under God and whenever we legislate sin and we say abortion is permissible and we say gay unions are permissible, then average citizens who are not Christians, because they don’t know better, we are leading them astray and it’s wrong.” She also advised people to disbelieve “that lie we have been told, the separation of church and state.”

Tom Minnery

Minnery is vice president for public policy at Focus on the Family and a frequent spokesman for the group. He is the author of “Why You Can’t Stay Silent: A Biblical Mandate to Shape Our Culture,” arguing that society should be “changed from the top down morally.” Focus on the Family, with a combined budget of over $160 million, promotes far-right positions on social issues to millions of Americans through radio, print, and the web, and Focus founder James Dobson is probably the single most influential figure on the Religious Right.

“There are more than enough Christians to defeat the Left," Minnery said at a rally in South Dakota. "There are a lot of pastors who didn't want to be seen as an 'activist,' but this issue of marriage has left them with little choice but to get involved."

Right Wing Marks Katrina Anniversary

New Orleans after KatrinaTwo years ago this week, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and other stretches of the Gulf Coast. At the time, the response by many on the Right was to blame the victims and/or social-service programs, and to take advantage of the “golden opportunity” to advance a far-right economic agenda. Remember Pat Buchanan, who criticized the “failure” of the “character and conduct” of the population of New Orleans, who “waited for the government to come save them” and “screamed into the cameras for help”? Then-Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) called for “tougher penalties” for those who were stranded when the storm hit and the city was flooded. Bill O’Reilly saw video footage of the tragedy as an ideal object lesson for young people: “If you refuse to learn, if you refuse to work hard, if you become addicted, if you live a gangsta-life, you will be poor and powerless just like many of those in New Orleans.” (Watch the video.)

"The Terrorists Would Prefer to Have Hillary Clinton Elected President"

So says Douglas MacKinnon, writing in Townhall: "The paramount truth most liberals, and most in the media, will not allow to be spoken, is that if you are in favor of comprehensive immigration reform, if you are in favor of ending or scaling back the 'Patriot Act,' if you are in favor of stopping or even criminalizing warrantless wiretaps, if you are in favor of preventing our spy satellites from being used to protect our homeland, if you are in favor of never using facilities such as Guantanamo Bay to house murderous terrorists, if you are in favor of never letting our allies interrogate terrorists, then you are opening up the United States to a horrific terrorist attack. Period."

Supreme Court's Rightward Lurch Will Motivate Right in 2008

The Supreme Court’s past term made clear its lurch to the right following the appointment of John Roberts and Samuel Alito, as outlined in a recent People For the American Way Foundation report. Awareness of this fact has spread from legal analysts to the general public: A new Washington Post/ABC poll shows less than half of Americans think the Court is balanced, and 31 percent think it’s too conservative – up from 19 percent two years ago. This was the context for Sen. Chuck Schumer’s speech at the American Constitution Society last week. “There is no doubt we were hoodwinked,” he said of the confirmation hearings.

Nevertheless, right-wing activists maintain that, despite their victory in confirming Roberts and Alito and the obvious rightward tilt of the last term, the Supreme Court remains a “bastion” of liberalism. "After decades of liberal judicial activism on so many issues, the court's position remains decidedly on the left,” said Ed Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 06/16/2010, 5:32pm
The Illinois Family Institute "needs to raise $80,000 to survive the summer." Rep. Michele Bachmann received the 2010 Conservative Leadership Award from the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute. An interesting look at the ties between Jay Sekulow, Deacon Keith Fournier, Rob and Paul Schenck, and the American Center for Law and Justice. Maggie Gallagher is not happy with the way the Prop 8 trial appears to be going. Janne Myrdal, State Director for CWA of North Dakota, is honored to be "one of those prayer warriors who provide [Sarah Palin's] prayer shield... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 05/24/2010, 10:36am
Ken Blackwell has come running to Rand Paul's defense, desperately trying to explain away Paul's post-primary claims that he didn't support the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the idea of the government combating discrimination in private enterprises in general. Or at least that seems to be Blackwell's goal, though it is hard to say as his "defense" is utterly incoherent: [Rand Paul] a grilling from one end of the chattering class to the other about his supposed opposition to the great Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is a fact that he stumbled in some of his answers to questions... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Thursday 05/20/2010, 5:40pm
According to the new Coral Ridge Ministries "documentary" on socialism, the whole country is going to end up like Detroit if President Obama has his way. National Association of Evangelicals has announced its willingness to partner with groups that offer contraceptive services and other programs aimed at reducing the number of abortions. The ACLJ is demanding that the Department of Justice allow volunteers to erect a replacement cross Mojave Desert World War I memorial. Mike Huckabee is taking his Fox News show to Las Vegas. Liberty Counsel says Dont'... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Thursday 05/13/2010, 5:30pm
The National Association of Evangelical's immigration reform ad, signed by Mat Staver and Richard Land, can be seen here. Elsewhere, Land lays out his position on immigration reform. But already this effort is coming under attack from other right-wing groups. Including the AFA's Bryan Fischer, who calls it a "gentleman's disagreement," which is hilarious. Bill Donohue sure does have an ability to turn his personal crusades into full-blown scandals. Randall Terry prepares to protest Elena Kagan. And finally as graduation season being, Liberty... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 05/12/2010, 5:24pm
We are not supposed to have religious tests for public office in the United States, but apparently reverse religious test are okay.  How else do you explain Harry Jackson declaring that Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court must be defeated specifically because she is not a Protestant, claiming that a Court made up only of Catholics and Jews is fundamentally unable to "create an atmosphere for true justice":  The nomination of Elena Kagan for Supreme Court should outrage evangelical Protestants. The reason is not simply her legal perspective, her lack of judicial... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Friday 04/23/2010, 12:24pm
I'm going to be off until next Wednesday, starting this afternoon, so here is an early wrap-up of today's right-wing miscellany: Jesse Lee Peterson declares Michael Steele to be a RINO for saying that Blacks do not have a reason to vote for the GOP. Now Tom Tancredo going after the SPLC. As is the Traditional Values Coalition's Andrea Lafferty, who also claims that PFAW is a "leftist hate group". The Institute on Religion and Democracy is calling on churches to "confront Islamic law" here in America. Finally, Tim Tebow was drafted by the... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 04/19/2010, 1:38pm
Back in the summer of 2008, we produced a series of posts about an effort called "Stop the War on the Poor" that was led by Harry Jackson and Niger Innis, claiming to be a campaign to claim that "extreme environmentalists" who oppose increased domestic oil drilling are enemies of the poor. In essence, the group's message was that high energy prices disproportionately impact the poor and that domestic oil drilling was solution to keeping energy prices low. Not surprisingly, the effort was heavily supported by pro-drilling and other energy business interests.  Now... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 04/12/2010, 5:30pm
Rep. Michele Bachmann and Rep. Steve King are BFFs.  Why is that not surprising? Why is Sen. Scott Brown's daughter now a contributor to "The Early Show"? Rick Santorum says the only reason he endorsed Arlen Specter last time around was because Specter promised to support President Bush's SCOTUS nominees. Focus on the Family has kicked-off a 12-city tour aimed at educating couples on how to strengthen their marriage, parenting skills, and family life. Harry Jackson defends Michael Steel, saying Steel deserves more time to get things organized.... MORE >