John McCain

God Wants You To Vote McCain

David Klinghoffer is a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute and the author of the new book, “How Would God Vote?: Why the Bible Commands You to Be a Conservative.” He recently explained to the National Review’s Kathryn Jean Lopez that the purpose of the book is not to boost any candidate’s electoral chances, but simply to inform readers that, well, “the Bible commands you to be a Conservative” … and, as such, a vote for Obama is essentially a vote against God:

Lopez: Are you actually arguing that the Bible argues for the election of John McCain over Barack Obama? That voting for Obama is to vote against God?

Klinghoffer: It would probably violate federal tax laws if I told you the Bible endorses a particular candidate. I work at a think tank, after all, a 501(c)(3) organization. But even if I didn’t, I wrote this book not to inflate anyone’s election chances but to give readers and voters the tools to read the Bible as a guide to thinking about a range of issues. If on that basis, you concluded that a Biblical worldview was at odds with Obama on most issues, or on certain key litmus test issues, yet you went ahead and voted for him anyway, that would be a vote against giving God a voice in our public affairs. It would be a vote to silence God’s influence in that area, as far as it’s in your power to do so. In a real sense it would be a vote against God.

Right Set to Converge on GOP Convention

Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported that right-wing activists were preparing for a fight at the Republican Convention in Minnesota in September:

Conservative activists are preparing to do battle with allies of Sen. John McCain in advance of September's Republican National Convention, hoping to prevent his views on global warming, immigration, stem cell research and campaign finance from becoming enshrined in the party's official declaration of principles.

Well, the St. Paul Pioneer-Press has done some digging and calling around and reports that, indeed, many of the Religious Right’s leaders are planning on attending: 

Former Sen. Bob Dole will attend. But Sen. Elizabeth Dole will not.
 
Newt Gingrich will be in St. Paul for the Republican National Convention. Evangelist Pat Robertson will not.

And first lady Laura Bush will join President Bush here on Sept. 1, the White House says. But former first lady Nancy Reagan will not show up.

With the convention about a month away, the RSVPs and the regrets are piling up. So far, organizers have been reluctant to reveal which dignitaries plan to attend Sen. John McCain's nominating party Sept. 1-4.

Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schafly will attend, as will Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. Also bound for St. Paul are Gary Bauer of American Values and Ralph Reed, formerly of the Christian Coalition. But anti-abortion activist Randall Terry said he's still deciding.

"Denver is a for-sure, and St. Paul we're still discussing," Terry said of the two conventions.

If Terry comes to St. Paul, he promises some unspecified civil disobedience, he said, "but it would be done in a way that honored the party's commitment to the pro-life cause."

It should be interesting, considering that the Right has traditionally used the GOP convention as an opportunity to showcase its radical agenda.  In fact, the last time GOP was fielding a nominee who was unpopular with the right-wing base was in 1996 with Bob Dole, and when the Right descended on that convention, they tried to throw their weight around and ended up embarrassing the party on national television:

On the eve of the convention, leaders of the Christian Coalition were boasting openly of their influence in the party. Ralph Reed, the group's baby-faced leader, described in detail how his troops had been prepared to ensure that their views triumphed on their key issue of outlawing all abortions, by mobilizing pro-life delegates through a sophisticated network of floor co-coordinators.

As it turned out, a floor fight was averted and the Christian forces were left on the sidelines. One morning last week, 2,000 of them gathered at an outdoor amphitheatre surrounded by palm trees and placards portraying bloody aborted fetuses. Several kilometers from the convention site, they indulged themselves in the kind of rhetoric that Republican leaders were desperate to keep off the prime-time airwaves. Former vice-president Dan Quayle, one of their heroes, assured them that they should not fear being labeled extremist. "Know what?" he asked. "You aren't extreme; you are mainstream America."

Roger O'Dell, a convention delegate and Christian Coalition member from El Paso, Tex., tipped back the white cowboy hat with a "Life of the party" slogan on the band that shielded him from the hammering sun. "I don't think we've been pushed aside," he reflected. "Most of the people at the convention are with us. We own the convention. But here's the deal: it took 30 or 35 years to move away from American values, and it'll take a while longer to win the country back. So we can be patient."

Another Christian activist, retired electrical engineer Meredith Raney of Florida, proudly sported a T-shirt bearing the uncompromising slogan "Intolerance is a beautiful thing." On the back was the explanation: God is intolerant of evil; Lincoln was intolerant of slavery; and Churchill was intolerant of Hitler. "Thing is," said Raney, "Christians are criticized for being intolerant in this party. But there's a whole lot of intolerance in our history that we're proud of. With abortion, we're where we were at with slavery just before the Civil War. Some people thought it was bad, some people said it was OK. I hope we don't need another civil war to resolve it, but we will win this fight for the unborn." As for the Republicans' efforts to keep the Christian right under wraps, Raney said: "I think it could cost them the election. There's a lot of Christians that won't vote for Dole - and there's an awful lot of us."

The Huckabee Fan Club Says “It’s Us or Them”

Just last week we were noting that the recent surge of support among Religious Right leaders for John McCain seemed to hinge largely on his willingness to follow their advice and name Mike Huckabee as his running mate.  But as decision-time nears and the campaign begins airing lists of candidates which don’t include Huckabee, these right-wing leaders sprung into action to, once again, make their opposition known to Mitt Romney, the presumed front-runner:   

Prominent evangelical leaders are warning Sen. John McCain against picking former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as his running mate, saying their troops will abandon the Republican ticket on Election Day if that happens.

They say Mr. Romney lacks trust on issues such as outlawing abortion and opposing same-sex marriage and because he is a Mormon. Opposition is particularly powerful among those who supported former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in the Republican presidential primaries earlier this year.

"McCain and Romney would be like oil and water," said evangelical novelist Tim LaHaye, who supported Mr. Huckabee. "We aren't against Mormonism, but Romney is not a thoroughgoing evangelical and his flip-flopping on issues is understandable in a liberal state like Massachusetts, but our people won't understand that."

David Barton, a former vice president of the Republican Party of Texas, said, "The key for Mr. McCain is to pick someone who opposes abortion but doesn't alienate any part of the general Republican voting coalition" as Mr. Romney does.

Longtime social-conservative leaders such as Phyllis Schlafly, Phil Burress, Donald P. Hodel and Mathew Staver said earlier this month that they can rally their voters around Mr. McCain largely on the issues of abortion and the judiciary, as long as they are confident that the vice-presidential candidate is pro-life. They are skeptical about Mr. Romney's views.

Mr. Barton, founder of the national pro-life group WallBuilders, said the downside for picking either Mr. Romney or Mr. Huckabee is that evangelicals still would vote for Mr. McCain on Nov. 4 - given the alternative of Mr. Obama - but not work as hard organizing and getting out the vote.

"Romney would bring to the ticket as much enthusiasm from supporters as Huckabee would bring, but Romney's would be from fiscal conservatives and Huckabee's would be evangelicals," he said.

Of course, Barton and just about every other person mentioned in this article just so happened to sign on to the Colorado letter that essentially warned McCain that he’d better pick Huckabee or else, so it is not as if they are disinterested observers. 

Barton’s suggestion that Romney would generate a lot of excitement among fiscal conservatives is a little suspect given that the best that organizations like Club for Growth could say about him was that they were “reasonably optimistic that [he] would generally advocate a pro-growth agenda."  It’s laughable to think that Romney would match among fiscal conservatives the rabid enthusiasm that Huckabee has had throughout the process from Religious Right leaders.    

Even so, what Barton and the other Religious Right leaders quoted in the article seem to be doing is daring McCain to pick a side:  us or them; bringing to a head a clash between social and fiscal conservatives that has been brewing ever since Republicans lost control of Congress back in 2006.

McCain on Gay Adoption: I’d Rather Not Talk About It

John McCain set off a bit of controversy a few weeks ago when he told the New York Times that he didn’t “believe in gay adoption,” which understandably set off protests among gay rights activists. The campaign quickly tied to backtrack, which then set off protests among the Religious Right.  

McCain probably hoped that the controversy had passed, but this weekend George Stephanopoulos asked McCain about the apparent flip-flop and tried to get him to clarify his position, which only made McCain more uncomfortable as he tried to explain that this is “not the reason why I’m running for president of the United States” while simultaneously assuring the Right that the reason he is running for president is because he wants “to help with family values” – so much so that he uses the phrases “family values” and “traditional family” repeatedly:  

STEPHANOPOULOS: What is your position on gay adoption? You told the “New York Times” you were against it, even in cases where the children couldn’t find another home. But then your staff backtracked a bit.

What is your position?

MCCAIN: My position is, it’s not the reason why I’m running for president of the United States. And I think that two parent families are best for America.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, what do you mean by that, it’s not the reason you’re running for president of the United States?

MCCAIN: Because I think — well, I think that it’s — it is important for us to emphasize family values. But I think it’s very important that we understand that we have other challenges, too.

I’m running for president of the United States, because I want to help with family values. And I think that family values are important, when we have two parent — families that are of parents that are the traditional family.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But there are several hundred thousand children in the country who don’t have a home. And if a gay couple wants to adopt them, what’s wrong with that?

MCCAIN: I am for the values that two parent families, the traditional family represents.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, you’re against gay adoption.

MCCAIN: I am for the values and principles that two parent families represent. And I also do point out that many of these decisions are made by the states, as we all know.

And I will do everything I can to encourage adoption, to encourage all of the things that keeps families together, including educational opportunities, including a better economy, job creation.

And I’m running for president, because I want to help families in America. And one of my positions is that I believe that family values and family traditions are preserved.

Via Andrew Sullivan

Rick Warren to Ask Candidates About Judges

Will John McCain and Barack Obama’s joint appearance next month at Saddleback Church be a friendly forum or a firing line? “Purpose Driven” megachurch pastor Rick Warren is a superstar among evangelicals, but he still drew heavy criticism from some Religious Right activists when he invited Obama (along with right-wing stalwart Sen. Sam Brownback) to a global AIDS conference at his church back in 2006.

“Why would Warren marry the moral equivalency of his pulpit - a sacred place of honor in evangelical tradition - to the inhumane, sick, and sinister evil that Obama has worked for as a legislator?” wrote Kevin McCullough, a radio talker now affiliated with the Family Research Council. “Obama's policies represent the antithesis of biblical ethics and morality,” complained Rob Schenck of the National Clergy Council. “Having Senator Barack Obama speak on issues of social justice is like having a segregationist speak on civil rights,” said Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition, who added that Warren “should realize the terrible signal he is sending by inviting a speaker who tramples on the historic teachings of Christianity and the Bible.”

But Saddleback Church defended that 2006 invitation, saying that the goal of the conference was “to put people together who normally won't even speak to each other” towards the goal of fighting AIDS. Although Warren retains positions against abortion and homosexuality, his emphasis on compassion and comity has been touted by some as a sign of a new evangelical politics.

As for the upcoming presidential forum, Warren seemed to suggest it will follow along the same lines. From the American Family Association’s OneNewsNow:

The author of The Purpose Driven Life says he does not believe the biblical gospel is compromised when he teams up with non-Christians in efforts to promote the "common good."

"Now, I don't happen to agree with Muslims and I don't happen to agree with Jewish people," states Warren, "and I don't even agree with all of the things Catholics believe. But I...can work with them on doing something like stopping AIDS because we all believe sex is for marriage only."

But what about issues where he doesn’t agree? Warren will be asking Obama and McCain questions about domestic policy, too, and the example he cited in OneNewsNow comes straight from right-wing talking points:

Warren says he plans to focus on issues that political reporters often ignore, including how the candidates view the Constitution. He suggests questions on that topic: "Is it a quote 'living document' that can be changed, that can be reinterpreted with each generation as things change? Or is it a truth written in granite that is a standard by which we evaluate everything else, and you don't change it unless we amend it?"

Alan Keyes's Martyrdom Aborted

It appears we spoke too soon when we declared Alan Keyes’s presidential hopes over in April. Keyes had failed to make any headway in the Republican primary, and when he quit the GOP to become the nominee of the Constitution Party—the Howard Phillips fringe group that won James Dobson’s protest vote in 1996—he discovered that the activists at the Constitution Party convention didn’t care for him too much, rejecting him 3-to-1 in favor of Chuck Baldwin.

Keyes is no stranger to political failure, having lost (by similar margins) three Senate races in two states, along with two previous presidential runs. This year he waxed philosophical: “I kind of represent, in political terms, the abortion. You're invited in, but they kill you. You're invited in, but they kill you.”

But somehow, Keyes has found a way to continue his quixotic race. An article in FrontPage magazine (which described Keyes as “the Energizer Loser”) detailed how disgruntled members of California’s Constitution Party delegation (known there as the American Independent Party) broke away from the national party after it rejected Keyes.

And now it seems that the California Secretary of State is recognizing the breakaway faction. So, barring any further legal action, Keyes is going to be a real presidential candidate in November. At least in California. Why, Keyes’s presence on the ballot may even siphon enough far-right votes from John McCain to tip the state’s electoral votes to Barack Obama.

While this must be an exciting moment for the Keyes camp, one has to wonder: If Keyes “represent[ed], in political terms, the abortion” before, what does he metaphorically represent now?

Land Joins Right’s Joyless Embrace of McCain

Richard Land and James Dobson have had a series of disagreements in recent months, especially over the issue of Fred Thompson’s presidential candidacy, of which Land was an active and vocal supporter.  While Land never criticized Dobson by name for his repeated attacks on Thompson, Land was always first out of the gate to defend Thompson against Dobson’s attacks, seemingly, at least in part, in an attempt to establish himself as something of a counterpart to Dobson in the right-wing political sphere. 

After Thompson’s candidacy crashed ignominiously, Land disappeared from the pundit scene for awhile, but his efforts to establish himself in the media appear to have paid off because “Fox and Friends” decided to bring him on today to explain, of all things, why James Dobson is suddenly warming up to John McCain. 

After bogusly insisting that he refuses to endorse candidates (which would probably come as a surprise to Thompson), Land got down to business explaining how Barack Obama is “probably the most radically pro-abortion candidate to ever be nominated by a major party” and that Dobson, like the rest of the Religious Right, has decided that they’ll “take a third-rate fireman over a first-class arsonist”: 

“I think [Dobson’s announcement] will have more impact with laypeople than it will with anybody else, because Dr. Dobson has a huge following. People trust him, they listen to him. He’s got a multi-million radio audience. He really comes into their homes and he's given them advice about their families. It will have a big impact if he chooses to endorse Sen. McCain.

“I think that Sen. Obama is probably the most radically pro-abortion candidate to ever be nominated by a major party. He voted against the Born Alive Protection Act in Illinois, which is an act that says that if a baby manages to survive its abortion, the doctor has to try to save it instead of allowing it to die of neglect or even killing it.... That's about as radically pro-abortion as you can get.

“I think Dr. Dobson is coming to the conclusion in sort of nicer terms what I hear all the time from people all across the country who are evangelicals [and that] is “Look, John McCain wasn't my first choice, John McCain wasn't my second choice, but I'll take a third-rate fireman over a first-class arsonist.” And they see Barack Obama as a first-class arsonist for the things they believe in.

“I think [McCain’s VP pick is] critically important and I think it's one reason why Dr. Dobson said that he might endorse John McCain and [that] he was perhaps leaning towards it. He wants to wait and see what that vice presidential pick is because if he picks a pro-life vice presidential running mate, that will be an enormous boost. If he picks a pro-choice running mate, it will deflate any momentum he's managed to build among evangelicals.

The Ever-Principled James Dobson

It was just five months ago that James Dobson declared unequivocally that he would not, under any circumstances, ever support John McCain for president, saying “I cannot, and I will not, vote for Sen. John McCain, as a matter of conscience.”   In fact, so opposed to McCain was Dobson that he went so far as to organize an effort to secure one million signatures in opposition to McCain’s nomination and then publicly reiterated his vehement opposition to his nomination just a few months later.  

But wouldn’t you know it, like every other craven political calculation and empty threat he has ever made, Dobson has changed his mind and concluded that Barack Obama is such a monumental threat to this nation that he almost has no other choice but to blatantly violate his own conscience for the greater good of the Republican Party:

Conservative Christian leader James Dobson has softened his stance against Republican presidential hopeful John McCain, saying he could reverse his position and endorse the Arizona senator despite serious misgivings.

"I never thought I would hear myself saying this," Dobson said in a radio broadcast to air Monday. "... While I am not endorsing Senator John McCain, the possibility is there that I might."

So why is Dobson suddenly changing his tune?  In short, he is absolutely terrified of Obama:

He is also supportive of the entire gay activist agenda.  We're not just talking about showing respect for people and equal rights for all citizens of the United States.  It’s not referring to it in those terms. He’s talking about homosexual marriage. I mean, he makes no bones about that. He's talking about hate crimes legislation which would limit religious liberty, I have no doubt about that, that ministers and others - people like us - are going to very quickly be prohibited from expressing your faith and your theology on certain views.  … Just so many aspects of his views on that issue that keep me awake at night frankly … that he is so extreme, that he does threaten traditional family life and pro-moral values … This has been the most difficult moral dilemma for me.  It’s why you haven’t heard me say much about it because I have struggled on this issue.  And there are some concerns here that matter to me more than my own life and neither of the candidates is consistent with my views in that regard. But Senator McCain is certainly closer to them then Senator Obama, by a wide margin. And there's no doubt, at least no doubt in my mind, about whose policies will result in more babies being killed. Or who will do the greatest damage to the institution of marriage and the family. I'm convinced that Senator McCain comes closer to what I believe. So I am not endorsing Senator McCain today … But as of this moment, I have to take into account the fact that Senator John McCain has voted pro-life consistently and that's a fact. He says he favors marriage between a man and a woman, I believe that. He opposes homosexual adoption. He favors smaller government and lower taxes and he seems to understand the Muslim threat, which matters a lot to me – I am very concerned about that.

Below is the full transcript of today’s program in which Dobson and the Southern Baptist Convention's Al Mohler explain just how “alarming” Barack Obama’s political and theological views are and the dire threat he poses to “traditional family life and pro-moral values":

Disgruntled Republicans Work to Undermine McCain's Pledge on Judges

As John McCain continues to work to win over right-wing leaders, activists, and voters, the one constant theme he has been hammering is his pledge to nominate judges like John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court; a promise that has lately been paying dividends. But now it looks like some disgruntled Republicans are starting to push back against the idea McCain can be trusted to uphold his promise. For instance, Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr recently published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal less-than-subtly entitled "Judges Are No Reason to Vote for McCain":
The judiciary is becoming an important election issue. John McCain is warning conservatives that control of today's finely balanced Supreme Court depends on his election. Unfortunately, his jurisprudence is likely to be anything but conservative. ... Mr. McCain is a convenient convert to the cause of sound judicial appointments. He has never paid much attention to judicial philosophy, backing both Clinton Supreme Court nominees – Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He also participated in the so-called "Gang of 14," which favored centrist over conservative nominees as part of a compromise between President George W. Bush and Senate Democrats. ... [E]ven if a President McCain were to influence the court, it would not likely be in a genuinely conservative direction. His jurisprudence is not conservative.
Barr obviously has his own electoral agenda in mind by seeking to undermine McCain's appeal to conservative voters on the issue of judges in hopes of winning their support himself, he is not alone in making the case that McCain's promises on judges cannot be trusted, with Bruce Bartlett making the same point in an op-ed in Politico:

[McCain] has already repudiated the best hope Republicans had for circumventing Democratic opposition: the so-called nuclear option, which would have forced the Senate to give all federal court nominees an up-or-down vote. McCain basically destroyed any hope of getting a parliamentary ruling on this scheme by putting together the Gang of 14, a bipartisan group of senators that agreed to allow all qualified nominees to have a vote before the full Senate.

Conservatives have to ask themselves whether the man who torpedoed the nuclear option is really likely to fight to the bitter end for the kinds of justices they want to see on the court.

McCain needs all the help he can get right now winning over right-wing leaders and having former high-profile Republicans out there undermining his key selling point and reminding them of his role in the "Gang of 14" certainly isn't helping his cause.

Feuding Anti-Abortion Activists Agree: Obama Bad

When Randall Terry, founder of the militant anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, recently sued Troy Newman over the use of the name, he certainly opened up a can of worms.

A number of former OR activists issued a statement on Newman’s behalf, calling for Terry’s repentance for “unbiblical lifestyle decisions”; “[W]e can no longer remain silent while Mr. Terry continues to fleece unsuspecting pro-life people out of hundreds of thousands of dollars for his personal and selfish gain,” they added. Terry responded with his own list of supporters vouching for his character.

And Flip Benham, who runs Operation Rescue/Operation Save America, put aside his distaste for Terry (“Giving more money to Randall Terry is like giving booze to an alcoholic,” he has said) to attack both Newman and the former OR activists who criticized Terry. “These are the same ones who would not stand with Operation Rescue leadership in the fall of 1993 and call the premeditated shooting (murder) of abortionists, sin,’” wrote Benham, recalling the darkest period of the militant anti-abortion movement.

But while Flip Benham’s Operation Rescue and Troy Newman’s Operation Rescue remain locked in their bitter name dispute, there is at least one thing they can agree on: Barack Obama.

Newman’s OR called for anti-abortion activists to descend upon an Obama appearance at the National Council of La Raza convention in San Diego this past weekend:

“Abortionists are famous for targeting minority communities and those who are most vulnerable. When Obama throws his support behind the abortion industry, he is also tacitly supporting the exploitation of Latinos and African Americans,” said Operation Rescue spokesperson Cheryl Sullenger. “Operation Rescue urges all pro-life supporters in the San Diego area to let their voices be heard in protest of Obama’s extremist abortion policies, and his tacit approval of the abortion industry’s despicable pattern of racial exploitation.”

Meanwhile, Benham’s group is conducting an anti-abortion campaign in Atlanta, which doesn’t seem to have much to do with Obama. But in announcing a church OR plans to picket, the group adds:

According to their bulletin, this is a UCC church which will host the Human Rights Campaign Gospel Concert. The HRC is the largest group advocating gay & lesbian rights and the UCC is the denomination of Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Barak Obama. For the first time in the history of our nation, we have a man running for president who is neither a Christian nor a patriot.

Lest John McCain get too excited about this new source of support, they don’t have a whole lot of nice things to say about him, either. Benham wrote back in October, “[T]here is no way we true evangelical Christians will support Giuliani, McCain, Thompson, or Romney.”

And Randall Terry, who led a small band of protesters against GOP candidate Rudy Giuliani over the winter, recycled the same language (“an enemy inside your camp”) for McCain in an interview with Playboy:

Q: What impact would a John McCain presidency have on the pro-life agenda?

A: If McCain would appoint judges who would overturn Roe, it could be a huge boon. I don’t think we have any assurance that would happen. Justices Anthony Kennedy, David Souter and Sandra Day O’Connor were all appointed by Republican presidents who did not do their homework. If presidents Reagan and Bush Sr. had done what they said they would do, we would already have overturned Roe because we wouldn’t have had Kennedy, Souter and O’Connor. There’s a very strong movement afoot in the conservative wing of the Republican Party to deny McCain the White House. Their attitude is, an enemy outside your camp makes you vigilant and unites you, but an enemy inside your camp makes you dead because he can cut your neck in the night or poison your food by day.

Burress, Schlafly, Barton Dispense with McCain Foreplay

After a private meeting with John McCain, Ohio Religious Right icon Phil Burress remained a little ho-hum about the candidate he felt obligated to support, but soon enough—after McCain announced his support for California’s anti-gay marriage amendment, anyway—Burress was bubbling over with excitement:

He says McCain was courteous and took detailed notes on what the six had to say about issues such as the sanctity of life, marriage, and judges. "It was so refreshing to me because he was so different than any other politician that I have ever met," describes Burress. He says McCain is not swayed like other politicians. …

"...[I] left there a changed man," he admits.

Burress wrote to his supporters that after the meeting, “40 Ohio Pro-Family Forum leaders … have decided to move forward and start working to educate Ohio Values Voters about the vast differences between McCain and Obama.”

I was once one of those people who said "no way" to Senator John McCain as President. No longer. The stakes are too high. And if Obama wins I need to able to get up on November 5th, look at myself in the mirror, and when I pray, say, "Lord, I did all that I could."

And today, Burress joined a hundred other activists—including far-right heavyweights Phyllis Schlafly and David Barton—in Denver to commit to campaign for McCain:

"Collectively we feel that he will support and advance those moral values that we hold much greater than Obama, who in our view will decimate moral values," said Mat Staver, the chairman of Liberty Counsel, a legal advocacy group, who previously supported Mike Huckabee's candidacy. …

The group included leaders like Phyllis Schlafly, the long-time leader of Eagle Forum; Steve Strang, the publisher of Charisma magazine; Phil Burress, a prominent Ohio marriage and anti-pornography activist; David Barton, the founder of WallBuilders and Donald Hodel, a former secretary of the Interior, who previously served on the board of Focus on the Family. Jim Dobson, the head of Focus and an outspoken critic of McCain, did not attend. The McCain campaign was also not directly represented at the meeting.

A second person who attended the event, but asked not to be named, said that the group was motivated principally by a desire to defeat Barack Obama. "None of these people want to meet their maker knowing that they didn't do everything they could to keep Barack Obama from being president," the participant said. "You've got these two people running for president. One of them is going to become president. That's the perspective. That that's the whole discussion." …

On a recent swing through Ohio, McCain met with a group of religious leaders and activists, including Burress, who has previously been critical of McCain's lack of outreach to Christian conservatives. According to two participants at the Tuesday meeting in Denver, Burress spoke out strongly in favor of uniting behind McCain's candidacy.

Staver said the McCain campaign was making progress but still had more work to do. "I think that the outreach to the community has to increase significantly," he said. "There is a clear enthusiasm."

Suddenly The Right Says The White House Doesn’t Matter

With the GOP’s Congressional electoral prospects looking increasingly dim and John McCain trailing by double-digits in current polls, it looks like right-wing activists see the writing on the wall and have started to deemphasize the importance of having ideological allies control the levers of political power: 

Jim Daly, Focus on the Family's president and chief executive officer, downplays the Bush administration's significance to the Christian right.

"Our advocacy for pro-family policies, at the federal and state level, has never been dependent upon who holds what office," Daly said. "We advocated for the sanctity of human life, the value of traditional marriage and other issues that affect the family before President Bush was in the White House, and we'll continue to do so after he leaves it."

Of course, this line of argument might be more convincing if Focus on the Family and its head, James Dobson, hadn’t played a key role in getting President Bush elected in 2000 and 2004 and gone all out to help the GOP retain control of Congress in 2006.  It would be even more convincing if Daly had not said this just days after Dobson and FOF spent an entire week attacking Barack Obama and John McCain was not currently clamoring for a chance to meet with Dobson and try to win his support.

McCain Endorses CA Marriage Amendment After Meeting OH Right-Wing Activists

As we noted yesterday, John McCain was scheduled to meet with a handful of right-wing activists in Ohio who were not particularly excited about the prospect of supporting his campaign.  At the meeting, McCain reportedly “took detailed notes and listened intently” but apparently didn’t quite win them over:

He spoke for more than an hour but never mentioned issues that social conservatives skeptical of McCain want to hear about: his opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage, or appointing conservative judges to the Supreme Court.

Conservative activists say that's a big problem.

"John McCain needs to talk about life more often, he needs to talk about marriage," activist Phil Burress said. "If the senator thinks he is going to run the campaign appealing to the middle by avoiding to talk about the social issues, he is going to lose Ohio."

But what do you know?  One day later, it looks like the message these activists delivered has sunk in, leading McCain to suddenly come out in support of the California Marriage Amendment:

United States Senator John McCain today announced his support for the California Protection of Marriage initiative on the state's November ballot, leaders of the ProtectMarriage.com campaign announced. In an email received by the ProtectMarriage.com campaign, Senator McCain issued the following statement:

"I support the efforts of the people of California to recognize marriage as a unique institution between a man and a woman, just as we did in my home state of Arizona. I do not believe judges should be making these decisions."

McCain Still Hopes to Meet With Dobson

Despite the fact that James Dobson has repeatedly attacked John McCain and made it abundantly clear that he will not, under any circumstances, vote for him, it looks like McCain is still grovelling for a meeting. According to the Los Angeles Times, at the recent meeting with right-wing activists in Ohio that we wrote about yesterday, McCain told participants that he's still trying to win Dobson over:
McCain told the activists Thursday that he also hoped to meet with James C. Dobson, founder of the influential group Focus on the Family, who has said he would not vote for McCain. "The senator spoke fondly of him, but believes there's probably room for some bridge-building," said Mike Gonidakis, head of Ohio Right to Life. Participants said McCain took detailed notes and listened intently. McCain's aides said they were satisfied with the meeting, and one called it "successful."

The Right’s New Religious Test

For months now, Religious Right activists have been quietly attacking Barack Obama’s Christian faith.  For years, the Right had routinely accused anyone who dared to criticize any Republican or right-wing political candidate for their political views of engaging in an unconstitutional religious test or exhibiting religious bigotry.

But the ascent of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, coupled with his open discussion of his personal faith, has forced the Right to not only jettison its long-held position that attacking a political candidate because of his or her faith was off limits, but to go a step further to include outright attacks on the fundamental tenets of Obama’s Christianity. 

For months, activists like Rob Schenck have been declaring “Obama's Christianity woefully deficient” and demanding that Obama explain, in detail, the basic tenets of his faith so that the Right can judge just “how profound is the religious commitment that Barack Obama has made.”  Others have echoed that point, saying that Obama is not a “true Christian,”  that “there is a clear requirement for one to qualify as a Christian and Obama doesn’t meet that requirement,” and that Obama’s faith “tramples on the historic teachings of Christianity and the Bible.”

Until now, those attacks had been more or less relegated to the right-wing fringe, but it looks like they are about to become mainstream talking points, as James Dobson attacked Obama’s understanding of Christianity on today’s broadcast, as the Associated Press reported

Dobson and Minnery accused Obama of wrongly equating Old Testament texts and dietary codes that no longer apply to Jesus' teachings in the New Testament.

"I think he's deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview, his own confused theology," Dobson said.

"... He is dragging biblical understanding through the gutter."

He said Obama, who supports abortion rights, is trying to govern by the "lowest common denominator of morality," labeling it "a fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution."

Listen to Dobson and Minnery discuss Obama and his faith:

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.

John Hagee's Ideal Woman

John Hagee’s relationship with presidential candidate John McCain ended after the media attention given to the televangelist’s words on Catholics and Jews, communities Hagee has since tried to reconcile with. We can take McCain at his word that he didn’t intend to align himself with such seeming bigotry against other religions—indeed, it’s far more like McCain sought out Hagee for his views and influence on the Religious Right’s political “culture war.”

In a sermon on “God’s Plan for Wives and Mothers” that aired last week, Hagee outlined the “ideal woman”—along with her antithesis, the “secular humanist” woman:

If the secular humanist of the 21st century took his brush to paint the portrait of the thoroughly modern Millie, it would be with a cigarette dangling out of her mouth, smoke twirling out of her nostrils, language that would make a sailor blush—even Rosie O’Donnell. [Laughter]

Her breath would smell like a brewery; a condom in one hand, and the feminist manual in the other, listing the local abortion clinics to snuff out the life that was within her body. Her allegiance is always to her career. Her children are latch-key children who come home and live alone until mother and daddy finally arrive after dark.

Women can render service in many secular fields, but God says her highest and best field, in God’s opinion, is that of being a mother.

Gary Bauer’s “Credibility Problem”

Over the last several months, one of the ways John McCain has been working to sell himself to the GOP’s skeptical right-wing base has to repeatedly promise them that, if elected, he will appoint justices like John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court – an effort that has recently been paying dividends.  

But over the weekend, McCain sought to woo supporters of Hillary Clinton and, according to press reports, seemed to be trying to downplay that promise.  As Politico reported:

Bower said he'd liked McCain's answer on judges, in which he "pointed out that he supported Bill Clinton with both Ginsberg and Breyer."

For its part, the New York Times reported something similar:

Mr. McCain, who opposes abortion rights, also promised he would not perform a litmus test on potential judges.

Not surprisingly, the Barack Obama campaign responded to McCain’s apparent back-tracking by highlighting this 2005 statement from long-time McCain supporter Gary Bauer claiming that the reason he supported McCain over George Bush in 2000 was McCain’s explicit promise that he would indeed have a pro-life litmus test for his nominees:

Somewhat surprisingly, McCain had the support of Gary Bauer, the social conservative, who had dropped out of the race by that time. “I wanted a commitment from either George Bush or John McCain that if elected he would appoint pro-life judges to the Supreme Court,” Bauer told me. “Bush said he had no litmus test, and his judges would be strict constructionists. But McCain, in private, assured me he would appoint pro-life judges.”

In an attempt to clear up the matter, CBN’s David Brody contacted Bauer, who is now trying to spin the discrepancy in a way that suggests that Obama is “the one with a credibility problem”:  

"When I met privately with Senator McCain in 2000 he did not tell me that he would have a pro-life "litmus test" for judges. Instead he described the type of judicial philosophy he would require in his judicial appointments. I interpreted that judicial philosophy to be one that would reject judicial activism.

"Senator Obama is the one with a credibility problem, not Senator McCain. Senator Obama says he wants a compassionate American where the 'little guy' is protected. Instead he proudly supports partial birth abortion, and abortions in the last months of pregnancy. He abandons the littlest guy of all - our unborn children."

So Bauer would have us believe that the reason he didn’t support Bush in 2000 was that Bush wouldn’t promise a litmus test while McCain would, but that, now that he thinks about it, said litmus test really wasn’t a litmus test at all, it was really just a vague statement about judicial philosophy - a statement about philosophy that Bush was apparently unwilling to make to Bauer despite the fact he was regularly making exactly that sort of statement in public settings, such as the first debate with Al Gore when he said “I don't believe in liberal activist judges. I believe in strict constructionists. Those are the kind of judges I will appoint."

If anybody had a “credibility problem” here, it’s Bauer.

Donohue: Candidates Should "Respect Churches"

Catholic League President Bill Donohue seizes the opportunity to respond to a survey that indicates 57% of Americans believe religious leaders should not support political candidates from the pulpit: “Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama should set an example by pledging never to attend a church service that is a front for a political rally. Too often, clergy have abused their office by making veiled endorsements—and in some cases explicit endorsements—of candidates for public office at a church service. Just as bad has been the practice of the candidates themselves making a pitch to the congregation from the pulpit.” Never one to inappropriately mix religion and politics, Donohue tends to simply accuse political opponents of anti-Catholic bias.

McCain's Next Controversial Priest

Deal Hudson reports that John McCain “met privately” with Rev. Frank Pavone, the Priests for Life head most famous for calling Michael Schiavo a murderer, before a Catholic-outreach meeting in Philadelphia. McCain has been holding events with supporter Sen. Sam Brownback, whose brief presidential run attracted a lot of attention from social conservatives, and who promised to court the Religious Right activists such as Pavone on McCain’s behalf.

Pavone has come a long way since 2005, when he denounced McCain for joining the so-called “Gang of 14” compromise over extreme judicial nominees. “It is unfortunate that Senator McCain has joined those senators who are trying to prevent godly men and women nominated by their president and supported by a majority of senators from serving on our nation's courts,” Pavone said. “There is not going to be a church in America that is not going to know exactly who those senators are.”

Indeed, Pavone was a typical advocate of the notion that opponents of extreme nominees were somehow anti-Christian bigots. When John Roberts was nominated to the Supreme Court, Pavone warned Democrats that “If they again attempt to attack a nominee's faith or pro-life convictions,” they would be “held accountable.”

At the same time, Pavone is a vocal advocate of involving the church in politics, whether urging priests to tell their congregations to vote based only on abortion or supporting bishops who make pro-choice politicians’ communion into a political football.

Pavone is planning a conference call on June 25th to “inspire and equip pro-life citizens to make a difference in this year’s national elections, and to awaken the conscience of Americans about abortion.”

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John McCain Posts Archive

Kyle Mantyla, Friday 11/14/2008, 10:36am
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Josh Glasstetter, Thursday 11/06/2008, 6:29pm
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Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 11/04/2008, 5:52pm
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Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 11/04/2008, 9:57am
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Kyle Mantyla, Monday 11/03/2008, 11:47am
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