John McCain

Taking "Out of Context" To A Whole New Level

Barack Obama was on ABC’s “This Week” yesterday and, during the course of the interview, the issue came up regarding the incessant rumors that Obama is really some sort of secret Muslim.  The issue at hand was whether or not the McCain campaign had ever directly suggested that Obama was a Muslim or questioned his Christian faith, to which Obama replied that they had not, but that there clearly was a concerted effort on the part of conservative commentators and activists to confuse the American public about the issue.  During the course of the discussion, Obama made this point

OBAMA: Let's not play games. What I was suggesting -- you're absolutely right that John McCain has not talked about my Muslim faith. And you're absolutely right that that has not come–

STEPHANOPOULOS: Christian faith.

OBAMA: -- my Christian faith. Well, what I'm saying is that he hasn't suggested–

STEPHANOPOULOS: Has connections, right.

OBAMA: -- that I'm a Muslim. And I think that his campaign's upper echelons have not, either. What I think is fair to say is that, coming out of the Republican camp, there have been efforts to suggest that perhaps I'm not who I say I am when it comes to my faith -- something which I find deeply offensive, and that has been going on for a pretty long time.

Obviously, the point Obama was making was that McCain has not personally spread the smear about “my Muslim faith.”  Seems pretty straight forward, right?

Wrong:

Sen. Barack Obama's foes seized Sunday upon a brief slip of the tongue, when the Democratic presidential nominee was outlining his Christianity but accidentally said, "my Muslim faith."

The three words -- immediately corrected -- were during an exchange with ABC's George Stephanopoulos on "This Week," when he was trying to criticize the quiet smear campaign suggesting he is a Muslim.

But illustrating the difficulty of preventing false rumors about his faith from spreading, anti-Obama groups within one hour of the interview had sliced it out of context and were sending it around via email. They also were blogging about it.

It was not a “slip of the tongue,” it was a straight-forward and self-explanatory statement that the Right Wing is taking entirely out of context and that right-wing media outlets like the Washington Times are reporting as genuine news.

Are McCain-Palin Afraid to Be Seen With The Right?

John McCain had never, until recently, been the darling of the Religious Right.  Even while crafting a political record that furthered much of their agenda, McCain had never been particularly fond of the Right, a view that was on full display back in 2000 when he lashed out against the movement’s leaders as “corrupting influences on religion and politics” and “agents of intolerance.”

Because of this long-standing mutual animosity, McCain had never been invited to most of the annual right-wing gathering and presumably wouldn’t have attended if he had.  But that changed last year when he suddenly realized that he desperately needed their support if he was to win the Republican nomination, at which point he started showing up at their confabs, showing up at CPAC, addressing the secretive Council for National Policy and joining all the other GOP hopefuls at the FRC’s Values Voter Summit.  

At the time of the FRC summit, McCain’s campaign was thought to be dead in the water and the battle for right-wing hearts and minds was being waged between Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney.  But since then, McCain has managed to secure the nomination and, though his relationship with the Right remained strained, he began working hard to win the over; an effort that finally succeeded with his decision to name Sarah Palin as his running mate.    

But now the time is approaching for this year’s Values Voter Summit – The Battle for America’s Future:

And while the organizers are racking up big name speakers like Sean Hannity, Tom DeLay, Newt Gingrich, and Mitt Romney, two names are conspicuously absent from their list of confirmed speakers:  John McCain and Sarah Palin. According to the Summit website, both have been invited - yet with only a few days before its begins, neither has agreed to attend.

There appears to be a pattern developing here.  Just last week, Palin had been scheduled to address Phyllis Schlafly’s reception at the Republican Convention only to cancel at the last minute.  And now, with the biggest right-wing political conference of the year about to get underway - an event which McCain addressed just last year – both he and his running mate are nowhere to be seen.  

It seems as if the McCain campaign it trying to have it both ways; picking Palin specifically to appease the Right yet trying to avoid actually being seen in public with them out of fear of undermining the “maverick” image they are desperately trying to craft.

John McCain: A Good Listener

As Tony Perkins explained to James Dobson’s audience earlier this week, the Religious Right is thrilled with John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate not only because Palin is everything they have been praying for, but because it demonstrates, for once, that McCain “can listen.” 

And not only will McCain “listen” to the Right, he will respond accordingly to their screams and threats – at least that is how Richard Viguerie sees it:

Conservatives who refused to fall in line behind the Republican Party--who maintained their independence, at the price of being ridiculed as "cranky" or "impossible to please"--are the ones responsible for John McCain's brilliant, game-changing selection of Sarah Palin, Richard A. Viguerie said.

"Those who backed John McCain as the 'lesser of two evils' did no favors to themselves, their movement, or to Senator McCain," said Viguerie, chairman of ConservativeHQ.com. "He needed to know what conservatives really thought, and he needed to know what had to be done to get conservatives enthusiastically on board his campaign.

"As we know now, what he had to do was pick Sarah Palin," he said.

[Credit goes to] conservatives, especially religious conservatives, who "went nuclear" in their criticism in the past couple of weeks before the announcement upon hearing that the pick might be Joe Lieberman, Tom Ridge, or someone nearly as disastrous for the McCain campaign and the Republican Party. ("Those of us who spoke up strongly were roundly criticized by some conservatives," Viguerie noted.) It was our firestorm that stopped that catastrophe from coming to pass.

"Across this country, conservatives and Republicans at every level let John McCain know what he needed to do to get them fired up and excited and ready to go door-to-door and make phone calls and do all the things that have to be done. They told him, and he listened, and his selection of Sarah Palin has completely turned his campaign around … [T]hose conservatives who held to their principles are the men and women 'in the arena' who can claim their own share of John McCain and Sarah Palin's triumph last night."

So that is why Religious Right leaders - who, until last week, were nearly unanimously unenthusiastic about McCain - are now full-throated supporters:  because they stared him down and won and now know that he can be bullied and intimidated into doing their bidding.  

Quite a maverick.

Bauer Exposes McCain Campaign's Hands-On Role in Crafting GOP Platform

On Tuesday, Focus on the Family released audio of a special James Dobson radio program, recorded last Friday after John McCain's announcement that Sarah Palin would be his running mate.  Containing analysis of the decision from Tony Perkins, Gary Bauer, Tom Minnery, and Kelly Shackelford, the group of right-wing heavyweights discussed everything from the elation at the announcement felt among those gathered for the Council for National Policy meeting to Gary Bauer’s role as the McCain campaign’s surrogate to the Republican Platform Committee in crafting the “the strongest pro-life platform in the history of the Republican Party.”

Among the most striking information was Gary Bauer’s revelation that, contrary to the McCain’s campaign’s claims that it was taking a hands-off approach to the platform, they were actively involved and supportive of the Right Wing’s efforts to craft the hardline document that emerged.   In fact, Bauer reports that he was tapped by the McCain campaign to be their surrogate and that the campaign was "very open to the kind of changes" the Religious Right was pushing.

Among the other interesting facts contained in the program was Shackelford’s declaration that CNP members felt that God was answering their prayers with Palin and Tony Perkins' assessment that McCain has shifted dramatically in their direction from a year ago and that his decision to name Palin as his running mate shows that “he can listen.” But perhaps the most entertaining thing about the program was the shame in Dobson’s voice as he explained how he has gone from a vocal critic of McCain to someone who, “if I went into the polling booth today, I would pull the lever for John McCain.”

Listen with player below or to the mp3 here

 

Dobson: Have you ever, in your life, seen as large a crowd of people give a standing ovation to [the Palin announcement on] CNN? Have you ever seen that happen?

Kelly Shackelford: I don’t think so and the other thing is, a number of people literally had tears in their eyes. I think that there was such pent-up worry, prayer that had been going on for so long and they really felt like the Lord was answering those prayers with somebody who is pro-life, somebody who is committed to the definition of marriage and the issues that we believe in so strongly.

Tony Perkins: This was a tremendous strategic decision by the McCain campaign.  They have seen social conservatives drifting away from them over the last year and, in part in the last year there’s been some pushing and shoving going on as the social conservatives have not signed on to the McCain campaign.  But he has shown …

Dobson: Tell me about it. I’ve been pretty explicit about it.

Perkins: And there’s a reason for that because he’s not where he is today a year ago.  But he has shown that he listens and I though two weeks ago at the Saddleback Forum he did a tremendous job at being straight-forward and he got the attention of social conservatives that he can listen, he can respond.  And then today, with this selection, I think the strongest among the names that have been out there, he has shown that he cares about these issues and has solidified a strong conservative, pro-life, pro-family ticket for the Republican Party.

Dobson: Gary, you have been advising the McCain campaign for some time and so you really signed on with him before any of the rest of us made up our minds …

Gary Bauer: I’ve been watching not only today, I’ve been watching the last couple of weeks and giving my advice to everybody I could within the McCain campaign.  I would disagree with my good friend Tony, I think this is where John McCain’s been for a long time.  He really does have a twenty-five year pro-life voting record, except for a couple of notable exceptions, but I thought this choice was just outstanding. I actually think over the last couple of weeks, from Saddleback where he was very clear on these issues to what he’s been emphasizing in his speeches and town meetings, the platform which was adopted this week – just an outstanding pro-life platform – and now this vice presidential selection, there’s just a real commitment that he’s showing here.

Dobson: I’ve been pretty vocal in my opposition to John McCain. I haven’t done it on Focus on the Family, but I’ve done it in the media and for some good reasons.  I could right now tick off fifteen or twenty things that have concerned me.  And, having made that statement, the assumption is that I must stay with it even if the circumstances change. And they have changed.  Saddleback changed me.  What I heard John McCain say at Saddleback didn’t eliminate all of the concerns but it did draw me in his direction.  And then, of course, this selection and other things.  Tony, you said McCain seems to be changing - Gary, you disagreed with that - but it sure looks that way to me.  And so, I am not endorsing John McCain.  I have only endorsed a presidential candidate once in my life and that was George Bush in the second term after I’d watched him for four years.  I just don’t endorse presidential candidates and I don’t see myself doing that this time. But I am moving closer and closer to being able to say … well, I’ll say it now, if I went into the polling booth today, I would pull the lever for John McCain.

Bauer: I got appointed by the McCain campaign to be their advisor on the platform.  It was an interesting assignment.  I arrived there, usually I’m on the outside beating on whoever the nominee is to do better, but when I got there and met with the McCain staff people I was immediately amazed, surprised and happy to hear them say “look, we think it’s a great platform already, it’s pro-life but we know people might want to strengthen it and we’re open to that.  We want to work with people, we don’t want to alienate anybody and we’d like you to go back and forth between the delegates and us and see if we can work these things out.”  I think that Kelly will affirm that, other than a few places, there really weren’t many brutal fights. Most of it was done in a very collegial way with the McCain people being very open to the kind of changes that made the platform draft even better than it was when it started.

Dobson: Would you agree that this is the strongest pro-life platform in the history of the Republican Party?

Shackelford:  There’s no doubt.  I was on that sub-committee and every pro-life leader who was there watching from Phyllis Schlafly to you name the pro-life group, they were all watching and they all said this is the strongest pro-life platform ever in the history of the party.   We not only kept the famous plank that was put in during the time of Ronald Reagan, but we added additional strong language that made it even stronger.  It was really incredible to be a part of this and I will affirm what Gary said; this is my third platform committee in a row and it was different than the last ones.  The McCain campaign not only did not fight us as severely as the last campaigns did but they actually were in favor of the platform becoming more conservative because they knew that’s where the people were.

Schlafly's Advice: Don't Marry Sarah Palin

When John McCain named Sarah Palin as his running mate, the Right could barely contain its glee and among those most ethused by the pick was Phyllis Schlafly who, even after Palin was a no-show at her convention reception, had nothing but praise for her and her priorities: 

Schlafly told WND McCain's choice of Palin was the best he could possibly have made.

"Sarah Palin has reinvigorated the entire Republican Party," she said. "And it's across the board. It's not just pro-lifers. She's a breath of fresh air. She's right on every issue."

Schlafly addressed criticism that Palin is hypocritical, because her demanding job as a political leader, while mothering five children, conflicts with the traditional values she espouses.

"We do stand up for the role of the full-time homemaker," Schlafly replied. "On the other hand, a lot of women work hard. I think people who don't have any children, or have one or two, don't understand what life is like with more children."

This reminded me of a post entitled "Don't Marry Phyllis Schlafly" that I wrote a few years back after Schlafly blasted Steve Forbes for apologizing for publishing a widely criticized piece by Michael Noer in his magazine entitled "Don't Marry Career Women."

In the original piece, Noer listed several reasons why "whatever you do, [no men should] marry a woman with a career."  When Forbes, the publisher, was forced to apologize for running the piece, Schlafly came to Noer's defense:

Eagle Forum's Phyllis Schlafly feels Forbes has no reason to apologize since the facts and statistics Noer cited were sound. In fact, she suggests, an article like this should have been written 20 years ago, and this one still hits the right note today because, contrary to the feminist myth, a woman really cannot "have it all" -- at least, not all at the same time.

To Schlafly, this is a simple question of practicality. "You can't have it all at the same time. There are not that many hours in the day," she asserts. "Now, with our lengthened lifespan, a woman can have it all; I think I've had it all," she says, "but you don't have it at the same time. A baby is extremely demanding -- even more demanding than a husband."

But the issue Noer's article raises is not really about women who have careers, the pro-family spokeswoman points out. What the author is really highlighting in the Forbes article, she contends, is the problem of wives who set the wrong priorities.

"A lot of the newspapers ... have published articles about how some of the most highly educated women -- women who graduated from the elite colleges and then got graduate degrees like MBAs or JDs -- have put their career ahead of husband and family," Schlafly notes. "In many of these cases, in the woman's scale of values, the husband is ranking third," she says.

The real issue is not women having careers, Schlafly says, but women making their careers their highest priority, above family. When that type of situation takes place, she observes, it is not likely that a husband will stick around.

Presumably, Schlfaly's enthusiastic support of Palin stems from the fact that Palin has her priorities straight and won't be putting her "career ahead of husband and family" because, after all, a "baby is extremely demanding -- even more demanding than a husband."

CADC Gets Its "True Christian VP"

Back in June, when the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission issued a demand that John McCain pick a "True Christian" to serve as his running mate, they had two simple criteria for determining just what consistuted a "true Christian"- they had to be anti-gay and anti-choice:

Quite simply, the candidate will demonstrate actions and hold the beliefs personified by all of us who proclaim the name of Jesus Christ as Savior: the need to be re-born in Christ and the affirmation of historic Christianity, having a demonstrable and proven record of support for traditional Christian morality.

A life of dedicated Christian service to the public is demonstrated by the following:

Support for traditional marriage.

As a Christian, the candidate for Vice President must affirm that marriage is an institution created by God and defined as a union between one man and one woman. Americans have ALWAYS demonstrated a compelling interest to ensure children are afforded the best possible environment in which to grow and thrive. Any candidate must do no less and must be opposed to any policies or legislation that seeks to confuse or dilute the traditional institution of marriage.

Support for the Right to Life, proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence, without exception.

As a Christian, the candidate for Vice President must echo the founding fathers' proclamation of the "inalienable right to.life." Any acceptable candidate will have a history of promoting policies acknowledging that God provides "all" people are created in the image of God and therefore possess inherent dignity and worth. This individual must be opposed to the killing of all innocent persons at every stage of life, especially the most vulnerable; unborn children, the sick, the disabled and the elderly.

And so it comes as no suprise that the CADC is now hailing John McCain for meeting their conditions with his decision to name Sarah Palin as his running mate:

Today John McCain picked Sarah Palin to be his Vice Presidential running mate. Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska, is a Christian and is well known for her pro-life stand and her fiscal conservatism.

"John McCain is to be commended on his choice of Sarah Palin, a true Christian for Vice President," said Dr. Gary Cass, Chairman and CEO of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission. "Palin, an evangelical who is pro-life and pro-marriage, meets all the criterion that CADC set forth for a VP pick.

McCain-Palin Have Charisma

Early Mike Huckabee-backer and founder of Charisma Magazine, Steven Strang announces that he and the magazine are now endorsing John McCain:

It will surprise no one that Charisma is endorsing John McCain for president of the United States. The actual endorsement will appear in our October issue, in the mail on Sept. 15. You are getting an advance copy here.

But what may surprise you is why we chose him over the other candidate.

Strang proceeds to then not surprise anyone at all by criticizing Barack Obama's views on abortion and his "sympathy toward those who are attempting to legitimize homosexuality," declaring it absolutely vital that America does not "not elect a leader who will support ... or aid the homosexual agenda in any way-because if same-sex marriage is ever legalized or protected on a national level, there will be no turning back."

Actually, amid Strang's littany of standard right-wing reasons for supporting McCain over Obama, he did actually manage to surprise us with this statement:

In an interview with Rick Warren at Saddleback Church in August, McCain and Obama gave answers that were polar opposites. When asked about evil, Obama mentioned Darfur and child abuse-both standard liberal answers.

So stopping the genocide in Darfur and child abuse are purely liberal concerns?

Strang goes on to say that he'll write about Sarah Palin later, once he gets a chance to actually figure out who she is, but for now, he's pretty happy:

Interestingly for a magazine that has served the Pentecostal/charismatic community for more than three decades, Sarah Palin has an Assemblies of God background. That's not reason alone to vote for her-just as John McCain's record as a war hero alone doesn't make him qualified to be president. But it does tell me something about her values and belief system.

The views of Pentacostals and Charismatics might be familiar to Strang and his readers, but for the rest of us, the AP has provided a helpful primer:

Sarah Palin often identifies herself simply as Christian.

Yet John McCain's running mate has deep roots in Pentecostalism, a spirit-filled Christian tradition that is one of the fastest growing in the world. It's often derided by outsiders and Bible-believers alike.

...

Palin identifies herself only as Christian in her biography on the National Governors' Association Web site. In an Aug. 14 interview with Time magazine, she once again described herself as Christian. When pressed, she said she attended a ''nondenominational Bible church.''

...

Grant Wacker, an expert in Pentecostalism at Duke Divinity School in Durham, N.C., said he can understand why. He said the McCain campaign likely doesn't want Palin associated with the best-known Pentecostal to ever hold public office, former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, an active member of the Assemblies of God.

''Though Pentecostals are diverse and rapidly mainstreaming themselves, the public still perceives them as sectarian and uncompromising, and those traits will not help Palin's image,'' Wacker said.

...

Pentecostals are conservative in their reading of the Bible and, often, culture.

...

Unlike most other Christians -- including most evangelicals -- Pentecostals believe in ''baptism in the Holy Spirit.'' That can manifest itself through speaking in tongues, modern-day prophesy and faith healing.

The Assemblies of God teaches that spirit baptism must be accompanied by speaking in tongues.

...

Her current church, Wasilla Bible Church, stresses the inerrancy of Scripture.

 

American Right to Life Targets Dobson

Now that they are through targeting Mitt Romney, it looks as if the folks behind American Right to Life Action have turned their attention to James Dobson, accusing him of "breaking his pledge before God":

On April 28, 1990 at the Washington D.C. Rally for Life Dr. Dobson stated, "I want to give a pledge to you on a political level... I have determined that for the rest of my life, however long God lets me live on this earth, I will never cast one vote for any man or woman who would kill one innocent baby." James Dobson is violating this pledge by voting for John McCain for president, a Republican who has recently voted to authorize funding to kill some children by surgical abortion.

...

"Dr. Dobson is openly violating the pledge he took before God," said Birkey, "by voting for John McCain. Both the Sarah Palin distraction, and the candidate's rhetoric to Rick Warren claiming he believes that human rights begin at conception, are belied by McCain's long tolerance of chemical abortifacients and funding the dissection of the tiniest embryonic boys and girls."

"In violating his pledge before God, Dr. Dobson has lost the moral authority to speak for Christians," said Curtis. "He can speak for Republicans who do not fear God, but he cannot speak for the Body of Christ."

How serious are they?  Serious enough to protest Focus on the Family headquaters:

Police are on the scene at Focus on the Family after reports that protesters from an anti-abortion group are refusing to leave.

"Apparently they weren't causing a disruption or anything. They were just saying they weren't going to leave," said Colorado Springs police spokesman Lt. David Whitlock. Early reports said the protesters were in the lobby, he said.

Sarah Palin Is Your New Ronald Reagan

In less than a week, one-term Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has gone from a complete unknown to savior of the Republican Party.  From the moment she was announced as John McCain's vice presidential pick, the Right has been gushing nonstop, heaping praise upon her, and proclaiming her the answer to all of their prayers.

And so it doesn't really come as much of a surprise that, after days of non-stop Palin hagiography, the Right is starting to run out of ways to express its adulation and that all that was left was to pay her the greatest compliment they know by christening her "the next Ronald Reagan":

"A week ago, conservatives and most Republicans were down-in-the-dumps, listless, unengaged. That lack of enthusiasm is a thing of the past. Tonight, thanks to Senator McCain and Governor Palin, conservatives and Republicans are fired up as they have not been since Ronald Reagan was president," he said.

"Sarah Palin is the next Ronald Reagan," Viguerie, the Chairman of ConservativeHQ.com, said.

"In less than a week, Governor Sarah has captured the heart and soul of this convention, the Republican Party, and the conservative movement. She brings together social conservatives, and economic conservatives and libertarians, and people who are fed up with the Culture of Corruption that infests our nation's politics," he said.

"From this moment forward, there's no limit on where Sarah Palin might go," Viguerie concluded.

This is especially remarkable considering that Viguerie has, in recent years, been not only a militant critic of John McCain but the GOP in general - just a few months ago he was demanding the wholesale resignation of the Republican Party's leadership for destroying the GOP's reputation and having "failed - or outright betrayed - the conservative voters who put them in their positions."

How prevelant is this idea becoming?  Even Michael Reagan is making it:

I've been trying to convince my fellow conservatives that they have been wasting their time in a fruitless quest for a new Ronald Reagan to emerge and lead our party and our nation. I insisted that we'd never see his like again because he was one of a kind.

I was wrong!

Wednesday night I watched the Republican National Convention on television and there, before my very eyes, I saw my Dad reborn; only this time he's a she.

Barton: Don’t Listen to the Maverick

It’s easy to get confused about John McCain – is he the “straight-talkin’ maverick” his supporters and the media love or is he the candidate who votes 90% of the time with George W. Bush, has a long record of anti-abortion zealotry, and caves to this party’s right-wing base?

Well, right-wing pseudo-historian, former Mike Huckabee supporter, and current McCain cheerleader David Barton has some pretty solid advice:  ignore what McCain says and just look at his record:

“There was some talk about Christians staying home, but that’s over,” said David Barton, an evangelical Christian from near Fort Worth, Texas “And I’ve been telling my friends not to listen to Obama or McCain. Just see how they voted. McCain is right on judges, he’s right on life issues, he’s right on the marriage issue. We can talk about some things I didn’t like, but when it comes to Biblical teaching he’s the obvious candidate.”

Now if only the media would do the same.

McCain and Palin Head to Dobson-Land

The Rocky Mountain News reports that John McCain and Sarah Palin are heading to Colorado Springs, home of James Dobson and Focus on the Family, for a rally on Saturday and that a long-sought-after meeting between the two just might be a possibility now that McCain has sublimated himself to the Right’s demands:

[Tom Minnery, senior vice president of Focus Action] said Dobson's evolution from being anti-McCain to adamantly supportive of the Republican ticket can be attributed to three things — McCain's "strong responses" at Pastor Rick Warren's summit in Orange County, "the pro-life, pro-family platform adopted by the party," and the selection of Palin.

But despite the change of heart, Minnery said Dobson has not had a meeting with McCain since he became a presidential candidate last year and that he hasn't met personally with Palin .

That could change Saturday when McCain and Palin arrive in Colorado Springs for a rally.

While the McCain campaign and Minnery said no meeting is scheduled, neither left the option off the table.

"Who knows what may happen?" Minnery said. "So far nothing has been planned. But we're happy to see political leaders of any and all stripes."

[UPDATE: Dan Gilgoff reports that there's no meeting planned and Dobson will be out of town.]

The article also relates a rather odd anecdote from Alliance Defense Fund attorney Kevin Clarkson explaining how he got a call from Focus on the Family back in 2006 about concerns that Palin may not have been anti-gay enough and how he assured that that indeed she was:

It was when [Palin] beat Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski in the 2006 primary that Clarkson got a call from Focus on the Family asking him questions about the strength of her social conservative credentials.

"There had been some entries made under her name in Wikipedia that were of concern to them (Focus on the Family)," Clarkson said. "The main one cited in Wikipedia was her veto of a bill that would've limited marriage benefits to married couples."

Clarkson explained that it was a convoluted process that led to the veto. Acting as legal counsel, Clarkson advised Palin to veto the bill that he said, because of confusing legislative machinations and existing court challenges, would've had the opposite effect and locked in benefits for all couples.

Clarkson said he had to explain the whole decision to Focus on the Family to put minds at ease.

Presumably, the veto in question was of HB4001, a bill designed to block a state Supreme Court ruling “giving public employee benefits such as health insurance to same-sex couples.”  In her veto statement, Palin said that the bill was “unconstitutional given the recent Court order … mandating same-sex benefits” and that “signing this bill would be in direct violation of my oath of office.”

How exactly would a bill “prohibiting the commissioner of administration from adopting, allowing to become law, or implementing regulations that grant or extend employment-related benefits to same-sex partners of state employees” really end up locking in “benefits for all couples”?

The only thing “convoluted” about this is Clarkson’s explanation.

The Ignominious Death of a “Maverick”

One of the most remarkable things about John McCain’s decision to name Sarah Palin as his running mate, besides the blatantly cynical nature of it, is the idea that somehow it solidifies his reputation as a “maverick.”

Even more remarkable is the idea that McCain’s blatant pandering to the Right by choosing Palin in the first place will allow him the “flexibility” to re-claim his “maverick” image:

Given the intensity of Palin support among conservatives, McCain may very well end up with greater flexibility than ever to make his own direct appeal to independent voters. Palin can keep social activists at ease — and excited — while McCain seeks to reclaim his maverick image with a more direct appeal to those Hillary Clinton supporters and undecided swing voters.

McCain wanted to pick Joe Lieberman or Tom Ridge but was told by the Right in no uncertain terms that doing so would destroy any support they might give him, and so he capitulated and named Palin, for which the Right is infinitely grateful.

Considering that McCain made his reputation as a “maverick” by attacking Religious Right leaders as “corrupting influences on religion and politics” back in 2000, how in the world does pathetically bowing to their demands eight years later end up bolstering his image as a “maverick”?

If you want to understand McCain’s complete and utter capitulation and the Right’s unbridled elation about it, just try to wrap your head around this quote:

“I am now more confident about a John McCain presidency than I am about a George Bush presidency,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. “The campaign has courted conservatives aggressively, and it has turned around remarkably in just the last few weeks.”

Just last month, Perkins was warning McCain that if he picked someone they didn't like ""the strength of turnout on Election Day is not going to be there for him" and now he is saying that he's never been more confident about McCain.  It boggles the mind.

Off to a Good Start

When John McCain named Sarah Palin as his running mate, it suddenly made the Republican National Coalition for Life's reception at the convention one of the hottest tickets in town:

Hosted by Phyllis Schlafly, the event was designed to honor Palin as "a devoted wife and mother who puts life first ... who not only talks-the-talk, but walks-the-walk." Needless to say, the hosts were thrilled to have the new VP nominee as their featured guest and, given that the Right has finally started embracing McCain's campaign, it probably wasn't a good first move for them to cancel Palin's appearance at the last minute:

ABC News' Teddy Davis Reports: Conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly is taking the McCain campaign to task for notifying her at the last-minute that Sarah Palin will be a no-show on Tuesday when the Republican National Coalition for Life holds an event honoring the Alaska governor.

"I think this is clearly somebody in the McCain campaign who doesn't understand where the votes are coming from," Schlafly told ABC News. "They only told me this at 10 o'clock last night and it was a call from somebody down-the-line in the McCain campaign."

"The pro-lifers who paid $95 to come to this event because of Sarah Palin are going to be very unhappy," she added.

Schlafly is expecting 800 people, most of whom are delegates to the Republican National Convention, to attend Tuesday's reception at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in St. Paul, Minn. The event runs from 4:00 - 6:00 pm CT.

...

Nevertheless, the McCain campaign did not notify Schlafly of the plan to back out of the event until Monday night and Schlafly claims that the Secret Service scoped out the event site earlier in the day on Monday.

...

Asked what she plans to say about the cancellation at the event, Schlafly said, "I am certainly going to say that it was McCain that canceled."

McCain’s Anti-Choice Choice

In the moments after John McCain revealed his choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate, a group of right-wing luminaries held a conference call to publicly swoon over her selection. “She could not be a better Vice Presidential pick,” gushed Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group. Ken Blackwell, the controversial former Ohio Secretary of State and vice chairman of the GOP platform committee, concurred: “I just think that John McCain couldn’t have made a better choice.”

The reason for their enthusiasm was clear – abortion. Or rather, Palin’s opposition to it, even in cases of rape or incest. Blackwell called the McCain-Palin ticket the “strongest pro-life team with a pro-life platform in the history of the Republican party.” Coming from an anti-abortion zealot like Blackwell, that’s not faint praise.

Not surprisingly, the speakers thought Palin stacked up favorably against Joe Biden. In response to a question posed by Sarah Posner, Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life said that Palin is a good Catholic and Biden is no Catholic at all: “He's a Catholic who's contradicting one of the key tenants of Catholicism. And claiming that he's practicing is simply not true. You can't practice the faith when you deny it.” (Pavone failed to note that Palin was rebaptized into the Assemblies of God as a girl.)

McCain has worked for years to cultivate his maverick image, including deliberate efforts to obscure his strong anti-choice record and sentiments. But no such ambiguity is possible with Palin on the ticket. “For those who have had ambivalence or who have simply been unsure of how pro-life Senator McCain is – and of course his voting record is very strong on pro-life – now that ambivalence will certainly be counteracted by this VP selection,” said Pavone.

McCain shouldn’t take too much comfort in the heaps of praise from the far right because it cuts both ways. As he removes lingering doubts among Religious Right voters, he is creating new doubts among moderate voters who are increasingly seeing the holes in his maverick schtick. He’s riding a public opinion seesaw, and not even real straight talk will get him off it.

McCain's Capitulation to the Religious Right Now Complete

Back in 2000, John McCain solidified his "maverick" reputation by lambasting the Religious Right, labeling Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell "agents of intolerance" and decrying the Right's role within the Republican Party:

They are corrupting influences on religion and politics, and those who practice them in the name of religion or in the name of the Republican Party or in the name of America shame our faith, our party and our country.

Since then, McCain has been working hard to get back in their good graces, though the Right has been openly skeptical and their support for him has been lukewarm at best.  But all of that changed with his decision to name relative-unknown Sarah Palin as his running mate.

I can say without exaggeration that, in all my years of watching the Right, I have never seen them as excited about anything as they are about the Palin nomination.  Nor, for that matter, have I ever seen a prominent politician more blatantly capitulate to their demands:

James Dobson, Focus on the Family:  "A lot of people were praying, and I believe Sarah Palin is God's answer.”

James Dobson: “[A]n outstanding choice that should be extremely reassuring to the conservative base of his party.”

James Dobson:  I have only endorsed one presidential candidate in my life and that was George Bush in the second term after I had watched him for four years … So I’m very reluctant to do that … But I can tell you that if I had to go into the [voting booth today], I would pull that lever.

Tony Perkins, Family Research Council: “Senator McCain made an outstanding pick.”

Connie Mackey, FRCAction:  “I am elated with Senator McCain's choice.”

Mat Staver, Liberty Counsel: "Absolutely brilliant choice.”

Richard Land: “Governor Palin will delight the Republican base.”

Rick Scarborough, Vision America, “I’m elated. I think it’s a superb choice."

Ralph Reed: “They’re beyond ecstatic. This is a home run.”

Gary Bauer, American Values: "[A] grand slam home run."

Phyllis Schlafly, Eagle Forum: “She is the best possible choice.”

Janet Folger, Faith2Action: “[T]he selection of Sarah Palin is more than ‘Brilliant!’ ‘Electrifying!’ and ‘Energizing!’ The selection of Sarah Palin will lead to words like: ‘Rejuvenating!’ ‘Victory!’ and ‘Landslide!’"

Wendy Wright, Concerned Women for America: “Governor Palin will change the dynamics of the entire presidential race.”

Janice Shaw Crouse, CWA's Beverly LaHaye Institute: “She is an outstanding woman who will be an excellent role model for the nation's young people.”

David Barton, Wallbuilders: "The talk won't be about, 'look at Sarah Palin' as much as 'look at what McCain's choice of Palin says about McCain's core beliefs.”

Jonathan Falwell: “John McCain made it very clear that his administration was going to be a pro-life administration, and he proved that’s his belief and his passion today with the choice of Sarah Palin.”

Jerry Falwell, Jr.: “I think it’s a brilliant choice.”

Charmaine Yoest, Americans United for Life: “And then when [Palin] was announced — it was like you couldn’t breathe. [We] were grabbing each other and jumping up and down.”

Gary Marx, Judicial Confirmation Network: "I can tell you that this pick tells millions in the base of the party that they can trust McCain. More specifically that they can trust him with Supreme Court picks and other key appointments’"

David Keene, American Conservative Union: “The selection of Governor Palin is great news for conservatives, for the party and for the country. I predict any conservatives who have been lukewarm thus far in their support of the McCain candidacy will work their hearts out between now and November for the McCain-Palin ticket."

In eight years, John McCain has gone from attacking the Right's "corrupting influences on religion and politics" to answering James Dobson's prayers. Absolutely remarkable.

Right Sets Limits on Lieberman's Power

The Right certainly has not been shy about voicing its opposition to the prospect of John McCain naming Joe Lieberman as his running mate.  But now some are taking a more conciliatory approach, announcing that Lieberman will be an acceptable VP pick ... provided that he agrees to be nothing but a figurehead and helps the Right get some judges confirmed:

Some conservative activists, who abhor the idea of a Lieberman choice, are being pro-active. One is Curt Levey, who advocates for conservative judicial nominations. In an preemptive email sent Thursday, Levey said that if Lieberman is the choice, his group, the Committee for Justice, asks he make several pledges:

Republicans are concerned about Lieberman's pro-choice stance and his weak record on judges. Since the abortion issue is almost entirely in the hands of the courts, Sen. Lieberman, if selected, could likely deflect much of the inevitable conservative criticism by making the following three pledges regarding judicial appointments:

1) he will play no role in picking judicial nominees in a McCain Administration,

2) he will not run for president in the future (and thus will never nominate judges himself),

3) he will caucus with Senate Republicans for the remainder of the year, allowing Republicans to demand a Senate reorganization like the one that followed Sen. Jeffords' 2001 defection from the GOP. That would make Arlen Specter chairman of the Judiciary Committee and Mitch McConnell Majority Leader, likely resulting in the confirmation of four pending appeals court nominees to the all-important Fourth and D.C. Circuits. Senate Democrats would be unwilling to risk the fate of Tom Daschle by filibustering nominees so close to an election.

Huckabee's Anti-Romney Crusade Marches On

Today's papers are filled with articles about Mitt Romney's presence at the Democratic Convention in Denver, suggesting that his high-profile role is something of an audition for the vice-presidential spot on John McCain's ticket.

As the Politico reports, McCain is preparing to name his running mate soon and Romney is clearly among the front-runners

So McCain seems to be applying the Woody Hayes axiom of football to politics: Two of the three things that can happen when you put the ball in the air are negative (an incompletion or an interception).

Instead, he’s likely to make the vice presidential equivalent of a handoff up the middle.

Or, in the words of a top adviser, “a solid, safe pick.”

For months, the selection of Romney had been dismissed because of one  seemingly intractable problem: McCain simply didn’t like the guy.

But according to this adviser, that has changed.

“He has really gotten to like Romney. They’ve come a long way.”

So one would think that, as the liklihood of Romney getting the nod increases, Republicans would be rallying around him - but you'd be wrong because Mike Huckabee seems bizarrely intent on slamming Romney right up until the very last minute:

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee says if John McCain selects former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as his running mate, it eliminates what he calls "the Joe Biden issue" for Republicans.

"During the primary, Romney attacked McCain. He attacked me," the one-time presidential hopeful said today on Rush Limbaugh's radio show. "One of the problems McCain would have if he picked Romney was that it takes the Joe Biden issue off the table where Biden is saying great things about McCain and terrible things about Obama. They'll be running those tapes back over and over during the debates when Romney was attacking McCain and saying, 'Which time do we trust you? Then or now?'"

Limbaugh responded he didn't think the primary infighting among Republicans would make much of a difference in the general election.

"That's true for both parties, and McCain's running ads right now featuring Hillary endorsing him," Limbaugh said. "There is a gold mine of Hillary audio and video that McCain can make an ad of. Those things happen in primaries."

Huckabee said he would still support McCain even if Romney is selected as running mate, citing his opposition to abortion rights.

Huckabee has committed himself to doing whatever he can to help John McCain win, but has also repeatedly made clear that he really, really wants the vice-presidency and doesn't think Romney is an acceptable option.

As his own hopes seem to fade, Huckabee can't quite seem to let go of his personal animosity toward Romney or realize that constantly slamming the man who may very well become McCain's running mate is not helping the cause.

The Return of the Restoration Project

Back in 2006, we wrote a report about the "Patriot Pastors" movement, various state level efforts by evangelical pastors to organize so-called “Restoration Projects” that would transform America by applying the significant resources of their churches to political campaigns. The most high-profile effort was in Ohio and run by Rod Parsley and Russell Johnson, with close cooperation from then Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, though efforts were underway in several other states as well, including Texas. While the forces behind the Ohio movement are lying low, with Parsley still smarting from being humiliated by John McCain and Blackwell busy with his various jobs with the Family Research Council, the Club for Growth, and Tom DeLay's Coalition for a Conservative Majority, the Texas Freedom Network reports that the efforts in Texas are still going strong, thanks to the committed backing of Gov. Rick Perry:

The governor’s disturbing mix of faith and militancy comes in an invitation to conservative evangelical pastors to attend a Texas Restoration Project event in Austin next month … The Pastors’ Policy Briefing on Oct. 9-10 in Austin will be the group’s eighth since May 2005. … According to the invitation, [Mike] Huckabee will be joining Gov. Perry at the Austin event next month. Other speakers will include David Barton, who is the former Texas Republican Party vice chairman and the founder of the Christian advocacy group WallBuilders, and Kelly Shackelford, head of Free Market Foundation, which is Focus on the Family’s Texas affiliate.

TFN has also posted the invitation sent out by Perry:

Both our nation and our Judeo Christian heritage are under attack by a force that is more dangerous than any threat our world has faced in recent memory. I am convinced that our ability to defeat the radical jihadists who threaten our nation will be significantly impacted by the prayers and leadership of America’s evangelical pastors.

"Rediscovering God in America” was created to inspire people of faith to engage the culture and bring America back to our worldwide standing as a beacon of hope, a city shining on a hill.

Because God entrusted you to care for and lead His flock, you can play a key role in restoring God to the center of American life, thus strengthening our nation to confront this looming threat.

While Congress occupies its time trying to legislate defeat in Iraq, we hope you will attend a Pastors’ Policy Briefing that will equip you to walk point in the war of values and ideas.

Rediscovering God in America-Austin is intended to remind us that excuses are not the proper strategy when facing evil and confronting enemies. Instead, we must rally godly people and seek God’s provision for the resources, the courage, and the strength necessary to win and, ultimately, glorify Him.

Schlafly Threatens Walkout if Lieberman Named VP

As we noted several times recently, the Right has been anything but unclear that a pro-choice running mate for John McCain would be utterly unacceptable. But even worse than that would be a pro-choice, former Democrat like Joe Lieberman.

As we wrote earlier this week, picking Lieberman would be an unmistakable poke in the eye by McCain to the GOP's right-wing base - one that would not go unnoticed:

But Lieberman’s long history as a Democrat could make for a bizarre debate with Biden — with the two of them sharing long records supporting labor causes and abortion rights and a host of other issues that would infuriate McCain’s activist base.

In essence, said one insider, a Lieberman pick “means McCain would run a campaign without a core constituency of the Republican Party.”

Phyllis Schlafly, of the conservative Eagle Forum, was more blunt: “I think there would be a walkout on Lieberman at the convention. He’s not a Republican.”

For their part, the Family Research Council can't imagine what McCain could possibly be thinking either:

McCain would presumably pledge not to run again and Lieberman would never be the GOP nominee in 2012, thus it would be the swan song for them both. Joe Lieberman has a reasonable and thoughtful image, but his positions on abortion and homosexual marriage would mark a major break for the GOP. It's hard to imagine a more divisive step for McCain, but it would be odd at other levels. By acknowledging from day one that his administration is lame duck, by holding simultaneously the thought that he would remake American politics without touching the nature of his own party, by making his ticket focus solely on foreign policy when economic news dominates the headlines, McCain would be letting the air out of his own balloon.

Biden Known By His Enemies

If one thing is for sure, it is that the paramount issue for the Right over the last several years has been gaining control over the federal judiciary and especially the Supreme Court. This has been the one unifying theme of their efforts to rally behind John McCain and one McCain himself has been citing at every opportunity.

So it was to be expected that this sort of article from CNSNews would emerge sooner or later, in which just about every right-wing judicial activist is given an opportunity to attack Joe Biden as the man single-handedly responsible for everything that is wrong, from their perspective, with the judicial nomination process:

[C]onservatives say that for 27 years, Biden has served as a liberal front man for attacking conservative judicial nominees and principles – notably during the confirmation hearings of Judges Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas.

"Liberal special interest groups worked hand-in-hand with the liberal members of the Judiciary committee to sink Bork, and Biden was in charge of it all," [Focus on the Family's Bruce] Hausknecht said.

[Federalist Society Founder Stephen] Calabresi said that even though it was Biden’s liberal compatriot on the committee, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) who was the most visible in leading the attack on Bork, Biden was hardly a mere bystander.

"It’s important to remember that Sen. Biden was the chairman of the committee during the Bork nomination and the Thomas confirmation fights," Calabresi reiterated.

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John McCain Posts Archive

Kyle Mantyla, Thursday 04/16/2009, 3:01pm
If there is one word that can best describe Mike Huckabee's response to losing the Republican primary to John McCain after being savaged by the fiscal conservatives and snubbed by the social conservatives, it would be "bitterness."As we've noted a few times before, for a guy who is presumably planning on making another run for the White House in 2012, Huckabee seems to be spending a lot more time settling scores with those who refused to back him than attempting to win them over ahead of his next campaign, which doesn't seem like a particularly smart political strategy.And here he... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 04/15/2009, 4:13pm
When it was announced that a new conservative gay organization was coming into existence to challenge the Log Cabin Republicans and give gay conservatives a new voice, it wasn’t really clear exactly what its mission was going to entail, other than trying to sell standard conservative policies from a gay perspective while avoiding the issues that deal directly with gay concerns:  Mr. LaSalvia, the new group's executive director, points to the arithmetic. In the 2008 presidential election, between 4% and 5% of voters self-identified as gay. Of these, 27% went for John... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Thursday 04/09/2009, 10:22am
Earlier this week we mentioned the recent colum by Kathleen Parker, who used a small feud between Focus on the Family and right-wing radio host Steve Deace to proclaim that the Religious Right was "finished as a political entity."Needless to say, this did not sit well with Tom Minnery, senior vice president of Focus on the Family Action, who has now taken to the page of (where else?) WorldNetDaily to set her and everyone else straight:Parker's animus is as puzzling as her myopia. Unlike many reporters, she has never visited, never phoned, never gained her information firsthand,... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Friday 04/03/2009, 4:56pm
Via Alex Koppelman we get this National Journal article reporting that John McCain is "angry and frustrated that, despite the risks he took in pushing immigration reform, Hispanic voters flocked to Democrat Barack Obama in last year's presidential contest. McCain's raw emotions burst forth recently as he heatedly told Hispanic business leaders that they should now look to Obama, not him, to take the lead on immigration."Geoffrey R. Stone argues that what a recent report on the American Bar Association's ratings of Republican and Democratic judicial nominees really shows is that... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 04/01/2009, 3:36pm
Just yesterday I was wondering to myself if Liberty Counsel had finally had gotten tired of Matt Barber embarrassing the organization his with anti-gay rants and decided to keep him under wraps for a while, because I had noticed that I hadn’t seen his name pop up in articles and columns in recent weeks. Of course, just like every other time I think that maybe the Religious Right has wised up and started to dial back its rhetoric because they realize that it is hurting their cause, they prove me wrong and Barber is back with a new column blasting the GOP for being insufficiently... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Thursday 03/26/2009, 5:18pm
To the list of things that the Religious Right will cite to prove that John McCain never deserved their support, we can now add to it the fact that his former campaign chief strategist has declared himself “personally supportive” of same-sex marriage rights.The Hill covers yesterday's Family Research Council briefing on the dangers of casual sex.The University of California, Berkeley is creating a Center for the Comparative Study of Right-Wing Movements.Barney Frank explains why he thinks Justice Antonin Scalia is a homophobe: ""My view that Justice Scalia is... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Thursday 03/19/2009, 11:29am
Over the last few days, we've written several posts about an upcoming meeting at the White House between Joshua DuBois, head of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and representatives of Concerned Women for America, the Family Research Council, and other right-wing groups.Now, in his daily video update, Faith and Action's Rob Schenck reveals that his organization is also trying to set up a meeting with DuBois.Schenck explains that he has a busy day ahead of him, entailing a meeting with Tim Goeglein, the former Bush Administration aide who was forced to step down after... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Friday 03/06/2009, 11:44am
Our latest Right Wing Watch In Focus is now posted, explaining how, since Barack Obama's election, the Right has re-launched itself as a "resistance movement":The failure of right-wing leaders to coalesce behind a presidential candidate early in 2008 led some pundits to write, yet again, an obituary for the political influence of the religious and political right. But the movement maintained enough strength within the Republican Party to keep John McCain from choosing his preferred running mate and used the nomination of Sarah Palin as a way to energize its base. It also was able to... MORE >