John McCain

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.

Right Finds No Need to Work Over McCain on GOP Platform

Back when the Republican primary was still hot and heavy, Phyllis Schlafly told right-wing voters in New Hampshire that it was their job to “work these guys over” and pin them down on the issues important to them.

Once John McCain secured the nomination, the Right then began girding for what it expected to be a bloody fight before the convention over the party’s platform:

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.

McCain has not yet signaled the changes he plans to make in the GOP platform, but many conservatives say they fear wholesale revisions could emerge as candidate McCain seeks to put his stamp on a document that currently reflects the policies and principles of President Bush.

"There is just no way that you can avoid anticipating what is going to come. Everyone is aware that McCain is different on these issues," said Jessica Echard, executive director of the conservative Eagle Forum. "We're all kind of waiting with anticipation because we just don't know how he's going to thread this needle."

But they needn’t have worried, because the McCain campaign decided to sit this one out and let them have their way:

Republicans are inviting suggestions for their party platform this year, and thousands have responded online. But when a committee meets to draft the document in Minneapolis next week, one voice will be largely absent: John McCain's.

The Republican standard-bearer is at odds with his party on such hot-button issues as global warming, immigration, campaign-finance overhaul, stem-cell research, drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Many party stalwarts are also deeply skeptical when it comes to judicial nominations, given his Senate record.

Instead of fighting with party activists to form the platform around his own ideas, Sen. McCain has taken a hands-off approach.

And so they did:

Republicans on Tuesday debated election principles influenced by their conservative base as well as by presidential candidate John McCain, taking a hard line on abortion while edging toward a more moderate position on global warming.

In its platform debate, the party stuck to its call for a constitutional abortion ban despite McCain's opposition to that, and toughened already uncompromising language on the issue.

Conservatives succeeded in removing a line from a platform draft urging a reduction in abortions _ underscoring their point that abortion should be eliminated.

So why did McCain decide to take a hands-off approach this time around?  Maybe because he remembers what happened to Bob Dole back in 1996; Phyllis Schlafly certainly does

In recent years both parties' platforms have become less relevant: they're often written by and for the parties' bases and largely ignored by the candidates. That's what happened in 1996, when Republican candidate Bob Dole, angry at some of the language in the document, claimed he hadn't read it. Dole lost his bid for the presidency to incumbent President Bill Clinton.

Still, the platform can be a harbinger of new directions the party is likely to go, and conservatives say McCain would do well to pay attention to it.

``When we didn't do what Bob Dole wanted he just went out and said he wasn't going to pay attention to it anyway,'' said Phyllis Schlafly, the founder of the advocacy group Eagle Forum, who has been active in Republican politics since 1952. ``And we know what happened to Bob Dole.''

The One-Sided Battle Rages On

It is no secret that Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney did not exactly like one another during the GOP primary.  But ever since John McCain secured the nomination, the Romney campaign has largely held its tongue while Huckabee and his supporters have continued to attack Romney in an effort to prevent him from getting the VP spot on McCain’s ticket - a spot Huckabee clearly wants all to himself

So, with reports swirling that McCain may be ready to make his selection, it comes as no surprise that Huckabee would try to get a few last jabs in, sitting down with CNSNews and bad-mouthing Romney for, of all things, enforcing the law:

In an exclusive video interview with, Huckabee said that, had he been in Romney’s shoes, he would not have used his executive power as governor to carry out the court’s unilateral declaration that the other branches of state government must certify same-sex marriages.

“You know, it’s interesting, the California decision as well as the Massachusetts decision, I don’t think should ever have been implemented by the governors, Schwarzenegger and Romney,” said Huckabee.  “They were both decisions that the governors simply could have said the court has said that we have to do it, but let them enforce it.  Because those were administrative decisions that had to put that in place and there was no mandate.”

When asked whether Romney’s decision to comply with his state supreme court’s order to allow same-sex marriages should disqualify him as a Republican vice-presidential nominee, Huckabee said:  “Well, you know, I’ve not probably been an advocate for him in that position. And, you know, I am going to let him defend himself. And I don’t want to relive the primary. But I think that that was a very unfortunate position that he took in saying that, ‘Well, I can’t do anything about it.’  Oh, yes you can.”

Huckabee said he did not hold Romney “singularly” responsible for same-sex marriages in Massachusetts, but that he did hold him “responsible for implementing” them.

“He could have stopped it, and should have stopped it,” Huckabee said.

Asked if he would have had clerks and justices of the peace certify same-sex marriages had he been in Romney’s position, Huckabee said: “Absolutely not.”

As we noted before, for a guy who fancies himself a “Christian leader,” Huckabee’s not big on the whole forgiveness thing.

What To Do When God’s Candidate Loses?

Once upon a time, Janet Folger declared that the only hope Christians had of not being rounded up and sent off to prison was to support Mike Huckabee.  It was that sort of passion that landed her a position as co-chair of Mike Huckabee’s Faith and Values Coalition, whom she had anointed the “David among Jesse’s sons” after the Values Voter Debate she organized back in 2007.

In essence, God had chosen Huckabee and it was Folger’s job to make it clear that those with firm Christian principles must refuse to support anyone else:

There are sheep, and there are shepherds. Sheep follow the pundits, the polls, political expediency and promised perks. Shepherds follow principle. Gov. Mike Huckabee is such a man. So are those who stand on principle with him.

So wedded to Huckabee was Folger that she even started a front-group that ran ads against both Mitt Romney and John McCain:

Senator John McCain favors forcing taxpayers to fund embryonic stem cell research, which the National Right to Life Committee says: "requires killing human embryos."

McCain violated our Free Speech rights with the notorious McCain-Feingold Act, and personally sued Wisconsin Right to Life for communicating with their members prior to an election.

John McCain is one of only seven Republican senators who voted against the Marriage Protection Amendment supported by President Bush.

John McCain:  Against protecting life.  Against protecting free speech.  Against protecting marriage.

But that was then.  Once God’s candidate failed to secure the nomination, Folger changed her tune, declaring it imperative that those with firm Christian principles now support John McCain. 

Folger was blasted by Gordon Klingenschmitt for selling-out in the pages of WorldNetDaily, but that obviously didn’t silence her, as she has returned to the pages of WND - this time to blast WND founder Joseph Farah for his own staunch refusal to support McCain, beseeching him to put aside his own principles for the greater good:

Here's the bottom line: If McCain is elected, we WILL get the judges we need to bring this slaughter to an end. All of our efforts and all of our labors that have taken us this far will have been worth it. If Obama is elected, we will not only see the court stacked against us with life-long appointments, we will lose every single advance we have ever made in every state, city and county.

You want to protest? Get a sign and march. We're out of time. Besides that, I'm sick of marching – I want to win: I want to restore protection to children in my lifetime.

I've given my life to the pro-life movement, and I don't have another life to give it. Neither do the 50 million children whose lives were stolen from them. If we don't take what may be our last chance, I don't believe we're going to see another one. If we choose protest over influence, Obama will not only make sure that another 50 million children lose their lives, but he'll make sure we won't recognize what's left of our nation when he's through with it.

I urge you to choose life, that we and our children may live. That choice is John McCain. Any other choice will be lethal … literally.

In the course of six months, Folger has gone from a militantly principled Huckabee activist who was convinced that he was God’s chosen candidate to a vocal supporter of John McCain, whom she was recently proclaiming was against protecting life, free speech, and marriage and therefore utterly unacceptable.

It’s a Feature, Not a Bug

The blogs are abuzz over the new ad John McCain is running featuring former Hillary Clinton supporter Debra Bartoshevich declaring that she will now vote for McCain.  

The interest in the ad stems primarily from a press conference the GOP arranged in Denver featuring Bartoshevich and other Clinton supporters who are now backing McCain during which, when asked if she was concerned about McCain's anti-choice record, Bartoschevich replied:

Going back to 1999, John McCain did an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle saying that overturning Roe v. Wade would not make any sense, because then women would have to have illegal abortions.

As several blogs have already pointed out to Bartoshevich, McCain most certainly does want to overturn Roe v. Wade and has a long history as an anti-choice zealot.  His campaign website even unequivocally proclaims:

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.

Presumably, that point was fed to Bartoshevich by the McCain campaign - it's unlikely she'd be citing obscure, decade-old Chronicle interviews on her own. So the interesting thing here is not Bartoshevich’s confusion about McCain’s views; it’s the fact that a central theme of the McCain’s campaign outreach to former Clinton supporters seems to hinge on sowing this sort of confusion.  

Back in June, when the McCain campaign was first making overtures to Clinton supporters, the candidate went out of his way to reassure them that he was nothing like President Bush and that when it came to nominating Supreme Court justices, they would have nothing to worry about.  

As the New York Times reported:

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

Politico reported something similar:  

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

So when he is reaching out to Clinton supporters, he assures them that he’ll have no litmus test and highlights his past support for Democratic judicial nominees, creating the misimpression that he is a moderate on the issue, rather than the anti-choice his record reveals. 

Interestingly, as we pointed out a few weeks ago, he does the exact opposite whenever he is trying to prove his conservative credentials to right-wing audiences, immediately citing his pledge to appoint nominees like John Roberts and Samuel Alito whenever the issue arises.  

Thus, the confusion some people have over just where McCain stands on choice, Roe, and the future of the Supreme Court is entirely understandable; it’s the direct result of the McCain campaign’s deliberate strategy.

As Dahlia Lithwick recently put it:

John McCain is banking on his reputation as an independent maverick to snooker voters into thinking that his abortion views are centrist, no matter what he actually says.

McCain’s Life Easier After Saddleback

Christianity Today sat down with Marlys Popma, president of Iowa's Right to Life Committee, former deputy national political director for Gary Bauer’s 2000 presidential campaign, and current Evangelical outreach coordinator for John McCain.  During the discussion, Popma suggests that McCain’s appearance at the Saddleback faith forum was such a success that it’s actually made it less necessary for the campaign to openly court the Right:  

McCain just spoke at Rick Warren's forum, he met with Billy and Franklin Graham, and he met with evangelicals in Ohio. What is the campaign doing to reach out to evangelicals, other than these meetings?

Those meetings are less important than after Saddleback, but they were still important. It's very important that we touch leadership in groups or one at a time. We plan to make a visit with leadership in priority states. We also send regular e-mails to the individuals whom we have identified in our group. We recently put out a piece on John's faith. It's mostly getting John McCain's conservative message out to the grassroots.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the campaign is letting up.  In fact, Popma reports that whenever she meets with right-wing activists, the one issue she makes sure to drive home is judges:

When you talk to evangelicals about voting for John McCain, what's your pitch?

The first thing I talk about is judges. We need judges who believe in the original intent of the Constitution and show great jurisprudence, who do not legislate from the bench and are constructionists. We are one judge away from the reversal of Roe v. Wade. There are many other points: that John McCain has had a 24-, 25-year pro-life message. He stands for marriage between one man and one woman. He has a great compassion for individuals as a whole, not only in this country, but also abroad. He and his wife are extremely philanthropic. Cindy is involved with HALO and Operation Smile. I just think that as a team, Sen. McCain and his wife, Cindy, reach the heart of what an evangelical Christian is.

If McCain and his wife really do “reach the heart of what an evangelical Christian is,” that must come as a surprise to Rob Schenck, who just announced that McCain is not an Evangelical at all.  

But despite seemingly having the herculean task of selling McCain to the Religious Right, to hear Popma tell it, her job couldn’t be easier because McCain is the total right-wing package: 

We understand on this campaign that there are essentially two groups in which we look for evangelicals. One is what I call "movement conservatives." Those are individuals who have for years been working for the unborn and working hard to make sure that the definition of marriage is between one man and one woman. There is also a young emerging group of people who have broadened their scope. They haven't neglected marriage and life issues, but they've broadened them into a concern about global poverty and making sure the quality of life for individuals is one that a human expects and deserves.

The exciting thing about John McCain is that he hits on all cylinders. There's not any one of the things that evangelicals would be looking for — creation care, all of them — that John McCain has had in his agenda for years.

John McCain is Not an Evangelical

Rob Schenck, fresh off of addressing the “Prayer for Change” anti-abortion rally outside the Democratic convention (and presumably providing some sort of insights to NPR) takes time out to address a key election issue by informing us that John McCain is not an evangelical

[T]he first two [requirements], “salvation” and “believer’s baptism,” form the sine qua non for initiation into the evangelical family. If you apply these two criteria to what we know of John McCain’s Christian faith he would fail the test for being a bona fide “evangelical.” According to various news reports, Senator McCain’s pastor of 15 years, Dan Yeary (of the clearly evangelical North Phoenix Baptist Church), says the senator has never made that initial walk of faith down the aisle. Neither has he undergone a believer’s full immersion baptism, a prerequisite for membership at North Phoenix. So, Senator McCain has all these years been an “adherent,” or non-member attendee, rather than a fully participating member. (This would mean, for example, that he likely couldn’t hold an office in the church nor vote at its congregational business meetings.) My conclusion from all of this: While John McCain is indeed a self-professed Christian; he would not qualify as an “evangelical Christian.”

Why does that matter, you ask?  It doesn’t, unless you are a right-wing evangelical who is confused because you don’t have an evangelical candidate for whom you can reflexively vote, in which case knowing that McCain is merely an “adherent” is apparently relevant:

I frankly don’t think this has anything to do with whether or not Mr. McCain is qualified to be president. For that matter, neither does Barack Obama’s religious identification. What’s important is that Americans—religious and non-religious—have an accurate appreciation of who the candidates are religiously. Religion is an extremely important component to the electoral decision-making process for many voters. The fact that there isn’t an evangelical in this year’s presidential race may change the dynamics some, but it won’t necessarily change the outcome. We simply ought to deal with this factor candidly. (Even if you don’t think it’s important, I think you would agree it certainly can’t hurt to know) … In the end, it’s up to each voter to determine what John McCain’s or Barack Obama’s religious identity means and what bearing it has on which man should be president. I just think it’s something we all need to know, so we can at least pray about the matter in a more informed way.

The title of Schenck’s column is “Is John McCain an Evangelical? Short Answer: No.”   Apparently, Schenck reserves his long answers for investigations into the faith of Barack Obama, which warranted a three-part report that concluded that Obama is “definitely not an Evangelical” and that his “Christianity woefully deficient.”

Will McCain Poke The Right in the Eye?

Ezra Klein predicts that John McCain will choose Joe Lieberman as his running mate and explains his reasoning:

For the Republicans, however, 2008 can't be [about] mobilization. Their half is too small. Their brand is too damaged. And they recognized that when they chose John McCain -- who's not a base mobilizing evangelical conservative anyway -- as their nominee … [Lieberman] lets McCain telegraph an ideological ambiguity and shift towards a policy agenda that's about process, about "reaching across party lines and getting things done," rather than about sops to the conservative base.

That may very well be true, but for this strategy to work one has to assume that the McCain camp would be willing to sacrifice nearly the entire Religious Right base in an effort to win support of moderates and independents because, as the Right has made abundantly clear, their now tepid support for McCain hinges almost entirely on his choice of running mate.  

Just last week, we were noting how the Right was nearly unanimous in their opposition to Lieberman and that, while they were just starting to warm up to McCain, their efforts at mobilizing their grassroots activists on his behalf came to a screeching halt when he suggested that he was open to the idea of naming a pro-choice running mate.  

Right-wing activists have been battling one another over whom best fills the McCain campaign’s need to appease the base for weeks now, a battle that continues even to this day:

Among those doing some soul-searching this week is Betty Kanavel, who lives in the tiny Monroe County town of Ida and will vote for no one who isn't anti-abortion. She would like McCain to pick Mike Huckabee, the charismatic preacher and former Arkansas governor who finished third in Michigan's primary.

The 56-year-old Kanavel, who works part-time at her church, also is concerned over Romney's religion.

"I probably shouldn't go there, but I will anyway: The Mormon religion is totally not the Bible," Kanavel said, adding: "It's very hard, but if he's the choice, OK. He is a good man."

But this is a debate that has raged over Mike Huckabee vs. Mitt Romney and is rooted in the fact that both are, at least nominally, pro-life.  Lieberman, for all his faults, is ostensibly pro-choice - a fact that will not be easily glossed over by the Religious Right: 

Let us be clear on this. Our values and our respect for the Constitution make clear that women must have the right to choose—and we will continue to fight for that right

When McCain floated the idea of a pro-choice running mate a few weeks ago, the Right went completely off the rails and leaders like Richard Land have been taking every opportunity to make absolutely clear just what such a decision would mean to McCain's campaign: 

If he picks a pro-life running mate, it will really cement evangelical support. If he picks a pro-choice running mate it will give oxygen to all those doubts, and deflate the momentum that has been building.

As James Dobson explained last month when he announced that he was changing his position from “never” to “maybe” on McCain, his support hinged in large part on McCain’s choice of running mate:

I don't even know who his vice-presidential candidate will be. You know he could very well choose a pro-abortion candidate and it would not be unlike him to do that because he seems to enjoy a frustrating conservatives on occasions. 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.

In case that wasn’t clear enough, FOF’s Tom Minnery recently told the San Francisco Chronicle that Dobson is essentially waiting to see who McCain picks before officially endorsing him:

"Admittedly, for a lot of us, McCain is an acquired taste," said Tom Minnery, who leads the government and public policy division for Focus on the Family.

But if McCain chooses a strong social conservative for his running mate, Focus on the Family's leader, James Dobson - whose conservative radio broadcasts are heard by 200 million people worldwide - could endorse him.

"We'll wait to see who his vice president is before embracing him," Minnery said.

If the McCain campaign decides that a pro-choice running mate is what the campaign needs, it’ll be because it has concluded that he can with without the Right or, more likely, that the Right will put aside its principles because they have no alternative but to support the campaign regardless of his running mate.  But the Right is in no mood to be insulted in this manner.  As it stands now, McCain’s support from the right-wing base is tenuous at best and will likely collapse completely were he to fill out his ticket with a pro-choice candidate.

As Dobson explained it, McCain has a history of going “out of his way to stick his thumb in the eyes” of the Religious Right – and choosing a pro-choice running mate would be the ultimate poke in the eye to the Right; one that would make it nearly impossible for them to support him.

McCain’s Ultimate Insult

Last week, the on-line activists who constitute Huck’s Army were issuing demands to John McCain and the GOP that Mike Huckabee either had to be named the vice presidential candidate or given the keynote speaking slot at the convention.

The RNC ignored their latter demand, giving that coveted spot to Rudy Giuliani, and now it looks like McCain might be on the verge of ignoring the other:

Mark Halperin set off tremors in the political world last night by reporting via two Republicans that John McCain had settled on Mitt Romney to be his running mate.  

Top sources in McCainworld, though, say this morning that no final decision has been made. 

There are mixed signals at this point, as to whether Romney has emerged as the favorite. 

That seems to be the "body language" from the small group of aides who McCain is consulting on the decision, a GOP source says. 

And that interpretation was reinforced when word spread among Romney loyalists last night that the vice-presidential roll-out tour included Michigan.  

It is hard to overstate how insulting this would be to those who backed Huckabee in the primary.  It is widely believed that Huckabee played a key role in sinking Romney’s own presidential aspirations by thwarting his efforts to consolidate the support of the right-wing establishment and serving as McCain’s attack dog, with members of his campaign team starting anti-Romney front groups and constantly harping on Romney’s Mormon faith.  The animosity between the two camps came to a head when Romney bought off the vote at the Values Voter Summit, which Huckabee rightly won. 

Back in January, Joe Carter, who ran Huckabee’s research operations early on, explained the campaign’s hatred for Romney:

[W]hat will destroy Romney's chances is that he will lie about an issue, know that he is lying, know that you know he is lying, and say it anyway. It's not just that he's dishonest. It's that he thinks we're stupid … the reason that Romney's dishonest campaign tactics have helped him in the short run is that most people have yet to realize--as have the other campaigns and the mainstream media--he is a liar. But eventually the public catches on … Supporters of Romney will no doubt be offended by my criticism. I could counter that I'm offended that conservatives are backing a man that, until recently, was just another Massachusetts liberal. Instead I'll just hold my tongue and wait for Romney's campaign to implode. His "lie and buy" strategy may get him a narrow victory in Iowa but he'll flame out soon enough.

In the months since Huckabee dropped his own presidential bid, he’s been anything but subtle about the fact that he’d love to be McCain’s VP and his supporters have gone all out to echo that point and make clear that Romney is utterly unacceptable.  

For McCain to choose Romney over Huckabee after Huckabee’s own campaign was instrumental in helping McCain secure the nomination by taking down Romney, his biggest competition, would be the ultimate insult to Huckabee’s still rabid supporters – and this would only make things worse:

Making matters more confusing, Politico has learned that McCain will visit suburban St. Louis for a major rally with Romney and his still-bitter primary nemesis Mike Huckabee on Sunday, August 31st, the day before the start of the GOP convention.

It would take a considerable act of pride-swallowing for Huckabee to stand before thousands of fans and watch as McCain touts Romney as his running mate.

McCain Avoiding Brody File

CBN's David Brody wrote a post today explaining to his readers why it is that he seems to keep interviewing Barack Obama but not John McCain. Turns out it is because McCain is trying to avoid him:
First of all, The Brody File has made numerous (dozens) of requests for a one on one interview with John McCain. Those requests have been turned down due to various reasons. Usually I am told it is a scheduling issue. I have been trying for six months. The Brody File has bent over backwards to try and get John McCain to discuss issues of faith, social policy and other matters. I am told that an interview will eventually be forthcoming. I believe it will happen and that is encouraging. ... Here’s why: There is no doubt that the McCain camp realizes that religious conservatives are crucial to winning in November. The McCain staff is working hard to get out the vote. But the thinking inside the McCain camp also centers on how they need to appeal to Independents and moderates who may get turned off to some degree with excess talk about faith and social issues. There may be a reluctance to appear in part for this reason. After all, Brody File interviews end up on The 700 Club. But what’s important to remember about our audience (and I get reminded everyday in the emails I receive) is that we are read and viewed by voters from all faiths. It’s a wide spectrum with various political views. So when you see Barack Obama sitting down with me and appearing on CBN, don’t think for a minute that we aren’t affording the same opportunity to John McCain. We are.
It seems that McCain doesn't want to ruin what is left of his reputation as a "maverick" by sitting down with Brody because he works for Pat Robertson, whom McCain labeled an "agent of intolerance" back in 2000. Of course, that didn't stop him from cozying up to Jerry Falwell, so this strategy doesn't really make a lot of sense.

Everybody Hates Joe

Last month, Politico quizzed some right-wing leaders to get their thoughts on the prospect of John McCain tapping Joe Lieberman as his running mate ... and they weren't pretty:

“Lieberman’s a great pick for McCain if he doesn’t want to be president,” said Tony Perkins, a Christian conservative leader who is the president of the Family Research Council.

Fellow social conservative leader Richard Land, the former director of the Southern Baptist Convention, called a possible Lieberman vice presidential pick "a catastrophe.”

“This would be the kind of thing that could destroy McCain’s campaign for the presidency,” added Don Devine, the vice chairman of the American Conservative Union. “McCain might like to do this in some deep recesses of his heart, but I can’t believe at the end of the day he would do it — and if he did, it would be disastrous. Lieberman is just too far out of any idea of conservatism. It’s just crazy idea.”

“Lieberman is an impossible vice presidential choice,” said Grover Norquist, a conservative anti-tax activist. “You don’t average out a guy who votes hard left on economic matters because he has enthusiasm for occupying Mesopotamia.”

Lieberman has now been tapped to speak at the Republican Convention and the Washington Times is reporting that there are signs that McCain may seriously be considering him for the ticket and that GOP officials are scrambling to figure out how to stop it, even if that means rejecting him on the convention floor:

Officials with John McCain's campaign made a series of conference calls Monday and Tuesday with supporters nationwide to say that Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman may be named as the Arizona senator's vice presidential running mate, immediately sparking a frenzied effort by some state Republican officials to come up with a strategy to head off such a move, The Washington Times has learned.


Concerned state GOP officials on Tuesday discussed by telephone and e-mail whether to organize delegates to reject Mr. Lieberman if his name comes up for a floor vote for the vice presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention -- if Mr. McCain actually does name him, either before or at the beginning of the Sept. 1-4 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn.

But heading off a Lieberman pick beforehand would avoid having to embarrass the GOP nominee by publicly rejecting his judgment on the choice for vice president at a convention watched on television by much of the nation.

McCain's Saddleback Bump

As we noted before, the Right was positively thrilled with both John McCain's performance and Rick Warren's faith forum as a whole. But even we didn't fully realize the extent to which this event seems to have fundamentally transformed the Religious Right's heretofore tepid support into a full-blown fever:

Several conservative activists identified McCain’s response to the question, “What point is a baby entitled to human rights?” as his finest moment of the evening.

McCain replied quickly: “At the moment of conception,” and continued: “I have a 25-year pro-life record in the Congress, in the Senate. And as president of the United States, I will be a pro-life president.”

“He was just right out of the box,” said Lynda Bell, the president of Florida Right to Life. “McCain was so incredibly decisive and he was so clear in his answers. There was no gray area.”

“They feel like this is the start of John McCain’s coming out, in terms of embracing the conservative evangelicals,” Andrews said, comparing the event to the 2000 primary debate in which George W. Bush named Jesus Christ as the philosopher who had influenced him most.

According to Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Christian conservatives were especially eager to hear this message from McCain.

“I think they needed to hear it and they needed to hear it when the question was asked in that way, that protections need to come at the moment of conception,” Land said. “That removes all doubt.”


The importance of McCain’s performance at the Saddleback Church, then, was to show religious conservatives that the candidate genuinely cared about their issues.

“People were, before, just kind of wringing their hands thinking, what kind of mess do we have here, what kind of choice do we have,” Perkins said. “I think he stopped the … ambivalence that was out there toward John McCain.”

Andrews agreed, explaining: “When they see McCain’s actual position and him talking about it, it makes a difference, instead of looking at roll call tallies.”

“McCain’s performance was so genuine and so real,” Bell added. “This became clearly, no longer that, ‘This is the best of the two choices,’ and moved from that over to, ‘This is a great, great candidate that we need to get behind.’”

Of course, McCain's new-found support could still all be wiped out if he chooses a running mate who does not meet the Right's requirements:

“The party will just implode” if McCain makes such a choice, Perkins warned. “[Social conservatives] are going to have to know that he’s totally committed to these issues, and that’s going to require a running mate that has an even better ability to communicate with the base than John McCain has.”

Warren Says Candidates Have to Believe in God

While Rick Warren is often portrayed as something of a poster-boy for a new, more moderate evangelical movement, his statements and views are closely aligned with the Religious Right's traditional agenda. And that was on full display when he appeared on Larry King Live on Monday to discuss the faith forum he recently hosted with Barack Obama and John McCain and declared that anyone running for president must believe in God and that while he could vote for someone of a different religion, he couldn't "vote for a person who was an atheist":

KING: Rick Warren is our guest. Rick, let me ask you a couple of Rick Warren questions. OK?


KING: Does a person have to believe in god to be president?

WARREN: I would say so. I couldn't vote for a person who was an atheist, because I would think -- I think the presidency is a job too big for one person. I would think there's a little arrogance that says, I don't need anybody else. I could vote for someone of different religions than mine, but I don't know that I could personally vote for somebody who denies that we need somebody greater than ourselves to help us.

McCain’s Faith Taking Center Stage

The conventional wisdom is that John McCain and his campaign are exceedingly reluctant to discuss McCain’s experiences in Vietnam when, in reality, they cite it repeatedly – even in cases where it has absolutely no bearing on the issue at hand.  
On the same note, it is widely accepted that McCain is equally reluctant to discuss his personal faith yet, whenever the topic arises, he inevitably relates the story about the kindly Vietnamese prison guard who loosened his ropes and sketched a cross in the dirt.

While McCain may very well have been hesitant early on to discuss his faith, it doesn’t seem as if that is any longer the case – his appearance at Rick Warren’s faith forum is evidence of that.  In fact, his appearance at the forum was really the culmination of an effort that had been underway for several weeks. 

For example, a few weeks ago, David Brody posted an email distributed by McCain’s Americans of Faith team that was designed to “explain the shaping and content of John McCain's faith.”  Around the same time, the candidate had an essay in Time magazine on his faith and then, just last week, McCain sat down for an interview with the Chicago Tribune to discuss “how his faith was tested during his years as a prisoner of war.” 

And now Beliefnet is reporting that the campaign has been busy screening a video of a “faith interview" that McCain originally conducted with the religious Trinity Broadcasting Network for right-wing leaders:  

[S]ome of the nation's top conservative Christian activists have already seen a glimpse of McCain discussing the influence of his religion in his life in deeply personal terms, in the form of a Christian television interview with McCain that his campaign has been screening for religious audiences.

McCain's "faith interview" originally ran on "First to Know," a program on TBN, which describes itself as "the world's largest religious network and America's most watched faith channel." TBN does not offer a video or DVD versions of its programs for purchase, and the full video is not available online. A McCain aide says it will likely to be posted to a new evangelical section of the campaign's web site that is scheduled to launch in the next week or two.

A McCain aide says the campaign began screening the video for Christian audiences in Iowa in advance of this year's caucuses there, and that it had begun showing it to national evangelical leaders in late spring or early summer. "The exciting thing about the piece is that it wasn't generated after Obama started talking about faith--it was a piece that showed he was engaged [on faith issues] before the Iowa caucuses," the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said. "It will be used more often... we have plans for using it in a larger arena."

On top of that, as the Boston Globe reports, McCain has developed a tendency to start discussing every issue in terms to “Judeo-Christian values”:    

On a frozen winter evening at a Town Hall meeting in a school in the Manchester, N.H., suburbs, John McCain expressed surprise and irritation with an intelligence report downplaying the threat of Iran's nuclear program.

At the end of a long list of reasons to be suspicious of the Iranians, McCain declared: "And they sure don't share our Judeo-Christian values."

It seemed at the time to be an odd thing to say about a Muslim country. After all, even if there were no nuclear program, no oil, and no rabble-rousing president, Iran still wouldn't have Judeo-Christian values. And it's troubling to wonder if that alone would be a reason for suspicion.

Even President Bush has resisted framing the war on terrorism as a clash of religions; his inexpert use of the word "crusade" early in the conflict set off a wave of criticism and backtracking. He's never repeated it.

Perhaps McCain's comment was a similar mistake.

But on Saturday, at the nationally televised forum at evangelist Rick Warren's Saddleback Church in California, McCain declared: "Our Judeo-Christian principles dictate that we do what we can to help people who are oppressed throughout the world."

And a review of online records by the Globe library shows that McCain uses the term "Judeo-Christian values" quite often, and in varying contexts. For example, last week in York, Pa., he praised small-town Americans by saying, "The Judeo-Christian values that they hold are the strength of America."

He has also repeatedly urged that illegal immigrants be treated in a manner "consistent with Judeo-Christian values." In February, he declared that job training was a Judeo-Christian imperative.

"We've got to educate and train these people," he said, referring to laid-off workers. "It is a Judeo-Christian values nation and it's an obligation we have and we are not doing it."

Last year, when he was criticized for telling the website Beliefnet that America was founded on Christian principles, McCain's defense was that he meant to say "Judeo-Christian." (When pressed, he said he believes a Muslim could serve as president.)

If McCain really is reluctant to discuss his faith, he sure is doing a good job of hiding it.

Jerome Corsi, McCain Basher

Current New York Times best-selling author and proven liar Jerome Corsi has been lavished with attention by the likes of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh for his slanderous new book about Barack Obama. But before Corsi put Obama in his crosshairs, he plied his wares in the GOP presidential primary. Fox and Limbaugh treat Corsi like he’s a legitimate political commentator, so we’ll trust they’ll have Corsi back on to discuss his groundbreaking work on McCain: Group tied to al-Qaida backs McCain for prez March 02, 2008 By Jerome R. Corsi McCain fortune traced to organized crime February 26, 2008 By Jerome R. Corsi Influence peddling claims dog McCain February 15, 2008 By Jerome R. Corsi John McCain funded by Soros since 2001 February 12, 2008 By Jerome R. Corsi McCain aide touts 'Mexico first' policy January 25, 2008 By Jerome R. Corsi

Huck Will Take VP, But Nothing Else

While Mike Huckabee’s supporters are busy threatening mutiny unless their candidate gets the nod as John McCain’s running mate and launching a seemingly endless parade of anti-Mitt Romney efforts, Huckabee himself as been a most loyal of soldiers, saying that his sole goal is to do whatever is most helpful to McCain and that “this isn't about me anymore. It's really about John McCain and winning.”

And if what McCain decides is most helpful to him would be to name him as his vice presidential candidate, then that would be just swell with Huckabee:

Mike Huckabee on Tuesday said he has not been approached by John McCain about being the U.S. presidential candidate's running mate. But he'd certainly consider the offer.

Huckabee said he didn't think anyone who has run for the U.S. presidency would turn down a chance to be vice president. The former Arkansas governor dropped out of the presidential race last March after McCain clinched the Republican nomination.

Speaking to reporters in Jerusalem, Huckabee said he has received "no indication" that McCain is considering him as a running mate. But if asked, Huckabee said it would be hard to resist.

"I don't think anybody that runs for president turns around and says no," he said.

Warren Wows the Right His Faith Forum

The emerging right-wing narrative coming out of Saturday’s faith forum at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church is John McCain won in a landslide.   That is not particularly surprising – and neither is the fact that Religious Right leaders are now smitten with Rick Warren himself.  As Catholic Online put it, “at the Saddleback Forum, Pastor Rick Warren and Senator John McCain both took the Gold” and that seems to be a view widely shared by others on the right as well, such as FRC’s Tony Perkins:

Warren, who was urged to ask some weighty values questions, did not disappoint and drew some stark contrasts between the candidates on key issues …After the forum, I gave some of my perspective as part of CNN's pre- and post-panel discussion from Washington. As I saw it, there were two winners-Sen. John McCain and Pastor Rick Warren …As for Pastor Warren, who has been called the Billy Graham of this generation, he asked the right questions. Some have implied that Pastor Warren with his non-confrontational style is evidence that Evangelicals are moving to the Left. I would suggest he is evidence that Evangelicals are more involved and more committed than they were 25 or 30 years ago. If he is the new Billy Graham, and he certainly has similar favor with elected leaders of all political persuasions, there is a big contrast. Pastor Warren showed Saturday night that you can have a personal relationship with those in positions of power and still ask the hard questions.

Reed Skips McCain Fundraiser

After all the controversy provoked by the fact that John McCain was set to attend a fundraiser with Jack Abramoff crony Ralph Reed, it looks like the McCain campaign and Reed both wised up and decided not to be seen together at last night’s fundraiser in Atlanta:

John McCain raised more than $1.75 million for Republicans Monday at a fundraiser clouded by confusion over the role of a political operative connected to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

The downtown event was promoted by Ralph Reed, a former head of the Christian Coalition. McCain's campaign said the event was organized by the Republican National Committee , not Reed, who was linked to the Abramoff scandal that McCain investigated in the Senate.

McCain didn't raise the issue during his 22-minute appearance. Instead, he thanked donors to the Republicans' umbrella campaign fund.

"Everybody in this room could be someplace else," the Arizona senator told the crowd of several hundred. "Everybody in this room could be donating to some other cause or to their own well-being. But I want to thank you."

Reed was not seen inside the hotel ballroom; a McCain campaign spokeswoman said he did not attend.

The New Evangelicals: Like The Right, Only Broader

Back during the heyday of Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign, the candidate was being hailed as a “new breed” of evangelical, one who cared about issues like poverty and the environment in addition to traditional right-wing opposition to gays and abortion.  As we have noted before, one of the key mis-perceptions about this so-called new movement is that its purported concern about issues beyond the standard Religious Right agenda does not mean that they are any more moderate on the core anti-gay, anti-abortion agenda that has driven the movement for the last several decades. 

Heading into his faith forum over the weekend, Rick Warren was poised to emerge as the poster boy for this “new evangelical” movement – as Time Magazine put it:

A shift away from "sin issues" — like abortion and gay marriage — is reflected in Warren's approach to his coming sit-downs with the candidates. He says he is more interested in questions that he feels are "uniting," such as "poverty, HIV/AIDS, climate change and human rights," and still more in civics-class topics like the candidates' understanding of the role of the Constitution. There will be no "Christian religion test," Warren insists. "I want what's good for everybody, not just what's good for me. Who's the best for the nation right now?"
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John McCain Posts Archive

Kyle Mantyla, Thursday 03/19/2009, 12:29pm
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, 12:44pm
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 >
Kyle Mantyla, Thursday 03/05/2009, 12:48pm
Back when speculation was flying about whom John McCain would name as his running mate, one name that kept popping up was Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.  He was, and remains, relatively unknown on the national scence but, when his name started floated as a potential VP pick, he quietly started making the rounds and doing a bit of outreach to the Religious Right.For instance, last June he sat down for an interview with CBN's David Brody where he assured Evangelicals that they could support John McCain and that he would make them proud, as well declaring that his own value system... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 02/25/2009, 1:13pm
The Washington Times reports that organizers of this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference are expecting record turn-out this year as the movement tries to get its act together after seeing its Republican allies tossed out of office during the last several elections: CPAC is expected to draw nearly 9,000 activists and college students from across the country, up from the record 7,000 who attended last year, when the main attractions were personal appearances by President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and the four remaining Republican presidential nomination hopefuls... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 02/24/2009, 5:19pm
Last week, when we wrote about the fund-raising letter bearing Sen. Sam Brownback's signature which questioned the Catholic faith of several Democratic members of Congress, we noted that Brownback's staff proclaimed that they had nothing to do with it and that they "had never seen, heard of, or approved it."As it turns out, it looks like that is not completely accurate, as Brownback's Chief of Staff Glen Chambers sent an email to Deal Hudson, founder of the group which issued the letter in question, blaming it all on on an unnamed campaign aide from last year:Deal -As I mentioned to... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 02/24/2009, 11:53am
Yesterday, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported that Mike Huckabee is working hard to hold on to the influence he gained during the Republican primary via his political action committee, Huck PAC.  Unfortunately, Huckabee's popularity with grassroots conservatives has not necessarily been translating into significant funding, and so Huck PAC is focusing, at the moment, on building up an army of volunteers:The former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate this week will boost his political action committee's effort to string together a nationwide web of grass-roots organizers... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 02/17/2009, 6:51pm
Ken Starr says that President Obama should be prepared for an "uphill battle over his Supreme Court nominees because as a senator he opposed two of President George W. Bush's Supreme Court picks."Some group called Conservatives Students Activists and Policy Makers is having a joint conference during the upcoming CPAC that will reportedly feature Michelle Malkin, Glenn Reynolds, Mike Huckabee, and Joe the Plumber. I have never even heard of them.Richard Land continues to insist that pursuing stem-cell research makes us modern day cannibals.Among the things that will probably not... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 02/04/2009, 4:20pm
There is nothing particularly ground-breaking contained in this latest video update from Rob Schenck of Faith and Action, but it does provide some interesting insight into how closely many of the right-wing groups we write about here are intertwined. Schenck is discussing the expansion of their ministry into new space and, at the 1:40 mark, he begins to relate all of the various groups who currently occupy space in Faith to Action’s Washington DC headquarters, among them the Christian Defense Coalition, Priests for Life, the National Pro-Life Action Center, the Judicial Action... MORE >