Texas

McCain Be Not Proud

John McCain says he is "very proud to have Pastor John Hagee’s support" - just not proud enough to issue any sort of press release touting it, apparently. What's the deal? After all, he issued a press release when Gary Bauer endorsed him.

Readers: Be Prepared for Far-Right Politics

The governor of Texas has written a new book about the Boy Scouts, but parents expecting a positive, civic-minded story about personal development will be disappointed: instead, Rick Perry has apparently taken up a defense of the youth organization’s anti-gay policy.

Perry, like the Scouts, has made banning gays and atheists the Maginot Line of what he calls the “culture war” against the "virus of secularism." In a condensed interview with the New York Times Magazine’s Deborah Solomon, the governor lays out his explanation of why excluding gays is so important to scouting:

Let’s talk about your new book, “On My Honor,” which draws on your experience as an Eagle Scout and champions the values of the Boy Scouts of America, to whom you are donating your royalties. Yes, to their legal-defense fund.

Which has been fighting the A.C.L.U., to keep gays out of the scouts. Why do you see that as a worthy cause? I am pretty clear about this one. Scouting ought to be about building character, not about sex. Period. Precious few parents enroll their boys in the Scouts to get a crash course in sexual orientation.

Why do you think a homosexual would be more likely to bring the subject of sex into a conversation than a heterosexual? Well, the ban in scouting applies to scout leaders. When you have a clearly open homosexual scout leader, the scouts are going to talk about it. And they’re not there to learn about that. They’re there to learn about what it means to be loyal and trustworthy and thrifty.

But don’t you think that homosexuals might also be interested in being loyal and thrifty? The argument that gets made is that homosexuality is about sex. Do you agree?

No. Well, then why don’t they call it something else?

If scouting is “not about sex,” then why must the group interrogate its participants’ sexuality? If someone is gay, says the governor, then everything they do is sexual.

UPDATE (2/27/08): Boy Scouts of American spokesman Bob Bork, Jr. (son of the rejected Supreme Court nominee) praises Perry and echoes the same paradoxical logic:

"Since its inception in 1910, the Boy Scouts has believed that open homosexuality is inconsistent with the values it wants to communicate through its leaders," Bork notes. "Scouting parents and sponsoring organizations share that belief -- and the Boy Scouts of America has a constitutional right to provide a youth organization for families who share those values."…

Scouting is about camping out and having fun, says Bork, and not the appropriate place to delve into the issue of sexuality.

Huckabee’s Last Stand

While Mike Huckabee prepares for what may be his final stand in Texas, John McCain continues to make in-roads with some of the Religious Right leaders who purport to represent the values that Huckabee seeks to give voice to.

For instance, McCain recently received the endorsement of Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition, a one-time Romney backer, is getting advice from one-time Fred Thompson supporter Richard Land, and has Sen. Sam Brownback out there wooing others on his behalf:

Brownback said his task remains crucial, even as the departure of other contenders has cleared the way for McCain to become the Republican party’s nominee. Many evangelical voters are still attracted to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and McCain cannot risk alienating a group that makes up about a third of the conservative voter base.

Earlier this month, Brownback met with Gary Bauer after the conservative Christian power broker endorsed McCain to discuss “what else might be done” to help McCain with social conservatives. He’s also had similar conversations with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, and Frank Pavone, head of the anti-abortion group Priests for Life.  

But that doesn’t mean that Huckabee is willing to throw in the towel or go quietly.  In fact, he seems to be making a last-ditch effort to highlight what he perceives as the key difference between himself and McCain by comparing abortion to slavery after meeting with James Dobson, throwing his support behind Colorado’s “egg as a person” constitutional Human Life Amendment, and daring McCain to debate him on the issues.

And while Huckabee is busy getting pastors involved in his efforts in Texas, he’s also campaigning in Ohio where he is being introduced by Janet Folger, who continues to release anti-McCain ads via her “RoeGone.org” front group (or, as her website mistakenly spells it, “John McCaine.”)  

For her part, Folger has picked up on Huckabee’s hope for a brokered convention by saying that “Gov. Mike Huckabee doesn't need to reach 1,191 delegates to win the nomination – all he has to do is keep John McCain from doing so.”  In fact, a brokered convention seems to be becoming the Huckabee campaign’s main goal

Huckabee's press secretary Alice Stewart said he is in the race for the long haul. "The race isn't over until someone receives 1,191 delegates, and no one has received that yet," Stewart said. "If he were to drop out he would basically be telling all those people in Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island, North Carolina and all the states that haven't had their primaries or caucuses yet that their votes don't matter. It's certainly possible to bring this all the way to a brokered convention and have it decided in Minneapolis."

According to a CNN news scorecard McCain has 971 delegates, Mitt Romney — who dropped out of the race — holds 286 delegates, Huckabee has 233 and Ron Paul holds 16 delegates. As of Feb. 19, the report showed 1,506 Republican delegates have declared their presidential preference, which leaves 874 up for grabs.

Lori Viars, a Warren County delegate and Huckabee supporter, said she likes her man's chances at a convention showdown because she believes delegates who currently support Romney will cross over to Huckabee.

While it is understandable that at this point in the primaries, the Huckabee campaign would have little choice but to pin its hopes on simply preventing McCain from securing the required number of delegates, what makes them think that, were they to head into Minneapolis, a brokered GOP convention would choose Huckabee as the nominee?  

After all, if Huckabee was popular enough among the GOP insiders who make up the convention, he wouldn’t have had to run his entire campaign whining about why they won’t support him and complaining about conspiracies.  In fact, if Huckabee could win the support of the Republican Party’s rank-and-file, he wouldn’t be getting crushed in the delegate count in the first place.  

And considering that Huckabee served as the chief anti-Romney attack dog, it is highly unlikely that his delegates at the convention would suddenly decide to support the one candidate whose primary role in the race seemed to be to undermine Romney’s electoral chances at every turn.

"Why Don’t They Call it Something Else?"

Texas Governor Rick Perry says that "homosexuality is about sex" - if it weren't, they'd call it something else.

Regnery on Judges

Human Events interviewed its publisher, Al Regnery, who has written a book of his own on movement conservatism. While everyone on the Right talks about so-called “activist judges”—a political theme going back to southern resistance to the 1954 Brown v. Board decision—not too many writers actually cite Brown or Chief Justice Earl Warren anymore. For Regnery, though, Brown is the first case of “judicial fiat”:

[Al Regnery] But, in terms of the reaction, there have been a lot of things that have been done by the left that didn’t reflect democracy, or republican values -- republican with a small ‘r’ -- which conservatives did react to.

I think case in point is, starting with 1953 with the elevation of Earl Warren, the chief justice in the Supreme Court, the things that the courts have done, by unelected people, which have been moving this country to the left, actually since the Roosevelt administration. That’s been somewhat corrected now, but there is a tendency of judges oftentimes to rule in ways that certainly would not be what the people want them to do. They do that by judicial fiat, and the normal thing of conservatives to do is to get together and react to it one way or another.

[Jed Babbin]: That leads to another point. One of the things, it seems to me, that differentiates between liberals from conservatives is that conservatives are more dedicated to personal freedom. And when you have the courts imposing limitations on those freedoms, conservatives are more apt to react negatively.

AR: Well, that’s true. In a broader sense, conservatives are also, really, more dedicated to the rule of law and due process. And even in cases where the result may not bother people, the way the courts went about it often sends conservatives up the wall. Case in point is, as I point out in the book, is the Brown v. Board of Education case in 1953 and ‘54, desegregating the schools. A lot of people thought, there’s nothing wrong with desegregating the schools, it’s the right thing to do. But what in the world are these nine unelected people in Washington telling us in Texas or Mississippi or wherever it may be how to run our school systems?

What could the federal government and the 14th Amendment have to say about militant segregation? If some states wanted to use police dogs and fire hoses to maintain their system of unequal education for blacks, who are we to judge? That appears to be Regnery’s relativistic question about the Supreme Court’s intervention in Brown. In the vestigial memory of the modern Right, apparently, it still comes down to states’ rights.

Huckabee’s Two-Fer

Amid a heated battle in the Wisconsin primary this week, Mike Huckabee took some time off for a side trip to the Cayman Islands to earn a little money before returning to the campaign trail, only to be summarily trounced by John McCain in the state’s primary.   

On the heels of this loss, Huckabee beat a path down to Texas where he is making a last stand, seemingly realizing that if he cannot win there, he might finally be forced to admit defeat and drop out.    

But just because Texas represents his last hope to keep his campaign alive doesn’t mean he can afford to pass up an opportunity to head to Colorado to make some money and, more importantly, meet privately with James Dobson:

Despite continuing to battle rival John McCain in his up hill battle for the Republican nomination, Mike Huckabee will be dropping off the campaign trail today to give his second paid speech in a week, Fox News has learned.

The former Arkansas governor will be speaking to the annual retreat for the Colorado-based group, Leadership Program of the Rockies, event organizers tell Fox.  Leadership staffers, nor the campaign would reveal the amount he will be paid for the speech. He will also be meeting behind closed doors with Focus on the Family’s Dr. James Dobson, who recently endorsed Huckabee. It will be an informal meeting at the organization’s headquarters in Colorado Springs, according to Dobson aides.

Can Huckabee Endorse McCain?

To hear Mike Huckabee tell it, he is not staying in the presidential race to boost his profile, or out of vanity, or just because he has nothing better to do; it’s because he has principles and convictions that won’t let him step aside and refuses to bow to the "smug, elitist, arrogant attitude" of those in the GOP who feel he should step aside and allow the coronation of John McCain as the nominee.  As Huckabee repeatedly states, he is staying in the until McCain has won the 1,191 delegates he needs to lock up the nomination, even though it is mathematically impossible for Huckabee to win the nomination himself and his only hope is for a brokered convention.  

While McCain has won the last five Republican primaries by an average of 55% to 29% and continues to inch closer to the magic number, Huckabee continues to insist that he will not drop out,, claiming that he is playing an important role by ensuring that voices of the GOP’s right-wing voters “aren't shut out” and vowing to soldier on so that Republican voters can be given a “choice”:  

“One of the questions I get asked everyday…is why do you keep going? And I know that’s a question [to which] people try to come up with their own answers. And some have even suggested the reason I keep going is maybe just some ego trip. Let me assure you,” Huckabee said to reporters, “if it were ego, my ego doesn’t enjoy getting these kind of evenings where we don’t win the primary elections.”

“So, it’s gotta be something other than that, and it is. It’s about convictions, it’s about principles that I dearly, dearly believe in. It’s about believing that the message of pro life – standing firm and unflinchingly for a human life amendment – is an important discussion we must have in our Republican party and frankly must have in our nation.”

“We’re going to keep marching on, not just because of nothing else to do, but primarily because there is a message that still needs to be heard in this country, there are people who have a right to vote, there are states who have patiently waited while other states have gone in front of them, and they should have as much of a voice the process of selecting the nominee as have the states that win early.”

Of course, when voters have such a “choice” and continue to “choose” your opponent by overwhelming margins, most politicians see the writing on the wall and drop out.  But not Huckabee, who apparently believes that he must remain in the race because McCain is so insufficiently conservative that he is endangering the Republican Party as a whole: 

Those principles include giving as many voters as possible the chance to vote for a candidate with positions he feels are at odds with John McCain. “[McCain] does not support for example the human life amendment. He does support human embryonic stem cell research and I know our positions on immigration are significantly different,” listed Huckabee, adding, “doesn’t mean that his positions are bad, it means they’re different, and elections are about choices.”

"Not staying in the race hurts the GOP," he said. "It makes it like we're so weak that we can't have a debate and discussion. If this party is so completely incapable of discussing the issues that matter deeply to Republicans, then I'm not its problem. Its problem is that it doesn't have a message that it can run on and it wants to circle the wagons and act like it's all well. It's not all well."

Of course, the GOP is not really having a debate or discussion about these issues at all – Huckabee is talking about them while the McCain campaign is all but ignoring him on his way to winning primary after primary.  

So the question remains:  if Huckabee needs to stay in the race in order to save the Republican Party from itself and its voters from the dangers of a McCain nomination, will he actually endorse McCain once he has officially secured the nomination?  

Undoubtedly he will, since most of this is just self-serving rhetoric designed to make his continue presence in the race seem like a principled stand.  But if we are to take his rhetoric at face value, it stands to reason that if Huckabee believes that he must stay in the race because McCain does not represent the Republican Party’s core “principles,” then, as the self-proclaimed representative of those very principles, he would be expected to stand on them and refuse to endorse McCain at all.  

Either McCain is so unacceptable a Republican nominee that Huckabee feels he cannot in good conscience simply stand aside (in which case, how could he ever endorse him?) or McCain is a perfectly acceptable candidate that Huckabee will be only too happy to endorse (in which case, why is he still in the race?)

Huckabee’s Future

Over the weekend, Mike Huckabee jaunted off to the Cayman Islands to deliver a speech at the Young Caymanian Leadership Foundation’s awards banquet because … well, he needed the money:

“No taxpayers pay for me to have health insurance, to pay my mortgage, to pay my bills,” Mr. Huckabee said. “And so to me, it’s not just absurd, it’s beyond absurd — it’s insulting — to think that there’s something nefarious about my being here when nobody has raised the question about sitting U.S. senators taking their full paycheck and enjoying all the magnificent perks they get from the U.S. taxpayers.”

Obviously, Huckabee needs to earn money when and where he can, since his only job at the moment is running his long-shot presidential campaign, especially since he thinks that this very campaign just “may be killing my political career.” 

Of course, rather than “killing” his career, this quixotic endeavor has actually made his career.  After all, had he not run and managed to outlast much bigger names like Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, and Rudy Giuliani, nobody would be speculating as to whether he might be tapped to serve as John McCain’s vice-presidential nominee or to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services.  

On top of that, he has built up a large base of right-wing supporters that could easily propel him into a position as one of the nation’s leading, most high-profile Religious Right leaders once the race is over, much as Pat Robertson did following his own run for president.  

Far from hurting his political future, Huckabee’s campaign is still out there stumping with figures like Steven Hotze and continuing to rack up support from various right-wing leaders: 

"This is Texas," declared Rick Green, a Mike Huckabee supporter. "In Texas, we don't cut and run. In Texas, we don't give up and go home before the fight is over."

Although the Huckabee camp has worked to define its candidate more broadly as a tax-cutting economic populist, Monday's supporters made it clear why they were there.

"Protecting life and protecting the family," said the Rev. Steve Washburn, pastor of First Baptist Church of Pflugerville. "We are to vote for the candidate who will best champion this cause of the Lord, this moral cause."

Brent Bullock, who works for a Christian nonprofit group, warned of corrosive "secular humanism and socialist ideologies."

Green works for Wallbuilders along with renowned pseudo-historian David Barton, while Bullock happens to run the America Bless God Campaign of Texas which seeks to “reestablish the Word of God as the moral standard in America”:

America's predominate population of Christians has been influenced by Secular Humanism and contemporary American culture, which has damaged the testimony of the church and the foundations of civil government.  We live in an age where each man does what is right in his own eyes, and there is a great struggle over the standards by which we should live.  Many lives are being damaged by man's immoral standards.  We believe that God's moral standard, as revealed in the Bible, should be the standard we live by; not my standard or yours.  Biblical standards, understood in the full contextual interpretation of the Old and New Testaments, provide for a blessed society.

Once his campaign is officially over, Huckabee will find himself well-positioned to join the ranks of high-profile Religious Right leaders such as James Dobson and Tony Perkins, should he so choose.  In fact he would probably be quite capable of not only joining them, but outright challenging them considering that the “values voters” they claim to represent have been flocking to his campaign while the leaders have been glaringly slow to embrace him. 

As Janet Folger, one of Huckabee’s biggest supporters, put it:  

There is something this political race is doing that nobody would have expected. Among conservative and pro-family leadership the sheep are being separated from the shepherds.

There are those in "leadership" in the pro-family movement who follow the pundits, the polls or the politicians instead of leading on principle. I could list them, but, well, you already know who they are. The ones sitting on their hands or convening to the candidate of compromise.

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.

McCain’s Delicate Dance

With John McCain seemingly poised to emerge from Super Tuesday as the de facto front runner in the Republican primary, the question will become just how much he intends to try and make nice with the Religious Right base that does not much like him.

As the McCain campaign admitted last year, his previous efforts to win them over were entirely half-hearted and purely political, but now that he might very well become the nominee, it looks as if some on the Right might be starting to warm up to him out of political necessity:

Republican presidential candidate John McCain today publicly thanked two prominent conservative Christian leaders who have rallied to his defense in recent days.

``I was very pleased to see comments made by people like Tony Perkins and Dr. Richard Land,'' McCain told reporters after a rally in Nashville, Tennessee. ``I appreciate the words that they have been using.''

Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, a conservative public policy group, and Land, a leader in the 16- million member Southern Baptist Convention, have criticized McCain in the past. Perkins told the New York Times that he has ``no residual issue with John McCain,'' while Land told the newspaper McCain ``is strongly pro-life.''

But even in accepting this praise, McCain went out of his way to make it clear that it was not he who did the reaching out :

“I will continue to reach out to all parts of the party but I did not call anyone,'' the Arizona senator said today. McCain's acknowledgement that he is not proactively reaching out to conservative leaders comes a day after he told reporters that he doesn't listen to conservative Rush Limbaugh's radio show.

Should he win the GOP nomination, McCain will undoubtedly change his tune on this issue – but quotes like this won’t be easily forgotten

McCain seems distinctly uninterested when asked questions concerning abortion and gay rights. While campaigning in South Carolina, he told reporters riding with him on his bus that he was comfortable pledging to appoint judges who would strictly interpret the Constitution in part because it would reassure conservatives who might otherwise distrust him.

"It's not social issues I care about," he explained.

Thus, it comes as no surprise that right-wing activists who care only about social issues are attacking him, such as BOND’s Jesse Lee Peterson, Faith and Action’s Rob Schenck, Janet Folger’s RoeGone front group, and various others:

"Most Texans I know think that McCain is the second-least desirable candidate" among all those who ran this year and with Rudy Giuliani out, he's now officially the worst, says Cathie Adams, head of Texas Eagle Forum. "McCain's policies are awful."

"He is no conservative. Yes, maybe on the war, although many of us are not happy about the war," said Mitt Romney supporter Paul Weyrich, president of the Free Congress Foundation and a founder of the conservative Heritage Foundation and the Moral Majority. "McCain hates strong conservatives. McCain hates the religious right. Thus far he has made no overtures to us."

When it comes down to it, McCain needs the Right if he hopes to win the presidency – and some of the Religious Right’s political leaders seems to realize that they might have the upper hand at the moment, with Tony Perkins saying that what happens between McCain and the Right going forward entirely "depends on how bad he wants to be president. Really it does."

Who Will Console Rick Scarborough?

With the Republican presidential campaign seemingly narrowed to a race between John McCain and Mitt Romney, one wonders what will become of Mike Huckabee’s more high-profile Religious Right backers?  While Janet Folger appears busy starting up her own anti-Romney front group, Huckabee’s other most vocal and committed supporter, Rick Scarborough, seems to have been reduced to complaining and finger-pointing:

Scarborough was scathing in his assessment of U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who picked up Rudy Giuliani’s endorsement Wednesday (and might haul in the backing of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who had supported Giuliani).

Scarborough told me: “We are left with a candidate for president who showed his disdain for the Christian Right in 2000 when he tried to salvage his candidacy by trashing Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson while campaigning in South Carolina. He destroyed any attempt by (Senate Majority Leader) Bill Frist to end once and for all the unconstitutional requirement of 60 senators to affirm judicial appointments by joining the Gang of 14 (senators from both parties agreeing to avoid frequent partisan wars over judges) and his McCain/Feingold (campaign finance) bill was a direct assault on grassroots activism while McCain-Kennedy (an immigration act) revealed his true convictions about amnesty. Oddly enough, the ‘establishment’ candidate once threatened to leave the party he now will likely represent.”

Scarborough took issue with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney too, saying Romney “was wrong on every pro-family issue his entire career until he decided to run for the Republican nomination.”   

Scarborough rued: “The most visible Christian leaders in our movement decided that Huckabee was ‘unelectable,’ which became a self-fulfilling prophecy. I am angered and frustrated by that reality, but secure in God’s sovereignty.”

It has been a tough campaign for Scarborough, who has been struggling from the very beginning to figure out how best to position himself in order to maximize his influence and visibility.  Initially, Scarborough sounded like he was supporting Sam Brownback and announced that he’d be launching a “70 Weeks to Save America” crusade to mobilize “100,000 Values Voters, 10,000 key leaders, 5,000 Patriot Pastors and 5,000 women” – an effort that almost immediately put the organization deep in debt. 

Over the coming months, he went on to suggest that none of the top-tier candidates was going to be acceptable to the GOP’s Religious Right base and that they should consider leaving the party all together.  But then, when others began suggesting the same thing, Scarborough flip-flopped and told them to “grow up,” hold their noses, and support the Republican nominee for the sake of judges … only to flip-flop back again and say that his political work was not about winning elections but “honoring Christ.” 

He then got involved with the Values Voter Debate, where Mike Huckabee firmly established himself as the “David among Jesse’s sons" and soon he was serving on Huckabee’s Faith and Family Values Coalition and hard to work organizing pro-Huckabee get-out-the-vote rallies and joining the candidate at fundraisers.

But now that Huckabee’s campaign seems to be winding down, Scarborough is on the verge of being left without a candidate or a coherent set of principles on which to move forward.  What, oh what, is a Christocrat to do?

Delta Farce

Mike Huckabee is hoping to pick up Fred Thompson’s leftovers, but that doesn’t seem to be going so well. Aside from Gary Bauer and other religious-right leaders who still don’t like Huckabee, a number of Thompson’s backers have switched to Mitt Romney. And now an embittered former Thompson staffer has started his own campaign hitting Huckabee where it hurts most: his sidekick, Chuck Norris.

Huckabee may joke about his action-hero endorsement, but as we’ve noted before, he’s made Norris a very serious part of his campaign. And not just in terms of livening up his stage shows: Norris is aggressively raising money, hoping to provide $10 million for the cash-strapped candidate (one recent fundraiser netted $250,000).

Dennis Ng, founder of BoycottChuckNorris.com, says that makes Norris “fair game”:

Saying he's 'kicking Chuck Norris where it hurts – his wallet,' Ng explains he's starting the boycott because Norris endorsed a presidential candidate and supports ideas "far out of the mainstream."

Ng singles out Norris' endorsement of Huckabee – "a candidate who says that he does not believe in evolution," and "who called for the isolation of AIDS patients – long after the Centers for Disease Control determined that the virus was not spread by casual contact." …

Ng is asking visitors to his site to join him in boycotting products Norris endorses and companies that purchase advertising on reruns of his long-running CBS television series, "Walker, Texas Ranger." In the first category, Ng lists exercise-equipment manufacturer Total Gym, endorsed by the actor. Sponsors listed are KFC, Payless Shoes, Nutrisystem, Tylenol and Geico Insurance.

“Republicans long decried celebrities telling us how to vote,” says Ng. So, uh, is that why Ng’s own candidate, famous actor Fred Dalton Thompson, had to drop out?

Bruce Willis, Fred Thompson in Die Hard 2

Janet Folger's Anti-Romney Front Group

Yesterday, a new 527 organization called RoeGone.org announced that it would be "the conservative answer to MoveOn.org" and that its first order of business would be to run anti-Romney ads leading into Super Tuesday:
A new 527 group called RoeGone.org -- the conservative answer to MoveOn.org -- has produced a 60-second web ad responding to Gov. Mitt Romney's challenge to look to his record as governor as an indication of where he stands on the issues. "Governor Mitt Romney challenged voters to look at his record. RoeGone.org has done just that," said spokesperson Sharon Blakeney, a lawyer in Boerne, Texas. Blakeney said the group is raising money to place the ad on television in Super Tuesday states later this week. The group also plans to produce ads addressing other politicians' stand on similar issues, she said. RoeGone.org is a pro-life organization committed to the appointment of judges who will support overturning Roe v. Wade.
Blakeney appears to be a standard right-wing activist, with ties to the Federalist Society, Texas Justice Foundation, the Alliance Defense Fund, and the Center for Reclaiming America ... which just so happens to be where Janet Folger, co-chair of Mike Huckabee's Faith and Values Coalition, used to work. Oddly enough, guess what Folger's most recent WorldNetDaily column is about:
Finally, there is a conservative answer to MoveOn.org: RoeGone.org, as in Roe v. Wade – GONE. Nice, huh? What's even nicer is the ad they're launching to expose Mitt Romney's record. Be looking for secular conservative pundits and compromising pro-lifers to jump the Romney ship soon. No kidding. I predict this thing will signal the end of the Romney campaign.
What a coincidence! What is even more coincidental is the fact that Folger herself happens to narrate the new RoeGone.org ad (actually, it's not coincidental at all, considering that she is listed as the organization's president in the IRS filing): Folger has been backing Huckabee ever since she declared him the “David among Jesse’s sons" after he won the Values Voter Debate, which she organized. Since then, she has been busy penning preposterous columns about how only Huckabee can save Christians from being imprisoned and organizing pro-Huckabee get-out-the-vote rallies in Iowa. But with Huck's campaign fading, it seems as if Folger has decided to ramp up her activities and start a front group dedicated to attacking Mitt Romney.

David Barton at Work

We have written about David Barton, a right-wing political activist and self-styled historian, here many times pointing out that, for all of his claims to be dedicated to uncovering “America's forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on the moral, religious, and constitutional foundation on which America was built,” his primary functions appears to be using his supposed historical expertise as cover for run-of-the-mill Republican political activism.

This technique is most obvious in his 2006 DVD “Setting the Record Straight: American History in Black & White” which he claims is designed merely to recognize “the forgotten heroes and untold stories from our rich African American political history,” but is, in reality, little more than a 90-minute effort to portray the Democratic Party as responsible for every problem that has ever plagued the African American community in America and imply that the Republican Party is the antidote.

As we noted in our report on Barton, he runs through a litany of Democratic sins, ranging from slavery to Jim Crow to segregation while praising the Republican Party as the party of abolition and civil rights until his history lesson suddenly ends after the Civil Rights Act of 1965 and makes absolutely no mention of the political transformation that overtook the country in its wake and the rise of the Republican Party’s “Southern Strategy.”  The video concludes with Barton concludes telling his audience that African Americans cannot be bound blindly to one party or the other, but must cast their votes based on the “standard of biblical righteousness … the principles of Christianity … and an awareness that voters will answer to God for their vote” – and there is no doubt about which party he has in mind, considering that he served as vice-chairman of the Texas Republican Party from 1998 until 2006.

Until now, there was little to no footage available of Barton delivering any of his “historical” lectures to religious audiences so it was difficult to know just how much his political work colored into his presentations.  But the remarks he recently delivered at the Rediscovering God in America Conference in Florida dispel any doubt there may have been about just how much more political than historical Barton’s work really is. 

After a half-hour of recounting the nation’s history to coincide with his preferred religious views, Barton segues into a lengthy political analysis of the importance of getting Christians to vote, delivering a presentation more befitting a Republican Party activist than a "historian":

Barton has carved out a niche for himself as the Religious Right’s favorite historian, regaling them with tales of the faith of our Founding Fathers and the central role their brand of Christianity played in the founding of this nation. But as this video makes clear, Barton’s “historical” presentations are really little more than thinly-veiled GOP get-out-the-vote efforts and thus it is no surprise that the RNC regularly pays him to deliver them around the nation during election years.

If a Keyes Falls in the Woods …

Now that Tommy Thompson, Duncan Hunter, Sam Brownback, Tom Tancredo, Jim Gilmore, and even Fred Thompson have all dropped out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination, it is good to see that there are some candidates who have no chance of winning but still refuse to let reality get in the way of their personal vanity and desire to seem relevant … and no, we are not talking about Ron Paul, but rather Alan Keyes.

You would be forgiven for not knowing that Keyes is even running, but indeed he is, even though he can’t get into the GOP debates, has no money, and nobody is counting his votes. But to his credit, Keyes remains undaunted by such obstacles and is currently positioning himself for a major breakthrough:

On Tuesday, presidential candidate Alan Keyes began a six-week grassroots tour of Texas, originally his home state. Keyes is a 1968 graduate of Cole High School in San Antonio.

Although Keyes will make excursions outside Texas as needed, and will continue his nationwide radio blitz to counter the media's virtual blackout of his campaign, he plans to camp out in Texas until its primary on March 4. As most pundits agree, if Super Tuesday fails to produce a "presumptive" Republican nominee, Texas becomes all the more important as the last big prize of the primaries.

For all intents and purposes, the headquarters of the Keyes campaign has moved to Texas.

“For all intents and purposes,” the Keyes campaign appears to be a sham, with the majority of its expenditures going to “contribution refunds” which dwarf the $10,000 that has gone to a consulting firm linked to Keyes’ Declaration Foundation and Renew America organizations.  

At this point, Keyes’ only hope of securing the GOP presidential nomination is if every major Republican politician in the nation gets embroiled in a sex scandal, reducing the party to desperately seeking a D-list nobody to serve as a sacrificial lamb – a position for which Keyes is perfectly qualified.

The Huckabee Conspiracy

Mike Huckabee has not been shy about criticizing Washington’s Religious Right powerbrokers for failing to back his campaign, repeatedly accusing them of choosing “political expediency” over core values and questioning their reluctance to support a “true soldier for the cause” and exhorting them to be ‘‘Christian leaders, not Republican leaders.” 

But as The New Republic reported yesterday, all this bellyaching only seems to be alienating the Washington insiders even further:

Huck shouldn’t expect a flood of big-name endorsements any time soon. For one thing, the erstwhile minister has seriously cheesed off some leaders with his public complaints about their not showing him the love. They express bemusement at his sense of “entitlement” and find his whining about their not rushing to endorse him downright irritating. As Bauer notes, “I for one give no credence to the idea that, because somebody worships the same way I do, they automatically have a claim on my support."

Some leaders also worry (hope?) that, with Huck now being taken more seriously, his record and positions will draw greater scrutiny—and harsher criticism. “As he comes under more examination, there is a real possibility of there [emerging] misgivings about him on economic and foreign policy issues. So then those voters will go somewhere else,” says Bauer. Particularly on foreign policy, he stresses, “his instincts are not good."

In the past, Huckabee has had particularly harsh words for his fellow Southern Baptist Richard Land:

‘‘Richard Land swoons for Fred Thompson,’’ he said. ‘‘I don’t know what that’s about. For reasons I don’t fully understand, some of these Washington-based people forget why they are there. They make ‘electability’ their criterion. But I am a true soldier for the cause. If my own abandon me on the battlefield, it will have a chilling effect.’’

Apparently, the bad-blood between Huckabee and Land goes back to the days in the early 1990s when fundamentalists set out to take over the Southern Baptist Convention and Huckabee failed to side with them:

Only a handful of prominent SBC leaders have come out in Huckabee’s favor as well. While churches and non-profit religious institutions are not allowed to endorse or campaign for candidates, a handful of Southern Baptist pastors and leaders have offered personal endorsements of their colleague. Among them are former pastor and denominational executive Jimmy Draper and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Danny Akin.

Perhaps the most obvious omission in Huckabee’s crowd of supporters is Richard Land, the head of the SBC’s social-concerns agency and a conservative veteran of the denomination’s struggle. While he has, in the recent past, spoken glowingly of former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson and negatively of former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, Land has had little to say about his fellow Southern Baptist’s candidacy.

Paul Pressler, a retired Texas judge who is one of the two acknowledged masterminds of the conservative battle plan to wrest the SBC from moderates’ control, has also endorsed Thompson.

Privately, some close to Huckabee and familiar with Southern Baptist politics say that leaders like Land and Pressler simply don’t trust him because he refused to be a loyal foot-soldier during the SBC wars.

Maybe that explains it.  Or who knows, maybe there is some sort of conspiracy at work:

Huckabee: A New Kind of Evangelical?

Several articles have appeared in recent months suggesting that Mike Huckabee is some sort of “new breed” of evangelical – one who is not committed only to opposing abortion and gay rights, but also cares about the environment and the poor.  And Huckabee has worked hard to play up the idea that he is nothing like traditional demagoguing Religious Right preachers such as Pat Robertson or the late Jerry Falwell.  

As Huckabee likes to say, while he may be conservative, he’s “just not angry about it” – or, to put it another way, he drinks “a different kind of Jesus juice. To the press, this seems to be enough to qualify Huckabee as a “different kind of evangelical,” and exempts him from having to explain himself when he proclaims that we need to “amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards.” 

An example of this sort of coverage appeared on the New York Times over the weekend:

Much of the national leadership of the Christian conservative movement has turned a cold shoulder to the Republican presidential campaign of Mike Huckabee, wary of his populist approach to economic issues and his criticism of the Bush administration’s foreign policy. But that has only fired up Brett and Alex Harris.

The Harris brothers, 19-year-old evangelical authors and speakers who grew up steeped in the conservative Christian movement, are the creators of Huck’s Army, an online network that has connected 12,000 Huckabee campaign volunteers, including several hundred in Michigan, which votes Tuesday, and South Carolina, which votes Saturday.

They say they like Mr. Huckabee for the same reason many of their elders do not: “He reaches outside the normal Republican box,” Brett Harris said in an interview from his home near Portland, Ore.

The brothers fell for Mr. Huckabee last August when they saw him draw applause on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” for explaining that he believed in a Christian obligation to care for prenatal “life” and also education, health care, jobs and other aspects of “life.” “It is a new kind of evangelical conservative position,” Brett Harris said. Alex Harris added, “And we are not going to have to be embarrassed about him.”

The article noted how Huckabee’s rise in the polls has occurred “without the backing of, and even over the opposition of, the movement’s most visible leaders, many of whom have either criticized him or endorsed other candidates.”  While Religious Right powerbrokers like Tony Perkins, James Dobson, and Gary Bauer have credited Huckabee for energizing evangelical voters, all have made clear that they do not support his candidacy and seemingly have no intention of doing so.

But just because the most prominent right-wing activists are reluctant to climb aboard the Huckabee bandwagon doesn’t mean that those already on board are in any way moderates or representative of some sort of new, more moderate evangelical movement.  In fact, most of Huckabee’s backers are even more radical.

Pastor in Chief

One of Mitt Romney’s standard talking points when seeking to assure potential evangelical voters who might be concerned about his Mormon faith is that he is running for commander-in-chief, not pastor-in-chief and that his religious views will take a backseat to his Constitutional obligations.  

Not surprisingly, this is not a point being emphasized by Mike Huckabee, who has been explicitly using his faith to win over evangelical voters and differentiate himself from Romney and his Mormonism.  In fact, Huckabee seems to be hoping to become, literally, the nation’s first Pastor in Chief and has been regularly delivering sermons around the nations, especially in churches in primary states:

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee tiptoed around any mention of his run for the Republican presidential nomination. And the ex-Baptist minister assured 5,000 members of First Spartanburg North Baptist that that he'd come to their church Sunday to give a sermon, not a speech.

But if church protocol forbade Huckabee from overtly asking for their votes in South Carolina's hotly contested GOP primary on Saturday, he still managed to court them in code.

At the 9:30 a.m. service and again ate 10:50, preacher Huckabee talked about his ties to past Southern Baptist leaders, read a passage from Luke's Gospel, led the congregation in bowed-head, eyes-closed prayer, even mentioned the day he accepted Jesus — it was at Vacation Bible School, when he was 10 years old.

In other words, Huckabee said without having to say it: Unlike those other guys on the ballot, I'm one of you.

Huckabee has delivered sermons in Arkansas, Texas (in San Antonio, Irving, and Plano,) in New Hampshire, and Michigan. In both South Carolina and Michigan, Huckabee also sought to mobilize pastors to get out the vote in support of his campaign:

"I'm not going to ask you to get up in your pulpit and use your pulpit to endorse me, because I think the only person you ought to endorse from your pulpit is Jesus, and you don't need to endorse me there," Huckabee said at this morning's pastor's breakfast.

"But most of you have email lists or phone call lists or you have – as an individual, you are unrestricted in what you do as an individual, not using the facilities or the nuances of your church, but as an individual because you've got great influence.

"And I'm asking you to help get people to think about this election…in terms of direction of where this country's going to go and whether or not it's going to be led by people who share that Judeo-Christian value and ethic or whether they do not."

Huckabee sees his campaign, as the Washington Post put it, “chance for evangelical Christians to lead the Republican Party rather than just support its candidates.”  And should he end up in the White House, it looks like Huckabee would be open to carrying on his tradition of delivering Sunday sermons:   

It is also no accident that less than a week before the primary, Huckabee chose one of the largest congregations in upstate South Carolina, where he will need a significant evangelical turnout to win.

The more interesting question is this: What does it mean for America to have president who continues to semi-privately preach his personal religious views? At a press conference Sunday afternoon, Huckabee said he would be open to delivering sermons as president, even though he acknowledged it would be logistically tough.

You can get a sense of Huckabee’s sermons from these remarks he made to the “Iowa Renewal Project's Pastors and Pews Dinner” in June, where he claimed to be speaking “pastor to pastor” as he urged those in attendance to be active in politics because “pastors cannot be AWOL when it comes to establishing what is right, what is wrong, and what will make the difference in this country to establish the boundaries of good, decent, Godly living”

Will David Barton Be Huck’s Secretary of Education?

A few weeks ago we noted that Mike Huckabee was going to be appearing alongside right-wing pseudo-historian David Barton at an event in Iowa and wondered if a Barton endorsement would be forthcoming. That endorsement has not yet come through, but Barton might want to get on the ball because, if Huckabee ends up becoming the next president, he just might be rewarded with a top-level position in his administration. In a lengthy interview with Terence Jeffrey, Editor in Chief of the right-wing Cybercast News Service, Huckabee discussed his views on education and the two debated the role of religion in public schools, with Huckabee saying he doesn’t support state-sponsored prayer in school mainly “because I'm afraid in this kind of culture we live in you will have some namby-pamby squishy thing that doesn't even resemble a prayer.” That view then led to this exchange:
Governor, our whole system of government is based on an understanding of natural law that comes from God. The Declaration of Independence says that our rights are inalienable and we are endowed with them by our Creator. Shouldn't our public schools at least recognize that there is a God, and that our rights come from God, and that the ultimate source of our law is God? Absolutely, and that's what our Declaration of Independence said. That's what our Founding Fathers believed. And we shouldn't have a revisionist history that denies the part of our spiritual heritage. So the public schools should teach children there is a God, and our rights come from God? They should teach them that? If they teach our history, they have to teach that. But they don't have to teach them how they are going to specifically believe in that God. That's where the line comes. But the thing is, we shouldn't be afraid of giving kids the truth about our American history and heritage. We ought to make sure they know what it is. David Barton, who is one of my dear friends, and probably, I think, maybe the greatest living historian on the spiritual nature of America's early days, is a person who I wish was writing the curriculum. But unfortunately, we have a time where people just don't even acknowledge what our curriculum is.
For those who don’t know, Barton is a right-wing, Republican Party activist and self-taught “historian” intent on showing that the Founding Fathers intended to create a nation that was “firmly rooted in biblical principles” Lately, he has been peddling a book and DVD that claim to explain the history of the Democratic Party and it responsibility for everything from slavery and segregation to lynchings and the birth of the Ku Klux Klan - a history that conveniently ends with the passage of the civil rights legislation in the mid-1960s makes absolutely no mention of the political transformation that overtook the country in its wake and the rise of the Republican Party’s “Southern Strategy.” Barton’s “historical” work has been discredited as rife with distortion and “laced with exaggerations, half-truths and misstatements of fact” - but Huckabee thinks he just might be one of the “greatest living historians” and wishes that he was writing public school curriculum. In fact, Barton has been involved in shaping public school curriculum through his position on the National Council On Bible Curriculum In Public Schools’ Advisory Board. The NCBCPS is dedicated to getting Bible courses taught in public high schools around the country and produces curriculum for just that purpose - curriculum that is flagrantly unconstitutional.

Huckabee’s Faith-Based Campaign

Coinciding with his rise in the polls, Mick Huckabee seems to have developed a two-pronged message that highlights his faith at every opportunity while complaining about the unfair coverage his faith is receiving. 

The first part of this message can be seen on his own campaign website:

My faith is my life - it defines me. My faith doesn't influence my decisions, it drives them. For example, when it comes to the environment, I believe in being a good steward of the earth. I don't separate my faith from my personal and professional lives.

This theme has been carried over in his ads where he touts himself as a "Christian Leader" and states that "what really matters is the celebration of the birth of Christ"?  

The flip-side of this faith-based messaging is Huckabee’s tendency to complain, as he started doing a few weeks ago, that he is “being questioned about the details of my faith like no one else” and insisting that the appeal of his campaign is about much more than simply his faith.

Huckabee appears to want to have it both ways: making explicit appeals for electoral support based on his faith and then complaining that he is being unfairly targeted for it.  But as it stands now, it doesn’t seem as if he is willing to forgo the former in order to stop the latter:  

Associated Press   

Huckabee Counts on Pastors for Iowa Help

Republican Mike Huckabee, the former Baptist preacher, is depending on more than a leap of faith to win the Iowa caucuses.

Leading in polls, Huckabee is determined to make up for his skimpy organization in the state by enlisting national evangelical Christian supporters to rev up Iowa pastors and coax voters to the Jan. 3 caucuses.

Word of mouth in churches and among Christian groups can be a powerful force in Iowa politics. Christian believers make up the core of Huckabee's support in the state, said Rick Scarborough, a well-known Texas preacher who has endorsed the former Arkansas governor, though he adds that "it's not his only constituency."

Politico

Huck uses Christmas debate to mobilize base

Mike Huckabee brought Christmas cheer to Iowa on Wednesday, as the newly appointed front-runner gleefully defended his controversial Christmas ad released this week.

“If I had used the name in Jesus Christ in vain and blurted it out as profanity no one would be talking about it,” said the former Arkansas governor. “Because I invoked his name on his own birthday ... somehow everyone sees in it something that isn’t even there. Have we so lost our national soul?”

The hotel, packed with roughly 200 Huckabee supporters, erupted in applause, hollers and Amens.

Touting Christmas is smart strategy for the former preacher, whose evangelical base drinks up the holiday rhetoric as they would a big glass of eggnog. In the evangelical world, the ad strikes back at the so-called “war on Christmas.”

Huckabee’s two-pronged strategy is pretty well summed up in this quote from ABC News:

Does it bother Huckabee that unwillingness to vote for a Mormon is one of the factors helping him?

"You know, it's not something that I agree with," Huckabee says. "But I agree with the final outcome. I just have to believe that there's still a reason that a lot of people are connecting with me and I don't think it's religion."

He may not agree with voters supporting him only because of their own anti-Mormon view, but he’ll take it and just believe it is something else.  

And while he may wish to believe that there is more to his campaign than his appeal to faith, he can’t deny, as he told CBN’s David Brody, that voters driven by “spiritual motivation … certainly represent a broad part of my base.” 

Courting the Right, Deep In The Heart of Texas

It looks as if Mike Huckabee is heading to Texas to raise a bit of money with the help of a few of his right-wing supporters:
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who has been gaining ground in the Republican presidential primaries, is scheduled to meet campaign donors in Houston today at the Tanglewood home of physician Steve Hotze, a longtime Christian conservative activist. Like other major presidential candidates, Huckabee is making a last dash for Texas cash before the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary next month. His trip includes a fundraising event in Dallas after his Houston event. Co-hosts for the $500-per-person Houston event include state Rep.Debbie Riddle of Tomball and Texan Rick Scarborough, founder of Vision America, which works to mobilize pastors and church congregations for political action.
If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you are undoubtedly familiar with Rick Scarborough, the self-described “Christocrat” who heads Vision America and has a penchant for suggesting that evangelical leaders are dying off because the nation has turned its back on God, suggesting that Christians will have "the blood of martyrs on [their] hands"if they don't oppose hate crimes legislation, blaming "the church" for just standing by and allowing the election of "unrighteous leaders" in 2006, and saying that opponents of the War in Iraq are committing treason, among other things. Then there is Debbie Riddle, who is perhaps best known for this comment:
"Where did this idea come from that everybody deserves free education, free medical care, free whatever? It comes from Moscow, from Russia. It comes straight out of the pit of hell. And it's cleverly disguised as having a tender heart. It's not a tender heart. It's ripping the heart out of this country."
And what about Steve Hotze? Well, the Texas Freedom Network discribes him thusly:
Hotze is a prominent leader of anti-abortion, anti-gay and politically active religious political extremism in Houston. Hotze gained prominence while promoting a ‘Straight Slate’ of political candidates in response to Houston Mayor Kathy Whitmire’s support from the gay community. Using Christian Coalition tactics of organizing through churches and organizing on the precinct level, Hotze led the religious right’s campaign to take over the Harris County Republican Party from moderate Republicans.
The Houston Press provides a bit more background:
Thin and long-faced, 46-year-old Steven Forrest Hotze has carved out a niche in local politics over the past decade as an unyielding and occasionally strident opponent of abortion and public acceptance of homosexuality. He may not be a household name outside Republican circles, but within the party he is admired by a devout coterie of followers, catered to by secular conservatives and feared by moderates, who find themselves in a position of needing his approval to win nominations in GOP primaries. Those summoned to kiss his ring encounter a tough, uncompromising zealot who is used to getting his own way. ... It's a considerable amount of clout for someone whose stated beliefs place him to the right of the religious right. "If we are to survive as a free nation, and if justice and liberty are to be restored in our land, then biblical Christianity, with its absolutes, must once again be embraced by our citizens," he wrote several years back in a Chronicle op-ed piece. "Only then can we expect to see Christianity's influence once again to be reflected in the laws of our civil government."
According to a separate Houston Press article that suggests that Hotze's medical credentials and views are a bit suspect, he also signed something called the Coalition on Revival's Manifesto for the Christian Church in 1986 that dictated:

• A wife may work outside the home only with her husband's consent • "Biblical spanking" that results in "temporary or superficial bruises or welts" should not be considered a crime • No doctor shall provide medical service on the Sabbath • All disease and disability is caused by the sin of Adam and Eve • Medical problems are frequently caused by personal sin • "Increased longevity generally results from obedience to specific Biblical commands" • Treatment of the "physical body" is not a doctor's highest priority • Doctors have a priestly calling • People receiving medical treatment are not immune from divine intervention or demonic forces • Physicians should preach to their patients because salvation is the key to their health

Give that the vast majority of Huckabee's Religious Right backers are borderline theocrats, it remains to be seen just when, if ever, Huckabee is going to called to account for the types of people with which he is surrounding himself.
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