Texas

Right-Wing Legal Group Comes to Palin’s Defense

The AP reports that “five Republican state lawmakers filed suit Tuesday to end the bipartisan investigation into Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's” role in the “Troopergate” scandal and buried near the bottom of the article is this little tidbit of information:

"There is no nonpartisan reason to complete this investigation until after the election," said Anchorage attorney Kevin G. Clarkson. "We just want to take the politics out of it and bring fairness back into it."

Clarkson said he and a nonprofit legal firm in Texas, Liberty Legal Institute, were donating their work on the suit.

If the name of Clarkson sounds familiar, it’s because he showed up in a post from a few weeks ago explaining how, back in 2006, he personally assured Focus on the Family that Palin shared their views – and he’d know since he was providing legal counsel to her on the Alaska Supreme Court’s ruling regarding benefits for partners of state employees:

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

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

Clarkson appears to be something of a free-lance right-wing lawyer, as in the earlier article he was listed as affiliated with the Alliance Defense Fund and is now listed as working with the Liberty Legal Institute, which just so happens to be run by Kelly Shackelford who was an early backer of Mike Huckabee and was recently hobnobbing with Tony Perkins, Gary Bauer and James Dobson on Dobson’s radio program where they cooed over Palin and Shackelford detailed his role in drafting “the strongest pro-life platform ever in the history of the [Republican] party."

We Want to Believe

Yesterday, David Barton wisely suggested that people ignore John McCain's reputation as a "maverick" and ignore whatever it is he says in favor of judging him based on his actual record.  With that view we couldn't agree more, but now it looks like Barton is so giddy by McCain's decision to name Sarah Palin as his running mate that he's gone into full-on Kool-Aid-drinking mode:

Delegates including David Barton of Aledo, a former vice chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, said McCain's choice of Palin had cemented support for the GOP ticket among faith voters who had some distrust of him.

"It was an affirmation to conservatives and faith voters that McCain really is a good guy. He's not just pandering," Barton said.

Although McCain had met with faith groups before announcing his choice of Palin, Barton said, "Everybody was at arm's length and said, ‘We'll see.' Now it's a full embrace."

Barton is right about one thing: McCain's not "just pandering" to the Right with the Palin pick, he's flagrantly and unabashedly pandering to them.

Barton: Don’t Listen to the Maverick

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

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

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

Now if only the media would do the same.

The Return of the Restoration Project

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

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

TFN has also posted the invitation sent out by Perry:

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

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

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

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

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

McCain Refuses to Cancel Reed Fundraiser

Take a stroll around John McCain’s website and you’ll see that he is no fan of corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff.  In fact, he seems to view him as a symbol of what is wrong with Washington DC and himself as the one man who can fix it:

I led the Abramoff investigation. I can bring about the necessary changes. Are we going to hand off to the next generation these problems? Of course we shouldn't. Have to regain the trust that dollars they send to Washington are being wisely and carefully spent. I know these people (in Congress) well and I know how to reach across the aisle to solve these problems.

McCain says he gets angry when “I uncover a guy like Abramoff ripping off Indian tribes” and when, just last week, his campaign unveiled its “Broken” ad, it cited McCain’s role in leading “the Congressional investigation into Jack Abramoff” as proof of the ad’s assertion that he “fought corruption in both parties.”

Yet, despite his pose as a crusading maverick, McCain has committed himself to attending a fundraiser with Ralph Reed, one of Abramoff’s closest friends and associates who was repeatedly and directly implicated in the very investigation that took down Abramoff:

Republican presidential candidate John McCain so far is ignoring calls from several watchdog groups to cancel an Atlanta fundraiser promoted by Ralph Reed, a longtime friend and business partner of imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Reed lost his 2006 campaign for Georgia lieutenant governor in large part because of details about his relationship with Abramoff — much of the information uncovered by McCain’s Indian Affairs Committee investigation into the wide-ranging lobbying corruption scandal.

The Senate probe discovered $4 million in payments Reed accepted to run a bogus anti-casino campaign aimed at reducing gambling competition. An Indian tribe with a competing casino made payments to Reed, which according to the Senate investigation’s final report, were “passed through” Abramoff’s firm, Preston, Gates, Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds, and another organization, Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform.

In our report on Reed written back in 2006, we explained just how deeply involved he was in Abramoff’s shady dealings:     

In 1999, Abramoff subcontracted Reed’s firm to generate opposition to attempts to legalize a state-sponsored lottery and video poker in Alabama, an effort that was bankrolled by the Choctaw Tribe in order to eliminate competition to its own casino in neighboring Mississippi.   Reed promised that Century Strategies was “opening the bomb bays and holding nothing back” and his firm ultimately received $1.3 million from the Choctaws for this effort, which included engaging the Alabama chapter of the Christian Coalition, as well as influential right-wing figures such as James Dobson, to work to defeat the proposals. 

The strategy had one small problem: the Alabama Christian Coalition had an explicit policy that it “will not be the recipient of any funds direct or in-direct or any in-kind direct or indirect from gambling interests.” (Emphasis in original.) Knowing this, Reed and Abramoff worked to hide the source of the $850,000 paid to the Christian Coalition for its anti-gambling efforts by funneling money from the Choctaws through Americans for Tax Reform, a Washington, DC anti-tax organization headed by their old College Republican friend Grover Norquist.  When asked why the tribe’s money had to be funneled through conduits such as ATR, a Choctaw representative stated it was because Reed did not want it known that casino money was funding his operation: “It was our understanding that the structure was recommended by Jack Abramoff to accommodate Mr. Reed’s political concerns.”

Perhaps the most audacious of all of Abramoff’s efforts on which Reed worked was the successful attempt on behalf of the Coushatta Tribe to shut down a rival casino in Texas.  After doing so, Abramoff then sold his lobbying services for $4 million to the same Texas tribe – the Tiguas - vowing to reopen the very casino he had just managed to shut down.

Reed was instrumental in the initial effort, building public support for then-Texas Attorney General, now a US Senator, John Cornyn’s drive to close the casino.  Reed organized a group of Texas pastors to “provide cover” for Cornyn’s effort to shutter the casino, at one point pledging to send “50 pastors to give him moral support” when it appeared as if Cornyn was going to be confronted by protestors.

Reed also developed close ties with sources in Cornyn’s office who kept him informed on developments, which he shared with Abramoff.  When Reed found out from Cornyn’s office that a court decision shutting down the casino was expected soon, he emailed Abramoff.  Thinking ahead, Abramoff was already preparing to fly to Texas to meet with the tribe whose casino was about to be closed thanks, in large part, to his handiwork.  In an email he sent to Reed just before his trip, he wrote “I wish those moronic Tiguas were smarter in their political contributions. I’d love to get my hands on that moolah!! Oh well, stupid folks get wiped out.”

Just days after the Tigua’s casino was closed, Abramoff met with them and offered to work to reopen the casino at no charge, though Scanlon’s PR work was going to cost them more than $4 million.  Abramoff declared himself outraged by the “gross indignity perpetuated by the Texas state authorities” – an “indignity” that he had helped orchestrate and for which he had been well paid.

Of the four men identified in this photo, all were implicated in Abramoff's corruption and three received prison sentences – McCain is attending a fundraiser with the fourth:

AbramoffReedII.JPG

A Tall Order

Republicans are calling on President Bush to pardon two Border Patrol agents sentenced to prison for shooting an illegal immigrant as he fled towards the border, saying failure to do so will be "the worst black mark” on his presidency: "'We are calling on President Bush to take this opportunity to show this Christian charity that he always talks about,' said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) during a news conference in his Washington, D.C., office. Rohrabacher joined Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) in decrying a federal appeals court decision Monday that uphold the prison terms for former Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Texas Bible Class Push Returns; 'Anti-Faith Fringe' Remains Skeptical

It was only last year that People For the American Way Foundation helped represent parents in Odessa, Texas against a school board determined to use public schools to promote a particular religious doctrine. “HA! Take that you dang heathens!” the school district’s curriculum director wrote triumphantly after the board voted to use the Religious Right-backed National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools program. The board settled the lawsuit by dropping NCBCPS.

So it’s natural that advocates of church-state separation would be skeptical of the Texas State Board of Education’s decision last week to approve Bible courses statewide, without providing specific educational or constitutional guidelines.

Mark Chancey, associate professor in religious studies at Southern Methodist University, has studied Bible classes already offered in about 25 districts for the Texas Freedom Network.

The study found most of the courses were explicitly devotional with almost exclusively Christian, usually Protestant, perspectives.

It also found that most were taught by teachers with no academic training in biblical, religious or theological studies and who were not familiar with the issues of separation of church and state.

"Some classes promote creation science. Some classes denigrate Judaism. Some classes explicitly encourage students to convert to Christianity or to adopt Christian devotional practices," Chancey said. "This is all well documented, and the board knows it."

On the other hand, the Religious Right is gung-ho about the move. Decrying “[e]nemies of the First Amendment,” Rod Parsley’s Center for Moral Clarity (a supporter of the unconstitutional NCBCPS curriculum) wrote, “We’re glad legislative and educational leaders in Texas have ignored the shrill arguments of the anti-faith fringe, and we hope other states follow suit.”

Jonathan Saenz of the Liberty Legal Institute and the Free Market Foundation similar predicted that “Texas is going to be seen as a leader on this issue,” and also characterized skeptics as fanatical opponents of religious freedom:

"There are enemies of religious freedom all across our state of Texas and across the country, and they'll do anything and stop at nothing to restrict academic freedom and restrict the religious rights of students," Saenz contends. "They simply do not want kids, even on their own choice, to be able to look at the Bible." The State Board of Education is discussing this week how to develop the proposed new courses.

And Gordon Robertson, Pat Robertson’s normally soft-spoken son, compared efforts to prevent the government from proselytizing in the classroom to outlawing Christmas and Thanksgiving:

Given the Religious Right’s steady efforts over the years to push campaigns like NCBCPS, Robertson shouldn’t be surprised that advocates of church-state separation insist on a distinction between teaching about the Bible objectively and promoting a particular brand of faith.

DeLay: God Created America To Propagate Christianity

Earlier this month, we noted that former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay had joined one of his "closest friends," Rick Scarborough of Vision America, for Sunday services at Scarborough's Texas church. Now, Vision America has helpfully posted the audio of DeLay’s rambling sermon on its website in which he explains that "America was created by God to spread the Gospel; to spread the word of Jesus Christ and to propagate Christianity":

Listen (mp3)

I know that America was created by God and it was created by God, not for wealth, personal wealth. It wasn't created by God so that we would have the resources that we now have. It wasn't even created by God to have the freedom that we have now. America was created by God to spread the Gospel; to spread the word of Jesus Christ and to propagate Christianity. And the reason I know that is because my entire political career is exhibited by that. The Lord walked with me …I came to Christ in the first year in Congress and now I've been walking with the Lord [and] he has trained me and showed me why he created this nation: to spread the Gospel.

Dobson Snubs Scarborough's "One Day Crusade"

Phill Kline has been something of a right-wing cause célèbre ever since he used his position as Attorney General in Kansas to launch a one-man crusade against Planned Parenthood and subpoena "records of more than 80 women and girls who received abortions in 2003 at two clinics" in the state, ostensibly in a "search for evidence of illegal late-term abortions and child rape." As it turned out, it was his obsession with abortion that did him in when he was up for re-election in 2006 when he lost his position to Paul Morrison. But then, in an odd twist, the Johnson County Republican Party's precinct leaders elected him to finish out the remainder of Morrison's term as Johnson Country Attorney General and now he is running for re-election, even though he hasn't been particularly keen on actually showing up for work. And now the Kansas City Star reports that Klein is scheduled to join Rick Scarborough at one of his one-day "Crusade to Save America" events on July 28th in Overland Park - and Scarborough is insisting that this is not election-related at all:
A conservative organization based in Texas is reaching out to pastors and their churches in Johnson County before the upcoming Aug. 5 primary. The Rev. Rick Scarborough, who founded Vision America, said this week that his group would not be endorsing any candidate. But Johnson County District Attorney Phill Kline, who is seeking a full four-year term, is expected to share his faith at three of four events set up for clergy and at a public rally July 28, Scarborough said. Scarborough said Kline would appear not as a candidate but as district attorney. “We can’t endorse a candidate and don’t, but we do hope people will vote not as Republicans or Democrats but as followers of Christ,” Scarborough said. “We try to get Christians to vote their biblical values.” ... Kline has been “forewarned and carefully advised” that nothing will be said about his candidacy, Scarborough said. “Legally, any elected official can come to an event and discuss his faith,” Scarborough said. Kline also is expected to provide an update to his constituents on his criminal case against Planned Parenthood’s clinic in Overland Park, where abortions are performed.
Not too long ago, James Dobson personally endorsed Kline's re-election bid and Scarborough even invited Dobson to participate in the event, but it looks like even James Dobson has enough sense to avoid being seen in public with the likes of these two right-wing zealots:
Organizers had hoped that James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, would speak at the rally, but a spokesman with the group said he would not be able to attend.

How the Mighty Have Fallen

Once upon a time, Tom DeLay was one of the most powerful men in Washington ... that is, until he was indicted and resigned his seat in Congress in 2006.

Since then, DeLay has kept something of a low profile while he has been busy trying to turn his Coalition for a Conservative Majority into a right-wing version of MoveOn.org, but that doesn't mean that his right-wing friends have forgotten him. In fact, over the weekend, DeLay joined Rick Scarborough, one of his "closest friends," for Sunday services at Scarborough's Texas church:

Former Congressman Tom Delay not only told East Texans but also showed them that he believes there is no separation between church and state. "I believe faith is the foundation of political activity because your world view is who you are," Delay explained.

A belief the Senior Pastor at Harvest Point Church, Rick Scarborough, shares with the former congressman and that's why he asked him to share the pulpit this morning. Scarborough said, "Every time I walk into a polling booth I'm mixing church and state because I am the church and I am the state. Whenever I drive down the highway I'm mixing church and driving. This morning earlier, you can thank God for this, I mixed church and showering but I can't separate that part of me."

At today's service Delay told East Texans how he plans to use that belief along with others to fill voids he says are in the conservative movement. Creating more grassroots efforts along with building better communication blocks are just 2 of his goals. "We've got some great think tanks in Washington D.C. but we have no action tanks," Delay said. But he plans to put the party into action and get people to the polls this November.

It is nice to know that Scarborough's friendship with DeLay survived the former Majority Leader's fall from power - after all, it would have been pretty embarrassing if Scarborough had abandoned DeLay after once comparing him to Christ:

"I believe the most damaging thing that Tom DeLay has done in his life is take his faith seriously into public office, which made him a target for all those who despise the cause of Christ," Scarborough said, introducing DeLay yesterday. When DeLay finished, the host reminded the politician: "God always does his best work right after a crucifixion."

Of course, the last time DeLay and Scarborough got together, it was for Scarborough's “Confronting the Judicial War on Faith" Conference in 2005 and it generated a lot more coverage and controversy because DeLay delivered a taped message railing against judiciary which was followed by a panelist whose suggested solution to dealing with judges the Right doesn't like was to approvingly paraphrase Joesph Stalin's slogan: "Death solves all problems: no man, no problem."

Gays Seek "To Recruit Sexually Confused Adolescents Into Their Lifestyle"

Steve Hotze, one of Huckabee’s more extreme Texas backers, freaks out over the California marriage ruling: “What if you do not approve of a person's sexual orientation? Why should you be deprived of your discretion on whether or not to work with or hire that person? What about the rest of us? Why should your right to freedom of association be infringed upon?...In Massachusetts the Catholic adoption agencies were forced to close because the state mandated that they had to allow homosexuals to adopt children. In Canada, it is a hate crime to speak against homosexuality. What about the rights of those who do not approve of these activities?”

At FRC, Texas Polygamy Revives Anti-Gay 'Slippery Slope' Argument

Family Research Council Vice-President Peter Sprigg devoted his op-ed on the Texas polygamy investigation to a defense of statutory rape laws, but he couldn’t resist a “slippery slope” attack linking marriage equality for gays to the fundamentalist sect’s polygamy and apparent abuse:

[T]he existence of such a large group of practicing polygamists within our borders reinforces the concern that some have (which I share) that redefining marriage for the benefit of homosexuals would put us on a slippery slope toward other redefinitions-including legalization of polygamy.

Alan Keyes In a Nutshell

It appears as if Alan Keyes’ presidential hopes have officially come to an end … at least for this year.

After launching a vanity campaign last summer, Keyes had high hopes for a solid showing in Iowa that never panned out. Keyes then relocated his campaign to Texas, where he pledged to deliver a major breakthrough that likewise never materialized.

Without apparently actually bothering to withdraw from the Republican Primary, the Keyes campaign went quiet before it emerged earlier this month to make a major announcement that he would be officially leaving the Republican Party to seek the Constitution Party’s presidential nomination.

The Constitution Party’s convention was held over the weekend and Keyes did not fare well:

Things aren't working out well for Alan Keyes. The perennial candidate with a worse electoral track record than Harold Stassen spent most of his adult lifetime in the Republican Party. He lasted in the Constitution Party for less than two weeks.

Chuck Baldwin -- a preacher, radio show host, and columnist who actually agreed with the Constitution Party's platform on the issues in question -- beat Keyes 3-to-1, a margin worthy of Barack Obama or Barbara Mikulski. Paleocons praised the Constitutionalists for sticking to their principles, which they did, but Keyes's odd notions about how to win friends and influence people also contributed to his drubbing.

Following his embarrassing defeat, Keyes granted an interview to "Missouri Viewpoints" where he expressed bitterness over being repeatedly stabbed in the back by every party he belongs to.  Recounting that he had been “invited in by the leadership of the Illinois party” to run against Barack Obama, he complained that the party then failed to support him and instead, as he put it, “tried to kill me.”  Keyes noted that there seems to be a pattern in all of his campaigns and activities where “people invite me in, and then they kill me; they invite me in and then they kill me; they invite me in and then they seek to kill me.”

But with his loss in seeking the Constitution Party’s nomination, Keyes finally has it all figured it all out and explains it as only he could:

The Lord shared with me that, Alan, the child that you are defending in the womb … in the act of procreation, people are joyfully, ecstatically, with great pleasure in every fiber of their being, saying "yes" to the coming of that new life. They invite the child in. And then in abortion, they kill it. So what, in point of fact my political career is, is the paradigm and pattern of that which I am trying to stop for the child. I kind of represent, in political terms, the abortion. You're invited in, but they kill you. You're invited in, but they kill you.

God Opens a Window for Vision America

For some time now, Vision America and its founder Rick Scarborough have been floundering about as they try to recapture the glory days of 2005-2006 when Vision America first burst onto the political scene and made a name for itself with its “Confronting the Judicial War on Faith” and the “War on Christians and Values Voters” conferences.  Since then, its messaging has been, at best, confusing and its efforts to rally supporters have repeatedly run into problems, especially once his partner in the endeavor, Alan Keyes, decided to run for president.  

But it looks like things are starting to turn around for the struggling organization, at least according to the latest Rick Scarborough Report:

When Alan Keyes decided to make a bid for the Republican presidential nomination in January, the decision effectively derailed our efforts to conduct weekly One Day Crusades to Save America--as our non-partisan efforts immediately took on a different appearance.  As a result we released several pending dates and began seeking the Lord about continuing the effort.  We did conduct a limited number of Crusades which we have reported on in this column.

Now we are again booking Crusades without Dr. Keyes.  Upcoming events include major efforts in Dallas and Lubbock, Texas, and Jefferson City, Missouri … Vision America received word this week that we were the recipients of a significant grant for voter registration and mobilization efforts for this fall.  We began hiring additional staff and gearing up for one of our most aggressive outreach efforts to date … God is opening doors faster than we can walk through them and we are constantly seeking His provisions.

Of course, the Lubbock “crusade” doesn’t take place until July and the Jefferson City event isn’t until October, so Scarborough has a lot of free time until then which he’ll presumably fill by headlining things like the Valley Family Forum’s “Salute to the Family” in western Virginia later this week.

Double Standards

Although it wasn’t surprising to see John McCain spend much of the past few years courting the Religious Right in advance of securing the Republican presidential nomination, he continued to pander even after his primary victory was all but finalized. Beginning with his speech to the right-wing activists at CPAC—which followed shortly after his main rival, Mitt Romney, dropped out—McCain seemed to step up his embrace of the fringe, picking up more and more endorsements, campaigning with apocalyptic televangelist John Hagee and “Patriot Pastor” Rod Parsley, and reaching out to the Council for National Policy.

McCain’s search for religious-right support might have raised a few flags. Hagee, for example, frames his support for Israel in terms of the end times, going as far as warning that any U.S. foreign policy decision that isn’t “pro-Israel” enough will result in God bringing a “blood bath” of terrorist attacks to America. Hagee also identifies the Catholic Church as the “great whore” of Revelation (a characterization he now denies) and said Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment on a sinful city.

When confronted with some of Hagee’s extreme views, McCain simply responded “all I can tell you is that I am very proud to have Pastor John Hagee’s support.'’ After a lot of pressure from the Catholic League, McCain finally issued a bland statement: “I repudiate any comments that are made, including Pastor Hagee’s, if they are anti-Catholic or offensive to Catholics.”

Indeed, McCain would have had difficulty criticizing Hagee any further—much less call the pastor out on his “profoundly distorted view of this country,” to quote Barack Obama’s critique of Rev. Jeremiah Wright—because McCain had sought out Hagee precisely for his extreme stance and the religious-right constituency he can reach.

Just as McCain sought out Hagee for his political clout, it was politics that brought McCain and Ohio televangelist Rod Parsley together on the campaign. When McCain brought Parsley on stage and called him a “spiritual guide,” that didn’t mean the senator had sent the Word of Faith preacher a financial “seed” in hopes that God would bolster his campaign contributions. Instead, McCain was embracing Parsley’s far-right political views and the political machine of “Patriot Pastors” he leads.

David Limbaugh, one of the many right-wing commentators who dismissed Obama’s speech on his pastor, claimed there was a “double standard” when it came to conservatives: “When the remotest connection can be inferred between a conservative and a bigoted supporter, there is always hell to pay.”

But in fact the opposite double standard seems to be in play: While Obama continues to be attacked for his personal relationship with a pastor whose controversial political ideology he’s rejected, McCain’s ongoing ideological relationship with the far Right—consisting, in essence, of him telling them he embraces their political views—remains unconnected to McCain’s political reputation.

The Confusing Rick Scarborough

Say what you want about Vision America’s Rick Scarborough, but when the man sets his mind to something, he sticks with it … at least until he’s had a chance to think about it and then changes course.  

From his inability to decide whether he liked Alexandra Pelosi's documentary “Friends of God” to his ill-fated and seemingly defunct “70 Weeks to Save America Crusade,”  Scarborough has a remarkable ability to announce grand plans one week only to watch them quickly collapse and to make bold declarations only to turn around a short time later and say the exact opposite.

For example, as part of his “70 Weeks" campaign, Scarborough planned on traveling Iowa in order to generate support for Mike Huckabee but had to reevaluate once his partner, Alan Keyes, decided to run for President.  So then Scarborough scrambled to put together a different tour with fellow Huckabee-supporter Janet Folger, but then that folded due to mechanical and weather problems.  

While many of the problems plaguing Scarborough’s operations appear to be beyond his control, his efforts to make an impact heading into November probably aren’t being helped by his tendency to constantly change his mind about just what those efforts ought to entail.

Back when the pundits were declaring Rudy Giuliani a lock for the Republican nomination, Scarborough was having none of it, declaring

And we should be ready to go outside the Republican Party if it refuses to give us such a candidate. Christians must always remember that we are followers of Christ, not pawns of a party which often wants to dance with us before the election but then ditches us right after the final vote count.

But then, when his allies on the Right started to suggest that they might actually ditch the GOP, Scarborough flipped and began chastising them, telling them to “Grow UP!!!”:

I for one do not intend to sit idly by and allow evil to triumph because good men choose to do nothing--or worse, do the wrong thing. I have often said in speeches to churches, “the only thing worse than not voting, is voting without a clue as to what you are voting for.” When it comes time for the ‘08 elections, we must be armed with truth and determined to vote our values. If enough of us do that, we will get a president who will make the right choice when it comes to nominating judges. In ’08, it’s all about the judges! … We may have to hold our nose as we vote in ‘08, but we must and we will vote.

But then, a short while later, Scarborough changed his mind again, proclaiming that his work was not about “winning elections. It’s about honoring Christ”:

“I am not going to cast a sacred vote granted to me by the blood of millions of God-fearing Americans who died on the fields of battle for freedom, for a candidate who says it’s O.K. to kill the unborn,” he said. “I just can’t.”

Shortly thereafter Scarborough signed on with Huckabee’s campaign, and while his efforts in Iowa didn’t quite pan out as planned, he did manage to stump with the candidate in Texas.  But then Huckabee dropped out of the race and Scarborough seemed to have dropped off the radar.  

But today he reappeared to assure us that his position regarding supporting the Republican nominee has now morphed from won’t, to will, to back to won’t, to finally back to will:

My message from now till the election will be--we have a two party system in America for better or worse.  Voting third party in my estimation is a waste of your vote, and we must never forget, every vote is two votes.  You are voting for someone and you are not voting for someone else.  That means that when you vote for someone you know cannot possibly win, you are adding strength to someone who will win and you may be withholding a vote for someone who could have won.

Politics is not church.  In church we search for doctrinal purity as best we understand it, but in politics compromise is often the reasonable solution short of war or division. It is better to get 80 percent of what you desire than to get zero percent--which is what you get when you don't participate or you participate ignorantly.

I cannot tell you how to vote, but I urge you to vote.  I urge you to be mindful that this is still a two party system and you and I must vote for the candidates and the party that best represent our values.  The time to discuss the pros and cons of a third party effort is on November 5th, right after the election, when there is time to actually make a difference.  I pledge to be at that meeting if it’s called, as it appears that both major parties no longer see conservative Christian as an asset--beyond getting their vote.

Do not lose sight of the goals which got us into this arena to start with: to end abortions in America in our lifetime; preserve marriage as the Bible defines it; preserve freedom by saving America as a sovereign and free nation; and increase the Kingdom of God on earth by being lights that shine in the midst of a crooked generation.

I am traveling every day to make that message known.  Later today, I will be speaking in Denver, Colorado.  Am I happy with the current field of candidates? Absolutely not!  But am I going to sit home and sulk?  Absolutely not!  Beyond the presidency there are U.S. Senate seats, U.S. House seats, state elections and judges to consider, and when the church stays home or acts foolishly everyone loses.

Scarborough prides himself on being a “Christocrat” who is not beholden to the Republican Party.  And nothing demonstrates that commitment to principle like incessantly waffling on whether or not to continue to support the GOP, and then deciding to do so while vaguely threatening to consider a third party option … but only, of course, after the election is over.  

McCain's Immigration Dilemma

Some GOP strategists are hoping that a John McCain nomination will bolster the party’s appeal to Hispanics after many Republicans jumped on the anti-immigrant bandwagon over the last few years. From the Washington Times:

Two years ago, Republicans fought over immigration and hemorrhaged Hispanic voters. Now they are poised to nominate the one man who can rebuild the Hispanic voter coalition that pushed President Bush twice to victory, the architects of that coalition say.

"I think the only candidate that Republicans have running for president who could retain those votes is in fact Senator McCain," said the Rev. Luis Cortes Jr., president of Esperanza USA, founder of the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast and a key player in helping Mr. Bush connect with Hispanic voters during his two runs for office.

While McCain did push for comprehensive immigration reform, in his quest to win over the right-wing base he largely abandoned his principled position, as even Cortes admitted. His new “image,” as the AP reports, is enforcement-only:

"He's focusing on enforcement, and in this community, enforcement means deportation, and that means separating more families, and more racial profiling and more of the incredible hardship that is affecting not just immigrants, but native-born Latinos," said Cecilia Munoz of the National Council of La Raza.

It appears McCain plans on walking a tightrope through November, with immigrants and the Hispanic community on one side and the Minuteman wing on the other. His own party may not be too helpful: while the GOP primary-caucus election in Texas on Tuesday may be pro forma, McCain will share the ballot with two anti-immigrant resolutions:

The first measure asks if local, state and federal officials should be required to enforce U.S. immigration laws "to secure our borders." Given the ongoing uproar over illegal immigration, the outcome seems pretty clear.

"I would be shocked if it didn't pass," said Kathy Ward, chairwoman of the Collin County Republican Party.

The second referendum, also related to illegal immigration, calls for legislation to require voters to show photo identification.

The measures won’t become law just yet; rather, they’re a way for the Republican Party to drum up support for anti-immigrant legislation later on:

"We generally look at things we believe the base of the party holds pretty dear," [Mary] Tschoepe [of the State Republican Executive Committee] said. "It gives us a big stick to take to the Legislature. We can say, 'Ninety-two percent of Republican primary voters think a voter ID in order to vote is an important issue. Let's get it done.' " …

Texas legislators are now studying an Oklahoma illegal immigration law that's considered the nation's toughest. People who shelter or conceal undocumented immigrants can be charged with a felony under the law passed last year.

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.

Syndicate content