Texas

RGA Snubs the Future of the Party

If Sarah Palin is slated to become the future of the Republican Party, someone apparently forgot to make that known to the Republican Governors Association which just announced its new leadership ... and one name was conspicuously absent:

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford was voted RGA chairman, taking over the top job from Texas Gov. Rick Perry who will now serve as finance chairman. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is vice-chairman, while Florida Gov. Charlie Crist will serve as chair for the annual RGA gala, and Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue will head up the recruitment effort.

Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle, Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty will also sit on the RGA’s executive committee.

“Republican Governors are natural leaders who will find solutions to our nation’s challenges and bring back the Party,” Sanford said in a statement.

Not on the list? Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who also attended the Miami meeting.

Via Think Progress

Right Plots to Launch Culture War From The Inside Out

Just yesterday I was writing that the GOP's right-wing base was planning on launching an all-out culture war in an effort to rebuild their party in the wake of an Obama victory. 

And today the LA Times reports that social conservatives are already maneuvering to take control of various elements of the party, especially the Republican National Committee:

The social conservatives and moderates who together boosted the Republican Party to dominance have begun a tense battle over the future of the GOP, with social conservatives already moving to seize control of the party's machinery and some vowing to limit John McCain's influence, even if he wins the presidency.

In skirmishes around the country in recent months, evangelicals and others who believe Republicans have been too timid in fighting abortion, gay marriage and illegal immigration have won election to the party's national committee, in preparation for a fight over the direction and leadership of the party.

Apparently, it is going to come down to a decision about whether the RNC will be chaired by a more moderate figure aligned with Florida Governor Charlie Crist, someone like Michael Steele, or someone like South Carolina GOP Chairman Katon Dawson who believes that "moderating our party is what caused us to lose power" in the 2006 elections.

According to the Times, the Right has already won a number of seats on the national committee and is intent on putting someone in power that will make their culture war agenda into the foundation of the party's future:

It was frustration with the Bush-led Republican National Committee that prompted a number of conservatives this year to try to upend the system. Conservatives won seats representing California, Iowa, Alaska, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina and Michigan. One new member is a popular black preacher from Detroit, Keith Butler, who presides over a mega-church.

"There is a new blood in the party that is interested in communicating the message of the party -- the conservative message," said Kim Lehman, executive director of the antiabortion group Iowa Right to Life, who in July defeated a state legislator for one of the state's seats on the national committee.

David Barton: America’s Greatest Historian

I mentioned the return of the Texas Restoration Project a few months ago and then promptly forgot about it. Fortunately, the folks at Talk 2 Action have a better memory than I do and actually attended the event and provide an inside report.  

Back when he was running in the GOP primary, Mike Hucakbee praised right-wing pseudo-historian David Barton as perhaps "the greatest living historian on the spiritual nature of America's early days."  But it seems that, since dropping out, his opinion of Barton has only increased because he is now calling him the "single best historian in America today": 

According to candidate Mike Huckabee, history revisionist David Barton is the best historian our country has to offer the nation. Barton's best seller, The Myth of Separation of Church and State, violates the basic tenets of the Baptist faith Huckabee was ordained into and is still a member. This view by Huckabee about Barton was uttered at the Texas Restoration Project meeting in Austin, Texas, October 9-10th. Helping to host and speak at the event were Barton, Huckabee and Governor Perry - the state GOP official. On a first-to-call basis, the pastors of the state's churches, as well as their wives, were invited to come and stay free of charge in a $250/night Hilton Hotel room. Over 1,000 showed up, and it was announced that several hundred more wanted to attend, but could not because there was no room for them. Perry sits atop a state platform that wants to pull the nation out of the U.N., abolish the U.S. Department of Education, appeal minimum wage and do away with Social Security. Not to mention the platform affirms giving state money to religious schools and wants to dispel the myth of separation of church and state.

Huckabee and good buddy David Barton were up next, and between sessions provided photo opts for admiring pastors. Huckabee said this was a spiritual, not a political meeting, and he preached to the crowd. In spite of the get out the vote drive and lamenting of the false concept of separation of church and state, the mixture of pulpit and ballot continued … Huckabee introduced his friend David Barton as a man God raised up for the moment. Mike knew of no other man in the country having such a great impact on the land.

Next, Barton did his Christian-nation thing and stated the Bible had something to say about minimum wage and estate taxes. Evidently, that meant the text was against them both. A common religious right position in voter guides is that minimum wage is immoral. Barton told several stories of heroic Revolutionary War pastors who left the pulpit and led the men of the church into killing English troops. He lamented that this is what is needed today to restore the nation: That is, motivated and active pastors who lead out. Barton then said that separation of church and state, which he stated - is not in the Constitution - and only applies to the state interference in the church - a common religious right position.

Voter guides from Barton's organization were placed at the tables where we sat. There was a sign-up sheet to list name, email and church information. Morning speakers reminded us that the glory of God has been lost in the nation, and the Bible and prayer have been expelled from schools. The key question was what the church would do about these things. Barton proceeded to defend his position that the two key issues of the election centered around abortion and gay rights. He said the Bible taught that these were the key priority issues and poverty, environment, justice, civil rights and the prospect of an unjust war all sat as minor ethical issues compared to the other two. He explained that in the past few elections, laws have been enacted by Christians to limit abortions. That was - he admitted - until the 2006 elections. He conceded pro-life forces lost ground. His conclusion was that a get out the vote effort in 2008 could reverse this. David stated that what a person believed about abortion defined how one would vote regarding all other legislative issues. Barton reminded the group that judicial appointments will define our culture. He then explained to the pastors that for the past 50 years government has told pastors what to say in the pulpit. The Texan then complained that the government did a terribly inefficient job of helping the poor. It would better for the churches to hand out this money and do drug and prison rehab. He restated, "The church has got to be involved in the election." 

We weren’t there so obviously we don’t know exactly what Barton’s presentation was like, but if you want to get a sense of how Barton typically uses his biased history of America to promote the Religious Right’s political and electoral agenda, you can watch him do so here.

More De-Evolution in Texas

Last month we noted the oddly creative creationism views being put forth by Don McLeroy, Chairman of the Texas State Board of Education. Now it looks like McLeroy will be getting some company on the Board:

Social conservatives on the State Board of Education have appointed three evolution critics to a six-member committee that will review proposed curriculum standards for science courses in Texas schools.

Two of the appointees are authors of a book that questions many of the tenets of Charles Darwin's theory of how humans and other life forms evolved. One of them, Stephen Meyer, is also vice president of the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based group that promotes an explanation of the origin of life similar to creationism. The other author is Ralph Seelke, a biology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.

Also on the panel is Baylor University chemistry professor Charles Garner, who, like the other two, signed the Discovery Institute's "Dissent from Darwinism" statement that sharply questions key aspects of the theory of evolution.

The Texas Freedom Network's President Kathy Miller notes that the Texas Board of Education is now staffed with out-of-state ideologues, but the right-wing Free Market Foundation notes that it is necessary to keep the Board "balanced"

Jonathan Saenz of the conservative Free Market Foundation said the panel is "balanced" because two of the other three members, UT-Austin biology Professor David Hillis and Texas Tech Professor Gerald Skoog, have joined a group of science educators wanting to eliminate a current requirement that weaknesses of the theory of evolution be taught.

"If the theory of evolution is so strong and without weaknesses, why are the evolutionists so afraid to let students have a discussion about it?" he asked.

"Close-minded efforts to ban students from [hearing both sides] is dangerous and a clear detriment to students."

The Free Market Foundation is sister organization to the Liberty Legal Institute, the organization that was recently active up in Alaska trying to quash the "Troopergate" probe.  Both are run by Kelly Shackelford whom was recently on James Dobson's radio program crowing about how Sarah Palin was the answer to the right-wing movements prayers and explaining his efforts as part of the GOP's platform committee in drafting “the strongest pro-life platform ever in the history of the [Republican] party."

Dubya's Judicial Victory Lap Marred By Memory Lapse

At the Federalist Society's "The Presidency and the Courts" forum yesterday in Cincinnati, President Bush took time to rally the troops and bask in their loving glow as he recounted his battles over the issue of judicial nominees and reminded his audience that, just as he had promised, he put two new justices on the Supreme Court who shared their right-wing ideology:

When asked if I had any idea in mind of the kind of judges I would appoint, I clearly remember saying, I do. That would be Judges Scalia and Thomas ... And I made a promise to the American people during the campaign that if I was fortunate enough to be elected my administration would seek out judicial nominees who follow that philosophy ... I have appointed more than one-third of all the judges now sitting on the federal bench, and these men and women are jurists of the highest caliber, with an abiding belief in the sanctity of our Constitution ... America is well served by the 110th justice of the United States Supreme Court -- Samuel A. Alito ... I was very proud to nominate for the Supreme Court a really decent man, and a man of good judgment, and that would be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts.

Bush then went on to lament the politicization of the confirmation process, pointing to the treatment of Miguel Estrada as a prime example, and blasting those who engaged in "harmful tactics and maneuvers to thwart nominees": 

Unfortunately, Miguel Estrada's experience is not an isolated one. Many other well-qualified nominees have endured uncertainty and withering attacks on their character simply because they've accepted the call to public service. Those waiting in limbo include: Peter Keisler for the D.C. Circuit, Rod Rosenstein for the Fourth Circuit, and dozens of other nominees to district and circuit courts across this country.

...

The broken confirmation process has other consequences that Americans never see. Lawyers approached about being nominated will often politely decline because of the uncertainty and delay and ruthlessness that now characterizes the confirmation process. Some worry about the impact a nomination might have on their children, who would hear their dad or mom's name dragged through the political mud. This situation is unacceptable, and it's bad for our country. A judicial nomination should be a moment of pride for nominees and their families -- not the beginning of an ugly battle.

...

The American people expect the nomination process to be as free of partisanship as possible, and for senators to rise above tricks and gimmicks designed to thwart nominees ... In Washington, it can be easy to get caught up in the politics of the moment. Yet if we do not act to improve the confirmation process, those who are today deploying harmful tactics and maneuvers to thwart nominees will sooner or later find the tables turned.

Oddly, he didn't mention the most high profile vicitim of this problem - Harriet Miers:

According to “WithdrawMiers.org,” a coalition formed by the Eagle Forum’s Phyllis Schlafly, Fidelis, and others for the sole purpose of opposing the nomination: “Miers’ … few published writings offer no real insight or assurance of a judicial philosophy that reflects a commitment to the Constitution.” And on issues where Miers had something of a record, WithdrawMiers.org was not impressed: “Ms. Miers fought to remove the pro-abortion plank in the American Bar Association platform, yet fought this Bush Administration in ending the ABA’s role in vetting judges which is known to be biased against judges whose judicial philosophies reflect a clear commitment to the Constitution. She donated money to a Texas pro-life group, yet helped establish an endowed lecture series at Southern Methodist University that brought pro-abortion icons Gloria Steinem and Susan Faludi to campus.”

Like WithdrawMiers.org, Americans for Better Justice sprang up simply to oppose the Miers nomination. Founded by ultra-conservatives like David Frum, Linda Chavez, and Roger Clegg, ABJ was unconvinced that Miers shared its founders’ right-wing views and began gathering signatures on a petition demanding Miers’ withdrawal: “The next justice of the Supreme Court should be a person of clear, consistent, and unashamed conservative judicial philosophy … The next justice should be someone who has demonstrated a deep engagement in the constitutional issues that regularly come before the Supreme Court — and an appreciation of the originalist perspective on those issues … For all Harriet Miers’ many fine qualities and genuine achievements, we the undersigned believe that she is not that person.”

The right-wing magazine National Review had, in many ways, led the charge against the Miers nomination from the very beginning. Its writers called Miers “a very, very bad pick,” declared her nomination “the most catastrophic political miscalculation of the Bush presidency” and complained that the Right had been forced to endure “an embarrassingly lame campaign from the White House, the Republican National Committee, and their surrogates.”

What caused this gnashing of teeth was the fact that, according to the National Review’s editorial board, “There is very little evidence that Harriet Miers is a judicial conservative, and there are some warnings that she is not … neither being pro-life or an evangelical is a reliable guide to what kind of jurisprudence she would produce, even on Roe, let alone on other issues.”

Others on the Right were just as dismayed by the nomination. American Values’ Gary Bauer explained: “[Harriet Miers] has not written one word, said one word, given a speech, written a letter to the editor on any of the key constitutional issues that conservatives care about and are worried about and want to make sure the court does not go down the road on."

The Wall Street Journal called the nomination a “political blunder of the first order,” lamenting that “After three weeks of spin and reporting, we still don't know much more about what Ms. Miers thinks of the Constitution.”

Stephen Crampton of the American Family Association said Miers is a “stealth candidate for a seat on the Supreme Court [and] is an unknown with no paper trail,” while the Christian Defense Coalition blasted the president, saying his supporters “did not stand out in the rain for 20 hours passing out literature or putting up signs for the President to have him turn around and nominate Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. A nominee in which there is no record of their judicial philosophy or view of the Constitution.”

Back when John Roberts was preparing for his confirmation hearing, Concerned Women for America was praising him as a “highly qualified nominee with extraordinary personal integrity who has proven himself worthy to sit on our nation's highest court.” CWA said “Senators should ignore the ridiculously inappropriate litmus tests and document demands of the radical left” and that Roberts “should receive overwhelming bi-partisan support and confirmation.”

This is in stark contrast to the stand CWA took on Miers: “We believe that far better qualified candidates were overlooked and that Miss Miers’ record fails to answer our questions about her qualifications and constitutional philosophy … We do not believe that our concerns will be satisfied during her hearing." In calling for her withdrawal, CWA revealed their real objection: “Miers is not even close to being in the mold of Scalia or Thomas, as the President promised the American people.” They demanded that the president give them a “nomination that we can whole-heartedly endorse.”

DeLay Backs Huckabee for 2012

Mike Huckabee may be content to busy himself with his TV show for now, but that doesn’t mean he’s giving up the idea of running for president again in the future.  Just last week, he declared that he’d consider another run because "My experience in no way embittered me” – and if he decides to run again in 2012, it looks like he’ll have the support of Tom DeLay:

Tom DeLay was a supporter of Mike Huckabee in the Republican primaries, and likes his chances for the party's nomination in 2012 if John McCain loses in November, despite disagreeing with the former Arkansas governor on a number of issues.

"I've known Huckabee for 30 years," DeLay, the former House majority leader from Texas, told PolitickerCA.com. "I know what kind of man he is, how strong he is. I didn't agree with him on global warming, but I can overlook that knowing what a great man he is."

"I think that because of the kind of person he is, people like him," DeLay said. "If he weren't so populist, I think the conservatives would rally around him."

Huckabee encountered significant opposition during his campaign from various conservative groups, including the Club for Growth, which invested heavily in negative advertising against his candidacy.

DeLay said that he doesn't think Huckabee will be satisfied with his new job at Fox News, and hinted that the former governor was interested in running for president again if McCain loses. "He's looking ahead," DeLay said. "He's going to be out there helping build the party. He's going to be around.

Palin’s Unbiblical Candidacy

Today, the LA Times takes a look at the issue, which we’ve mentioned here a few times, of the seeming conflict between the belief among some conservative evangelicals that women cannot be leaders of the church and that their proper role is to be submissive to their husbands all while enthusiastically supporting Sarah Palin’s candidacy for vice president.  

The consensus seems to be that biblical restrictions on women's roles only apply at church and at home, not out in the secular world and, provided that Palin's husband approves, she is free to have a career.  

But inevitably, there are those for whom even this seemingly restrictive view is too liberal: 

"The Palin selection is the single most dangerous event in the conscience of the Christian community in the last 10 years at least," said Doug Phillips, president of Vision Forum, a Texas-based ministry. "The unabashed, unquestioning support of Sarah Palin and all she represents marks a fundamental departure from our historic position of family priorities -- of moms being at home with young children, of moms being helpers to their husbands, the priority of being keepers of the home."

Voddie Baucham, a Texas pastor who has criticized the Palin selection as anti-family in a series of blogs, said that the overwhelming evangelical support demonstrates a willingness to sacrifice biblical principles for politics. "Evangelicalism has lost its biblical perspective and its prophetic voice," Baucham wrote. "Men who should be standing guard as the conscience of the country are instead falling in line with the feminist agenda and calling a family tragedy . . . a shining example of family values."

In an interview, Baucham said the hundreds of responses he's received are running 20 to 1 in his favor. But he said he has also been castigated for "breaking ranks" by some, who argue the election is too important to raise divisive issues.

He and other like-minded pastors disagree. "It's more important for us to truthfully represent the priorities of Scripture than it is for us to win an election," Phillips said.

That view is obviously held by a very small minority of evangelicals, but overall this issue is leading to rather odd statements from Religious Right leaders as they try to reconcile this apparent contradiction:  

Although many conservative Christians agree that women should place homemaking over working outside, many are hesitant to apply those views to Palin. Christian author Martha Peace, whose book "The Excellent Wife" tells women to submit to husbands and be good homemakers, said she would not make the same choice as Palin.

Ditto for Richard Land, who heads the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and recommended Palin to the McCain campaign. He also would not do as the Palins have done. "I'm not hard-wired to be the 'First Dude,' " he said.

But Peace and Land are two of many who say the public should stay out of what is a matter between the Palins and their pastor. "I wouldn't presume to make that judgment for another family," Land said.

That’s rich coming from Land, whose entire career has been based on passing judgment on others.

James Dobson’s Special Election Message

Focus on the Family is getting involved in House and Senate races in Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas, sending out scorecards in which Republican candidates are praised for their “consistently pro-life and pro-family records” and the Democrats are blasted for having “taken audaciously liberal positions – particularly on life and marriage.” 

The text of all the mailers are more or less the same, with the exception of the paragraphs about the specific candidates – here is the text of the one targeting the Minnesota Senate Race [PDF]:

It’s not every day that individuals find themselves in a position to significantly impact the direction of an entire nation, but that’s exactly where you are today. As a Minnesota voter, you are right in the middle of one of the most important and closely watched Senate races in the country.

The stakes in this contest could not be higher. If Barack Obama wins the White House—a very real possibility—the U.S. Senate will be the last defense against his liberal agenda on abortion and marriage. Sen. Obama has already promised to support the Freedom of Choice Act, which would overturn every pro-life law on abortion in the nation. He has also pledged to abolish the Defense of Marriage Act and to allow open homosexuality in our military. The only hope of stopping this radical onslaught will be a strong showing of commonsense conservatives in the Senate.

A conservative Senate will be no less important under a McCain presidency. If John McCain should emerge victorious in November, he’ll need every Senate vote he can get to confirm Supreme Court judges who will uphold the Constitution and restore sanity to our courts.

That’s why Minnesota’s Senate race is so critical. The contrast between the candidates is sharp. Norm Coleman has maintained a stellar pro-life record and a generally pro-family record in the U.S. Senate. Al Franken, on the other hand, has not only taken strikingly liberal positions since returning to Minnesota, but his comedic record in New York is an embarrassment to those who
care about family values.

Please take a careful look at the issue checklist to the right. It contains details regarding the candidates’ stands on life, marriage and the judiciary, as well as insights on other issues that are important to families—such as gas prices and the threat of higher taxes.

Furthermore, Focus has also customized each mailing … seemingly using backdrops leftover from the 1970’s:

Jeffress Still Attacking Romney’s Faith

Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, first made a name for himself last year by openly and unapologetically attacking Mitt Romney and his Mormon faith, blasting Christians who supported his candidacy and declaring “that Mormonism is not Christianity. Mormonism is a cult.”

Now, Romney is not even running any more, but Jeffress isn’t done calling him a cult member or criticizing those who supported him:

Evangelicals who believe the country needs a Christian in the White House but promoted Mitt Romney's candidacy during the Republican primaries were hypocrites, according to a Texas pastor.
   
Romney, a Mormon, is not a Christian, the Rev. Robert Jeffress said, but a member of a "cult."

"I believe we should always support a Christian over a non-Christian," Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, told a packed audience of journalists at last weekend's Religion Newswriters Association (RNA) annual meeting. "The value of electing a Christian goes beyond public policies. . . . Christians are uniquely favored by God, [while] Mormons, Hindus and Muslims worship a false god. The eternal consequences outweigh political ones. It is worse to legitimize a faith that would lead people to a separation from God."

Jeffress made his remarks during a luncheon debate with Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a law firm and educational organization that focuses on religious-liberty issues. The DeMoss Group, a Christian public-relations firm in Duluth, Ga., sponsored the event.

RNA president Kevin Eckstrom was quick to point out that they did not organize the event and that he thought it was important for people to be aware of Jeffress because of the influence he wields:

"A lot of people were uncomfortable with what Dr. Jeffress said about Mormons, but what we were hoping for was something provocative that would get people talking, and certainly this did it."

Many reporters said they had never heard the word "cult," which Jeffress repeatedly called the LDS Church, used so "freely and recklessly," said Eckstrom, editor of Religion News Service in Washington, D.C. But Jeffress used the same word to describe "Catholics, Hindus, Buddhists and virtually everyone else."

It was useful for reporters to be aware of such strident views, Eckstrom said, because they are "completely mainstream in a lot of evangelical quarters."

First Baptist of Dallas "is not a backwater pulpit somewhere. It is a major church in Texas and in Southern Baptist circles," Eckstrom said. "It's a huge institution and a lot of followers. He's not just spouting these opinions for himself but proud of the fact that he was going back to his congregation and declare every other religion was wrong, and at least 10,000 people hear this position every week."

A Most Novel Creationism Argument

It’s not everyday that you come across an erudite argument such as this one that claims that it is not only wise, but fundamentally necessary to teach creationism in science class:

If science is limited to only natural explanations but some natural phenomena are actually the result of supernatural causes then science would never be able to discover that truth — not a very good position for science. Defining science to allow for this possibility is just common sense.

Science must limit itself to testable explanations not natural explanations. Then the supernaturalist will be just as free as the naturalist to make testable explanations of natural phenomena. The view with the best explanation of the empirical evidence should prevail.

In essence, the argument is that some things might have supernatural causes and if we don’t look to the supernatural to explain and understand them, then that is just bad science.  

If this sort of nonsense were written by some right-wing blogger, it could be mocked and dismissed as the ramblings of an ill-informed creationism advocate.  Unfortunately, as the Texas Freedom Network reports, it was actually written by Don McLeroy  who, last year, was named Chairman of the Texas State Board of Education by Gov. Rick Perry and whose credentials regarding evolutionary biology are limited to whatever he happed to pick up while attending dental school.

Liberty Legal and "Troopergate"

As we noted earlier this week, right-wing Alaskan attorney Kevin Clarkson had waded into the "Troopergate" saga in Sarah Plain's defense and was working in conjunction with the Liberty Legal Institute, a right-wing legal organization based in Texas. 

Why a right-wing organization out of Texas that, by its own admissions, focuses mostly on cases dealing with religious freedoms, student's rights, parental rights, and the definition of family was taking the lead in a case involving an investigation into the dealings of the Alaska Governor was hard to understand.  But now Kelly Shackelford, head of Liberty Legal, is explaining just what they are doing there ... assuring impartiality:

Liberty Legal Institute says it has filed the suit on behalf of Alaska legislators and citizens who want to halt the investigation because those running it have lost the impartiality required under the Alaska constitution. The investigation stems from Palin's July 2008 firing of former commissioner of the Alaska Department of Public Safety Walt Monegan for insubordination.

Kelly Shackelford -- chief counsel of Liberty Legal Institute -- says the investigation is being led by the Alaska Legislative Council and three Democratic state senators who are outspoken supporters of Barack Obama. "Those people have [made] contributions to Obama. They have public statements pro-Obama and anti-Palin. They have public statements prejudging the case before there's any evidence in," warns Shackelford.

"They have conflicts of interest with those in charge because of past and current relationships. So this is clearly an unconstitutional...political witch hunt which violates the very terms of their constitution."

That would be the same Kelly Shackelford who was recently on James Dobson's radio program crowing about how Palin was the answer to the right-wing movements prayers and explaining his efforts as part of the GOP's platform committee in drafting “the strongest pro-life platform ever in the history of the [Republican] party."

No concerns about impartiality or "conflicts of interest" there.

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.

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