abortion rights

Brownback's No-Win Situation

We've written several posts over the last few month about how Sen. Sam Brownback's standing among the Religious Right has fallen due to his support of Katheleen Sebelius' nomination to be Secretary of Health and Human Services, leading many right-wing activists to distance themselves from him.

Today, Dave Weigel has a good piece in The Washington Independent noting how, despite seemingly no help from anyone in the Senate, the Religious Right has managed to make the vote on Sebelius' nomination into a "controversy" all on its own:

The battle against Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-Kans.), President Obama’s nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, has gone better than many pro-life activists had hoped. Yes, it’s true that Sebelius is expected to be confirmed after an eight-hour debate and cloture vote are held in the Senate today. It’s also true that activists have not managed to dislodge the support of Sebelius’s home state senators, Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts, both Republicans — an embarrassing setback that has prevented the Sebelius nomination from becoming quite the abortion rights showdown that they had hoped for. But they can count some small victories.

“Going into this, there didn’t seem to be any opposition,” said Wendy Wright, the president of Conservative Women for America. “I was at her hearing, and that morning, I was reading news reports about how she was going to ’sail through’ the Senate. Now I’m reading reports about the ‘controversy’ around Kathleen Sebelius. You can attribute that to what the grassroots have done here.”

The vote on her nomination is scheduled for today and she is expected to be confirmed and conservative and Religious Right leaders are basically saying it is all Brownback's fault:

Before that vote, the anti-Sebelius coalition will hold a press conference on the Hill making the case against her. Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) will make public a letter of opposition to the nomination that, as of press time, eight other conservatives had signed. Still, opponents of the governor have been frustrated by the early and consistent support for Sebelius from Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kans.), a social conservative who is retiring in 2010 to run for governor of Kansas.

“This nomination should be more unpopular than it is,” grumbled one GOP Senate aide. “Brownback’s hesitation and his months of holding off on substantive criticism of Sebelius has basically frozen the ability of pro-life senators to fight as hard as they would like to. It’s tough. It’s very difficult for the pro-life leader in the Senate to mobilize his allies when he’s moving in the other direction.”

Although recently Brownback has been hinting that he might be rethinking his support for Sebelius' nomination, his explanation for supporting the nomination has been that installing her at HHS will get her out of the state and away from a possible run for Brownback's open Senate seat in 2010 and that whomever heads HHS will be pro-choice, so it may as well be someone from Kansas.

Needless to say, right-wing activists aren't buying his excuses, with one local activist saying its like justifying support of Hitler: 

“We’ll be extremely disappointed if Sen. Brownback doesn’t change his mind,” said Tom McClusky, vice president of government affairs for FRC. “That will play a role in any of our future work with him.”


It’s all a bit much for Kansas activists to stomach. “Those guys in Washington don’t think like we do in Kansas,” said David Gittrich, the long-serving state development director of Kansans for Life. “It might be smart politically to get the governor out of Kansas, but it’s really hard for me to wish her on the nation. I’d rather have Hillary Clinton running health care than Kathleen Sebelius.”

According to Gittrich, when Brownback turns his sights on the governor’s race he’ll gave to “reestablish his credentials as a pro-lifer” and explain his vote. “All the pro-life votes in the world don’t make up for supporting Kathleen Sebelius,” said Gittrich. “This is like saying, ‘I’m against the Holocaust and Nazi Germany but I’d like Hitler to be in charge of the health care center.’”

Fresh Off White House Call, Wright Decries "Abortion Holocaust"

Yesterday, Dan Gilgoff reported that the"White House will kick off its much-discussed plan to reduce abortions tomorrow morning with a conference call to religious leaders and abortion-rights advocates that will feature key White House aides. The call reflects the White House plan to bring faith-based groups, including conservative ones, together with pro-abortion rights organizations to reduce demand for abortion."

The call took place this morning and Gilgoff offers this follow-up of what it entailed:

Led by President Obama's chief domestic policy adviser, Melody Barnes, the White House announced that it would sponsor a series of meetings in coming months in search of common ground on abortion reduction. The meetings would include both supporters and opponents of abortion rights.

"Barnes said that the White House was not going to try to change anybody's mind on abortion and that she knew people had long-held convictions on various sides of the debate," one participant on the call, an abortion-rights foe, tells me. "But she said her assignment from the president was to seek common ground to prevent unintended pregnancies, including teen pregnancy; to reduce the need for abortions; and to support families for whom economic concerns were an issue. They also talked about promoting adoption."

Lifenews talked to Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America, who participated in the call and once again reiterated the point that we have been making all along - namely, that it is rather difficult to find ways to "reduce the need for abortion” by seeking common ground with groups that refuse to recognize that any such need exists:.

The Obama staffers want future meetings with people on both sides of the abortion debate and for them to bring concrete ideas on reducing abortions and that they will assimilate the information into a plan that the administration will present in two to three months, Wright explained.

"They are looking for ideas for legislation, and policies for the 2011 budget. They're interested in what has worked on a community level. They want to find common areas," Wright told LifeNews.com.

The goals of the plan will be to "support families through maternal and child health, and adoption" and "reducing unintended pregnancies and the need for abortion."

Wright says the qualifiers "need" and "unintended" are "completely subjective."

Whether the Obama administration plan will feature realistic ways to cut abortions or merely mirror the Planned Parenthood and pro-abortion agenda is a real question, Wright says.

“They have their work cut out for them in gaining trust from all the stakeholders since the primary people in charge come from the most hard-core abortion groups in the U.S. and the stated goals come straight from those abortion groups’ handbooks," she said after the call.

"To be diverse it’s imperative that they include pro-life leaders in the black community, a group that has been hardest hit by the abortion holocaust," Wright concludes.

An Epic Battle Brewing in Texas

We've covered the forthcoming showdown between Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry and Texas Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison a few times already, primarily to note that state-level Religious Right figures like David Barton and Rick Scarborough have already started to line up behind Perry in what is shaping up to be an epic and nasty primary as Hutchison challenges Perry in the GOP's gubernatorial primary.

Today, Politico reports that players on the ground are expecting a battle like nothing they have ever seen:

Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison hasn’t formally announced she’s running for governor, but Texas Republicans are nevertheless gearing up for a knock-down, drag-out 2010 primary brawl between Hutchison and Gov. Rick Perry, a race that will pit the nation’s longest-serving sitting governor against one of its most popular statewide politicians.

Perry’s campaign has already slammed Hutchison as “Kay Bailout Hutchison” because of her support for President George W. Bush’s bailout legislation last year — and Perry’s State of the State address last month focused on the Republican Party’s failures in Washington. It was reported that a Perry operative was recently digging into City Hall documents in search of unfavorable information about Hutchison’s husband, a prominent bond attorney.

Hutchison’s camp has returned fire by portraying Perry as an ineffectual executive who has worn out his welcome in Texas.Even Sarah Palin has gotten into the act, endorsing Perry and suggesting Hutchison was not sufficiently opposed to abortion rights.

“The level of animosity between these two is unbelievable. In a business that thrives on animosity, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. This is going to be a war,” said one senior GOP operative from Texas. “The governor doesn’t like being nudged out, and the senator believes she’s entitled to the governorship — she gave the guy a chance four years ago.”

“This is one of those races where people avert their gaze, because it portends to be so ugly and nasty that a lot of people don’t want to have much to do with it,” added longtime Texas Republican pollster David Hill.

A recent poll shows Hutchison leading Perry by twenty-five points, and so Perry has gotten to work shoring up support from the state's right-wing base:

Part of Perry’s strategy is to render her unacceptable to conservative voters who traditionally make up a large share of the primary electorate. He recently spoke at an anti-abortion rally, where he touted his support of legislation that would require doctors to show women seeking an abortion a sonogram.

He recently drew headlines as one of several Southern governors who threatened to turn down a portion of the stimulus money directed to their states.

“Perry is clearly catering to the hard-core conservatives. These are people that dominate at the state party level,” said [James Henson, the director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas.]

As Mark McKinnon, the media adviser to former President Bush, put it: "This will be a hall of fame Texas political brawl. Even if you don’t have a favorite, this is a race that will be entertaining just to hear the shoulder pads crack.”

By The Third Time, It's a Trend

For anyone seeking to understand how the Religious Right plans to operate under the relatively young Obama Administration, let us offer a few telling examples.  

For weeks, if not months, they have been hyperventilating over the fact that Democrats in Congress are intent on re-introducing the Fairness Doctrine in order to "silence conservative and Christian broadcasters" and eliminate their ”freedom to share the Gospel.” Of course, as we noted yesterday, there was no desire or effort to actually bring it back and even President Obama has stated that he "does not believe the Fairness Doctrine should be reinstated."  But will not stop the Right from carping about it?  Not likely:

While this is encouraging, I want you to know that we will remain vigilant and continue to work to oppose the return of the Fairness Doctrine.

Here's another example:  for weeks the Right has been breathlessly proclaiming that the stimulus legislation was "anti-religious" and part of an effort to "intimidate the free speech of traditional, freedom-loving Americans." Of course, that wasn't true either but that didn't stop them from repeating it every opportunity they had. 

In case the pattern hasn't become clear yet, we can now add the fear-mongering over FOCA to the growing list:

The U.S. Catholic Church's crusade against the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) has all the hallmarks of a well-oiled lobbying campaign. A national postcard campaign is flooding the White House and congressional offices with messages opposing FOCA, and the Catholic bishops have made defeating the abortion rights legislation a top priority. In the most recent effort to stop the bill, Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia sent a letter to every member of Congress imploring them to "please oppose FOCA."

There is only one hitch. Congress isn't about to pass the Freedom of Choice Act because no such bill has been introduced.


In the midst of all this activity, the fact that there was no Freedom of Choice Act before the 111th Congress went largely unnoticed and unmentioned.

A Freedom of Choice Act was first introduced in the 108th and 110th Congresses (from '03 to '05 and '07 to '09, respectively), by Rep. Jerold Nadler, a New York Democrat. It was developed at a time when the future of Roe was in doubt because it was unclear if George W. Bush would have the opportunity to appoint another justice to the Supreme Court. But FOCA had a hard time gaining traction — even under Democratic control of Congress, the bill was not only never voted on but never made it out of committee. And now abortion rights advocates are breathing easier with Obama in the White House — so much so that when a coalition of 63 organizations sent the Administration its top 15 priorities for reproductive rights and health, FOCA did not even make the list.

Congressional Democrats have also been less than enthusiastic about the proposal. A spokesman for Nadler says that while he expects the legislation will be reintroduced, "it won't be anytime soon." Even if FOCA is reintroduced in the current Congress, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has indicated she has no intention of bringing it up for a vote. And even if she did, there are not enough votes in Congress to pass the bill.

President Obama has only been in office for a few weeks, but that doesn't mean it is too early to predict that the Religious Right's plan of attack during his administration looks like it will rely heavily on stirring up "controversies" by (a) opposing legislation that does not exist and (b) misrepresenting legislation that does.

The Right In Disarray As Lay-Offs Loom

CQ has a good article noting that both the fiscal conservatives and the social conservatives, two of the core segments of the Republican Party’s base, are in disarray and see no figure on the horizon at the moment who is capable of unifying either movement, much less bringing them together.  In fact, about the only option they have at the moment is to come together in opposition to President Obama and try to derail his political agenda: 

Other movement leaders, such as former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, a Texas Republican who now chairs the grass-roots small-government group FreedomWorks, are dismayed over the $700 billion financial industry bailout, pushed last year by President George W. Bush and supported in the end by almost half the Republicans in the House and two out of three from the GOP in the Senate. “It’s a dangerous time for fiscal conservatism,” he said.

Indeed, many conservatives say they have little hope that congressional Republican leaders will carry their standard, said Richard Viguerie, the conservative direct-mail guru who helped stir the Reagan revolution in 1980. “Who in the world is ever going to follow Mitch McConnell? Who is going to follow John Boehner?” Viguerie asked in reference to the party’s Senate and House floor leaders. “They look weak. They talk weak, and they have no plan or vision.”

Social conservatives such as Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, say Bush was hardly better on their issues. Apart from his down-the-line opposition to abortion rights, Perkins says, Bush was “not a consistent conservative.”

Most movement leaders are arguing for a return to what they see as the tried-and-true conservative game plan of limited government and traditional values. Most of all, they want congressional Republicans to stand up to the new president. That’s why Perkins is among the movement leaders taking heart in the House stimulus vote. “It was the first time in the six years I’ve been in Washington that the Republicans have stood with the conservatives,” he said.

CQ also reports that right-wing groups are in even deeper trouble at the moment because, traditionally, advocacy groups see their donations increase whenever a president representing the opposing ideology is elected. But that is not happening this time around, thanks to the current economic crisis, and now groups like the Family Research Council might be forced to actually downsize: 

If moderate voices don’t knock over the hard-liners, financial pressures might. Often a shift in power in Washington benefits interest groups of the opposite ideology, as was the case for conservative advocates after Bill Clinton was elected in 1992 and for liberal groups after Bush won in 2000. In each case, fired-up partisans increased their donations to interest groups that pledged to fight the new president. But such donor enthusiasm has yet to materialize for conservatives since Obama’s victory.

For example, two weeks after the November election, Focus on the Family, the Colorado Springs-based conservative group, announced it was cutting a fifth of its workforce, or more than 200 employees. The move followed a staff reduction of nearly 50 in September. Now, Perkins says, the Family Research Council may soon follow suit because its revenues are down 15 percent from the previous year.

Perry Woos the Right With State Address

Given that Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison seems intent on challenging Republican Governor Rick Perry next year, it looks like Perry is getting a head start on sewing up right-wing support as he attempts to hold her off:

Gov. Rick Perry delivered his state of the state address to a joint session of the Legislature as if it were a campaign speech.


[W]ith the Republican governor planning to run for re-election next year — and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison preparing to challenge him — there was plenty to energize a conservative, red-meat political base Perry is counting on.

“As we consider the growing threats to our nation’s unborn, I believe it’s time to add another layer of protection for the most vulnerable Texans,” he said.

Perry said pregnant women should be required to see an ultrasound before being allowed to get an abortion. And he advocated adult stem cell research — not embryonic stem cells, a flash point for anti-abortion advocates whom the governor invited as Capitol guests.

“I was thrilled to have him discuss that,” said Joe Pojman of Texas Alliance for Life.

Hutchison supports abortion rights, although with restrictions. Perry’s political team plans to use the issue against her in the GOP primary, where social conservatives will make up about a quarter of the vote.

For those keeping score, Perry spent more time on abortion (seven sentences) than on college tuition (one sentence) or reducing insurance rates and expanding children’s health coverage (zero and zero) ... Tuesday’s speech was a triumph for social conservatives — especially on abortion and Perry’s support of another issue popular with the conservative base — requiring voters to show a photo ID.

“All this stuff, the base really has a passion for,” said Kelly Shackelford of Plano-based Liberty Legal Institute.

Interestingly, Rick Scarborough, who has already made his opposition to Hutchison's intended run well known, was also in attendance and apparently has gotten over his "grave disappointment" in Perry due to the Governor's endorsement of Rudy Giuliani during the GOP primaries:

The governor stood in front of the chamber, the San Jacinto flag behind him. The Rev. Rick Scarborough, an influential East Texas evangelist and Perry guest, applauded from his seat in the back.

Scarborough and Perry have not always seen eye to eye. There was, for example, the governor’s unfortunate support of anti-gun, pro-abortion rights candidate Rudy Giuliani in last year’s presidential race.

“I’ve talked with him about that,” Scarborough said darkly, as if alluding a prodigal son’s wayward years.

Right Wing Leftovers

  • The American Life League is angry that Krispy Kreme is giving away free doughnuts on Inauguration Day because the company's press release says it is celebrating "the freedom of choice," which ALL says is a "tacit endorsement of abortion rights on demand."
  • Rep. Steve King says it is "bizarre" that Barack Obama will use his middle name when he is sworn in next week, which just serves as more evidence that King fully deserves his place among Steve Benen's "Most Offensive Member of Congress."
  • Because you can never have too many right-wingers on the radio, Mat Staver and Matt Barber will soon begin hosting "Liberty Live," which will air on 126 stations of American Family Radio's new AFR Talk network.
  • Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern has introduced a resolution calling on Congress to oppose the Freedom of Choice Act, saying it would be "an infringement on states’ rights. Abortion is not a right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution but states’ rights are guaranteed by the Tenth Amendment."
  • The Traditional Values Coalition warns that President Obama and his "czars" are poised to "impose Obamunism upon our nation" and specifically singles out Tom Daschle as "most likely push the abortion and homosexual agenda ... The abortionists and homosexuals who helped get Obama elected must be thrilled with all of these czars with power to impose abortion and homosexuality on our military and federal bureaucracies.” Elsewhere, they call us a "God-hating ... anti-Christian group that is still engaged in a relentless war against traditional values."
  • Dan Gilgoff reports that, according to Ted Haggard, "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi regularly sent words of comfort and support in the two year following his fall," but Pelosi's office tells David Brody that Haggard's claim is "simply not true."
  • Finally, Rick Scarborough is more than a little upset that Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison has the temerity to start plotting a run for Governor of Texas:
  • "As a Texas conservative I am appalled by this action and call upon Senator Hutchison to do the ethically and morally right thing by writing everyone who contributed to her national campaign and offering to refund their contribution. Conservatives in Texas and around the country contributed to Senator Hutchison's campaign to fight liberals in Washington; not conservatives in Texas.

    "Rick Perry has his detractors in Texas and I have been openly critical of some of his positions as Governor, but he is solidly pro-life and pro-family and Texas has prospered under his able leadership. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, who is pro-choice, is apparently willing to expose her own Party in Washington to a possible filibuster proof Democratic majority by vacating her seat as US Senator, while simultaneously dividing her Party in Texas with a costly and politically divisive bid to be Governor which is not warranted."

Religious Right, "Heartened" by Warren Pick, Accuses Us of Trying to Silence the Church

David Brody posts this statement from Tony Perkins, proclaiming himself heartened by Barack Obama's decision to have Rick Warren deliver the invocation during his unpcoming inauguration:

I'm heartened by his choice of one of America’s leading evangelical pastors who is pro-life and pro-marriage for this honor. It was magnanimous of Obama, in light of the fact that his debate with John McCain at Warren’s church in August was one of the high points of the campaign for McCain. (This was the event where Warren asked, When does life begin? and Obama replied that the question is above my pay grade.) Warren has distanced himself from the religious right by emphasizing issues more popular with liberals, such as AIDS relief and global warming. But he has also been consistent in his support for the unborn and for the natural definition of marriage, and late in the campaign Warren did endorse California’s marriage amendment, Proposition 8 (which Obama opposed).

Perkins then goes on to cite our opposition to this decision, as well as the opposition from the Human Rights Campaign, which he sees as proof that we are trying to silence the church: 

Joe's desire to exclude Pastor Warren from the inaugural, based upon his religious convictions, proves the concerns over the homosexual desire to silence the Church. Let’s hope that Rick Warren will use his channel of communication to the new President to press him for more pro-family policies*rather than simply being used by Mr. Obama to make political inroads with evangelicals.

Focus on the Family is pleased as well:

"It's nice to see a conservative evangelical pastor play such a prominent role in such an important event," said Tom Minnery, a senior vice president at Focus on the Family, which has fiercely criticized Obama over his support for abortion rights and other issues. "I think what it does is it underscores the importance of evangelicalism in the country."

If the goal here was to excite the Religious Right and allow them to play the victim while angering the progressive base, then mission accomplished.  But that is probably not a particularly good strategy since, as Michelle Goldberg notes: "insulting your supporters to win the support of your opponents is no way to build unity."

Faith-Based Attacks Now Fair Game

The AP has a good article about how “nonwhite Christians voted overwhelmingly for Obama, [while] most white Christians backed John McCain” and how black clergy believe that right-wing attacks on Barack Obama’s “religious beliefs and support for abortion rights crossed the line, hurting longtime efforts to reconcile their communities.”

Toward the end, Harry Jackson shows up to explain that attacks on Obama’s faith were perfectly justified and in no way vitriolic:

But Bishop Harry Jackson, an African-American pastor of Hope Christian Church in Washington, D.C., and a McCain supporter, said questions about Obama's more liberal reading of Scripture was fair game. Jackson noted that Obama became an observant Christian through the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, former pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Videos of Wright's sermons that circulated widely earlier this year showed him cursing the government and accusing it of conspiring against blacks. Obama eventually left the church.

"Many, many people question whether Barack Obama had been under a legitimate Christian leadership figure," Jackson said. "I personally never ascribed any vitriolic character assassination to it."

So having his faith declared “woefully deficient” and the basic tenets of his faith mocked while his “religious commitment” is questioned is not vitriolic?  Being told he is not a “true Christian,” that he doesn’t "meet the requirements” to be a Christian and that his faith “tramples on the historic teachings of Christianity and the Bible” is not vitriolic?  Being told that he is the harbinger of the Anti-Christ who has “no right to claim” to be a Christian because he is "not a Christian by any Biblical or historic measure" is not vitriolic?  

Good to know.  I’ll be sure to keep that in mind the next time the Religious Right starts complaining about people like Mike Huckabee or Sarah Palin being subjected to reverse religious tests because of their deeply-held beliefs.

Huckabee, Santorum, Corsi Show Up in New Anti-Obama DVD

The Associated Press reports that Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Ken Blackwell, Jerome Corsi, and others all make an appearance in a new anti-Obama DVD produced by Citizens United that is set to be included with newspapers in swing states just before the election:

Readers of Ohio's three largest newspapers, along with papers in Florida and Nevada, are finding an anti-Barack Obama DVD in editions this week.

Citizens United, a conservative advocacy group based in Washington, plans to release a 95-minute film in the five swing-state publications to highlight Obama's record on abortion rights, foreign policy and his past associations, including his relationship with former pastor Rev. Jermiah Wright. The group said it planned to spend more than $1 million to distribute about 1.25 million copies of "Hype: The Obama Effect."

"We think it's a truthful attack. People can take it anyway they want," said David Bossie, Citizens United's president.

Readers of The Columbus Dispatch received their copy Tuesday. The Cincinnati Enquirer, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post and the Las Vegas Review-Journal are scheduled to receive them in coming days.

The film raises questions about Obama's political base in Chicago and questions the media's reporting on Obama.

Among those interviewed are conservative columnist Robert Novak, former Clinton strategist-turned-pundit Dick Morris and former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and discredited Obama critic Jerome Corsi also give interviews.

Right Plots to Wage Culture War During Obama Presidency

For those hoping that a victory by Barack Obama might somehow restrain or moderate the Religious Right … well, you are going to be disappointed since the Right is already looking ahead and planning on reconstituting itself by rallying around Sarah Palin and launching an all-out culture war: 

"An Obama victory will galvanize social conservatives for 2010 and 2012 and they will look for a standard bearer they can rally around," said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the public policy arm of America's largest evangelical group.

Land told Reuters the candidate most likely to "rally the troops" under an Obama administration looked to be McCain's running mate Sarah Palin.

The Alaska governor has excited the evangelical base but her strident opposition to abortion rights and other hard-core conservative positions have alienated more moderate voters.

William Donohue, president of the conservative Catholic League which opposes abortion rights, said religious conservatives were bracing for a new phase in the "culture wars."

"I've been on the phone the last couple of days with some of my friends ... and we're getting ready for the biggest culture war battles ever," Donohue said.

"There is nobody in the history of the United States who has run for president who is a more enthusiastic supporter of abortion rights than Obama," he said.

The Right's Dystopian Future

First we had Janet Folger writing us a letter from prison in 2010 and delivering newscasts from early 2009 and now, via Good as You, it looks like Focus on the Family has gotten its hands on whatever time-travelling device Folger has invented in orded to send back their own 16-page warning letter [PDF] from the years 2012:

Dear friends,

I can hardly sing “The Star Spangled Banner” any more. When I hear the words,

O say, does that star spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

I get tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. Now in October of 2012, after seeing what has happened in the last four years, I don’t think I can still answer, “Yes,” to that question. We are not “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Many of our freedoms have been taken away by a liberal Supreme Court and a majority of Democrats in both the House and the Senate, and hardly any brave citizen dares to resist the new government policies any more.

The 2008 election was closer than anybody expected, but Barack Obama still won. Many Christians voted for Obama – younger evangelicals actually provided him with the needed margin to defeat John McCain – but they didn’t think he would really follow through on the far left policies that had marked his entire previous career. They were wrong.

Once left-leaning Justices took over the Supreme Court, Focus reports, gay marriage and abortion were mandated, the Boy Scouts were forced to disband, Christian schools were shut down and homeschoolers fled the country, religious speech was drastically curtailed and conservative radio was forced off the air, the Pledge of Allegiance was ruled unconstitutional, guns were taken away, pornography was rampant, taxes had sky-rocketed, Christian publishers had all gone out of business, Bush adminstration officials were targeted and imprisoned, and terrorists were constantly unleashing attacks on American soil.

And it was all the fault of those Christians who had voted for Obama:

When did this all start? Christians share a lot of the blame. In 2008 many evangelicals thought that Senator Obama was an opportunity for a “change,” and they voted for him. They simply did not realize Obama’s far-left agenda would take away many of our freedoms as a nation, perhaps permanently (it is unlikely that the Supreme Court can be changed for perhaps 30 more years). Christians did not realize that by electing Barack Obama, the most liberal member ever to serve in the U.S. Senate, they would allow the law, in the hands of a liberal Congress and Supreme Court, to become a great instrument of oppression.

Many people thought he sounded so thoughtful, so reasonable. And during the campaign, after he had won the Democratic nomination, he seemed to be moving to the center in his speeches, moving away from his earlier far-left record. No one thought he would enact such a far-left, extreme liberal agenda.

But the record was all there for anyone to see. The agenda of the ACLU, the agenda of liberal activist judges in their dissenting opinions, the agenda of the homosexual activists, the agenda of the environmental activists, the agenda of the National Education Association, the agenda of the global warming activists, the agenda of the abortion rights activists, the agenda of the gun control activists, the agenda of the euthanasia supporters, the agenda of the one-world government pacifists, the agenda of far-left groups in Canada and Europe – all of these agendas were there in plain sight, and all of these groups provided huge support for Senator Obama. The liberal agenda was all there. But too many people just didn’t want to see it.

Christians didn’t take time to find out who Barack Obama was when they voted for him. Why did they risk our nation’s future on him? It was a mistake that changed the course of history.

McCain's Non-Litmus Test "Litmus Test"

It looks like the Right finally got what it wanted when the issue of abortion worked its way into last night's debate and was tied to the issue of the future of the Supreme Court, to boot. 

Of course, John McCain stepped all over what should have been his golden opportunity to appease the Religious Right by immediately bringing up his role in the "Gang of 14," which is something for which they still have not forgiven him. 

But when he finally got back on track, he reverted to the standard Republican line that he would never have a "litmus test" for his Supreme Court nominees regarding Roe v. Wade but would instead find nominees with a "history of strict adherence to the Constitution and not legislating from the bench."

Since McCain refused to apply a "litmus test" to potential nominees, moderator Bob Schieffer logically took that to mean that he might be willing to consider someone who "had a history of being for abortion rights," to which McCain replied that he would do no such thing:

MCCAIN: I would consider anyone in their qualifications. I do not believe that someone who has supported Roe v. Wade that would be part of those qualifications. But I certainly would not impose any litmus test.

So McCain could not appoint an abortion rights supporter because that would conflict with his commitment to naming judges with a "history of strict adherence to the Constitution."  Of course, the whole question of reproductive rights is whether or not such rights are protected by the Constitution.  McCain clearly doesn't believe that they are ... but by hiding behind the phrase "strict adherence to the Constitution" he gets to absurdly pretend that he's not applying a dreaded "litmus test" when, in fact, that is exactly what he is doing.  

McCain should at least be honest about it and tell the nation what he told Gary Bauer back in 2000 that led Bauer to endorse him over George Bush:

Somewhat surprisingly, McCain had the support of Gary Bauer, the social conservative, who had dropped out of the race by that time. “I wanted a commitment from either George Bush or John McCain that if elected he would appoint pro-life judges to the Supreme Court,” Bauer told me. “Bush said he had no litmus test, and his judges would be strict constructionists. But McCain, in private, assured me he would appoint pro-life judges.”

Of course, Bauer denies this now, saying that McCain merely promised him judges who would not be activist; a claim which is just as bogus as McCain's "no litmus test" dodge.

Right Lives Out SCOTUS Fantasy on Film

With the opening of the new Supreme Court term today, the newspapers are full of articles explaining that the future of the Court will depend on the outcome of the election, especially on the issue such as reproductive choice:

Every four years, defenders of abortion rights proclaim that the fate of Roe vs. Wade hangs on the outcome of the presidential election.

This year, they may be right.

Through most of the 1990s and until recently, the Supreme Court had a solid 6-3 majority in favor of upholding the right of a woman to choose abortion. But the margin has shrunk to one, now that Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is retired and has been replaced by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.

And Justice John Paul Stevens, a leader of the narrow majority for abortion rights, is 88.

"Clearly, Roe is on the line this time," said Indiana University law professor Dawn Johnsen, a former lawyer for NARAL Pro-Choice America. "It is quite clear they have four votes against it. If the next president appoints one more, the odds are it will be overruled."

But for Religious Right activists who just can’t wait to see how it all turns out, there is a new movie opening through which they can live out their fantasies as they watch students at Patrick Henry College (and co-starring its founder, Michael Farris) convince the Supreme Court to finally overturn Roe … or at least win a moot court competition or something:

It is the first Monday in October and a future U.S. Supreme Court tackles the reversal of Roe vs. Wade in a dramatic new pro-life movie, COME WHAT MAY (CWM). The controversial film has received rave reviews from preview audiences nationwide, drawing large crowds in Oregon where 800 moviegoers filled the Grants Pass Performing Arts Center to capacity. Six distributors are vying for CWM, including the company currently distributing the new Christian blockbuster, FIREPROOF.

"What's remarkable is that COME WHAT MAY, a 2008 Redemptive Storyteller Award winner, was largely produced by over 40 homeschooled students mentored by only a handful of professionals," according to Mac Nichols, a tax attorney who plays one of the movie's U.S. Supreme Court Justices.

Advent Film Group (AFG) produced the micro-budget movie in association with Patrick Henry College (PHC), a true-to-life powerhouse in collegiate debate and moot court competition. The movie's legal argument is solid, claims George Escobar, founder of AFG. Dr. Michael Farris, PHC founder and chancellor, wrote the film's legal framework. Farris, a constitutional attorney, has successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Monaghan's State-Based Focus

The Naples Daily News profiles Tom Monaghan, the founder of Dominos Pizza and ultra-right-wing Catholic activist behind the Thomas More Law Center and Ave Maria University who even built his own town where he could implement his hardcore beliefs.

Though he is not particularly well-known, Monaghan is a right-wing powerbroker and moneyman who early-on backed Sam Brownback until his campaign ended early in the primary season.  He has since gone on to endorse Romney and ultimately McCain, but this election cycle has focused primarily on financing the state races of candidates who share his right-wing views:

Monaghan and his wife have given $4,600 to Tom Rooney, a 37-year-old Republican running for Congress in Florida’s 16th District, which dances across the state’s middle from Port Charlotte to Port St. Lucie.

Rooney, the grandson of the Pittsburgh Steelers founder Art Rooney, is Catholic and anti-abortion. He’s a member of Legatus and Rooney’s brother, Brian, is the national spokesman for the Thomas More Law Center.

Monaghan’s contribution to Rooney came last December, as he was starting out a bitter three-way primary he won by 2 percentage points in August.

“That support was very crucial,” said Jeff Ostermayer, Rooney’s campaign spokesman.

The type of campaign Rooney is in — long, competitive and expensive — exemplifies where Monaghan is spending his money. His three top donations this election cycle are in races expected to be close calls come November: Rooney’s, the open Senate election in Colorado and an open House seat in Northern Virginia.  

But just because he tends to operate behind the scenes doesn't mean he is averse to confrontation or controversy: 

Seven years ago, Tom Monaghan attended the opening of the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C., a $65 million think tank and museum dedicated to the Catholic faith. Near Monaghan sat Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., whose family has embodied Catholic politics in the United States for more than 50 years.

After the dedicatory speech in which President George W. Bush praised the Pope’s defense of a “culture of life,” Monaghan confronted Kennedy. How, Monaghan asked, could Kennedy be a Catholic and support abortion rights?

“We were walking away from the ceremony and he kind of sat beside me, a little bit behind me,” Monaghan said recently. “I turned around and looked at him. He acknowledged me, so I thought I had to say something. So I said what was on my mind.”

Kennedy, Monaghan said, didn’t respond.

Monaghan “really stuck it to him,” said Deal Hudson, a prominent Catholic Republican operative and longtime Monaghan confidante who witnessed the encounter.

Sarah Palin: Mike Huckabee’s Biggest Nightmare

Last week, we were noting with amazement how Sarah Palin went from complete unknown to de facto leader of the right-wing movement in a matter of weeks:

Eagle Forum President Phyllis Schlafly, conservative cause prompter Richard Viguerie and Free Congress Foundation President Paul M. Weyrich - all considered movement founders - each gave The Times the same two-word answer to the question about the emerging leader of the right: "Sarah Palin."

"None of the above names - Romney, Gingrich, Huckabee, DeLay - will be the conservative movement's leader in the coming years," Mr. Viguerie said. "Governor Palin's VP nomination is huge. It changes conservative, Republican and American politics for the next 20 years."

Of course, this raises an interesting prospect for what happens to Mike Huckabee in 2012 if John McCain loses this year:  

The former Arkansas governor emerged as one of Palin’s most vocal defenders when he spoke shortly before she took the stage at the Republican National Convention earlier this month.

But depending on how this election shapes up, they could end up political rivals for a future presidential bid with narratives that overlap and appeal to the same constituency.

“I think in a lot of ways, they’re pretty similar figures,” said Jay Barth, a political scientist at Hendrix College in Conway. “Their kind of personal style has some similarities to it. I think she really does cut into his turf significantly.”

Palin’s pick as John McCain’s running mate energized evangelicals, especially those who had been worried that he would choose a running mate who would support abortion rights. She’s also sided with the majority evangelical view in opposing gay marriage and expressing a desire to see creationism discussed alongside evolution in schools.

Those positions cut into Huckabee’s base of support among evangelicals, who were attracted to the Southern Baptist minister for his conservative stance on social issues. And, with a quick wit, Huckabee was able to make up for the lack of name recognition with an ability to grab the limelight.

But Palin—who’s selling herself as a “hockey mom” who hunts moose—is now dominating that limelight. If McCain loses in November, she could become the next in line for the GOP.

Back when he was running for the nomination, Huckabee saw Mitt Romney as the biggest threat to his efforts to secure his position as the Right’s favorite candidate and was absolutely merciless in attacking him, and while he might be willing to take a back seat to Palin at the moment in order to help John McCain’s campaign, he probably won’t be so deferential down the line if he finds himself in a face-to-face showdown with Palin for the Right’s support.

Psychoanalyzing the Nation

Kevin Burke, co-founder of something called Rachel’s Vineyard - a “post-abortion healing ministry” run by the right-wing group Priests for Life - offers his explanation of why people might not like Sarah Palin.  It turns out that they are all traumatized by the “collective grief, pain and guilt” they feel over their pro-choice views:

The very personal and often uncharitable criticism of Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin and her family evident in recent media coverage, and the lack of support from many feminist and child advocacy groups, may have a relationship to the collective grief, pain and guilt from personal involvement in the abortion of an unborn child.

When an issue strikes at a deeply repressed sensitive wound in a person, often the initial reaction is anger.

Seeing the Palin family, in a very visible public forum, with an uncompromising and public pro life philosophy arouses deeply repressed feelings in post abortive parents, as well as media members, counselors, health care professionals, politicians and others who promote abortion rights, especially the abortion of children with challenges such as Down syndrome.

These powerful repressed feelings of grief, guilt and shame can be deflected from the source of the wound (i.e., abortion) and projected onto an often uncharitable focus upon the trigger of these painful emotions…the Palin family.

And all this time I thought it was because she was a one-term unknown whose sole qualification for John McCain’s ticket was her appeal to the GOP’s right-wing base.

Huckabee's Anti-Romney Crusade Marches On

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

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

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

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

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

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

But according to this adviser, that has changed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Schlafly Threatens Walkout if Lieberman Named VP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a Feature, Not a Bug

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

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

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

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

John McCain believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned, and as president he will nominate judges who understand that courts should not be in the business of legislating from the bench.

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

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

As the New York Times reported:

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

Politico reported something similar:  

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

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

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

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

As Dahlia Lithwick recently put it:

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

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abortion rights Posts Archive

Brian Tashman, Friday 05/06/2011, 3:58pm
Radio talk show host and Religious Right activist Penna Dexter was the keynote speaker at the National Day of Prayer event yesterday in Rapid City, South Dakota. Dexter, a member of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, last year blamed a gay California youth who was murdered by another student for his own death. According to the Rapid City Journal, Dexter lamented that while Osama bin Laden is dead, the “the advancing homosexual agenda” continues to flourish: A smaller than expected crowd of about 350 people, including at least two out... MORE
Brian Tashman, Monday 04/25/2011, 12:20pm
Pat Robertson has figured out why President Obama supports the funding of Planned Parenthood and believes in a woman’s right to choose: because progressives want women to have abortions as a way to achieve equality for lesbians. While speaking with co-host Terry Meeuwsen of The 700 Club about the recent debate over Planned Parenthood’s funding, Robertson attempted to use “psychological stuff” to rationalize why progressives back Planned Parenthood and “this culture of death.” According to Robertson, progressives want straight women to “abortion their... MORE
Brian Tashman, Monday 04/04/2011, 2:58pm
Newly elected Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is set to address the Faith & Freedom Conference and Strategy Briefing in June, the hallmark event of Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition. Sen. Paul and his father, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, both appear to be testing the waters for a presidential bid. The younger Paul recently address the Iowa Republican Party’s “Night of the Rising Stars” and the Iowa Campaign for Freedom; he also told The Hill that he feels ready to run for president even though he has only held elected office since January. Paul has also helped... MORE
Brian Tashman, Monday 03/28/2011, 10:04am
After an anti-choice organization placed, and ultimately pulled, a New York billboard with the message “The Most Dangerous Place for an African American is in The Womb,” the group is now posting similar billboards in Chicago featuring President Obama. Jill Stanek, a radical anti-choice blogger, details the group Life Always and its new billboard in Obama’s hometown that reads: “Every 21 Minutes, Our Next Possible Leader Is Aborted.” Stanek writes that “Tomorrow, March 29, over 30 pro-life billboards will be unveiled on Chicago’s south side, where... MORE
Brian Tashman, Monday 03/07/2011, 1:31pm
The Republican governor of South Dakota announced that he is “inclined to sign” an extreme bill passed by the state legislature that requires women seeking an abortion to undergo a 72 hour waiting period and biased counseling. RWW first reported on the bill when it was first approved by a House committee, and has since passed the full House and Senate. As outlined in a new People For the American Way report on the flurry of anti-choice laws under consideration in the states, the impending 72 hour waiting period would even exceed the more common 24 hour waiting period in a state... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 03/01/2011, 12:11pm
When Janet Porter is involved in something, you know it is just a matter of time before it goes completely off the rails. It happened with her 2007 Values Voter Debate where a choir sang "Why Should God Bless America? " while Religious Right leaders asked questions to empty podiums representing the Republican candidates who skipped the event. And it happened again with her May Day prayer rally at the Lincoln Memorial which left her facing $70,000 in expenses and cost her her daily radio show. And so it was only a matter of time before her already bizarre "Heartbeat Bill"... MORE
Brian Tashman, Tuesday 02/22/2011, 10:25am
Michele Bachmann South Carolina: Slams Obama's foreign policy and says striking workers should be fired in address to GOP activists (Spartanburg Herald Journal, 2/20). Health: Criticizes Michele Obama for encouraging breast feeding (WaPo, 2/19). Veterans: Faces resistance to her plan to dramatically cut funding to veterans (The Daily Beast, 2/18). Haley Barbour Iowa: Tells state's governor that he will campaign in Iowa if he decides to run (Des Moines Register, 2/21). Huckabee: Wins praise on race-issues and political strategy from Mike Huckabee (CNN, 2/21). Race: Silent on proposed car tag... MORE