polls

LEADING GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE TO ATTEND BIRTHER CONFERENCE!

The Washington Post released a poll today that it says shows that "as Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin prepares for the next stage of her political career, a majority of Americans hold an unfavorable view of her, and there is broad public doubt about her leadership skills and understanding of complex issues."

Alex Koppelman disputes that assessment but what I find most interesting is the poll result that shows that Mike Huckabee leading the way among potential 2012 GOP nominees:

27. (ASKED OF REPUBLICANS AND GOP-LEANING INDEPENDENTS) If the 2012 Republican presidential primary or caucus in your state were being held today, and the candidates were (READ LIST) for whom would you vote?

Mike Huckabee 26%
Mitt Romney 21%
Sarah Palin 19%
Newt Gingrich 10%
Tim Pawlenty 4%
Jeb Bush 3%
Haley Barbour 1%
Bobby Jindal (vol.) 2%
Charlie Crist (vol.) *
Other/None of these/Would not vote/No opinion 14%

Obviously, polls conducted more than three years before the next presidential election are not particularly reliable or meaningful, but that hasn't stopped Huck's Army from proclaiming that it "shows strong support for Gov. Huckabee if he decides to build on his second place finish in the 2008 Republican Primary."

But taking this poll for what it is worth, allow me to semi-misleadingly exploit it in order to declare "LEADING GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE TO ATTEND BIRTHER CONFERENCE!" to just try and hammer home the fact that Huckabee is headlining the How To Take Back America Conference which is being hosted by at least three bona fide Birthers: Janet Porter, Joseph Farah, and Rick Scarborough.

As I have said before:

Just about every insane right-wing conspiracy theory currently in circulation has been embraced by one or more of the organizers of this event, all of whom have actively worked to spread the fear that Obama and the Democrats are out to destroy Christianity and turn America into a socialist hellhole.

And Mike Huckabee, instead of trying to distance himself from the lunacy of his former supporters, openly and willingly continues to associate with them.

And now this man is currently leading the field of future GOP presidential nominees.

If that doesn't terrify you, I don't know what will.

Ralph Reed's Key To Success: Be More Strident

Just yesterday I wrote a post explaining that, thanks to the recent announcement that he was heading a new Religious Right organization known as the Faith and Freedom Coalition, Ralph Reed appeared to be "succeeding in resurrecting his reputation and re-establishing himself as a bona fide leader of the Religious Right."

And, despite the fact that this new effort currently consists entirely of Reed, one adviser, one actual employee, and a bare-bones website, I think it is safe to say that the "Ralph Reed Redemption Tour" is officially underway now that he is getting long profiles written up by the Associated Press:

Ralph Reed was once a powerful force in Republican politics, able to marshal millions of religious conservatives to the polls while leading the Christian Coalition.

Then his political career took a tumble in 2006 when he was clobbered by a lesser-known opponent in the Republican primary for Georgia lieutenant governor, leading some to conclude Reed's days as an influential GOP figure were over.

But Reed is searching for a dose of redemption. He's launched a new venture that supporters hope will bolster a Republican Party struggling to find its footing after the 2008 election and a recent string of embarrassing scandals.

"I don't view it as a comeback," Reed said in a recent interview. "I view it as something I've always done — trying to be part of the solution and trying to build at the grass roots (level)."

The startup, known as the Faith and Freedom Coalition, is little more than a Web site, but Reed hopes to turn it into a strident new force that uses social media to capture a broader, younger and more diverse audience.

Perhaps most telling, the man who helped cement religious conservatives into a solid GOP voting bloc said he won't focus his group on social issues, but rather the economic crisis.

"This is not the Christian Coalition redux," Reed said. "It's a much broader attempt. Our primary focus is jobs, the economy, taxes, creating economic opportunity. That's the number one issue in the country right now."

Other than a lukewarm statement from Roberta Combs, current president of the Christian Coalition, saying "there is always room for more people who want to start organizations," the article doesn't really contain any particularly new or revealing information, with the exception of this key quote:

Reed said his organization is looking to be more inclusive by reaching out to Jews, Hispanics, blacks and any other group receptive to a fiscal conservative message.

"It's going to look different from the vehicles we have now. It's going to be younger, it's going to be more strident," he said. "It's going to be principled but less ideologically reflexive. And it's going to have a broader issues agenda."

How exciting. A “broader” and "more strident" version of the Christian Coalition? I can't wait to see how that turns out.

Protect Marriage Washington Nears the Deadline for Petition Signatures, Still With a lot of Work to Do

With only five days until the deadline for Protect Marriage Washington to turn in the 120,577 signatures needed to get Referendum 71 on the November ballot, it looks like they have a long way to go. If the organization obtains enough signatures, however, Referendum 71 would give voters the option of repealing Washington's "everything but marriage" law, which gives domestic partners full marriage benefits without the title of "marriage."

In a blog post last week, however, Gary Randall, the lead organizer of Protect Marriage Washington, noted that they would need roughly 150,000 signatures by the deadline, due to the fact that with any petition drive a substantial amount of signatures will be ineligible:

Organizers have until July 25 to turn 120,577 valid signatures in to the Secretary of State's office. Lead organizer Gary Randall reports that more than 75,000 signatures have been received so far. "We think this is good news. However, it points out exactly how much work is left to do in just two weeks," Randall announced on his "Faith & Freedom PAC" blog last week. "We need at least 150,000 signatures to ensure that we have the 120,577 necessary. There are always some signatures that are disqualified for various reasons."

With so many signatures left to obtain, it is surprising that Randall didn't pay closer attention to two polls that he commissioned. They actually show that voter support for gay marriage is on the rise in Washington:

The survey asks, “In your opinion, should homosexuals be allowed to legally marry?” Here is how the 405 Washington voters answered:

Yes — 43%
No — 50%
Didn’t know or no answer — 7%

Conducted by Elway Research, the poll shows an unmistakable trend of growing support for marriage equality. Another poll paid for by Faith and Freedom and conducted by Elway Research in 2005 found that only 35 percent of voters supported allowing gays and lesbians to marry (.pdf).

More important, however, is the fact that Protect Marriage Washington isn't even fighting a marriage equality law―the law simply extended marriage benefits to those in domestic partnerships. That hasn't stopped the group from falsely claiming that the law will give Washington same-sex couples the right to marry. Here's an ad, now posted on their website, that ran in opposition to the law last year:

Ralph Reed: The Religious Right's Steve Jobs

When it was first reported last month that Ralph Reed was forming a new organization called The Faith and Freedom Coalition, Reed wanted it made clear that "this is not your daddy's Christian Coalition."

He vowed that this effort would be "more brown, more black, more female, and younger" and all-around hipper with a greater focus on using "third wave" technology to mobilize activists.

In shot, Reed sees himself as the Steve Jobs of the Religious Right, called in to turn around the movement that floundered after he left:

The party needs what he delivered in the 1990s, but with a 21st century update.

“Even though I’ve been doing other things, this is kind of like Steve Jobs returning to Apple,” Reed said.

When Jobs left the company he founded, Apple foundered. After he returned, Apple grew into an iconic firm that has captured the public’s attention in ways that all other tech firms wish to emulate.

“You have to reinvent it,” Reed said. “It’s the political analogue to the iPod and the iPhone. It would be cool. It would be transformative. It would transform our politics and bring younger people to our ranks. All of those are critical imperatives.”

...

[T]he Faith and Freedom Coalition was not, he said, his idea. After John McCain was beaten in 2008, Reed said, he started getting phone calls from close friends, “saying we really haven’t had anything that in an effective, focused way was energizing and turning out to the polls in large numbers conservatives and people of faith since you left" ... Still, Reed said, he wasn’t terribly interested.

“That was not on my list of things to do,” he said. “I’d been there, done that, got the T-shirt.”

But the more he thought about it, the more he agreed that “something needed to be done.”

Where the old Christian Coalition’s greatest asset was arguably the millions of voter guides handed out in churches across the country, the new Coalition will use the Internet as its information dissemination tool.

Attracting younger voters and activists, Reed knows, takes a robust Web-based campaign that uses the new gadgets and social networks that dominate young people’s lives.

But it also takes a hook, a rallying cry, a reason for being. In the 1990s, the Christian Coalition had that and more in the persona and presidency of Bill Clinton.

While Obama has not offered the same wedge that Clinton did —- no sex scandals, for example —- Reed is confident the lightning rod is there.

“This is the most far-reaching and extremist agenda being advanced across multiple fronts in a smaller amount of time than I’ve seen in my career,” Reed said.

From the very moment this effort was announced, it was Reed's name that made it news ... but now Reed is insisting that it is really not about him at all: 

Still, Reed said, this is not about him. And it’s not a comeback or a return to prominence.

“I don’t think it signifies anything for me,” Reed said. “I’ve become an elder statesman at 48, but I’m still doing what I was doing at 20.”

Reed said he’s less interested in being “the face of the movement,” and more in finding and training the next generation of conservative leaders, volunteers and activists.

Of course, if Reed is trying to stay out of the limelight, it might be helpful is he wasn't granting interviews in which he compares himself to Steve Jobs and declares that he is the only one capable of rebuilding the movement.

But it makes sense that Reed would not want to be "the face of the movement" given that he is inextricably linked [PDF] to imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff.  

It's going to take some deft maneuvering for the man who exploited the Religious Right movement he helped to create for the benefit of Abramoff's client's gambling interests to now resurrect that very movement.

Christian Coalition 2.0, Or The Triumphant Return of Ralph Reed

Literally, just yesterday as I was doing my right-wing monitoring, I thought to myself "you know who's name I never see any more?  Ralph Reed."

And for good reason, given his deep ties to Jack Abramoff.  Actually, the last time he made any news was when he was forced to skip a fund-raiser with John McCain last year thanks to the fact that he has been permanently tainted by his association with Abramoff.

But, as Dan Gilgoff reports, Reed is now back with a new organization called The Faith and Freedom Coalition:

Ralph Reed, the Republican operative who built the Christian Coalition into a potent political force in the 1990s by mobilizing evangelicals and other religious conservatives and who did similar work to help George W. Bush win two presidential elections, is quietly launching a group aimed at using the Web to mobilize a new generation of values voters. In addition to targeting the GOP's traditional faith-based allies—white evangelicals and observant Catholics—the group, called the Faith and Freedom Coalition, will reach out to Democratic-leaning constituencies, including Hispanics, blacks, young people, and women.

"This is not your daddy's Christian Coalition," Reed said in an interview Monday. "It's got to be more brown, more black, more female, and younger. It's critical that we open the door wide and let them know if they share our values and believe in the principles of faith and marriage and family, they're welcome."

"There's a whole rising generation of young leaders in the faith community, and rather than nab the publicity I did at Christian Coalition, I want to cultivate and train that rising generation," Reed said. "One question is, who is our future Barack Obama, doing local organizing just like he was in the 1990s?"

The Faith and Freedom Coalition has been quietly active for a few weeks but has attracted no news media notice so far. Reed said that was intentional: "We're less focused on the pyrotechnics than on being a strong grass-roots presence all the way down to the precinct level, which has always been my emphasis."

The idea for the new group, which is still hashing out an organizational blueprint, was born just after Election Day 2008, when exit polls showed that Obama made gains among traditionally Republican religious constituencies, including evangelicals, conservative Catholics, and frequent churchgoers. "Since I left the Christian Coalition, we haven't had an engine designed to turn out this large part of the vote," Reed said. "After the election, people said that I ought to consider doing something about it."

Of course, the Christian Coalition was the engine that turned out "values voters," but it faltered under Reed's control. When he finally jumped ship to launch his own consulting and PR operation and "start humping in corporate accounts,” the organization all but collapsed.

Gilgoff reports that this new effort also features Gary Marx - who happens to be a long-time associate of Reed's and the current Executive Director of the Judicial Confirmation Network - and that, for now, the organization is operating out of his Century Strategies office in Atlanta:

Reed is serving as chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and says he has filed papers with the Internal Revenue Service to register it as a 501(c)(4), a tax-free designation that permits lobbying and certain political activities. Gary Marx, Reed's deputy at the 2004 Bush campaign and Mitt Romney's conservative outreach director in 2008, will help advise the group. Jack St. Martin, a former top Republican National Committee staffer, is running day-to-day operations.

The Faith and Freedom Coalition plans to launch state and local chapters, as the Christian Coalition did, but is exploring the idea of organizing as much via "virtual chapters" that would operate online with the help of social networking technology. "The Internet's first wave was E-mail, and the next wave was social networking, which Obama perfected," Reed said. "There's going to be a third wave, which we're still developing."

...

Headquartered in the offices of Reed's consulting firm, Century Strategies, near Atlanta, the group plans to open a Washington office but says it will keep its staff small. St. Martin is currently the only full-time employee. "We don't want the huge overhead of a centralized group," says St. Martin, who worked at the Christian Coalition in the 1990s. "We'll have a few generals, but at the end of the day, we're going to emphasize putting boots on the ground out in the field."

Everything about this effort is pure Ralph Reed. From the focus on grassroots mobilization to his use of military language, it sounds like Reed is breaking out his Christian Coalition era playbook and seeking to recapture his former glory, even going so far as to dust off his efforts to reach out to minority groups, which, as I explained in a report [PDF] I wrote about him several years back that chronicled his rise from the College Republicans through his Abramoff-related downfall, is exactly what he tried and failed to do during his last days with the Christian Coalition:

In 1996, in an attempt to reach out to religious African American voters and bring them into the right wing movement, Reed announced that the Coalition was going to raise one million dollars to help rebuild black churches in the South that had been destroyed in a series of fire bombings. What had initially been planned as a one-day fundraising event ended up taking seven months. Similarly, Reed announced in 1997 the creation of the Samaritan Project, “A bold plan to break the color line and bridge the gap that separates white evangelicals and Roman Catholics from their Latino and African American brothers and sisters.” Reed pledged that the Coalition would raise $10 million for inner city churches, but less than a year later the project was abandoned after raising less than $50,000.

The simple point needs to be made that Reed, the man once dubbed "the Right Hand of God," had been seening his star dim even before he left the Christian Coalition and that the influence and power he had accumulated over the years all but evaporated when his efforts to exploit his Religious Right allies for Jack Abramoff's business purposes were finally revealed, culminating in his failed campaign to secure the Republican nomination for Lieutenant Governor in Georgia.

But, as we pointed out in our report: "Reed is still young and American politics is full of redemption stories. No doubt Reed is already writing his."

And with the announcement of this new effort, it looks like that is exactly what he is undertaking now.

SCOTUS Round-Up

Americans United for Life has sent a letter to the Senate demanding exhaustive hearings on President Obama's nominee to replace Justice David Souter:

When the Senate Judiciary Committee gathers to hold hearings on a Supreme Court nominee, one pro-life group tells the panel's chairman it wants a full discussion of where the nominee stands on abortion. The letter comes from Charmaine Yoest, the president of Americans United for Life.

"The most important question a nominee for the Supreme Court must answer is to articulate their judicial philosophy: will they advance an agenda that limits the right of the people to determine the content of abortion-related laws through the democratic process?" she writes.

"In the days ahead, we look to our Senators to uphold their duty to raise serious questions on the nominee’s judicial philosophy and reject any nominee who places personal preference over upholding the Constitution," the AUL leader adds.

Should her organization not like the answers, Yoest promises an immediate response.

"We will oppose any nominee to the Court who believes social activism trumps interpreting the Constitution," she says.

David Weigel of the Washington Independent profiles several of the right-wing judicial activist groups:

Curt Levey sometimes wears a lapel pin with the faces of Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito and the legend “Thanks, W.” Once in a while he swaps that out for another button, with the same portraits of George W. Bush’s two high court appointments, but a more forward-looking slogan: “The kind of change we can believe in.”

“I used to work to confirm good judicial nominees,” Levey told TWI this week. “Now I’m trying to limit the damage Barack Obama can do.”

Levey is the executive director of the Committee for Justice, one of the hubs of a far-flung but close-knit group of conservatives who plan on holding President Barack Obama’s first Supreme Court pick up to a magnifying glass. During the Bush years, Levey worked at the Center for Individual Rights, a libertarian law firm that made its biggest impact with the landmark Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger affirmative action cases. Levey went on to the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, then left to work on Supreme Court confirmations with conservatives who had prepped for these fights ever since the failed 1987 nomination of Judge Robert Bork.

Movement conservatives are in a position to oppose the nomination of almost any nominee that the president puts forward. In conversation with TWI, activists portrayed the coming confirmation hearings as a chance to peel the bark off of the president’s bipartisan image, to unite the conservative movement, and to learn lessons for future hearings with higher stakes. Few imagined that the president could get a much more liberal pick than retiring Justice David Souter through the Senate. Their focus was not so much on defeating this pick — an incredibly difficult task with only 40 Republican senators — but on carving out an election issue for the 2010 midterms and on building capital for a theoretical future battle to replace one of the court’s conservatives.

“This can be an educational moment for the American people,” said Gary Marx, the executive director of the Judicial Confirmation Network. “This is a chance to reaffirm the meaning of judicial restraint and explode the myth that Barack Obama is trans-partisan leader.”

They have some strength in numbers. While Levey cautioned that “the groups on the right are smaller than the groups on the left,” such as People for the American Way, he put together one of the first intra-movement conference calls on the coming Supreme Court fight days after the 2008 election, bringing on around 50 people. In the months since, he has collected around 30 short dossiers (averaging three pages each) on possible Obama nominees. The quiet coalition that’s ready to scrutinize Obama’s nominees includes several people who faced Democratic wrath during the Bush years, such as Tim Goeglein, a former White House aide who is now a vice president at the political arm of Focus on the Family, and Manny Miranda, a one-time aide to former Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) who spent the Roberts and Alito confirmation battles at the head of his own effort, the Third Branch Conference.

“A lot of the old Bush people went on to law firms,” Levey explained. “No one group has the resources to do 30 research memos, but by pooling out work to people and recruiting pro bono help, we’ve got more than we need at this point.”

Finally, there is lots of speculation about how Republicans and the Right would respond to a gay SCOTUS nominee, with Sen. Jeff Session saying that it wouldn't be "an automatic disqualification" while Sen. John Thune is not so sure:

“I know the administration is being pushed, but I think it would be a bridge too far right now,” said GOP Chief Deputy Whip John Thune. “It seems to me this first pick is going to be a kind of important one, and my hope is that he'll play it a little more down the middle. A lot of people would react very negatively.”

The interesting this about Thune's statement is that it sounds an awful lot like the statement Tony Perkins made earlier this week:

"I think that would be a bridge too far for him to be honest because that would enter a whole new element into the debate that I don't think he's ready for," said Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. "A parallel to that would be Bill Clinton's gays in the military battle, which really hurt his agenda from that point forward."

Perkins said his group would not investigate anyone's sexual preferences and planned to focus on a nominee's judicial views. "The issue is the ideology," he said.

Right Wing Reaction to Souter's Retirement

Here's a quick collection of early right-wing reactions to the news that Justice David Souter will be retiring from the Supreme Court at the end of this term - it will continue to be updated as new statements are released:

Wendy Long (Judicial Confirmation Network):

1. The current Supreme Court is a liberal, judicial activist court. Obama could make it even more of a far-left judicial activist court, for a long time to come, if he appoints radicals like Diane Wood, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. A new Justice in this mold would just entrench a bad majority for a long time.

2. If Obama holds to his campaign promise to appoint a Justice who rules based on her own "deepest values" and what's in her own "heart" — instead of what is in the Constitution and laws — he will be the first American President who has made lawlessness an explicit standard for Supreme Court Justices.

3. The President and Senators need to be careful about, respectively, nominating and appointing a hard-left judicial activist. Americans who elected Obama may have done so out of fear for the economy or other reasons, but they did not elect him because they share his views on judges. By a margin of more and 3 to 1, Americans want Supreme Court Justices who will practice judicial restraint and follow the law, not jurists who will indulge their own personal views and experiences in deciding cases.

4. As Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has pointed out, a judge who decides cases based on her personal and political views, instead of what the law says, will have a hard time fulfilling her oath to dispense justice impartially. Senators have a constitutional duty to rigorously scrutinize the nominee on this score, and vote "no" if the nominee cannot establish that she will follow the law, rather than her own values and beliefs, as the President has suggested.

Ed Whelan:

Souter has been a terrible justice, but you can expect Obama’s nominee to be even worse. The Left is clamoring for “liberal lions” who will redefine the Constitution as a left-wing goodies bag. Consider some of their leading contenders, like Harold Koh (champion of judicial transnationalism and transgenderism), Massaschusetts governor Deval Patrick (a racialist extremist and judicial supremacist), and Cass Sunstein (advocate of judicial invention of a “second Bill of Rights” on welfare, employment, and other Nanny State mandates). Or Second Circuit judge Sonia Sotomayor, whose shenanigans in trying to bury the firefighters’ claims in Ricci v. DeStefano triggered an extraordinary dissent by fellow Clinton appointee José Cabranes (and the Supreme Court’s pending review of the ruling). Or Elena Kagan, who led the law schools’ opposition to military recruitment on their campuses, who used remarkably extreme rhetoric—“a profound wrong” and “a moral injustice of the first order”—to condemn the federal law on gays in the military that was approved in 1993 by a Democratic-controlled Congress and signed into law by President Clinton, and who received 31 votes against her confirmation as Solicitor General. Or Seventh Circuit judge Diane Wood, a fervent activist whose extreme opinions in an abortion case managed to elicit successive 8-1 and 9-0 slapdowns by the Supreme Court.

...

American citizens have various policy positions on all these issues, but everyone ought to agree that they are to be addressed and decided through the processes of representative government, not by judicial usurpation. And President Obama, who often talks a moderate game, should be made to pay a high price for appointing a liberal judicial activist who will do his dirty work for him.

The American Center for Law and Justice:

“The reported retirement of Justice Souter marks the beginning of President Obama’s legal legacy – a legacy that will move this country dramatically to the left,” said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ. “With reports that Justice Souter will step down at the end of the term, President Obama now has a green light to begin reshaping the federal judiciary. Based on the appointments at the Department of Justice, it’s clear that President Obama will name a Supreme Court nominee who will embrace an extremely liberal judicial philosophy. There’s no illusion here – President Obama is poised to reshape the nation’s highest court. Once a nominee is named and the confirmation process begins, it’s important that the nominee faces full and detailed hearings – with specific focus on the nominee’s judicial philosophy including how the nominee views the constitution and the rule of law. The American people deserve nothing less.”

Operation Rescue:

"Operation Rescue will actively oppose any nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court that will disregard the lives of the pre-born and uphold the wrongly-decided case of Roe v. Wade.

"Obama received greater than expected opposition to his nomination of extremist pro-abort Kathleen Sebelius to HHS. He can only expect that opposition will continue to grow if he has the poor sense to appoint a justice that will promote abortion from the bench.

Susan B. Anthony List:

"Elections have consequences, and the upcoming Supreme Court confirmation battle is likely to further entrench President Obama's dedication to the abortion agenda. The President has said he would like 'common ground' on abortion policy. This is an especially relevant objective when you consider yesterday's release of public opinion data by the Pew Research Center showing a sharp decline in support for legal abortion. Choosing a judicial nominee who wants to enshrine the right to an unrestricted abortion in the United States Constitution would certainly be a step in the wrong direction. Appointing an abortion extremist to replace Justice Souter on our nation's highest court will continue the trend of activist court decisions do little reduce abortion in our nation."

Americans United for Life:

Charmaine Yoest, the president of Americans United for Life, promised her group would help lead the charge against any pro-abortion activist Obama may name to the high court.

“We will work to oppose any nominee for the Supreme Court who will read the Freedom of Choice Act into the Constitution in order to elevate abortion to a fundamental right on the same plane as the freedom of speech," she told LifeNews.com.

Yoest said the jurist Obama names to the Supreme Court will tell the American public whether he is serious about reducing abortions or keeping it an unlimited "right" that has yielded over 50 million abortions since 1973.

“This nomination represents a test for a President who has expressed a public commitment to reducing abortions while pursuing an aggressive pro-abortion agenda," she said. "Appointing an abortion radical to the Court -- someone who believes social activism trumps the Constitution -- further undermines efforts to reduce abortion."

Priests for Life:

Upon hearing news reports of Justice David Souter's retirement from the US Supreme Court this June, Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, commented, "This will unleash a Supreme battle. Judicial activism in our nation has given us a policy of child slaughter by abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy. Now the left will scream about 'no litmus tests' on abortion, but the fact is that all of us observe litmus tests at all times. If a racist or terrorist is unfit for the highest court in the land, why would a supporter of child-killing be any more fit? This is the question we will pose again and again during the process of replacing Justice Souter."

Richard Land:

Land told Baptist Press, "This retirement will, of course, not impact the court's balance. President Obama will undoubtedly nominate someone who is as liberal as, if not more liberal than, liberal David Souter, and thus you will just have an old liberal replaced by a young one. President Obama's ability to sell himself to the American people as a centrist will be hampered severely by his nomination of what will inevitably be a radically liberal justice."

Committee For Justice:

Given the economic crisis, your ambitious legislative agenda, and your promises to rise above partisanship, one would think you would eschew a bitter, distracting confirmation fight and a sparking of the culture wars by naming a consensus nominee that moderate Republicans and Democrats can embrace. While we remain open to evidence to the contrary, it is our belief that potential nominees such as Sonia Sotomayor, Kathleen Sullivan, Harold Koh, and Deval Patrick are so clearly committed to judicial activism that they make a bruising battle unavoidable.

We realize that, in the past, you have said that you want judges who rule with their hearts and you have even expressed regret that the Warren Court “didn’t break free” from legal constraints in order to bring about “redistribution of wealth.” But now would be a good time for you to clarify if you feel that you may have gone too far by endorsing judicial activism. For example, you could make it clear that you agree with Attorney General Eric Holder’s recent statement that “judges should make their decisions based only on the facts presented and the applicable law” (response to written question from Sen. Arlen Specter).

We also hope that you resist the pressure you will inevitably face from the various identity groups that dominate the Democratic base. It would be a shame if you chose a nominee based on their race, gender, or sexual identity, rather than focusing exclusively on qualifications and judicial philosophy.

We remind you of your opposition to gay marriage, your commitment to individual Second Amendment rights, your support of the death penalty, and the great value you place on the role of religion in society. We hope you will not contradict those positions by choosing a Supreme Court nominee who has questioned the constitutionality of the death penalty, expressed an extreme view of the separation of church and state, or wavered on the questions of whether there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage and an individual right to own guns. Also, given your promise to move the nation “beyond race,” it would be hard for you to explain the
nomination of someone who has expressed support for racial preferences, which polls indicate are now even more unpopular as a result of your election.

While many Americans – including some conservatives – are willing to give your experiment in using honey to coax cooperation from other nations a chance, the public is also looking for reassurance that our nation’s interests and sovereignty will always come first. Thus, now would be an awful time to choose a Supreme Court nominee who believes that American courts should put greater reliance on foreign law.

Finally, we remind you that, in the first year of his Administration, George W. Bush successfully nominated two former Clinton nominees – Roger Gregory and Barrington Parker – to the appeals courts in an effort to set a bipartisan tone. Now would be the perfect time for you to match the previous President’s gesture by renominating three unconfirmed Bush appeals court nominees who have bipartisan support – Peter Keisler, Judge Glen Conrad, and Judge Paul Diamond. Such a gesture would engender good feelings among Senate Republicans and would set a positive tone heading into what might otherwise be a bitter confirmation fight.

Concerned Women for America:

"The anticipated retirement of David Souter from the U.S. Supreme Court launches a national debate over the proper role of judges," stated Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women for America. "President Obama stated during the campaign that judges should rule according to 'empathy' for preferred classes of people, such as homosexuals and some ethnic groups, but not others. America, however, is a nation founded on the belief that we are all created equal and that the rule of law provides justice for all by following a written Constitution, not the whims and feelings of judges. Senators must live up to their constitutional duty to fully examine any nominee to determine if they respect the Constitution above their own opinions."

Mario Diaz, Esq., CWA's Policy Director for Legal Issues, said, "If President Obama's nominee is in the mold of his recent choices, Senators and citizens must be engaged now more than ever in the confirmation process. Several of President Obama's nominees put forth as 'moderates' by the White House have turned out to be outside the mainstream upon careful review. This is why Senators must be diligent and take the time to closely examine whether each candidate will abide by the Constitution or make the Court their personal fiefdom."

Family Research Council:

In the speech that catapulted Barack Obama to fame in 2004, the young Democrat said, "There is not a liberal America or a conservative America. There is a United States of America." Five years later, the same man will face his biggest test to prove it: the nomination of a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Since the election, Washington has been prepared for a vacancy on the high court, most likely from the aging, Left-leaning justices. Yesterday, reports confirmed that Justice David Souter, 69, will be the first to exit, giving the new President his first crack at reshaping the Supreme Court. Will he plow ahead with a pro-abortion, anti-faith radical (as he did with 7th Circuit Court nominee David Hamilton) this early in his presidency--or will he bide his time on a full-blown congressional war and nominate a judge that both sides can agree on?

As a candidate, Barack Obama prided himself on his ability to work with conservatives. His first 100 days, however, have been a case study in unilateralism. When asked why he moved away from bipartisanship, the President dodged the question and said, "Whether we're Democrats or Republicans, surely there's got to be some capacity for us to work together, not agree on everything, but at least set aside small differences to get things done."

On Wednesday, President Obama decided his best way to "get things done" was to use congressional rules to block any meaningful participation by Republicans on controversial policies like health care reform and education. While those decisions can be overturned, lifetime appointments cannot. As both sides are painfully aware, nothing in this administration's legacy will withstand the test of time like President Obama's judicial nominees.

To that point, the White House would be wise to take into account the growing public consensus on the sanctity of human life. While some people are pointing at social conservatives as the cause of the Republicans' woes, a new poll suggests that the GOP's platform on life may be its biggest appeal. According to the most recent Pew Research Center poll, American support for abortion is experiencing its steepest decline in at least a decade. Since last August, the proportion of people who believe that abortion should be legal in most or all cases has dropped from a small majority--54%--to 46%. The drop is particularly noticeable in the youngest generation (18-29) whose support for abortion dropped by five points (from 52% to 47%) in just nine months. The conservative trend is even affecting women. Fifty-four percent said abortion should be legal in most or all cases last summer, while less than half (49%) feel that way today.

 Traditional Values Coalition:

The U.S. Supreme Court is on the verge of taking a huge lurch to the far left with the exit of Justice Souter from the Court. Souter is certainly no loss for Constitutionalists, but he will most likely be replaced with someone far worse. During the election, President Obama stated that he wanted to appoint judges who had “empathy” and who understood what it was to be poor, black or gay. He clearly stated that he wanted judges who would not confine themselves to the Constitution or to the original intent of the Founding Fathers.

From Obama’s public statements, it is clear that he will appoint a Justice who views the U.S. Constitution like a Wikipedia entry that can be edited, revised and distorted for the political agenda of the Justice. Obama wants a Supreme Court nominee who will ignore the Constitution; use his “feelings” to determine legal decisions; use foreign law to impose a liberal political agenda; and use the power of the Court to redistribute the wealth. The President has stated that he believes the Courts should be used to promote “economic justice,” – code for judge-ordered income distribution.

President Obama once mentioned former Chief Justice Earl Warren as the ideal person to serve on his Supreme Court. Warren was one of the most notorious left-wing judicial activists in our nation’s history. The President is likely to appoint a Justice who believes in the use of foreign law in interpreting cases that come before the Court. The use of foreign law in issuing rulings in American court cases will undermine self-government and destroy our Constitutional government. Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have an important role in advising and consenting to such nominations. They must seriously challenge the political views of anyone chosen by Obama for this lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. No nominee who believes in using foreign law in making court decisions has any place on the Court. Our self-government depends upon it.

Signs G.O.P. Is Rethinking Its Stance on Gay Marriage?

The New York Times' Adam Nagourney has a piece in today's paper claiming that the "the issue of gay marriage may be turning into more of a hindrance than a help" for the Republican Party. 

Citing a recent poll showing that 57 percent of those under the age 40 said they support marriage equality, Nagourney says it suggests to "many Republicans that the potency of the gay-marriage question is on the decline." He then quotes three Republicans, the first being Steve Schmidt, John McCain's senior strategist during his presidential campaign.

Schmidt recently came out in favor of marriage equality, so it is no surprise that he thinks the GOP should re-examine its stance on the issue. But, as Timothy Potter of the Family Research Council put it, Steve Schmidt isn’t exactly speaking for the majority of the party these days:

Steve Schmidt isn’t the head of the GOP. But I don’t doubt that there are others in the GOP establishment who think like him, and I don’t care. The GOP should do what it thinks is best for itself. I don’t think abandoning a third of your base is necessarily a good idea.

The article also contains a quote from Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty:

Asked if he thought, given recent events, that Republicans were making a political mistake in emphasizing gay issues, Mr. Pawlenty, who is 48, responded: “I think it’s an important issue for our conservative voters.” But he notably did not dwell on the subject.

Apparently, because he didn't "dwell" on the topic, that somehow suggests that the party as a whole is undergoing some sort of shift.

Finally, Nagourney quotes Rudy Giuliani of all people, saying that voters are more concerned with issues like the economy and national security and don't really care about social issues right now:

“Right now, people are not concerned about issues like gay marriage because they are concerned about the economy,” Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former Republican mayor of New York, told reporters in Albany after meeting with Republican members of the state Senate, who are opposing legislation to legalize gay marriage.

Mr. Giuliani explained that he opposed gay marriage — while supporting civil unions — but that he did not think it made much sense for Republicans to be harping on the issue if the party had any serious interest in returning to power.

“The Republican party does best organizing itself around economic issues and issues of national security,” said Mr. Giuliani, 64, who ran for president last year and is now thinking about running for governor of New York.

It should be pointed out that Giuliani might not be a particularly good representation of just what the Republican Party thinks about anything, considering that he spent $60 million seeking the GOP nomination last year and dropped out after securing a whopping one delegate. His campaign tanked thanks, in part, to right-wing threats to abandon the GOP should he become the nominee because of his views on the issue of marriage and reproductive choice.

While polls may show that the GOP's anti-gay views are becoming less popular with voters, especially younger voters, there is still a long way to go before the party itself abandons its traditional stance on the issue ... and considering that the Religious Right would rather see the party destroyed than allow that to happen, it's unlikely that any such a massive shift will be happening any time soon.

The Judicial Nominations Fight, Through the Eyes of the Right

World Magazine has a good article on President Obama and the issue of judicial nominations ... and by "good" I mean an exhaustive listing of all of the complaints and concerns Republicans and right-wing judicial activists have about the process and the future of the judiciary:

Conservatives say Obama missed an opportunity to usher in a more conciliatory start to the often contentious judicial nominating process by naming [David] Hamilton ... In nominating Hamilton, Obama ignored a letter from all 42 Republican senators, asking the president to get the process off to a bipartisan start by renominating several of President George W. Bush's blocked nominees. Bush renominated two of President Bill Clinton's stalled choices soon after taking office ... GOP senators had also hoped to use the "blue slip" tradition, which holds that no judicial nominee can come before the Senate without agreement (in the form of a blue slip) from both senators representing that nominee's state. Republicans have at least one senator in 27 states. But the two GOP senators from Texas are already losing a battle to hold onto this privilege as the White House recently signaled its intention to include that state's 12 House Democrats in the screening process.

So it was Obama who missed the opportunity to be conciliatory by not nominating rather than, say, all the Republicans in the Senate who had pre-emptively threatened to filibuster all of Obama's judicial nominees? Nice try.

Furthermore, Obama did not "ignore" their letter - in fact, he obviously took into consideration their demand that the White House "consult with us as it considers possible nominations to the federal courts from our states" because he obviously did so with Republican Senator Richard Lugar, who immediately praised the nomination:

"I enthusiastically support the Senate confirmation of David Hamilton for U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Hamilton has served the Southern District of Indiana with distinction as U.S. District Court Judge," U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar said.

Thirdly, how exactly are the Republican Senators from Texas "losing the battle" to use the "blue slip"?  As we pointed out before, in situations where the President is of one party and both of a state's Senators are from the other, tradition has generally dictated that opposing party Senators play a secondary role in the judicial nomination selection process - and that is what is happening in Texas. If they don't like Obama's nominees, they are still free to refuse to return their blue slips, so in no way can it be said that they at risk of losing this privilege.

In essence, as the article explains, all of these sorts of gripes are aimed primarily at ginning up opposition to Obama's judicial nominees in order to set the stage for a Supreme Court battle and rally Republican forces leading into the mid-term elections:

The ultimate hope among conservative lawmakers is that if Obama overreaches in his judicial picks, then Democrats may face a backlash in the polls during the 2010 Senate races. Such political costs could force Obama to make marginally more moderate picks in future openings, says Ed Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

The article features quotes from a variety of right-wing groups that work on the issue, including Whelan, as well as representatives of the Alliance Defense Fund, Judicial Watch, the Committee for Justice, and the Heritage Foundation ... so if you are looking for a good run-down of just about every right-wing talking point on the judiciary and judicial nominees, this article offers one-stop shopping.

Reproductive Choice: Need, Numbers, and Dawn Johnsen

I have already written too many posts about Concerned Women for America’s Wendy Wright and her involvement with the White House’s Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, both in meetings and on conference calls, noting the disconnect between that Obama administration’s assertion that the efforts are aimed at finding ways to reduce the need for abortion and Wright’s insistence that there is no such need. But since she keeps making this point, I feel it is important to keep hammering away at it.

The latest comes from this WorldNetDaily column by anti-abortion activist Jill Stanek in which she declares there is no need for her side to seek common ground or compromise on the issue because they are winning:

If America is as pro-abortion as the other side likes to say, there is absolutely no reason to "reduce the need for abortion." So don't let them gloss over this point. Stick on it. Solutions can't be determined without understanding the problem. What exactly is the problem with abortion?

If they state the problems are merely financial or inconvenience, they lose, because they alienate the vast unwashed they are trying to woo by denying what the vast unwashed consistently polls it knows: Abortion is the taking of a human life.

If they admit there is a moral problem with abortion, they lose by opening a can of worms with both the public and the abortion industry. The next question obviously is, "What is the moral problem with abortion?" And they never ever want to be pinned into going there.

(And by the way, as CWA President Wendy Wright wrote me, don't use their terminology. "Say 'number' rather than 'need,' because 'need' is subjective, whereas 'number of abortions' is quantifiable," stated Wright.)

Always remember, the ones seeking compromise know they are losing, and Obama knows his radical pro-abortion position is a loser.

Ignoring the illogical assertion that the anti-choice position is a winning one, the key here is Wright’s insistence that they never recognize any sort of “need” for abortion, which allows them to push for regulations and restrictions on access to reproductive health services without having to accept the necessity of family planning services and sex ed.

If you need further proof that Wright has absolutely no intention of seeking any sort of compromise or consensus on this issue, you need look no further than her assertion that Dawn Johnsen’s nomination to be Assistant Attorney General for the Office of the Legal Counsel must be stopped because of her past work with NARAL:

Wendy Wright, the head of Concerned Women for America, told LifeNews.com that Obama's selection reveals a lot about his pro-abortion views and that Johnsen should be disqualified because of her work with a leading abortion advocacy group.

“NARAL’s obsession with abortion skews its legal positions, blinding it to the Constitution’s equal protection for all human beings," she said. "The fact that Ms. Johnsen worked for NARAL is a huge black mark against her judgment and exposes her bias."

"Americans will not be able to trust that Department of Justice’s legal opinions or Obama’s executive orders comply with the Constitution when the lead person for making that judgment is incapable of treating all human beings with respect," she added.

In essence, Wright is declaring that anyone with whom she disagrees should be barred from working for the government because they have demonstrated that their judgment cannot be trusted by virtue of the fact that they don’t share her right-wing views about reproductive rights..

Good luck finding common ground on with someone who holds this view.

Right Wing Leftovers

  • At a rally for Bob McDonnell, Mike Huckabee trotted out his line urging McDonnell supporters to deflate the tires of Democrats to keep them from going to the polls on election day.
  • Speaking Huckabee, he spoke yesterday at Rider University where he unveiled two new proposals: "He said there should be term limits for members of Congress. And he said senators should once again be elected by state legislatures, not popular vote."
  • Newt Gingrich is predicting that “if the Republicans can’t break out of being the right wing party of big government, then I think you would see a third party movement in 2012.”
  • Mark Levin is refusing to use the term "liberal," insisting instead on the term "statist" for those with whom he disagrees: "These folks are not liberals, because liberal in its classical sense is the opposite of authoritarian. They are the authoritarians — if you listen to them, they constantly speak of the government doing this and the government doing that. They are government-centric, or Statists. They represent the power of a central heavy-handed government against the people."
  • Texas Governor Rick Perry has proclaimed April as Abortion Recovery Awareness Month.

Santorum Tells Specter He's On His Own

Back in 2004, when Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter was running for re-election, he faced a stiff primary challenge from Pat Toomey.  To his rescue came President Bush and his home-state Senate colleague Rick Santorum and managed to eke out a win which, in turn, made right-wing Republicans ... with Santorum:

Mr. Santorum campaigned on behalf of his colleague, despite pleas from notable conservative groups. And fueling their anger is the considerable help that the White House and the national Republican leadership gave Mr. Specter, even though during his 24 years in the Senate he often voted with Democrats against Republican-sponsored legislation backed by Republican presidents, including President Bush.

Even in Mr. Santorum's home state, anger abounds over what some fellow conservatives regard as his apostasy.

"Santorum and his staff are really going to have to work hard to heal the wounds they caused," said Bob Sevcik, a member of the state party central committee and self-described Reaganite.

Two years later, Santorum lost his own re-election bid and has since re-made himself into a tireless critic of the insufficiently conservative members of the Republican party, something that has now come into full view in his latest column, where he tells Sen. Specter, whom is facing yet another primary challenge from Toomey and is currently trailing badly in the polls, that his goose is cooked and that Santorum can't wait to watch as he goes down:

Pennsylvania's political Houdini has escaped similar predicaments in the past by burnishing his conservative credentials in the run-up to the primary - hence the announcement on card check this week. So, too, his potentially crucial vote against Solicitor General Ellen Kagan, which conservatives are touting as a death knell for her chances of being named to the Supreme Court.

...

The argument that Specter has the best chances in a general election will become more persuasive next year, when the GOP faithful face the harsh reality that they are more than a million registered voters behind the Democrats. However, thanks to the prospect of facing Specter, whoever wins the primary will not face an A-list Democratic opponent.

In 2004, President Bush and a Senate colleague from Western Pennsylvania made the difference for Specter. Those dogs don't hunt anymore. This year, his help may come from Peg Luksic, Larry Murphy, and anyone else who helps split up the vote next spring - anyone other than Pat Toomey, that is.

It will be fun to watch. And watch I will.

CWA Says It Would Be Glad to Help the White House Place More Restrictions on Reproductive Choice

We’ve already written a few posts about the upcoming meeting at the White House between Joshua DuBois, head of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and representatives of Concerned Women for America, the Family Research Council, CareNet, and the Christian Medical Association to discuss reproductive choice and related issues.

Today, we learned a little more about how this meeting was arranged and, judging by the remarks made by Wendy Wright of CWA, it’s pretty clear that those who are participating expect this meeting to focus much more on the former than the latter.

Wright explains that it was through her outreach to the White House that the meeting was arranged and that she choose who would attend it with her, saying that when she learned that the administration was committed reducing the need for abortion, she thought “we can help with that, so I contacted the White House and asked for a meeting with the Faith-Based office and invited the other groups to join with me.  We feel that in order for the Obama Administration to be making good policies, to take positions on legislation regarding reducing the need for abortion, they need to have full information, particularly, information on programs and policies that work, that are effective.  And we know what works: putting regulations on abortions; states that have done that see their abortion numbers go down.”

Wright goes on to say that she does not believe that President Obama will attend the meeting, but that they will explain to the administration that pregnancy resource centers are an effective means of reducing abortions and to discuss the “threat to doctors’ and health care workers’ freedom on conscience,” saying that it is vital to protect their “freedom to not do what is wrong”:

On a semi-related note, CWA, FRC, CareNet, and the Christian Medical Association are all part of a new effort called Freedom2Care which is committed to protecting "the federal 'provider conscience' regulation finalized in December 2008 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services" which was "made necessary by a climate of discrimination and pressures directed at healthcare professionals who follow life-affirming ethical standards such as the Hippocratic Oath and the Judeo-Christian Scriptures."

While we're at it, let's re-post this video CWA put out just before the election called "Operation: Rally The Church" in which Wright explained that if Christians didn't vote, "liberals who mock Christians, support abortion on demand and same-sex marriage, and would prefer that America be weak in the world community" would ruin this country, warning that if "citizens ... who love God don't vote, then the people who will be ruling over us in government will continue the slaughter of unborn babies, weaken marriage, and silence those who love God," thus making it imperative for Christians to go to the polls because all those who have died defending this country are putting "their hope in you ... to keep this a country worth living and dying for":

The Great and Powerful ACORN

When President Barack Obama announced his nomination of David Hamilton to a seat on the United States 7th Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday, Wendy Long of the Judicial Confirmation Network was first out of the gate to blast the nomination because Hamilton reportedly had ties to the ACLU as well as the Right’s favorite bogeyman, ACORN:

Hamilton has a history as a hard-left political activist, and his choice signals that Obama does intend to push extreme liberals onto the bench and politicize the courts as we've never seen before.

Hamilton was a fundraiser for ACORN (nice ACORN payback, Mr. President) and served as vice president for litigation and a board member of the Indiana ACLU.

Hamilton’s purported ties to ACORN immediately worked its way into right-wing commentary on the nomination, being highlighted by Newbusters, Powerline, Curt Levey of the Committee for Justice, and the Family Research Counciltwice, which complained that ACORN was getting it very own judge.

The idea that President Obama’s nomination of Hamilton was “payback” to ACORN quickly became the right-wing talking point of the day, with people claiming that he was “a big shot at ACORN” and leading to posts like this one written by Matthew Vadum at “The American Spectator” entitled “ACORN's Federal Judge”:

Giving the term judicial activism new meaning, President Obama has nominated an ACORN loyalist to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, the Chicago Tribune reports … The Judicial Confirmation Network notes that Hamilton previously worked as a fundraiser for ACORN, the radical direct-action group that not only resurrects the dead and gets them to the polls every election but also shakes down banks and pressures them to make home loans to people who can't afford to pay them back.

In nearly every instance, Hamilton’s ties to ACORN can be tracked back to Long and the Judicial Confirmation Network yet, oddly, when the group issued its own release on his nomination, it made no mention of his work with ACORN.

Now we know why:

Wendy Long, counsel for the Judicial Confirmation Network, labeled Judge Hamilton a "hard-left political activist," noting his work with the Indiana ACLU and suggesting he had an affiliation with the community organizing group ACORN.

"After college as a young man, he served one month as a canvasser for ACORN, helping them raise money door to door.

Hamilton graduated from college in 1979.  

I knew that ACORN was influential, but I had no idea it was so powerful that the President of the United States was obligated to pay it back by giving a federal judgeship to someone who worked for it for one whole month some thirty years ago.

Reports of The Right's Death are Greatly Exaggerated

In his latest column, the New York Times' Frank Rich declared that Religious Right groups are on the cusp of seeing their political and social influence dramatically shrink, thanks largely to the current economic crisis which makes culture wars "a luxury the country can no longer afford" and means that "Americans have less and less patience for the intrusive and divisive moral scolds."

Citing polls showing that the majority of Americans do not share the Right's views on things like stem cell research, civil unions and same-sex marriage, and Don't Ask Don't Tell, Rich says that the nation is moving away from organized religion and might be on the verge of a "40-year exodus" duing which Religious Right leaders will find their reach increasingly limited.

Personally, I do not share Rich's assessment because these sorts of bold proclamations are made every time the Republican Party loses at the polls, only to be followed shortly thereafter by a raft of pieces discussing the Right's miraculous resurgence once the GOP wins a few elections.

In addition, as we recently pointed out, the Right is currently in the process of re-formulating itself into a resistance movement under Obama and using the economic crisis as a means to further its agenda and has already embarked on efforts designed to reverse their losses in Congress and regain control of government so that they can get on with the process of enacting their political and social agenda.

As tempting as it is to start writing the Right's obituary, such declarations have been made before and have inevitably turned out to be wrong due, in large part, to the fact that the leaders and activists in the movement believe that they are doing the work of the Lord and thus have no intention of giving up the fight.

Case in point is this response to Rich's column from the Family Research Council:

The bottom line: political movements come and go, but the Church is not a political movement. The end game is much bigger than a win at the ballot box, as important as that may be. Equipped with such an understanding, we are sustained in times of cultural and political setbacks. Is America where it needs to be as a nation? Is the Church the catalyst for moral and spiritual transformation that it should be? I think the answer to both is no--at the present. At this turning point, what happens is up to us. Don't just sit and wring your hands. Pray.

"If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways; then... [I] will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14) In the meantime, Rich and company should be careful what they wish for. When the end of the culture war does come, we already know who's on the winning side.

That is not the language of people who are inclined to throw in the towel just because the Republican Party, with whom they have always had a rather tenuous relationship, is currently flailing about.  If anything, the Right see the current political climate as an opportunity to re-build the conservative movement and the GOP in its own image.

Until the Republican Party puts forward a spate of Religious Right true believers who lose or a bunch of Religious Right heretics who win, the Right's influence in the party and in our nation's politics and culture will continue.

And finally, since they are still being invited to the White House, it seems a bit premature to start declaring them dead.

The Return of Marilyn Musgrave

After getting tossed out of office last November, Marilyn Musgrave disappeared from the scene, refusing to congratulate her opponent or even concede defeat and instead went AWOL.

But she has now resurfaced, having hooked-up with the Susan B. Anthony List as the face of their new effort that intends to target members of Congress who do not share the group’s anti-choice agenda.

David Brody has the scoop along with an interview with Musgrave in which she proclaims it “a new day in politics for the pro-life movement”:

The new project is called “Votes Have Consequences” and the group has brought former U.S. Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave on board as the project’s Director and to raise money for it.

"Votes do have consequence and this project is going to make sure we are not always on the defensive. We're going into districts where individuals are vulnerable and we're just going to make sure people know how these individuals have voted and what their record is."

"We're going to be assertive. We're going to be aggressive and this is a new day in politics for the pro-life movement."

The Susan B. Anthony List will be targeting certain members of Congress who are out of step with their district on the life issue. No specific Congressmen have been identified yet but the group plans to launch an aggressive TV, Radio and print campaign against them very soon. They don’t want to wait until 2010. They believe the issue needs to be addressed right away because pro-life groups have all too often taken a back seat approach to getting involved early in congressional races.

Interestingly, the same election that bounced Musgrave from her Colorado seat also saw the state’s anti-choice “personhood” initiative get absolutely trounced at the polls as well.  In fact, during the last election, there were three anti-choice initiatives on the ballots in various states and each one went down in defeat by substantial margins.

But apparently that isn’t stopping Musgrave and the Susan B. Anthony list from seeking to make this losing issue the centerpiece of its election strategy.

CPAC: Paul Ryan's Pretzel Logic

The Conservative Political Action Conference is currently underway and the first speaker, Congressman Paul Ryan, sought to rally the GOP's shock troops by proclaiming that "the Republican Party's road out of the wilderness leads through CPAC" and then offering up a rather convoluted explanation of why they have been devastated at the polls in recent elections.

One of the articles of faith among those on the Right is that their party has suffered at the polls in recent years because the GOP has abandoned the conservative agenda, not that voters have rejected that agenda. 

Of course, in order for that sort of argument to make sense, you have take it to its logical conclusion by arguing that the massive Democratic wins in the last two election cycles were, in reality, wins for conservative values - which is exactly the argument Ryan made during his speech:

If you are so inclined, you can watch CPAC's live stream here.

G to the izz-O, P to the izz-eh?

If Michael Steele gets his way, we will soon have to say goodbye to the GOP's traditional image of older white Americans lining up at the polls to vote for tax cuts, a super-tough military, and against gays and abortion, as it is about to be replaced by a groundswell of young African American and Hispanic voters lining up to vote for that same agenda.

It will be, as the kids are saying these days, quite off the hook:

Newly elected Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele plans an “off the hook” public relations offensive to attract younger voters, especially blacks and Hispanics, by applying the party's principles to “urban-suburban hip-hop settings.”

...

“We need messengers to really capture that region - young, Hispanic, black, a cross section ... We want to convey that the modern-day GOP looks like the conservative party that stands on principles. But we want to apply them to urban-surburban hip-hop settings.”

But, he elaborated with a laugh, “we need to uptick our image with everyone, including one-armed midgets.”

Steele insists that the GOP will pull this off without changing its core message or ideology thanks to some ultra-hip PR and things so futuristic and wild that they'll blow your minds:

Under Mr. Steele's helm, the “old” may seem inappropriate in the Grand Old Party's affectionate nickname. He said he is putting a new public relations team into place to update the party's image.

“It will be avant garde, technically,” he said. “It will come to table with things that will surprise everyone - off the hook.”

Does that mean cutting-edge?

“I don't do 'cutting-edge,' “ he said. “That's what Democrats are doing. We're going beyond cutting-edge.”

This can only mean one thing: we must all be prepared to defend ourselves from the horde of sentient robots capable of telepathically beaming the GOP's "limited government" message directly into our brains.

Either that, or Steele is thinking of dusting off Max Headroom

We'll Keep Swinging and Missing Until We Have Won

We've written about the anti-choice movement's new focus on "personhood" as it attempts to find new tactics to outlaw reproductive choice a few times in the past, mostly to note that efforts to date have not been particularly impressive considering that it was wiped out at the polls in Colorado last November.

But that doesn't mean they are giving up.  Recently, Personhood USA announced that "seven different states have started efforts for the personhood of pre-born children. In addition, Rep. Duncan Hunter has introduced H.R. 881, the Right to Life Act , on the federal level, propelling the personhood movement forward."

Now, RH Reality Check reports that the North Dakota House just passed such a measure yesterday:

On Tuesday, one body of North Dakota's state legislature voted, 51-41, not only to ban abortion, but to define life as beginning at conception. Such a measure, considered extreme even by pro-life standards, would have far-reaching consequences on women's health.

State Rep. Dan Ruby introduced the legislation, which declares that "for purposes of interpretation of the constitution and laws of North Dakota, it is the intent of the legislative assembly that an individual, a person, when the context indicates that a reference to an individual is intended, or a human being includes any organism with the genome of homo sapiens."

"It was at the bottom of the calendar and we didn't expect [the House] to get to it, so it caught us a little bit by surprise," said Tim Stanley, senior director of government and public affairs for Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota. "This bill dangerous, far reaching, and allows government -- not women and families -- to make critical decisions about health care." Some state legislators have been quoted saying the intent of the measure is not to ban abortion outright. However, many legal experts agree that defining life as beginning at conception would affect access to birth control and emergency contraception as well as affect in vitro fertilization. "I'm not sure if this is naivete or if this is sincere," Stanley said. "The bottom line is that our attorneys have looked at this and are extremely concerned."

OneNewsNow asked one of the activists who is pushing this personhood effort, Cal Zastrow of Michigan Citizens for Life, why they are focusing on this issue considering that it lost so badly in Colorado, and he says it is because they will not quit until abortion is outlawed:

"Because it raises the pro-life tide and it gets the vision to not quit until every baby is protected by law and love," he contends. "And you're right, we didn't win the World Series every time we swung the bat -- but we're going to keep swinging the bat and keep going until we have won the World Series."

Of course, a more accurate explanation is probably the one Katy Walker of the American Life League gave last year when she admitted that "the idea of personhood in this movement is really the only thing, the only option left to us."

All Hail the Obstructionist Heroes

Despite the fact that the economy is going from bad to worse, Republicans are quite pleased with their unanimous opposition to the stimulus package and are planning on continuing it when the legislation heads to the Senate.

After being crushed at the polls for the last two elections by voters fed up with their inability to govern, those on the right side of the aisle have apparently decided that the best course of action is to simply obstruct President Obama and the Democratic Congress as they attempt to repair the damage the Republicans have done to the country over the last eight years .... and for that they are being hailed as heroes by the likes of the Family Research Council:

In the face of the most popular incoming President since JFK, Republicans stood together in statement of solidarity. We applaud them for showing real backbone against unprecedented government expansion ... Swimming against the liberal tide isn't easy, and House Republicans need your encouragement to stay motivated for the work ahead. Please call the leader in your district today and thank them for refusing to back down on H.R. 1.

And here is Tony Perkins saying that the stimulus bill is "more about pork and political payoffs than economic recovery" and calling on Congress to enact more tax cuts instead of "abortion promotion":

Apparently, Republicans and their allies on the right believe that they have "better" ideas for dealing with our myriad problems ... and just because those "ideas" have failed to work, damaged the nation, and caused the party's prospects to utterly collapse, it doesn't mean that they aren't going to press ahead with their obstructionism. 

Just check out this email from Vision America:

Stop Taxpayer Funded So-Called "Recovery!!"

"Tell Congress to STOP the So-Called Taxpayer-Funded "Recovery" TODAY!!"
– Pastor Rick Scarborough

Friends of Vision America,

In the revised edition of my newest book, Enough is Enough, I wrote the following:

Jonah Goldberg documents in his best-selling book, Liberal Fascism, how liberals need a crisis to in order to push their agenda forward, whether it's a declared war on poverty or a real war. During a perceived or real crisis people make decisions that reflect the seriousness of their situation. Christians have the wonderful advantage of calling on an all-sufficient Creator to provide guidance through the crisis. Crisis can force us to a place of fully placing all of our trust in God and God alone.

Unfortunately, most people in America no longer turn to God first but rather government as their source and provider which makes them vulnerable to exploitation.

Former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who was given god-like powers to dispense the first Federal bailout which we now know did not work, made a dire prediction that the current financial meltdown could become "so extreme that martial law may have to be imposed on the American people." This was an ominous warning granting the government almost unlimited power to impose the will of those in charge.

This week the House of Representatives presented its version of the major economic stimulus bill, H.R.1, otherwise known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The Senate is considering its own version (S.1), expecting the completed bill to be signed by Obama by mid-February. One version of the bill contains over six hundred pages of promises to preserve and create jobs; invest in our national infrastructure, decrease unemployment; and stabilize our local and state economies. But as always, the devil is in the details and the more we learn of what's in the fine print, the more convinced I become that WE THE PEOPLE MUST SEE THAT THIS BILL NEVER BECOMES LAW!!!

That's right - according to the Religious Right, the biggest problem at the moment is that "people in America no longer turn to God" and the stimulus bill will only exacerbate that, so it must be defeated.

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polls Posts Archive

Brian Tashman, Tuesday 02/01/2011, 9:27am
Michele Bachmann SOTU: “Tea Party State of the Union Response” is widely panned, mocked on SNL (HuffPo, 1/31). Budget: Veterans groups blast Bachmann’s proposal to slash veterans benefits (UPI, 1/28). Congress: Invites Religious Right notable and anti-Islam activist to teach class on Constitution (RWW, 1/26). Haley Barbour Civil Rights: Congressman says Barbour's civil rights work in Mississippi more symbolic than substantive (Clarion Ledger, 1/30). South Carolina: Privately meets with top South Carolina GOP activists (CNN, 1/25). John Bolton Foreign Affairs: In CNSNews... MORE
Brian Tashman, Tuesday 02/01/2011, 9:27am
Michele Bachmann SOTU: “Tea Party State of the Union Response” is widely panned, mocked on SNL (HuffPo, 1/31). Budget: Veterans groups blast Bachmann’s proposal to slash veterans benefits (UPI, 1/28). Congress: Invites Religious Right notable and anti-Islam activist to teach class on Constitution (RWW, 1/26). Haley Barbour Civil Rights: Congressman says Barbour's civil rights work in Mississippi more symbolic than substantive (Clarion Ledger, 1/30). South Carolina: Privately meets with top South Carolina GOP activists (CNN, 1/25). John Bolton Foreign Affairs: In CNSNews... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 01/11/2011, 10:27am
In his inaugural address last week, Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee declared his support for marriage equality in the state. In response, the National Organization for Marriage's state affiliate has decided to launch a $100,000 ad campaign against him, claiming that Chafee is an "accidental governor" who has no mandate to "impose" marriage equality on the state: “Lincoln Chafee got just 36% of the vote in the recent election, and fewer popular votes than the Cool Moose Party’s candidate for Lieutenant Governor,” said Christopher Plante, Executive... MORE
Brian Tashman, Monday 01/10/2011, 2:13pm
The anti-choice movement to use state ballot initiatives to give fetuses and embryos legal rights has announced a nationwide petition drive to bring their radical measure to all fifty states. Opponents of reproductive rights hope to use “personhood amendments” to criminalize abortion, stem-cell research, and common forms of birth control by giving zygotes constitutional protections. While the amendment failed miserably at the polls in Colorado, Personhood USA hopes to bring personhood amendments to states such as Florida, Mississippi, Montana, and Wisconsin, among others.... MORE
Brian Tashman, Tuesday 12/28/2010, 5:05pm
Liberty University Law School Dean and Liberty Counsel Chairman Mat Staver joined David Barton and Rick Green on WallBuilders Live to denounce Obama and the Justice Department for failing to win cases on Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA), which a federal judge in Boston ruled unconstitutional in July. Staver believes that Obama’s record of supporting gay rights undermined government action to effectively defend DOMA, and Staver went on to attack Obama for extending a number of health benefits to same-sex partners of eligible federal employees. According to Staver, Obama’s support... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 12/21/2010, 11:51am
I've already pointed out how ridiculous David Barton's election analysis has been, but since he keeps spewing his nonsense, I guess I'll just have to keep point it out. Here is Barton's latest: New findings show that the 2010 midterm elections saw the highest Christian voter turnout ever. "We had a very high Christian voter turnout two years ago, but they did not bring their values with them," explains David Barton, founder and president of WallBuilders, which is an organization that supports the moral, religious and constitutional foundation on which America was built. He... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Saturday 12/18/2010, 2:40pm
Today, the Senate voted 63-33 to invoke cloture and bring the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell to a final vote later today.  With repeal of DADT all but a foregone conclusion, the Religious Right has begun releasing statements which we are going to chronicle here as they come it. And judging by the early statements from the likes of Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, this vote is literally going to mean the end of America: We are now stuck with sexual deviants serving openly in the U.S. military because of turncoat Republican senators ... Had the cloture vote failed,... MORE