On Tuesday, Focus on the Family released audio of a special James Dobson radio program, recorded last Friday after John McCain’s announcement that Sarah Palin would be his running mate. Containing analysis of the decision from Tony Perkins, Gary Bauer, Tom Minnery, and Kelly Shackelford, the group of right-wing heavyweights discussed everything from the elation at the announcement felt among those gathered for the Council for National Policy meeting to Gary Bauer’s role as the McCain campaign’s surrogate to the Republican Platform Committee in crafting the “the strongest pro-life platform in the history of the Republican Party.”
Among the most striking information was Gary Bauer’s revelation that, contrary to the McCain’s campaign’s claims that it was taking a hands-off approach to the platform, they were actively involved and supportive of the Right Wing’s efforts to craft the hardline document that emerged. In fact, Bauer reports that he was tapped by the McCain campaign to be their surrogate and that the campaign was “very open to the kind of changes” the Religious Right was pushing.
Among the other interesting facts contained in the program was Shackelford’s declaration that CNP members felt that God was answering their prayers with Palin and Tony Perkins’ assessment that McCain has shifted dramatically in their direction from a year ago and that his decision to name Palin as his running mate shows that “he can listen.” But perhaps the most entertaining thing about the program was the shame in Dobson’s voice as he explained how he has gone from a vocal critic of McCain to someone who, “if I went into the polling booth today, I would pull the lever for John McCain.”
Listen with player below or to the mp3 here
Dobson: Have you ever, in your life, seen as large a crowd of people give a standing ovation to [the Palin announcement on] CNN? Have you ever seen that happen?
Kelly Shackelford: I don’t think so and the other thing is, a number of people literally had tears in their eyes. I think that there was such pent-up worry, prayer that had been going on for so long and they really felt like the Lord was answering those prayers with somebody who is pro-life, somebody who is committed to the definition of marriage and the issues that we believe in so strongly.
Tony Perkins: This was a tremendous strategic decision by the McCain campaign. They have seen social conservatives drifting away from them over the last year and, in part in the last year there’s been some pushing and shoving going on as the social conservatives have not signed on to the McCain campaign. But he has shown …
Dobson: Tell me about it. I’ve been pretty explicit about it.
Perkins: And there’s a reason for that because he’s not where he is today a year ago. But he has shown that he listens and I though two weeks ago at the Saddleback Forum he did a tremendous job at being straight-forward and he got the attention of social conservatives that he can listen, he can respond. And then today, with this selection, I think the strongest among the names that have been out there, he has shown that he cares about these issues and has solidified a strong conservative, pro-life, pro-family ticket for the Republican Party.
Dobson: Gary, you have been advising the McCain campaign for some time and so you really signed on with him before any of the rest of us made up our minds …
Gary Bauer: I’ve been watching not only today, I’ve been watching the last couple of weeks and giving my advice to everybody I could within the McCain campaign. I would disagree with my good friend Tony, I think this is where John McCain’s been for a long time. He really does have a twenty-five year pro-life voting record, except for a couple of notable exceptions, but I thought this choice was just outstanding. I actually think over the last couple of weeks, from Saddleback where he was very clear on these issues to what he’s been emphasizing in his speeches and town meetings, the platform which was adopted this week – just an outstanding pro-life platform – and now this vice presidential selection, there’s just a real commitment that he’s showing here.
Dobson: I’ve been pretty vocal in my opposition to John McCain. I haven’t done it on Focus on the Family, but I’ve done it in the media and for some good reasons. I could right now tick off fifteen or twenty things that have concerned me. And, having made that statement, the assumption is that I must stay with it even if the circumstances change. And they have changed. Saddleback changed me. What I heard John McCain say at Saddleback didn’t eliminate all of the concerns but it did draw me in his direction. And then, of course, this selection and other things. Tony, you said McCain seems to be changing – Gary, you disagreed with that – but it sure looks that way to me. And so, I am not endorsing John McCain. I have only endorsed a presidential candidate once in my life and that was George Bush in the second term after I’d watched him for four years. I just don’t endorse presidential candidates and I don’t see myself doing that this time. But I am moving closer and closer to being able to say … well, I’ll say it now, if I went into the polling booth today, I would pull the lever for John McCain.
Bauer: I got appointed by the McCain campaign to be their advisor on the platform. It was an interesting assignment. I arrived there, usually I’m on the outside beating on whoever the nominee is to do better, but when I got there and met with the McCain staff people I was immediately amazed, surprised and happy to hear them say “look, we think it’s a great platform already, it’s pro-life but we know people might want to strengthen it and we’re open to that. We want to work with people, we don’t want to alienate anybody and we’d like you to go back and forth between the delegates and us and see if we can work these things out.” I think that Kelly will affirm that, other than a few places, there really weren’t many brutal fights. Most of it was done in a very collegial way with the McCain people being very open to the kind of changes that made the platform draft even better than it was when it started.
Dobson: Would you agree that this is the strongest pro-life platform in the history of the Republican Party?
Shackelford: There’s no doubt. I was on that sub-committee and every pro-life leader who was there watching from Phyllis Schlafly to you name the pro-life group, they were all watching and they all said this is the strongest pro-life platform ever in the history of the party. We not only kept the famous plank that was put in during the time of Ronald Reagan, but we added additional strong language that made it even stronger. It was really incredible to be a part of this and I will affirm what Gary said; this is my third platform committee in a row and it was different than the last ones. The McCain campaign not only did not fight us as severely as the last campaigns did but they actually were in favor of the platform becoming more conservative because they knew that’s where the people were.