Earlier this week, Gary Bauer of American Values, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, and Mark Earley of the Prison Fellowship, met with The Christian Science Monitor to discuss the candidates running for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, among them John McCain:
And why is Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona struggling in his second run for the presidency, despite his solid conservative voting record on social issues? It’s all about a speech he delivered in 2000, in which he referred to two religious leaders – Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell – as “agents of intolerance.”
Bauer says that comment was interpreted among social conservatives as an attack on them and their involvement in politics, not just on the two men named. “Obviously, he’s more conservative on these social issues than Giuliani is, but there isn’t anything comparable in Giuliani’s rhetorical record where he went after Christian conservatives in a rhetorical way,” Bauer says.
It is exceedingly odd that Bauer would cite McCain’s “agents of intolerance” remarks as the primary reason McCain is having so much trouble winning over the Right, considering that Bauer had defended McCain at the time.
For those who don’t remember, Bauer endorsed McCain on February 16, 2000. Just under two weeks later, McCain delivered his “agents of intolerance” speech and that same day, Bauer appeared on Fox’s “Special Report with Brit Hume” and defended the speech, saying that McCain was not targeting Christian conservatives:
I do believe that if you’re a conservative voter, a traditional voter, if you’re pro-life, if you’re pro-family, there’s enough — plenty in Senator McCain’s record to justify a vote for him. Over the weekend, he said he would overturn Roe versus Wade. When he asked how — when he was asked how, he said by appointing judges that understand the Constitution. Roe versus Wade was unconstitutional.
He said today that faith-based voters are an important part of any opportunity we have to deal with the major problems facing the country. I hope after the firestorm of today is over with that we can focus on the fact that he’s reaching out to traditional conservative and Christian voters, and I think he’ll get a fair share of them.
Not long thereafter, Bauer began claiming that even though he had been in the audience during McCain’s speech, he had had nothing to do with its language:
Today, he explained: ”I didn’t get a chance to see that speech until it was too late to do anything about it. It had already been passed out to the press.”
Mr. McCain’s aides challenged the statement, saying Mr. Bauer not only reviewed the speech in advance but also added a paragraph to it.
As the Washington Post reported on March 26 of that year, Bauer was anything but a passive spectator:
Then came what Bauer calls “this very unfortunate thing.” Bauer had seen a draft of McCain’s speech on the plane–he swears he thought he was on his way to a veterans event–but because it had already been distributed to reporters, he couldn’t delete anything. He did add some lines, to soften the blow, praising Dobson and Charles Colson. He later defended the speech as making a distinction between certain leaders and grass-roots Christians.
Yet seven years later, Bauer has managed to position himself in a right-wing leadership role commenting on McCain’s problems with the Right, somehow neglecting to mention his own direct involvement with McCain and the very incident he now cites as responsible for the candidate’s woes.
The above-mentioned March 2000 Post article was one of many that took a look at Bauer’s future after McCain lost the primary race to George W. Bush, wondering what would become of him now that he had become persona non grata to the Right. And at the time, Bauer was unrepentant:
“I think I made the right decision and if I had to do it over again, I’d do it again,” Bauer said
Well, luckily for you Gary, McCain is again running for president, so here’s your chance.