An Armey of One

Just last week we were fondly reminiscing about the battle that raged for several weeks back in 2006 between Dick Armey and James Dobson that, in many ways, embodied the tensions that existed, and continue to exist, between the economic and social conservative wings of the Republican base.

While that particular clash eventually subsided, the underlying issues did not go away and they seem to have resurfaced in recent weeks, again thanks to Armey’s seemingly unprovoked attack on the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins over the latter’s suggestion that John McCain ought to announce that he will appoint a “family czar” in order to appease the so-called “Values Voters” FRC and the like claim to represent.

Not surprisingly, Armey thinks the idea is idiotic and is not shy about saying so:

Think about that for a moment: A federal bureaucrat to oversee families. I’m sure Perkins would find a way to claim he’s just there to give America’s families a helping hand, that he’s promoting our country’s precious faith and values. But as Ronald Reagan said, the most frightening words in the English language are, “I’m from the government. I’m here to help.” If there’s anything our families don’t need, it is Washington mucking around in their lives. Could anyone imagine a less conservative idea?

There are all sorts of problems with Perkins’ notion, but the biggest one right now is that no one even knows for sure what a family czar would actually do.  Every time Perkins has brought it up, he’s brushed quickly over the topic, as if he doesn’t want to discuss what it means. That’s probably because it is a political stunt and not a serious policy idea.

Armey goes on to basically say that Perkins and his allies are power hungry and that he’s not even sure that Perkins ought to be claiming to be a conservative and cites Perkins’ support of Mike Huckabee as evidence:

[Perkins threw] his support behind Mike Huckabee, a candidate whose conservative credentials were anything but solid. By supporting a politician who governed in large part by taxing, regulating, and moralizing, he made his own declarations of conservatism subject to doubt.

It is not everyday that we come to the defense of Tony Perkins but in this case, it is simply untrue that Perkins ever supported Huckabee.  In fact, Perkins’ repeatedly pledged neutrality on the GOP primary race, though there was plenty of speculation that he preferred Mitt Romney, and his failure to back Huckabee was a constant source of irritation to the Huckabee campaign.

For his part, Perkins himself doesn’t seem particularly fazed by Armey’s attack, dismissing him as “grumpy” and saying that Armey’s “disregard for the importance of strong families is shocking.”    

It is safe to say that the relationship between Armey and the Religious Right has undergone something of a transformation since he left office.  His relationship with the FRC seems especially strained and it is difficult to imagine that they’ll ever be able to get back to the good old days when Armey “met with us every single week. His staff is available to us when we go there, so it has been a close relationship. Over the years he has been the defender of the family.”