Dobson’s Craven Calculation

There was an article in Time last week wondering if James Dobson’s political clout was fading.  Citing shrinking contributions, revenue, distribution, and audiences, the article suggested that Dobson was reluctant to “back a candidate so early in the game [because] backing a losing horse could devalue the worth of any future Dobson anointment.

Judging by his latest round of news-making, one has to wonder if Dobson has intentionally set out to make himself the object of ridicule and irrelevance.  A few weeks ago, it was noted that Focus on the Family Action’s post-South Carolina primary political analysis was conspicuously flattering toward Mitt Romney, and while all involved denied that it could be construed as an endorsement, it was pretty obvious that Romney was their candidate of choice.

Then Dobson suddenly emerged from his headquarters in Colorado Springs after Super Tuesday to tell the world that his conscience would not allow him to support John McCain and that he was seeking a million voters to pledge to do the same, seemingly with the aim of mobilizing support behind Romney.

But Dobson’s efforts came too late, and Romney dropped out, leaving only McCain and Mike Huckabee.  And so Dobson, being ever-bold and principled, has decided to endorse the only remaining candidate he hasn’t publicly repudiated:

I am endorsing Gov. Mike Huckabee for President of the United States today. My decision comes in the wake of my statement on Super Tuesday that I could not vote for Sen. John McCain, even if he goes on to win the Republican nomination.  His record on the institution of the family and other conservative issues makes his candidacy a matter of conscience and concern for me.

That left two pro-family candidates whom I could support, but I was reluctant to choose between them. However, the decision by Gov. Mitt Romney to put his campaign “on hold” changes the political landscape.  The remaining candidate for whom I could vote is Gov. Huckabee.  His unwavering positions on the social issues, notably the institution of marriage, the importance of faith and the sanctity of human life, resonate deeply with me and with many others. That is why I will support Gov. Huckabee through the remaining primaries, and will vote for him in the general election if he should get the nomination. Obviously, the governor faces an uphill struggle, given the delegates already committed to Sen. McCain.  Nevertheless, I believe he is our best remaining choice for President of the United States.

Nothing reeks of desperation more than announcing a halfhearted endorsement in the middle of the night when it is obvious that you are only supporting the candidate because you hate his opponent.

Dobson’s primary purpose in deciding to throw in with Huckabee only after the cause was lost is presumably to give himself cover for not voting for McCain in the general election.  After all, if the one GOP candidate who truly holds “unwavering positions” on the importance of faith, marriage, and the sanctity of human life can’t win the Republican nomination, then what choice does Dobson have but to stand by his principles and refuse to support the party’s candidate?

Of course, considering that Huckabee’s “unwavering positions on the social issues” on which Dobson has built his entire career have been the centerpiece of his campaign, you’d think he would have endorsed him months ago … which is exactly what Huckabee has been saying all along. Had he done so, perhaps Huckabee wouldn’t be facing the kind of “uphill struggle” he faces now which makes it increasingly unlikely that he’ll actually be the nominee.

But doing that would have required taking a stand on principle when it actually mattered and supporting the one candidate who epitomizes the values Dobson claims to represent instead of hedging his bets and trying to shape the race through subtle signals, un-endorsements, and craven, late-night political calculations.