Dobson’s Dilemma

The Religious Right may still be kicking itself over its own politically calculated decision not to support Mike Huckabee, but that doesn’t mean that they are ready to climb aboard John McCain’s “Straight Talk Express” … at least, not until McCain does a bit more groveling:

Some prominent conservatives say they remain disenchanted with the party’s likely nominee. Sen. McCain isn’t doing enough to persuade them of his conservative credentials, they say, or win them over to his side. Although the sentiment among conservative leaders is that they will vote for Sen. McCain come November, they aren’t thrilled about the prospect.

In February, he spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference, a gathering of some 6,000 Republicans. Last month, shortly after securing the nomination, he addressed a meeting of the Council for National Policy, a group of prominent Christian conservatives.

Conservatives mention both appearances as evidence of Sen. McCain’s olive branch. But to get the party united and energized, Sen. McCain needs to talk more about “core values,” including his anti-abortion record, says Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. The senator needs to address social conservative issues “so that people get the impression and the understanding that those issues are of importance to him,” Mr. Perkins said.

While McCain has, so far, personally addressed three purely right-wing audiences where he has constantly reminded them of the principles and positions they share, touted his conservative record, and told them what they wanted to hear, it doesn’t seem to be enough.  

So McCain still has a lot of work ahead of him, as demonstrated by the exclusive statement James Dobson released to the Wall Street Journal:

“I have seen no evidence that Sen. McCain is successfully unifying the Republican Party or drawing conservatives into his fold. To the contrary, he seems intent on driving them away.

To my knowledge, he has not reached out to pro-family leaders or changed any of the positions that have troubled them. He still believes, for example, that federal money should be allocated for laboratory experiments with tiny human embryos, after which they would be killed when they are no longer useful. He continues to favor allowing each state to create its own definition of marriage, potentially giving the nation 50 different legal interpretations. It would create chaos within families.

On March 7th, the senator delivered a speech to influential members of the The Council on National Policy, during which he thoroughly disappointed and irritated many of those in attendance. By contrast, McCain spoke last week during to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council on Foreign Policy, and reiterated his support for governmental intervention in the global warming debate, proposed shutting down Guantanamo, blamed the U.S military for torturing prisoners of war and promised to pander to our European allies before defending America’s interests around the world. These policies frustrated conservatives, whom McCain seems to have written off.

One of his senior advisors asserted recently on Fox News that ‘the right’ can just go its own way, stating that McCain can win by attracting moderates and crossover Democrats. That seems to be the strategy. These are not the policies and pronouncements of a man who is seeking to ‘unify the party.’ Indeed, they appear to be fracturing an increasingly divided constituency. “

Just a few months ago, Dobson boldly declared that he would never support McCain, saying “I cannot, and I will not, vote for Sen. John McCain, as a matter of conscience.”  Yet he has recently been hinting that he might be reconsidering this declaration and is now advising McCain to stop poking the GOP’s right-wing base in the eye, seemingly hoping that if he can get McCain to starting pandering to them on a few issues, he can ease his own conscience and support McCain without it coming across as a craven political calculation.