Sarah Posner sends a dispatch from inside the most recent Council for National Policy gathering, the secretive right-wing umbrella group that vowed to bolt the GOP if Rudy Giuliani was the nominee and whose members wept tears of joy when John McCain tapped Sarah Palin as his running mate:
While the CNP was trying to look to the future last week, it seemed hopelessly enamored of its aging leaders. When I arrived to meet Warren Smith, the conservative evangelical activist and journalist who had invited me to chat, we ambled past anti-evolutionist Ken Ham, who was holding court to a small but rapt audience in the hallway; eyed Left Behind author and CNP co-founder Tim LaHaye, who was shuffling in and out of the “CNP Networking Room;” caught a glimpse of Rick Santorum, who since being booted out of his Senate seat has led the charge against “radical Islam” from his perch at the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center; and spotted the religious right’s anti-feminism doyenne Phyllis Schlafly, 84, who had earlier that day delivered a speech to the CNP Youth Council on how to “find your place in the conservative movement.”
Although the CNP’s meetings are closed to the press, Smith filled me in on some details: Conservative direct-mail entrepreneur Richard Viguerie, a patriarch of the modern conservative movement, rallied the troops by pointing to prior comebacks, from Reagan to Gingrich to Bush. Viguerie, Smith told me, “is saying that we need to fight for conservative ideas and conservative values and not worry about who embraces them.” Smith added that the group talked “about changing the culture, entertainment, media, TV” — a longtime goal of the religious right’s dominionism that it seeks to achieve by taking over social, cultural, and government institutions, much like religious-right figures are now plotting their new takeover of the Republican National Committee.
“What I’m hearing is that there is no loyalty to the Republican Party,” said Smith, meaning no loyalty to the party as constituted but loyalty to one purged of insufficiently conservative members. “What Richard Viguerie talks about is not a third party but a third wave. Basically there needs to be a flowering of grass-roots conservative activism and local groups, local PACs. He’s basically saying you’ve got a Republican county commissioner in Buzzard’s Breath, Texas, and he’s not a conservative? Run a conservative against him.”
[A]ctivist and radio host Janet Porter, an early Huckabee backer in the 2008 campaign, told me she favored either Palin or Huckabee in 2012. Porter is straight out of the wing of the movement that is all frothing ideology, and no stone-cold strategy. That explains her ongoing fixation with the long-debunked lie that Barack Obama does not have a U.S. birth certificate, and her attempt to stop the electoral college from voting next month in the formality that will officially make him president.
Porter insists that Obama has not produced a U.S. birth certificate (he has) and that he was actually born in Kenya (he was born in Hawaii). She claims to be awaiting the results of the lawsuits filed by attorney Philip J. Berg, whose effort to halt the presidential election because of the alleged question of Obama’s U.S. citizenship was rebuffed by the United States Supreme Court.
When I asked Porter about the mood around the CNP meeting, she said, “My mood is more upbeat than those who don’t actually know these cases are being filed and that there’s actually still a chance to maintain the freedom that we have. We’re not going away. Win or lose, whether this goes through, whether it amounts to anything, we just believe that [for] something this important we need the answers. And we’re going to fight for freedom, and we’re going to use whatever freedom we have until it’s taken away with the efforts of hate crimes, ENDA, fairness doctrine, wiping out all the pro-life legislation. Everything’s on the line.”
My skepticism showed, I suspect. “I think this might be a little more newsworthy than you think,” she insisted and handed me a flyer about her effort that read: “Not extreme. Not fringe. Just Constitutional.”