McCain’s New Pastor Problem

A few weeks ago, we were wondering why Rob Schenck was announcing that he was going to be providing commentary for NPR on the Democratic and Republican conventions.  As far as we’ve been able to tell, he didn’t actually end up doing so, which is good.  But now we have another question:  Why is Schenck getting VIP tickets to John McCain’s announcement of Sarah Palin as his running mate and schmoozing with both McCain and Palin?

In addition to posting a video about his invitation, he also wrote about it on his blog:

So, when I was offered a VIP seat at the big coming out event, I jumped on it. I wanted to personally engage whomever McCain selected … While I was en route to the event I got a call relaying a message to me from a well-known Washington, DC, columnist who said he had evidence it would be Governor Palin. She was definitely not on my short list of desirable prospects, but only because I knew so little about her. That would soon change. I called everyone I knew that might know something about her and my staff began our own in-depth research. A few things that came immediately to light were that she is completely and convincingly pro-life, she is pro-traditional marriage and she is an Evangelical Christian. And on each of these points she has long walked her talk. Still, there are some things you can only tell by shaking someone’s hand and looking them in the eyes. I did both today with Governor Palin and her sponsor, Senator McCain. If you’ll permit me a sidebar, I’ve got to say, Man! What a bold move. There are many voters who really wanted to make history in this election. Now they can do so with either ticket. Bravo! But back to Sarah Palin and her spirituality. After our exchange of normal niceties, the first thing I asked the Palins was about their church. My office was doing research on this while I was at the McCain event and sending it to me on my Blackberry, but they got one thing wrong when they first reported she was Catholic. Someone called to correct our early news release and said the Palins were Baptist, so I wanted to clear it up by simply asking. Gov. Palin herself. She told me they have long attended Wasilla Bible Church in their home town of Wasilla, Alaska, near Anchorage. I’ll write more on this church, but take a quick look at their website and you’ll see the sort of Christian community she keeps company with. I told Sen. McCain yesterday that he had just built the bridge he needed to our Evangelical world. He seemed relieved! Traditional Catholics will like Governor Palin, too. It was a stroke of genius.

Schenck has been one of the leading attack dogs against Barack Obama’s faith, suggesting that Obama might be, in fact, a Muslim infidel … and even if he’s not, his Christian faith is “woefully deficient.”  He’s probably best known for his reportedly successful efforts to sneak into the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing room and anoint the chairs with oil before Samuel Alito’s confirmation hearings.

As we noted last time, Schenck, along with his twin brother Paul, have a long history of militant anti-abortion activism and repeated arrests, primarily for their campaign against Dr. Barnett Slepian who was assassinated by an anti-abortion activist in 1998:

During the early 1990s … [Schenck] was arrested a dozen times during protests outside women’s health clinics and abortion doctors’ homes, and is renowned for outrageous publicity stunts, including dangling an aborted fetus in Bill Clinton’s face outside the 1992 Democratic National Convention. With former Elim classmate Randall Terry, Schenck helped start Operation Rescue, a hardline anti-abortion group that embraced “direct action” in an effort to shut down reproductive health clinics and prevent doctors from practicing abortion.

But just as Schenck’s star was rising in Washington, some Operation Rescue members decided to take their direct action to the next level. In 1998, while cooking dinner for his wife and four children, Barnett Slepian–an abortion doctor whose home had been the site of protests by Schenck and his followers years before–was shot to death through his kitchen window by James Kopp, a former student of Schaeffer’s and a volunteer at Operation Rescue’s Binghamton, N.Y., office. Slepian’s assassination became a public relations disaster for the organizations, and even though Schenck denounced the killing, the organization’s more extremist members insisted that it was justified. When Schenck placed flowers at the doorstep of Slepian’s office, they were returned abruptly by his infuriated wife along with a letter–later made public–that read, “It’s your ‘passive’ following that incited the violence that killed Bart [Barnett Slepian] and took away both my and my children’s future.”