Ralph Reed is the latest religious-right leader to publish a book extolling the virtues of President Donald Trump to conservative Christians. “For God and Country: The Christian Case for Trump” was released March 31 by right-wing publisher Regnery. Reed’s book contains glowing blurbs from other Trump-adoring religious-right figures, including White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, pastor Robert Jeffress, politician-turned-pundit Mike Huckabee, and author and broadcaster Mark Levin.
Reed’s book seems to have four purposes:
- defend evangelicals from the charge of hypocrisy for supporting Trump in spite of his moral failings and character flaws;
- champion Trump’s successes in promoting religious-right groups’ agenda through policy changes and judicial nominations;
- urge evangelicals to turn out in 2020 to ensure that Trump is reelected in order to preserve religious-right gains and protect religious liberty; and
- make the case that he, Ralph Reed, is smarter than other Republicans and religious-right leaders.
Along the way, Reed trashes “fake news” and the mainstream media, “Crooked Hillary” Clinton, and the Democratic Party. Reed writes, for example, that “the Democratic Party has now become identified as the party of abortion on demand, socialism, same-sex marriage, gay rights, and hostility to religious freedom for believers who do not share that agenda.”
Reed dismisses Trump’s moral failings as part of a past that Christians are obligated to forgive, while not addressing Trump’s relentless lying, ongoing use of the presidency to enrich himself and his family, and other abuses of power and democratic norms under the Trump administration. Similarly, Reed criticizes former President Barack Obama for “doing little to prevent Russia’s meddling in the 2016 campaign or inform the American people of the threat posed by it,” but he never mentions that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly blocked a bipartisan denunciation of Russian interference in the election and “ran interference for Trump during the campaign to stop Obama from warning the country about things Trump was lying publicly about.”
Trump’s moral character didn’t even really matter, Reed said, once the election came down to a binary choice between Trump and Clinton, “one of which embraced the intrinsic good while the other advanced grave evil.” And of course, there was Clinton’s “criminal conduct in her use of a private email server.”
Unlike other pro-Trump books from religious-right figures like Steven Strang and Lance Wallnau, Reed says he has “no particular view” on whether Trump is a modern-day Cyrus for Jews or Christians. Unlike those authors, Reed does not declare that Trump was anointed or chosen by God, “beyond the larger truth of the Christian faith that God is sovereign and that nothing occurs in human affairs contrary to His participatory or permissive will.”
Still, Reed hints that a divine plan was at work in events such as a flat tire on Trump’s plane in 2016 that allowed Trump to spend more time with Mike Pence when he was in the final stages of choosing a running mate. “The episode was one more example of the seemingly inexplicable taking place and paving the way for Trump to achieve what seemed impossible and which had never occurred in the history of America—the election of a president who had never held elective office, never been involved in politics in a significant way in his life, and never gained prominence as a military hero,” Reed writes. He says that for Christians who believe they are called to defend Israel, “Trump was nothing less than an answer to prayer.”
Reed begins the book with a phone call he received from Trump in 2011 when he was considering a run for the presidency. Reed says he was impressed at the time, writing, ”I’ve sized up a lot of political horseflesh in my career, and Trump was a thoroughbred.”
Throughout the book Reed congratulates himself for his instincts about Trump when other religious-right leaders flocked to then-candidate Sen. Ted Cruz and doubted Trump’s authenticity. He talks about urging religious-right leaders to remain “strapped to the mast” after the release of the Access Hollywood recording with Trump bragging about getting away with sexual assault.
Pence won the 2010 straw poll at the Values Voter Summit, the biggest annual political gathering of religious-right activists. But Reed says he urged Pence not to run for president in 2012 because history has not been kind to members of the House of Representatives running for president. He urged Pence to run for governor of Indiana instead, the path Pence took before Trump’s selection saved the then-unpopular governor from a very possible reelection defeat. Unlike other Republicans, Reed writes, he was never worried about Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination.
Reed revels in his status as a team Trump insider who texts with Paula White and is granted VIP access to administration events. Reed, for example, was invited to Trump’s announcement that he was nominating Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court seat that was essentially stolen by McConnell when he refused to allow the Senate to consider Obama’s nominee for the vacant seat.
Reed’s recounting of the scene at the White House for the Gorsuch announcement makes it clear that he’s learned the lesson that adulation is the key to staying in Trump’s good graces:
Suddenly, a Marine band played “Hail to the Chief.” Everyone in the room rose to their feet, their heads turning and necks craning as President Trump entered the room and appeared to practically glide down the red carpet from the formal rooms. Trump moved with purpose and deliberation, a born performer who needed no stage directions, basking in the glow. He stood ramrod straight, his hands grasping the podium as camera flashbulbs exploded, projecting gravitas, savoring the moment.
It’s not the only time Reed refers to Trump’s “ramrod” posture.
Throughout the book, Reed praises Trump’s aggressive moves to restrict access to abortion and his expansion of the global gag rule, his appointment of religious-right activists in a de facto takeover of the Department of Health and Human Services, and his administration’s other policy moves.
Reed, who was hired by televangelist Pat Robertson to build the Christian Coalition during the 1990s, now runs Century Strategies, a political consulting firm. After Obama’s first election as president, Reed created the Faith and Freedom Coalition, which hosts the annual Road to Majority conference for religious-right activists and operates as a well-funded voter identification and turnout vehicle for conservative Christian voters.