Thompson Sets Off a Dobson-Land War

Several months ago we noted that Richard Land was trying to position himself as a key player within the Religious Right hierarchy and had been publicly challenging James Dobson on a variety of fronts, including immigration, global warming and, most importantly, the candidacy of Fred Thompson.

From the get-go, Land has been a vocal advocate of Thompson, issuing fawning praise of him at every opportunity – so it must have come as a rude surprise when, last week, Dobson weighed in and declared Thompson unacceptable:

In a private e-mail obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, Dobson accuses the former Tennessee senator and actor of being weak on the campaign trail and wrong on issues dear to social conservatives.

“Isn’t Thompson the candidate who is opposed to a Constitutional amendment to protect marriage, believes there should be 50 different definitions of marriage in the U.S., favors McCain-Feingold, won’t talk at all about what he believes, and can’t speak his way out of a paper bag on the campaign trail?” Dobson wrote. “He has no passion, no zeal and no apparent ‘want to.’ And yet he is apparently the Great Hope that burns in the breasts of many conservative Christians? Well, not for me, my brothers. Not for me!”

Obviously, this didn’t sit well with Land, so it is not surprising that he has decided to strike back, reaching out to CBN’s David Brody to defend Thompson and blast Dobson:

“I’ve received phone calls and emails from Southern Baptists about Senator Thompson. They are all furious at Doctor Dobson. They just feel that first of all there was a mischaracterizing of his positions. Do I wish that he supported the marriage protection amendment? Of course I do.  To say that he is for 50 different views of marriage in 50 different states is a gross mischaracterization of his position. Secondly, do I wish that he attended church every Sunday? As a Baptist pastor, of course I do. But does that make him a person of unbelief? That’s harsh and unwarranted.”

Land defends Thompson’s opposition to a marriage amendment by claiming that Thompson is simply so principled that he will not jettison his staunch “federalist” convictions for political gain, before winding it up by proclaiming that Thompson is “one of us”: 

“Fred Thompson grew up in a very modest means in a small town in America just like Ronald Reagan grew up in very modest means in a small town in Illinois. You acquire not only an understanding of but a respect for everyday folk when you come from the background that you don’t get otherwise and people sense it. That this is a guy who respects me, a guy who understands that we are the backbone of this country, we are the salt of the Earth and he not only understands us, he’s one of us. He’s a successful one of us but he’s one of us and they trust a guy like that. They give a guy like that a larger margin of error. Nobody gets everything right but its core values. My assessment is that this guy is a whole much like Reagan including his Teflon quality. The press has been beating up with him for these types of gaffes and he continues to climb in the polls.”

It is exceedingly rare that anyone on the Right dares to criticize Dobson, much less do so publicly.  In fact, the last people to do so ended up getting booted out of the movement.  

This sort of high-profile fight cannot be helping the Right as it struggles to figure out how to maintain its influence going into the 2008 election.  But at least it ought to make the upcoming Values Voter Summit all the more interesting, since both Land and Dobson are going to be there.