Thursday, October 11, 2007

Conservative Christian leader equates Giuliani with Clinton

AUSTIN – A leading conservative Christian leader said Wednesday that Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Rodham Clinton are virtually "indistinguishable" to many social conservatives, and that those voters will abandon the GOP if Mr. Giuliani is the presidential nominee.

"There is very little difference between the Republican and Democratic parties when you look at advancing candidates like this," said Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council.

...he warned that nominating the former New York mayor, who supports abortion rights and gay rights, would probably drive away enough anti-abortion voters to put Mrs. Clinton in the White House.

"Will evangelicals vote for him? Yes, there will be some," said Mr. Perkins. "But some social conservative support is not enough to win."


Last week, influential religious leader James Dobson of Focus on the Family predicted that a Giuliani nomination would trigger a third-party challenge by a staunchly anti-abortion candidate. Mr. Perkins said he doesn't anticipate that, because he doesn't expect Mr. Giuliani to win the nomination.

If he does, it would be a recipe for disaster for the party, he said. "My experience is you don't beat a liberal with a moderate," he said.


He said former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is the strongest candidate on social issues. He rejected suggestions that Mr. Romney's Mormon faith will be a stumbling block.

Giuliani equals Clinton? Ouch. That's a pretty weighty indictment if you're a Christian Conservative. Distaste at Giuliani could very well splinter the Conservative Christian base of the Republican party as Dobson has threatened. If I were a Republican though, I wouldn't be too worried. The party is far from committing to a candidate--voters are clearly still shopping around, and with the addition of Fred Thompson to the race, it's really kind of anything-goes. Looking at Thompson's website, he certainly, at the very least, pays lip service to Conservative Christians:

A healthy society is predicated on belief in God; respect for all life; strong families centered on the institution of marriage—the union of a man and a woman; and self-respect and tolerance of others. While we are all free to live our lives in the pursuit of our own happiness, the government has a responsibility to respect the right of parents to raise their children and to promote the values that produce the strongest society.
Thompson is also a pro-life candidate, as is Romney. Between those two and the second-tier candidates, Conservative Christians still have a lot to choose from. Then again, Giuliani is far from out for the count. One can't really speculate at this point, but it will certainly be interesting as we find out how big a role the "values voter" agenda will play in 2008.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Mitt Romney: A Mormon President?,,2185733,00.html

Americans are almost as uncertain about the beliefs and rituals of Mormonism as they are about Islam, according to a survey last month by the Pew Centre for the People and the Press, an independent Washington thinktank. What they do know of Mormonism may not help Mr Romney's chances.

Overall, more than a quarter of Americans hold negative views of Mormons, associating the community with cults and polygamy, despite the practice being prohibited a century ago. More than half of white evangelical churchgoers, the community that is a mainstay of the Republican party, do not believe Mormons are Christian. However, nearly three-quarters believe that Mormons have strong families.


Mr Romney has been working hard to win over evangelicals on "family issues", such as opposition to abortion rights and same sex marriage.

The Romney campaign is clearly hoping that his squeaky clean image, and his constant appeals to the importance of "family" - Republican codeword for opposing abortion, cutting welfare for single mothers, and banning same-sex marriage - will overcome doubts about his religion among evangelical voters.


But it's a tricky conversion for Mr Romney who as a candidate for a failed Senate race in 1994 and for the governorship in 2002 cast himself as a moderate on social issues, supporting legal abortion, gay rights and gun control.


[Those] aren't the values Mr Romney wants to advertise just now.

Ah, the great Mormon question. There is no doubt a bit of a stigma there. I think that really, that whole issue boils down to image control. Romney's campaign, if I may be frank, appears to rely heavily on his image--his physical photogeneity, his image as a "strong" (read: masculine, cocksure, posturing) on foreign policy, "strong" on family values, that sort of thing. No different from any other candidate, but his image comes off as particularly heavily controlled. The last thing Romney wants is for the people most likely to support him, Conservative Christians, to get hung up on the fact that he is Mormon. So naturally, he makes every effort to divert attention from that issue, lest he pull a John Kerry--that is, allow others to define him before he can define himself.

Of course, rather than meticulously shaping his public image with petty appeals to Conservative Christians, he could, God forbid, answer questions directly and honestly...

Sunday, October 7, 2007

John McCain: "The Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation"

The Arizona Republican's remarks came in an interview with Beliefnet, a Web site that covers religious issues and affairs.

"I just have to say in all candor that since this nation was founded primarily on Christian principles, personally, I prefer someone who has a grounding in my faith," the GOP presidential hopeful told the Web site in an interview published Saturday.

McCain also said he agreed with a recent poll that 55 percent of Americans believe the U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation. "I would probably have to say yes, that the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation," he said.

On Sunday night, McCain sought to clarify his remarks while campaigning in Hollis, New Hampshire. "What I do mean to say is the United States of America was founded on the values of Judeo-Christian values, which were translated by our founding fathers which is basically the rights of human dignity and human rights," he said.

"I believe that anyone can be president of the United States of any faith," McCain said, saying he was angry his remarks were misinterpreted but "there's nothing I can do about it."


The National Jewish Democratic Council, an advocacy group representing Jewish Democrats, also called on the Republican Party to denounce the remarks formally.

"Former maverick John McCain's statements were repugnant," the group's executive director, Ira N. Forman, said in a statement. "It's been sad watching him transform from political maverick to religious right mouthpiece."

Forman added, "Someone running for president ought to understand the Constitution a little better. Nowhere does it say the United States is a 'Christian' nation. How can we trust someone to uphold the Constitution who doesn't even know what is in it?"

McCain's communication director, Jill Hazelbaker, issued a statement Sunday defending her candidate's comments: "Read in context, his interview with Beliefnet makes clear that people of all faiths are entitled to all the rights protected by the Constitution, including the right to practice their religion freely.

"In the interview he also observed that the values protected by the Constitution, by which he meant values such as respect for human life and dignity, are rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition. That is all he intended to say to the question, America is a Christian nation, and it is hardly a controversial claim."

Ok, we all know the dangers of taking quotations out of context, but I hope you can understand my suspicion at McCain for using the rhetoric of "America is a Christian Nation" almost verbatim from that classic Christian Conservative line. Our media runs on soundbites and I tend to think McCain knows this and wants people to know he's supportive of Christian Conservatives, despite his attempt to pacify others witht the token claim that he's accepting of all religions. Not to mention that a remark like this would be pretty consistent with John McCain's recent trend of trying to appeal to Christian Conservatives on "values" issues, radically breaking with his past moderate stances and his position as the GOP "maverick".

The whole thing reeks of political opportunism. It's blatantly obvious who McCain is trying to appeal to now that he has changed his pro-abortion rights position since he started campaigning and is adopting "Christian Nation" rhetoric. Christian Conservatives, of course, don't take him at all seriously because of his pro-choice voting record, so, predictably, he has been plummeting in the polls. It's a shame, too. People really liked the moderate, reasonable-sounding John McCain of 2000, but McCain has long since abandoned his principles and is conforming more and more to the positions and rhetoric of George W. Bush--and comes off as pretty two-faced nowadays.

To Christian Conservatives, Giuliani Inspires Threat of a Third-Party Run

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 — Alarmed at the possibility that the Republican party might pick Rudolph W. Giuliani as its presidential nominee despite his support for abortion rights, a coalition of influential Christian conservatives is threatening to back a third-party candidate.

The threat emerged from a group that broke away for separate discussions at a meeting Saturday in Salt Lake City of the Council for National Policy, a secretive conservative networking group. Participants said the smaller group included James C. Dobson of Focus on the Family, who is perhaps its most influential member; Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council; Richard A. Viguerie, the direct-mail pioneer; and dozens of other politically oriented conservative Christians.

Almost everyone present at the smaller group’s meeting expressed support for a written resolution stating that “if the Republican Party nominates a pro-abortion candidate we will consider running a third-party candidate,” participants said.


For months, Christian conservatives have been escalating warnings that nominating Mr. Giuliani could splinter the party. Dr. Dobson wrote a column declaring that he would waste his vote before casting it for either Mr. Giuliani or a Democrat who supports abortion rights, like Mrs. Clinton, of New York. Some conservatives also noted that Mr. Giuliani has been divorced twice and married three times and is estranged from his children.

Will this be the nail in the coffin for the Republican Party? It seems to me that the only thing that could put a Republican in the White House in 2008 is their Evangelical base, and something like this could splinter that base. In 2004, there was still sufficient public support for the war for Bush to get reelected. There was still a large enough bloc of voters who believed that the war in Iraq was improving our national security. As of 2006, with the Democrats' sweep of the Congress, it was evident that that was no longer the case. That group of national security voters who believed the Iraq war was a good thing is gone. All the Republicans have left for 2008 is the Evangelicals, as they have next to zero credibility with anyone else. So why, I wonder, is the Republican party promoting a guy like Giuliani who is repugnant to their base (and certainly doesn't appeal to anyone else)? Romney is probably the closest thing the Republicans have to a "values" candidate, but there is a lot of concern that his Mormonism will turn off Evangelicals. I might have to do a posting on the whole "Are we ready for a Mormon President" thing later on. But the problem remains for the Republicans. I really tend to doubt they can win the 2008 election without mobilizing a LOT of "values" voters, because frankly, everyone else has long since turned against them because of the war. The only way I can possibly see the Republicans winning in 2008 is if Bush somehow manages to rally a lot of support for war on Iran, or if the Republican candidate runs against Hillary Clinton, who is a very easy target for attack ads. Any way you look at it, 2008, like 2004, will be about the war. There was enough support for Bush's reelection, but now there definitely is not--and I don't think that even the Evangelicals can save the Republicans now, and you can tell that by allowing the frontrunners they have to lead the party, the Republicans know it.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Religious Right Losing Influence?


AFTER the 2004 elections, religious conservatives were riding high. Newly anointed by pundits as “values voters” — a more flattering label than “religious right” — they claimed credit for propelling George W. Bush
to two terms in the White House. Even in wartime, they had managed to fixate the nation on their pet issues: opposition to abortion, gay marriage and stem cell research.


Religious conservatives were alarmed last month when none of the Republican front-runners
[Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, and Fred Thompson] showed up for the Values Voter Debate Straw Poll in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. More than 40 groups, some of them major organizations known for their capacity to mobilize voters, had put together the event. Questions were directed even at the no-show candidates, and many of those questions were angry.

“Beyond their cowardice, there’s an arrogance on the part of these candidates,” said Janet L. Folger, the president of Faith2Action, who helped organize the debate. “The arrogance is this: ‘We are just taking your votes for granted. You have nowhere else to go.’ ”

A very interesting question is raised here indeed. Are Evangelicals losing influence in the Republican party? This New York Times article makes a very interesting point--even in wartime, the Religious Right was able to significantly shape the dialogue of the 2004 presidential campaign, focusing it just as much if not more on the Religious Right's pet issues than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And who could blame President Bush for catering to them? The less he could talk about the war, the better, because of its growing unpopularity, and the more he could rely on his base to come to the polls, the less he would have to seriously consider the opinions of other voting blocs. But now the Republican Party is no longer playing that card. As the quotation at the end of the above excerpt says, the Republican Party just may very well be taking the Evangelical vote for granted.

Well, let's think about how the Republican frontrunners have been campaigning so far. For the most part, it's been pretty predictable pro-war rhetoric more or less lock-step with that of Bush. Mitt Romney's "double Guantánamo" line, Giuliani's "hero of 9/11" schtick, the sabre-rattling at Iran from pretty much all of the candidates, none of that comes as a surprise. But we all know the Republicans can't win on that alone. We all know very well that, at least to swing voters, the 2008 election, just like the 2004 election, is all about the war, and a pro-war candidate is not going to win unless he can, just as Bush did in 2004, tap the Religious Right bloc--in other words, bring out more far right voters rather than trying to win over swing voters. If the Republicans do not reach out to that bloc in 2008, the Religious Right will stay home on election day.