Huck a boy!

October 20, 2007, 11:09 am | Posted by

Huckabee floored them. He could do no wrong. His third sentence summarizes the natural advantage that guaranteed him adulation and freed him to talk about whatever he wanted to:

“I stand here not as one who comes to you, but one who comes from you.”

To varying extents, everyone else here had to sell himself to the audience, which took time and focus away from their platforms. Huckabee just got down to preaching.

Well, sort of. The first thing he did was drop an Al Gore joke (probably the 14th I’ve heard here) and then make fun of hippies. After that, though, it was a sermon to a swaying choir. Standing ovations were frequent, sharp whistling pierced the dark air, and the audience sounded like the evangelical congregations I remember from my time in Huckabee’s Arkansas. It wasn’t just “amen,” it was “that’s right,” and “yes”, and “come on, Mike!”

The congregants spent a lot of time on their feet, and I didn’t always understand why. But it was clear that these people love the holy rolling populist preacher. Beyond abortion, same-sex marriage and war!, he talked about some off-beat issues like rebuilding America’s arms-manufacturing base, “feeding ourselves” (agriculturally speaking) and the Fair Tax. No matter what he said, the audience cheered and cheered.

Oh, and he said we might not need so many immigrants if we didn’t abort so many babies.

Most noteworthy, though, was his declaration of independence from the Republican Party, which sounded like a warning:

I don’t want expediency or electability to replace our vales. We live or die by those values,” he said. “I want to make it very clear that I do not spell with ‘G-O-D,’ ‘G-O-P.’ Our party may be important, but our principles are even more important.”

His exit music?

“This is ooouuuur country”

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Rudy: Much better than expected, still miles from the mountaintop

October 20, 2007, 8:32 am | Posted by

Bill Bennett warmed up the crowd for Rudy by speaking about “preemptive cultural surrender” in the war on terror, using the Screwtape Letters to paint liberals as deceptive devils who would lead us to defeat. Enables Rudy to leave it alone for a while.

Rudy started on an entirely different note: shared values and shared goals. He did a decent job of sticking to this theme while also acknowledging his differences with the audience.

His appeal to religion was fascinating: “We’ve gotta find a way to be more inclusive. Christianity is built around inclusion…Isn’t it?” He appealed to Christianity’s early history as a faith that thrived as a result of his message of love, hope, and forgiveness. A mild challenge, and a unique tack.

Think about the implications of the fact that Rudy felt compelled to say “Please know this, you have nothing to fear from me.”

He talked about the private nature of faith in his Roman Catholic upbringing. I don’t know how effective this will be, but I like that he says it.

Still, when he says “I see clearly the value of people of faith” in politics, he reinforces that he is an outsider here. This became especially conspicuous when he spoke of the Constitutional protection of religion rather than America being a Christian nation.

He was at his best when he spoke extensively about driving the pornography out of public view in New York, and about cutting off funding for a religiously offensive exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Very smart, and very well received. His other shrewd move was spending more time on school choice than any other candidate.

Abortion reduction and adoption promotion got plenty of time, but a rather lukewarm response, especially in comparison for other candidates’ calls for outlawing abortion. He got better applause when he talked about the conservative credentials of his judicial advisory board.

His security section, saved for last, was surprisingly nondescript. The only distinguishing factors were his focus on Israel and his mention of Darfur.

His discussion of his personal life was so cursory that it barely warrants mention. He went there, he didn’t have to, and he probably didn’t help himself.

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Friday night with Mitt Romney

October 19, 2007, 7:05 pm | Posted by

Bob Jones III’s endorsement will go a long way in South Carolina, the early primary state in which The Mormon Question loomed largest, but Romney still has everything to gain or lose here in this early stage of his courtship of the Religious Right. Let’s see what kind of response he gets…

A very West Wing entrance, with a side of megachurch. Before any specific observations, I’ve gotta say Mitt nailed it. Hard. A couple of things worked to his advantage: 1) He had 100 campaigners here, according to a leafleteer I asked. 2) He spoke after dinner, when everyone was rested and ready for another round. Best time slot of the day.

He kicked off saying “I’m pro-family on every level, from personal to political…America’s future will not be determined by heads of state, but by heads of households.” For some reason he was interrupted by the loudest applause of the day. Everyone said something to that effect, but when Mitt said it people got amped. Then he quoted CS Lewis. From jump, the crowd popped with a boisterousness not seen all day.

And then…family family family family. He hit on the economic, moral and practical advantages of the two-parent, two-sex family, but skillfully slipped in some respect for single moms such as his sister Jane.

He raised some eyebrows on bloggers row when, after citing the Moynihan report, he said “Hats off to Bill Cosby, by the way, for telling it like it is.” I’d have felt unfair and shameless going there myself, but I’m not Mitt Romney.

He smartly hit the outrage button on the Maine middle school birth control story. Why did others fail to do this?

Did you know that the “strength and preservation of a civilization” is at stake in the same-sex marriage debate? Me neither.

While Romney confessed to being a pro life “convert,” he claimed “I will be a pro-life president, just like I was a pro-life governor.” The applause sounded like buy-in.

“By the way, you might’ve heard that I’m Mormon…”

…Did not lead to The Mormon Speech. Instead of addressing that, he switched gears to talk about how he could keep the Reagan coalition together. Talk about a letdown.

Then it was “We’re not going to beat Hillary Clinton by acting like Hillary Clinton.” What a zinger.

He wound down by skillfully hammering the family family family message, then backed away to a soundtrack that sounded like hail to the chief with a bass line, looking like a frontrunner.

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Looking for love in all the wrong places?

October 16, 2007, 12:48 pm | Posted by

I’m not one to poke fun at people, but this ad for Family Research Council’s upcoming values voters summit is too clever by half:

If this month’s religion and politics news is anything near accurate, the religious right might find itself all dressed up with no place to go.

I will be live-blogging from FRC’s values voters summit this Friday! Stop by for my reports on the political courtship.

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Family Research Council misrepresents Third Way

October 15, 2007, 9:17 am | Posted by

Some culture warriors just won’t come out of the trenches.

On Friday Tony Perkins sent Family Research Council email subscribers a newsletter titled “No Surrender,” which compared the culture wars to the Cold War and misrepresented Third Way’s “Come Let Us Reason Together” on multiple counts.

Referring to the supporters of paper, Perkins says “some people want to bring the ‘culture wars’ to an end by quitting the fight for core moral principles.”

None of the statements of support for the paper advocate abandonment of anyone’s core moral principles, nor does the paper itself. In fact, the papers’ authors and supporters repeatedly point out that the success of the paper rests on the fact that it honors the principles and values of both non-evangelical progressives and conservative evangelicals.

One of Perkins’ core moral principles is “the unalienable right to life of every unborn child,” and Come Let Us Reason Together describes and supports a comprehensive abortion reduction policy, which advances this principle. Yet for some reason, Perkins feels compelled to distort this fact using artful omission.

Let’s compare.


It also suggests uniting around the goal of reducing abortion by distributing contraception — even though abortion has skyrocketed in the years since the introduction of the birth control pill. [Note the specious logic.]

Third Way:

Among its central provisions, Ryan-DeLauro calls for sex education with an abstinence emphasis and medically accurate contraceptive information, better access to contraception for low-income women, after-school programs for kids, and help for parents on communicating their values to their teens. It also expands Medicaid coverage of pregnant women and S-CHIP coverage of children, addresses domestic violence against pregnant women, helps pregnant women and young mothers stay in school, and expands adoption assistance.

Speaks for itself.

He also takes some liberties interpreting the paper’s statement on sexuality issues.


It says that homosexuals deserve the same “public benefits” (i.e., marriage or civil unions) as others.

Third Way:

Protecting the human rights and dignity of all, even for those with whom one disagrees, is not only a consistent thing to do; it is a proud American tradition and a high moral and religious calling. America was founded on the principle that all have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and one of the deepest insights that is common to virtually all faith and moral traditions is that we should want for our brothers and sisters the same protections, public benefits, and opportunities we want for ourselves.

No legislation to protect the human dignity of gay and lesbian people should or need abridge the religious liberty of religious communities.

I don’t see any mention of gay marriage or civil unions in here, but I can see how Perkins might read it in between the lines. Note however that he didn’t ask the study’s authors, who are very accessible, what they meant, and note that he excluded the sentence in the report that follows the one he quotes, which directly addresses FRC and the religious right’s long-held objection to pretty much any legislation that does anything for homosexual Americans. Perkins’ assessment is more self-serving than thorough.

Perkins also has the temerity to say that “civil dialogue is possible” amidst this series of dubious assertions. Yet in addition to shading the truth about Third Way’s report, he takes a derisive tone by repeatedly using the word “progressive” in quotes, as if people who identify themselves as progressives use the word as some ruse, or as if the term itself is illegitimate.

Perkins proves himself a resolute culture warrior by attacking Third Way’s report, and in so doing shows why the culture wars are bound to produce nothing but division and mistrust. War is inherently destructive, and the metaphorical culture war is no exception.

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