Virtual Voices

Religious Right UPDATE: Focus responds

Campaign 2008

The Religious Right is still desperately trying to catch John McCain's attention, and they're still running into the same problem that left them with a candidate so distasteful to them in the first place. They can't seem to pull it together and make up their minds.

The latest news: A group of 20 social conservative leaders has signed a full-page ad issuing dark threats if McCain picks Mitt Romney for his vice president. The irony: The group includes a former Romney supporter.

Paul Weyrich - founder of the Moral Majority - once supported Mitt Romney for president. Then Weyrich admitted before Religious Right leaders "and before almighty God" that he was wrong, and decided to join the campaign against Mitt Romney for vice president.

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Baffling, but Christian Right guru James Dobson has flip-flopped, too [see Focus response below]. First, Dobson said he would vote for a third party candidate if neither party nominated "an individual who pledges himself or herself to the sanctity of human life." Then Dobson said he would vote for (but not endorse) either Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee. After Romney dropped out, Dobson endorsed Huckabee --- too late to make a difference.

The GOP nominated a candidate with an unimpeachable pro-life voting record, but Dobson still isn't happy. He backed off his threat to vote third party and said he wouldn't vote at all this November. Then he changed his mind and said he will vote, despite the fact that McCain supports embryonic stem cell research.

But if McCain changed his position, would it help? It didn't help Romney. The whole thrust of the anti-Romney campaign is that Romney is untrustworthy because he reversed his positions on abortion and gay marriage.

On April 2, James Dobson told the Wall Street Journal, "I have seen no evidence that Sen. McCain is successfully unifying the Republican Party or drawing conservatives into his fold." Considering the wildly vacillating choices social conservatives have made this election season, maybe McCain is waiting for them to unify themselves first.

UPDATE: (From Gary Schneeberger, vice president of media and public relations for Focus on the Family Action):

The thesis of Alisa Harris' commentary is faulty - which might explain why some of her facts are, too. Central to her analysis is that socially conservative evangelicals all fit snugly under a single tent; problem is, that never has been accurate. Our movement is a vast and varied one - from political insiders who see pragmatism as the best way to effect long-term change, to more prophetic voices whose allegiance is to principles - not candidates, political parties or even election results.

It is into this second camp that Dr. Dobson falls. Ms. Harris accuses him of "flip-flopping" on the standards that will guide his voting this November. In truth, Dr. Dobson made it clear, speaking as a private citizen from as early as January 2007, that he could not support Sen. McCain's candidacy. He said the same of the candidacies of Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson later last year. He also said, as Ms. Harris notes, he would vote for a third-party candidate if both major parties nominated standard-bearers not committed to the sanctity of human life. That commitment to not cast a ballot for someone who would end preborn life has not wobbled one whit: certainly not in Dr. Dobson's indication he could vote for either Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee, the two candidates who unapologetically championed the pro-life cause; or in his endorsement this February of Gov. Huckabee, still in the race at the time.

It is also unfortunate that Ms. Harris states that Dr. Dobson remains unhappy even though the GOP, in McCain, has anointed someone with an "unimpeachable pro-life voting record." That is simply untrue. Sen. McCain led the charge in the Senate on two bills that would have allocated federal money for lab experiments on human embryos - tiny human lives which would have been killed after the tests were done. Thankfully, President Bush understood that you can't call yourself pro-life and abide the slaughter of nascent life in the name of suspect science. He vetoed the immoral legislation, knowing it would lead to cloning. Dr. Dobson agrees with the president's position, which is one of the reasons he is "still not happy" with the GOP's '08 nominee.

Still, Ms. Harris goes on to suggest Dr. Dobson recently told Sean Hannity he would vote for Sen. McCain anyway - evidence of yet another apparent flip-flop. In truth, what Dr. Dobson said on Hannity's America a few weeks ago was that he certainly would vote, but gave no indication for whom, emphasizing the importance of the candidates and issues down the ballot and expressing his belief that we have a God-given responsibility to let our voices be heard. Again, there is nothing inconsistent in these pronouncements.

Dr. Dobson has spent 35 years "in the arena," as Theodore Roosevelt said, defending the value of all human life and the importance of traditional marriage as a building block of society. He's taken his fair share of hits from the media (even the Christian media, including World) for the stands he's taken. Those positions spring not from expediency, but from conscience and principle. It is an honor to serve such a man, because he is the antithesis of a flip-flopper. He is guided by deeply held biblical convictions - and is unafraid to defend his beliefs against those who would mock or misrepresent them.

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