Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Tower Of Babel, Revisited

It was endorsement week this, er, week in the 2008 Republican presidential primary race. However, it mattered far less to the candidates than it did for what it indicates about what is shaping up as the fall of the "religious Right".

Mitt Romney got the ball rolling by announcing a flurry of endorsements from several evangelical figures of varying levels of notoriety:

Before Mr. Weyrich, Mr. Romney had lined up endorsements by social conservatives like James Bopp Jr., a well-known abortion opponent; Jay Sekulow, a prominent Christian conservative; and Bob Jones III, chancellor of Bob Jones University. But Romney lacked the backing of an elder statesman of the religious right, which Mr. Weyrich is considered.
I'll acknowledge that Weyrich is a pretty high-profile score for Romney, who also picked up the ducat of "esteemed scholar/theologian Wayne Grudem." The quotes aren't a knock on Mr. Grudem, but an acknowledgement of the fact that I appear to have gotten a bit out of touch with who the current "leaders" of the "Christian conservative movement" are. A rather odd affectation for an evangelical, I suppose; we're all supposed to drag our knuckles in lockstep, to hear the lib-pagans tell it, but there you are.

What I do not acknowledge is that the Weyrich endorsement is going to assist the ex-Bay State governor much, if at all. That's largely because in this election cycle, the "leaders" of the "religious Right" have scattered themselves to the proverbial four winds.

On Wednesday, Kansas Senator (and "evangelical leader," which is how he'd be described if he wasn't in the Senate) Sam Brownback, aka "Senator Switchback," aka Joe Biden's Iraq partition plan poodle, finally scraped together enough sense to quit his own presidential bid, and then squandered it on an endorsement of fellow-non-entity and Senate colleague John McCain, on whose immigration shamnesty bill he never could make up his mind. I'm not sure why Brownback thought his endorsement would make the slightest smidgen of difference, or why he swerved to "Sailor" after flirting with Rudy Giuliani, or why the ASSociated Press thinks that he's a "favorite of evangelical Christians," but that made the score Romney 1, McCain 1.

Ah, but don't fret, Rudy fans, your guy got the biggest-name evangelical endorsement of all:

Pat Robertson, one of the most influential figures in the social conservative movement, will announce his support for Rudy Giuliani's presidential bid this morning in Washington, D.C., according to sources familiar with the decision.

Robertson's support was coveted by several of the leading Republican candidates and provides Giuliani with a major boost as the former New York City mayor seeks to convince social conservatives that, despite his positions on abortion and gay rights, he is an acceptable choice as the GOP nominee.

It also slows any momentum for Mitt Romney within the social conservative movement. Romney had recently secured the backing of conservative stalwarts Paul Weyrich and Bob Jones III -- endorsements that seemed to strengthen his bid to become the electable conservative alternative to Giuliani. Romney had made no secret of his desire for Robertson's endorsement and has to be disappointed this morning.

The other major effect of Robertson's support for Giuliani is that it will quiet talk in social conservative circles that nominating Giuliani would lead "values voters" to abandon the Republican Party. The stamp of approval from Robertson should assuage the doubts of many (although certainly not all) of the rank-and-file social conservatives.
I gotta admit, this one mystifies me. I can see why Rev'rund Pat would endorse Ready Freddie, who has always been pro-life and otherwise socially conservative (his federalist streak not withstanding); I can see why he'd go for Romney, as the aforementioned Mr. Bopp makes a compelling case for the Mittster's "conversion" on moral issues; and I can certainly see why he'd choose Mike Huckabee, given that the man who should be running for the Senate against Mark Pryor instead of the White House he'll never attain is, after all, an ordained minister. On the other hand, I can't fathom any circumstances under which Robby would ever get behind the Arizona Maverick behind sheer shock value.

But Rudy? The man who is trying to make a virtue to evangelicals of being honest about his paganistic backing of abortion on demand and sodomarriage? The man who continues to claim that he'll appoint judges in the mold of Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito yet persists in dodging the question of whether or not he thinks Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided on the legal and constitutional merits? The man who is nonetheless leading with the assertion that we can "trust" him on these, and therefore other, issues (i.e. tax cuts, market economic policies, smaller government, border control, and of course, winning the war)? THAT is who, and what, the CBN founder is signing off on?

Chris Cillizza seems to think that Robertson's endorsement still carries great weight in evangelical circles. Admiral Morrissey disagrees. Ditto the Praetor of the Romneylan Empire. For what it's worth, I lean toward the latter two blogfathers on that question.

The more interesting question is not how getting free 700 Club coffee mugs helps America's Mayor, but what Robby's "breach of faith" says about him. Is he convinced that Rudy is inevitable? That he's the only one who has a chance of averting President Rodham, and the sort of judicial mini-me's she'd appoint, particularly to the SCOTUS? Or is it all about Revrund Pat wanting to make himself politically relevant again by picking the winning horse, after which he can claim the after-the-fact mantle of "king-maker"?

What do I think? Read the polls. Robertson's too old to want to waste time with what he sees as lost causes. He's jumped on the bandwagon he thinks has the best shot at moving into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue after the Bushes move out. He's towing a ride back to prominence on the back bumper of the Rudy Express, and hoping he can ignore the pro-choice stickers that'll stare him in the face all the way there.

The score? Oh, of course: Romney 1, McCain 1, Giuliani 1.

So who does that leave out? Well, Jerry Falwell and D. James Kennedy have gone home to glory. That leaves....

Dr. James Dobson, who has largely been made irrelevant to the 2008 Republican presidential race, has apparently found his man, and according to an adviser, is ready to change the landscape of the Republican nomination race.

"He is the leader of the evangelical and social conservative movement in America, and he's going to reassert that position and leave no doubt that he's in charge," says the adviser based in Colorado.

Sources close to Dobson say that within the next ten days he is coordinating an endorsement plan with the presidential campaign of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. According to a Huckabee insider in Iowa, the event would be staged in that state at a rally, followed by a bus tour across the state, and an appearance by Huckabee on Dobson's radio show, which is heard nationally.

Dobson's endorsement, according to the Huckabee source, could mean millions in fundraising to the campaign, allowing it to compete at the same level with the top tier candidates Huckabee has been inching toward in the polls after a series of strong debate and campaign appearances."It would help us get to the Thompson-McCain level if not higher," says the source. "Dr. Dobson's endorsement means that much."

Dobson's endorsement might also create a domino effect, as other evangelical and social conservatives have largely been withholding their endorsements, in part out of fear of angering Dobson and his many supporters who also fill crucial slots in other social conservative organizations run by such prominent leaders as Gary Bauer and Tony Perkins. Both men have been assisting multiple campaigns, with Bauer recently saying that he was providing advice to just about every campaign that sought his counsel.
Well, I guess Dr. Dobson is trying to get out in front of where the dominos are already falling. Too bad for him they're falling all over the place rather than in the direction he has belatedly pointed. It's kind of like the pooper-scooper naming himself grand marshall of a big parade.

Or perhaps when the tune stops in a game of musical chairs. With Weyrich tackling Romney, Brownback grabbing McCain, and Robertson latching onto Giuliani, Dobson's choices, and therefore chances of standing out, were rapidly dwindling. At least his opting for Huckabee is spiritually consistent, even if politically more than a little quixotic. He's not all that much younger than Robby, after all. I guess that's what you get when you threaten to lead the entire Christian Right out of the GOP and hardly anybody, including those who're supposed to be walking out behind you, even notices.

If there's any humor in any of this largely pointless deck chair-shuffling, it's that Team Huckadoodle is so overjoyed at just the rumor that Dr. Dobson may be coming aboard that they're already running with the endorsement before the Focus on the Family founder has officially bestowed it. Dobson's people have even started to backpeddle a bit, though I think that ship has already sailed. However, if he does want to pull a Brownback, he can always come on over to the "real conservative". I'm sure Senator Thompson would be pleased to have him.

So that makes the current score: Romney 1, McCain 1, Giuliani 1, Huckaplucka 0.5.

But for the late, great, once-vaunted "religious Right"? It's a complete wash.

Maybe my guy is the only one emerging unscathed.

UPDATE: Alright, FDT has picked up Richard Land and Tony Perkins. And please don't exclaim, "Who the heck are they?"

UPDATE: Okay, I admit it, I ran out of time before another award-deserving excursion into blogcast adequacy, and left off some of the right-wing reactions to Pat Robertson's endorsement of abortion on demand and sodomarriage.

Actually, it was pretty muted, for the most part. Gary Bauer, president of American Values, past president of the Family Research Council, a presidential candidate himself back in 2000, and one of the "evangelical leaders" who hasn't picked a horse yet (which I take it means that he's still intent on walking out of the GOP, only now he'll get to hold Jimmy Dobson's Moses staph), said virtually nothing about Robby's curious selection, or about the ability of the Church, Political to unite behind the eventual Republican nominee - unless it's Rudy:

“He’s the toughest candidate to do that on. It would require a sell job that goes beyond anything he’s done up until now. It probably would mean very specific assurances on a handful of key things that people that would want to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt. But I think it can be done.”

Not terribly difficult translation: If Rudy wants broad-based evangelical support - which is to say, the magnitude of GOTV "ground game" that President Bush enjoyed in 2004, among other things - he'd better drop this "I'm an honest pagan, so you can trust me to govern against that grain" angle.

I can just see it now: evangelicals - practically the only GOP constituency that remained loyal to Bush 41 a decade and a half ago, yet still got blamed for his 1992 defeat - take a walk on Rudy next year, and any of us that have not walked out of the party over Giuliani's nomination will be driven out by the avenging, brethren-blood-smelling Rockefelleroids over his general election defeat to another lying traitor named (through Election Day, anyway) Clinton. A fate of that general nature is what Laura Ingraham is anticipating:

Yep, good times, gooooood times.

Of course, we could always nominate Ready Freddie and have the best chance at beating back the Abomination of Defecation. "Odd" that that isn't occutring to more Pachyderms; disquieting that there's only a couple of months left for that occurring to start, um, occurring.