Archive for the 'Democrats' Category

Few Social Conservatives Joining Dobson On The Bus To Political Oblivion?

October 20, 2007

Over on Flapsblog earlier this week, “FullosseousFlap” makes the observation that the one thing that all the stink being raised by James Dobson, Richard Land, Tony Perkins, Richard Viguerie, the Salt Lake City Group, and now Randall Terry about Rudy Giuliani’s likely nomination for President next year will prove is that these self-appointed spokespersons for the religious right really don’t have much of a constituency. According to Flap:

[Their collective opposition] has neither deterred voter support for Mayor Giuliani nor scared GOP operatives to rally behind another GOP Presidential candidate. Moreover, the Dobson, Viguerie, Land Salt Lake Group group appear to be splitting their own constituency.

But the situation is not a simple confrontation between the Christian right and Giuliani. The Gallup [polling] data suggests that Dobson and the Salt Lake City group may be out of touch with rank-and-file churchgoers. A well-known social conservative, who asked that his name not be used, is disturbed by Dobson saying he could not vote for Giuliani under any conditions. Apart from being the lesser of two evils against Sen. Hillary Clinton, Giuliani seems to be the positive choice of millions of religious Americans.

Let me suggest as a rank-and-file churchgoer that I believe this comment is correct – Dobson, and the others, are out of touch. Most conservative Christians understand the difference between the ideals of the heavenly kingdom and the realities of the kingdom of men; that purity in politics is never going to be found; that settling for less than what one would want in politics is always the way it works in politics; that getting 80% or even 50% of what you want in politics is better than getting zero. When is anything in life perfect? These self-appointed “leaders” are allowing the “perfect” to be the enemy of the possible.

So Rudy Giuliani isn’t a stereotypical pro-lifer. I’m still waiting for Dobson, or Land, or Perkins to explain why that should matter. The mature pro-life supporter will conclude that the choice next year will be between Rudy and Hillary, and rather than stomp off in a huff, one will have to seriously consider how to keep the pro-life agenda moving forward, if that is the priority. With Rudy Giuliani opposed to expanding Medicaid-funded abortions beyond the restrictions of the Hyde Amendment, his opposition to funding abortion services in foreign nations, his support for parental notification on abortions for minors, his support for the ban on partial-birth abortions, and his promise to appoint conservative justices to the courts, he’s giving us pro-life voters precisely what George W. Bush gave us in 2000 and 2004. Most pro-life Christians I know understand this.

The mature, thinking, pro-life voter knows what’s at stake and will vote for Rudy. Dobson won’t get most of us to join him on his bus ride over the cliff and into the political abyss. And the polls seem to indicate that the real stress lines this election year are not between Rudy Giuliani and conservative Christians, but between Dobson, Richard Land, Tony Perkins, and others of their ilk, and conservative Christians. Maybe these self-appointed “leaders” will, through their short-sightedness, render themselves irrelevant for this and every election in the future.

Greg Alterton


Hillary’s (Ahem…) Experience

October 18, 2007

I liked Mayor Giuliani’s response to the question about Hillary’s “experience” during Sean Hannity’s interview with Judith and he the other night. (Rudy and Judith on Hannity Part 3 of 3) “What experience?” was basically his response.

Hillary’s trying to parlay the fact that she hung around the West Wing for eight years with no real responsibility and no legal authority, as her “experience.” And if we’re to believe the polls, many voters are swallowing that line. Mayor Giuliani should use Hillary’s “experience” ruse to his advantage. In the general, he should ask Hillary what her advice was when American interests were being hit about a half dozen times by terrorists during Bill Clinton’s tenure in office; what counsel she gave as the US economy started to sink into recession in 2000; what authority she had to do anything during those eight years?

Bill Clinton’s presidency was one of the most frivolous and inconsequential presidencies in modern times. Does she want to take credit for that? If anything, her “experience” in the Clinton White House should disqualify her from having the presidency on her own.

Greg Alterton

“Moral Equivalency” Charge Indicates Lack of Moral Discernment

October 15, 2007

The hyperventilating among our more strident social conservative brethren over Rudy Giuliani’s likely nomination to be the 2008 Republican candidate for President has now officially gone from “hysterical” to “surreal.”

Two weeks ago, Focus on the Family’s James Dobson declared that none of the leading Republican candidates for the nomination were pure enough to earn his support, and he floated the possibility that he and other old-guard social conservatives might opt to supporting a third party candidate. Who that candidate might be, Dr. Dobson didn’t say, and frankly, one doesn’t easily come to mind. A third-party possibility has since been dismissed by more thoughtful conservatives, being characterized as “irresponsible” by Pat Shortridge at “Truth vs The Machine,” as reported in the previous entry to this blog.

But not to be outdone by Dobson’s tantrum, Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council (not, as one blogger noted, the actor in such movies as “Psycho,” “The Edge of Sanity,” and “I’m Dangerous Tonight”) gave an interview published in Newmax this week in which he declared that “GOP presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani is virtually ‘indistinguishable’ from Hillary Clinton on core social issues.”

More red meat for the strident right.

As the aforementioned Pat Shortridge wrote in his article,

Off the top of my head, here’s a quick list of reasons why, if he is nominated, I would support Rudy Giuliani and actively work for him against Hillary Clinton, especially with Democrat majorities in the House and Senate:

  • Hillary Clinton appoints 2-3 liberal activists to the Supreme Court and makes hundreds of
  • lower court appointments.
  • Hillary signs government run health care.
  • Hillary signs expansion of taxpayer financed abortion and a repeal of the partial birth abortion ban.
  • Hillary signs massive new taxes and spending.
  • Hillary is Commander-and-Chief in a time of war.
  • Hillary presides over more government control of education.
  • Finally, look at any survey of “Most Important Issue” among conservatives. Life and marriage isn’t in the top three. The War, the Economy, and Health Care all prevail, even among the most conservative voters. Even more crystal clear is the phenomenon I noted in an earlier post: many conservative, pro-family voters cast ballots for very socially liberal candidates in the ’06 elections.

    Pro-life, pro-marriage conservatives care deeply about winning the war on terror, job creation, health care costs, education, wasteful spending and taxes – issues where Rudy probably has the most stalwart combination of record and issue positions in the Presidential field — in addition to life and marriage.

    Add to this rationale the solid reasons why social conservatives can and should support Rudy Giuliani, given by Bill Simon, the GOP candidate for governor of California in 2002, and himself a social conservative:

    Those who remember New York City prior to Rudy’s tenure may recall its depraved state. Prostitutes and porn shops lined Times Square, the center of the city. Violent criminals ran roughshod over defenseless tourists and residents alike, turning America’s most recognizable city into what some called the crime capital of the Western world. Drug dealers, beggars, the infamous “squeegee men”—they all contributed to the moral decay of what was once a proud, vibrant, quintessential American city. And over one million New Yorkers — one of every seven residents — was on welfare.

    But Times Square is a dramatically different place today, as is almost all of New York. That is no accident. Rudy systematically went after the root causes of the dramatic social decline that had occurred in New York, and he did it successfully.

    I guess in Tony Perkins’s book, improving the cultural environment of a major city by getting rid of prostitution and porn don’t count as “socially conservative” acomplishments.

    And on the all-important issue of judicial appointments – all-important to the progress of pro-life objectives – Simon continues:

    …the primary battles on the life issue are being fought in the courts, and the ultimate determination regarding our nation’s policy on abortion will come from the nine Justices of the Supreme Court. We have made tremendous progress over the last six years in populating the Federal Judiciary with judges who are committed interpreting, not inventing, the law — with the culmination of that effort being the confirmation of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito. That is progress we simply cannot afford to lose. Rudy Giuliani, relying on the advice of such conservative legal stalwarts like Ted Olson, Miguel Estrada, and Steve Calabresi, will appoint strict constructionist judges in the vein of Roberts, Alito, Scalia, and Thomas. I assure you that’s not the type of justice we’ll get out of another Clinton administration.

    Rudy has also pledged to uphold the Hyde Amendment’s restrictions on the funding of abortions here at home, and the Mexico City Policy, ensuring that taxpayer dollars will not be distributed to non-governmental organizations that perform or promote abortions overseas. He supports parental notification laws and agrees with the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the partial-birth-abortion ban

    With Mr. Perkins’s admission that he is unable to discern a distinction between Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani on social issues, we have the ironic situation of a spokesman for a conservative values organization basically saying he lacks moral discernment in declaring Hillary and Rudy to be “morally equivalent.”

    At this point, I would think that Mr. Perkins, as well as Dr. Dobson, would be more concerned with their own reputations as “values” leaders – the fact that their ability to make thoughtful, discerning judgments regarding Hillary Clinton and her likely opponent, Rudy Giuliani, seems to be so lacking.

    Greg Alterton

    “The Height of Irresponsibility”

    October 11, 2007

    Following the Dobson Third Party fiasco at the end of last month, political experts and conservative pundits are increasingly coming out against the silly notion of a third party run against Giuliani.

    Pat Shortridge at Truth vs. The Machine calls an anti-Giuliani third party run the “height of irresponsibility,” and very intelligently articulates the reasons pro-lifers should rally behind Giuliani in his recent article:

    In the case of whether conservatives should support Rudy or back a third-party candidate, Dobson, Viguerie, Weyrich, etc, could not be more wrong.

    First of all: Is conservatism so weak, is its hold on the GOP so tenuous, that nominating a social moderate is the end of both the conservative movement and the Republican Party?

    Only a seriously declining movement would be so threatened by the prospect of nominating Rudy Giuliani. The Republican Party is, and will continue to be, a conservative party. Though, if it doesn’t get its house together in quick order, fiscal and economic conservatives will continue to abandon it at an alarming rate.

    Supporting a third-party candidate who will get 3-8 percent of the vote and allowing Hillary Clinton to be elected President is the height of irresponsibility.

    Off the top of my head, here’s a quick list of reasons why, if he is nominated, I would support Rudy Giuliani and actively work for him against Hillary Clinton, especially with Democrat majorities in the House and Senate:

    • Hillary Clinton appoints 2-3 liberal activists to the Supreme Court and makes hundreds of lower court appointments.
    • Hillary signs government run health care.
    • Hillary signs expansion of taxpayer financed abortion and a repeal of the partial birth abortion ban.
    • Hillary signs massive new taxes and spending.
    • Hillary is Commander-and-Chief in a time of war.
    • Hillary presides over more government control of education.

    Read More>>

    Next, RealClearPolitics contributor Tony Blankley explains how we can remain 100% committed to our pro-life values and still vote for a candidate who may not personally think 100% like we do:

    It is the same argument that Barry Goldwater made so many years ago, when he told the conservatives of his time to grow up politically and not always threaten to walk off with the ball when they didn’t like every play their team called. Only a supreme dictator can get everything he wants out of politics. For the rest of us, politics is a team sport. Even vastly popular presidents — from FDR to Ronald Reagan — had to compromise on things they felt passionately about.

    And whether one is a Washington professional or a citizen voter, anyone who considers himself a person of good conscience must have the courage to judge whether the net effect of his political decision advances his moral objectives.

    Politics is the zone where one’s religious and ethical habits are not always the only and best guides. We can make a 100-percent commitment to, for example, obey our marital vows or adhere to the teachings of our churches — and consciously strive never to fall short.

    But in the practicality of democratic elections, we cannot make such a similar commitment to every one of our governing ideals. Elections are very specific and limited choices between different outcomes. The decision not to vote or vote for a third-party candidate with no hope of winning is itself a moral choice for the outcome such a vote will effectuate. People of conscience will have to decide whether feeling pure by voting “none of the above” is the highest ethical act or not.

    Read More>>

    W. James Antle III writes for the American Spectator about how the “third party” talk by the more extreme Christian right elements is actually marginalizing the entire social conservative community:

    Ever since James Dobson threw down the gauntlet against the Republican Party nominating a pro-choice presidential candidate, the focus has been on the intransigence of the religious right. Obdurate evangelical zealots are said to be tearing down GOP frontrunner Rudy Giuliani and paving the way for Hillary Clinton’s presidency.

    [Rudy Giuliani is] simply not your father’s Rockefeller Republican and cannot be campaigned against as such. On taxes, spending, and healthcare he is running well to Huckabee’s right. His record in New York City contains conservative accomplishment on crime, tax cuts, and welfare that few of his rivals can match.

    Giuliani has cleverly pitched himself as the Republican best equipped to confront two challenges that concern religious conservatives: Hillary Clinton at home and radical Islam abroad. Combined with assurances on judges and exceedingly minor rightward adjustments on abortion, he hopes to win at least a critical mass of social conservatives.

    So far, these efforts are paying off. According to a Sept. 28 Gallup poll, Giuliani wins plurality support from self-described conservatives and voters who attend religious services regularly — even though large majorities of both groups prefer other candidates.

    Read More>>

    Others have also chimed in, like Steve Kornacki at the New York Observer, who points out that the vast majority of social conservatives are far more realistic and level-headed about politics than Dobson and co.:

    Forget the endless talk about a mutiny from the right: Most “social conservatives”—a term that casts a much wider net than most analysis allows for—have been in awe of Rudy Giuliani for six years now and would be plenty comfortable with him leading the fight against Hillary Clinton.

    Read More>>

    Will Pro-Life Voters Follow Dobson Into the Political Abyss?

    October 4, 2007

    Over at, writer Dan Calabrese states in his own persuasive way the same points we have been making here a, that while social conservatives should agree with the public policy ends we seek, there are different means toward that end, and we should not become absolutist about the means. In other words, pro-life goals may just be advanced through the judicial philosophy of a President Giuliani, but will never be advanced by a President Hillary.

    Calabrese’s article is worth reading in total, but here’s an extended excerpt that gets to the point:

    Rudy Giuliani, who has an excellent shot at the GOP nod, does not toe the Dobson line, and refreshingly declines to pretend he does. Giuliani does not view the issue as a high priority in his presidential campaign. Nor should he. The only thing a president can do to impact the abortion issue is appoint Supreme Court justices who may or may not vote to overturn Roe v. Wade when considering a case that may or may not come before the Court. And when a president appoints a new justice, he should not do so on the basis of how that person may vote on a specific, hypothetical case that may never even come up.

    In other words, if you want to end abortion, it is hard to think of a bigger waste of your time than to try electing a president of the United States who agrees with you. Having the pro-life George W. Bush in the White House has not prevented a single abortion. Electing Rudy Giuliani would not cause a single abortion – although, if he stays true to his word and nominates a justice along the lines of John Roberts or Samuel Alito, Giuliani could, without seeking to, go down in history as the president who toppled Roe v. Wade.

    But none of this matters to James Dobson. After a meeting last week with a few of his fellow travelers, Dobson and crew decided to issue a statement that, if Giuliani is nominated, they will “consider” running a third-party candidate. Why merely consider it? Probably because they haven’t yet thought of anyone they can talk into doing it, although it’s just as likely they are crying wolf to try to influence the primary process.

    Either way, they are giving Hillary Clinton the gift that will keep on giving. Dobson himself has declared that he would “waste” his vote on a fringe candidate or sit out the election entirely before he would vote for Giuliani. Fine. Free country, buddy. But if many others follow his lead, it could be enough to put Ohio or Missouri into the Clinton camp, and that could be enough to put her in the White House. If Dobson finds a third-party candidate with any viability whatsoever, it would almost guarantee that Clinton wins the presidency.

    First, it is indeed a free country, and anyone can decide to throw away their vote on some kamikaze candidate if that’s their choice. But this isn’t the attitude that supposed “leaders” are to have. Dobson aspires to influence people in their political views and expressions, and yet the leadership example he’s providing is to stomp off in a childish snit and cut your own wrists.

    Secondly, if Dobson does this, and Ohio and Missouri, at least, end up in Hillary’s camp, we will have James Dobson to blame for the Hillary Presidency, and all the damage she will do to this nation. How does this scenario help the pro-life position?

    Greg Alterton

    Will James Dobson Split the GOP?

    October 1, 2007

    James Dobson is at it again.  After blacklisting virtually the entire Republican field of presidential candidates, the founder of Focus on the Family is continuing to shift his focus away from the family and onto presidential politics.  Dobson met with about fifty powerful Christian leaders in Salt Lake City earlier today, including 2000 presidential candidate Gary Bauer and the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, to discuss the possibility of supporting a pro-life third party candidate should Giuliani earn the Republican Party’s nomination.  The group met unofficially under the umbrella of a powerful, secretive organization called the Council for National Policy.  The group was formed in 1981 by “Left Behind” author and pastor Tim LaHaye as a non-profit organization to benefit the public good, but over the years has gradually become more and more exclusive and tight-lipped about its internal goings-on.

    While the group houses some extremist wings of Christian conservatism (i.e. theocrats and Christian Reconstructionists, who advocate abolishing the U.S. Constitution and replacing it with ancient Biblical Law), that is only one wing of the organization.  There are many intelligent and reasonable figures in the group who care more about lowering taxes and reducing the size of the federal government than they do about establishing a neofascist theocracy in the States, and many members who are quite friendly toward Rudy Giuliani in particular (televangelist Pat Robertson, anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, and NRA Exec. VP Wayne LaPierre being notable examples).  However, James Dobson has arisen as a sort of leader of a more extreme brand of CPN’s conservative Christian movers-and-shakers who would actually advocate introducing a third party candidate who would have basically the exact same platform as a Republican nominee Giuliani, but would just be farther to the right on the abortion issue.

    First of all, the CPN’s own description hails itself as a “an educational foundation organized under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code” that explicitly does not “support candidates, or issue public policy statements on controversial issues.”  So, perhaps, Dobson and Co. should be careful where they tread while meeting under the umbrella of the CPN.

    Second of all, the folly of a major third party conservative candidate who would basically be a carbon copy of Rudy Giuliani, except for being to the right of Rudy on abortion, should be self-apparent, but apparently it’s not.  At least not to people like Dobson, Perkins, and Bauer.

    It should be understood that the office of the United States President has remarkably little influence on abortion policy.  Of the few things that a Commander in Chief can do on the issue, signing the rare pro-life legislation that happens to come through the Oval Office, putting conservative justices on the Supreme Court, and using the bully pulpit and sparse powers to generally discourage abortion and promote adoption as an alternative are about it.  The most important of those tasks is arguably the appointment of Supreme Court justices.  But other than that, the real battle for the lives of the unborn is taking place not in the White House but in the minds and hearts of individuals across America.

    Yet, even in those rare areas of overlap between a President’s constitutional powers and the realm of abortion policy, Rudy Giuliani, though personally pro-choice, sides with conservatives on every policy matter.  The former Mayor has voiced outspoken support for keeping the Hyde Amendment and Mexico City policy (which ban virtually all federal funding for abortion) in tact, enforcing parental notification laws, and keeping the landmark Partial Birth Abortion Ban law on the books.  And, of course, on the key issue–that of judicial nominations–Rudy lets us know exactly what kind he’ll appoint: strict constructionists (a judicial perspective which almost invariably leads the perspective-holder to oppose Roe v. Wade as unconstitutional).  And just to be sure there’s no confusion, Rudy has specifically named John Roberts, Sam Alito, and Antonin Scalia as “ideal” justices.  And just to be sure that we’re sure, Rudy also formed a judicial advisory committee to guide him on such matters that includes such sterling names as former Solicitor General Ted Olson (recently considered for Atty. Gen. by Bush), Michael Mukasey (recently picked for Atty. Gen. by Bush), Steve Calabresi (founder of the Federalist Society), Miguel Estrada (2001 Court nominee), and Maureen Mahoney (commonly known in conservative circles as “the female John Roberts”), among many others in that stripe.  Finally, Rudy isn’t just settling for the status quo, but is making a promise to significantly reduce abortions in America by working with faith-based groups (like, oh, say, Focus on the Family perhaps?) to promote adoption instead of abortion and to make sure pregnant women are fully-informed before making a decision.

    So, wait, if Rudy Giuliani wins the Republican Party nomination, James Dobson is threatening to organize an effort to support a third party candidate who would be virtually identical to Rudy Giuliani on presidential policy matters, including abortion, with the only difference being that this third party candidate would get to those same policy conclusions as Rudy by a political reasoning that was just more in line with James Dobson’s?


    Seeing how ridiculous this is, yet?  If not, think about what it could mean.  If enough conservative votes are siphoned from Giuliani, we’re going to get a Democrat in the White House.  One who will probably not sign the Hyde Amendment or the Partial Birth Abortion Ban law if it comes across their desk.  One who will pack the Supreme Court with liberal justices, setting pro-lifers back decades on the quest against Roe.  One who will offer platitudes about abortion unfortunately being a necessary evil, but will have no motivation to actually try to reduce abortions.  All this to stop a President Giuliani, who will defend all of the hard-earned successes of the pro-life movement in the last 30 years, who will put more Robertses, Alitos, and Scalias on the Court, and who won’t just say that abortions should be “rare,” but will actually do something to make them rare (and will even get federal abortion statistics up to date so the American People can hold him accountable on this promise!).

    People like Dobson must come to understand that the abortion issue isn’t just politics.  It’s not just some battle of abstract ideas.  There are actual, real, living, thinking, feeling human lives at stake, here!  Throwing a temper tantrum (which is exactly what this is) by using your vast wealth and influence to sabotage the significantly more pro-life-friendly of the two major American political parties, just because your favorite candidate didn’t win would be a disaster.  And it will not be nearly as much of a disaster for the GOP as it will be for millions of unborn children across America who would be spared the fate of abortion under a President Giuliani, but not under a President Rodham.

    Perhaps we forget that even Abraham Lincoln did not originally favor the passage of federal laws to abolish slavery.  While he was personally opposed to slavery as a matter of private choice, he for a long time felt that the institution was a necessary evil of sorts that would have to be gradually phased out over a long period of time.  Even in the early stages of the Civil War, Lincoln thought it would be unconstitutional for the federal government to mandate the immediate abolition of slavery.  Though Lincoln said he personally “hated slavery,” he for a long time thought it practically necessary to keep legal (sound like anyone else we know?).

    Basically, what James Dobson is proposing doing today would be the equivalent of if the Radical Republicans in 1860 had run a major third party right-wing candidate in opposition to the fellow right-wing Abraham Lincoln just because he wasn’t a hardcore enough abolitionist.  Imagine if they had actually done this and John Breckenridge had been elected President instead of Abraham Lincoln.  This country would likely be a very different place today if that had happened.

    The importance of the Republican Party remaining both the pro-life party and the big tent party cannot be overstated.  The GOP must remain united, even if Rudy Giuliani is nominated.  Why?  Because Rudy Giuliani sides with pro-lifers on all the actual policy matters that a United States President can touch, even if he gets there through a different line of reasoning.  That’s the whole meaning of the big tent party!  We can have people with different views, but ultimately, our goals point in the same direction.  And that is the only way we will ever see our goals accomplished.  Pro-lifers will see much of their hard-earned success erased away if we disunite.

    And yet, Rudy Giuliani is not the real danger here.  Almost every poll shows that Rudy remains the favorite of we evangelical and social conservative voters.  As he should.  Rudy Giuliani is our best hope to continue the success of the pro-life movement.  If you were to ask me what I really believe, I don’t think a third party challenge by an uber-pro-life candidate will cost Giuliani the general election when all is said and done.  I think pro-life voters are sophisticated and intelligent enough not to embark on such a stupid venture.  And I should know–I speak with average, normal pro-life Republicans every day, and, heck, I am one.  The vast majority of pro-lifers who are motivated enough to get up and go to the ballot box are also motivated enough to really think objectively and pragmatically about their best option in 2008.

    No, the real danger is not Rudy Giuliani.

    The real danger is, surprisingly, people like James Dobson.  Big-wigs like Dobson have political power, influence, loads of money, and probably most importantly, spiritual and emotional sway.

    Rudy Giuliani will not split the GOP.  But James Dobson might.

    Josiah Schmidt

    What Is A “Social Conservative?”

    September 28, 2007

    This blog and accompanying website is entitled “So-Cons for Rudy.” There has been a lot of consideration given by the media, with no little head-scratching, trying to figure out why social conservatives would, or should, support Rudy Giuliani for President. He’s supposedly “too liberal” on social issues. So, how does one explain the apparent disconnect between supposedly supporting conservative values in society, and supporting a candidate for President who doesn’t fit cleaning with those conservative social values?

    The body of posts to this blog and to the website address that question, but as one who considers himself a social conservative, let me define what I think the term means.

    I believe that our nation, our system of government, and our freedoms were built upon the exercise of personal responsibility. The nation protects liberty, not license, and a society reflecting a “do your own thing” set of values will be coercive to the nation. I agree with John Adams who wrote, “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.” But I believe, ultimately, that the character of the nation isn’t determined by those in power, but by the character of the people themselves. Of course, the character of the people should be reflected in the character of the people we elect to public office, but the character of the nation cannot, ultimately, be something that is imposed from the top down.

    And this is where I probably part ways with many of my social conservative brethren. Many social conservatives believe that government should reflect traditional, even religious values. I believe that our society, made up of hundreds of millions of people, should reflect traditional, even religious values…but only if there’s a traditional-values consensus within the society. These values cannot, ultimately, be imposed from the top down by government policy or edict. Yet many social conservatives think they can, and should. Ultimately, however, it isn’t the power of government and politics that will change people’s hearts, and hence the values in our society. And, so, for the important task of forming the values inherent in the society, as a Christian, I trust in the gospel of Christ, and the working of the Holy Spirit, not in the platform of the Republican Party or the values of a few key office holders.

    So, why am I, a social conservative in the tradition of the Founders, supporting Rudy Giuliani for President? My blog entries here answer that question, but to address it briefly:

    • Because Rudy is the most conservative person in the race. His record as mayor shows that he governed with conservative principles, and that he is willing and quite able to fight for those principles, successfully so, and that he did this in an extremely liberal city such as New York inclines me to believe that he’s up to the task to lead this nation.
    • I support Rudy Giuliani because, while many people have fallen asleep on this point, we’re still a nation at war, working here and abroad to assure America’s security against Islamist terrorists. Rudy Giuliani clearly understands this, and is, in my opinion, the only one who can refocus the nation’s resolve on this issue.
    • Finally, I think Rudy stands the best chance of beating Hillary Clinton. For me, the most important “traditional value” in this election is keeping the Clintons out of the White House. In this, I believe that social conservatism should, ultimately, be pragmatic. 

    On a personal note: I have worked in government relations and politics for the past 34 years. Thirty-five years ago, in college, I came to Christ, expressed faith in who he is and what he did on the cross, so I’ve spent my entire professional career considering how my faith impacts, or should impact, the arena I work in.

    A number of years ago, I was asked to speak to a group of students from a number of private Christian high schools who had come to Sacramento for a week-long Model Legislature. I was asked to talk about the role of Christians in politics and government. What I told them is that the role of Christians who in government is the same as the role of Christians who are lawyers, teachers, doctors, engineers, or greeters at WalMart – to reflect the fruit of the Spirit and the character of Christ; to treat people with respect and deference; to conduct oneself with civility, honesty, and integrity; to approach one’s profession with the spirit and attitude of a servant; to bless one’s enemies and not curse them. If Christians do that, they will have a far greater impact for good in this country, and for the advance of Christ’s kingdom, than they will in pushing any particular political agenda. My observation is that many of my socially conservative brethren have lost sight of this.

    Greg Alterton

    Democrats Court Conservative Evangelical Voters

    September 25, 2007

    Newsweek (Oct. 1) is running an article about how Democrats are attempting to reach out to conservative evangelical voters as a way of diluting what has been one of the most solid voting blocks for Republicans over the past 28 years.

    This is really not that surprising. What I find astonishing is the reaction of certain so-called evangelical leaders. To quote from the article:

    Richard Land had never met one-on-one with a chairman of the Democratic National Committee. The Tennessee evangelist, an influential force in the Southern Baptist Convention, generally views such people as adversaries, if not enemies. So consider his surprise when, at a nonpartisan leadership conference over the New Year’s holiday, Howard Dean leaned in and said he’d love to get together for a private chat. Land agreed to meet for coffee at a downtown Washington hotel. He was wary: “I brought a witness,” he jokes now. Dean was there to chip away at Land’s loyalty to the GOP, and strangely, Land found himself warming to the liberal Democrat.

    What impresses Land most about Dean? That he apparently carries his own luggage!

    Among other things, he [Land] admired Dean’s frugality. “He hauled his own suitcase around, and the Capitol Hill Suites isn’t exactly fancy,” Land tells NEWSWEEK. “I was impressed.”

    The article continues:

    Front runner Rudy Giuliani leaves conservative Christians particularly cold. “If the Republicans are foolish enough to nominate the pro-choice Giuliani, that will give the Democratic Party license to hunt for evangelical votes,” says Land, who has been contacted by both the Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton campaigns. “I don’t know how successful they’ll be, but at least they’ll have that license.”

    So let me get this straight: Richard Land, and his ilk, oppose Rudy Giulani – Rudy, who has pledged to appoint conservative judges to the federal judiciary (which, if memory serves, was quite enough reason for pro-life voters to support George W. Bush in 2000); Rudy, who supports parental notification prior to minors getting abortions; Rudy, who supports the restrictions on federal funding for abortion embodied in the Hyde Amendment; Rudy, who more than most pro-life office holders actually reduced the number of abortions while mayor of New York City by increasing adoptions in the city – these self-appointed champions of “traditional values” oppose Rudy, and yet they are willing to consider the possibility of voting for a candidate from the “Party of Death,” the party of abortion-for-convenience, the party that imposes a pro-abortion litmus test on judicial nominees?

    As we have argued on this blog, one can still be a social conservative and support Rudy Giuliani. Support for Rudy doesn’t mean we give up our efforts to change the nation’s policies on such issues as abortion or Roe v. Wade. It simply means that we’ve taken a pragmatic and realistic view of the upcoming election, and see a different means to the ends we all support. But this willingness to be schmoozed and courted by the political party that is the embodiment of everything we oppose, is beyond reason. Frankly, when it comes to “single issue politics,” my “single issue” is keeping the Democrats out of the White House.

    Since the disastrous results of the 2006 election, I’ve been toying with a hypothesis that American conservatism, at least on the national level, at the level of Washington politics, is something of a spent force. Supposed conservatives in Congress couldn’t seem to hold the line on all sorts of spending, including “pork” for pet projects; couldn’t bring President Bush’s more conservative judicial nominees to a vote in the Senate, despite the fact that the GOP enjoyed a majority in that house (couldn’t seem to grow a spine, in other words); have for years given lip-service to the pro-life agenda, but done precious little to advance that agenda. The failure of American conservatism to produce an appealing, articulate, and visionary leader since Ronald Reagan is testimony to the vacuum of leadership within conservatism in this nation.

    Conservatism on the national level appears to be fatigued, intellectually. And now, as reported by Newsweek, conservatism seems to be losing its moral foundation as well.

    Greg Alterton

    Anti-Roe and Pro-Rudy

    September 14, 2007

    Excellent article in the New York Times today by Eric Johnston.  He takes a fascinating new perspective on the pro-life case for Rudy Giuliani by arguing the point that Rudy will be able to present an anti-Roe case from a democratic perspective, and might just help shake up the popular thinking that being anti-Roe is simply a “Christian thing.”

    TO the disbelief of the political class, Rudy Giuliani still leads the polls in the race for the Republican nomination for president. Mike Huckabee, John McCain, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson seem unable to compete with conservative affection for a thrice-married, twice-divorced, socially liberal New Yorker.

    Perhaps I can help alleviate the pundits’ bafflement. I am a fervent pro-lifer, and I like Rudy Giuliani. And it’s not because, as some suggest, I think national security is more important than abortion. I think Mr. Giuliani will be the most effective advocate for the pro-life cause precisely because he is unreligious and a supporter of abortion rights.

    Read More>>

    A Singular Issue: Why Abortion Shouldn’t Doom Giuliani’s Campaign

    July 22, 2007

    In June, Ramesh Ponnuru, a writer for National Review Online, explained in an article entitled “A Singular Issue: Why Abortion Should Doom Giuliani’s Campaign” why he thinks Rudy Giuliani’s stance on abortion alone should be enough to “doom” his chances at earning the Republican presidential nomination.   Ponnuru has four main concerns about a Giuliani nomination that he lays out in great detail: (1) Ponnuru feels Giuliani has not sufficiently reached out to pro-life Republicans, (2) Ponnuru feels Giuliani’s record is unredeemably pro-choice, (3) Ponnuru doesn’t trust Giuliani to put conservative judges on the Supreme Court, (4) Ponnuru thinks nominating Giuliani will cost the GOP votes in November 2008 because of Giuliani’s personal pro-choice stance.  However, each of these concerns can easily be allayed by simply looking at the facts.

    Meeting Us Half-Way

    Ponnuru stated in his article that he felt Giuliani’s nomination should come by meeting pro-life Republicans half-way.  If Rudy should win the nomination, he “wanted it to come only after [Rudy] had sweated blood trying to appeal to us.”  He (as all of us do) want Giuliani to reach a “modus vivendi” with pro-lifers.  This seems like a perfectly reasonable request.  However, when one looks at where the presidential candidate Giuliani is now and all that he’s already said and done on abortion, one gets a feeling of bewilderment at what exactly Ponnuru wants from Rudy.

    Giuliani has already promised to uphold the Partial Birth Abortion Ban, uphold the Hyde Amendment (which bans almost all federal funding for abortion), appoint conservative judges in the mold of John Roberts and Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia, and make the reduction of abortions and the promotion of abortion-alternatives like adoption a key goal of his administration.  Rudy Giuliani has made it clear that he knows he’s in the minority in the GOP when it comes to abortion, and has gone to great lengths to assure pro-lifers that he’s not going to try to change the party platform, as well as the fact that he’s not running to advance some liberal social agenda.

    Really, Giuliani has been working like crazy to build bridges, stake out common ground, and reach lots of important modi vivendi with social conservatives, many times going into the heart of pro-life fortresses like Houston Baptist Seminary, often for the primary purpose of discussing issues like abortion specifically and at-length.

    In fact, Rudy has even made fighting abortions and promoting abortion-alternatives like adoption one of his 12 core campaign commitments.

    It seems as though Rudy has been making all the right gestures for Mr. Ponnuru short of simply taking the exact same view on abortion that Mr. Ponnuru has.

    Also, Ponnuru doesn’t take into account just how early it is in the presidential campaign season.  Rudy has hardly had a chance to develop his relationship with pro-lifers and social conservatives–he’s only just begun opening campaign offices and hasn’t even aired any commercials yet!  Perhaps Mr. Ponnuru is jumping the gun (just a little?) in pointing the finger at Rudy for not having offered enough outreach to pro-lifers at this early stage in the campaign.  He needs to keep in mind that the primaries are months away, the campaigns are just now picking up speed, and Giuliani hasn’t addressed the abortion issue as fully as he is going to.  Giuliani is intelligent, he knows he’s not going to get a free pass from pro-lifers and it is unimagineable that he does not plan to make a stronger appeal to pro-lifers and build more bridges with the pro-life movement.  Even if his general campaign strategy is to consolidate economic and defense conservatives first, he knows he’s not going to slip through the cracks of pro-life Republicans.

    Partial-Birth Abortion

    Ramesh Ponnuru’s essay goes on to question Giuliani’s character on account of Rudy’s apparent support for keeping the partial birth abortion option available to women.  Ponnuru states: “Our society is not so far gone that people cannot grasp [the] horror [of partial birth abortion].”  Ponnuru states that even many of those who are pro-choice in the first trimester of pregnancy oppose partial birth abortion and he implies that the fact that Giuliani didn’t strongly oppose partial birth abortion as Mayor means Giuliani is morally “far gone.”

    While I personally happen to be as opposed to partial birth abortion as Mr. Ponnuru, perhaps it is best we put the procedure in its proper context for the benefit of our readers:

    The vast majority of partial birth abortions actually take place in the fifth or sixth months of pregnancy, and so-called “late term” partial birth abortions are, in reality, relatively rare.  We also have to understand where Rudy is coming from on the abortion issue, and when we do, we see that Giuliani, a person of equally good intention as any of us, has come to this conclusion through what is to many people a logical, moral line of reasoning.  One doesn’t have to agree with Rudy on this one particular bit of philosophy (I don’t), but understanding his view will help one see that Giuliani is not the sinister politician Ponnuru makes him out to be.

    Giuliani’s take on abortion is that the decision of whether or not to have an abortion is based on each individual’s personal religious belief in when a human achieves personhood, or a “soul,” and Rudy believes the government should not legislate one particular moral/religious belief over another.  For instance, the traditional Jewish belief is that full life/personhood is not achieved until a child is born.  Because of advances in science in recent years that have shown that humans can be medically dead while their hearts are still beating and/or lungs are still breathing, the definitive line that separates “alive” and “not alive” in the scientific medical community has become brain wave activity, something that begins around the fifth month of pregnancy, meaning that many partial birth abortions (which most often take place in the fifth month or earlier) are performed before the baby is technically “alive” under this view.  These are all rational, understandable viewpoints, whether you agree with them or not, and people who adhere to them are not necessarily monsters.

    We can disagree with Giuliani’s stance, but suggesting (however subtly) that Rudy is somehow morally depraved to the point that he cannot be classified in the same group as “people of generally sound mind and good will” is a bit over the top.  Giuliani’s view is based on the foundation of moral libertarianism–that the determination of personal moral/religious beliefs regarding the meaning of life and the existence of souls shouldn’t be decided by the federal government–the same view espoused, for the same reason, by Barry Goldwater (the founder of modern conservatism) and Gerald Ford.  We can disagree, but it’s just that–a single point of disagreement–and it must be considered in the full context of what a President Giuliani would actually do about matters of policy like the Hyde Amendment, Supreme Court nominations, etc.

    Ponnuru also takes issue with the fact that Giuliani supports the current Ban on Partial Birth Abortions, while he declined to support a similar proposed ban in 1999.  Giuliani states that he supports the current ban because it contains a clause that allows abortions in cases where they are necessary to protect the life of the mother, while the old proposed ban was inadequate in that respect.  “Aha!” Ponnuru points out that the ’99 ban did include a “life of the mother” clause.  And Ponnuru is right.  However, the missing “life of mother clause” issue Giuliani brings up refers to the added phrase “including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself” in the sentence: “This subsection does not apply to a partial-birth abortion that is necessary to save the life of a mother whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.”  Perhaps Giuliani spoke too simplistically in saying that he didn’t support the 1999 Ban because he wanted a “life of mother” clause, when in actuality, he was referring to the concern that the original “life of mother” clause was inadequate, because it could be interpreted to not cover the justification of the procedure when a “physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself” is the problem.

    Surprisingly, after complaining that Giuliani had not moved close enough to the pro-life movement, Ponnuru then turns around and attacks Giuliani as a flip-flopper for coming out against partial birth abortion.  But even if Giuliani has inched closer to the right on the partial birth abortion issue, why should that be used as a talking point to attack Giuliani?  Such a minor shift in opinion, if it was even a shift at all (more like a shift in emphasis), hardly constitutes a “flip flop” or undermines Rudy’s sincerity or political authenticity, especially when compared with the fact that virtually all the other Republican candidates have also inched to the right on abortion in recent years as more information on the issue has become readily available.  Giuliani himself has been perfectly honest about the fact that he’s been gravitating rightward on the abortion issue, often candidly stating that his position on abortion has “evolved” somewhat over the years.

    Rudy’s Record On Abortion

    Ponnuru attacks Giuliani’s use of the fact that during his tenure, New York City abortions (and, importantly, Medicaid-funded abortions) dropped more steeply than the national decline, while adoptions increased 133% faster during Giuliani’s 8 years than the previous 8 years.  Ponnuru cites the fact that Giuliani probably didn’t set out to specifically achieve those goals, and that, rather, the abortion drop and adoption increase were probably incidental effects from the overall rise in economic prosperity and the standard of living resulting from the Mayor’s toughness on crime and economic conservatism.  However, just because Rudy didn’t specifically set out to achieve those goals in the beginning of his last administration doesn’t mean that he can’t notice and learn from those phenomena and then seek to actively replicate them (this time on purpose) in his next administration.

    Ponnuru also goes after the fact that as mayor, Rudy did nothing to promote abortions, saying that because NYC abortion laws were already so lax, the only thing Rudy could have done to promote abortions would have been performing them himself.  Mr. Ponnuru, however, is mistaken.  He fails to note the night-and-day contrast between how Mayor Giuliani handled the abortion issue and how Giuliani’s predecessor and successor (Mayors Dinkins and Bloomberg, respectively) have handled the abortion issue.

    While Giuliani incidentally caused abortions to drop, his predecessor Mayor Dinkins fought to keep abortion clinics open when the possibility arose of closing some of them, in 1991 went out and organized a coalition of 30 mayors from around the country to push the federal government to legalize the RU-486 abortion pill, proudly proclaimed that “there is no mayor in this country who has done more for support of freedom of choice!”, and ironically attacked Giuliani for not being pro-choice enough in his 1989 and 1993 campaigns, citing the fact that Giuliani has questioned Roe v. Wade’s legitimacy and that as a Southern New York prosecutor Giuliani often fought pro-abortion policies.

    Likewise, while New York’s Conservative Party Chair Mike Long has stated that he never remembers Giuliani once promote the abortion issue and didn’t know of any Giuliani initiative that advanced abortion, Rudy’s successor Mayor Bloomberg has actively sought to unseat pro-life politicians and told pro-choice voters not to vote for pro-life candidates period, went to great lengths to ensure that the Plan B abortion drug is available at every public hospital in the city, even issued an executive order requiring abortion training to be included in all OB/GYN residency curricula at the city’s public hospitals, began a $3 million campaign to increase access to “emergency contraception,” publicly encouraged New York Gov. George Pataki to sign legislation that would allow “emergency contraception” to be sold without a doctor’s prescription, and recently had NARAL praise his pro-abortion policies as “unparalleled” in NYC mayoral history.

    The dissimilarity between the personally anti-abortion but pro-choice-as-a-matter-of-policy Mayor Giuliani and the thundering pro-abortion crusaders that his predecessor Dinkins and successor Bloomberg have been could not be more unmitigated.

    What A Giuliani Nomination Actually Means

    The other contrast that couldn’t be more stark is that between a Republican nominee Giuliani and a Democrat nominee.  Ponnuru fears the GOP nominating Rudy will put the Republican candidate and the Democratic candidate in complete agreement on abortion (the only difference Ponnuru feels worth pointing out is that Rudy thinks the states should decide the issue, while the Democrat would think it should be decided on the federal level), but Ponnuru overlooks the key dissimilarities: Rudy has made fighting abortions a core component of his campaign platform and has vowed to uphold the Hyde Amendment and Partial Birth Abortion Ban, while Democratic candidates have pledged to vastly increase access to abortion and have vehemently opposed Hyde and the PBA Ban.  Rudy would fight to put more Scalias on the Supreme Court, while a Democrat would fight to put more Ginsburgs on the bench.

    And perhaps the real icing on the cake for pro-lifers is the fact that Giuliani will (must) pick a pro-life running mate.  While Rudy probably will not get into the messy business of talking about potential VPs at this stage of the campaign, come Convention day, if Rudy is the nominee, there will be a pro-life running mate at his side.  Giuliani knows that if the ticket isn’t balanced in this crucial way, he cannot hold together the social conservative coalition.  Together, Rudy and his running mate will emphasize their plan to fight abortion, push adoption as an alternative, and fill the Supreme Court with conservative judges.

    Ponnuru’s fears about a Giuliani nomination are understandable, but a little bit overhyped when taken in historical context.  The GOP’s nomination of Barry Goldwater in 1964 and that of Gerald R. Ford in 1976 didn’t set a precedent for pro-choice Republican nominees, and neither will that of Rudy Giuliani in 2008.  In fact, immediately after Ford’s nomination came the nomination of Ronald Reagan in 1980, who was arguably the most vocal pro-life nominee in GOP history.

    The real question Ponnuru fails to answer is: How will having Giuliani, a Republican presidential nominee who is really quite moderate on abortion, but stands down on the abortion issue and promises to uphold the Partial Birth Abortion Ban, the Hyde Amendment, appoint strict constructionist judges in the stripe of Roberts/Alito/Scalia/Thomas, and make reducing abortions and promoting adoption a key goal of his administration, and who (very importantly) will be running with a pro-life running mate, give pro-lifers “no representation” at the level of presidential politics?  Perhaps a nominee Giuliani would give pro-lifers less (“less,” not “no”) of that superficial kind of rhetorical representation that presidents like Bush offer when they give the obligatory speech to March for Life and things of that nature, but hardly would a Giuliani nomination give “no representation” to those of us opposed to abortion.

    Think about it.  On all the most vital issues that pro-lifers have worked so hard to achieve (the passage of the Hyde Amendment, the Partial Birth Abortion Ban, and most importantly the nomination of strict constructionist judges to the Supreme Court who can one day overturn Roe v. Wade and send the abortion issue back to the individual states), we would have in Rudy, quite possibly, the strongest representation at the level of presidential politics that we pro-lifers have had in a decade.  Not even Bush 41, Dole, or Bush 43 have placed as much emphasis on the importance of conservative judges and making concrete statistical reduction in abortion a key goal of their administration as Rudy has in their respective campaigns.

    Ponnuru pontificates: “The abortion lobby would not be alone in declaring the Republican party to have capitulated to this [pro-choice] consensus [that Roe and abortion are a settled matter] with Giuliani’s nomination.  So would neutral observers; and even some pro-lifers would give up the fight.” Now, no sane observer would declare the nomination of Giuliani to mean that a pro-Roe v. Wade “consensus” had suddenly arisen in the GOP.  Based on what Giuliani has already been through, and what he will surely go through in the near future, observers realize that Giuliani’s strength among Republican voters is based on his outstanding articulation of conservative principles and record on a wide range of conservative issues, not because of his personal pro-choice views.

    In fact, suggesting that we pro-lifers would “give up the fight” if Giuliani was nominated is actually a severe insult to us.  It suggests that the convictions of the pro-life movement are so fragile that the moment we don’t have a Republican presidential nominee who scratches us behind our ear and claims to agree with us 100% on every issue, we’ll stop fighting for the lives of the unborn.  It implies that pro-lifers care more about access to powerful pro-life politicians than we do about taking actual action to fight abortions in America.  Ponnuru should be careful with what he insinuates in statements such as these.

    And if all this is not enough, Ponnuru’s concerns over how committed Giuliani is to nominating truly conservative judges to the Supreme Court should be more than allayed by Rudy’s recent announcing of his judicial advisory team.  Rudy’s top-notch group has been called a conservative judge dream team, with many of our favorite picks for future Supreme Court nominees in it, including Miguel Estrada (2001 Supreme Court nominee), former Solicitor General Ted Olson, Federalist Society Co-Founder Steve Calabresi, former Deputy Solicitor General Maureen Mahoney (frequently nicknamed “the female John Roberts”), and many more.  If Ponnuru, or any social conservative for that matter, has any doubts that when Rudy says he is committed to nominating and fighting for strict constructionist judges on the Supreme Court, they need look no further than this sterling list of Rudy-supporters (and potential Supreme Court nominees in a future administration).

    How (Or Who?) To Win The General Election?

    Finally, Mr. Ponnuru expresses his concern that nominating a Republican who is personally moderate on some social issues but whose strengths lie in economic conservatism will lose a bloc of socially-conservative-but-economically-liberal voters who have been key to getting Bush elected.  First of all, the existence of such a nebulous group of capricious voters who are socially conservative and economically liberal but, in the end, will vote for the person they think is the ‘better Christian,’ and second of all, this bloc of voters’ influence on the election is pretty hard to discern, and relies basically on what statistics and/or polling data you choose to use.  The truth is, the effect is more the opposite.

    Ponnuru implies that the GOP should sacrifice its commitment to economic, governmental, and defense conservatism for the sake of social conservatism, when necessary to win elections.  However, this theory is blind to the following fact: it was the very carrying out of such an approach over the past decade that resulted in the devastating losses the GOP suffered in Congress in 2006.  The GOP’s fixation on such issues as kicking gays out of the military and civil service, banning flag burning, and keeping brain-dead patients on life support, while at the same time allowing their ranks to be poisoned with corrupt lobbyists, producing record amounts of earmarks and pork barrel spending, and allowing the rise of the biggest and one of the most inefficient and unaccountable federal bureaucracies in American history, has already disasterously damaged Reagan’s Republican coalition that put 3 of the last 4 Presidents in the White House.

    Neither Rudy nor I are saying that abortion should be left off the table this election cycle and pro-lifers should be sidelined, but we have to understand the newly discovered political principle that, while focusing simply on banning gay marriage might ‘mobilize the base,’ it polarizes America.  We need to mobilize America and we can only do that by restoring a government that is accountable to the people, that spends our tax money wisely, that allows us as much personal freedom as possible and gives us the opportunity to make our own success, and that keeps us safe by retaining a strong posture on the international stage.  Rudy Giuliani is just the man to do that, and his personal stance on the singular issue of abortion should be taken in the context of all those things.

    Josiah Schmidt