By Mark Kernes
WASHINGTON, D.C. — While the appearance of nine presidential candidates was the major coup for this upstart convention – this was only its second year of existence – there were plenty of other attractions for an undercover progressive at the 2007 Values Voter Summit.
Take, for instance, the panel titled "The 'Right' Women of the House," featuring two of the few conservative congresswomen who survived the 2006 election, Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Jean Schmidt (R-Oh.).
Of course, any panel on conservative women will feature reproduction issues, and right away, moderator (and Family Research Council Vice-President) Connie Mackey assured the crowd that in politics, "When you are not in line with a pro-abortion stance, you cease to be a woman."
Blackburn claimed that liberals are afraid to have children because "they fear having the responsibility of raising that child. Maybe they fear what is going to happen if they have to take charge and impart those values... I have one child that turned 27 and one who's turning 30 in a couple of weeks. I did not want it to take a village to raise those children; I wanted me and my husband" – the last words of that none-too-subtle slam of Hillary Clinton having been drown out by thunderous applause.
Schmidt was just a bit upset about "some school systems that actually want to give 11-year-old children contraceptives with or without parental notification. That's absolutely wrong... The other thing that I have a problem with is trying to mandate 11-year-olds to get that drug that they're trying to force on kids [anti-HPV vaccine Gardasil]. You don't know what effects that drug will have on children in their future, but more importantly, what's the message that sends to 11-year-old girls? Think about the message that it sends: 'We don’t trust you, so therefore we're going to protect you'? Again, it undermines women's rights, mothers' rights, parents' rights."
So what's the solution to rampant children's rights to contraception and even abortion? Well, aside from defunding Planned Parenthood, as Schmidt is trying to do in Congress, "That is why federal judges – good, Constitution-loving federal judges – are so very important. It's one of the reasons we're going to see such importance placed on our next presidential election, because who is sitting on the bench really matters," Blackburn assured.
The other answer, of course, was abstinence education, which Blackburn said was "important to women, to future generations and to our children in school," because, according to Schmidt, "among the things that happen to young women, when they are very sexually active, and active with more than one partner, they compromise their future health, and we know this: They get cervical cancer if they're sexually active." Apparently, the fact that giving "11-year-old girls" anti-HPV vaccines would prevent this wasn't a connection that a conservative congresswoman could make. And don't even get her started on stem cell research!
Schmidt managed to get the last word: "I want to speak more generally to next November's election, and how important it is that we stand behind whatever candidate comes out that will be [Hillary Clinton's] rival, and stand behind that man, whether we agree with all of their values or not, because if we don't, you will have that woman in the White House."
The Summit also featured a "debate" between conservative minister Dr. Richard Land and liberal theologian Jim Wallis, and it didn't take long before each marked his territory.
"We both agree that it is not whether faith should shape our public values, but how," Wallis said, suggesting the possibility that people of good character could have legitimate differences regarding religion in the public square ... but of course, Land was having none of that.
"Americans want to bring their faith to bear on public policy," Land claimed, and promised that they would do so when "we are free of our secular captivity."
That "faith," Land said, would help rid the country of, among other evils, abortion, gays and gay marriage, and bans on the 10 Commandments and prayer on public property and in public schools – and this despite the fact that a CBS poll of evangelicals revealed, according to Wallis, that the flock thought that fighting poverty was way more important than fighting abortion.
"I want to help poor children," Land claimed, "but I can't help them if they're killed before they're born... If mothers would marry the fathers of their children, that would eliminate more poverty than anything we could do."
"A world where half the people live in extreme poverty is neither just nor secure," Wallis retorted. "We must not pit the unborn against the poorest of the earth."
Hey, these guys couldn't even agree whether "the environment is clearly on the mainstream of the evangelical agenda" and should therefore be protected (Wallis), or "the Bible says the earth is for human betterment" and therefore, exploit away (Land). But is there any doubt about who got the most applause?
But it turns out that those damned "secular progressives" are everywhere. Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) founder Alan Sears related the story of Emily Brooker, who majored in social work at Missouri State University ... until her teacher gave the class an "outrageous assignment": "They were told to go out, display homosexual behavior in public, and then write about the experience."
A "stunned" Emily wound up faking her report, "made up the experience, made up the reactions of the people that supposedly watched, got her grade, and the professor was none the wiser." But when a professor during her senior year required the class to write letters to the Missouri legislature supporting same-sex adoption, that was the last straw: She refused ... and the prof filed a grievance against her with the university.
"For two and a half hours," Sears reported, "the faculty grilled her with taunting questions. They mocked her Christian beliefs. They bullied this young girl and poured out contempt on her personal convictions and her faith in God." She responded by suing, using free ADF attorneys ... and won!
"The school settled with Emily and landed on its own social work department like the Marines at Iwo Jima!" Sears exclaimed. "Problems in the department were so bad that the university decided to disband the entire department and rebuild a new social work program from scratch! ... It shows that when we fight, we can win!"
Author – and former unwed welfare mother – Star Parker spoke next, pontificating like a lay preacher in coming out four-square against anything that remotely sounded like "secularism."
"This battle is a battle of worldviews," she assured. "We have a secular worldview that is fighting against a biblical worldview... The biblical worldview is rooted in the kingdom of God and the secular worldview is rooted in the kingdom of man... This war has four fronts. One of those fronts is the family, and I'm telling you, the sexual revolution began at the same time that we were having a civil rights movement, and it hit black America hard.... Our politics, religious politics, is rooted in the color of our soul.... Redistribution of wealth is inconsistent with scripture. The Tenth Commandment says 'don't covet' and socialism is rooted in covetousness.... We have the body and blood of Christ; they have the body and blood of babies.... Hate crime legislation today has developed into the promotion of sodomy ... and affirmative action has developed into nothing more than the promotion of sodomy. The Lord was very clear about how he wanted us to govern our sexual behaviors and patterns, and the top three social problems confronting us as a nation today are due to sexual immorality: AIDS, abortion and the welfare state." (You knew she'd get around to sex sometime, didn't you?)
There was plenty more, and this woman didn't miss a trick.
An actual preacher spoke next: Rabbi Daniel Lapin, a former Afrikaner, and according to People for the American Way, is "one of the Religious Right’s favorite Rabbis for his efforts to broker an alliance between Jews and evangelical Christians over social issues."
"I know exactly what you're thinking," he began. "You're all saying to yourselves, 'What on earth is an orthodox Jewish rabbi doing in a room with nearly 3,000 Christians?'"
But they weren't; they already knew who he was: An unqualified Bush supporter, an apologist for Christians accused of anti-Semitism and head of an organization dedicated to "a partnering of Jews and Christians to strengthen America and its allies," among other things.
Lapin spent his 15 minutes trying to convince those few in the crowd who didn't already believe it that American law, and particularly the Constitution, is based on the Bible, right down to the Great Seal, declaring at one point, "The Bible is our blueprint, the bible fuels our faith, and the Bible powers the politics and the passion of our politics. Remember that politics is nothing more than the practical application of our most deeply held values."
"Obviously, it is important to all of us that homosexual marriage not become the law of the land," he continued without missing a beat. "Let me tell you, for every logical argument we can bring to show that it is a very bad idea, the other side, spreading the stain of secular socialism, will bring three better arguments that it's a very good idea, and then it's simply our argument against theirs. We believe that killing an unborn child is a terrible idea, and for every good, logical explanation we can give as to why it's a terrible idea, the other side, spreading their sordid stain of secular socialism, will find better arguments, and then it's nothing but their arguments against ours. In the final analysis, we have to have the courage to say that the reason homosexual marriage is something we oppose is because the Bible says so."
Not exactly an argument for separation of church and state, eh? But don't'cha just love that "sordid stain of secular socialism"?
Defeated Sen. Rick Santorum (R-www.spreadingsantorum.com) also got several minutes on the first afternoon of the conference, and he decided it was his job to tell the approximately 200 news reporters present "a little bit about us so they can report their stories accurately." (Of course, any "reporter" who needed that "help" would be fit only to report for supermarket tabloids.)
"The foundation of our country is a faith in the divine creator who made us in his image to know, love and serve him by loving one another," Santorum lied. "It is not man's perspective that is reflected in our founding documents; it is God's perspective.... It is not how man views freedom, which is simply to do whatever pleases you, but the Judeo-Christian perspective which tethers freedom with responsibility to someone or something greater and more important than the self.... This weekend you are here to determine who among those who seek to be the leader of this great ideal, America, is best able to shine the light in the darkness. Many in this room and across the country are concerned about whether there is such a candidate running for president in '08. Is there a candidate who truly shares our values? Is there a candidate who can convincingly articulate this worldview? The answer is, there must be, and we must fight to assure there is."
Yep, he's gotta be running!
Friday afternoon's final speaker was Paul Weyrich, founder of one of the seminal neocon organizations, Free Congress Foundation, and an early supporter of Mitt Romney – but today, his topic was the Fairness Doctrine, the prospect of the return of which didn't make him happy.
"There was a study produced by the Center for American Progress [CAP] and Free Press," Weyrich reported, "and this study purported to look at conservative talk radio, and it concluded that the owners of stations that carried conservative talk radio were not in the public interest, or at least were in a position where they ought to be reviewed."
"But let me tell you about this study," he continued. "It was made up of only 2.275% of the country's radio stations. There are 11,297 commercial stations in the United States. The main person who initiated this report was one John Podesta; you probably remember him from the Clinton administration. Well, he ignored 11,040 radio stations, roughly 98%, and since we're talking about talk radio, he ignored 80% of news-talk stations in the United States. He studied only 257 radio stations."
Of course, Weyrich omitted the fact that the analysis was only meant to cover conservative and progressive talk radio, purposely omitting sports and general talk stations from the study, and studied only stations owned by the top five commercial station owners – the ones with the heaviest market penetration in the U.S. – and oddly enough, the report concluded that 91% of the talk on those five owners' stations (2,570.25 hours) was conservative while just 9% (254 hours) was progressive – and that 92% of the stations studied (236) didn't broadcast one single minute of progressive talk!
"Here is the approach that these people have suggested [to rectify the imbalance]," Weyrich claimed. "If move-on.org or somebody else complains, you can lose your license, or if you would like to retain your license, here is what they suggest: You could just contribute between 3 and 8% of your profits to National Public Radio."
Um, no. What the report actually recommends is that ownership of radio stations by a single entity be capped at no more than 5% of total stations; that licensees be required to report publicly on how the station serves the public interest in a variety of areas – and that if stations refuse to abide by the guidelines, that a fine should be levied – they call it a "spectrum use fee" – which, yes, would go to public radio.
So, of course, Weyrich is going to come out with a "counter-study" that will undoubtedly obscure the findings of the CAP study, and he urged attendees to disseminate that to station owners.
After a rhetoric-filled speech by conservative radio talk host Mark Levin on Saturday morning – he claimed that 10% of Supreme Court justices have been senile; that we're fighting "7th century barbarians" in Iraq; that "we [conservatives] stand for the union members, they [liberals] stand for the union bosses"(!); and that "a moral order is the glue that keeps this society together" – came time for the Summit's most interesting panel, "Spin City: Countering the Media's Primetime Bias," featuring some of the wingnuts' best spinners: San Diego-based Limbaugh imitator Roger Hedgecock; Myrna Blyth, author of "Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness and Liberalism to the Women of America"; Wall St. Journal columnist John Fund; and National Review editor Rich Lowry.
"Spin isn't confined to the national media," Hedgecock charged, citing everything from the controversy over the Mt. Soledad cross to the fight over California's school curriculum anti-discrimination law.
For Blyth, Hillary Clinton's recent guest shot on "The View" was "a love fest; no tough questions," and she faulted a Newsweek cover story on "Women of Power" for featuring Arianna Huffington, "a woman whose politics has changed more often than her hair color."
"Women in media are a club," Blyth claimed. "They tend to agree with each other. They have great influence, because remember, women watch television, read magazines – they are the great consumers of media in this country, and the women who are what I call the 'spin sisters' tend to all agree with each other, only know women like each other, and therefore don't think they're biased. They really think they are kind of middle of the road, no matter how biased they may be."
Amazingly, no one thought to hold a mirror – or a copy of the daily Republican National Committee talking points – up to Blyth in response to that bit of hypocrisy.
According to Fund, a frequent Fox Noise Channel guest, "What's being practiced by some parts of the mainstream media is a form of psychological warfare." Seems he thinks that the liberal media "declare[s] the [presidential] campaign over before it even begins," and somehow convinces the overwhelmingly "center-right" electorate that they don't have to think about the issues.
"What happens here is not so much bias as it is an attempt to sort of demoralize the opposition," he concluded.
Lowry seconded the thought, claiming, "There are a lot of honorable reporters out there who are basically dealing with a cultural problem: They live and swim in and exist entirely in a liberal culture, and they do not know people who are like us, who think like us and believe the same things we do, so very often-times, they don't know their own biases."
He, too, could have used a mirror. But then again, he claimed to have a "Run, Hillary, Run" bumpersticker on his front bumper ...
One of the big draws that morning was the appearance of 80-year-old retired appeals court judge Robert Bork, who only confirmed, for anyone with ears to hear, how lucky the country is that this jackass wasn't confirmed as a Supreme Court justice.
Why? Check it out:
• "For social conservatives and values voters, among which I count myself, the crucial issue, I think, is which party is going to get to choose the justices for the Supreme Court, because our domestic culture, our domestic morality is being made by the Supreme Court; you all know that. Law is a crucial element of American culture and the rule of law is the foundation of our freedoms, and activist judges, of which we have a surplus, destroy that. Democrats are determined to appoint activist judges, who will enact, as if it were constitutional doctrine, the liberal left agenda. Consider what will happen if our next justices are chosen and confirmed by Hillary Clinton, Patrick Leahy and Harry Reid. There probably will be two to five vacancies, and you will get more and younger Ruth Ginsburgs and Stephen Breyers. The Court will be lost to values voters like ourselves for the next 20 to 30 years."
• "I need hardly remind this audience of where the activist Court has taken us so far. For one thing, as you know, religion is regarded as toxic and has become anathema. On the subject of religion and speech, we have now reached the point where the First Amendment has become farcical. Ted Olsen noted that the Court has simultaneously held that nude dancing is expressive – we need not ask what it expresses – and therefore constitutionally protected while high school students may not be allowed to pray before a football game that no one be injured. Ted said that since nude dancing is preferred to prayer as a form of communication, students should consider dancing naked before games."
• "Though the American people rejected the Equal Rights Amendment, Justice Ginsburg boasted that the Court had nevertheless read the substance of the ERA into law as effectively as if the American people had adopted it. The court has created special rights for homosexuals, and seems clearly on the way to making same-sex marriage a constitutional right. The Court now protects the rawest pornography as free speech and has created rules that make it virtually impossible to prosecute even obscenities." [Lie!]
• [Speaking of Rush Limbaugh] "I think there's a dangerous dislike of free speech, particularly on the left, and it's been a long time since the government attacked a private citizen because it didn't like his speech and it was too effective. That demonstrates an authoritarian mood in the Democratic Party not seen in America for a very long time." [Lie!]
• "But it appears there may be worse to come. The Court has begun injecting itself into our war against radical Islam. This is unprecedented judicial imperialism which, if it continues, will surely hamper our war efforts and will needlessly cost military and civilian lives."
["Our war against radical Islam"??? Thanks, Bork, for confirming the rest of the world's deepest fears that the U.S. is actually on a religious crusade in Iraq!]
• "Andrew McCarthy, who is a superb commentator, reminds us that the Founders designed a Constitution that left the conduct of war to the President.... McCarthy writes, 'Judicial gutting of presidential discretion in the collection of foreign intelligence is not an aberration; it is of a piece with judicial usurpation of the Commander-in-Chief's discretion to manage the confinement and trial of enemy combatants, of the Commander-in-Chief's discretion to determine the parameters of the battlefield and the president's discretion to interpret treaties.' The Supreme Court, in defiance of every understanding of the Geneva Conventions, which clearly does not apply to al Qaeda, the Supreme Court nevertheless rewrote, in effect, the Geneva Convention so that it did apply to enemy combatants."
Jesus! Did Bork actually just say he would have given Bush carte blanche to do anything he wanted with the Iraqi and Afghani prisoners of war?
Bork also opposed Republicans defecting to some third-party candidate, because if a Democrat wins the presidency, "[it] will mean that for 20 or 30 years, Roe will be entrenched and will not be overruled, and all of the other kinds of decisions I've cited will be entrenched and further outrages will be performed."
After that, what is there left to say ... except that perhaps progressives would be wise to take brain-case San Diego talker Laura Ingraham's advice to conservatives from later that afternoon, when she channeled Cher's character in Moonstruck, telling the audience, "My message to you today is, 'Snap out of it!'"
Because if the "values voters" – or at least their handlers – know one thing, it's that The War is coming home.
And progressives should know that if they don't win that war at the ballot box, they'll have to win it in the streets.