March 11, 2007

I am kind of enjoying this

Well, not really. But it seems funny that religious conservatives are bending over backward to make sense of Rudy Guliani, Mitt Romney, or the dark horse candidacy of Newt Gingrich. After all those tirades about "family values" I am watching a religious movement implode. Power, it seems, is not only a temptation to liberals and secularists, but to people like Dobson and Falwell. And having experienced 6 years of elevated power, these two political hacks can't give it up easily. I wonder if there is a 12 step program for political power addiction. Of course, if there was, Dobson would bow out and send his friend Ted Haggard through the program.

But if Newt is the candidate, then the religious right has indeed become a complete and utter joke. Nothing remotely connecting it to values or morals or even theology will remain.
Will confessing to James Dobson help Newt Gingrich's campaign? - By John Dickerson - Slate Magazine: "Gingrich argued that he wasn't a hypocrite for pushing for Clinton's impeachment while having an affair. 'Perjury is at the very heart of our legal system,' he said of the 1998 House proceedings. 'I [had] no choice except to move forward and say that you cannot accept ... perjury in your highest officials.' (This is apparently not true for conservatives railing against Scooter Libby's conviction for perjury and obstruction of justice.)"
Redemption and forgiveness reduced to political tactic, not only by Gingrich, but by Dobson and Falwell. And Jabba Falwell has already forgiven Newt:

"He has admitted his moral shortcomings to me, as well, in private conversations," Falwell wrote in a weekly newsletter sent Friday to members of the Moral Majority Coalition and The Liberty Alliance. "And he has also told me that he has, in recent years, come to grips with his personal failures and sought God's forgiveness."

Gingrich, 63, who served as Republican speaker of the House of Representativesafter leading the party to its first House majority in 40 years, has been married three times. He has supported a family-values agenda as a candidate, and his two divorces have sparked reports of extramarital affairs as well as charges of hypocrisy from critics.

Jabba is so close to Bush that he now uses the same "insight" that our leader applied to his friend Putin--he can look into people's soul and determine their genuine faith.
Falwell, in his newsletter, said he has usually been able to tell when a man who has experienced "moral collapse" was genuinely seeking forgiveness. "My sense tells me that Mr. Gingrich is such a man," he wrote.

If this were not so serious, it would be funny. The entire moral framework of Christian conservatives has been reduced to a house of cards. Free to chastize any other for sins--especially sexual, they have decided to offer absolution to conservatives who will reward them with favors. Falwell actually defends this latest move by referencing Reagan as the first divorced candidate, and now the religious Christianists are working to elect the first candidate with multiple divorces and they are the party of family values?

Please understand, I am not anti-divorce, though I recognize how difficult it is on those who experience it. I have no idea if those divorces make Newt or Rudy bad candidates. But the religious right asserts that it speaks for God and truth and the Bible. You don't get to shake your finger self-righteously at Bill Clinton for infidelity and then reward Newt for even more infidelity.


Tony said...

I find this equally amazing. It seems the balance of power has tipped and now Falwell et. al. are gasping for air.

With Clinton it was in the name of "values." With Newt, it is in the name of "love and forgiveness."

No thank you.

steve s said...

Hypocrisy in a politician...who'd a thunk it?

I guess my expectations are just so low that I am never disappointed.

P M Prescott said...

What they will have an even harder time explaining is why Newt quit and left the party in the lurch. Will he bail out of the Presidency the first time he runs up against criticism? or the next affair?

Cold In Laramie said...

Streak, Doesn't the alleged conversation/confession between Gingrich and Falwell read like a "death-bed" confession? In other words, it really does not matter how you act, as long as one "confesses" and "repents" before death (or running for President)? Again, I am not the best person to discuss religious matters, but these were my thoughts.

steve s said...

I don't see Newt as someone that can get the nomination. He is probably in a tie with Ron Paul.

As for the implosion of the religious right, I think you are being presumptive. One of the great joys of our two-party system is that we often has to chose between the lesser of two evils. As the saying goes, politics makes strange bedfellows. I believe that the religious right allies themselves with the republican party because:

1. They will support more of their policies.

2. The republicans are less hostile to religion.

I am not suggesting that the democrats don't have policies that religious people care about or that they all hate religious people. I am saying that the republicans have done a better job at courting the religious vote.

As a result, the religious right will put up with a fair amount from republican candidates as long as they believe that candidate will support most of what they want.

I remember during the Clinton/Lewinsky affair that there was no outcry from women's groups at what could appear to be sexual harrassment (huge difference in power). Are those groups hypocrites? Maybe, but they still needed to work with Clinton to get legislation passed that was important to them.

Streak said...

The Clinton chronicles rise again. SOF asked how I would respond to Falwell about forgiveness. I said that Clinton asked for forgiveness as well--and she noted that Falwell would deem his as fake. Because .... I don't know, I guess Falwell can read hearts and minds. Of course, who am I to say? Perhaps Bill really didn't mean it when he asked for forgiveness, but I find the serial divorcer Newt equally questionable.

BTW, Steve, the issue here is not really political hypocrisy, but religious. I know politiicans lie--but it never ceases to amaze me how duplicitious and hypocritical so-called moral voices can be.

I think CIL raises an interesting question--though it is still one biased to one political party. Bush got the evangelical vote because they forgave him his misspent youth as a spoiled and destructive rich kid--because they accepted his born again story. But they have not extended that forgiveness to anyone else, because they are political rather than religious leaders. Only the people sending them money don't seem to know that. Or care.

And Steve last point is important. I know that people align themselves with those closest to their values, but the religious right has gone further. They don't just say, "I am voting for these republicans because they vote closer to my values" they say that they will assert politicians who "are their values." Which would be fine, except they never follow through. The same people who lectured liberals like myself about Clinton have been nearly completely silent about the corruption train wreck that is Tom Delay. Those same "Christians" had nothing to say about torture except "that is probably bad and we probably shouldn't do that." When asked if they would put pressure on Bush, they were silent.

My point is that their credibility is shot. Gone. Once they hitched their star to the moral voice of Bush, Cheney, Rove and Delay, they became political hacks who happen to quote the Bible a lot.

I don't doubt those same hacks will continue to serve as pimps for the Republican party. But the more they make excuses for the likes of Newt Gingrich, they lose credibility among the religious right--or at least those who actually believe the crap they are spouting.

steve s said...

Streak, who is the religious right? I think you are making this group more homogenous than they really are. If Jerry Fallwell or Pat Robertson say something it doesn't mean it is believed by all the religious.

Streak said...

A fair question, and I am sure that Tony would agree with you that this is a bad measure. After all, he is a conservative Southern Baptist who agrees with me more on policy than Jerry Falwell.

But that said, there is a group--a self-identified group who listen to James Dobson on the radio, watch Pat Robertson on the 700 club and vote according to who these religious leaders endorse.

But even if I don't identify them as following these particular people, let's look at the numbers. Somewhere around 65% (top of my head) of white evangelicals voted for Bush in 2000. That number went up close to 70% in '04--which is after we learned about torture, Abu Ghraib and had the first inkling that the war was not going well. In 2006, after Katrina--after more torture and more of the administration trying to say they don't torture at the same time they are trying to make it legal--those same white evangelicals voted for Republicans at only slightly lower numbers than in 04. Everyone else has fallen off. Bush's own support hovers between 29% and 32% positive, but those white evangelical numbers hardly budge.

And when they are polled, they say something about moral values. Or like Richard Land, they assert that Bush has actually been a values oriented President. Yet, he has torture, endorsed torture, has undermined the constitution, has endangered several hundred thousand American troops and who knows how many innocent civilians. But the evangelicals only get mad if Bush is nice to gay people, or hesitates on abortion.

So, you can see where I am frustrated. I know that this brush might be little broad, but the image reflects some real voters. Real people who listen to everything that Falwell, Dobson, Robertson and D. James Kennedy say. And then vote.

steve s said...

I would agree that there are people that vote for the candidate that Falwell and Robertson tell them to vote for.

In my grad school days I participated in some social psychology research. It was fascinating and I was amazed at what they were able to come up with in terms of predicting behavior. On the other hand, I also learned that statistics and especially polling data can be easily manipulated and misinterpreted. The fact that a high percentage of evangelicals voted for Bush may be due to some other factor than their religious beliefs. A better measure would be to find out what percentage of them were fans of Falwell et al and voted based on what they said.

As for statistics, I found some data that said evangelical support for the war dropped from 87% to 68% from 2003 to the beginning of 2006. It is probably even lower now. Additionally, the percentage of evangelical voters for Bush in 2000 and 2004 remained close to 36%, but Bush saw his biggest rise in support among infrequent churchgoers.

Another intersting stat from the PBS show Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly says that a majority of evangelicals views Fallwell unfavorably. I don't know what the numbers are for Dobson and Robertson, but it seems clear that evangelicals are not as big of fans of their "leaders" as some may think.