James Dobson: I won’t support Fred Thompson

I find today’s story that James Dobson states that he won’t support Fred Thompson interesting for a number of reasons …

In a private e-mail obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, Dobson accuses the former Tennessee senator and actor of being weak on the campaign trail and wrong on issues dear to social conservatives.

“Isn’t Thompson the candidate who is opposed to a Constitutional amendment to protect marriage, believes there should be 50 different definitions of marriage in the U.S., favors McCain-Feingold, won’t talk at all about what he believes, and can’t speak his way out of a paper bag on the campaign trail?” Dobson wrote.

“He has no passion, no zeal, and no apparent ‘want to.’ And yet he is apparently the Great Hope that burns in the breasts of many conservative Christians? Well, not for me, my brothers. Not for me!”

The first thing that came to mind when I saw this story was, well, let’s see what he thinks next summer, will he support him then if he’s the nominee? With the spectre of a Hillary Clinton Presidency looming large over conservative Christians as the alternative, I have no doubt Dobson would feel intense pressure to support Thompson, and will be singing a much different tune. Clearly, though, Dobson is more concerned with who the Republican nominee is right now than with winning a general election, so it makes sense that in a year he’ll have much different priorities. Of course, he also said he would never vote Rudy Giuliani, including a general election, so who knows. But if it comes down to Giuliani vs Clinton, no matter how much they don’t like him, I can’t see too many others joining Dobson in sitting on his hands.

The second thing that pops out is WHY he’s not supporting Thompson. Essentially he doesn’t like Thompson’s support of states rights on the issues important to Dobson. Dobson is saying he wants a big government bureaucracy to clamp down on gay marriage and abortion. At the least, Thompson’s seeming support for federalism is a truer conservative position than Dobson’s preference for a heavy-handed, big government nanny state approach. Dobson’s demands could not be a clearer example of what has gone wrong with the Republican party over the last few years. A humble and decentralized approach to governance, an approach that recognizes both the limits of government and the right of Americans to determine their own fate has been replaced with a big government conservatism that instead eschews an autocratic and top-down enforcement of morality.

Part of the problem, I think, is that today’s conservative Christian movement may have to recognize that they are in the minority, in terms of political power. The revolution of 1994 swept them into power, and from 2000 to 2005 they enjoyed majority status in both houses of Congress, the Executive branch, and arguably the Supreme Court. But that revolution came after nearly 50 years of a Democratic stranglehold on Congress. In other words, they should be concerned not that the Democratic revolution of 2006 was a fluke, but rather that the revolution of 1994 that finally gave them some power may have been the fluke. Democrats had control for 50+ years, lost it for 12, and gained it back last year. Where it goes from here who knows, but Dobson and his followers have to recognize that they are in a precarious spot this year, and that a whole lot will be riding on the election in 2008.

They can’t make the same demands now that they have. Well, they can, but they need to accept the responsibility for their actions. If, as they have done, they ridicule candidates with libertarian beliefs and their followers as ‘nuts’ or ‘crazies’, that’s fine. But they have to accept responsibility then when these voters abandon them (again) in 2008, and when they may well find themselves relegated to minority status in every branch of government.

Thirdly, it was interesting to see Dobson reference Thompson’s image as aloof and undedicated as a major reason for his non-support. Again, Thompson will have to step up to the plate and show he is willing to put the work in. At least in part this means getting into some dustups with his fellow candidates, and fighting for what he believes.

This quote from the article caught my eye as well…

Dobson’s strong words about Thompson underscore the frustration and lack of unity among Christian conservatives about the GOP field. Some Christian right leaders have pinned their hopes on Thompson, describing him as a Southern-fried Ronald Reagan.

This is one thing that really gets me! Reagan is revered on the right, at least in memory. But it seems today’s conservatives really have forgotten a number of things that Reagan did. As the President, Reagan

  • Gave amnesty to all 2 million illegal immigrants that were in the country in 1986
  • Responded to a deadly and massive attack on us in Lebanon by pulling up forces and withdrawing.
  • Nominated judges Sandra Day O’ Connor and Anthony Kennedy to the Supreme Court.
  • Brought the Soviet Union to it’s knees without firing a shot, and engaging them in talks almost all the time.
  • Generated great legislative success despite Democratic majorities in Congress thru negotiation and camaraderie

Granted he did give us some boondoggles such as an expanded War on Drugs, but my point remains, namely that Ronald Reagan in fact was a lot more like Fred Thompson is being portrayed to be, than Dobson would perhaps care to admit.


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