Dobson Says Fred Thompson Not Real Christian
Focus on the Family’s James Dobson told U.S. News that Fred Thompson would have a hard time getting the Republican nomination, since he’s not really a Christian.
“Everyone knows he’s conservative and has come out strongly for the things that the pro-family movement stands for,” Dobson said of Thompson. “[But] I don’t think he’s a Christian; at least that’s my impression,” Dobson added, saying that such an impression would make it difficult for Thompson to connect with the Republican Party’s conservative Christian base and win the GOP nomination.
Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Thompson, took issue with Dobson’s characterization of the former Tennessee senator. “Thompson is indeed a Christian,” he said. “He was baptized into the Church of Christ.”
In a follow-up phone conversation, Focus on the Family spokesman Gary Schneeberger stood by Dobson’s claim. He said that, while Dobson didn’t believe Thompson to be a member of a non-Christian faith, Dobson nevertheless “has never known Thompson to be a committed Christian—someone who talks openly about his faith.”
“We use that word—Christian—to refer to people who are evangelical Christians,” Schneeberger added. “Dr. Dobson wasn’t expressing a personal opinion about his reaction to a Thompson candidacy; he was trying to ‘read the tea leaves’ about such a possibility.”
The great irony is that Dobson goes on to heap lavish praise on that paragon of moral virtue Newt Gingrich.
Dobson’s remarks are drawing criticism from all over the political spectrum. Roman Catholic conservatives Andrew Sullivan and Steve Bainbridge are not pleased, with the former arguing this amounts to “a religious test for public office – clearly stated by the GOP’s most powerful base figure” and the latter saying, “I gather Mormons and Catholics need not apply, eh?”
From the other side of the aisle, John Aravosis claims “Dobson is the most powerful religious right leader in the Republican party. He is THE leader of the entire movement. He is THE man that Republicans turn to when they want to talk to the religious right.” He wonders, “Who does Dobson think he is, Jesus Christ himself?”
Digby thinks all will be forgiven because “Thompson will make a pilgrimage to one or more of the high priests and proclaim his hostility to activist judges and everybody will get along just fine. That’s how St John, Rudy and Newtie did it and matinee idol Fred has to do the same thing.”
The whole thing is quite odd. Dobson strikes me as something of a kook, but then again so do all the post-Billy Graham teevee preachers. He’s got a right to his views on this and people have a right to take those views into consideration when forming their own.
From my perspective, it seems preferable that people act morally than loudly proclaim their belief in a faith whose tenets they don’t actually follow. Then again, I don’t have a teevee show with millions of devoted followers sending me checks, so what do I know?
UPDATE: I wonder what the fallout of this will be. Specifically: Will this do more to damage Thompson’s potential White House bid or Dobson’s following?
UPDATE: Steven Taylor believes “Dobson offered insight into Dobson far more than he offered insight into the candidates” and that this once again illustrates “the problems some (many?) religious leaders get into when they start trying to be political brokers.”