The GOP’s Bizarre Iowa Debate/Forum/Church Revival Meeting
Did you know there was another GOP debate last night? Well, you didn't miss much.
Unless you were on Twitter last night, or otherwise paying attention to politics when the normal people were all watching college football, you probably didn’t know that 5 Republican candidates had what you can either call a “debate” or a church meeting last night in Iowa. It was called the Thanksgiving Family Forum, sponsored by The Family Leader. Yes, that’s the same Family Leader that called on the Republican candidates to sign a virulently anti-gay pledge earlier this year, a pledge that candidates like Mitt Romney, Gary Johnson, and Jon Huntsman refused to sign. Perhaps that’s why Huntsman and Johnson weren’t even invited. Mitt Romney apparently was invited to the event, but decided to decline, and based how the whole thing went down, it seems to have been a wise decision on his part:
Looking to court this state’s critical voting bloc of evangelical Christians, Republican presidential candidates sharply attacked secularism and the Supreme Court while calling for greater restrictions on abortion and gay rights at an event here on Saturday.
At a forum on moral values, which was held at First Federated, an evangelical church in Des Moines, the six candidates in attendance largely stuck to Republican orthodoxy and avoided criticizing one another. Instead, they called for dramatic changes in current law to achieve conservative aims.
To limit abortion, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, one of the leading candidates in polls here, proposed a federal law defining “personhood” as starting at conception, similar to a provision backed by abortion opponents that was rejected earlier this month by voters in Mississippi. Texas Gov. Rick Perry said he supported provisions that would limit the ability of gay couples to adopt children, while businessman Herman Cain called for changing provisions in the tax code that restrict churches’ involvement in politics if they want to keep their tax-exempt status.
Several committed to supporting state same-sex marriage bans and eventually a constitutional amendment to prohibit it, although libertarian candidate Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) said the issue should be dealt with by churches and families instead of the government.
“As long as abortion is legal in this country . . . we will never have rest because that law does not comport with God’s law,” said former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum.
Gingrich decried a shift toward secularism in America that he called a “disaster.”
“The degree to which the left is prepared to impose intolerance and to drive out of existence traditional religion is a mortal threat to our civilization and deserves to be taken head-on and described as what it is, which is abuse of government to oppress the Americanpeople against their own values,” Gingrich said.
That’s the kind of thing you expect to hear at pretty much every Republican debate, of course, so it’s no surprise that they hit those themes last night. As Politico noted, though, there was plenty about this event that was different from any other debate:
Moderator Frank Luntz, a GOP pollster who was clearly pleased the candidates didn’t lob shots at one another as they have in the other televised debates, said he felt “like Dr. Phil” as he tried to draw confessions about regrets and personal failings out of the candidates at the subdued affair.
“Although I was remarkably successful in many ways,” Gingrich said of his days in Congress, “there was a part of me that was truly hollow.” He said he read the two main Alcoholics Anonymous books — not because he was drinking, but because he had “precisely the symptoms of someone who was collapsing.”
He did not mention his two divorces specifically or his extramarital affairs — topics he tackled in a newly launched campaign website aimed at hitting back at attacks — but he did talk about redemption.
Describing his marriage with wife, Callista, as a positive, he said, “We’re very close to our two daughters. … [Healing] has required a great deal of pain, some of which I have caused others, which I regret deeply.”
Another emotional moment for Cain came when he described walking out of a surgeon’s office when he’d been diagnosed with Stage 4 liver cancer and telling his wife, “I can do this. She said, ‘We.'”
Santorum brought the crowd to silence when he described the birth of his disabled daughter Bella, whom he talks about frequently — but about whom he candidly admitted he saw as “less of a person because of her disability” when she was born and described his guilt over it.
“I prayed at that moment, please let her live,” he said.
Perry did not get specific about his path to faith, instead repeating a story he’s told before about feeling unhappy and like something was “missing” when he returned from a stint with the Air Force in his 20s, saying, “In every person’s heart and soul there is a hole that can only be filled by the Lord Jesus Christ.”
It’s not surprising that there was personal stuff like that given that the event took place in a church, and it’s hard to find much fault even with a guy like Herman Cain when he talks about surviving a cancer diagnosis that doctors thought was going to kill him, or Santorum’s story about a daughter that isn’t supposed to be alive. At the same time, though, there was plenty that went down last night that would likely scare the crap out of people who don’t travel in the evangelical, far right circles from which The Family Leader originates. And there were plenty of moments caught on the video feed that someone somewhere is likely to use to reinforce the Democratic meme that Republicans are all a bunch of far-right wingnuts.
While there were few areas of disagreement, we did see some contentious moments when the topic of federal control over issues like gay marriage and abortion game up. Not surprisingly, the commitment that these candidates purport to have for principles of Federalism goes out the window when these topics come up. Rick Santorum rejected the idea that states should have the right to define marriage as they see fit, and all of the candidates with the exception of Ron Paul supported a Federal Marriage Amendment that would make same-sex marriage illegal even in those states where it has been approved by the democratically elected representatives of the people (although Paul still inexplicably supported the clearly unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act).
On abortion, the rhetoric was even more radical. Newt Gingrich spoke out in favor of using Congress to basically overturn Roe V. Wade by passing a law that said that personhood for purposes of the 14th Amendment begins at the point of conception. This is an idea that has been advanced by Princeton University Professor Robert George, and was the subject of discussion during a September 2011 forum in South Carolina:
During the forum, Princeton professor Robert P. George asked all five candidates whether they would support legislation, under Section Five of the 14th Amendment, that would restore legal protection for unborn children. The 14th Amendment guarantees that no state shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” The fifth section gives Congress the power to enforce, “by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.” The strategy Professor George is proposing would be for Congress to legislate that unborn children are persons under the 14th Amendment.
Leaving aside the legal viability of this strategy, it was part of a theme of the evening that was, at its core, profoundly disturbing. In addition to Gingrich advocating the idea that Congress has the authority to overrule a Constitutional ruling of the Supreme Court via legislation, we had Ron Paul advocating restricting the jurisdiction of the Federal Courts so that they couldn’t rule on issues involving abortion or same-sex marriage to begin with, Rick Santorum talking about eliminating the Court of a Judge in Texas because of his rulings on issues related to offshore drilling, and pretty much all the candidates declaring war on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals because it is perceived, somewhat incorrectly I would argue, as a “liberal court.” It’s the same war on the judiciary that I wrote about several months ago, and it remains wrong for the same reasons I pointed out back then. The judiciary is a co-equal branch of the Federal Government and, when it comes to protecting the liberties of citizens and the rights of the minority, the most important one. The extent to which Republican judicial philosophy seems to have drifted away from a respect for the Constitution to a belief that, when it comes to individual rights, majority will should win out in the end.
There was a time, say back in the Founders Era, when majorities were something to be restrained, especially when they sought to use the government to restrict the rights of the minority, or of the individual which happens to be the smallest minority. For a long time conservatives seemed to share this distrust of majoritarianism, perhaps because they were in the minority themselves for so long. The Judiciary exists precisely for the purpose of standing against the majoritarian impulses of the Legislative and Executive Branches and saying “no, you can’t do that.” In fact, some of the Judiciary’s greatest failures (Dred Scott, the Slaughterhouse Cases, Plessy v. Ferguson, and Korematsu to name just a few) have come when it has abandoned that role and let the majority ride roughshod over the rights of the minority. For the most part, though, the Courts have performed their task well over the past two centuries, and the extent to which these candidates for President find it so easy to turn a co-equal branch of government into the enemy is profoundly troubling.
It’s understandable why these candidates would appear at this forum. Iowa’s GOP has a strong core of evangelical conservatives that will go a long way toward deciding who wins the caucuses in January. At the same time, though, it’s also understandable why Romney would not show up at all. He really doesn’t win anything by talking to this audience and he stood to lose support among independent voters and more moderate Republicans by being associated in any way with the rhetoric of groups like The Family Leader or The National Organization For Marriage, a co-sponsor of the debate. One even wonders whether the debate itself will have much of an impact. At most, there seemed to be about 17,000 people viewing the livestream of the event, and there were no C-Span cameras there, reportedly due to a contractual dispute. That low viewership may be the best thing that happened to the GOP last night. As Steve Benen notes, the one thing last night event did was reinforce the idea that, despite the fact that the economy is the number one issue in this election, the base of the GOP remains dominated by people obsessed with “culture war” issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. If that message gets out to the general public, it could be the best thing to happen to Democrats in 2012
Update: Jazz Shaw has a piece up at Hot Air about the debate that is, shall we say, a bit more charitable than my take. Give it read.
The fact that Ron Paul would attend this event sponsored by the execrable organization puts the lie to his fanboi’s claims that he doesn’t want to impose his christian opinions on other people. That’s the entire point of The Family Leader.
Tax cuts, uterus control, and bigotry. That’s all the GOP is about. Sad really, what has become of a once great movement. William F must be doing somersaults in his grave.
You have to love the irony of Newt at a forum on morality. This is the guy who was banging his mistress on his desk while his wife was in the hospital being treated for cancer…
That’s a republican tradition…McCain did similar. Probably why they find it so easy to shit on the poor and the sick and the elderly.
“The fact that Ron Paul would attend this event sponsored by the execrable organization puts the lie to his fanboi’s claims that he doesn’t want to impose his christian opinions on other people.”
No it doesn’t.
@Matt: Well, if some person named Matt asserts it, then it must be true.
“At the same time, though, there was plenty that went down last night that would likely scare the crap out of people who don’t travel in the evangelical, far right circles from which The Family Leader originates. And there were plenty of moments caught on the video feed that someone somewhere is likely to use to reinforce the Democratic meme that Republicans are all a bunch of far-right wingnuts.” One can only hope. Forums like this reinforce the paraphrase from the President about campaigning: “We only have to rerun the videos.”
Your fantasy life seems to take most of your time.
Socialists, Infanticide deniers and militant atheist zealots are judging again! With the same, lame absolutely hypocrite logic and terminology.
And all because Darwin wills it….
Can we get a favorite song or book post to break up this mindless nonsense for a min?
I’ll believe in jesus when i’ll see his birth certficate (long form)
Actually I forgot…they also believe pizza is a vegetable.
The Republican party has nothing of value to offer the people of the United States.
That is why the line-up of candidates is such a gallery of fools.
It is called the Holy Bible, lol, knucklehead…..you wan’t me to send you one?
And it looks like you what me to go back to spelling your god’s name with a capitol zero again….so be it!
Personally I think I was most disturbed by the idea of a Presidential debate being held in a church.
But hey, I’m one of them awful heathens.
Why don’t we stuff the fertilized zygotes in Gingrich’s belly, if he thinks protecting them is all that important? Certainly enough room in there.
In fact, I think all so-called “pro-lifers” should be called upon to put their bodies where their mouths are and volunteer to act as hosts for unwanted zygotes…
@G.A.Phillips: I can’t argue right now, I have a baby to kill in the name of Stalin.
This country is desperately in trouble. Morals have gone down the drain. We live in an age of total depravity. Greed is unbridled: look at not only top business execs, how about the “pro” athletes and entertainers? Obscene salaries. Look at the horrible crimes – violence against women and kids. Continous sex scandals in Washington. The complete collapse of the family structure. Problems in schools – started when the Bible was removed. Courts that let criminals go. Churches that no longer teach and preach the Bible – instead, a “social” Gospel which is false. This is the result of the moral relevant – situation ethics garbage that came out in the ’60’s as a cure all for the nation’s problems. This nation has turned its back on God. The only answer is a nation wide revival. This nation must return to the Bible.
So you want to return to this part of the Bible?
Always the victims those Christians and in fact the same can be said for all the Abrahamic religions. If you don’t want me to be hostile quit trying to shove your 2000 year old mythology down my throat.
@Doug Mataconis: Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have a president like that?
Can we please, please lay to rest that these folks are in any way conservative? They imagine a radically re-engineered America.
With the exception of Huntsman (and Johnson, but as a little l libertarian it doesn’t really apply) these people are deeply radical.
And Gingrich is the most radical.
I have been a West Wing fan for years and, even though I often disagreed with the ideological bent the show would take every now and then, I’ve got to say that Sorkin created a great character in Jed Bartlet, and Martin Sheen absolutely killed it in that role. Heck, I’d be happy if there were more Republicans like Arnie Vinick.
Unfortunately, Hollywood and reality are two different things.
The quite so. And after all those decades of telling us to be nonjudgmental.
quite the contrary. They’re talking about turning back the years of Liberal reengineering America. What, after all do you suppose they’re conserving?
You’re actually calling the Democrats liberal?!? Ha! That’s frggin’ hilarious.
In a word mythology!
Would all those who want to live in a theocracy please move to Saudi Arabia or Iran….
…actually, I can see exactly how a Christian theocracy in the US would work out:
First month, it would be the “christians” against everybody else (Jews, Buddhists, atheists, etc.)
Second month, it would be the Protestants vs. the Catholics.
Third month, it would be the Protestants vs. the Mormons.
Fourth month, we’d start to get into Protestant-Protestant wars.
At the end of the year, the population of the US would be down to two tiny sects of bat-shit crazies, each of which excommunicated the other.
And the Chinese will be laughing their asses off the entire time.
Power and money.
Because elections are a zero sum game, many people also falsely believe that governance is the same. They’re wrong.
Doug I am still awful but no longer a heathen:)
Evolution is mythology.
It would be nice if the atheist would leave now….
@Hey Norm: @Eric Florack: Yeah, I have to take Eric’s side on this one Norm. I don’t think that Buckley would have any problems with tax cuts, uterus control, or bigotry either. But we’re both older than you are and remember the “good ol’ days” differently. Read the National Review from its earliest days and see if you like that William F or not. He may have become ashamed of what he was, but I’m not sure.
All: GA is mythology.
Leaving aside the legal viability of this strategy, it was part of a theme of the evening that was, at it’s core, profoundly disturbing.
The theme was disturbing at ITS core, not at IT’S core.
And the last name of the person who blogs at The Washington Monthly is Steve BENEN, not Steve BENAN.
Sorry, these things really irritate me. From anyone, not just you.
OzarkHilllly, I can see L. Ron Hubbard who was a great writer creating a religion. Darwin was a Idiot who loved earthworms and hated little birds because of it.lol….You belong to the religion he created.
People can say what they want about not being around when the books of the Bible came about but people know exactly where scientology and atheism came from.
@G.A.Phillips: I hate to inform you but the Bible isn’t the word of God. It’s a book written by men with ambitions of power and control.
This event is disturbing beyond imagination. America is not a Christian Theocracy.
@G.A.Phillips: Too many Evangelical Christians – not enough lions.
@G.A.Phillips: Pff, in a fight, Darwin would beat the crap out of jesus. He’s way stronger.
Yes. Thank you, I guess.
You can believe what you want but that is a simple straw man.
The early writings of the religion of evolution are all about what you say about power and control not to mention racism, and we know for a fact written by men. But I do think also that they were influenced by the supernatural to be clear.
I don’t see how you get this impression and of course it is not a Christian Theocracy what ever that is. If you understand the Word of God that is impossible, until I guess, The Lord returns. That also would be a stretch literally..
As much as you wish to deny it, G.A., evolution is science, not religion.
So many billions and billions of missing links and even better yet no freaking chain……none!
Read some science and you’ll understand how idiotic what you’re saying is.
GA???? If anyone is listening to you, this quote will fix it. (and yes, I have permalink-ed it)
lol, prove that it is science and not a religion….you can’t…but for craps and giggles i’ll play along….
I’ll give you an easy one:If you your creation story time line is true why is the moon still there?
I take it that you don’t believe that L.Ron was a good writer:)
lol, same to you, oh wait you just attacked me and showed more evidence of your blind faith… So I guess that won’t help much….
So what started you along this path Doug? For me it was “The Creature Of The Black Lagoon” when I was like 7….
WFB was against ideology.
Today’s Republican party has nothing but ideology.
This is the guy who was banging his mistress on his desk while his wife was in the hospital being treated for cancer…
Yes, but God has forgiven him. I know because Newt told us, and Newt knows because God told him. “I forgive you for asking your wife to sign divorce papers while she was being treated for breast cancer — now go and preach morality and family values to the nation. And bless you, you wonderful man.”
This nation has turned its back on God. The only answer is a nation wide revival. This nation must return to the Bible.
Christopher, are you sure you wouldn’t be happier in Iran, or Afghanistan?
Personally I think I was most disturbed by the idea of a Presidential debate being held in a church.
As long as no taxpayer money paid for it, the fact it was held in a church doesn’t bother me.
And Gingrich is the most radical.
Actually, Santorum is the one that scares me the most. He terrifies me.
quite the contrary. They’re talking about turning back the years of Liberal reengineering America. What, after all do you suppose they’re conserving?
There has NEVER been an America that looks like what Santorum, Gingrich, Bachmann, or Perry want. Never, Never EVER. Even in the darkest days of the republic — when no one but white males had the vote — it STILL wasn’t as awful as what these people would do to America. Up until the mid- to late 19th century, abortion was legal in most states. In colonial times through the early part of the 19th century, abortions were routinely performed, and openly advertised. And there has never been a time in American history when all Americans’ lives were governed by the theological beliefs of one highly specific sect of one particular religion. That’s what that panel of presidential candidates want to do to America. They are not conservatives, no matter how thin you stretch the meaning of that word.
@Hey Norm: Saying that someone whose principle occupation was philosopher and commentator was against ideology is sort of like someone saying they are against breathing. Buckley’s whole life was ideology–even his novels are ideological. People who think can be no more against ideology as a topic than the US can successfully fight a war against terror (or poverty, for that matter).
@Doug Mataconis: G.A. will not read science because it might actually require for him to think for himself. That’s the attraction of religion for many – you can leave the thinking to someone else.
Philosphy is not ideology. That’s pretty basic.
Ideology is limiting. Republicans are limited by their ideology.
On the other hand perhaps I give the Republicans too much credit when I accuse them of being ideologues. Anyone who signs over their free will to Grover Norquist probably isn’t smart enough to be an ideologue.
I think actually you are right. The more I think about it the more I think Conservative Ideology has evolved to Theology. They are practicing religion. Like a cult. Hence a debate held in a church.
We may be only disagreeing about vocabulary – Santorum may well be the most right-wing of the lot, but Gingrich is the most radical.
As in “I have this brilliant, nifty, totally innovative idea to completely restructure the country. And it’s never been tried before and I thought it up. Gee, aren’t I smart? Intellectual even.”
He’s also hypocritical in a way Santorum isn’t. It’s ironic. I see Santorum as someone who would gladly impose an Old Testament-based theocracy on the entire nation, going way beyond a ban on all abortions and forbidding gay marriage. I could see him trying to criminalize adultery, banning divorce, publicly shaming women who have sex outside marriage. I’m not saying he could successfully do all that, but he certainly would have no problem doing any of those things if he could. Yet in his own personal life he mostly practices what he preaches — no birth control, no abortions, no adultery, etc.
Gingrich might not go as far with the far right reengineering of society, but every word out of his mouth about morality is hypocritical.
I don’t know if one is worse than the other, but quite frankly I don’t want to see either one!
You must be as allergic to grammar as you are science, You are not making any sense.
I read science all the time unlike you people. I also work off of a presupposition just like you people work off of many but will not admit, because you have blind faith.
lol, Take the rate of speed that the moon moves away from the earth and apply it to the creation time line of the solar evolution theory component….
You will have a big problem, like the mathematical fact that we even have any idea that the moon was even there. It should have flown away long before you could even spell a billion or use it correctly in a sentence….
lol, rip off my theory about liberals that I ripped off and get it all backwards….
It’s an observational fact not a mathematical. We can actually see the moon. We might take your arguments regarding science more seriously if you made an effort to understand the most exceedingly basic facts about it.
Folks, folks, it is futile to argue with GA. He’s impervious to logic or fact. Ever ride a subway in New York or Boston? There’s always some guy in your car — loud voice, buttoned up to the top trenchcoat (even in August), wild hair, wilder eyes. He’s usually carrying on a spirited conversation with his invisible friend. He has one end of the car all to himself. That’s GA.
The rate at which the Moon is moving away from the Earth isn’t constant and is related to the fact that the rotation of the Earth itself is slowing down. When the moon was created by an impact of the Earth with a Mars sized object some 4.5 billion years ago the Earth day was only about 6 hours long. In 15 billion years or so it’s expected that the Earth-Moon system will reach an equilibrium in which the moon will stop moving away from us at which point it will be about 1.6 times away from us as it is now and Earth’s day will be roughly the same as 55 days now. Of course that’s about 8 Billion years after the sun turns into a Red Supergiant star from having exhausted it’s primary fuel and thus vaporizing Mercury, Venus, and Earth.
Your story implies that all who were there signed the pledge and you well know Ron Paul did not.
@Ben: That is nonsense. He wants to show them he is not the enemy and that their beliefs should be consistent with liberty for all, and to cause them to think about that. He says the same thing everywhere.
He also did not sign their pledge, regardless of the backhanded implication early in the article above.
By the way, Doug. I personally believe from the way Ron Paul discusses it that he has never read the DOMA. It passed while he was not in Congress, and he had voted against the Marriage Amendment, earlier. I personally believe he thinks it just allows states to decide and doesn’t have substantive impact directly. Might be something people could bring up to him. He changed his position on DADT based on new information.
The funniest part of envagelicals bashing evolution, is that if you’ve studied the history, the idea that species changes over time actually predated essentialism (the belief that every species has essential characteristics that are unalterable), which only showed up in Europe during the middle ages from the writings of Islamic scholars suchs as Ibn Sīnā.
How many of them realize that by denying evolution, they’re speading Islamic dogma in the name of Christianity?
@Vast Variety: So what you’re saying is that the moon is magic.
lalalalalala…. I can’t hear or see you sam….
HAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA……you are trying to be funny right?
Geez, I get better arguments from kids on youtube…
You’re an uneducated moron, GA. You offer nothing in rebuttal save
That’s just pathetic.
@G.A.Phillips: Feel free to present your own evidence. Preferably something other than a 2000 year old book of religious fiction.
If I ever needed a confirmation that G.A. was, as they say, “of unsound mind” that would be it. Denying evolution and global warming is one thing – but appreciating the master of junk? *Shudder*.
In my experience he and his use “Darwin” as shorthand for “scientific, secular world-view”. It has nothing to do with Evolution Theory (or even Darwin’s Theories) as the rest of humanity understands them.
I thought it was great that he was there to be the voice of reason.
He really put the loonies to shame.
lol….Shut the hole….
I did, you are the one booting up fiction, I asked a question you put up science fiction.Bad science fiction.
But you gave an effort unlike these clowns you groupthink with, they just attack me.
This is what should make you think, seriously, not the easy one I gave for fun….
@G.A.Phillips: I’m sorry but I don’t see any evidence in any of your posts, or did I just miss it.
@G.A.Phillips: Which is probably because the earth and moon weren’t created at the same time. Ph.D evolutiontionary neurobiology….no return back to the dark hole from whence you came.