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The evangelical primary

Newsweek’s Howard Fineman writes about what he takes to be the dynamics of the Republican nomination race going into next week’s meeting of the National Religious Broadcasters Association. Focusing--much too narrowly, to my mind--on the usual suspects (Falwell, Robertson, and Dobson), he tries to handicap (perhaps in both senses of the word?) the race. Falwell, he says, favors McCain (kiss of death!); Robertson likes Romney (another kiss of death); Dobson seems to be leaning toward Huckabee (say what?).

I’m dubious of a lot of this analysis, especially of his presentation of the relationship between Falwell and the Bushes pere et fils. Having read three "spiritual" biographies of GWB (the results are here), I don’t recall much about Falwell’s role in them. And I certainly would like to see a textured analysis that looks beyond the usual (and now tired) suspects.

Discussions - 6 Comments

I think you missed the point of the exercise.

Fineman wasn’t really trying to handicap the race, so much as tarnish all of the men listed by tarring them with dubious, distasteful connections. This is the typical media game, find some socially unacceptable public figure, then attach him as much as possible to the would be nominees du jour. It’s an old game, it’s often worked, and it usually renders the victim toxic, unless he is some political titan like a Reagan, who is capable of rising above such petty, political maneuvers.

It isn’t easy to get beyond a toxic taint, go ask Newt Gingrich if have any residual doubts about that. Especially for a Republican. Democrats are often capable of gliding beyond their past, but not so members of the GOP.

Stigmas attach to Republicans like the brand of Cain.

We all know where Fineman is coming from, and we all know which party he prefers.


I tried a little double entendre on handicap.

The tight connection between the Bushes and Falwell has remained with George W., even after 9/11, when Falwell (along with Robertson) pointed his finger at the secular liberals (and all of the Others he hates) as having caused the attacks (sounds similar to Dinesh D’Souza’s latest screed). When Falwell was critically ill in 2005, but then pulled through, GWB "called Falwell to wish him well." I can’t imagine him doing that with any lesser known, mainstream religious broadcasters, leaders, scholars, or theologians.

Falwell and Robertson have a tendency to insert their foot in their mouth at times, but what is Dobson’s "taint." He is pretty much squeaky clean, I believe, and has tremendous influence with his listeners.

That Falwell and Robertson would consider McCain or Romney is evidence of how far organized conservatism (not just evangelical conservatism) has fallen. Huckabee seems like a natural fit, ex-preacher that he is, but he is squishy soft on immigration and not even Dobson can sell that snake oil.

They might have some trouble squaring some of Paul’s libertarian beliefs, but Tancredo is right on all their issues.

I think they would all have MORE influence if they didn’t look like they could so easily be had. An analogy comes to mind, but I will leave it at that.

JK, sorry about that then. I thought I detected a trace of humour in your lead post. If I was in a lighter mood, I probably would have given that greater credence, but I dismissed it.

I learned the hard way, THE REAL HARD WAY, to be very careful with humour in print.

The GOP leadership ought to approach Falwell and plead with him to decline ALL future opportunities to appear on television, or to be interviewed. The media loves to trot him out there as the typical creepy conservative when they want to tarnish a position just by attaching someone like him with it. Likewise Robertson and Dobson. They all need to exercise some political savvy, realize their very visage plays against their agenda, exercise some personal discipline, and stay the hell off the air.

Again, what is the issue with Dobson? He has had none of the gaffs that the other two have.

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