Before entering the ballroom at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. for the beginning of the second day of the 2006 Values Voter Summit, I decided to check out what was actually in the "goodies bag" I'd been given at registration, as well as a few items I'd picked up in the course of Day 1.
Besides the convention booklet itself, one of the most useful inserts would undoubtedly be the "Contact Information for Senate and House Congressional Members" booklet, beautifully done up in red, while, blue and gold, with Republicans in plain type, Democrats in italics, and "Members who have died or resigned" in bold brackets. (Hi, Tom! Hi, Duke!)
Young Americas Foundation (formerly Young Americans for Freedom, the seminal Republican college campus crusade) was giving out copies of its magazine Libertas, this issue featuring on the cover an article titled "Teachers' Pets" – and can you believe it? Of the eight people pictured, every single one is a Democrat!
Particularly interesting was the "Memorandum" from Grover Norquist's Americans For Tax Reform, which, oddly enough, had little to do with what most people think of as "tax reform." Instead, it was all about the "IRS 'crack-down' on religious speech," including a "Letter in Support of the House of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act"; "HR 235, House of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act of 2005"; "Articles on the IRS attacks on houses of worship"; "Memo from our lawyer detailing lobbying and political activity houses of worship can legally engage in"; and "A report from the Congressional Research Service for Congress on acceptable political activity for tax-exempt organizations." In other words, the "reform" these folks were interested in was rewriting the tax laws to allow churches to support political candidates and issues, and by maintaining the churches' tax-exempt status, still have the taxpayers pay for it!
And then there were the brochures: "The Truth About Same-Sex 'Marriage'"; "Unique New Textbook For Academic Study Of The Bible In Public High Schools"; "Why You Should Be Involved," from Family Research Council (FRC), subtitled, "A Biblical Case for Social and Political Involvement": a strange one titled, "The Future of Tax Exemption and Homosexual Behavior"; and one on why James Dobson's "Focus on the Family" quasi-political organization was tax-exempt, but James Dobson's "Focus on the Family Action" spin-off fully-political organization wasn't.
Finally, there were a couple of large postcards: One advertising a book, "God's Grace and the Homosexual Next Door" ("Where? Where?" as John Cleese might say); and one that rather boldly asked, "How Would Jesus Vote?", advertising an Oct. 5 debate featuring, from the left, Sen. Barack Obama and Rev. Jim Wallis, and from the right, radio talker Janet Parshall and Rev. Richard Cizik.
Saturday's lead-off speaker was, according to Dobson, "one of the most effective and articulate people in the country, a man I respect very highly – I mean, this guy is getting it done... This is a great American," Fox News talk show host for the past 11 years, Sean Hannity.
"Actually, Alan [Colmes, Hannity's pseudo-liberal on-air partner] wanted to be here tonight," Hannity joked, "but he had to race off to Massachusetts ... where he belongs ... hanging out with Ted (hic) Kennedy. Don't worry; Alan is driving."
Hannity was referring, of course, to Kennedy's 1969 car accident in which his companion, Mary Jo Kopechne, was killed, and as they say, an elephant never forgets ... unless it's whether or not he's taken a bribe from a lobbyist.
Hannity's 45-minute speech mixed humor, often in the form of Clinton jokes, with right-wing rhetoric, including a "phenomenon" he described as "Bush derangement syndrome."
"It doesn't matter, whatever you talk about, there is this instinctive, reflexive – it's almost like conditioning, that if you talk about George W. Bush, this vitriol, this hatred starts coming out from liberals," he explained. "And they have this compulsion, if you mention George W. Bush, you can take a stopwatch and you can start counting and find out how long it's going to be before they say, 'Liar!'"
Must be a genetic variant on the vastly more common "Clinton derangement syndrome," where if there's anything wrong with the U.S. today – the economy, the "war on terror," 9/11, whatever – reactionaries will find some way to blame it on Clinton.
At one point, after reading a series of anti-war statements from Democrats, Hannity reflected, "Now, you decide; put it in the context of where we are. We're in the middle of World War III. We've had the worst attack in American history. I don't care what Hugo Chavez says. I don't care what Ahmadinejad said. We know they're our enemy. When Nancy Pelosi, who also said that our president is mentally unstable, and Harry Reid calls our president a loser in front of school children, the depth and the magnitude and the depravity of this type of rhetoric, at a time when America ought to be united, ought to be unacceptable to the American people."
In other words, you Democrats and other would-be free speakers, just shut up and follow orders!
Needless to say, Hannity got rousing applause for that one!
"These are people that use religion to justify their madness, their brain-dead hypnosis, their lobotomized mindset," Hannity said, describing Islamists. "In their sickness, they actually believe and think in their hearts that they are doing the right thing. Their numbers are far more numerous that we ever thought in the beginning, and we have got to confront this evil, and it ought to be the one thing that unites good people all around the world."
To an outsider, however, it could just as easily seem as if Hannity were talking about the fundamentalists in this very audience!
But Hannity did let slip some good news: "In the meantime, while all of this is going on, 40 House members have joined with John Conyers to sponsor Resolution 635, to create a select committee to investigate the grounds for impeaching George W. Bush. It reads, 'Creating a select committee to investigate the administration's intent to go to war before congressional authorization, manipulation of pre-war intelligence, encouraging torture, retaliating against critics, and to make recommendations regarding possible grounds for impeachment.'"
Hannity then offered this bit of hypocritical thinking: "I want you to think deeply about this, because this is where the insanity began, and where the Democratic Party lost its soul. Bill Clinton said under oath the following; think deeply about this, and you must: 'We were alone, but I never really thought we were alone.' You'd tune into Hannity & Colmes that night, and we'd be debating that idiotic statement. There'd be some liberal there – doesn't matter which one; they're all the same at this point; they'll defend anything. They would start explaining to us the concept that nobody is ever really alone, and they would take Bill's cue, because Bill would explain it to them and give them the talking points."
And of course, this crowd ate that up. Never mind that shortly after Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq, the alleged "weapons of mass destruction" that were the impetus for the invasion and were supposed to be all over the place there suddenly became "weapons of mass destruction programs." Never mind that Bush claimed there was "overwhelming evidence" of a connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda when just the opposite was true. Never mind that Bush claimed that Iraq had an ongoing nuclear weapons program and was seeking to buy enriched uranium, when it had no such program and no such intention. Hypocrisy only counts if you're a Democrat.
Hannity ended his talk with his "six principles," which came out sounding more like a dozen. They included such right-wing talking points as supporting the PATRIOT Act, "spreading liberty," Reaganomics, securing the borders, more tax cuts, energy independence, opposition to "activist judges" and the "liberal court system" – he wants judges who are "originalists" – and supporting "traditional values."
"The stakes can't be higher," said Hannity. "The differences can't be more clear."
But if Hannity came off as a sort of more charismatic, better-spoken George Bush, the next speaker, former drug czar William Bennett, seemed to be channeling a slightly less testy Dick Cheney.
"I want to talk about the culture, the talk underneath the politics; the way we think, the way we respond," Bennett began. "Melanie Phillips, in her book "Londonistan," talks about 'preemptive cultural surrender,' the feeble state, discourse about the current world war in which we are involved. I think she is right... It has not been a great couple of weeks. We issued a travel visa to the former president of Iran so he could spread his deceptions throughout churches and colleges in our nation, including the National Cathedral. At the United Nations, we were treated to a speech by the current president of Iran where he called us occupiers, aggressors and violators of international law on primetime television. He called us all of those things: Occupiers, aggressors and violators of international law. The next day, we were treated to Hugo Chavez calling our president the Devil as he crossed himself, saying we were exploiters, pillagers. He called us real fascists and genocidal; this, in our own country. Our official response was not to respond. That was a mistake. This is a far different day than the day I served with Jeane Kirkpatrick in the Ronald Reagan administration. I remember her standing up and saying it was a new day at the U.N.; 'We will not stand for it. We will not take it anymore. Every calumny will be addressed and responded to.'"
Apparently, Bennett is unfamiliar with the wisdom every child knows: "Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me."
"There is too much tentativeness among us now. We are too tentative about things that matter the most," he continued. "Right now, when an administrative official or member of Congress is asked when we will leave Iraq, they shunt the question to the generals: 'When the generals say we can.' Wrong answer, wrong posture, wrong response. 'We will leave when the job is done.'... We will teach the enemy a lesson, that American life is not cheap and that barbarism will be extremely expensive."
In other words, we will never leave. Thanks for the tip, Bill!
And for those who have always bought Bush's lie about the "connection" between Iraq and the September 11 attack, Bennett had this to offer:
"When a reporter asks what Iraq had to do with 9/11, stop saying, 'Nothing'," Bennett advised. "9/11 was the beginning of our war against terrorism, and Saddam Hussein's Iraq was a terrorist-sponsoring state. Saddam Hussein was a terrorist; don't apologize for saying it. Abu Abbas, Abu Zarqawi, Abu Nidal were in Iraq; they were in Iraq long before 9/11. They were not in Iraq preaching Quakerism. Invitations to Bin Ladin were not for high tea, and there were many such invitations."
Guess it was just Bill's bad luck that the day after the summit ended, the news broke that last April's National Intelligence Estimate expressed the opinion of America's intelligence community that there was little to no "terrorist-sponsoring" going on in Iraq before the U.S. invaded, but that there's plenty of it now. And another recent item noted that in fact Hussein and Bin Ladin hated each other; high tea together would have been the last thing on their minds.
Here are a few more soundbites that garnered massive applause from this crowd:
•"When the former president of Iran, the current president of Iran, or the president of Venezuela seek a visa to come to the U.S. to speak, to spread propaganda and poison at the U.N. or in our churches or universities, you deny them the visa."
•"I understand we have 100 members of the press here. Glad to see them. When reporters here at home print leaked classified wartime intelligence, they should be prosecuted."
•Regarding the CIA interrogations: "I will say that if the choice is between water-boarding and picking up the bodies of 3,000 people, I will be for water-boarding."
•"Put real strictures on the U.N., and act like we own it, which is what we do in terms of the amount of money that we put forward. Ronald Reagan [said], 'I paid for this microphone,' and you're not going to soil it by calling the president of the United States a devil."
Next on the agenda was Georgette Forney, who, the announcer said, "had an abortion at age 16, and 19 years later, she experienced healing, forgiveness and reconciliation [but] through her healing and restoration experience, she developed a greater understanding of the negative impact that abortion has on women and on society" ... so of course, now she organizes women who regret their own abortions into the "Silent No More Awareness Campaign," which is "a national effort to raise awareness about the physical, the spiritual and the emotional harm that abortion does to women." However, about the only thing worthwhile in Forney's talk was the statistic that "43% of women under the age of 45 will have had an abortion" ... and possibly the fact that Jennifer O'Neill, whom a certain number of readers will remember was the female lead in the classic film The Summer of '42, is this group's celebrity spokeswoman.
Embattled Sen. Rick Santorum (R.-Pa.) was supposed to be the next speaker, but "family matters" kept him away from the conference, so he sent in a videotape which was long on rhetoric but notably short on content.
That, however, didn't stop the next speaker, Paul Weyrich, co-founder of the neo-con Heritage Foundation and more recently CEO of the Free Congress Foundation, as well as publisher of the Conservative Digest, from jumping [sic] on the Santorum bandwagon. (Weyrich is legless and confined to a wheelchair.)
"Rick Santorum is the most important United States Senator we have in this country at this time," Weyrich said, later describing him as "extraordinary," "fearless" and "one of the most decent people we've ever had in the United States Senate."
Weyrich has great hopes that the current makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court will lead to an overturn of women's abortion rights. To that end, he sees a win on the November referendum on South Dakota's complete abortion ban as "the beginning of the end for Roe v. Wade."
And as for the anti-same-sex marriage amendments that are on the ballot in eight states in November, "I predict that every single one of these is going to pass, and pass by a large margin."
"We are on the move, and we're on the move in the right direction," Weyrich stated. "The other side, of course, makes it sound as if they have all the troops and they have the media, they have this and they have that – well, we have something that we didn't have when we began these battles back in the early 1970s, and that is talk radio. Let me tell you, if the Democrats win control of Congress, they intend to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, which would do away with talk radio... A Rush Limbaugh or a Sean Hannity or a Dr. Laura or any of the people that have an enormous following in this country will be shut down if that is the case."
Yeah; what a shame it would be if citizens had the power to force an accounting of the lies and slanders delivered on a minute-by-minute basis by the 1100-plus right-wing talk show hosts on the public airwaves around the country!
Even worse, Weyrich claimed, "[O]ur enemies want to regulate the Internet and want to block organizations such as ours."
"The Internet is a God-send," he said. "I know there are a lot of terrible things on the Internet, but it still can be used for God's purposes... So we've got to fight to keep the Internet from being regulated the way that these people want to regulate it. I have no objection to regulating the pornography and the filth that's on the Internet, but that's not what they want to do. They want to leave that alone. They want to regulate our kind of material that goes out instantly to people, telling them what's going on and what to do."
Next up was the morning's only panel, "The Role Of Churches In Political Issues," and its star was Dr. Richard Land, a major player in the ultra-conservative Southern Baptist Convention. Also on the panel were Rev. Dr. John Guest, a pastor in Sewickley, Pa., and Rev. Herb Lusk, described as "an advisor to President George W. Bush," but AVN readers may remember him as the host of FRC's last judge-bashing "Justice Sunday III."
Land got to speak first, since he had to leave early for his regular radio show ... but he let the audience know that he has a hotline to God.
"It is our job as pastors and as church workers to take the truth of God's word and apply it to the moral and social issues of our society, and to call our society to adhere to the biblical standards," Land declared. "Let me be clear here: God is not a Republican. God is not a Democrat. God is pro-life. God has a side when it comes to pro-life: He's on it. He's pro-life; he's pro-heterosexual marriage; he's anti-pornography. I have no doubt about that whatsoever. All I have to do is look at the clear teachings of God's word."
And that, of course, is the problem: Land "knows" what God wants, and anybody who thinks different will feel God's wrath ... and if God itself doesn't see fit to visit that wrath on "sinners" like adult industry members, well golly gee, Land and his minions will be only too happy to visit that wrath on them for God and in its name.
And that's perhaps the biggest problem with the coming theocracy that all the participants at this summit, whether they're conscious of it or not, are promoting.
The panel's moderator, Dr. Kenyn Cureton, asked Land why, according to the IRS, "churches are not completely free to do as they please when it comes to political issues."
Needless to say, it was a Democrat's fault.
"Lyndon Johnson was very upset at the preachers who were criticizing him in his 1954 election campaign for the senate in Texas," Land explained, "so in the dead of night, he passed some extra language into an authorization bill that put particular restrictions on churches, and according to those regulations, churches cannot endorse candidates."
"Now, let me be very clear here," he continued. "I do not believe that churches should be endorsing candidates; I believe we should be looking for candidates who endorse us, endorse our values and endorse our beliefs. I don't think we should align ourselves with any particular party. We should be looking for party platforms that align themselves with us. But I also think that this should be a decision that is made by churches and made by ministers, not made by the government, and so I think the IRS regulations need to be changed. I bedlieve they're an unwarranted intrusion of the government into the free exercise of our faiths."
Well, tell ya what, Dick; there's a real easy way to keep the government, and in particular the IRS, from "intruding into the free exercise of [your] faith": GIVE UP YOUR CHURCH'S TAX EXEMPT STATUS! Then you can talk all you want about candidates, legislation, whatever your little heart desires – you just can't do it on the taxpayers' dime!
Because what we've seen happening around the country is that some clergy – not you, of course, Dick – are doing their level best to figure out ways to endorse Republican candidates and all manner of unconstitutional legislation, while still milking the public tit to pay for it – and the clear indication is that if the IRS backs down from enforcing the provisions of Sec. 501(c)(3), the clergy will do even more of it.
But prompted by Cureton, Land seemed to be offering a way around the IRS's restrictions on clergy.
"A pastor has the freedom, and I believe the obligation, to speak prophetically to his congregation on the issues of the day. As the abolitionists preached prophetically about the sin of slavery, as preachers preached and often sometimes lost their pulpits for preaching biblical truth about the sin of racial segregation, we have just as much of an obligation to preach about what the Bible says about unborn life. There's a reason why the Jewish civilization was the only civilization in the Mediteranean basin that didn't practice infanticide and abortion. The reason was because their God, who is the one true God, had made it very clear that life begins at conception, that God's involved when conception takes place, and that aboriton is the taking of a human life and it is not to be done except to save the mother's life."
Just a couple of problems with that: 1) The Southern Baptist Convention, of which Land is a high-profile member, was preaching the sanctity of slavery well into the 20th century; 2) Jews in biblical times were practicing abortion, using certain well-known herbs to induce miscarriages; and 3) although various religious leaders have taken various positions on abortion through the centuries, it was generally agreed until recently that an abortion up to the 18th week of a pregnancy was just fine with the church.
Land also had advice for pastors who receive a letter from Rev. Barry Lynn of Americans United (the good one) regarding the limitations of politicking by clergy: "I would ignore it, and if you have questions, I would go to a more objective intrinsic source such as Family Research Council or Focus on the Family or the Ethics and Liberty Commission if you want real advice on what you can and can't do, and not from someone who's doing their best to make sure you don't do anything."
After Land took off for his radio gig, Rev. Guest – a Brit by birth – launched into a comparison between anti-war protesters and Bush critics in America and his own country's appeasers of Hitler before WWII.
"I am scared for a country that will not – speaking of an America which I have become one of, and one of you – I have actually said from my pulpit that it is treacherous and traitorous to be condemning, destroying, belittling and bringing down our president in time of war," Guest said. "All you're doing is setting stage for the kind of misery we saw in England and in Europe at that time [WWII]."
Right; the U.S., with its massive atomic arsenal, should be worried about a disorganized bunch of Muslims 6,000 miles away in Iraq who can't even decide which sect should be in power in their own country – or Iran, a few miles farther away, that's at least a decade away from its own atomic bomb.
But with Land gone, Rev. Lusk, whom the religious would undoubtedly consider a fairly charismatic guy, became the star of this panel – and once he got on a roll, there was no stopping him.
Here's a taste of Lusk's "sermon," which was punctuated by applause at just about every turn of phrase:
"Nehemiah asked a civics question," Lusk began. "He was in the palace – and boy, I've been to some of our churches, and some of us pastors, we're in the palace – and said, 'How are things back home?' They told him that the walls were down, the cities were in disarray, and that the remnant was there and struggling in depression and all kinds of upheaval. And Nehemiah began to weep. He visualized the fact that the walls were down, that-that-that-that-that the city was in disarray. But I'm going to ask you a question: How are things back home? And your answer's going to be the same as brother Nehemiah: The walls are down; the cities are in disarray – and you can't hide it, you can't put your head in the sand; you got to see and visualize exactly what took place. Visualize it. And I think he visualized what took place; he agonized; he began to pray. And he began to cry, he began to weep, and one of the problems that we have today is that we have a dry-eye church; churches don't weep ... And after he visualized, after he agonized, then he organized, and that's what Tony [Perkins, FRC head] is doing right now! That's what Dr. Dobson is doing right now! That's what Dr. Land is doing right now! That's what my friends in the Modesto Bishopric (ph.) are doing right now! We're organizing! But now, before you do anything else you organize, you've got to get permission. You've got to go to the Team of Teams! You see, the worst thing you could do is to know the right thing to do and get ahead of Him who is the right! Him who is the protection! And we have to ask for protection! And my friends, we need protection, because the enemy is out there, and we've been calling the guy's name, but I don't want to call his name: Barry – I won't call his last name, because the more you call your enemy's name, the larger he becomes, and for our preaching in this particular place, that we do not call his name no more today!"
That "enemy," of course, was Rev. Barry Lynn of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State; supposedly a "man of God" in his own right – but in this place, at this time, it was not enough to be a man of God; you also had to be a man of Bush.
Lusk went on for several more minutes, much of it barely intelligible over the applause, "Amens" and "Hallelujahs," which Cureton summed up by saying, "Folks, just imagine – just imagine what Bible-believing Christians could do, what kind of impact we could have on the moral health of our country, on the direction of our nation and the character of our leadership if we would simply live our values and vote our values."
And if people in the adult industry, and others who believe in the U.S. Constitution, don't watch out, they may very well find out what happens when fundamentalists like these "vote [their] values" – and rest assured, we won't like it.
Colin Hanna, described as "a County Commissioner" and "the lead defendant in a lawsuit against the county by the ACLU, demanding that the county remove a bronze plaque containing the full text of Ten Commandments which had stood on the outside walls of this historic Chester County courthouse for more than 80 years," spoke next, mostly on the topic of the "Christian perspective on immigration."
Turns out his "Christian perspective" is mostly summed up in the name of his website, WeNeedAFence.com, "which gives you an idea where we come from," Hanna admitted.
Liberals, you see, "falsely equate amnesty with forgiveness," Hanna explained. "Now, a biblically literate Christian knows that forgiveness is preceded by confession. 1 John 1:9 lays it out quite simply: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins. Now, that's Christian forgiveness, and it's quite different from amnesty. Amnesty is forgiveness without confession, or to put it another way, amnesty is sin without consequence. Therefore I would argue, amnesty is not Christian."
Indeed; because we all know that every sin has a consequence – and if God doesn't see fit to deliver one, God's followers will do their level best to pinch-hit for The Almighty ... and screw illegal immigrants (and us) to the wall.
Hanna cut his talk a bit short since Hannity had run so long, and because nobody wanted to miss another of the morning's highlights, Rev. Donald Wildmon, founder of the American Family Association (AFA), a major pro-censorship group.
But Don wasn't her to speak about porn; porn won't get out the vote this November.
No, the Rev. was here to recount his longstanding fight against ... the Ford Motor Company.
"About two years ago, a TV program called "Will & Grace" had two lesbians kissing each other," Wildmon recalled. "And I asked our special projects director, I said, 'Randy, find out who sponsors that program.' And he came back, and he said, 'Ford.' 'Ford?' 'Ford.' I said, 'All right; I'll tell you what to do: Look and see what you find about Ford.'"
To make a very long story short, he found that Ford was gay-friendly.
"I couldn't believe it. I really couldn't," exclaimed the astonished bigot. "They were into everything, nearly everything that the homosexuals were doing. They were helping fund, they were giving them automobiles, they were giving them preferred positions – I mean, the whole bit!"
Needless to say, Wildmon couldn't let that go on!
"So we put all the materials together ... and we asked for a boycott," Wildmon said. "And the mailing went out and Ford began to get some e-mails and some calls, and I began to get some e-mails and calls, and I got a fax from a dealer in the Dallas, Texas area, and the fax said in essence – it wasn't a hateful fax, it wasn't a mean fax, it wasn't cursing me out; it was a fax that said, 'Please don't do this. I'm a dealer. I have 750 people who work with me, and your boycott will put me out of business. Please don't do this.'"
Well, Wildmon ruminated over that fax, and then suggested that he and the dealers get together and talk – a conversation that led to several meetings with Ford executives.
"They were two gentlemen who understood us, who are part of us, who believe like we believe, who work for Ford, have very high positions in Ford," Wildmon recounted. "And we worked out an agreement ... In essence, what we asked Ford to do was to remain neutral in the homosexual cultural, homosexual marriage wars."
Ah; but Wildmon didn't get it in writing!
"Well, they went back," Wildmon continued. "Within a week, the homosexuals had a meeting with Ford, and Ford threw out the window every agreement that we had reached because of pressure from the homosexual groups... When they did that, they left us with two choices. We could forget having a boycott and have not one ounce of integrity left in our organization, or we could go forward and boycott."
Guess which one they chose?
"I hesitated for three weeks about boycotting Ford. It's the toughest decision I've had to make regarding boycotts in 30 years. Here's the situation: If we boycott, we're gonna hurt some people, and that's not funny. But if we don't boycott – I mean, 40 Christian leaders, every one of them you would know, wrote Ford a letter, said, 'Please, would you just remain neutral in the cultural wars?' And in essence, Ford wrote back and said, 'Sorry, take a flying leap.'"
"If we had the boycott, we're gonna hurt some people, and that's no fun," Wildmon repeated. "But if we don't boycott, we have no integrity left, and we're going to hurt more people in the long run."
Wildmon never specified which "more people" those were, but the audience seemed to know already.
"You would be utterly surprised how strong the homosexuals are in corporate America," Wildmon charged. "They run, as far as culture; they run a number of these companies. They have free play. They get their way."
That may come as a surprise to some of GayVN's readers; bet they didn't know how much power they really have – which, with an additional $2.95, will get them a latte at Starbucks...