FRANK RICH MAKES A FUNNY
Frank Rich in today's New York Times:
... some ... big names on the right, typified by Sean Hannity of Fox News, are capitulating to the Giuliani candidacy by pretending that he, like the incessantly flip-flopping Mitt Romney, is reversing his previously liberal record on social issues. The straw they cling to is Rudy's promise to appoint "strict constructionist" judges to the Supreme Court.
Even leaving aside the Giuliani record in New York (where his judicial appointees were mostly Democrats), the more Democratic Senate likely to emerge after 2008 is a poor bet to confirm a Scalia or Alito even should a Republican president nominate one.
The Democrats? You think the Democrats will stand tough against a far-right judicial nominee? Oh, Frank, you crack me up.
(Please recall that the Senate vote to confirm Scalia in 1986 was 98-0. No Democrat voted no.)
I also want to address Rich's main point, which is that Rudy Giuliani's continued front-runner status in the GOP -- "the great surprise of the 2008 presidential campaign to date" (er, not to me, Frank) -- is a sign that the religious right is a paper tiger:
...the most obvious explanation is the one that Washington resists because it contradicts the city's long-running story line. Namely, that the political clout ritualistically ascribed to Mr. Perkins, James Dobson of Focus on the Family, Gary Bauer of American Values and their ilk is a sham.
These self-promoting values hacks don't speak for the American mainstream. They don't speak for the Republican Party. They no longer speak for many evangelical ministers and their flocks. The emperors of morality have in fact had no clothes for some time. Should Rudy Giuliani end up doing a victory dance at the Republican convention, it will be on their graves.
Well, yes and no. I'm going to stick with my theory: that there's been a long-running battle in this country that goes back at least to the Civil War and Reconstruction, and it's been fought by people who think they're God's People, against Northeastern and (later) West Coast elites, as well as anyone else of a similar mindset. The beliefs of God's People change -- the movement mutates to survive. These people fought the Civil War, resisted Reconstruction, denounced (and still denounce) evolution, fought to preserve segregation, and railed against the later movements for black and Hispanic civil rights, women's rights, and gay rights, as well as the opposition to the Vietnam War.
But you knew this movement could mutate to survive when you saw Strom Thurmond, the old segregationist, supporting the Supreme Court nomination of Clarence Thomas, who was not only a black man but a black man with a white wife. To preserve an ideology, these people were willing to support the living embodiment of precisely what they'd railed against just a quarter-century earlier. (Except in certain pockets, the movement has dropped the most blatant forms of racism, just as it dropped anti-Catholicism and anti-Semitism along the way, although they all survive in somewhat altered form.)
This movement has been, in the last three decades, in large part a religious-right movement, railing against abortion and gay marriage and stem-cell research and the decision to let Terri Schiavo die. Maybe it's not going to be that anymore. But I don't think that means the movement's dead -- I think that means it's changing. I think a champion of the mutated movement could easily be Giuliani, with his advisers who chant "Islamofascism!" and his clear contempt for the very urbanity of the city he once ran.
So, sure, I can believe the religious right will never again be what it used to be. But it's not dead. It's just evolving.
One more point about the Rich column. He writes:
Since the dawn of the new century, it has been the rarely questioned conventional wisdom, handed down by Karl Rove, that no Republican can rise to the top of the party or win the presidency without pandering as slavishly as George W. Bush has to the most bullying and gay-baiting power brokers of the religious right.
But this goes back further than that. Recall (you can look this up in Bob Woodward's book The Choice) that Colin Powell considered running for president in 1996. One big reason he decided against it was that there were threats to out a member of his family as gay if he chose to run. That was surely because Powell was pro-choice. And even before that, George H.W. Bush in 1988 had to talk about accepting Jesus as his personal savior. That fundies were stern taskmasters in the GOP wasn't just something Karl Rove made up.