God's Own Party Waits for the Chosen One
"Two men say they're Jesus, one of them must be wrong." As it turns out, those 1982 Dire Straits lyrics sum up the current dire straits of the 2012 Republican presidential field. With the premature withdrawal of John Thune and Mike Pence from the ranks of the GOP White House hopefuls, social conservatives are nervously waiting for Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann to announce their candidacies. But whatever Huckabee, Palin and Bachmann ultimately decide, each has already claimed God is on their side.
Despite his lead in recent polling, Governor Huckabee has been engaged in a highly public Hamlet act in deciding to be or not to be a Republican presidential candidate. Even as he frets about his finances, Huckabee admits to being "bored" by foreign policy and acknowledging simply "I don't know" what to do about Afghanistan.
Nevertheless, as Huckabee began his latest book tour this week, he assured his fellow Fox News host Sean Hannity he could defeat President Obama. "I think he can be beat," he said, adding, "I frankly think that I would be in a very good position to do it because I believe that standing head-to-head with him, articulating the very clear decisive difference between our positions would be a great contrast."
And having the Lord in your corner doesn't hurt, either.
Back in December 2007, Huckabee attributed his dramatic surge in Iowa, a state he later won, to His divine intervention:
"There's only one explanation for it, and it's not a human one. It's the same power that helped a little boy with two fish and five loaves feed a crowd of 5,000 people and that's the only way that our campaign could be doing what it's doing.
And I'm not being facetious nor am I trying to be trite. There literally are thousands of people across who are praying that a little will become much and it has, and it defies all explanation. It has confounded the pundits, and I'm enjoying every minute of their trying to figure it out. And until they look at it from a just experience beyond human, they'll never figure it out. And that's probably just as well. That's honestly why it's happening."
Huckabee similarly gave the Lord props for his strong debate performances during the 2008 GOP primaries. Asked by BeliefNet if there were any moments during the campaign when he felt God's presence, Huckabee replied:
"Oh, absolutely. Especially some times in the debates when I get asked some question and I'm thinking, 'Oh my'...I felt like the Lord truly gave me wisdom and responses that were truly needed at that time."
As it turns out, Huckabee's communication with the Almighty goes both ways. Mike Huckabee doesn't merely follow Him on Twitter; he sends God direct messages as well.
Addressing a 2004 gathering of Republican governors, Huckabee playfully took a cell phone call from God, promising Him GOP support of His platform while assuming His backing for the Republican Party and President George W. Bush:
"We're behind [Bush], yes, sir, we sure are. Yes, sir, we know you don't take sides in the election. But, if you did, we kind of think you'd hang in there with us, Lord, we really do."
Five years later, the former Baptist minister joined Newt Gingrich and Iran-Contra villain turned Fox News regular Oliver North at Rock Church in Hampton Roads, Virginia, where he testified to God's role in furthering both the American Revolution and Huckabee's own reactionary social policies. As the Virginia Pilot recounted:
"The notion that we are just one of many among equals is nonsense," Huckabee said. The United States is a "blessed" nation, he said, calling American revolutionaries' defeat of the British empire "a miracle from God's hand."
The same kind of miracle, he said, led California voters to approve Proposition 8, which overturned a state law legalizing same-sex marriages.
Voters "did it because some things are right and some things are wrong and they had to make a stand."
As it turns out, among the Republicans' would-be White House wannabes Mike Huckabee is far from alone in claiming to be touched by the hand of God.
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann may not have the smarts to get to the White House, but she does have the cash and the connections. And among those connections, apparently, is direct line to the Almighty.
As to whether she'll make a run for the White House, Tea Party darling Bachmann insisted last week it was His call:
"I think it will be an inner assurance more than anything of what I am supposed to do," she said of contemplating a run for president. She said she and her husband "look to the Lord for guidance, and I can't say enough how important that's been to us to give us that rock of assurance on which path we should go."
Bachmann is nothing if not consistent on that point. In August 2009, she explained how she would decide to seek the presidency:
"If I felt that's what the Lord was calling me to do, I would do it," she answered. "When I have sensed that the Lord is calling me to do something, I've said yes to it. But I will not seek a higher office if God is not calling me to do it. That's really my standard.
"If I am called to serve in that realm I would serve," she concluded, "but if I am not called, I wouldn't do it."
As Bachmann told a mega-church audience in 2006, she got that call from God about running for Congress. His message, apparently, was to go for it:
"And then in the midst of that calling, God then called me to run for the United States Congress. And I thought, 'what in the world would that be for?' And my husband said, 'You need to do this,' and I wasn't so sure. And we took three days and we fasted and we prayed, and we said, 'Lord is this what You want? Is this Your will?' And after the -- along about the afternoon of day two, He made that calling sure.
And it's been now 22 months that I've been running for United States Congress. Who in their right mind would spent two years to run for a job that lasts for two years? You'd have to be absolutely a fool to do that. You are now looking at a fool for Christ. This is a fool for Christ."
Truer words were never spoken.
Then there's Sarah Palin.
As her former aide Frank Bailey revealed in his tell-all book, Palin has for years sought the assistance of her "prayer warriors" in what she deemed a "divine calling." In an email to Bailey in June 2006, Palin explained:
"I was at Wasilla Bible Church...and the service was awesome b.c. he talked about just knowing that you know that you know...you know when you're called for something...there's no guarantee of the outcome but you just know, with a confidence that can only comes (sic) from God, that you're doing what you're supposed to be doing, even though there's no crystal ball to tell you how it will all end. Our pastor...talked about Solomon having to build the temple when he was young & inexperienced & there were political tensions and struggles all over the place...my mom looked at me and said: do you think he's talking to you?!"
Of course, you don't have to take Frank Bailey's word for it. Sarah Palin's own statements on the subject are more than sufficient.
Her April address to an evangelical group called Women of Joy provides a recent case in point. Palin wasn't content to advocate the demolition of the wall separating church and state ("Lest anyone try to convince you that God should be separated from the state, our Founding Fathers, they were believers"). She announced she was "so appreciative" of the "prayer warriors" battling on her behalf:
"Prayer Warriors all across the country -- and I know some of you are here tonight -- your prayer shield allows me and others to go forth. You give out strength, providing a prayer shield. That is the only way to put one foot in front of the other, and get through some of these days with joy."
And while you're at it, Sarah Palin suggested to the Tea Party Convention in February, you can pray for America, too. Unlike President Obama's repeated warnings to the American people not to assume that "our progress was inevitable -- that America was always destined to succeed," Palin declared that "divine intervention" and not being "unafraid to do what was hard" was the key to the nation's future:
"And then I think kind of tougher to, kind of tougher to put our arms around but, allowing America's spirit to rise again by not being afraid, not being afraid to kind of go back to some of our roots as a God fearing nation where we're not afraid to say, especially in times of potential trouble in the future here, we're not afraid to say, you know, we don't have all the answers as fallible men and women so it would be wise of us to start seeking some divine intervention again in this country, so that we can be safe and secure and prosperous again."
Of course, in Sarah Palin's telling, the Lord is going rogue with her.
As the Washington Post summed it up in its review of her 2009 book, Palin's worldview is "an Alaskan frontierswoman's trinity" of "God, Todd and dominion over animals." And to be sure, the Quitta from Wasilla sees the hand of God everywhere in her life:
Right away, Palin posits her faith as the pillar of her career, as if her successes have unfolded according to a grand divine plan. Her selection as McCain's running mate was a "natural progression," she writes in one section. "I don't believe in coincidences," she writes in another.
But as it turns out, Sarah Palin doesn't just have the Lord in her corner, she's also His spokesman.
The war in Iraq, as then Governor Palin told students at the School of Ministry at the Wasilla Assembly of God, is "a task that is from God." And when it came to the multibillion natural gas pipeline she hoped would span her state, Palin lectured, "I can do my job there in developing our natural resources...But really all of that stuff doesn't do any good if the people of Alaska's heart isn't right with God," adding:
"God's will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that."
A jaw-dropping expose in Vanity Fair revealed the shocking extent of Palin's divine narcissism:
When [her son] Trig was born, Palin wrote an e-mail letter to friends and relatives, describing the belated news of her pregnancy and detailing Trig's condition; she wrote the e-mail not in her own name but in God's, and signed it "Trig's Creator, Your Heavenly Father."
Of course, Sarah Palin apparently has long believed she was touched by both the voice - and hand - of God. In May 2005 process complete with a laying on of hands, Kenyan pastor Thomas Muthee prayed over Palin, imploring Jesus to protect her from "the spirit of witchcraft." As Election Day approached in the fall of 2008, the GOP vice presidential candidate claimed to be unconcerned by her ticket's dismal poll numbers. Victory, she insisted, was in God's hands:
"To me, it motivates us, makes us work that much harder. And it also strengthens my faith, because I'm going to know, at the end of the day, putting this in God's hands, that the right thing for America will be done at the end of the day on Nov. 4. So I'm not discouraged at all."
God, it seems, wanted Barack Obama in the White House.
Which brings us to the quandary for God's Own Party. Serial flip-flopper Mitt Romney ran pro-choice Senate campaign in 1994, even going so far as to contribute to Planned Parenthood. While Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels has to confront his past youthful indiscretions with drugs, Newt Gingrich was embarrassed again this week by his belief that marriage is an institution between one man and three women in rapid succession. Meanwhile, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann have yet to announce whether each has the Lord's endorsement for a 2012 White House run.
All of which is ironic, to say the least, for the Party of Lincoln. After all, Abraham Lincoln famously said, "Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right." And while millions of Americans - including presidential candidates - feel the presence of God in their daily lives, Lincoln's Second Inaugural sounded a cautionary note for those believing it to be something more:
"Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes."