James Dobson Trashes Fred Thompson
Growing evangelical angst over its choices in the 2008 Republican presidential field reached new heights this week. Just two days after the GOP frontrunners skipped the supposed Values Voters Debate, Focus on the Family's James Dobson lambasted late entrant Fred Thompson.
Dobson, whose previous crusades for moral righteousness included his campaign to out SpongeBob Squarepants, claimed he could not support Thompson under any circumstances. In a private email disclosed to the Associated Press, Dobson raged against the former Tennessee Senator and TV star hyped by some desperate Republicans as the Second Coming of, well, something:
"Isn't Thompson the candidate who is opposed to a Constitutional amendment to protect marriage, believes there should be 50 different definitions of marriage in the U.S., favors McCain-Feingold, won't talk at all about what he believes, and can't speak his way out of a paper bag on the campaign trail?
"He has no passion, no zeal, and no apparent 'want to.' And yet he is apparently the Great Hope that burns in the breasts of many conservative Christians? Well, not for me, my brothers. Not for me!"
For the radical right, there is much to dislike about Thompson beyond his deadly sin of sloth. The one-time lobbyist for a pro-choice group played dumb on the Terri Schiavo controversy so near and dear to the hearts of the American Taliban. Claiming he too was in a persistent vegetative state, Thompson said, "That's going back in history. I don't remember the details of it." Digging a deeper hole with evangelical voters, Thompson described his on-again, mostly off-again church-going habits. "I attend church when I'm in Tennessee. I'm in McLean (Va.), right now. I don't attend regularly when I'm up there." Thompson only complicated matters with his hesitation to prosecute women for having first-term abortions:
Authorities "can do whatever they want to with abortion doctors, as far as I'm concerned," the former Tennessee senator said. But "if it comes down to giving criminal sanctions to a 19-year-old girl and her mama, I'm against that."
Dobson is not the only charter member of the American Taliban smiting Fred Thompson. "Right now, I think people are stepping back a little and watching," said Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, adding, "The field is still very fluid." Pastor Rick Scarborough, who once compared Tom Delay to Jesus Christ, concurred:
"The problem I'm having is that I don't see any blood trail. When you really take a stand on issues dear to the heart of social conservatives, you're going to shed some blood in the process. And so far, Fred Thompson's political career has been wrinkle-free."
As James Dobson made clear, that free ride is about to end. Thompson's run-in with the religious right once again highlights the quandary facing the Christian conservatives who dominate the GOP primary process. With no heir apparent to George W. Bush, frustrated evangelicals face flawed front-runners or symbolic choices among the second-tier of Republican candidates. No doubt, watching the radical right eats its own is going to be one of the more enjoyable experiences of election 2008.
Just not, it appears, for Fred Thompson.
(For more on the latest GOP faith-based follies, visit here.)