Monday, October 22, 2007

Has Alan Keyes "Jumped The Shark"?

Keyes criticism of "Values Voters Summit" sounds desperate, self-serving

On the old TV show “Happy Days,” the Fonz was the coolest guy around -- until an infamous episode just before the show’s cancellation which had the Fonz literally jumping a shark while water-skiing in his trademark leather jacket.

The scene was supposed to show that the Fonz remained cool in all circumstances. But the episode was so contrived, so preposterous, that even the uber-cool Fonz looked ridiculous. Since then, "jumping the shark" has come to symbolize anyone who gets caught trying to be cool, or -- more generally -- is desperately, and unsuccessfully, even pathetically, trying to remain relevant.

Such is a description of the current chapter in the political career of Alan Keyes.Keyes was a refreshing and credible voice in the 1996 and 2000 presidential elections. But he’s become a gadfly and -- worse -- a whiner. He’s failed to make a credible showing in any race he’s ever entered, and he’s started blaming others for his inability to get traction.

Witness, for example, excerpts from a press release from the Keyes campaign, coming on the Monday after the Family Research Council's Washington Briefing. After berating each of candidates for some deficiency in their conservative, pro-life positions, Keyes then blasts the FRC:

“[The] FRC gave each of these candidates the use of its platform. It gave each of them a photo-op receiving a standing ovation from a crowd identified as strongly pro-life and supportive of the God-ordained natural family. [But the FRC] repeatedly refuse to invite one particular candidate: Dr. Alan Keyes. For decades, Dr. Keyes has boldly and courageously fought for everything the FRC claims to represent.

“The contradictions get worse," Keyes' whiny press release continues. "For weeks prior to the event — in advertising, and in the radio and television pronouncements of FRC leaders — FRC claimed that all the candidates in both parties were invited. This claim was patently false, since Dr. Keyes was excluded, and yet they refused to correct it even after its untruthfulness was pointed out to them repeatedly.

“Keyes staffers, seeing the claims that 'all' the candidates had been invited, even the Democrats, thought perhaps an invitation for Ambassador Keyes had been lost in the mail. It could happen. So, they contacted FRC organizers just to be sure there was no misunderstanding. To their surprise, no such misplaced invitation had ever been offered. And none was ever forthcoming. The explanation given was that the event had been planned for months, that Keyes had entered the race too late, and that no slot in the speaking schedule could possibly be found for him. A shocking claim, considering the fact that Fred Thompson entered the race barely a week before Keyes, that Rudy Giuliani confirmed his attendance only days prior to the event, and that both were given every consideration.”

Keyes’ campaign lands a few punches, but he and his campaign ignore one important point: one of the values of a presidential campaign is that it gives the American people a chance to see how a candidate operates as a manager and a leader. Is he an effective manager, or a bumbler?

Many decry the fact that political campaigning has become so expensive, but you could also say that it gives us a good chance to see how well organized a candidate is, and what his stamina and perseverance is.

Keyes has proven time and again that he is not presidential material. He's a smart guy with a lot of good ideas. He should write books and give speeches, not run for president.

Warren Cole Smith is the editor and publisher of "The Charlotte World" and the Evangelical Press News Service. He can be reached at

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Dobson "Speaks From Heart" At Values Voter Summit

The capstone of the Value Voters Summit held this weekend at the Washington, D.C., Hilton Hotel was a black-tie gala honoring Dr. James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council. More than 1000 people attended the dinner, most of them were among the 2300 who were at the weekend-long Summit, which featured presentations from all of the Republican presidential candidates.

Prison Fellowship's Charles Colson began the evening by outlining what values voters should be looking for in a president -- adding that he knew no one who possessed these qualities so much as Dobson himself, a comment prompting cheers from the audience.

After a concert by country artist Lee Greenwood (he ended with his anthem "God Bless The U.S.A.") former Attorney General Edwin Meese honored Dobson for his work in the public policy area. Meese acknowledged that Dobson "sometimes comes under attack, but Jim has faced these attacks with courage and fortitude, and has persevered with dignity and great determination."

The current president of Focus on the Family, Jim Daly, came next. He called Dobson "tender-hearted, compassionate" and "full of integrity." Elsa Prince, an FRC and Focus on the Family board member (and mother of Blackwater founder Erik Prince), called Dobson "warm" and "sincere" and recounted anecdotes of traveling around the world with the Dobsons, visiting Focus on the Family's international operations. He also called Dobson a man of prayer, both "human and humorous," who can't be interrupted when his beloved University of Southern California sports teams are on the televison.

Danae Dobson said the question she has been asked the most frequently is "What is it like to be the daughter of Dr. James Dobson?" She said it has been "wonderful." She said one of the qualities she admires most is that "he practices what he preaches."

When Shirley Dobson took the podium, she said, "Jim, are you sure you want me to be up here to tell the real truth about you?" The crowd responded with laughter and applause. Shirley Dobson said that even from their undergraduate college days, her husband was confident and determined. She closed her speech by looking directly at her husband of 47 years and saying, "Jim Dobson, I honor you not only as my husband, but as one of the finest men of our time."

A video tribute featured Jerry Regier, Gary Bauer, Joni Eareckson Tada, Donald Wildmon, Don Hodel, and Ryan Dobson.

Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, served as master of ceremonies of the event. After the video presentation, he took the stage to present the FRC's first Vision and Leadership Award to Dobson.

After accepting the award, Dobson honored those who honored him. It was 10:15 pm when Dobson took the stage. He apologized for the lateness of the hour, but he had something he wanted to say. First, he said the media had, for months, been saying that the pro-family movement was dying. Dobson turned to the press gallery and said, "To the media who are here: Welcome to the morgue." The remark got a standing ovation.

Then Dobson got serious. "There is an ominous feeling in the air," he said. "There is a possibility that the far, far left is going to capture the 'triple crown' in the fall of '08: the White House, the House, and the Senate. If that happens, the direction of the Supreme Court will change, and if that happens, that will change the direction of this country for the next 30 years." He added, though, that profamily forces wouldn't "let that happen."

Dobson said that we "can't set aside our morals and our principles" to support a presidential candidate who may be electable but who won't advance pro-family causes. "The problem with choosing the lesser of two evils is that you're still choosing evil," Dobson said. He said, "We cannot be so terrified of losing that we forget who we are and what we came here to do."

He then turned his remarks toward the institution of marriage. He called for passage of a marriage protection amendment, saying that without it marriage would be thrown "on the ash heap of history."

The crowd grew quiet when Dobson explained what happened at a meeting of conservative activists in Salt Lake City in early October. He said that the group "did not" vote to form a third party. But he also said he was "frustrated with the Republican Party. The Republican Party had the Triple Crown -- the White House, the Senate, and the House -- for six years, and they did absolutely nothing."

He closed by saying there were many causes for optimism. "We are winning the hearts and minds of the people," Dobson said. He cited polls saying Americans overwhelmingly believe abortion is wrong. So, he concluded, conservatives should "stay the course. The Democrats are not a shoo-in, no matter what you are hearing in the media."

Romney Edges Huckabee In "Values Voter" Straw Poll

The big loser in the straw poll at the Family Research Council's annual "Value Voters" straw poll could be the Family Research Council itself.

First the facts, Mitt Romney narrowly edged Mike Huckabee to win the poll. Romney got 1595 votes (27.62 percent) and Huckabee got 1565 (27.15 percent). Ron Paul came in third with 865 votes (14.98 percent). No one else got more than 10 percent of the vote.

Now the problem for the FRC: the people who actually came to the event in Washington and voted on-site went overwhelmingly for Huckabee. All eight Republican presidential candidates spoke at the event, and Huckabee's speech was a real stem-winder, interrupted by applause more than 20 times and by standing ovations nearly a dozen times. He was the overwhelming winner among those who were there -- outpolling Romney 488 to 99, a nearly 5-to-1 margin. When Tony Perkins announced the results of the straw poll this afternoon, the crowd was visibly stunned by how out-of-sync the results were with the sentiments of the "values voters" in attendance.

In fact, at the press conference immediately after the announcement, a non-media attendee "crashed" the Q & A session to chastise Perkins for the way the event was run. Some bloggers and secular media even led their stories with that episode.

Perkins told me, though, that he had "no second thoughts" about the process. "Everyone had the same chance to get their people out," Perkins said. "Huckabee mounted an aggressive on-line campaign, too."

The bottom line: the poll results didn't reflect the true sentiment of "values voters." That's a problem for values voters who wanted their voices heard clearly and unmistakably. What remains to be seen is whether the FRC, given its bungled management of this straw poll, can maintain its position as the point of the values voters' spear.

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