Can Christians Forgive Newt?

Newt is quickly moving up in the polls, which means it is time to re-vet the longtime Washington politician.  That means its time to rehash Newt’s past.  Newt has come out saying that he has reconciled with God and has worked to put his family issues in the past.  The question is if that will be enough for the remnants of the Moral Majority and the Christian Right.

Newt may square up pretty well against Romney and Cain right now.  Cain is embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal with three possible outcomes, only one of which can benefit him.  The first outcome, Cain slips up and is proven guilty.  This will end his Presidential ambitions.  Second outcome, there is no clear resolution and the Cain decision comes down to public opinion.  This could hurt Cain’s chances if Newt continues to emerge as a strong contender on ideas.  Third outcome, the facts come out and completely discredit Cain’s accusers.  The mere injustice of the attempt to destroy Cain could easily rocket him to the top of the Republican field as a martyr of the racist left.

Romney’s religious status may not be the nail in his coffin in a matchup with Newt.  While Romney’s Mormonism turns off many conservative Protestants, Newt’s Catholicism will have the same affect on that same small portion of conservative Christian Republicans.  Overall, Mormonism and Catholicism won’t change the score for either of them.  However, Romney’s fidelity and family life is a major point in his favor.

Conservative Christians can be a funny breed.  Morality and grace are a constant tension for Christians.  I John 1:9 says that if Christians confess their sins, Christ is faithful and just to forgive them.  Therefore, if Newt has truly confessed and repented of his infidelity and divorce, he is forgiven.

Can Christians forgive Newt?  Can they overcome his past?  The question Newt has been facing over and over as he rises in the polls is whether character matters.  Newt’s answer is pretty good.  Yes, character matters.  Yes his past has not demonstrated the character he wants to see in a President, but that past is 30 years ago.  Newt’s mention of himself as a grandfather drives home the point that he is much older, and much more mature.

Newt can win, but he has to win over social conservatives first.  This means Newt has to find forgiveness from more than just God.

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CNBC versus the GOP

Last night the GOP candidates went into hostile Michigan to face a hostile set of moderators who were booed into sticking to economic issues by the crowd after an unfair detour against Herman Cain.  In all, the night turned into somewhat of a circus.  Hopefully, the GOP will shun CNBC in the future, as this was the worst and most unprofessional case of moderation we have seen.    But aside from that, let’s get to the winners and losers.  First up…

It floored me when they tried to ask if companies should be making a profit or growing jobs.  Excuse me, but how the heck do you create jobs if you aren’t making a profit?? Gingrich’s response was beautiful. Watching the moderator rolling her eyes when Gingrich said a 30 second answer on healthcare was ridiculous was fun to watch.  But my favorite answer of Gingrich’s was on education, where he offered a real life example of a real life solution that addresses the issue of education that is getting exponentially expensive with much cheaper results.  As someone who works full-time, is a full-time grad student and has been in college for a decade following various business and religious pursuits, I connected with Gingrich’s answer and could not agree more.  This morning Neil Boortz in a morning phonecall to WOKV implied that Republicans needed to worry about who could beat Obama, not who would be the best President speaking of Newt Gingrich.  Bull.  Gingrich keeps winning debates because he is the smartest man on that stage.  And he made a joke out of those bombastic, rude moderators.

Rick Santorum did well.  This doesn’t mean anything, he still can’t win.  But he did highlight his leadership on things like medical savings accounts and gave viewers no reason to mark him down.  He has struggled in debates, but performed well last night.  Ron Paul also did a good job.  He avoided saying anything outlandish and produced a solid, constitutionalist approach.  Bachmann did well, but was once again forgettable.  Huntsman also did pretty well, though his attempt at “answer this in 30 seconds?” humor sounded like a lame, screwed up retelling of a good joke.

Mitt Romney needs to understand his precarious position.  He is stuck at 30%.  The rest of the GOP voters are looking for not-Mitt-Romney as their candidate.  His smoothness, economic savvy, and gaffe free debate performances have gotten him this far (along with a great deal of establishment money).  He needs to figure out how to get himself the rest of the way.  He has to find a way to make Social Conservatives trust him. Mitt, if you are listening, make a major statement in favor of state personhood amendments.  Consider that step one to breaking into the 40s in the polls.

Herman Cain also has hit a roadblock, but it is a policy roadblock.  I think many viewers were left with the feeling that if nuclear missiles were airborne from China heading for the US, President Cain would be on the phone with the Chinese President telling him how his bold plan, the 9-9-9 plan, could solve their problems by growing China’s economy.  9-9-9 is to Herman Cain what Windex was to Tula’s family in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  This one dimensionalism will leave him open to a Gingrich rise.  On the other hand, Cain did very well defending himself against accusations which are more and more looking like racist smears from the Axelrod/Democrat machine.

Rick, Rick, Rick.  By the way, if you want to see the sexism of the left, just watch how long Perry’s crash and burn stays in the media cycle and blogosphere compared to a Palin or Bachmann gaffe.  Talk about not being ready for primetime.  I think Perry likes to start talking and get rolling, and that’s why he sometimes forgets what he was talking about mid-sentence.  No excuses.  You are running for President of the United States.  Running before you secure the ball is how you lose games.  Running your mouth before you have your answer and grasp on the issues is what makes Presidents say stupid things.  E.g. Barack Obama talking about police officers who arrested his professor friend.

Time to thin the herd

All is not lost!  Yes, it was an ugly night for several GOP candidates.  Newt’s frustration with the format is certainly understandable.  It made for great television, but it was a bad debate.  However, there were some glimmers of hope, starting with the Vegas Champ…

Newt Gingrich.  I didn’t give Newt the win last time because I didn’t think his campaign would see a boost.  After this debate, I think it will.  Newt once again is the adult in the room.  He puts himself above the fray and really acts as a second moderator.  Voters should give Newt a second look.  Give Newt seven debates with Barack Obama and Obama might even drop out of the race before November.  I would love to see these debates as more candidates drop out and more time is given.  Newt has been so supportive of other candidates that his questions of other candidates carried a great deal of weight and were therefore more devastating.  Cain will not survive the 999 barrage, look for Newt to pick up steam.  Newt’s statement on faith put him squarely in the majority of conservative thought.  Newt’s biggest slip up was on appearing weak on states rights.  Another candidate who performed well, but likely won’t see much change because of it was…

Mitt Romney.  Romney was once again the big punching bag, and once again hit back.  He continued to defend his healthcare program as a state program and did pretty well.  But here Newt hit him hard on the big government aspect of it.    Romney kept his cool when being shouted down by Rick Santorum and talked over by Rick Perry.  Romney screwed up on Cain’s 999 plan trying to argue that Cain’s plan would add federal taxes to state taxes.  Excuse me, Mr. Romney, but you already pay bushels of apples and oranges.  Don’t feel bad, every candidate but Cain and Newt seemed to forget that 999 would eliminate our current tax code.  In the end, especially with no Huntsman, Romney’s got his support base solidified and did nothing to hurt that. Unfortunately, this is the last good report on a candidate performance in this review.  Although, it wasn’t terrible for everyone, especially…

Michele Bachmann.  Michele, Michele, Michele.  First, Obama took us to Libya, THEN, he took us into Africa!  Oops, Libya is in Africa.  But again, if Joe Biden can be VP, we shouldn’t be too hard on Bachmann for her frequent misspeaks.  Aside from that, she did well in another forgettable performance/turned stump speech.   As a tax litigation attorney though, I am disappointed in her evaluation of Cain’s 999 plan.  A VAT because every corporation in the manufacturing process pays 9%?  What does our current corporate tax do?  Same thing.  Shame on you Michele.  But most people won’t figure that out, so you’re good.  We will see if the media picks up on Bachmann’s idea of a $1 poor tax.  Bachmann won’t see any uptick from this debate.  Another candidate with no uptick or downtick…

Ron Paul. Paul is good on state’s rights.  The other candidates would do well to learn some things from him.  On the other hand, we heard a lot of the same platitudes and fuzzy one liners that leave us scratching our heads about if Paul actually has a viable plan.  Get rid of the income tax?  Oh, ok.  Is that like repealing Medicare part D?  Would be nice, but not a priority?  Paul came out with a new economic plan that cuts a trillion in spending.  Worth taking a look at, but didn’t get much play last night.  He will maintain his small support base, but with his vagueness and legend over substance approach this debate won’t give him a bump.  But at least he won’t lose support, like…

Herman Cain.  Cain gave the media some pretty good quotes last night.  Would he shut down Guantanamo to negotiate with terrorists?  Kinda sounded like it.  Apples and Oranges?  Cain, that is simply not Washington speak.  Cain looked amateurish.    He is an amateur though, so he may get a pass for the inability to articulate his 999 plan in a way that Americans can understand and latch on to.  Fortunately, his opponents weren’t much better.  In fact, only Newt seemed to have a clue how 999 works, but he wasn’t about to throw Cain a bone.  Cain right now is riding on populism, but poor debate performances can sink that ship (Bachmann, Perry).  In fact, I think it did sink two ships last night, starting with…

Rick Santorum.  Rick continues to be an advocate for the family.  He continues to present strong conservatism.  But his discussion with Romney early on just set a bad tone.  He reminded me of an angry teenager.  It was unprofessional and amateurish.  It’s been good to have Santorum in these debates for the most part, but after last night he needs to drop out and endorse a social conservative who can still beat Romney.  You’re not going to win, Rick Santorum.  At this point you are hurting more than helping.  But at least Santorum did better than…

Rick Perry.  Geez.  I don’t want to sound politically incorrect, but Perry seemed…slow.  Can we still use that term?  When Romney was answering and Perry was slowly drawling over him and droning on, I couldn’t help but laugh.  But it got worse as the night went on.  Perry, who gave instate tuition to illegals and opposes a full border fence, went after Romney for hiring a landscaping company that hired illegal aliens.  And that wasn’t the only 2008 unfair attack that Perry dug up.  Even when Perry made a good point (We need to uh, look at, uh the…darn, which amendment was it again?  Oh yeah, tenth amendment for uh…issues) it was lost in translation.  Perry was put in his place over and over.  It was a complete dud.  Even his distancing from Pastor Jeffers was not believable.  The best we got from Perry was a promise that next week he will have a tax plan. The good news is that even Rick Perry had a better week than…

Barack Obama.  Rumor has it, after a bunch of his tour supplies were stolen, that his teleprompter is currently being interrogated by Iranian sponsored Al Qaida terrorists in Mexico.  Although, there have also been alleged sightings of his teleprompter in Zuccoti park, smoking a joint and displaying a message about being overworked and underpaid.

Welcome to the top, Herman Cain

The most recent debate is over, and Herman Cain is discovering what Rick Perry felt like when he was the front runner.  The way the debate went, there was clear recognition of Cain, Romney and Perry as front runners.  The other candidates almost seemed to be helping in the vetting process as though they were seeking to help Americans choose from one of those top three.   So here goes, the latest debate in retrospect.  And the winner is…

Romney back in the driver seat

Mitt Romney.  Mitt Romney had some good news today.  He picked up an endorsement from Chris Christie, which is huge.  He also had some bad news.  Rush Limbaugh questioned Romney’s conservatism compared to other candidates and gave the death knell that took down Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman.  Rush called him the Republican establishment candidate.  Still, Romney was his usual comfortable self.  His adopting the Trump doctrine on China will help build that portion of his base.  Cain did Romney a huge favor by asking him about his 59 point plan and giving him the chance to explain it and expound on it.  In fact, the questioning session turned into an opportunity for the other candidates to seem to vet the apparent front runner candidate.  Romney’s own question to Michele Bachmann was very gracious and showed the kind of class that simply makes Romney likeable.  Romney’s answer on Dodd Frank was pure gold.  He was polished and Presidential.  Romney still has to get a little bit stronger on his conservative stances and lose a bit of that obvious shine in order to pick up more of the anti-politician minded rightwing, especially the TEA party.  But for this debate, Romney managed to edge out…

Newt Gingrich.  Newt Gingrich is the best debater.  As the best debater, Newt spewed pure common sense.  His best was when he bluntly spoke about how absolutely stupid the debt commission is.  His answers put him above the fray and he maintained his mantra that any candidate on that stage would be better than Obama.  However, Newt did not get enough face time.  He took no arrows, shot no arrows at the other candidates, but simply did not have enough chances to speak to make a difference.  Newt has won several of these debates, but winning these debates is not enough for him at this point.  He must so completely knock each debate out of the park that everytime a front runner falls he is there to pick up the pieces.  In this case, he did not even mention his campaign’s new contract with America.  It was a lost opportunity.   So far he has not accomplished what he needs to do in these debates.  I can’t give him first, no matter how well deserved.  But as a representative of the Social Conservative flavor of this party, he did outperform…

Cain has his work cut out for him

Herman Cain.  Cain’s 9 9 9 plan finally got the inspection it deserved.  A striking moment was when Rick Santorum polled the audience on who wanted a new 9% sales tax, and who thought a 9% flat income tax would stay at 9%.  Not a single hand in the audience was visible.  Santorum hit the nail on the head.  The result is Cain will be in trouble after this debate.  He must now find a way to explain his plan in a way that resonates with Americans.  He made a good start when he talked about how the 9% sales tax would replace a 15% payroll tax, which of course we all pay.  If he can hit that point and solve the question of how to prevent future Presidents from turning his 9 9 9 plan into a 35 35 35 plan, he can salvage his front runner (by my calculations) status.  Cain took a huge hit on the federal reserve when Paul questioned him too.  Later when he spoke about fixing the Fed, Paul made easy work out of Cain.  Still, his likeability level and pure down home realness will keep him afloat for at least one more round.  At this point, if Cain falters I predict voters will finally give Newt Gingrich a second look.  Another candidate they might be looking at is…

Rick Santorum.  Rick Santorum did very well.  He made a key point when he said he did not support the bailout.  He called out Cain’s 9 9 9 plan and struck a very strong blow on it.  He exposed Cain’s naivete beautifully.  But that was the extent of Santorum’s stunning performance.  Like Gingrich, he simply did not get enough other face time to make a huge difference.  No one is afraid of him becoming the front runner any time soon, so there wasn’t much interest in him among the debate moderators.  While Santorum did not make a strong case for himself as President, he certainly gave voters a lot to think about with the latest rising star in Herman Cain.  That may be his purpose at this point.  There is very little chance of his campaign being successful.  Almost as little chance as…

Jon Huntsman.  Jon Huntsman did not do bad for the most part.  His answer on China will not connect with Americans and for a good reason.  Being nice to China does not sell when as Romney pointed out we are already losing to them because they are cheating.  Two debates ago I said Huntsman’s campaign is over.  Nothing changed with the debate tonight.  Feeling our pain because he helped run the family business and was a good governor is so cliche at this point, it’s really forgettable.  But not as forgettable as…

Michele Bachmann.  Michele Bachmann did well.  She spoke on Obama’s failures and conservatism.  But mostly she was forgettable.  At one point, it sounded like she said she raised 28 children, 22 foster and 5 biological.  I could understand, with that many kids, how easy it would be to get the math wrong.  But it’s not good when that’s what sticks out in my mind.  No highlights, no major gaffes, and in fact her role in Congress became even more forgettable when Gingrich asked why the House has not made any move to repeal Dodd Frank or Sarbanes Oxley.  I was left wondering where her actual leadership has manifested itself.  The exchange with Romney was her one saving grace, proving that at least she is not one dimensional unlike…

Popularity off the debate stage won't save these candidates from earning low marks in this debate.

Ron Paul.  Ron Paul did ok.  He made it pretty clear he isn’t a fan of the fed.  But on the fed, especially Bernanke, Newt stole his thunder.  What else did Paul speak about?  Again, another forgettable candidate.  Paul fans, don’t hate me for saying that.  Step outside of the movement for a minute and ask yourself if he truly made a splash.  Did we hear anything new about Ron Paul that would make us want to make him in charge of everything the President of the United States is responsible for?  No, but I’d be happy to see him head up the Fed audit once we get a President who has that as a priority (which apparently is not Herman Cain).  But even Ron Paul did better than…

Rick Perry.  Rick Perry came across as a something between a walking cliche and a deer in the headlights.  He simply does not debate well.  He again was slow in his responses and his wording did not connect.  He came across as very unprepared once again.  His good answers were copies of other candidates, and his bad answers seemed to drag on with his drawl.  I’ve said before that I would love to see Newt Gingrich debate Obama.  I would not love to see Perry debate Obama.  I’m not sure I would be able to watch.  Can Perry turn things around?  Possibly.  I’m not ready to give him the Dead Candidate Walking title along with Huntsman just yet.

Rick Perry’s Jeremiah Wright Moment

Bookmark and Share On Friday afternoon, at a meeting of the annual Values Voters Summit in Washington, D.C.,  Texas Governor Rick Perry found himself involved in a controversy not of his own doing.  Instead it was the man who introduced him to the evangelical audience that brought the controversy on  to Rick Perry.

At around 2:30 in the afternoon, in his introduction of Perry, Southern Baptist Convention leader Robert Jeffress, who recently endorsed the Governor, described Perry as “the most pro-life governor in the United States of America.” He also touched upon the gaffes made by Perry in the last debate by saying, “do we want a candidate whois skilled in rhetoric, or one who is skilled in leadership?”.  He went on to call him “a committed follower of Christ.”

But 45 minutes later, when speaking to reporters, Jeffress told reporters that Mormonism is a “cult” and that voting for former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney would “give credibility to a cult”.  He also stated that he endorsed Perry only as an individual, and that he would not tell his church members how to vote. But he further stated that he is planning to give a sermon this Sunday in which he talks about “how a  Christian should vote.” Jeffress added that among the criteria is that the person they vote for be a Christian.

According to a live blogger at the summit reporting for the Washington Post, Jeffress also told reporters that many evangelicals were afraid to talk about Mormonism but would have a hard time voting for a Mormon candidate.

At the same time Jeffress also confessed that as a pastor he was “not nearly as concerned about a candidate’s record on fiscal issues or immigration issues” as he is with their social conservative bona fides.

That however is a view which contradicts the political realities of the 2012 election. And as demonstrated by the highly motivated TEA movement, is not the most important aspect that they are seeking in a candidate.  In fact for many of them, it is just the opposite.  They are looking more for a Republican candidate who while having moral values, will stay out of people’s personal lives.

That fact was not missed by Governor Perry.  For he delivered a speech that focused less on faith and more on his record of job creation.

Despite the fact that the group he was addressing was gathered together to celebrate the fundamentals of the Christian faith and socially conservative values, Perry chose to make the point that he was running on a message of economic recovery.  Such was most likely a tactical campaign decision based on an attempt to not allow rivals to paint him as a religious fanatic who would take the same priorities as Jeffress, to
Washington in 2013.

Ironically though, the remarks made by Jeffress did little to help his endorsed presidential candidate.  In fact, Jeffress only did more to hurt Perry.

Evangelicals have no problem with Rick Perry.  They know all that Jeffress tried to convey to them about Perry at the Values Voters Summit.  However, Perry will have a problem with voters who are leery of having a President focused more on social issues than the economic and foreign affairs issues that the office of President was designed to addressed and which are in desperate need of being addressed properly.  For those people, Jeffress did little to win over any converts to Perry.   And at the same time, he pushed a very sensitive button regarding religious tolerance and bigotry.

But Jeffress is probably less concerned with getting Rick Perry elected than he is with selling a new book that he has coming out.

For his part, after Jeffress made his off the cuff remarks, Rick Perry had his campaign distanced the him from Jeffress.  They noted that it was the organizers of Values Voters Summit that chose Jeffress to introduce the Texas governor, not the campaign. However it was later confirmed that Perry approved of having Jeffress introduce him.  Based upon Jeffress’ longstanding and well publicized history of religious intolerance, Rick Perry should never have allowed Jeffress to have the opportunity to be an representative of Perry’s supporters.  Allowing Jeffress to introdcue him was indeed a big mistake.  Either that or Perry does not see much wrong with Jeffress’ intolernace and bigotry.

Perry spokesman Robert Black did released a statement that read “The governor does not believe Mormonism is a cult. He is not in the business of judging people. That’s God’s job.”

Whether that is true or not, no one can’t know for sure.  All we can do is take Perry at his word.  But interestingly enough the words that Jeffress speak do happen to be suspiciously scripted.

According to CBS, during Jeffress’ post Perry speech comments, he claimed “I did not talk about my Mormon views” with Perry, and added, “I’m not insinuating that the governor shares those at all — he may not.” described himself as only an acquaintance of Perry’s.  “I did not talk about my Mormon views” with Perry.   He continued, “I’m not insinuating that the governor shares those at all — he may not.”

Jeffress then said the following words which rang some alarm bells with me;

 “I haven’t gone coyote hunting with him,”.

They were the very same seemingly unrehearsed words he spoke in an MSNBC interview  on August 14th  [see the interview below] .  Personally, it sounds to me as though there is a lot more coordination between Jeffress and Perry’s campaign than some are willing to admit.

In another interview, this one on Fox News Live, back in June of this year, Jeffress expressed his disappointment in Mike Huckabee’s decision not to run for President.  He also stated that without Huckabee in the race, Chrsitians may be faced with having to hold their noses and vote for the lesser of two evils.  Jeffress then claimed  to being non-partisan and then professed that he is  only concerned with “the next President being committed to eliminating the tide of un-Godliness and evil that is sweeping our country”.  He even admits  “while Romney may make a good President”,  but adds, “we better understand that if we vote for Mitt Romney we are not voting for a Christian”. 

Observe the video for yourself.  I believe you will find this religious leader to be preaching a level bigotry that is so obvious, that is actually offensive.  I can only say that thank God most true Chrsitians are not as ignorant, bigotted, and intolerant as Robert Jeffress is.  And when I write “intolerant”, I do not mean it in the politically correct sense which is to deny the truth.  I mean it in the sense of trying to defy logic and closing doors based upon perceptions, not actual facts.

 The only way for Rick Perry to really nip this in the bud is to do more than distance himself from Jefresss.  In many ways this could be Rick Perry’s Jeremiah Wright moment.  That is why Perry needs to denounce Jeffress for his prejudices and defend Mitt Romney for having what may be religious differences but are most certainly Christian values.  If he does do not do so, Mitt Romney could turn what initially seems to be a relatively minor verbal hiccups, into a major issue that he could turn around to his advantage.

In this day and age, for Americans to hold prejudices against a political leader because of their faith, is nothing other than an example of backwards thinking and a contradiction to the very constitutional principles that the G.O.P. is trying to stress the need for our nation to return to.

As for Robert Jeffress, I am sorry to say this, but he is an ass.

I say so not neccessarily because of his beliefs but because of his obvious insincerity and the mixed messages that he as a religious leader, sends.  Personally, I think he is more concerned with selling his new book than he is with either whom our next President is, or Jesus.

But how does Mitt Romney feel about it all?  We may get the chance to find that out on Saturday, when Mitt is scheduled to address the Values Voters Summit himself.  His approach to the evangelicals gathered there will be quite interesting, especially in light of the assault made upon him and his faith by Perry supporter Robert Jeffries.

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