Stephanie Mencimer

Stephanie Mencimer

Reporter

Stephanie works in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. A Utah native and graduate of a crappy public university not worth mentioning, she has spent several years hanging out with angry white people who occasionally don tricorne hats and come to lunch meetings heavily armed.

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Stephanie covers legal affairs and domestic policy in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. She is the author of Blocking the Courthouse Door: How the Republican Party and Its Corporate Allies Are Taking Away Your Right to Sue. A contributing editor of the Washington Monthly, a former investigative reporter at the Washington Post, and a senior writer at the Washington City Paper, she was nominated for a National Magazine Award in 2004 for a Washington Monthly article about myths surrounding the medical malpractice system. In 2000, she won the Harry Chapin Media award for reporting on poverty and hunger, and her 2010 story in Mother Jones of the collapse of the welfare system in Georgia and elsewhere won a Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism.

Rick Santorum For President?

| Sat Sep. 19, 2009 9:05 AM EDT

Conservatives are gathered this weekend in DC at the Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit to kvetch about Obama, liberals and the homosexual agenda. But aside from bemoaning the collapse of American culture, they are also here to start the vetting process for potential GOP presidential candidates. Many of the aspiring candidates are here to woo evangelical voters, including Mitt Romney, Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, Mike Huckabee and Minn. Gov. Tim Pawlenty. But there are a number of other people on the summit's straw poll ballot who are also throwing their hats in the ring. The best known are Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich. But the ballot also includes Ron Paul, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and, surprisingly, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

Perhaps his appeal to the values voters is not so shocking given his rabid anti-gay stance. But Santorum lost his last election in a blowout by Sen. Bob Casey in one of the largest losses in Senate history. His defeat stemmed in no small part to a concerted Internet campaign by gay columnist Dan Savage to use Santorum's name to describe the "frothy mix of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the biproduct of anal sex," an effort launched after Santorum equated homosexuality with bestiality. It's hard to imagine the guy could run a viable presidential campaign with his name forever linked to anal sex in Google. I guess we'll find out how viable Santorum is among people who agree with him today at 3:15 when the straw poll results are released.

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Carrie Prejean: It's All About Me

| Fri Sep. 18, 2009 3:45 PM EDT

If there was ever any doubt that beauty queens were vacuous, former Miss California USA Carrie Prejean wiped it away Friday when she appeared before the Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit in DC. The beauty queen has earned quite a following since she told Perez Hilton at the Miss USA pageant earlier this year that she believed marriage should be between a man and a woman. (The nude photos probably helped, too.)

At the Values Voter Summit, Prejean appeared tan and shimmery, semi-clad in a sleeveless white blouse. She stood in stark contrast to Maggie Gallagher, the frumpy head of the National Organization for Marriage who introduced her. Prejean could have said just about anything and the crowd would have gone gaga. (One speaker called her a "modern day Esther.") There was reportely a near-riot when volunteers were needed to escort her to her car after her speech. But if attendees were hoping to hear a tirade against gay marriage, Prejean disappointed them. She came here to talk about one thing: herself. She started her story like this: "I was just a strong woman starting off in a pageant."

 

Stephen Baldwin: Preacher Man

| Fri Sep. 18, 2009 2:31 PM EDT

Actor and famous brother Stephen Baldwin has been on the stump of late trying to rally up the under-25 crowd for conservatives. He appeared last week at the big 9/12 march in DC,  and on Friday afternoon he was one of the big names at the Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit. Troubled by the fact that Obama overwhelmingly won the youth vote, conservatives seem to be pinning their hopes on people like Baldwin and Carrie Prejean to broaden their appeal to the next generation. But if Baldwin is the best celebrity they can come up with, their movement is in big trouble.

Baldwin, who became a born-again Christian after the 9/11 attacks, runs an extreme-sports ministry that brought God to arenas and other such sacred venues. He also co-hosts a popular talk radio show. At the summit, Baldwin appeared with his show's co-host Kevin McCullough to heavy applause from the gathered faithful. Baldwin acknowledged the warm welcome with many "amens" and then explained how he liked to turn these things "over to the Lord."

Without any irony, Baldwin lamented the impact that Hollywood has had on youth culture, perhaps thinking about his first film, The Beast, or his 2007 appearance on "Ty Murray's Bull Riding Challenge." Apparently Baldwin has hopes of returning America to the country of his youth, when people really believed in the American dream. (Lots of the Values Voters speakers have used this kind of restoration language.) The only way to recover this lost dream, according to Baldwin, is with "the spirit of the Lord." Baldwin's spiel was heavy on faith, light on politics. In fact, far from rallying a political movement, Baldwin seemed to be practicing his next sermon. And when it comes to preaching, Baldwin is no Mike Huckabee. One snippet:

"The American dream is the same thing as believing in things we cannot see. We need to be in the place in our experience in that dynamic that allows the spirit of the Lord that allows us to do it through us."

Coming from a guy who recently ended up in the hospital suffering from life-threatening bug bites he got on "I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here!" it was a bit hard to follow. Nonetheless, the still-studly Baldwin—who once wrote a song called "My 18-inch Biceps"—will be rocking out with all the young conservatives here in the far reaches of the Omni Shoreham later tonight.

 

Where's Sarah Palin?

| Fri Sep. 18, 2009 10:02 AM EDT

Thousands of conservative activists are back in DC again this weekend for the Family Research Council's annual Values Voters Summit, an event that in the past has served as an early test ground for aspiring GOP presidential candidates. True to form this year, many of the GOP luminaries are on the lineup: Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Conspicuously absent from the list, though, is former VP candiate Sarah Palin.

Palin was invited, and her absense is no doubt a huge disappointment to many of the attendees. According to the Washington Times this morning, she skipped the event because her son Track is coming back from Iraq this weekend. Of course, his return won't prevent Palin from jetting off to Hong Kong in a few days for a big paid speaking gig to a group of Chinese investors (which will be closed to the media, incidentally.)

Palin's dissing of the conservative activists seems odd. These are her people, after all. Does this mean she's not going to run for president? I doubt it. More likely Palin realizes that, unlike people like Pence and Pawlenty, the Values Voters already know her. She can afford to take them for granted. Right now, apparently, she's more desperate for Chinese money than the straw-poll votes of a couple hundred die-hards.

John Fund Fears Universal Voter Registration Conspiracy

| Wed Sep. 16, 2009 3:48 PM EDT

The right-wingers over at the American Conservative Union conference in DC today must really be frothing after a full day of fiery political speechifying. We wish we could give you better color commentary, but ACU has banned the media (unless we're willing to fork over $400.) But fortunately, ACU is Twittering, so we do know that the Wall Street Journal's John Fund just warned the crowd that if Democrats lose health care, they will "ram universal voter registration through Congress." The horror! God forbid everyone in this country actually registered to vote. Other choice quotes from Fund:

On health care: "I think we have a chance of taking it down from an 800 pound gorilla to a 99 pound weakling."

On the ACORN scandal: "ACORN is the soft under belly of the Liberal Left Machine."

And this doozy: Fund estimates that more than 400,000 people attended Saturday's 9/12 anti-government march in DC. (Most reliable estimates put the number at more like 75,000.)

Fund was preceded by Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), who said sagely:  "The constant in climate change is that it is changing." He apparently called for more science, less hype on global warming.

And it wouldn't be a conservative conference without South Carolina Rep. Jim DeMint (R), who told attendees: "Our goal is to save freedom in America." Thanks, Jim.

You can follow the bromides here.

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