In the 2012 GOP presidential race, the quickest way to the top of the polls is to just stop campaigning. Maybe go on a book tour, sail around the Aegean for a bit, or teleconference with your friends in Norway. Live a little! No one has passed that bit of advice on to Rick Perry, however. On Monday, desperate for the support of social conservatives in Iowa, the Texas Governor signed the Family Leader's Marriage Vow—a controversial pledge that Mitt Romney previously called "undignified and inappropriate for a presidential campaign." The pledge commits signatories to a range of positions—including support for a federal marriage amendment, the appointment of "constitutionalist" judges," and marital fidelity.
But it also extends beyond standard-issue talking points to some more fringey positions. In signing the Marriage Vow, Perry has also promised to reject Islamic Shariah law (first they came for the turkeys!), save women from the corrupting influence of pornography, and promote "robust childbearing and reproduction." Shariah is defined in the document as a form of "totalitarian control," which, while not approaching Herman Cain territory, is sort of an odd way to talk about the customs of one of the world's major religions.
The marriage pledge is best known, though, for the slavery provision. The document originally noted that "a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President." That language has since been stricken from the vow, but only after an outcry from prominent GOPers like Romney turned the pledge into something of a toxic asset.
GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain has a Muslim problem. Cain has already publicly suggested that Muslims are not guaranteed First Amendment rights and that he would not hire any observant Muslims in his hypothetical administration. His strategy, as with most of his other problems, has been to deny having said any of the things he has said, and then, when pressed, to insist that he's answered the question already, end of story, period. But Cain appears to have shot himself in the foot once again. Chris Moody attended Cain's event at the Holy Land Experience in Orlando, a Biblical amusement park, and reports that Cain started his speech off with a curious anecdote:
He did have a slight worry at one point during the chemotherapy process when he discovered that one of the surgeon's name was "Dr. Abdallah."
"I said to his physician assistant, I said, 'That sounds foreign--not that I had anything against foreign doctors--but it sounded too foreign," Cain tells the audience. "She said, 'He's from Lebanon.' Oh, Lebanon! My mind immediately started thinking, wait a minute, maybe his religious persuasion is different than mine! She could see the look on my face and she said, 'Don't worry, Mr. Cain, he's a Christian from Lebanon.'"
"Hallelujah!" Cain says. "Thank God!"
This isn't the first time Cain has discussed his fears of Dr. Abdallah. It was a stripped-down version of this same anecdote, told during an interview with CBN's David Brody, that first sparked interest in Cain's anti-Muslim views in February. That Cain's still beating the drum seven months later tells you a good deal about the seriousness and discipline of his campaign; it also says a lot about Herman Cain. (My colleague Adam Serwer, meanwhile, can fill you in on why, if you're looking for villiains in the Lebanese Civil War, there's plenty of blame to go around.)
Fifty-seven pages into her new memoir, Core of Conviction, Michele Bachmann makes a confession. "When I say something wrong, I'm hard on myself, because I'm trying to communicate information accurately," she writes. "And so as someone who talks for a living, I've learned to check, double-check, and triple-check my sources. And yet I still make a mistake or two!"
So we've heard. Bachmann's book, her first, hits stores this week, just in time for the Black Friday rush, and given the Minnesota congresswoman's lagging poll position, it might be the best thing that's happened to her in months. In the totally nuts, absolutely wild, up-is-down, Newt-is-up 2012 GOP primary campaign, there's no better miracle elixir for a rough patch than a book tour. Herman Cain's rise in the polls corresponded with his decision to stop campaigning in early primary states, and instead hawk his book; Newt Gingrich, who has spent much of his campaign selling documentaries and children's books, is experiencing his own unexpected surge just as he's released his latest work of historical fiction. If Core of Conviction can't save Bachmann's campaign, nothing will.
At Saturday's GOP presidential forum in Iowa, newly minted frontrunner Newt Gingrich tore into the Occupy Wall Street movement, pointing to it as a symbol of exactly what's wrong with America. "All the Occupy movement starts with the premise that we all owe them everything," he explained. "That is a pretty good symptom of how much the left has collapsed as a moral system in this country, and why you need to reassert something as simple as saying to them, 'Go get a job, right after you take a bath'":
Take that, hippies! Gingrich's zinger is part of an age-old argument on the right, which feebly insists that unemployment is actually caused by systematic laziness on the part of the unemployed rather than structural problems. Which isn't to say OWS went entirely unrepresented at the Thanksgiving Family Forum in Des Moines. Prior to the debate, GOP moderator Frank Luntz turned the floor over briefly to an OWS protester and gave him two minutes to explain his grievances. The protester turned out to be a fairly run-of-the-mill Ron Paul supporter, and spent his time railing against the Federal Reserve. America!
On Saturday, the GOP presidential field—sans Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman—will gather at the First Federated Church in Des Moines for what's being billed as the "first of its kind" Thanksgiving Family Forum. It's a chance for the candidates to make their pitch to the state's social conservative caucus voters. Frank Luntz, the pollster and Fox News personality who's moderating the event, promises there will be "no gotcha questions by the panel. No spin by the politicians. Just an authentic discussion among the people who seek to lead this great nation." Well, he's probably right about the gotcha questions.
The absence of Romney and Huntsman is notable because they are both Mormon—a serious issue at the most recent social conservative confab. But in light of recent events, perhaps the bigger story is this: The event is being co-sponsored by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM!), which just this week promoted an op-ed arguing that gays were responsible for the Penn State sexual abuse scandal.
Per Equality Matters, NOM's site excerpted a piece from anti-gay activist Michael Brown. The column went after Rush Limbaugh, of all people, for not having the courage to publicly link what happened at Penn State to the gay agenda:
He takes on the president, the Congress, and the media (not to mention his derisive attacks on foreign leaders and even radical Muslims), but there's one group he won't take on, one subject he won't touch.
What is it that, in his words, could end his career? What is it about the Penn State scandal that is "glaring; it's right in front of everybody," and yet "nobody has the guts to actually give the explanation for what was going on and why there was trepidation in reporting it"?
Could it be that the sex abuse scandal involved a man allegedly abusing boys, meaning that the acts were homosexual in nature? And could it be that even Rush Limbaugh didn't have the guts to address this?
Huntsman, who not coincidentally has failed to gain traction in the polls, has been the GOP's voice of reason on social issues. Asked about his support for civil unions at a July debate in Iowa, Huntsman stated: "I think this nation can do a better job when it comes to equality." Earlier this year, Romney, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), and Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed NOM's marriage pledge, commiting to support a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and to "appoint a presidential commission to investigate harassment of traditional marriage supporters." You can watch the forum, Saturday at 5 p.m., here.