The Dallas Morning-News reports that Texas Governor Rick Perry is distancing himself from some of the participants and organizers of The Response, his August 4th prayer and fasting festival in Houston. As the likely GOP presidential candidate explained, "Just because you endorse me doesn't mean I endorse everything that you say or do."
That's a pretty standard politician defense, and there's usually a little bit of truth to it. But this kind of misses the point. Sure, the event's organizers hold some wacky views (which we've written about here and here) but the larger point is that Perry is, by holding a rally at the organizers' behest, is consciously aiding a religious movement that has a clear and consistent purpose to bring the "seven mountains"—family, religion, education, business, arts, media, and government—under the dominion of Christians. For the uninitiated, the Texas Observer's Forrest Wilder has a must-read piece on the New Apostolic Reformation—the religious movement behind The Response:
The movement’s top prophets and apostles believe they have a direct line to God. Through them, they say, He communicates specific instructions and warnings. When mankind fails to heed the prophecies, the results can be catastrophic: earthquakes in Japan, terrorist attacks in New York, and economic collapse. On the other hand, they believe their God-given decrees have ended mad cow disease in Germany and produced rain in drought-stricken Texas.
Their beliefs can tend toward the bizarre. Some consider Freemasonry a "demonic stronghold" tantamount to witchcraft. The Democratic Party, one prominent member believes, is controlled by Jezebel and three lesser demons. Some prophets even claim to have seen demons at public meetings. They've taken biblical literalism to an extreme. In Texas, they engage in elaborate ceremonies involving branding irons, plumb lines and stakes inscribed with biblical passages driven into the earth of every Texas county.
That's a sampling. Perry, who has presented himself as a Moses figure leading Americans out of slavery at the hands of "Pharaoh" (i.e. big government), worked with movement leaders to plan The Response, and as Wilder explains, uses much of the same language when he talks about his goals. He's not accountable for specific pastors' views, on, say, Oprah (one participant believes she's a forerunner to the Antichrist). But his involvement with the group goes much deeper than standard guilt by association.
"Knock-knock." "Who's there?" "Would you like to donate to Rep. Bachmann's campaign?"
In November 2008, Michele Bachmann was in trouble. The incumbent Minnesota congresswoman was facing a Democratic wave and the backlash from comments she made questioning Barack Obama's patriotism, and polls showed her neck-and-neck with her challenger, former state transportation commissioner Elwyn Tinklenberg. But at the last minute, some unlikely reinforcements arrived to give Bachmann a boost: kids.
Over the last week of the campaign, nearly six-dozen home-schooled students, some flown in from out of state, joined the Bachmann campaign, knocking on doors, sending out mailers, and making thousands of phone calls. The kids, all between the ages of 12 and 19, were members of GenJ Student Action Team, part of a national organization called Generation Joshua, which trains home-schooled students to become political activists. When the votes were counted, Bachmann held on to her seat in a squeaker—and she credited her child army with pushing her over to the top.
"We often hear that there aren’t young people in the Republican Party," she said in her victory speech. "I'm here to tell you that couldn't be further from the truth."
If Rick Perry runs for president—as looks increasingly likely—it'll be on a platform of small-government fiscal conservatism. As Texas' Governor-for-life (10 years and counting) he's reined in out-of-control government spending and made the Lone Star State an economic oasis through his business-friendly tax code. That's Perry's argument, anyway, but there are just a few holes. For one, there's the fact that as governor, Perry created a structural deficit—that is, Texas is guaranteed a $10 billion deficit at the start of every two-year legislative session because his administration miscalculated the amount of revenue Perry's new franchise tax would bring in. He's also been less than heroic in how he's gone about closing those deficits. Last month, Perry and his allies closed the state's $27 billion deficit through, as the AP put it, "accounting maneuvers, rewriting school funding laws, ignoring a growing population and delaying payments on bills coming due in 2013." You know, tough choices.
Perry has long promoted the state's fiscal record as a model for the country and a key to why Texas has weathered the recession better than most other states. He has opposed new taxes and been vehemently anti-Washington, and his message is drawing interest among Republican primary voters nationwide.
Yet before the latest one, the Texas budget had consistently grown during Perry's time as governor, with total spending rising faster than inflation and population growth, state data show.
What's more, spending through 2011, adjusted for population and inflation, rose more on average while Perry has been in charge than it did under his predecessor, George W. Bush, according to a Star-Telegram analysis.
That's not necessarily a bad thing. Given the kinds of services Perry has cut, you could make a pretty good case that he should have pushed for much larger budgets. And as the story notes, the budget increase mostly comes from federal funding—like the stimulus—rather than state-specific policies (which have decreased). But that's a far more nuanced picture than the anti-Washington, anti-spending small-government ideology he trumpets.
GOP Presidential candidate Herman Cain has an Islam problem. The former Godfather's pizza godfather put his foot in his mouth early in his campaign when he told Think Progress he wouldn't appoint any Muslims in his administration (which would be unconstitutional), and again when he said Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) wasn't loyal to the Constitution because he's Muslim, and again when he said he has never encountered an American Muslim who is loyal to the Constitution, and then again when he denied ever saying any of those things and blamed the media.
Now he's given up on walking back his statements and returned to his roots. On Thursday, Cain made a campaign stop in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, the Nashville satelite that's become a ground zero for the anti-Islam jihad. At the center of the controversy is the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, a local mosque that has been trying to expand its facilities. Opponents have alleged that the the mosque is secretly waging a (very, very) stealth jihad against the people of Middle Tennessee. The construction site has been subjected to arson, and the project itself was challenged in court by opponents who argued that Islam is not a religion and therefore is not entitled to First Amendment protections (The Justice Department said otherwise). Cain, evidently, agrees with the Murfreesboro anti-mosque activists:
Cain didn't bring up the controversial facility in a campaign rally on Thursday, but told reporters afterward that he's concerned about the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.
"It is an infringement and an abuse of our freedom of religion," he said. "And I don't agree with what's happening, because this isn't an innocent mosque."
Cain decided very early in his campaign that to have any sort of impact, he needed to stake out a position on the far right. But now, as Politico notes, he's now gone so far to the right he's gone back in time to August, 2010, when the number-one threat to the country was the construction of a mosque in downtown Manhattan.
Walter Shapiro has an excellent profile of Tim Pawlenty over at The New Republic. The most immediate takeaway—literally, it's in the lede—is Pawlenty's shift in tone when he starts talking about his fellow Minnesota Republican, Rep. Michele Bachmann:
[Midway] through the interview, desperate for a headline-making morsel about his home-state rival, I asked Pawlenty to respond to the assessment that he was the establishment and Bachmann was the outsider in Minnesota politics. To my surprise, Pawlenty sprang to life. He spent the next four minutes vehemently disputing my premise.
"Pawlenty has always been the establishment in Minnesota and Bachmann has always been the renegade," says University of Minnesota political scientist Larry Jacobs. "Pawlenty thought that she was kind of a crackpot. He would roll his eyes when her name came up." Democrat Roger Moe—the former longtime majority leader of the state Senate who lost the 2002 gubernatorial race to Pawlenty—describes his rival as "the kind of guy you can have a beer with" despite their political differences. But Moe cannot resist chuckling: "I can just tell you—I know for sure on the inside of him—that Tim Pawlenty is just seething over Bachmann. I bet they have to lock him in a room some days when he reads about her."
Pawlenty's biggest flaw, in the eyes of media types, is that he has no discernible edge. As one Minnesota Republican told me last month: "He should hire someone to give him a personality." And she was a supporter! When Bachmann becomes part of the conversation, though, Pawlenty shifts immediately from Minnesota Nice to Minnesota Passive-Aggressive.
But the iciness goes much deeper than superficial jealousy. When the two were both in St. Paul, Bachmann attacked Pawlenty with a nearly identical arsenal of barbs that she currently directs at President Obama—right down to the allegations of Soviet-style economics. As we've reported previously, Pawlenty's signature jobs program as governor, which he likes to talk about on the stump, was a system of of tax-free zones designed to keep local businesses from leaving for neighboring states. The program, called JOBZ, was kind of a flop. But Bachmann saw something far more sinister: As she told a conference in 2003, "Tax-free zones are meant to be the catalyst to put the final nail in this system to have a state-planned economy." She railed against the plan as a redistribution of wealth, and framed it in the larger context of a push for what she called a "Soviet-style" economy, in which bureaucrats, businesses, and public schools would work together to create an economy that matched their own globalistic vision.
So yeah, Pawlenty likely thought Bachmann was a crackpot. And there was one more thing. One of Pawlenty's sore spots from his time as governor was his tax hike. As part of a deal he struck to end a government shutdown in 2006, he agreed to an extra 75-cent/pack charge on cigarettes, which he called a "health impact fee." Conservatives read that as a tax (which it was), and hammered him for it, but Pawlenty doggedly stuck with the name and hoped that Republicans would cut him some slack, considering he was governor and he had to cut some sort of deal with the Democratic legislature. He wasn't going to get it from Bachmann, who almost immediately introduced a bill to repeal the tax. Salt, meet wound.
Another way of thinking about this? Tim Pawlenty is Frank Grimes: