A social conservative’s view of the Republican debate

Eric Gay AP Republican presidential candidates from left, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former House Speaker … Continued

Eric Gay


Republican presidential candidates from left, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., prepare for a Republican presidential debate in Sioux City, Iowa, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

At the final GOP presidential debate before the Iowa caucus, Rick Perry made the first try at a direct appeal to social conservatives with his hope to be the “Tim Tebow of the Iowa caucuses.” While the Fox News debate started with an economic focus, we did get answers from the candidates on social issues, the judiciary, and an important foreign policy issue for social conservatives, Iran.

Let’s start with the judiciary questions of the debate that began with Newt Gingrich’s uprising against a “judicial dictatorship” which includes a policy to abolish the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, because of the court’s overturned that declared “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional, and other courts. While the idea is certainly appealing to social conservatives, we cannot forget that all federal judges – from the district courts to the Supreme Court – are nominated by an elected President and confirmed by an elected Senate. At the ACLJ, we preach that elections have consequences. The judges and justices we have in federal courts are a direct result of the leaders we elect. And is there a social conservative in the country who would disagree with Governor Romney saying that his favorite Supreme Court Justices are Roberts, Alito, Scalia, and Thomas?

When the debate turns to the Iranian nuclear threat, Ron Paul showed exactly why he cannot garner more support from social conservatives. Michele Bachmann expressed what most of believe when she said that Paul’s Iranian policy is the, “most dangerous plan for the United States.” This difference is why Ron Paul will never be the Republican nominee for president. While Romney may not win over a majority of social conservatives with his Iranian policy, his line that President Obama’s “pretty please” foreign policy is disastrous connected with conservatives.

Finally, the debate turned to social issues. Mitt Romney often comes under assault on these issues. I asked this question on Twitter and I’ll stick with it here: Why will the pro-life movement welcome former Planned Parenthood staff to the cause but question sincerity of Mitt Romney? Rick Santorum took a swipe at Romney on a same-sex marriage ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Court, accusing Romney of not doing enough during his remaining year in office to fight back against the ruling? Yet, as Romney pointed out, he worked on an amendment to the state’s constitution defining marriage as between a man and a woman and testified to Congress in support of a federal marriage amendment.

Now, I was expecting Newt Gingrich to get hit at the debate Thursday night but not over his views on abortion. Bachmann pointed out that Gingrich said he would campaign for Republicans who weren’t just soft on life but actually supportive of partial-birth abortion. While Gingrich countered that he was simply stating that he didn’t want to purge Republican members of Congress for their views on abortion, the mood has certainly changed among voters—we saw that in 2010 when moderates were challenged and defeated in primaries across the country. Social conservatives want a leader who would campaign against Republicans who support partial-birth abortion.

Analysis: Mitt Romney had a strong night and has been climbing up in the polls in the last few days as Gingrich falls. Michele Bachmann was solid; keep an eye out for a better than expected turnout for her next month in Iowa. If Rick Perry performed like this in his first few debates, we’d be talking about a very different nomination battle. Ron Paul will keep his supporters but isolates a lot of Republican voters with his outside the mainstream, and what I consider disturbing, foreign policy proposals. If Gingrich falters and Mitt Romney has a late surge in Iowa following the attacks on Gingrich and no single other candidates benefits from a decline in Gingrich support, Romney could be the surprise winner and secure the nomination quickly.

Line of the night goes to Mitt Romney: “Our president thinks America is in decline. It is, if he’s president. It’s not if I’m president. This is going to be an American century.”

  • moxyclod

    It disturbs me that you consider Ron Paul’s foreign policy proposals disturbing.

  • USMC2k

    It will come down to Paul or Obama. Last night just solidly placed the GOP (minus Paul) into the eminent war domain and will leave people no option but to write in Paul or just say screw the GOP and the wars they want. As a vet I fully support Dr Paul. I wish I would have found all these warhawks when I was on recruiting duty, but it’s easy to call for war when you don’t have to fight it.

  • WmarkW

    What’s really sad, is that the Republican Party can’t even find someone who can beat Barack Obama.

    The foreign policy discussion is another of Paul’s non-mainstream ideas that the social and fiscal conservatives need to work out. America is no longer so much stronger than the rest of the world, that we should design a military that could fight any war, any where, against any alliance, all by ourselves. Our military expenses are crushing our economy, and we have to design a multi-hubbed foreign policy acknowleging the economic emergence of countries like India, Indonesia, Brazil, Russia and China.

  • jburken

    War-mongering will be the downfall of the Republican Party. No one in America wants a war in Iran. If the Republicans want to destroy the Middle East, they should just nuke every single bit of the region. After all, we can’t have any Muslims plotting to “ruin our freedom.” Reality check! What is ruining our country is all this extra spending! Don’t be in 2+ wars! Use our defense money to train our military, enhance intelligence and diplomacy operations. Use it to DEFEND rather than ATTACK halfway across the world. This is what most Americans think, and that is why the GOP will lose.

  • Sovereign120

    Everyone on the fence with Ron Paul needs to check out whyronpaul.com and ronpaulmyths.com

  • rhetrozenberg1

    I am a social conservative and in my view, Ron Paul is the only one of the GOP bunch that is closest to a REAL social conservative. The others draw near with their lips, and their agendas are pursued in the name of social conservatism, but their policies ultimately result in bigger more intrusive government, less individual liberty, and more stress on the family.

  • WmarkW

    BTW, what IS the social conservative Middle East foreign policy?

    Does it resemble those stupid tomes in “family” bookstores about how Ahmadinejad=666, the Bible prophesized that a secret Muslim would become US President, and we should hope Israel motivates a nuclear war, so Jesus can return?

  • kc0itf

    Iran is the new al-Queda! The boogeyman to keep the sheeple AFRAID and SCARED! Even if Iran gets nuclear weapons, it’d be SUICIDE to use them for if they did, they’d instantly become a parking lot…

    The ONLY Republican candidate with BRAINS is RON PAUL!

    RON PAUL 2012 OR BUST!!!

  • SimonTemplar

    One can not legislate morality. You can make laws that forbid certain behaviors or actions but people will do them in secret. You can make laws that allow certain behaviors or actions and people will only do them if the will is already there for them to do it.

  • SimonTemplar

    Where were your during Reagan, Bush 1 and Bush 2?

  • persiflage

    It’s becoming clear that Ron Paul will likely stage a 3rd party race as his last presidential hurrah, much like fellow Texan Ross Perot. This will of course cinch it for Obama – nothing like a oneoff spoiler to keep the incumbent right where he is.

    Paul’s supporters are crazy to think that the voters will put a guy with wacky ideas and pushing 80 in the Oval Office, but on the other hand who can forget Ralph Nader’s run, and his devastating effect on Al Gore’s bid for POTUS?

    Nader and his rabid supporters pulled enough votes to prevent a decisive win, and ultimately kept Gore out of office. In essence, Ralph Nader and his monumental ego gave us 8 years of George W. Bush – and I sincerely hope he never forgets it.

    So paybacks are hell boys…….by all means, vote for Ron Paul in 2012.

  • WmarkW

    Re: Ron Paul’s Third Party Bid

    Even though I’d like to see Obama defeated, I don’t mind the idea of teaching the Republicans a lesson through a 3-way split loss. BOTH parties have lost touch with common Americans. You know who’s the party of the business owner, ruralite, fundamentalist; and of the unskilled laborer, urbanite, secularist. How come there’s no party of the suburban, white-collar worker, social moderate?

    The Republicans talk about the years 1946-65 as a kind of golden era, when people practiced values, as evidenced by a record marriage rate and baby boom. They ignore the extent to which job security and economic stability empowered the putting down of family and community roots. The free agent economy they love so much, encourages free agent lifestyles that they hate.

    The Republican party needs to decide if they’re committed enough to family values to design an economy that encourages them. Or if “values” is just a tool they want to use to avoid the social disruption of their pro-wealthy economics.

  • anarchteacher

    As the great Lord Acton famously observed: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

    Newton Leroy Gingrich is self-absorbed, hubristic and arrogant. He is the aging poster boy for crony corporatism, as his corrosive “relationship” with FreddieMac demonstrated.

    Gingrich callously ignored his oath of office to support the Constitution and his marriage vows.

    Eighty-four ethics charges were filed against Speaker Gingrich during his term. After extensive investigation and negotiation by the House Ethics Committee, Gingrich was sanctioned US$300,000 by a 395-28 House vote. It was the first time in history a speaker was disciplined for ethical wrongdoing.

    This neocon chicken hawk is a serial hypocrite, serial adulterer, and serial warmonger. Insatiable lust for power and women have brought down such men. Remember Napoleon? And Callista sure ain’t no Josephine!

  • GMontag

    “Ron Paul will keep his supporters but isolates a lot of Republican voters with his outside the mainstream, and what I consider disturbing, foreign policy proposals. ”

    Mr. Sekulow is stuck in cold-war mentality of projecting force globally with our military, unaware that most true “conservatives” like myself realize the folly of crusading around the globe with our military.

    Not only can’t Mr. Sekulow or “conservatives” of his type account for how they’ll FUND these endless wars, they still fancy themselves as “conservatives” while burying us in more debt for wars that are NEVER won.

    Anybody who thinks we’ve done the right thing with all this crusading need look no further than this week in Iraq when we handed back the keys to country to the Iraqis.

    NEWSFLASH AMERICA: Not a single member of Iraqi government showed up for the ceremony!!

    Quite the solid relationship we’ve built, when the very “leaders” we’ve backed effectively tell Panetta, “don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

    Ron Paul 2012
    Character, consistency, integrity

  • maryp123

    Dear Washington Post,
    Please proofread. This article is a mess.