The FAMiLY Leader’s Bob Vander Plaats insisted that the Rick Santorum campaign did not know about his endorsement of the former Pennsylvania senator ahead of time, despite the presence of national political director Michael Biundo at yesterday’s announcement. Well, now the candidate himself has confirmed Vander Plaats’ claim, telling a reporter in Iowa that he first heard about the endorsement from a blind man:
SANTORUM: I was standing here and someone like you, person in front of me said, oh I just heard Rick Perry is the guy [the FAMiLY Leader] is going to endorse…another person said, I just heard. I said, what do you mean you just heard? You don’t’ have an ear piece. This guy said, ‘I’m blind’. I have very good hearing and and I herd somebody in the kitchen say that they didn’t endorse anybody. I said, okay, they didn’t endorse anybody….And then just as they were breaking up, somebody came in and said ‘no they endorsed you.‘
The FAMiLY Leader’s Bob Vander Plaats and Chuck Hurley of the Iowa Family Policy Center have endorsed conservative values stalwart Rick Santorum for president, who, despite a strong record of opposing abortion rights and marriage equality, has failed to gain any significant traction in the state. Santorum is also the only GOP presidential candidate to campaign in all 99 of Iowa’s counties and has participated in over 350 town halls. The Leader’s board has agreed to remain neutral in the caucuses.
Vander Plaats and his group have sought to position themselves as kingmakers of the Iowa caucuses, hosting a presidential speakers forum earlier this year, and asking candidates to sign a 14-point marriage fidelity pledge vowing to oppose same-sex marriage. During today’s announcement Vander Plaats downplayed the influence of his personal endorsement, saying that the endorsement may have limited value, given the proximity of the Jan. 3 caucuses:
VANDER PLAATS: He has been a stalwart and a soldier for the sanctity of human life and God’s design for the family, one man-one woman marriage…. So today, I as an individual am going to endorse Rick Santorum. I’m going to mobilize whatever resources I have at my disposal to advocate for him. I will not tear down another candidate….I believe Rick Santorum comes from us. He comes from us, not just to us. He’s one of us….I also recognize that we’re down to fourteen days minus Christmas.
A Gallup poll released several weeks ago found that Santorum — a candidate who has camped out in Iowa and delivered everybigotedanti-gayargumentimaginable — is the least acceptable nominee for president from the Republican Party — according to Republicans. Just 27 percent of GOP voters said Santorum could represent the party in 2012; 62 percent said he was “not acceptable.”
The FAMiLY Leader has its own long history of anti-gay and anti-Muslim rhetoric. An early version of the group’s fidelity pledge suggested that children were better off under slavery than they are under Obama, and the document likens homosexuality to polygamy, adultery, or polyandry, attacks gays as a public health risk, and foments the non-existent “Sharia” threat to America. Vander Plaats himself led a successful campaign to oust three state Supreme Court justicies who overturned Iowa’s anti-gay marriage law and played in instrumental part and leading Mike Huckabee to victory in Iowa in 2008.
Politico’s Reid Epstein reports that “Iowa evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats called Michele Bachmann and urged her to drop out of the race and endorse Rick Santorum, a source with knowledge of the conversation told POLITICO Tuesday…Bachmann declined, the source said, noting to Vander Plaats that she has consistently polled ahead of Santorum in the race and still does.
As Iowa’s FAMiLY Leader prepares to endorse a presidential candidate ahead of the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses, Newt Gingrich has issued a statement affirming the Leader’s pledge to oppose marriage equality for gays and lesbians, deny women access to abortion, and reduce the debt. Read his full response here and the marriage excerpt below:
Defending Marriage. As President, I will vigorously enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, which was enacted under my leadership as Speaker of the House, and ensure compliance with its provisions, especially in the military. I will also aggressively defend the constitutionality of DOMA in federal and state courts. I will support sending a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the states for ratification. I will also oppose any judicial, bureaucratic, or legislative effort to define marriage in any manner other than as between one man and one woman. I will support all efforts to reform promptly any uneconomic or anti-marriage aspects of welfare and tax policy. I also pledge to uphold the institution of marriage through personal fidelity to my spouse and respect for the marital bonds of others.
Vander Plaats welcomed Gingrich’s affirmation saying, “We are pleased that Speaker Gingrich has affirmed our pledge and are thankful we have on record his statements regarding DOMA, support of a federal marriage amendment, defending the unborn, pledging fidelity to his spouse, defending religious liberty and freedom, supporting sound pro-family economic issues, and defending the right of the people to rule themselves.”
In August, Gingrich said he wouldn’t sign the pledge unless the group adopted certain tweaks to their document, which had previously argued that African American children were better off during the period of slavery and called for a ban on pornography. Gingrich has long supported Vander Plaats and his efforts, however. Last year, he offered his vocal support for the Iowan’s successful campaign to oust three of the nine Iowa Supreme Court justices who had unanimously ruled in favor of marriage equality and his associates bankrolled more than one-third of the $850,000 campaign to remove the justices.
One Iowa reacts: “Only time will tell whether this will be enough for the Family Leader to break its commitment to its members and endorse someone who won’t sign their pledge, but one thing is clear – Newt Gingrich is the last person who should be telling loving and committed couples, regardless of whether they are gay or straight, about marriage and how they should be living their lives.”
Alex Altman’s piece on Newt Gingrich’s troubled relationship with Evangelical Christian voters in Iowa offers two quotes from the FAMiLY Leader’s Bob Vander Plaats, which suggest that the anti-gay “family values” organization is willing to overlook the former speaker’s multiple marriages and past infidelities to back a winner who is not Mitt Romney:
“He is articulating a very Christian-historical worldview. People are seeing he’s had a life transformation,” Vander Plaats says of Gingrich. “The second thing he’s got going for him is some people believe Newt is the best prepared to lead. And three is that he looks like the one with the best shot at being the alternative to Romney and defeating Romney. Believe me, conservatives want an alternative to Romney. They don’t trust him.” [...]
“Rock-solid Christians are giving him the benefit of the doubt,” Vander Plaats says. “The thing that’s going for him is we live in such an environment today, where the world dynamics as so uncertain, and Washington is so broken, that some people believe Newt is the best prepared by far to take on an environment like this.”
Vander Plaats — who ran Mike Huckabee’s Iowa operation in 2008 — hasn’t made an official endorsement yet, but has indicated that he is open to tweaking the group’s so-called marriage fidelity pledge to accommodate Gingrich’s demands (whatever those may be). Gingrich too has returned the favor. Last year, Gingrich offered his vocal support for Vander Plaats’ successful campaign to oust three of the nine Iowa Supreme Court justices who had unanimously ruled in favor of marriage equality and his associates bankrolled more than one-third of the $850,000 campaign to remove the justices.
Anti-Gay Group Is Tweaking ‘Marriage Fidelity’ Pledge To Newt Gingrich’s Liking |
Iowans for Christian Leaders in Government, an social conservative group, is trying to prevent the FAMiLY Leader from endorsing Newt Gingrich, citing “his previous adultery with two wives and the former U.S. House speaker’s financial ties to [group president Bob] Vander Plaats.” Gingrich has also refused to sign the FAMiLY Leader’s controversial 14-point marriage fidelity pledge until the group adopts certain changes, and the Leader “has been in communication with the Gingrich campaign about the pledge and expects to hear something from them shortly.” Vander Plaats has previously brushed aside suggestions that Newt Gingrich’s multiple marriages and infidelities undermine social conservative beliefs.
It’s no secret that social conservatives are not thrilled about the prospect of Mitt Romney winning the Republican presidential nomination, but what is a secret is the meeting key leaders of the movement in Iowa held this week to prevent that prospect from becoming a reality. Representatives for leading social conservative groups met covertly in Iowa Monday with the hope of choosing an alternative candidate that social conservatives could unite behind, CNN reports:
The meeting, the group’s first, took place in a private office building in Des Moines on Monday. In attendance were representatives from the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, The Family Leader, the group Iowa Right to Life, and a representative for the Iowa chapter of Concerned Women for America. Some pastors from prominent Iowa churches also attended the meeting. [...]
Sources say there were about 20 to 25 people present at the meeting and that another meeting is planned for Monday of next week.
The problems for Romney here are obvious. Romney used to be staunchly pro-choice, saying, for example, when he ran for governor of Massachusetts, “I sustain and support [Roe v. Wade], and the right of a woman to make that choice.” And while Romney now vows to restrict a woman’s right to choose if elected, the specifics of his anti-choice positions are unclear, as he has refused to take a position on key issues. He’s also been relatively progressive on gay rights, saying just this week, “I favor gay rights.” And Romney’s Mormon faith could pose problems as well, as a recent Pew survey noted that a majority of white evangelical protestants do not view the religion as Christian.
In their search for an alternative, attendees at the Iowa meeting disqualified Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) because of his libertarian leanings on social issues, and also dimissed Herman Cain because of a “lack of consistency on issues of sanctity of life and marriage” and “some concern he’s maybe not quite experienced enough in civics.”
Rick Perry has joined fellow Republican presidential contenders Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum in signing a controversial marriage pledge from Iowa’s FAMiLY LEADER. The social conservative organization is headed by failed gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats and has positioned itself as a gateway to Iowa’s Republican caucus goers. The pledge likens homosexuality to polygamy, adultery, or polyandry and asks candidates to vow that being gay is a choice that poses serious health risks like “shorter life expectancy.” An earlier draft also claimed that children were better off under slavery than they are under Obama.
The Texas governor has previously compared homosexuality to alcoholism and condemned “the agenda of radical gay rights groups that want to throw their sexual activity into the face of society.” In 2010, Perry ran for re-election on a GOP platform explicitly supporting the criminalization of gay sex.
Progress Iowa responds: “This is just another desperate move from another desperate Republican candidate. Rick Perry, who already has a spotty record on equal rights, has now signed a document that has come to symbolize the extremist, out-of-touch views of Bob Vander Plaats and the Family Leader. The pledge originally stated that children of slavery are better off than children born today. And, it requires presidential candidates to swear their fidelity not to God – as they already did when they got married – but rather to Bob Vander Plaats. This pledge would surely be an albatross around his neck should he become the party’s nominee. However, because he signed this, I don’t think Americans have to worry about that.”
Earlier this year, we introduced you to the FAMiLY LEADER, the extreme anti-gay group in Iowa, and its leader, Bob Vander Plaats. Tomorrow, Vander Plaats is hosting a “Thanksgiving Family Forum” for presidential candidates. If history is any guide, this event promises to be a veritable cornucopia of attacks on gays and women’s health care and a celebration of fringe social views.
Here’s a rundown of that history, just to remind you who and what Republicans presidential candidates choose to associate themselves with — something that definitely matters.
Last July, Iowa’s FAMiLY Leader unveiled “The Marriage Vow: A Declaration of Dependence upon MARRIAGE and FAMILY,” a 14 bullet pledge presidential candidates will have to sign to secure any “future endorsement” from the organization and its influential leader, Bob Vander Plaats. The document asked candidates to vow “personal fidelity to my spouse,” claimed that same-sex marriage undermines the family, and contained a bizarre reference to slavery.
But during an appearance on MSNBC this morning, Vander Plaats brushed aside suggestions that Newt Gingrich’s multiple marriages and infidelities undermine social conservative beliefs. “He’s going to be transparent, he’s going to be humble, he’s going to come clean, he’s going to show a level of maturity that he’s learned from the situation and is ready to move on,” Vander Plaats told guest host Chris Cillizza, before suggesting that he forgives Gingrich for his marital sins:
VANDER PLAATS: Every candidate’s past is going to matter. But I believe for those of us who are social conservatives, people of faith, we also realize that the cornerstone at the hart of our faith is a thing called forgiveness. We all fall short, but we want to know, is he truly repentful, is he learned, is he ready to move on, is he more mature? And I believe he’s addressed this in a lot of situations and I think he will again on Saturday.
Vander Plaats was one of the first social conservative leaders to accept Gingrich’s apologies as he sought to consolidate Evangelical support in the run up to announcing his 2012 candidacy. The president of Iowa’s FAMiLY Leader assured the Los Angeles Times in March that Gingrich’s outreach has “won over pastors in the state,” adding “we also understand that we all fall short of the standards.”
But Vander Plaats’ “understanding” may have been influenced by more than the former speaker’s “open and transparent” approach. Last year, Gingrich offered his vocal support for Vander Plaats’ successful campaign to oust three of the nine Iowa Supreme Court justices who had unanimously ruled in favor of marriage equality and his associates bankrolled more than one-third of the $850,000 campaign to remove the justices. Gingrich also attended the FAMiLY Leader’s presidential forum on July 11th of this year, where he was asked if he was ready to commit to the group’s marriage pledge. Gingrich indicated that he was “gonna work with Bob and others to work through some things,” but has yet to publicly announce his support for the document.
Vander Plaats stood by his benefactor, telling the press that he was willing to overlook his marriage infidelities, while still insisting that gays and lesbians hurt the institution and “the family.” “This vow and this pledge is not intended to beat any person up, any candidate up for their past,” Vander Plaats said. “It’s about looking forward to the future and embracing the authenticity of one man, one woman marriage and its impact on the family.”