To the Contrary

Dobson, Thompson and unnecessary cheap shots

Have you ever had someone you love and respect publicly do something, shall we say, less than smart? You know that sinking feeling you get in your gut when you find yourself saying, "Not again!"? Well, it happened to me recently. Dr. James Dobson, one of the most influential child psychologists of the last 50 years and founder of Focus on the Family, came out with guns blazing in a diatribe against Sen. Fred Thompson, recently announced Republican presidential candidate.

Here is what all the fuss is about:

"Isn't Thompson the candidate who is opposed to a constitutional amendment to protect marriage, believes there should be 50 different definitions of marriage in the U.S., favors McCain-Feingold, won't talk at all about what he believes, and can't speak his way out of a paper bag on the campaign trail? He has no passion, no zeal, and no apparent 'want to.' And yet, he is apparently the Great Hope that burns in the breasts of many conservative Christians? Well, not for me, my brothers. Not for me!"

Let's take those points one by one, shall we?

Thompson isn't opposed to a constitutional amendment defending real/traditional marriage. He has used his bully pulpit since 1994 to defend marriage -- and while we're at it, the unborn as well. Please show me a vote from his years in the Senate in which Thompson stood against any pro-family legislation. He has been stalwart in defending "family values" -- so much so that last March, Dobson declared that he "appreciates Sen. Thompson's solid, pro-family voting record and his position that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided.

Thompson is a federalist who believes that powers not granted to the federal government belong to the states. He wants to see an amendment that would keep the judiciary from legislating anything the people would never vote for at the ballot box. To him, the type of marriage protection amendment we should have is the question -- not whether we should have one or not. Thompson deserves praise, not a cheap shot, for standing firm in this cultural context.


McCain-Feingold has been a thorn in the hindquarters of conservatives like me for some time. Thompson supported it, and he was wrong to do so. But what is disturbing in this context is that Thompson has admitted that McCain-Feingold hasn't worked and that it has had unintended consequences -- such as limiting speech, particularly on ads before an election. Is Dobson even aware of Thompson's change on this issue? Apparently not.

"Cheap shot" is not the term that normally comes to mind when I think of Dr. Dobson. Usually, it's terms like "defender of the family," "go-to guru for advice on how to raise my four (!) girls," and "leader of those looking for direction in a land becoming a cultural wilderness." That's the Dr. Dobson I normally think of. That is why his cheap shot on Thompson must be addressed.

I, like so many of you, know that this is the most important election of our lives. Threats from global Islamofascism, weakness at home in political leadership, unsecured borders, runaway spending, looming economic crises and a judiciary set on legislating from the bench -- these are critical issues that call for strong leadership. We need leaders who have at their core the principles that made America's founding and flourishing possible.

Big applause

I have personally attended every Thompson event in South Carolina since June. He has spoken forcefully as a proven social and fiscal conservative; those standing ovations didn't come from the crowd. No other candidate with an approval margin over 3 percent has been as consistent on our issues as he has. Thompson also brings the ability to put the left on its heels in '08 -- never underestimate the power of the media in this cultural context. It may not be fair, but Thompson's exposure over the last 15 years in movies and TV shows helps put blue states in play in ways no other candidate can without compromising conservative principles.

Primaries are about proving oneself -- not just for candidates, but also those who lead movements. They present opportunities to question and determine who we will nominate as a candidate for the highest office in the world. Once the process has played out, we unite behind that candidate and, hopefully, get four years to positively impact the present and future of this great nation. Those in leadership who have a say in that process need to guard that trust well -- not behave like those they say are part of the problem.

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