STOKING FIRE: Randall Terry’s Campaign Platform

Eleanor J. Bader

Randall Terry is running for president specifically against Barack Obama. Not surprisingly, making abortion illegal is the pivot around which Terry’s candidacy spins.

Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry doesn’t believe prayer is enough to end abortion in the U.S. He believes in action.  A 1981 graduate of the unaccredited Elim Bible College, in 1985 he and then-wife Cindy Dean Terry began demonstrating outside Southern Tier Women’s Services in Vestal, New York.  In short order the pair escalated their protests to include a range of disruptive tactics, from blockading the building’s entrance to shouting so loudly that their taunts could be heard in the health center’s operating room.

For a short time—from the late 1980s and early 1990s—the “rescue” movement grew quickly and caused havoc at clinics throughout the country. Then, in 1994, after passage of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, it sputtered. Nonetheless, before it ended thousands of rescuers had been arrested, giving Terry the notoriety he continues to crave.

Indeed, in his quest for attention, Terry has proven himself to be a master of re-invention and both his personal and career lives have taken many turns. As a professional, he’s been a car salesman, a gospel and country singer, and a community organizer. He’s also morphed from fundamentalist Protestant to Roman Catholic. And now, the Tea Party activist and lifelong Republican has switched again, declaring himself a Democratic contender in 2012’s presidential race. “I don’t want to quibble with Palin, Huckabee, or Romney,” the 51-year-old told me by phone. “I want to throw body punches at Barack Obama.”

“Obama is the Massa and we’re his slave labor force,” Terry continues. “My platform respects life and liberty.”

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Not surprisingly, making abortion illegal is the pivot around which Terry’s candidacy spins. At the same time, Catholic.org reports that his platform not only “affirms life, [but also] marriage between a man and a woman only.” Furthermore, his “unabashedly theocentric campaign” is deeply critical of Islam and his voice becomes noticeably louder as he describes the threat he believes Muslims pose to Western values and culture. “I’ve spent my whole life fighting against abortion, but if I had to choose between living in a Christian nation that kills its babies or a Muslim nation under Sharia law, I’d choose the former,” he told me. As for foreign policy, Terry says that he supports non-intervention. “We shouldn’t be in Iraq and  Afghanistan should have been a short war of reprisal,” he says.

Terry declared his candidacy in front of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC—yes, he repeatedly likens the Nazi holocaust to abortion–and he is presently working to raise $2.5 million to run a 30-second ad during next year’s Super Bowl, complete with the kind of graphic, bloody, anti-abortion footage that just about everyone in the western world has already seen.  “Legalized child killing is the greatest abomination on the face of the earth,” the Randall Terry for President website declares. His hope is that by exposing millions of football fans to grisly pictures of dismembered fetuses, people will clamor for overturning Roe, prime time be damned. “It is high time we act like [abortion] is the holocaust it is,” he blasts. 

Rabbi Yehuda Levin of the Rabbinical Alliance of America and Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life are among the few anti-abortion activists in Terry’s corner. In fact, in his two-and-a-half decades on the anti-abortion frontlines Terry has garnered many detractors, people who are leery of his tendency to jump into the limelight wherever, however, and whenever possible. 

Revelations about Terry’s personal foibles have also given many anti-abortion activists pause. Take what happened after Rev. Dan Little of the Landmark Church of Binghamton, New York censured, and then in 2005 expelled, Terry for ending his 19-year marriage. Despite belonging to Landmark for more than 15 years, Terry seemingly took his excommunication in stride, as if the action was simply the opening of a new door in his spiritual life. According to numerous news accounts, after being booted, Terry first checked out a charismatic Episcopal church but quickly turned to Roman Catholicism and converted in May 2006. The National Catholic Register reports that the newly divorced Terry made this move after announcing—but never explaining–that his marriage to Cindy had been “an invalid sacrament.”

Whatever his spin, it is worth noting that the long liaison between Randall and Cindy included the birth of a daughter in 1987. It also included the adoption of three young children. Nonetheless, once the dust of his first marriage had cleared, Terry wed again. Andrea Sue Kellmorgan, his former assistant—a woman 17 years his junior–became the second Mrs. Terry several years ago.

Scuttlebutt notwithstanding, Terry seems unaffected by critics and is instead focused on challenging Obama. Does he really think he has a shot?  Alas, even he is not that delusional. At the same time, Terry is hoping that his candidacy will provoke what he calls a “crisis of faith for pro-life Democrats.” He intends to bring his campaign to New Hampshire, Florida, and North Carolina, and in an interview on eyeblast.tv quipped that “the Tea Party train is now on Democratic tracks.”

As for the Democratic National Committee, it’s doubtful that they’re feeling much heat from Terry’s campaign. Although the DNC did not respond to my calls or emails, one can only assume that they’re expecting a quick and complete derailment.

Analysis Politics

Timeline: Donald Trump’s Shifting Position on Abortion Rights

Ally Boguhn

Trump’s murky position on abortion has caused an uproar this election season as conservatives grapple with a Republican nominee whose stance on the issue has varied over time. Join Rewire for a look back at the business mogul's changing views on abortion.

For much of the 2016 election cycle, Donald Trump’s seemingly ever-changing position on reproductive health care and abortion rights has continued to draw scrutiny.

Trump was “totally pro-choice” in 1999, but “pro-life” by 2011. He wanted to shut down the government to defund Planned Parenthood in August 2015, but claimed “you can’t go around and say that” about such measures two months later. He thinks Planned Parenthood does “very good work” but wants to see it lose all of its funding as long as it offers abortion care. And, perhaps most notoriously, in late March of this year Trump took multiple stances over the course of just a few hours on whether those who have abortions should be punished if it became illegal.

With the hesitancy of anti-choice groups to fully embrace Trump—and with pro-choice organizations like Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and EMILY’s List all backing his opponent, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton—it is likely his stance on abortion will remain a key election issue moving into November.

Join Rewire for a look back at the business mogul’s changing views on abortion.

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Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Tim Kaine Outlines Plan to ‘Make Housing Fair’

Ally Boguhn

“A house is more than just a place to sleep. It's part of the foundation on which a family can build a life,” wrote Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA). “Where you live determines the jobs you can find, the schools your children can attend, the air you breathe and the opportunities you have. And when you are blocked from living where you want, it cuts to the core of who you are.”

Donald Trump made some controversial changes to his campaign staff this week, and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) noted his commitment to better housing policies.

Trump Hires Controversial Conservative Media Figure

Republican presidential nominee Trump made two notable additions to his campaign staff this week, hiring Breitbart News’ Stephen Bannon as CEO and GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway as campaign manager.

“I have known Steve and Kellyanne both for many years. They are extremely capable, highly qualified people who love to win and know how to win,” said Trump in a Wednesday statement announcing the hires. “I believe we’re adding some of the best talents in politics, with the experience and expertise needed to defeat Hillary Clinton in November and continue to share my message and vision to Make America Great Again.”

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Both have been criticized as being divisive figures.

Conway, for example, previously advised then-client Todd Akin to wait out the backlash after his notorious “legitimate rape” comments, comparing the controversy to “the Waco with David Koresh situation where they’re trying to smoke him out with the SWAT teams.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Conway is also “often cited by anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim organizations such as the think tank Center for Security Policy and NumbersUSA.”

Under Bannon’s leadership, “mainstream conservative website” Breitbart.com changed “into a cesspool of the alt-right,” suggested the publication’s former editor at large, Ben Shapiro, in a piece for the Washington Post‘s PostEverything. “It’s a movement shot through with racism and anti-Semitism.”

Speaking with ABC News this week, Kurt Bardella, who also previously worked with Bannon at Breitbart, alleged that Bannon had exhibited “nationalism and hatred for immigrants, people coming into this country to try to get a better life for themselves” during editorial calls.

“If anyone sat there and listened to that call, you’d think that you were attending a white supremacist rally,” said Bardella.

Trump’s new hire drew heated criticism from the Clinton campaign in a Wednesday press call. “The Breitbart organization has been known to defend white supremacists,” said Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager. After pointing to an analysis from the SPLC linking Breitbart to the extremist alt-right movement, Mook listed a number of other controversial positions pushed by the site.

“Breitbart has compared the work of Planned Parenthood to the Holocaust. They’ve also repeatedly used anti-LGBT slurs in their coverage. And finally, like Trump himself, Breitbart and Bannon have frequently trafficked in all sorts of deranged conspiracy theories from touting that President Obama was not born in America to claiming that the Obama Administration was ‘importing more hating Muslims.’”

“It’s clear that [Trump’s] divisive, erratic, and dangerous rhetoric simply represents who he really is,” continued Mook.

Kaine Outlines Plan to “Make Housing Fair”

Clinton’s vice presidential nominee Kaine wrote an essay for CNN late last week explaining how the Clinton-Kaine ticket can “make housing fair” in the United States.

“A house is more than just a place to sleep. It’s part of the foundation on which a family can build a life,” wrote Kaine. “Where you live determines the jobs you can find, the schools your children can attend, the air you breathe and the opportunities you have. And when you are blocked from living where you want, it cuts to the core of who you are.”

Kaine shared the story of Lorraine, a young Black woman who had experienced housing discrimination, whom Kaine had represented pro bono just after completing law school.

“This is one issue that shows the essential role government can play in creating a fairer society. Sen. Ed Brooke, an African-American Republican from Massachusetts, and Sen. Walter Mondale, a white Democrat from Minnesota, came together to draft the Fair Housing Act, which protects people from discrimination in the housing market,” noted Kaine, pointing to the 1968 law.

“Today, more action is still needed. That’s why Hillary Clinton and I have a bold, progressive plan to fight housing inequities across Americaespecially in communities that have been left out or left behind,” Kaine continued.

The Virginia senator outlined some of the key related components of Clinton’s “Breaking Every Barrier Agenda,” including an initiative to offer $10,000 in down payment assistance to new homebuyers that earn less than the median income in a given area, and plans to “bolster resources to enforce Fair Housing laws and fight housing discrimination in all its forms.”

The need for fair and affordable housing is a pressing issue for people throughout the country.

“It is estimated that each year more than four million acts of [housing] discrimination occur in the rental market alone,” found a 2015 analysis by the National Fair Housing Alliance.

No county in the United States has enough affordable housing to accommodate the needs of those with low incomes, according to a 2015 report released by the Urban Institute. “Since 2000, rents have risen while the number of renters who need low-priced housing has increased,” explained the report. “Nationwide, only 28 adequate and affordable units are available for every 100 renter households with incomes at or below 30 percent of the area median income.”

What Else We’re Reading

CBS News’ Will Rahn penned a primer explaining Trump campaign CEO Bannon’s relationship to the alt-right.

White supremacists and the alt-right “rejoice[d]” after Trump hired Bannon, reported Betsy Woodruff and Gideon Resnick for the Daily Beast.

Clinton published an essay in Teen Vogue this week encouraging young people to fight for what they care about, learn from those with whom they disagree, and get out the vote.

“In calling for ‘extreme vetting’ of foreigners entering the United States, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump suggested a return to a 1950s-era immigration standard—since abandoned—that barred entry to people based on their political beliefs,” explained USA Today.

Trump wants to cut a visa program “his own companies have used … to bring in hundreds of foreign workers, including fashion models for his modeling agency who need exhibit no special skills,” according to a report by the New York Times.

A Koch-backed group “has unleashed an aggressive campaign to kill a ballot measure in South Dakota that would require Koch-affiliated groups and others like them to reveal their donors’ identities.”

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