It’s a world unlike the one you probably live in: A world where Obamacare is worse than slavery, where contraception is the same thing as abortion, where public funding specifically for public schools equals religious persecution, where “religious liberty” means the freedom to impose one’s religious views on one’s employees, where liberals are just like the Devil, and where a government shutdown is a good thing. Welcome to the world of the Values Voter Summit, the annual conference sponsored by FRC Action, the political arm of the Family Research Council.
The 2013 summit opened Friday morning at Washington, D.C.’s Omni Shoreham Hotel with the rhetoric of some of the religious right’s favorite U.S. senators: Marco Rubio (R-FL), Mike Lee (R-UT), Rand Paul (R-KY), Tim Scott (R-SC), and most notably Ted Cruz (R-TX), who reveled in the adulation of the assembled evangelical Christians, and exulted in the attention given to him by some dozen hecklers who took him to task for opposing a path to citizenship in immigration reform.
In his usual style, Cruz eschewed the podium to wander the stage like a televangelist, urging his audience to “stand strong against Obamacare”—also known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It was Cruz who led the push to force the partial shutdown of the federal government if Congress did not include a measure to revoke ACA funding as part of the continuing resolution (CR) required to keep the government running in the absence of a budget. (The Republican-led House of Representatives has refused to convene a conference committee to reconcile the budgets respectively passed by the House and Senate.)
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“In the movie The Usual Suspects, they said the greatest trick the Devil ever played was to convince the world he didn’t exist,” Cruz said to the Values Voters audience, most of whom ardently believe in the existence of the Prince of Darkness. “Well, you know what? The greatest trick the left has ever played is to convince conservatives we cannot win.”
Cruz intoned, with apocalyptic implications, that the nation stood “on the edge of cliff,” and that only a few years stood between the cliff and the fall of the nation into “oblivion.”
As alleged evidence of the Obama administration’s evil, Cruz resorted to lies, claiming that its health-care regulations were forcing the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic religious institute that runs residences for senior citizens, to provide “abortifacients” or “face millions in fines.” In the same breath, Cruz mentioned the crafts-store chain, Hobby Lobby, which like the Little Sisters is challenging the administration with a lawsuit targeting the prescription birth control benefit provided under ACA, which requires all health-care plans, including those offered through employers, to cover prescription contraception without a deductible or co-pay. (None of the birth control methods covered as part of ACA are abortion methods, though right-wing leaders insist on describing the intrauterine device [IUD] and emergency contraception as such.)
In response to his hecklers, Cruz took the opportunity to needle President Barack Obama, claiming that the president’s grassroots operation, Organizing for America, had emptied its headquarters to send the hecklers into the religious right gathering, and challenging the president to a televised debate on questions offered by audience members—including those he called “the president’s most rabid political operatives.” (Note to Cruz: Obama’s not running again in 2016.) Then, paradoxically, he soaked up the audience’s applause when he said he had to leave the stage to go to a meeting at the White House. (Republican leaders met with the president today.)
As security officers escorted protesters from the hall, the crowd chanted U-S-A! U-S-A!
Compared to his fellow senators, Cruz was the crowd pleaser. Rand Paul, by contrast, seemed lackluster with a speech that was essentially an indictment of Islam, and Marco Rubio offered weak tea with platitude-laden remarks about the economy. Mike Lee’s call to “stand for those who cannot speak for themselves”—meaning fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses—was appreciated by the audience, but predictable.
If the morning session had any unifying theme, it was contempt for the president and the health-care law to which the right appended his name.
For the Values Voter audience, one of the highlights of the morning came during FRC President Tony Perkins’ interview of right-wing radio talk show host Mark Levin, who said that Obama should “sit down and shut up”… you know, remember his place. That brought the crowd to their feet.
However, it was Ben Carson, the neurosurgeon who is the right’s newest hero, whose speech arguably most thrilled the crowd, with his contempt for the president matched only by his misogyny. “Obamacare is really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery,” Carson said, going on to say that the health-care law actually is slavery “because it is making all of us subservient to the government.”
The remark was especially appreciated by the audience coming from Carson, who is African American.
But Carson unleashed his harshest words on women who have abortions. “There’s no war on women,” Carson said. “There’s a war on their baby.” He explained it this way: “You know, there are those of us in this society who’ve told women that there’s a war on them because that cute little baby inside of them, they may want to get rid of it.” His evidence that there’s no war on women? The fact that people will give up a seat on the bus for a pregnant woman.
For good measure, before he left the stage, the neurosurgeon invoked the ghost of Lenin, claiming President Obama was exercising what he said was the Soviet leader’s dictate that socialized medicine was the cornerstone to a socialist state.
Their appetites whetted, the Values Voters then went to lunch.