A Media Matters for America review of cable and broadcast networks and major newspapers showed no coverage of recent criticism by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) of the "embarrassing spectacle of the Republican Party's "blatant pandering" to the Christian right and James Dobson, founder and chairman of Focus on the Family. Armey asserted that "Dobson and his gang of thugs are real nasty bullies." Armey's comments appeared in a September 23 op-ed (subscription required) in The Wall Street Journal and in an interview with author Ryan Sager, which was excerpted on September 15, on the weblog RealClearPolitics.com and on Sager's blog. Sager interviewed Armey in 2005 for Sager's book The Elephant in the Room: Evangelicals, Libertarians and the Battle to Control the Republican Party (Wiley, August 2006).
In his Wall Street Journal op-ed decrying the "juvenile delinquency" of "election season," Armey wrote:
The national representatives of the social conservative movement used to be sophisticated and tolerant. Today, they are sophomoric and angry. It's an embarrassing spectacle seeing leaders bullied around by the likes of James Dobson, or watching the Christian Coalition team up with MoveOn.org in support of bigger government.
When Sager asked Armey, "What's wrong with today's Republican Congress," Armey replied:
The criteria of choice in just about every behavior you see in Congress today is politics. Where in the hell did this Terri Schiavo thing come from? There's not a conservative, Constitution-loving, separation-of-powers guy alive in the world that could have wanted that bill on the floor. That was pure, blatant pandering to James Dobson. That's all that was. It was silly, stupid, and irresponsible. Nobody serious about the Constitution would do that. But the question was will this energize our Christian conservative base for the next election.
On his personal blog, Sager posted a portion of his interview with Armey that was not included in the RealClearPolitics.com September 15 excerpt. During this segment, he asked Armey, "Why does it seem Christian conservatives are more powerful now than in the 1990s?" Armey responded:
To a large extent because Dobson and his gang of thugs are real nasty bullies. I pray devoutly every day, but being a Christian is no excuse for being stupid. There's a high demagoguery coefficient to issues like prayer in schools. Demagoguery doesn't work unless it's dumb, shallow as water on a plate. These issues are easy for the intellectually lazy and can appeal to a large demographic. These issues become bigger than life, largely because they're easy. There ain't no thinking.
Together with the Family Research Council, the American Family Association, and other Christian right interest groups, Dobson's recently founded political organization, Focus on the Family Action, co-sponsored the 2006 Values Voter Summit, a major conference in Washington from September 22-24. Among the speakers were conservative icons including Ann Coulter, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), Sen. George Allen (R-VA), Fox News host Sean Hannity, and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales. The stated goal of the conference was to "educate and equip Values Voters on today's family issues."