After stating, "[W]e are not devoting this program to political matters," Dobson and guests did just that

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

During a post-election broadcast of his Focus on the Family radio show, Focus on the Family founder and chairman James Dobson told listeners that the program would not be devoted to "political matters." He and his guests then spent the entire show discussing the political ramifications of Democratic victories in the November 7 election.

On the November 9 broadcast of his Focus on the Family radio show, Focus on the Family founder and chairman James Dobson claimed that "we are not devoting this program to political matters." However, Dobson and his guests -- American Values president Gary L. Bauer, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, Focus on the Family vice president of public policy Tom Minnery, and Focus on the Family spokeswoman Carrie Gordon Earll -- spent the entire half-hour program discussing the political ramifications of Democratic victories in the November 7 election, as well as the fate of state ballot measures dealing with gay marriage and abortion.

Dobson opened his show by saying, "Our purpose is to take a look at the election results that came in on Tuesday night and what the implications are there. I want to emphasize to all of our listeners that we are not devoting this program to political matters, although it involves the moral issues that are played out in a political arena." Dobson then said that he "would like to read just two paragraphs of something that I have written as my own understanding on Tuesday night and my own interpretation of those results":

DOBSON: Laura Ingraham said it best: When congressional Republicans wait until the first of October to begin reaching out to their base, they are destined to lose. This is what GOP leaders did the last couple of years. In 2004, conservative voters handed them a 10-seat majority in the Senate and a 29-seat edge in the House. And what did they do with that power? Very little that "values voters" care about. I expressed this concern in an interview with U.S. News & World Report shortly after the 2004 elections. I said, quote: "If Republicans and the White House and the Congress squander this opportunity, I believe they will pay a price for it in four years -- or maybe in two. Sadly for conservatives, that partially explains what happened on Tuesday night.

Later in the broadcast, Minnery characterized the broad Republican losses in the midterm election as a "squandered opportunity" and said that "Republicans have the ideas to solve our greatest challenge; if we focus on ideas, our majority status will take care of itself. They did not focus on ideas and the majority became a minority." Minnery said:

MINNERY: Well, I can sum it up, Doctor, in two words: "squandered opportunity." When you think of the promise that the president brought and the leadership in Congress brought for us, embracing our values -- and you see what actually emerged, there's so much less. I remember the great promise of faith-based initiatives where a spotlight was going to be brought to the great charitable work of religious organizations and the church, and government was going to help the church do its work and reach out to the poor, the homeless, and the oppressed. That died for many reasons. We thought there was going to be finally a Congress that was going to nail down the definition of marriage, and it was like pulling teeth to get conservatives to talk exuberantly about the value of marriage for the future generations, for the welfare of our children, and it was just -- it seemed like they were trying to preserve their power. And our good friend Senator Tom Coburn, I think, summed it up best. He says, "One of the great paradoxes in politics is that governing to maintain power is the surest way to lose it." Republicans have the ideas to solve our greatest challenge; if we focus on ideas, our majority status will take care of itself. They did not focus on ideas and the majority became a minority.

Dobson also claimed during the broadcast that the way the elections were "being spun by the media and even by some Republicans . . . is that that this is a rejection by the American people of the pro-family agenda -- the 'values voters' perspective." In response, Perkins claimed: "Our values were validated in this election. We simply have to get people who will run for public office that openly share those views and will create policy reflective of those views."

PERKINS: If that's what they're saying, they were in a different country on election night. What is happening is we're seeing the values are being embraced, but the parties are being rejected -- or the Republican Party has been rejected. And I want to go back and comment on what Tom said about the role the church has played, because I'm very concerned that somehow churches and pastors and Christians may think, "You know, we gave it our best shot, we were involved over the last 12 years, and we've come up empty-handed." What I think this tells us and what I think we're seeing play out in the political realm is that the values that we care about, the things that we work toward -- preserving human life, making sure that every child born and unborn is welcomed into this world, that marriage remains between one man and one woman -- those are issues that not just evangelicals care about, but more people in this society care about, even as we've seen the Democratic candidates running on those issues. We can't shrink back now. Our values were validated in this election. We simply have to get people who will run for public office that openly share those views and will create policy reflective of those views.

Minnery stated later in the broadcast that "in politics, no defeat is ever permanent":

DOBSON: Tom, I've never seen you work as hard as you have and I saw fatigue on your face. Carrie, I've seen it on your face and you've seen it on mine; we did the best we could; we didn't succeed, but success is in God's hands and faithfulness is what he expects of us.

MINNERY: And in politics, no defeat is ever permanent, just as no victory is ever final.

DOBSON: Well, I think we ought to let the Republican leadership know if they want to change this outcome in two years, they better pay attention to their base. And their base is made up of values voters.

In concluding the broadcast, co-host John Fuller directed listeners who would "like to see how the election went from a pro-family perspective" to a website run by Focus on the Family, CitizenLink.com. A story on the site purportedly answering the question "What will life be like when Democrats take power?" is titled "The Next Congress: A Nightmare for Conservatives."

As Media Matters for America has noted, this is not the first time Dobson has claimed that Focus on the Family is apolitical, while asserting political stances. On his October 16 broadcast, moments after remarking to his guest, conservative radio host William Bennett, that "the liberal community" and the media "despise this country and its freedoms, and they're doing everything they can do to undermine it," Dobson claimed that "here at Focus on the Family, we're not political."

From the November 9 broadcast of the Focus on the Family radio show:

DOBSON: Our purpose is to take a look at the election results that came in on Tuesday night and what the implications are there. I want to emphasize to all of our listeners that we are not devoting this program to political matters, although it involves the moral issues that are played out in a political arena. And so we've invited Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, and Gary Bauer, the president of American Values, to be with us by phone, and also with us here in the studio are Tom Minnery, the vice president of public policy and government, and Carrie Earll, who is our director of issue analysis.

[...]

Before I turn to the panel, I would like to read just two paragraphs of something that I have written as my own understanding of what happened on Tuesday night and my own interpretation of those results. So let me do that and then I'll turn to the panel. Laura Ingraham said it best: When congressional Republicans wait until the first of October to begin reaching out to their base, they are destined to lose. This is what GOP leaders did the last couple of years. In 2004, conservative voters handed them a 10-seat majority in the Senate and a 29-seat edge in the House. And what did they do with that power? Very little that "values voters" care about. I expressed this concern in an interview with U.S. News & World Report shortly after the 2004 elections. I said, quote: "If Republicans and the White House and the Congress squander this opportunity, I believe they will pay a price for it in four years -- or maybe in two. Sadly for conservatives, that partially explains what happened on Tuesday night.

I could go on with the rest of the piece, but we really don't have time to get into it. Let me instead turn to the panel and get your take on what happened Tuesday night. And once again, we have Carrie Earll, Tom Minnery, Gary Bauer, and Tony Perkins. And Tom, I'm going to start with you: What is your take on the results of that historic election?

MINNERY: Well, I can sum it up, Doctor, in two words: "squandered opportunity." When you think of the promise that the president brought and the leadership in Congress brought for us, embracing our values -- and you see what actually emerged, there's so much less. I remember the great promise of faith-based initiatives where a spotlight was going to be brought to the great charitable work of religious organizations and the church, and government was going to help the church do its work and reach out to the poor, the homeless, and the oppressed. That died for many reasons. We thought there was going to be finally a Congress that was going to nail down the definition of marriage, and it was like pulling teeth to get conservatives to talk exuberantly about the value of marriage for the future generations, for the welfare of our children, and it was just -- it seemed like they were trying to preserve their power. And our good friend Senator Tom Coburn, I think, summed it up best. He says, "One of the great paradoxes in politics is that governing to maintain power is the surest way to lose it." Republicans have the ideas to solve our greatest challenge; if we focus on ideas, our majority status will take care of itself. They did not focus on ideas and the majority became a minority.

[...]

DOBSON: So, the way it's being spun by the media and even by some Republicans -- and I'll give and example of it in a moment -- is that this is a rejection by the American people of the pro-family agenda -- the "values voters" perspective. That is simply not true when you look at individual races.

PERKINS: If that's what they're saying, they were in a different country on election night. What is happening is we're seeing the values are being embraced, but the parties are being rejected -- or the Republican Party has been rejected. And I want to go back and comment on what Tom said about the role the church has played, because I'm very concerned that somehow churches and pastors and Christians may think, "You know, we gave it our best shot, we were involved over the last 12 years, and we've come up empty-handed." What I think this tells us and what I think we're seeing play out in the political realm is that the values that we care about, the things that we work toward -- preserving human life, making sure that every child born and unborn is welcomed into this world, that marriage remains between one man and one woman -- those are issues that not just evangelicals care about, but more people in this society care about, even as we've seen the Democratic candidates running on those issues. We can't shrink back now. Our values were validated in this election. We simply have to get people who will run for public office that openly share those views and will create policy reflective of those views.

[...]

PERKINS: Jim, if I could just add this final thought. As, you know, the Scripture says that men ought not to lose heart, but they ought to pray. And I would just encourage folks to pray for our country. It is going to be difficult days ahead, but we still have that vision of being a city on a hill. And I think we'll get there. But we've just got to continue to pray and to be involved.

DOBSON: Well, God's in control. I had a board member who sent me an email today that just said, "Don't forget, God is in charge." And he can even take tragedy and turn it into triumph. Tony, thank you for all the work that you did putting on the various events and participating in ours. Gary, you've been out there on the front lines; I can't tell you how I appreciate it.

BAUER: Thank you.

DOBSON: Tom, I've never seen you work as hard as you have and I saw fatigue on your face. Carrie, I've seen it on your face and you've seen it on mine. We did the best we could; we didn't succeed, but success is in God's hands and faithfulness is what he expects of us.

MINNERY: And in politics, no defeat is ever permanent, just as no victory is ever final.

DOBSON: Well, I think we ought to let the Republican leadership know if they want to change this outcome in two years, they better pay attention to their base. And their base is made up of values voters. John, we're out of time. I just want to say to our listeners out there that I know we have dealt a lot lately with issues related to the election, the values that were going to be decided on Tuesday night. We felt we had to do that, but the election's over and we're going to do what we can to back off of that now and get back to what we do best.

[...]

FULLER: Now if you'd like to see the full text of that statement that Doctor Dobson read a portion of earlier in the broadcast, or you'd like to see how the election went from a pro-family perspective, go to our website, citizenlink.com -- that's our policy website, citizenlink.com -- and you'll find that information, you'll also see a description of Tom Minnery's book, Why You Can't Stay Silent: A Biblical Mandate to Shape Our Culture. It's an excellent book, good reading and related right to the heart of our conversation today.

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