There is a lot of conservative star power shining out of the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington on Friday morning. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and Sarah Palin are just a few of the Republican Party’s luminaries headlining the Values Voter Summit, which is running through the weekend. Mr. Cruz rallied the Republican base by reminding them of the anniversary of his filibuster, which he said “elevated the debate about Obamacare.” He also invoked former President Ronald Reagan, suggesting that a new wave of conservatism was nearing. "Morning is coming," Cruz said. "Morning is coming.”
First up from the God Machine this week a look at the religious right movement's largest annual event, which kicked off yesterday in Washington, D.C. In fact, the Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year -- which will reportedly be the largest summit to date.
So, what'd we learn from the right-wing gathering? For one thing, most of the Republicans running for president see the social conservative attendees as their natural base.
In all, eight White House hopefuls -- Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, Donald Trump, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, Bobby Jindal, and Lindsey Graham -- will make their pitch to the far-right crowd. They'll be joined by five House Republicans, another Senate Republican, another Republican governor, and a former Republican presidential candidate (Rick Perry).
It's almost enough to give someone the impression that the lines between the GOP and the religious right movement have blurred to the point of non-existence.
Jeb Bush was invited, and was briefly listed as a featured guest, but he ultimately declined to attend.
As for yesterday's opening day, we also learned that attendees don't think highly of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio); the crowd didn't appreciate Trump referring to Rubio as a "clown"; Ted Cruz, who sees President Obama as "a communist," stands ready to assassinate the Iranian Ayatollah; and Mike Huckabee believes the United States may cease to exist if gay Americans continue to have equal marriage rights.
Day Two gets underway this morning. I'll report back on Monday on the results of the Values Voter Summit presidential straw poll.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* A horrible scene in Kentucky: "When members of the Islamic Center in Louisville, Ky., arrived for prayer service Wednesday night, they encountered hateful anti-Islamic graffiti on the walls. The spray-painted phrases included 'this is for France' and 'Nazis speak Arabic.' Center spokesman Muhammad Babar says he filed a police report, and the FBI is involved in the investigating the incident, which is being called a hate crime."
* An Alabama police chief this week "used her own money to purchase Bible verse decals for the department's patrol vehicles." The Bible verse from Matthew 5:9 states: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God" (thanks to my colleague Laura Conaway for the heads-up).
* As if Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) hasn't already faced enough controversy, he's now being accused of using his office to promote Christianity and of coercing employees to attend religious services.
* The Dalai Lama this week "canceled all of his U.S. visits for October because of medical reasons." He is, however, in Minnesota, receiving treatment at the Mayo Clinic.
* And TV preacher Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network aired another interview with Donald Trump this week, asking the GOP candidate what God means to him. In a rather clumsy exchange, the New York developer referred to God as “the ultimate,” adding, “There’s nothing like God.”