Conservatives on Defense Regarding Their Culture Wars

The culture wars are making a comeback, but this time around, social conservatives find themselves in an unfamiliar position: playing defense.

Just look at the headlines of the past few weeks — gay marriage is gaining ground with landmark rulings in Vermont and Iowa; the Obama administration is putting immigration back on the front burner; gun control is on the table again in the wake of several mass shootings; and, as POLITICO reported this week, the vague prospect that the Senate will ratify the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child has some conservatives talking about a constitutional amendment to guarantee the rights of parents.

But as social conservatives try to regain their leverage on gay marriage, gun control or immigration, they risk accusations of being politically tone deaf for pushing such issues while the U.S. economy remains in a crisis. When people are more worried about health care, job security and cratering 401ks, heated debate over who’s allowed to marry whom may seem out of touch.

“I think most people want relief from the divisive debates of the culture wars,” said Mark McKinnon, a former adviser to John McCain’s presidential campaign and GOP consultant. “Given the economic hardships most are facing, they probably view these arguments as old, irrelevant and a distraction. That said, I’m sure the cultural warriors are putting on their war paint and banging the tom-toms.”

And then there’s gun control. The mass shootings in Binghamton, N.Y,. and Carthage, N.C., and the cop shootings in Pittsburgh have sparked new debate on gun control, yet Democrats are not willing to engage the National Rifle Association this time around, realizing this issue is a loser on the political front in many moderate states and districts around the country.

When pressed on the issue in a Wednesday night interview with Katie Couric on CBS, Attorney General Eric Holder — who has a history of backing gun control — demurred. “No one’s told me to back off,” Holder told Couric. “I understand the Second Amendment. I respect the Second Amendment.”

Christian conservatives realize that their opportunities will be rare since they don’t set the agenda in Washington, which is why they are seizing on developments large and small to spark their activists.

On Thursday, for example, House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.), tried to gin up opposition to President Barack Obama’s appointment of Harry Knox, a leader in the Human Rights Campaign, to the president’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Pence claimed that the appointment of Knox to a presidential commission “makes a mockery out of the religious beliefs of countless Americans.”

It’s not clear yet whether these little sparks of indignation will draw in a broader movement or will just rattle around a frustrated conservative echo chamber. But conservatives are doing whatever they can.

“You need to exploit every opportunity you have when you’re in the minority,” said Appell, the conservative PR strategist. “All you need is something to light the fuse.”

Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. Feeling Heat Of Rod Blagojevich Inquiry

The Rod Blagojevich story has once again (or still) places Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. in a most uncomfortable and precarious position.

Federal authorities have questioned a former chief of staff to ex- Gov. Rod Blagojevich and other cooperating witnesses about an attempt by friends of Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. to raise funds for Blagojevich to encourage him to pick Jackson for the U.S. Senate, sources said.

A federal grand jury investigating alleged corruption in the Blagojevich administration is expected to hear from witnesses about the fundraising effort in coming weeks, sources said.

Federal prosecutors allege Blagojevich, who was indicted last week on corruption charges, was considering awarding the seat to Jackson in return for a Jackson associate offering $1.5 million in campaign cash.

Covert recordings of Blagojevich last fall allegedly captured the then-governor suddenly going from cold to hot on naming Jackson to replace President Barack Obama in the Senate. Prosecutors allege Blagojevich told aides he had been promised something tangible and immediate to name Jackson to the seat—namely money—and that he was leaning toward appointing Jackson.

Powerful Front Cover Of The Economist Features Nuclear Weapons And President Obama

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Warhead-chopping is not even the hardest part. Mr Obama says he will resubmit the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty to the Senate for ratification (it was rejected in 1999 in a highly partisan vote), something Mr Bush refused to do. He also wants to jump-start long-stalled negotiations on a verifiable treaty to end the production of fissile material for military uses. But Mr Obama on his own cannot will success on either front. Others, not just America, need to change their ways too.

A treaty-backed ban on testing is in America’s interests. Many other countries have already signed it. China would probably ratify the ban if America does. But Pakistan won’t accept a test ban unless India does (both, like Israel, are nuclear-armed but outside the NPT), and without them and belligerent North Korea the treaty cannot take full effect. Similarly, the effort to ban making more fissile material for bombs was last stymied by Iran and Pakistan; India officially supports this ban, knowing that others will do the blocking for it.

Such is the disarmament minefield of today. Navigating a future world of much lower nuclear numbers presents new hazards. As America and Russia get close to 1,000 warheads each, they will want Britain, France and China to put their smaller arsenals on the negotiating table too. Britain has always said it will, China and France have not. And what about India, Pakistan, Israel and others?

As numbers drop, allies will wonder if America’s nuclear umbrella can still stretch far enough. Missile defences, a bone of contention today between America and both Russia and China, will be needed to bolster confidence against unexpected threats. But how to negotiate them and deploy them in ways that do not undercut nuclear stability?

Mr Obama is right. This and more are the work of decades. The world may never get to zero. But it would help make things a lot safer along the way if others act in concert. If North Korea and Iran can keep counting on the protection of China and Russia in their rule-breaking, progress will be all too slight.