Heading Right Radio: The Week In Review!

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Today on Heading Right Radio (2 pm CT), Duane “Generalissimo” Patterson of the Hugh Hewitt Show joins us for the 90-minute week in review.
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AOL Hot Seat Question Of The Day

Listen to AOL Hot Seat on internet talk radio
AOL and BlogTalkRadio have partnered on the Hot Seat poll, extending the debate to our listenership. I will host a 15-minute show weekdays at 1:00 pm ET to review the poll, interview the blogger, and take calls from the participants. We’ll speak to a wide spectrum of bloggers and callers alike for each day’s poll — including today’s:
[Poll expired.]
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Noonan And Dionne On Romney’s Speech

Two viewpoints on the “Faith in America” speech by Mitt Romney have arisen since its delivery yesterday. Either people believe it to be a masterpiece or unnecessarily divisive. Two columns today make these cases in particularly clear manners. Peggy Noonan and E.J. Dionne write impressively for both cases, with former speechwriter Noonan opting for masterpiece:

Mr. Romney gave the speech Thursday morning. How did he do?
Very, very well. He made himself some history. The words he said will likely have a real and positive impact on his fortunes. The speech’s main and immediate achievement is that foes of his faith will now have to defend their thinking, in public. But what can they say to counter his high-minded arguments? “Mormons have cooties”?
Romney reintroduced himself to a distracted country–Who is that handsome man saying those nice things?–while defending principles we all, actually, hold close, and hold high.
His text was warmly cool. It covered a lot of ground briskly, in less than 25 minutes. His approach was calm, logical, with an emphasis on clarity. It wasn’t blowhardy, and it wasn’t fancy. The only groaner was, “We do not insist on a single strain of religion–rather, we welcome our nation’s symphony of faith.” It is a great tragedy that there is no replacement for that signal phrase of the 1980s, “Gag me with a spoon.”

Dionne agrees that Romney delivered his speech with aplomb, and that it mostly hit the right notes. He argues, however, that Romney’s insistence that freedom requires religion would prove unnecessarily divisive, and also inaccurate:

But then Romney had to go further. “Freedom,” he said, “requires religion, just as religion requires freedom.” And to those who see religion as “merely a private affair with no place in public life,” he said this: “It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America — the religion of secularism. They are wrong.”
Well. Religion can certainly be conducive to freedom. But does freedom require religion? Is religion always conducive to freedom? Does freedom not also thrive in far more secular societies than our own? Isn’t the better course for our nation to seek solidarity among lovers of liberty, secular as well as religious? After all, as the Princeton scholar Jeffrey Stout has noted, it was a coalition of believers and secularists that sent a communist dictatorship tumbling down in Pope John Paul II’s native Poland.
And Romney’s knock on the “religion of secularism” was pure pandering to the religious right.

Even Noonan questioned Romney’s exclusion of agnostics. She deduces that a mention of atheists and agnostics as part of the American fabric would have lost a few of the evangelicals Romney clearly tried to address in this speech. Noonan closes by asserting that we have pandered enough to “idiots”, and that Romney would have been better advised not to do so.
I understand where Romney drew his inspiration for equating freedom and religion. In part, he drew it from the Declaration of Independence, which talks of inalienable rights “endowed by the Creator”. Without a Creator to make man in His image, one can hardly believe that all men are created equal In pragmatic terms, the diversity of individuals shows a wide variance of productivity and commercial value, which gets expressed in a free-market economic system. However, as souls who are all children of a Creator, we are just as siblings in a family, and should be treated as equals to honor that Creator.
That doesn’t mean that atheists and agnostics don’t recognize equality and individual liberty. The philosophical underpinnings of our Declaration aside, atheists and agnostics have fought and died to defend it and to perpetuate its promise. And while some atheists go out of their way to provoke and insult, so too do some theists. Both Noonan and Dionne have a point in criticizing this emphasis on religious belief in a speech designed to push back against de facto religious tests for office.
However, it seems like a minor point in a speech otherwise well constructed and expertly delivered. A more important theme in this speech was Romney’s insistence that he will not abandon his personal faith for political gain. For a candidate sometimes derided as a flip-flopper, a show of backbone and principle helps build confidence in his ability to fight for other beliefs as well. I think Noonan gets the best of this debate.

Building The Bentley

Robert Novak asks whether one could imagine legendary Mississippi politicians cashing in on their legislative careers in the manner that Trent Lott will attempt when he leaves the Senate. Unfortunately, Novak seems to have forgotten that we have seen members of Congress cashing in while still in office over the last few years — William Jefferson, Allan Mollahan, Robert Ney, and Randy “Duke” Cunningham among them. At least Lott waited until he left to reach for the really big money.
At Heading Right, I applaud Novak’s outrage, but question his naivete. Trent Lott didn’t help build this pork-barrel Bentley without intending to take it for a spin himself. As far as Mississippian displeasure is concerned, I award them the Captain Louis Renault award for their shock, shock! that Lott wants to sell out for big lobbyist money after decades of shoveling pork back to those same Mississipians.

CLC 07 Saturday Agenda

We have an interesting set of speakers for today’s Conservative Leadership Conference. It features a presidential candidate, tax activists, porkbusters, and that just gets us through lunch. The straw poll taking place here will finish today, and that should be interesting. There are a lot of Ron Paul supporters here, but a high degree of disappointment that he didn’t bother to show here while Mitt Romney and Duncan Hunter did. I’m going to predict a narrow Mitt win; he generated some very positive buzz here yesterday.
Here’s what I’ll be watching today:
8: 00 am PT – Grover Norquist
8:30 – Duncan Hunter
9:00 – Panel on the Unfairness of the Fairness Doctrine
10:00 – Issues ’08: What Wins, What Loses
12:30 – Rep. John Shadegg
2:45 – J.D. Hayworth
4:30 – David Keene, ACU
I will have to tend the exhibit booth during some of these presentations, but I’ll be live-blogging a few. Keep checking back…. and if you want to see the people with whom I get to eat dinner, check out Andrea Shea-King’s pictures at Radio Patriot.

NRSC Live Blog With John Ensign

Senator John Ensign joined a few bloggers to discuss current events. First, Chuck Schumer proposed today to raise taxes on the equity markets who helped raise funds for the DSCC. The more we see of the Democrats, Ensign says, the more we will see tax increases. Republicans traditionally trust families to make the best choices with their own money rather than government and calls this a fundamental difference between the two parties
He also acknowledged that the NRSC will have a tough road in 2008. He thinks that the GOP has an opportunity to do fairly well. Gordon Smith doesn’t have a tough opponent on the horizon. Norm Coleman also has a pair of nonentities squaring off to face him, and Democrats are nervous about Al Franken’s embarrassment factor. Maine looks solid, and says Susan Collins’ constituents know her very well. John Sununu will be the toughest incumbent race, probably neck-and-neck with a huge amount of money spent there.
The retirements will create some problems. Virginia will be their toughest contest, and the GOP needs their best candidate to beat Mark Warner. Ensign feels much more confident about Nebraska, and thinks the GOP will beat Bob Kerrey, if he jumps into the race. Ensign predicts that Colorado will go with the Republicans, mostly because the Democrats have selected a candidate who is too liberal for Colorado.
Other races …. The GOP feels that they can beat Mary Landrieu. She’s their #1 target. In South Dakota, Ensign saluted Tim Johnson’s recovery but promised to run a vigorous campaign. They want to avoid a primary fight if they can.
Ensign could not comment on the report that Pete Domenici had decided to retire. He wants to wait for an official announcement before speculating on how the retirement might affect his calculations. He also would not speculate on potential candidates in Virginia, preferring to see which candidates arise from the field.
On S-CHIP, will this issue resonate with voters? Ensign believes the Republicans have a winning position on S-CHIP. Poor is not defined as an $84,000 salary, and an attempt to make it so will not sit well in areas where real poverty exists. Republicans want to continue to cover poor children and offered an alternative that would have done that. The alternative package, which relies on tax deductions and credits, has his support. He wants to keep the focus on private-market insurance.
Ensign also said that Hillary would help the NRSC’s fundraising. The Democrats are outraising the Republicans, but the “current presumed nominee” would likely motivate donors in large numbers. That’s probably an understatement.

Rudy Gets Cheery News From Fox

Fox has just published its latest poll, conducted during the testimony of General David Petraeus, and it provides some encouragement to the Republicans. George Bush’s approval ratings have bounced back from their nadir during the immigration debate, but still remain rather dreadful. He still beats Congressional job approval ratings from voters of both parties. Bush has a 37% approval rating, up from 31% in June. Voters in both parties ranked Congress below that — 34% among Democrats and 35% among Republicans.
At Heading Right, I analyze the rest of the poll. The Democrats seem to have successfully painted General David Petraeus as an administration hack, although a plurality believe that the situation in Iraq has improved. Rudy Giuliani increased his lead among Republicans while Fred Thompson scored a post-announcement bump, and Hillary Clinton still has major negatives which could portend disaster for the Democrats in 2008.

NARN, The Finger-Pointing Edition

The Northern Alliance Radio Network will be on the air today, with our six-hour-long broadcast schedule starting at 11 am CT. The first two hours features Power Line’s John Hinderaker and Chad and Brian from Fraters Libertas. Mitch and I hit the airwaves for the second shift from 1-3 pm CT, and King Banaian and Michael Broadkorb have The Final Word from 3-5. If you’re in the Twin Cities, you can hear us on AM 1280 The Patriot, or on the station’s Internet stream if you’re outside of the broadcast area.
Today, Mitch and I will be talking about the bridge collapse for most of the first hour, I imagine. In the second hour, we will welcome Stephen Hayes, the author of Cheney: The Untold Story of America’s Most Powerful and Controversial Vice President. Stephen will take us behind the scenes and paint a picture of the VP, as well as discuss some of the most fascinating points of the history of this administration. Don’t miss it!
Be sure to call 651-289-4488 to join the conversation!

Dancing In The Dark

Democrats promised to reform the appropriations process in the midterm elections, claiming — correctly — that Republicans had abused the earmarking process in order to curry favor with lobbyists, who then assisted in their re-election efforts. Harry Reid celebrated the fact that Democrats had stripped all the earmarks from the one spending bill left to them by the 109th Congress, shortly after taking control in January. However, it turns out that Reid kept the stripped earmarks alive in a sneaky bit of political arm-twisting that didn’t get made public.
At Heading Right, I note that the pork-barrel process has indeed changed in this Congress — it’s gotten more secretive. Reid has removed the small portion of sunlight that Porkbusters helped force on Congress in the last session and made it even more difficult to smoke out undue influence and corruption.