Values voters rake the GOP over the coals

The top tier of the Republican presidential field skipped a debate Monday night. To find out why, just look at the questions they would have had to answer.

Published September 18, 2007 12:02PM (EDT)

Monday night in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the religious wing of the Republican Party hosted a Values Voter Debate, but none of the top-tier Republicans came. Why did Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson and John McCain dodge a chance to speak to the GOP base?

The answers can be given in the form of questions, which were posed by the debate organizers to the empty lecterns of the candidates who did not show. As Joseph Farah, the editor of WorldNetDaily, explained at the beginning of the three-hour program, "When you run for president, you can run but you can't hide."

Question for Giuliani, asked by a teenage girl with an apparent speech impediment:

"Eighteen years ago, an abortionist was hired to kill me, but he failed. Nuns came and rescued me and took me to the hospital, where I stayed for two months. My heroic parents then adopted me. Mayor Giuliani, your position on abortion would have left me dead. Now that you see me, Mayor Giuliani, do you honestly believe that an abortionist had a right to kill me?"

Question for Mitt Romney, asked by Peter LaBarbera from Americans for Truth About Homosexuality:

"Governor Romney, you are running as a pro-life and pro-marriage candidate, but you have a history of being strongly pro-abortion on demand and pro-homosexual. You supported Roe v. Wade and said abortion should be, quote, 'safe and legal.' In 2002, you opposed a state constitutional amendment that would have stopped homosexual so-called marriage in Massachusetts. You said homosexuals should be allowed in the Boy Scouts of America and, as governor, you officially celebrated 'Gay-Straight Youth Pride Day,' whatever that is. You sat on Marriott's board of directors for 10 years, while it profited off the sale of hardcore pornographic videos to its guests. My question is: Why should voters trust you after you spent so much of your career aggressively promoting anti-life and anti-family positions? I understand a change of heart, but a change of position on life, marriage, gun control, pornography and immigration, all preceding your run for president?"

Question for Fred Thompson, asked by Mat Staver, founder of the Liberty Counsel:

"While you were senator, you opposed the federal marriage amendment, but recently you stated that you would support a marriage amendment that would prevent judges from imposing same-sex marriage, so long as it would not prohibit state legislatures from adopting same-sex marriage. This reasoning is like saying that you favor a constitutional amendment that prohibits judges from imposing slavery so long as the state legislatures were free to do so. Does not your position fundamentally misunderstand the universal importance of marriage in the same way my latter example about slavery indicates a misunderstanding of human dignity?"

Question for John McCain, asked by Janet Folger, president of Faith2Action:

"Senator McCain, I know that you were invited because your office called several times to say, "Stop the phone calls. We've shut down the campaign. We can't make outgoing calls, there's so many coming in," encouraging us to come to the debate, which I just want to remind you that all those calls are all those voters. Just a little reminder. But my question to you, Senator McCain, is this: I was troubled by the lawsuit that you and other members of Congress filed against Wisconsin Right to Life for airing radio and television ads to encourage the public to lobby their senators to oppose the filibuster of the judicial candidates. While, thankfully, Wisconsin Right to Life won the lawsuit, was it really your goal to gag and prevent groups from being involved in the legislative process during the 'no free speech zones,' 60 days before a general election and 30 days prior to a primary election, as your campaign finance reform law required?"

The empty lecterns did not respond.

By Michael Scherer

Michael Scherer is Salon's Washington correspondent. Read his other articles here.

MORE FROM Michael Scherer

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

War Room