Focus on What?

Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family needs to take a vacation and re-think some things. A few weeks ago he helped Newt Gingrich break the news of various sexual dalliances, probably in order to help Gingrich in his all-but-certain presidential run. Now Dobson is questioning the faith of former Senator Fred Thompson - who, not coincidentally, threatens to take the social conservative support Newt is banking on.

"Everyone knows he's conservative and has come out strongly for the things that the pro-family movement stands for," Dobson said of Thompson. "[But] I don't think he's a Christian; at least that's my impression," Dobson added, saying that such an impression would make it difficult for Thompson to connect with the Republican Party's conservative Christian base and win the GOP nomination.

Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Thompson, took issue with Dobson's characterization of the former Tennessee senator. "Thompson is indeed a Christian," he said. "He was baptized into the Church of Christ."

In a follow-up phone conversation, Focus on the Family spokesman Gary Schneeberger stood by Dobson's claim. He said that, while Dobson didn't believe Thompson to be a member of a non-Christian faith, Dobson nevertheless "has never known Thompson to be a committed Christian—someone who talks openly about his faith.""We use that word—Christian—to refer to people who are evangelical Christians," Schneeberger added. "Dr. Dobson wasn't expressing a personal opinion about his reaction to a Thompson candidacy; he was trying to 'read the tea leaves' about such a possibility." MORE

I hope this wasn't an attempt by Dobson to help Gingrich by downplaying Thompson. Gingrich and Thompson both hold about the same positions on the issues Dobson considers important. Gingrich has a marital history that is sordid, to say the least. If your goal is to teach the world about "family values" you can probably find a better poster boy than Newt Gingrich.

As for saying that Thompson is not a "Christian," someone in Dobson's position should choose his words a little more carefully. However, the word has a different meaning in this context. From Dobson's perspective, a Christian isn't just someone with the same faith. It's a term used to describe people who are open about their faith and who believe in Biblical moral teachings. I think that is what Dobson was trying to say. I doubt he was making any kind of judgment about Thompson's beliefs or salvation.

Nonetheless, it was not a smart thing to say about someone who could be a serious candidate for the White House. It looks more and more like Dobson, along with Jerry Falwell, has decided to hitch his 2008 wagon to Newt Gingrich. Why? I can only speculate, but he probably sees the hoopla surrounding Rudy Giuliani and is scared.

A Giuliani nomination by the GOP would be disastrous for Dobson and the issues he promotes. He's trying to head that off and has chosen Gingrich as the best hope for doing so. What he would have against Fred Thompson, I don't know. From all appearances Thompson is at least as Christian as Ronald Reagan was.

Other reactions:
Professor Bainbridge

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