Think the 2012 presidential election is only about the economy?
Try telling that to the speakers at Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition conference in Washington on Friday, many of whom went to great lengths to emphasize the compatibility of social and fiscal issues.
“We cannot fix the fiscal until we fix the family,” said the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins in a quip that seemed to summarize that theme.
Potential GOP presidential candidates Michele Bachmann, a Minnesota congresswoman, and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman took their socially conservative values to the stage, along with other prominent Republicans, including Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) and House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio).
Bachmann took on Planned Parenthood, ‘Obamacare,’ gay marriage and President Obama’s recent comments on Israel during her energized speech to the gathered activists. On the Jewish state, Bachmann said that Obama “may be president of the United States, but he does not speak for us on the issue of Israel,” to huge applause.
Abortion, Bachmann said, is “the watershed issue of our time,” and, attempting to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, insisted that “government is incapable of giving the inalienable right [to life]. Only a creator can.” In her closing prayer, Bachmann asked for God to forgive America for its sins, saying, “We ask that once again you turn your face towards us,” and closing her petition “in your son’s holy name.”
An evangelical Christian, Bachmann spoke last week of a calling to run for president. She told Iowa Public Television that she feels “a tugging on my heart that it is the right thing to do.”
Talking about his two adopted daughters, the former governor of Utah and ambassador to China touted his pro-life credentials, saying: “There is something more essential than politics. And that’s life, especially a child’s life.” Huntsman did not mention his church or say the word Mormon as he shared a story about his daughter who was found abandoned in a Chinese marketplace and later adopted by his family. “When asked who found her in the vegetable market,” Huntsman said, his daughter Gracie Mae “simply says, ‘Jesus.’”
Two former Republican governors, Massachusetts’ Mitt Romney and Minnesota’s Tim Pawlenty, talked to the group in the evening session.
“The best sermons aren’t preached, they’re lived.” Pawlenty said, asking voters to look at his record on social conservative issues. The former governor criticized “politically correct” approaches to radical Islam, called the right to life “foundational to our country” and said that ”all domestic relationships are not the same as traditional marriage.”
Then Romney took his turn.
“We’re united tonight in a lot of things,” Romney said, not mentioning his Mormon faith which threatens to divide his potential voting bloc. Those uniting moral values, Romney said, were love of country, the sanctity of human life, and the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.
Romney also framed fiscal issues as a moral crisis: “It’s a moral tragedy for us to pile up more and more debt that we know we can’t possibly pay off during our lifetimes.”
This post will be updated as additional speakers present at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference.