A governor, his state headed for political Armageddon
November 1, 2005
SPRINGFIELD– I told friends earlier this year that I thought Gov. Matt Blunt had the potential to be presidential material in the next decade.
He is intelligent, witty and handsome. He has a beautiful wife and is a dedicated family man who proclaims he is a follower of Jesus Christ and a committed Southern Baptist. His pastor at Second Baptist Church, Springfield, John Marshall, clearly loves and respects him and believes his faith to be genuine. I feel confident in saying the feeling is mutual from the governor’s perspective about his pastor.
I will admit he has endeared himself to me personally. He has seen fit to grant this fledgling publication three exclusive interviews over the past 10 months, the most recent following his historic address to messengers attending the Missouri Baptist Convention’s (MBC) annual meeting here. Following his address he spent about 10 minutes with me (you can read that interview beginning on page 10 and continuing on page 12). The first words out of his mouth to me were, “I love The Pathway.” I will let you determine his sincerity in making such a statement, but I prefer to take him at his word based on dealings with him since he took office in January. I am deeply appreciative of the governor’s graciousness toward this publication.
In a political sense, the governor’s policies thus far are conservative to the core (except for one which I am about to address). He has taken the lead in curbing abortions in Missouri and exercised much-needed fiscal restraint at the legislative level, something that is music to the ears of strained Missouri taxpayers.
But when the governor vowed to veto legislation banning a form of cloning that destroys life during last year’s General Assembly and then most recently announced his endorsement of a ballot initiative to amend the state Constitution in order to protect the type of cloning known as somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), he veered off the conservative course. In doing so the governor has betrayed voters most responsible for putting him in office.
The governor has made a political miscalculation that conservative voters in Missouri will forgive him for this indiscretion that places him in the SCNT death camp with a cadre of passé “Rockefeller Republicans” who lost touch with thoughtful Missourians years ago. The SCNT crowd harkens back to the Eastern Establishment of the 1960s that New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller led while trying to control the GOP through financial and political influence – that is until Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater and subsequently President Ronald Reagan dealt them a mighty blow. The governor would be wise to remember that.
Despite history, the governor thinks he can separate his spiritual views from his political and link with former U.S. Sen. John Danforth and William Neaves, president of the Stowers Institute in Kansas City who wants to clone and, I suspect, eventually make you and me pay for it. The governor is alienating himself from conservative Christians, putting a needless strain on his political future and perhaps that of other Republicans like U.S. Sen. Jim Talent. I have to admit it sent cold chills down my back when I read the other day that Talent had visited Stowers. If he wavers, conservative Christians will hold him accountable as well.
A member of the Missouri General Assembly told me recently that Danforth and other deep-pocketed members of the clone-to-kill lobby have been threatening to withhold 2006 campaign contributions to more conservative Republicans around the state. The lawmaker told me it is causing considerable upheaval in the party. If that is accurate, it might at least partially explain the governor’s departure from his conservative instincts on the SCNT issue. It would also suggest that an attempt has begun to revamp the conservative Republican majority in the General Assembly with Republicans more to the liking of the liberal “Rockefellers.”
The political peril that exists now for the governor grows with each passing day. Conservative groups statewide are mobilizing for what they consider to be the most serious assault on the sanctity of life in Missouri since Roe v. Wade (the wrongly decided U.S. Supreme Court case that opened the door to legalized abortion). At least one new organization has surfaced and there is talk of at least three more, one modeled after the stealthy Arlington Group in Washington, D.C., which played a key role in the confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and the demise of the Harriet Miers nomination to the same court.
The clone-to-kill lobby thinks it has the ballot initiative to amend the state Constitution in the bag. After all, they are prepared to throw more than $15 million at Missourians to convince them wrong is right and they’ve got the secular media on their side. As expected, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Kansas City Star have already expressed support for the ballot initiative and SNCT research.
But conservative Christians are familiar with big spenders and counter their efforts with a grassroots network second to none. Just ask the gambling lobby. And wait until all the pastors start breathing fire from the pulpits. We’ll see if $15 million is enough. To further shore up the base, conservative Christians now have their own statewide communications apparatus through Christian radio like the Bott Radio Network and newspapers like The Pathway, The Metro Voice in both St. Louis and Kansas City and the various Catholic publications.
To make matters worse for the governor, there continues to be considerable disagreement over this issue within his own party; all but inviting a challenge in the 2008 primary election. Lest the governor think that passing anti-abortion laws will appease conservative Christian voters in Missouri come the next election, he best think again. He is putting himself in danger of facing a candidate who will hammer him over cloning and the desecration of our state’s Constitution. Should he survive such a challenge in the Republican primary, he better not assume that he will have the support of conservative Christians in the general election. I suspect the Danforth people are telling the governor, “Don’t worry, those zealots and hayseeds will never vote for pro-abortion, pro-assisted suicide, pro-cloning, tax-happy Jay Nixon (the presumptive Democratic candidate, now the state’s attorney general).” That advice would be correct – except for one thing: demoralized “zealots and hayseeds” may not show up at the polls. Ask President Bush’s father what happened in 1992.
Meanwhile the outlook for the governor gets grimmer by the day. According to a SurveyUSA.com poll taken in mid-October, the governor’s approval rating has plummeted to a pathetic 33 percent. Some think his cutting of Medicaid benefits that the liberal press continues to harp on is the primary reason. I’m not convinced of that, but I wonder, do you think his position on cloning might have something to do with it? Of course the liberal media is publishing one poll after another claiming that Missourians support stem cell research. Quite frankly such “articles” have largely been misleading because they often do not say what type of stem cell research pollsters were using in their questions. Conservative Christians support adult stem cell research (as does the governor), which does not require the destruction of life like that of embryonic stem cell research or SCNT.
With the governor getting dismal approval ratings, the immediate prospects for improvement are not good.
His own denomination passed three pro-life resolutions during its annual meeting Oct. 24-26, one of which condemned SCNT specifically and the governor by name. This should not be taken lightly. It is a powerful statement, made in unison, by nearly 2,000 registered messengers sent by their 650,000 fellow Southern Baptists throughout the state.
And it still gets worse for the governor.
There are about 1.1 million Catholics in Missouri that the governor ought to think about as well. Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, the admired conservative leader of the archdiocese of St. Louis, recently referred to SCNT as “intrinsically evil.” Pretty strong language if you ask me. The Catholic Key, which serves Catholic readers in the western part of the state, recently blasted the ballot initiative to amend the state Constitution to protect SCNT.
And it gets worse.
The cornerstone of American conservative thought, The National Review, has criticized the governor on two occasions, calling his view of SCNT “weird science.” The governor can expect more of the same in coming months unless he reverses course. Brian Lewis, editorial page editor of The Springfield News-Leader wrote a column in the paper’s Oct. 30 issue disagreeing with the SCNT position. He did so after the paper’s editorial board met with Neaves in which the clone-to-kill leader admitted that the cells used in the SCNT process are “living” before they are killed.
And it gets worse.
National leaders of social conservative groups are pledging to pour resources into Missouri to help defeat the ballot initiative. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission has promised to come to Missouri and lend his assistance. He has already publicly criticized the governor’s position and is eager to testify before the General Assembly. Other groups, like Focus on the Family, are monitoring closely as more people see Missouri as a national battleground over this issue (Newsweek magazine recently published a one-sided, pro-cloning article suggesting such a scenario). In the end this could hurt the governor nationally in the eyes of conservatives, virtually destroying any aspirations he might have for national office.
I like our governor and I consider him a brother in Christ, but he is wrong about SCNT. He needs to reconsider his position on this vital issue and support a ban on such evil. We need not go down the path leading to political Armageddon, but that is where we are headed. Everyone one of us must now get involved, whether it is writing letters, preaching from the pulpit or praying for our governor, the General Assembly and victory in one of the greatest moral battles of our lifetime.