WASHINGTON – Republican contenders are addressing the "Washington Briefing 2007: Voter Value Summit" in Washington, D.C., Friday, a gathering sponsored by conservative groups including American Values, Focus on the Family Action, Alliance Defense Fund and the High Impact Leadership Coalition. FOX News' Major Garrett reports.
Thompson Campaign Literature Scathes, Speech Less So
GOP presidential candidate Fred Thompson confined criticism of rivals Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani to indirect contrasts in their socially conservative records in a speech to social conservatives on Friday.
But his spoken words were starkly different from fliers handed out by his staffers, bashing Giuliani and Romney on abortion and gay rights.
"Rudy Giuliani is Vocally Pro-Choice," said the flier, adding Giuliani "Supported Clinton's Veto of Partial-Birth Abortion Ban," and knocking the former New York mayor for signing "into law domestic partnership rights."
On Romney, the Thompson flier said: "Romney was proudly pro-choice until 2005," accused him of supporting "legalization of RU-486, (the) abortion-inducing drug," and said Romney "vowed to be better than Ted Kennedy on gay and lesbian issues."
Thompson leveled no such broadsides in his speech.
The closest he came to a swipe at either Romney or Giuliani was regarding appointment of federal judges, "I know a good one from a bad one and we need someone in the White House who doesn't have to call his lawyers to know a good one from a bad one."
This was an indirect reference to Romney's statement at the last GOP debate that he would check with his lawyers before deciding whether to carry out a military strike against Iran. At the time, Romney quickly followed by saying issues of national security and military strategy would also affect his decision.
Thompson also told the audience he ran in 1994 for the U.S. Senate to change the country.
"I'm proud to say over eight years, on national issues, I was a consistent conservative with a 100-percent pro-life voting record. I am proud of that record. That is who I was then, that is who I am now, and what I will be as president."
Thompson drew soft, sympathetic applause throughout, bringing the crowd to its feet by admitting he had no idea what he would do with his first 100 days in the White House but knew what he would do in the first hour.
"I would go into Oval Office and pray for the wisdom to know what's right. In my first hour I would pray for the strength to do what's right," he said.
Thompson, dipping into the rhetoric of personal revelation that many evangelical Christians identify with, said his own pro-life beliefs grew stronger upon the viewing "the sonogram of my own child."
"I will never feel the same again because my heart is now fully engaged with my head," Thompson said, adding: "No legislation that funds this procedure (abortion) will pass my desk without my veto."
Thompson said judicial activism, which he defined as intervention in questions of abortion and defining marriage, "violates the rule of law," that the judicial ruling in Roe v. Wade would "have amazed our founding fathers," and that judicial rulings allowing for same-sex marriage have turned generations of law and culture "on its head."
"This is a judicially created problem," Thompson said of the fight over legally defining marriage.
Thompson also weighed in on the Maine school district that decided this week to dispense contraceptives to students as young as 11 or 12 without parental notification.
"When school officials are giving away birth control pills to 11- and 12-year-olds, some values are seriously messed up."
Brownback Loud on Values, Quiet on Campaign Plans; Tancredo denounces 'hyphens'
Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, whom everyone here knows is dropping out of the race, soldiered on with a made-to-order recitation of pro-life advocacy before the summit audience.
As he has throughout a campaign that never got off the ground, Brownback said the pro-life agenda is not limited to unborn children, but also to children in Darfur, prisoners in jail, and those trapped in poverty.
Brownback called Roe v. Wade a "legal fiction" that leaves "two victims: one who is wounded and one who is dead."
He said Roe must be overturned and cited legal challenges to Roe and the associated case, Doe v. Bolton by the very plaintiffs who originally brought the landmark abortion cases under pseudonyms.
He called the family structure "the line in a football game." Without a solid front line of families, Brownback said, the nation's "backfield" can't get anything done.
Brownback also drew hearty applause by declaring, "Separation of church and state does not mean excluding faith from the public square."
And in what has begun to emerge as a theme here, Brownback, like McCain before him, condemned communism as a godless approach to ordering society that was bound to fail.
Brownback said communism failed because it was about "man focused in on himself and not focused on the transcendent."
Brownback also told a story about a conversation he had with the late Mother Teresa upon her receiving the Congressional Gold Medal several years ago. Brownback said he asked where her "power" came from, and the now-beatified Catholic missionary repeated three words four times: "All for Jesus."
Brownback, also Catholic, called hers "a beautiful, authentic faith."
That's what we should do," he said, "be the soul and the light and carry that around."
Tom Tancredo called himself the most authentic conservative in the race, one who disdained what he called the fetish of hyphenated conservatism (for example, neo-, paleo-, compassionate- and common-sense conservatives). Tancredo drew lusty applause by saying conservatives shouldn't be pro-life because "Iowa caucus voters demand it, but because 'the Lord God said I knew you before you were in the womb,' and 'we need a leader because our enemies are fanatics and our allies are the French.' "
Tancredo said the conservative movement "isn't supposed to chose a candidate, but produce one," a reference to the much-speculated upon selection process by which social conservatives are trying to sort out and select the best of an unsatisfying field.
"This is our culture. Fight for it," Tancredo boomed, drawing applause. "This is our country. Take it back."
Perkins Greets; McCain on Captivity, Abortion
Values voters arrived in Washington for a four-day summit, unified by their long-held beliefs but largely undecided about which Republican presidential candidate will best advance their agenda.
All the major GOP candidates will vie for support from social conservatives, but each arrives with short-comings in the eyes of social conservatives.
As Friday's session opened, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told attendees they "can't rely on politicians alone" to advance the social conservative agenda. He then told a joke ribbing Capitol Hill lawmakers: one Democrat, one Republican, both of whom considered themselves grounded in conservative values, but neither of whom could recite the Lord's Prayer.
Taken together, these words suggested the depth of skepticism among values voters about the repeated appeals for support from politicians they view as less than authentic.
Perkins said social conservatives must end "judicial tyranny, which brought us Roe v. Wade," and press the future president to "move forward with public policy that promotes the protection of the unborn child."
Interestingly, Perkins drew a historical comparison between slavery and polygamy, calling them the twin evil of their time. At a conference where uneasiness over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's Mormon faith is a persistent topic of conversation and concern to some evangelical Christians, Perkins' decision to compare polygamy, once a part of Mormonism but long-since rejected, with slavery could not have set well with Romney backers eager to achieve a second place finish in today's straw poll.
As for marriage, Perkins said marriage between a man and a woman "must be enshrined in the U.S. Constitution."
Romney, alone among the top GOP presidential contenders, backs an amendment to the Constitution defining marriage as a union between a man a woman, a point he will drive home in his speech here today.
Arizona Sen. John McCain, trying to revive his once-flagging campaign, told a poignant and unscripted story about his captivity for 5 1/2 years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, tracing the cruelty he endured to a personal discovery of the power of faith. He also called himself the only career-long pro-life candidate in the race and drew applause by saying he's pro-life "because I know what it's like to live without human rights."
McCain also said he wouldn't make "cheap promises" and would do what he believed in and "let the chips fall where they may."