People of faith who helped re-elect President Bush now expect him to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices who will oppose abortion, religious leader James Dobson said Sunday.
Interviewed by George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week” news program, Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, termed the naming of federal judges “the key to everything” for appeasing what have been described as “value” voters.
Dobson had strong words for both Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who is in line to become chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the committee.
Specter told reporters last week that he doubted any potential justice intent on overturning Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 ruling establishing a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion, would pass muster in the Senate.
“When you talk about judges who would change the right of a woman to choose, who’d overturn Roe versus Wade, I think that is unlikely,” Specter said Wednesday. “And I have said that bluntly during the course of the campaign, that Roe versus Wade was inviolate.”
Specter later backed away from his statement and said he wasn’t trying to issue the president any kind of warning, but that hasn’t stopped some GOP conservatives from talking about denying the moderate Republican the committee chairmanship.
“Sen. Specter is a big-time problem for us, and we’re very concerned about him,” Dobson said. Though Dobson seldom endorses candidates, he campaigned for Specter’s opponent in the Republican primary.
The four-term senator is a “problem,” Dobson said, not only because of the judiciary but also for his support of stem-cell research and his “sabotage” of Robert Bork, a conservative Supreme Court nominee rejected by Senate Democrats in 1987.
Specter “is a problem, and he must be derailed,” Dobson said, calling Specter’s comment about Roe vs. Wade “one of the most foolish and ill-considered comments that a politician has made in a long time.”
Stephanopoulos then asked Dobson about comments attributed to him in the Daily Oklahoman denouncing Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). “Patrick Leahy is a God’s people hater,” Dobson was quoted as saying. “I don’t know if he hates God, but he hates God’s people.”
“Now Dr. Dobson, that doesn’t sound like a particularly Christian thing to say,” Stephanopoulos said. “Do you think you owe Senator Leahy an apology?”
“George, you think you ought to lecture me on what a Christian is all about?” Dobson replied. (Stephanopoulos, a former aide in the Clinton White House, studied theology while a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. His father is a Greek Orthodox priest.)
“I think I’ll stand by the things I’ve said,” Dobson continued. “Patrick Leahy has been in opposition to most of the things that I believe. He is the one who took the reference to God out of the oath.” (Leahy was criticized for omitting the traditional phrase “so help me God” while swearing in Bush administration nominees in 2001).
Stephanopoulos challenged Dobson on his use of the word “hate.” “You said he’s a ‘God’s people hater.’ How do you back that up?”
“Well there’s been an awful lot of hate expressed in this election,” Dobson said. “And most of it has been aimed at those who hold to conservative Christian views.”
“He (Leahy) is certainly not the only one to take a position like that. But I think that is where he’s coming from. He has certainly opposed most of the things that conservative Christians stand for.”
“So no apology?” Stephanopoulos asked.
“No apology,” Dobson replied.
Dobson said he also disagrees with President Bush that states should have the right to recognize civil unions between couples of the same sex.
“I think the president made a big mistake there,” Dobson said, after viewing a tape of Bush being interviewed by ABC News correspondent Charles Gibson. Gibson mentioned the president’s comment during a debate that he didn’t know whether people can be born gay and asked in light of that if homosexuals should be denied economic and health rights available to others.
“I don’t think we should deny people rights to a civil union, a legal arrangement, if that’s what a state chooses to do,” Bush said.
“The Republican Party platform opposes it,” Gibson said.
“Well, I don’t,” Bush answered.
Dobson said he didn’t agree with either Bush’s answer or the question itself. “There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that people are born homosexual,” he said. “They don’t choose it, but it usually comes out of early child development.”
“The very question was wrong, but I also disagree with this president,” Dobson said. “You know, he’s not a perfect man. We don’t agree with anyone 100 percent. I don’t agree with my wife 100 percent of the time. And I disagree with what President Bush had to say here.”
“I think homosexuals should have all the rights that other people have,” Dobson said, “but not special rights, and that’s where we draw the line.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.