Rick Perry made headlines yesterday when the controversial Pastor Robert Jeffress of the Dallas First Baptist Church introduced and endorsed Govenor Perry at the Values Voter Summit. You can watch the Pastor's remarks below:
The reason why this introduction was remarkable is because Pastor Robert Jeffress is well known for his repeated statements about Mitt Romney as a non-Christian who is a member of a cult and therefore is not qualified to become President of the United States. He has gone around the nation telling people that Christians cannot vote for a candidate who belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and that any one who does vote for a Mormon will have jeopardized their salvation.
Pastor Robert Jeffress was more direct and more explicit in his comments towards Mitt Romney's faith in his statement to the press immediately after he gave his introductory speech at the Value Voters Summit:
The implication became explicit shortly after Perry’s speech, when Jeffress spoke to a group of reporters outside the ballroom. When one asked whether he had in fact been referring to Romney and Mormonism, Jeffress said he had. “Mormonism is a cult,” he said cheerfully, before rephrasing his onstage statement in a more explicit way: The choice, he said, is between a born again Christian and “a good moral person who is part of a cult.”
Jeffress said that he hadn’t discussed his opinion about Mormonism with Rick Perry, and didn’t purport to represent the governor’s views. (He did say that Perry had “welcomed” his endorsement.) He added that his view shouldn’t be surprising, given that the Southern Baptist Convention has “officially labeled Mormonism as a cult.” What’s more, a little Googling shows that this is by no means the first time Jeffress has expressed this view or talked about how it applies to Mitt Romney. Which suggests that Perry may have–or should have–known what to expect from his opening act this afternoon.
Rick Perry is attempting to use Mike Huckabee's strategy of playing passive aggressive on Mitt Romney's faith because they were given two weeks prior notice that Pastor Robert Jeffress was going to introduce him at the Value Voters Summit and yet the Perry campaign made no objections to having the Pastor as the introductory speaker:
Meanwhile, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, which helped organize the event, said on CNN's "John King, USA" that his group gave Perry a heads up approximately two weeks ago that Jeffress would be introducing the governor.
"We sent it to the campaign. They signed off on it," Perkins said. "I don't think there was any other communication beyond that. The campaign did not know what he would say. We did not know what he would say."
Passive aggressive behavior is when someone does something and then denies the very act that they just did. Thus, it becomes difficult to pin down the bad behavior on the person. Here, it is impossible to believe that Rick Perry nor the people who organized this event knew that he would be speaking at the event and yet they they claim they had no idea what he would say at the event like this. This is a classic passive aggressive behavior on the part of the Rick Perry campaign.
It is inconceivable that Rick Perry's campaign would sign off on having someone like Pastor Jefress introduce Governor Perry at an extremely important event without knowing who that person is, what their positions are and what their reputation is in the public eye. A professional campaign team will always do their background research. Conducting this kind of research isn't that hard to do since any one can Google the Pastor's position regarding Christians supporting a Mormon candidate. However, such research wouldn't be necessary since the Pastor was very vocal in the 2008 Presidential elections about Mitt Romney.
It would be campaign malpractice to blindly allow someone to introduce someone without knowing what they would say before hand. More likely than not, the Perry campaign must have previewed an advanced copy of the speech before letting the Pastor step up to the podium.
The claim that they had no idea what kind of remarks Pastor Jeffress would make becomes even more incredulous given that Rick Perry is the Govenor of Texas and that Pastor Robert Jefrress is well known religious figure in Texas as well as across the country.
Rick Perry continues to employ this strategy even after the Pastor's statement at the Value Voters Summit when he accepted the controversial Pastor's endorsement yet claims to disagree with Robert Jeffress' claims about Mormonism being a cult when asked about it by the press:
"No. I don't think it is," Perry said when asked by a reporter if he believes the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a cult. Perry was also asked if he associated himself with Jeffress' comments.Though the Texas governor disagreed with Jeffress' words, he did not outright denounce them. Reporters attempted to ask Perry more questions, but were unsuccessful. Instead, Perry was ushered out with his wife, Anita Perry, and his campaign staff.
Rick Perry's passive agressive strategy is even more obvious in this ABC News article:
The campaign’s official comment on Jeffress evolved quickly on Friday afternoon. When initially asked by ABC News whether Gov. Perry agreed that Mormonism is a cult, Perry spokesman Mark Miner said: “The governor doesn’t judge what is in the heart and soul of others. He leaves that to God.”Miner would also not immediately say whether the governor believed it was wrong to call Mormonism a cult. ”It’s not his decision to judge that,” the spokesman said. He added that conference organizers decided who should introduce Perry at the summit, not the campaign.But minutes later, Miner called ABC News with a new statement: “He does not believe it is a cult.”Rather than distance himself from the pastor’s introductory remarks on Friday, when Perry took the podium, he thanked Jeffress for a “very powerful introduction.”Perry added, “He knocked it out of the park.”
Once again, this is classic passive-aggressive behavior. Rick Perry won't denounce the Pastor's comments but he merely disagrees yet he thinks his speech knocked it out of the ballpark. This kind of confusing and convoluted response is something that shouldn't sit well with the American voter.
Given all the facts above, it becomes difficult, perhaps impossible, to accept Rick Perry's claim that they were unaware of Pastor Robert Jeffress before allowing him to make the introductions at the Value Voters Summit. Moreover, Rick Perry's disagreement Pastor Jeffress over whether or not the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is a cult religion rings hollow since he was given advanced warning of his endorsement and yet he didn't voice his disagreement before or after. He stated that he disagreed with Pastor Perry only after being asked about it by the media.
Had the media not asked Rick Perry about Robert Jeffress' positions towards Mormons, how long do you think it would have been before Rick Perry publicly disagreed with Mr. Jeffress?
Playing passive-aggressive towards Mitt Romney's faith was a strategy that worked once but cannot work again. Mike Huckabee was the first to use this tactic and it was successful during the 2008 Presidential election. Tim Pawlenty attempted to use it in his campaign and it fizzled. President Obama stated that he would use Mitt Romney's faith against the former Governor in the 2012 election if Romney is the GOP nominee and got severely mocked for it by Steven Colbert.
Now Rick Perry is trying to use this strategy and it will fail.
Why? Because people are now aware of this strategy. For example, Max Twain of Race42012 summarized Perry's strategy with a simple line: Mormon card officially played. The more people properly identify or label what is being done and get other people's attention to what is being done, the power of that strategy or tactic is greatly diluted. That is what is happening here. People in the media and conservative bloggers can see what Perry is doing here and they are correctly calling it out for what it is.
It will also fail because more and more people are willing to look beyond a candidate's faith and are starting to realize that a candidate's values is more important than the religion they belong to. Moreover, politicians like Rick Santorum and Jim DeMint have publicly stated that Mitt Romney's faith will not be an issue in the 2012 election. Furthermore, influential Christians like Pat Robertson and Joel Osteen have accepted the fact that Mitt Romney is a Christian.
Conservatives should never allow any Republican or Democrat to use religion to cause divisions among us, stir up feelings of bigotry and score votes. Rick Perry has done all three and as a result, he has disqualified himself to be President of the United States.