- The Washington Times - Friday, September 12, 2008

Sarah Palin may have chosen to be with ABC’s Charlie Gibson this weekend instead of an annual gathering of values voters in Washington, D.C., but she’s still a hero to them, and the liberal media are still the bad guys.

The morning after Mrs. Palin’s much-anticipated interview with Mr. Gibson, the buzz among the Christian conservatives gathered for the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit remained overwhelmingly positive about the Republican nominee for vice president.

The mere mention of the Alaska governor’s name produced whoops and hollers from the crowd of around 1,500 inside the Washington Hilton on Friday. And the media-bashing that was so pronounced at the Republican convention last week continued.

Newt Gingrich, the former Republican House Speaker from Georgia, told the gathering that Mr. Gibson’s interview on Thursday with Mrs. Palin was stunningly distorted and said it was an example of the how utterly alien Christians are to the elite media. At one point, some in the crowd hissed at the mention of the press.

Mr. Gingrich said Mr. Gibson had distorted Mrs. Palin’s words to a church congregation in June when she asked them to pray that the Iraq war was a mission from God. Mr. Gibson asked Mrs. Palin if her words meant that the U.S. is in a holy war.

Michael Steele, the former lieutenant governor of Maryland and current chairman of GOPAC, said the criticisms of Mrs. Palin are an attack on our values.

“Don’t mess with this woman,” Mr. Steele said of Mrs. Palin. “She shoots moose. What do you think shes going to do to a donkey?”

Mr. Gingrich’s argument that the media is liberal and has been attacking Mrs. Palin allowed him to paint questions about her record and qualifications for the vice presidency as part of an effort to take down a woman who he said poses two enormous threats to the left.

“The first is existential. If a person I just described can survive as a national figure, she has shattered the ability of left wing feminists to define legitimate behavior by women,” he said.

And Mr. Gingrich also said that Mrs. Palin has changed the dynamic of the presidential race and has taken wind from the sails of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.

“He thought he was going to get away with the biggest political mistake of his career, which was to not pick Hillary Clinton as his running mate,” Mr. Gingrich said. “Had he shown that he was strong enough to have both Bill [Clinton] and Hillary with him without being intimidated he would have had a ticket that would have been hard for us to beat. But he didn’t. He flinched.”

Among the crowd, attendees said they were not perturbed by Mrs. Palin’s inability to attend, due to her choice to stay in Alaska for a series of interviews with ABC News. Republican presidential nominee John McCain also chose not to attend, despite his presence in Washington and the absence of any public schedule.

“I don’t see any issue with that,” said Daniel McConchie, vice president of Americans United for Life Action. “We recognize there’s a lot of work for them to do.”

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said the attendees were far from being discouraged by the absence of Mr. McCain and Mrs. Palin.

The Christian Broadcasting Network reported that Mr. Perkins told the McCain campaign that the offer of a video message from Mrs. Palin was not enough.

But Mr. Perkins said that Mr. McCain’s choice to include Mrs. Palin on the ticket had shown the pro-family community that the Republican candidate cared about them.

“What people see is that while it may not have been a vigorous conversation, John McCain and his campaign were listening,” Mr. Perkins said.

“Mrs. Palin,” he said, “embodies most of the issues we care about.”

Some conservative religious leaders, however, were unhappy with Mr. McCain’s nonattendance.

Bishop Harry Jackson, pastor of Hope Christian Church in Lanham, Md., said he thought Mr. McCain’s decision to skip the event, which he skipped two years ago and then reluctantly attended last year, was ill-advised.

“These are your navy seals, your marines,” he said of the grassroots conservatives in attendance. “To not come is an attitude of, I’ve got this wrapped up. Well I don’t think they do have it wrapped up.”

But Pat Ruark, a 74-year old home health nursing consultant from Naples, Fla., said she thought the attendees at the summit were already decided on who they would vote for.

She also said that until Mr. McCain chose Mrs. Palin as his running mate, she was not happy with either candidate for president, and was debating whether to vote in the contest at all.

“But Mrs. Palin,” said the mother of two and grandmother of four, “is a womans woman.”

“Its amazing the woman can work and have such a close family and be successful. It’s a role model.”

Terry Chism, a 58-year old homemaker from San Diego, said she also was sold on the McCain candidacy only after he added Mrs. Palin to the ticket.

“I love her. I was jumping around our living room when she accepted the vice presidential nomination,” said Mrs. Chism, whose husband owns a painting business.

The only person to sound any notes that were out of tune with the Palin-praising, media-knocking chorus was CNN anchor Lou Dobbs, who told the crowd that they needed to apply their religious values not only to social issues but also to economics.

“Please do not be cloistered around two or three values, two or three issues,” he said. “Please, reach beyond what the ideologues expect of you I would hope you would be independent thinkers, not part of an orthodoxy of any kind.”

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