- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 19, 2009

Minnesota Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, once considered a moderate by some social conservatives, was the headliner at the Values Voters Summit in Washington on Friday evening, quoting from the Bible and bringing the nearly 2,000 social and religious conservatives to their feet.

“We need to be sure we are a force for wise values, not just wisecracks,” Mr. Pawlenty told the activists from 49 states.

“We need to humbly ask God to bless the United States,” said the two-term governor, who had announced more than three months ago he would not seek a third term. He has been traveling the country looking very much like a potential presidential nomination seeker.

Poking fun at President Obama’s health care plan, Tony Perkins opened the summit Friday morning by quipping that he fears the plan will produce a system with the empathy of the Internal Revenue Service and the efficiency of the Federal Emergency Management Administration.

Mr. Perkins, Family Research Council president, got the expected laughter and applause from the nearly 2,000 religious and social activists gathered at the Omni Shoreham Hotel for a good but godly time.

Rep. Mike Pence, Indiana Republican, took the podium to toss out a few one-liners before settling down to criticize his own party for what he thinks are its unprincipled excesses of the past.

“On Election Day last year, only 22 percent of Americans described themselves as liberal, but our nation went forward to elect the most liberal one-party government in American history,” he said. “So, what happened? Well, some blame the war in Iraq. Some blame Republican scandals. Well, I think the real scandal in Washington, D.C., was runaway federal spending under Republican control.”

The religious-social right has never been about fire and brimstone but about moral behavior by government and citizens. Legalized abortion and same-sex marriages rank at the top of the movement’s must-stop agenda.

The next speaker was former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who proceeded to rock the house with humor.

Dismissing the health care “reform” approach of Mr. Obama and the Democratic Congress, Mr. Huckabee compared the “real” health problem to “an NFL game on Sunday [with] 22 people down on the field desperately in need of rest and 70,000 in the stands desperately in need of exercise.”

“There is America’s health care problem right there,” he said.

Mr. Huckabee, who ran second to Arizona Sen. John McCain in the Republican presidential nomination contest last year, has been an increasingly important figure in the religious-social right movement that bemoans what former Education Secretary William J. Bennett has called the “coarsening of American culture.”

Now a Fox News talk-show host, Mr. Huckabee let fly with such zingers aimed at Mr. Obama as “The audacity of hope has become the audacity of hypocrisy,” and America is being trivialized and demeaned into “land czars, clunker cars and Hollywood stars.”

Mr. Huckabee, who complained about the unequal footing financially between him and opponent Mitt Romney in the 2008 presidential nomination contest, took a swipe at the former Massachusetts governor who enacted statewide health care reform before leaving office.

“A couple of states have already tried government-run medicine: Tennessee and Massachusetts. Both plans went bankrupt,” Mr. Huckabee said. “The only thing inexpensive is $50 for an abortion in Massachusetts. No thanks.”

As for Mr. Obama’s claim that his health care reform will not increase the federal debt or deficit because it will offset new costs by “squeezing $500 billion out of the Medicare program. If he can do it now, why hasn’t he already done it?”

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