By Brian Myers and Shane Vander Hart
(Ames, IA) Five prospective Republican presidential candidates in 2016 descended upon the C.Y. Stephenson Auditorium on the campus of Iowa State University to address approximately 1200 social conservative activists at The FAMiLY Leadership Summit on Saturday, an annual event hosted by the FAMiLY Leader and co-sponsored by groups such as Family Research Council Action, Citizens United, and Alliance Defending Freedom.
Former U.S. Senator and 2012 Iowa Caucus Winner Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania) addressed the group earlier in the afternoon. Santorum struck a populist theme urging Republicans to hone their message in a way that resonates with blue collar families saying the current Republican economic message is addressed to approximately 10% of voters who are job creators.
“If all we do is just talk about how bad Obama is we will miss an opportunity,” Santorum said. He enouraged Republicans to state what they are for. “We need a pro-growth agenda. We need to focus on the things that are going to matter on those who will feel left out of the discussion.”
Santorum called for the elimination of taxes on manufacturers. He also stated that the Federal government needs to get out of the way of energy production and from overseeing infrastructure projects. He also said Federal involvement in education has been a cause of problems.
“We are not going to solve the problem of education by the federal government telling us what our curriculum and standards are…. We need to get rid of Common Core!” Santorum stated.
“One of the reasons we have seen wages in distress is because we have a labor flooding in,” Santorum said addressing immigration. He noted that Democrats see immigrants as potential voters. He said businesses view them as commoditites. Santorum said that immigrants have historically come in waves and then the country would have a respite in order for the market to recover. Santorum called for an “America First” policy for immigration: secure the border, offer no amnesty and then to dial back on chain immigration.
Santorum also addressed the Obama administration’s mishandling of Israel. “I am heading to Israel largely because I am embarrassed for my government,” he stated. He said that Americans need to send leaders to Washington who understand foreign policy.
Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) talked at length about the successes of Republican governors in a number of states. He spoke about freedom, and the role of government at the state level. He stayed with a common theme for his recent speeches comparing “red states” and “blue states.” He touted Republican governors such as South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and Florida Governor Rick Scott.
He mentioned the problems we have at the national level and said flatly, “we don’t have to accept that.”
He exorted the federal government to do the things, and only the things that are enumerated – like defending the border. He addressed President Obama and said, “If you do not secure the border then the state of Texas will.” That remark received a standing ovation from the crowd.
He also talked about values, saying that “somebody’s values will be legislated, the question is whose values.” He concluded his remarks with a challenge to the audience, citing Isaiah 6:8 several times: “Here am I. Send me.” He said the future of America is in our hands.
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) spoke extemporaneously to the group walking back and forth across the stage. Cruz began his speech with a one-liner that delighted the crowd: “I spent most of the last month in Washington, D.C….It’s great to be back in America!” He followed this with a description of the “Obama diet” in which “every day you let Putin eat your lunch.” He said he was “here today with a message of hope and optimism,” and suggested that in order to win we must stand up and tell the truth. He recounted five major victories over the last two years:
- On the battle over gun control last Spring.
- The Hobby Lobby decision.
- The banning of Iranian UN Ambassador Hamid Aboutalebi from entering the U.S.
- The release of Meriam Ibrahim.
- The FAA’s lifting of a ban of flights into Israel.
He went on to talk about two more victories that weren’t yet complete but that they were “fixin’ to be.” They were the immigration issue and Obamacare. Cruz was fiery at the end of his remarks as he predicted that the GOP would take back the Senate, and as he called for the repeal of Obamacare in its entirety, the abolition of the IRS, and Common Core.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R) also spoke without notes and discussed his family’s background, and his father’s struggle to find a job as a young immigrant to the United States. He then said that the thing that concerned him the most was President Obama’s “relentless effort to redefine the American dream.”
Jindal accused the President of attempting to “make us more like Europe.” He called for the President to secure the border.
Shifting to his home state of Louisiana, Jindal related his achievements there and spoke of his approach to education: He “trust(s) parents to be the first and best in the education of their children.” He said the Federal government was too large and too intrusive, and mentioned a number of events that have occurred during the Obama years, calling them “unbelievable.” He highlighted his legal battle with his State Board of Education over his executive order repealing the Common Core State Standards, and pulling his state out of their Common Core assessment consortia.
Jindal spoke of what he called the “assault” on religious liberty. He joked that the President should sue Harvard Law School to get his money back. And in a wry reference to President Obama’s false promise regarding Obamacare, Jindal quipped “If you like your religious liberty, you can keep it.” He concluded his speech on an optimistic note: “Our best days are still ahead of us,” Jindal said.
Former Arkansas Governor and 2008 Iowa Caucus winner Mike Huckabee addressed the group stating “we are living in some very dangerous times.”
Huckabee said that the country was in need of a spiritual transformation, and that he didn’t like the rewriting of history that has taken place relative to founding of the country.
Turning to the immigration issue, Huckabee said “I’m not anti-immigration. I’m anti-lawlessness.” He also observed that “if you don’t have a border, you don’t have a country.” He used particularly strong language when speaking of the IRS, calling it a “criminal enterprise,” and referred to it as the “Infernal Revenue Service,” as he roundly condemned the Lois Lerner matter. He called for the passage of the fair tax, and the repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
Huckabee asserted that the country was “held hostage” by the Supreme Court, and linked what he called “judicial supremacy” to the abortion of 55 million unborn children. Near the end of his remarks he made a blistering attack on President Obama’s foreign policy, calling for the arming of the Kurds in Iraq, and stated that it was “time we understand that there is such a thing called evil, and we must stand against it.”
Additional speakers addressed the group throughout the day.
Senator Tim Scott spoke at length about his background and upbringing, and did so with humor. Speaking of the discipline he occasionally received, he told the audience that “a switch is a Southern apparatus of encouragement.” He talked about his “faith in Christ Jesus,” and speaking of the future he asserted that our best days as a nation were still ahead of us. He emphasized the importance of educational choice. He spoke of opportunity, and said that the “greatest opportunity is the opportunity of life.”
Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council observed that we are in “the fight of our lives” for the freedom of religion, and said that there is an attempt to “drive people of faith out of the public square.” He spoke of a “new McCarthyism” relative to the issue of homosexuality. He maintained that “there will be no liberty without religious liberty.”
Congressman Steve King (R-IA) in his speech in the morning took aim at Hillary Clinton about the Benghazi scandal. “I know that Hillary Clinton knew the truth when we were given a classified briefing,” King said.
“She told us the same lies that Susan Rice did the Sunday before,” King added.
King also called for a national sales tax which would shut down the IRS and take the 503 tax status off of pastors’ backs. King joined many speakers heard throughout the day criticize President Obama’s lack of action on with the border crisis. King said the the rule of law needs to be restored, and that the “Border Patrol’s hands have been tied by the President.
Iowa U.S. Senate Republican nominee Joni Ernst spoke briefly about her faith background. She appealed to Iowan’s value of service to one’s neighbor. “When a crisis occurs in the state it is neighbors helping neighbors, Iowans helping Iowans,” Ernst said.
Bob Vander Plaats, President/CEO of The FAMiLY Leader, reminded the group what they look for in candidates they support. He said character is the first priority which is something often overlooked. He also said candidates need to be competent, and then they also look at the company that candidates keep.
He exorted the Church to be involved in shaping culture. “We don’t need the church to be political, we need the church to be biblical,” Vander Plaats said.
He also pointed out the primary difference between evangelicals and liberal Democrats. “We believe God instituted government,” Vander Plaats stated. “Is God in charge or is he not? If God is not in charge, then government has to be.” He noted that Democrats took God out of their party platform. “That is something you do intentionally,” he remarked.
He focused the rest of his time on America’s need for spiritual revival, highlighting the “If 7:14” campaign his organization has started. He noted that revival doesn’t start with Washington, DC., but with individuals. “Revival is not an outside in proposition, but an inside out proposition,” Vander Plaats said.
Josh Duggar of the 19 Kids and Counting reality show and executive director of Family Research Council Action accused the Obama Administration of making “a direct assault on us.” He said he believed that there was a “Christian and moral obligation to be involved in (the political) process.” He challenged the audience to stand up and make a difference.
New York Times best selling author Joel C. Rosenberg brought a sober warning. ““America is not only on the road to decline, but we are on the road to implosion.”
“Since 1973 we have systematically murdered 55 children. If this does not change in the next few years we will have killed 60 million babies,” Rosenberg stated. “We will have killed 10 times more human beings than the Nazis killed of the Jews.”
Rosenberg compared America to the ancient city of Ninevah seen in the Old Testament. He said the United States like Ninevah will either respond with repentance like they did when Jonah came to the city, or they will be judged after like they were after Nahum visited and they did not repent. The city was destroyed 612 BC. He said America will either repent and experience a 3rd Great Awakening, or they won’t and will face judgment.
Rosenberg gave three reasons why the fate of America (and as the Bible says, “the nations” of which the United States is a part) is tied to the fate of Israel.
- Genesis 12:3 – I will bless those who bless you, and those who curse you I will curse.
- Joel 3 – In the future I will rebuild Israel – we are living in this, the state of Israel has been reestablished. God says I will bring to judgment all of the nations that divide up the land.
- Psalm 122:6 – We need to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. We need to seek peace for them.
“Palestinians deserve freedom to live their lives on a daily basis,” Rosenberg said. He pointed out that God loves all in the region. “God commands Israel to treat those in the land well,” he added.
He also pointed out that Palestianians do not need to be demeaned in order to love Israel. “We must love the Arab people, especially those who are followers of Jesus,” Rosenberg said.
Rosenberg announced that he and his family have obtained dual citizenship in Israel (he is half-Jewish), and would be moving to Israel soon.
David and Jason Benham spoke to the group in tag-team fashion. They shared their story of HGTV canceling their reality TV show in light-hearted fashion.
David Benham addressed the media and said he would give them “sound bites.” The first one he gave was, “It is a fun thing to follow Jesus, until you find out where he’s goin’. He’s goin’ to a cross.”
They went on to say that “How you see the battle” affects things. If you see the battle as physical rather than spiritual “you’ll become a hater.” Describing their situation when their TV show and everything that went with it hung in the balance, they said “it was not about our brand, it was about elevating Jesus Christ.” They encouraged the audience to “speak the truth in love” and acknowledged the lordship of Christ in all things. The final remark they made was “Jesus Christ is King.”
Rafael Cruz, father of Ted Cruz, criticized churches who preached a “softshell gospel” and pushed “softshell justice” on their congregations. He said the church should influence all areas of society, including politics. He gave four action steps for churches.
- Set up a voter registration table.
- Preach messages on relevant Christian principles.
- Provide voter’s guides showing how candidates have voted on Christian issues.
- Encourage people to vote for candidates that uphold and defend Biblical values.
Alveda King shared the “King Family Rules” with those in attendance, there were 10 of them:
- Make home a priority.
- Serve your family.
- Education – school choice
- Defend life.
- Guard your heart (and your body)
- Fight for justice
- Care for the needy.
- Work for peace.
- Build the beloved community (all people from conception to natural death)
- Find your joy
David Bossie, President of Citizens United, began his remarks saying, “Too many politicians are in Washington (merely) to manage the decay.”
He went on to mention the Obama scandals of Benghazi, the IRS, and the VA. He said that “conservatives must go out and win hearts and minds.” Bossie suggested that three areas of conservatism – Fiscal conservatism, a strong national defense, and social conservatism – were the foundations of conservatism going back to the days of Buckley, Reagan, and Goldwater. He mentioned the conflict within conservatism today, citing the border crisis and pointing out the need for policies built on the rule of law.