Mother Jones’ newly acquired audiotape of a strategy session of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s campaign staff—the acquisition of which McConnell has asked the FBI to investigate—is an understandably embarrassing exposé of the cavalier disregard of humans so common in political opposition research. In the tape, his campaign staff ridicules would-be Senate challenger Ashley Judd for her history of mental illness, for her feminism, and for her liberal Christianity.
But what’s really probably actually embarrassing to McConnell is that his staff comes across as distinctly less than enmeshed in the religiously conservative mindset of the GOP’s base.
Someone with a passing knowledge of Christianity might not have mocked Judd for citing the love of animals espoused by that inconsequential figure in Christianity, St. Francis of Assisi (which of course isn’t too embarrassing since the new Pope is named for him). How does the staff on the tape think the base would react to Judd’s remarks on “Brother Donkey” and “Sister Bird?” A male voice on the tape is heard saying, “The people at Southeast Christian [Church] would take to the streets with pitchforks.”
Take to the street with pitchforks for citing St. Francis? I’m pretty sure that’s not the PR makeover the religious right has been waiting for.
What’s more, potential religious right objections to Judd’s brand of Christianity hardly roll off the staffer’s tongues. The base is not presented—as it undoubtedly would want to be—as the defender of “Judeo-Christian values” or “biblical Christianity” or “traditional values” or a “Christian worldview.” Instead, the person identified as the presenter by David Corn, who wrote the piece about the tape, stumbles over talking about how to attack Judd’s religious views:
The presenter says, “she’s critical of, sort of”—and then there’s a bit of a garble as he says (I think) “what I might view as”—”traditional Christianity. She sort of views it as sort of a vestige of patriarchy. She says Christianity gives a God like a man, presented and discussed exclusively with male imagery, which legitimizes and seals male power, the intention to dominate even if that intention is nowhere visible.” It’s obvious from the speaker’s tone, delivery, and word choice, that this “traditional Christianity” is something he thinks McConnell’s voters believe in and care very much about, but about which he knows and cares very little—so little that he awkwardly and repeatedly modifies it with “sort of.”
Again, when discussing Judd’s views of the “traditional family,” the speaker hardly comes across as a card-carrying member of the American Family Association, saying, “I think too she’s clearly sort of anti-sort-of-traditional American family.”
The religious right hardly shies away from attacking liberal or feminist Christianity like Judd’s. But that tape teems with contempt for both Judd and the religious right, whom the speakers seem to think of not as crucial allies, but as pitchfork-wielding nuts with views not even worth fully articulating. Not exactly the public image a Republican from Kentucky wants.