Pawlenty, Romney Won’t Sign FAMiLY LEADER Pledge

After Mitt Romney called the controversial FAMiLY LEADER pledge because it “contained references and provisions that were undignified and inappropriate for a presidential campaign.” Tim Pawlenty issued a statement that “I deeply respect, and share, Bob Vander Plaatts’ commitment to promoting the sanctity of marriage, a culture of life, and the core principles of the Family Leader’s Marriage Vow Pledge,” but “rather than sign onto the words chosen by others, I prefer to choose my own words, especially seeking to show compassion to those who are in broken families through no fault of their own.” Alex Conant, his campaign press secretary, tells me the statement is specific to this pledge, and shouldn’t be taken as a refusal to sign any pledges.

Michele Bachmann now insists that the preamble, which said that black children were more likely to be raised by a father and mother under slavery than they are now (but has since been changed), was not in the version she signed. She told Fox News, “I just want to make it absolutely clear, I abhor slavery. Slavery was a terrible part of our nation’s history. It is good that we no longer have slavery.” (But she still thinks health care reform is like slavery.)

Meanwhile, the Pawlenty campaign has released a six-minute video in which the candidate and his wife vouch for each others’ evangelical credentials. It opens with gauzy images of him and his wife, Mary, and proceeds to their telling of her upbringing as an evangelical, his decision to be evangelical rather than Catholic, and, well, just how much they love and trust God and how Pawlenty’s faith influences his politics. They’re gazing at each other, and then at someone or something not in the direct line of the camera, which gives it a bit of a I-can’t-look-you-in-the-eye feel to it.

It’s Pawlenty’s way of reminding social conservatives that he’s with them on abortion, gay marriage, and the intertwining of religion and politics, without having to sign the Vander Plaats document. Pawlenty must be counting on that hurting him in Iowa, but helping him later in states less dominated by . . . Bob Vander Plaats. Pawlenty’s polling in single digits in Iowa, where several polls show Bachmann surging ahead.

As I wrote yesterday, the divide between the Pawlenty and Bachmann (or Perry) strategies is not about favoring “being nice” over “fire and brimstone.” Instead, Bachmann, schooled in the preeminence of biblical law and the comprehensive “Christian worldview,” is driven by a bigger theo-ideology than Pawlenty’s profession of support for “the sanctity of life” or “marriage between a man and a woman” would suggest. And Bachmann’s approach demonstrates why it’s also too narrow also to look at the aims of social conservatives merely based on whether they succeed or not on outlawing abortion and gay marriage. Bachmann is the whole package: she speaks the language about the Constitution being divinely ordained; that God has sent her on a mission, despite persecution by evil anti-Christian forces; she fights for the “freedom that Christ offers;” and worries that what she believes is “socialism” could “sink civilization.” She speaks the language of Christian rightists of “secular humanism” (and its attendant evils public schools and the like) being on a collision course with righteous, red-blooded American Christianity.

She’s on a mission from God; Pawlenty just wants you to know that he likes God a whole lot.