The Colorado Springs religious-based organization Focus on the Family (FOF) has taken on a larger national role this year, at least publicly, with their frequent forays into politics. The problem? They’re really not very good at the politics thing.
One of FOF’s big targets in the last year has been Sen. Ken Salazar, who they have attacked over his positioning surrounding the Supreme Court nominees. From the Rocky Mountain News:
U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar attacked Focus on the Family at a luncheon in Denver on Tuesday after the nonprofit group took out newspaper ads labeling him a flip-flopper in regard to the nomination of Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Salazar, in turn, suggested the group go back to the Bible and look at the Eighth Commandment.
“Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor,” he told a crowd of about 200 at the Brown Palace Hotel. In some religions that’s the Ninth Commandment, but the Catholic Church, of which Salazar is a member, counts it as the eighth.
The ongoing feud between Salazar and the political arm of James Dobson’s Colorado Springs ministry has been simmering for much of the senator’s first year in office. It reached a crescendo earlier this year when Focus on the Family accused Salazar of failing to follow through on a campaign promise to support an up-or-down vote on judicial nominees.
It’s a point made in the new Focus on the Family ad, where Salazar is reported as saying in November 2004 he favored an up-or-down vote and then, in April 2005, the ad reported, his position had changed. It also said he was opposed to hiring quotas at one point, then said he didn’t oppose hiring quotas.
Salazar called the advertisement “a falsehood.”
Here’s what I don’t understand about FOF’s feud with Salazar: what’s the point? I don’t see the strategic angle in attacking Salazar, particularly after their battle last spring failed for FOF. Last spring, when the organization originally went after Salazar for his comments about Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, they singlehandedly turned an unknown junior senator in his first term into a figure of national prominance and gained very little in return. Sen. Salazar is now a big player in the U.S. Senate, and that is due in large part to FOF creating a firestorm of free media for him.
What FOF is fast becoming is a political nuisance, rather than a player, because the more press they get, the more it backfires. The head of FOF, James Dobson, is spectacularly bad at public relations attempts, whether it is calling out SpongeBob Squarepants for promoting homosexuality or making blatantly racist remarks that have caused the most conservative leaders in congress, including Sen. Trent Lott, to back away quickly.
Dobson and FOF may have a lot of followers and a lot of money, but the line between political player and political nuisance isn’t always very wide.