James Dobson Unmasked

June 24 2006, 5:53 PM
Focus on the Family founder James Dobson (the evangelical leader called by Karl Rove to help sell the Harriet Miers nomination) is revealed in a feature article by Pulitzer prize winner Eileen Welsome in this month's 5280. And on the Eighth Day, Dr. Dobson Created Himself is free and online, don't miss it. The evangelical leader is going strong at 70:
Today, his behemoth ministry, based at the foot of the Rockies, reaches more than 220 million people around the globe through its radio and television programs, magazines, books, videos, audio recordings, and a powerful website that offers webzines, podcasts, music, and even movie reviews.
Tom Delay credits him with "walking him back to Jesus." Republicans generally are in his debt:
In the 2004 election, Dobson's political arm, Focus on the Family Action, was instrumental in turning out the conservative vote that gave Bush a second term and ushered in U.S. senators with socially conservative agendas. Having reached the pinnacle of evangelical Christendom, these should be halcyon days for James Dobson.
The second page of the article recaps Dobson's role in the Miers and Alito Supreme Court nominations. Alito send Focus on the Family a thank-you note after his confirmation:
Alito's confirmation fulfilled his lifelong ambition to "warm a seat on the Supreme Court," and was further evidence of Dobson's reach. One of the first things Alito did when he took his warm seat was dash off a thank-you note to the folks in Colorado Springs. "This is just a short note to express my heartfelt thanks to you and the entire staff at Focus on the Family for your help and support during the past few, challenging months," he wrote. "As long as I serve on the Supreme Court, I will keep in mind the trust that has been placed in me."
There's lots more about Dobson's own childhood and his parenting advice -- he wrote a book on how to spank your kids -- and big surprise here (not) -- his own parenting was far from ideal:
Dobson scarfed down whatever Shirley cooked, but other aspects of family life left him queasy. While changing Danae's diapers, he stuffed cotton balls in his nostrils. After a hard day at the office, he didn't like the kids crawling all over him when he walked through the door, so the family instituted a rule, giving Dad 30 minutes to unwind, read the paper, or watch the news before the fun could begin.
Where did he take out his frustrations? On the family dog.
A fifth member of the household, a stubborn little dachshund named Sigmund Freud, added to the chaos. When "Siggie" refused to go to bed one night, Dobson got out a belt and whacked him. The dog bared its teeth and Dobson gave it a second whack. "What developed next is impossible to describe," writes Dobson in The New Strong-Willed Child. "That tiny dog and I had the most vicious fight ever staged between man and beast. I fought him up one wall and down the other, with both of us scratching and clawing and growling. I am still embarrassed by the memory of the entire scene."
There's lots more, I recommend the whole thing. Also, there will be a part 2 to the article out next month. And on a related note, Christina Larson at Washington Monthly notes the results of a recent poll showing that 50 percent of American hunters and anglers identified themselves as evangelical.