Former Reagan aide and Washington legislator
to replace Pat Robertson and Ralph Reed
As right-wing watchers know by now, the Christian Coalition recently announced its
new management team. By the time Pat Robertson held his press conference last month, the news
had already leaked that Ralph Reed's replacement would be Randy Tate, a former member of
Congress from Washington state. An Associated Press story ran on Tate's appointment the night before
that was carried in many newspapers around the nation.
But again displaying the Christian Coalition's media mastery, Robertson stepped to
the microphone with one further piece of news, that he was stepping down as president of the group
to become the Chairman of the Board, and that Don Hodel, former Secretary of Interior and
Secretary of Energy in the Reagan Administration, would take over as president. The result of the
choreographed leak, two-step announcement was a second newspaper story on the Christian
Coalition's leadership change in newspapers around the nation.
If Don Hodel's presence gets the
two sides to cooperate with one another,
it will have implications for the
split in the
movement that the two
represent -- political
uncompromising political zeal.
While it remains to be seen how it actually plays out, Hodel, as a former executive
vice president of Focus on the Family, and now, as president of the Christian Coalition, could
represent a bridge between the two most significant religious right groups. If Hodel's presence gets the
two sides to cooperate with one another, it will also have implications for the split in the
movement that the two represent -- political
pragmatism vs. uncompromising political zeal.
Robertson explained that Hodel will run the day-to-day operations and set the group's
priorities, while Tate will spend his time traveling, raising money and organizing the grassroots.
Both men will represent the coalition on television. Robertson's choices were greeted warmly by
his allies on the Right. Here's a sampling:
Grover Norquist, president of Citizens for Tax Reform, said of Tate, "he has a good grasp
of grassroots politics, which is what the Christian Coalition is all about, and he understands the
way politics works in Washington."
"Nobody will top Ralph Reed but Randy will come as close as anybody could," said
Republican pollster Frank Luntz. "Randy Tate was the hardest working, most articulate, quickest
learning freshman in a very bright class. He had an absolutely uncanny ability to grasp very
difficult, complex issues and communicate them in a very simplified, non-political way."
Eagle Forum President Phyllis Schlafly, whose relations with Reed seemed to have
been strained by Reed's flip-flopping on the Republican platform position on abortion last
summer, called Tate, "an excellent choice, a staunch conservative on everything."
Family Research Council President Gary Bauer said, "From my own personal
experiences with the two men chosen to lead the Christian Coalition, I can say that the pro-family movement
is fortunate to have such a talent pool to draw from."
Grover Norquist again gushed, "What you've got is Reagan and Gingrich. Hodel is a
Reagan Republican and Tate is a Gingrich Republican."
Even Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich weighed in. He said, "Today's announcement
is like a baseball team that just lost Cal Ripken announcing that it picked up Ken Griffey Jr.
and Barry Bonds to take his place." He went on to describe the two as "politically astute, media
savvy and experienced in the management of large organizations."
A look at both men's backgrounds shows exactly why conservative activists were so thrilled.
Tate's connections with Pat Robertson go back to Robertson's unsuccessful campaign
for President in 1988. Tate and others of his family members were among the handful of
Robertson delegates at the GOP convention. Tate successfully ran for the state legislature in 1989 while still
a student at Western Washington University in an election known for one of the dirtiest attacks
of recent elections.
Just before the election, voters received campaign literature that implied that Tate's
opponent was a child molester. Tate says that the piece was mailed without his knowledge, but that it
was legitimate because of his opponent's opposition to publicizing a list of teachers who had been
accused of child abuse when he was state superintendent of public instruction.
Tate was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1994. While there, he received a
100 percent rating from the Christian Coalition on voters guides and scorecards.
Tate's positions during his one term in Congress included a push for a crackdown on
illegal immigrants, making English the "official" language of the United States, passing a
constitutional amendment to prohibit flag burning, restricting abortion, using public funds to pay for vouchers
at private schools, opposing civil rights legislation, voting to slash funding for the National
Endowment for the Arts, and eliminating the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the national
Endowment for the Humanities.
He was selected as one of the "Dirty Dozen" by the League of Conservation Voters for
his votes against the environment, including votes to limit the public's right to know about
chemicals released into the community.
Hodel's right-wing credentials are even more impressive. He was described in most
news stories following his appointment simply as a former Reagan cabinet member. But there's a
good deal more to know.
He is a member of the Council for National Policy (CNP) and has served as chair of the
group's Environment committee. The CNP is a secretive group of almost 500 right-wing political,
religious and business leaders who meet regularly to plot public policy. Fellow board members include
Oliver North, Gary Bauer and Howard Phillips. Others in the group's senior leadership past and
present include: Richard DeVos of Amway fame, Pat Robertson, Nelson Bunker Hunt and Tim LaHaye.
Hodel served as the Chairman of the Board for Colorado's Independence Institute, a
right-wing think tank that supports educational vouchers, term limits and a flat income tax, and opposes
affirmative action and multicultural curriculum in public schools. Independence leads the effort in
Colorado to abolish compulsory education.
A recent issue paper from the Institute, No More Wacos, claims to be the definitive book on
the subject. It uses the Waco disaster as the starting point for an investigation into what it calls
the "increased militarization, violence, and lawlessness of federal law enforcement in the 1990s."
He is also a member of the Board of the Federalist Society, an organization of lawyers,
judges and students dedicated to bringing conservative and libertarian ideas into law schools and the
organized bar. The Society has joined in the recent Religious Right efforts to limit judicial authority
and has proposed abolishing judicial review, dividing the Supreme Court into separate chambers,
and instituting term limits for Supreme Court justices. Other members of the board include Robert
Bork, former Reagan Attorney General Edwin Meese, and Senator Orrin Hatch.
Last year Hodel served as interim executive vice president of Focus on the Family and
is currently on the ministry's board. Focus on the Family, founded by James Dobson, is one of
the most influential media empires of the Religious Right.
In a recent fundraising letter, Robertson set forth the group's goals for 1998. They include:
Increasing Christian Coalition's membership from 1.9 million to 3.0 million;
holding more than 200 Citizen Action Training Schools;
distributing more than 55-million voter guides and congressional scorecards; and
organizing a massive Christian Voter Registration and Get-Out-The-Vote Program to
ensure that "all 45-million Christians cast ballots in November" 1998.
Note that Robertson seems to be of the view that only 45-million Americans of voting age
can be described as Christian. Polls suggest that more than 80 percent of the voting-age
population would so describe themselves, putting the real number of Christians of voting age closer to
150 million. The difference is more than just a mistake in Robertson's math; it's a number the
Christian Coalition has used before. Evidently applying his political litmus test, Robertson doesn't regard
all those Christians as Christian enough.
For the Record
Throughout his career, Pat Robertson has opposed civil rights legislation, including
the 1988 Civil Rights Restoration Action and the 1991 Civil Rights Act. Robertson called the
Civil Rights Act of 1985 "one of the most frightening pieces of legislation that has been brought
up." On the Civil Rights Act of 1991, he said, "We don't need another civil rights bill. We just
don't need another one. The country is moving beautifully toward racial equality and opportunity."
Pat Robertson on civil rights
Robertson has been an outspoken critic of several prominent African-American
nominees of the Clinton Administration: Dr. Henry Foster (for whose defeat the Christian
Coalition claimed credit); Lani Guinier (labeled a "quota queen"); Dr. Joycelyn Elders and Deval Patrick.
Robertson was an apologist for apartheid in South Africa, and challenged the wisdom
of ending it. "I've been to South Africa," he said. "I know we don't like apartheid, but the blacks
in South Africa, in Soweto, don't have it all that bad." He said, in another instance, "Again, I
think 'one man one vote,' just unrestricted democracy, would not be wise. There needs to be
some kind of protection for the minority which the white people represent now, a minority, and
they need and have a right to demand a protection of their rights."
The Christian Coalition has opposed various education programs it calls
"anti-family." Robertson expressed opposition to Head Start, saying it was unnecessary because, "If
you're smart, you'll catch up anyway."