Sunday, December 5, 2010

Texas Torquemada

If you think Sarah Palin is beyond the pale in requiring that political leaders measure up to her religious standards, she is nothing compared to the folks in Texas. The Texas Republican Party is considering dumping their Speaker of the House, Joe Strauss, because as a Jew he does not meet their goal of putting Christian conservatives into office. Abby Rapoport of the Texas Observer spoke to John Cook of the State Republican Executive Committee. Mr. Cook defended his standards but claimed it had nothing whatsoever to do with Mr. Strauss’s faith. Why, some of his best friends are Jewish, and he’s not a bigot, not a racist, not at all.

“I want to make sure that a person I’m supporting is going to have my values. It’s not anything about Jews and whether I think their religion is right or Muslims and whether I think their religion is right. … I got into politics to put Christian conservatives into office. They’re the people that do the best jobs over all.”

Then he asked me if I was a Christian. “I just need to know who I’m talking to so I can understand,” he explained. “The Bible is true to me. God exists, Christ is his son and the holy spirit is in the people who are Christian.” As a general rule, I don’t disclose my religion, but I explained I would do my best to understand his point of view.


“My values are Christian conservative values,” said Cook, “and Joe Straus just has not proved that to me. He hasn’t given me the things I need to support him.”

“Ken Paxton is a good solid Christian conservative man,” Cook continued, explaining why he endorsed Paxton. “He will try to bring everybody together in the House. Now he’s not going to give up his character which I think Straus has done.”

Cook said his opposition was not about Straus’ religion, although he prefers Christian candidates.

“They’re some of my best friends,” he said of Jews, naming two friends of his. “I’m not bigoted at all; I’m not racist.”

But during the primary season, Cook said, “I try to select every time a Christian conservative to help.” In a general election, however, he’ll support the Republican even if the candidate is not a Christian—so long as the candidate shares his values. “Christian isn’t even the most important thing when it comes to leadership,” he allowed. “I want somebody in office that has moral values.”

“If that offends you, I’m sorry that offends you,” he said.

Mr. Cook can vote for whomever he chooses, of course; it’s his right to make his decision based on whatever standards he decides in the privacy of the voting booth. But if he’s going to make it a standard for the political establishment he serves — the Texas Republican Party — then bring on the rack and the boiling oil and let’s have us a good ole Texas-style Inquisition.