NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–If the choice for president in 2008 is between Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton, Richard Land says he’ll skip that portion of the ballot.
The president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission made the comments March 9 during an appearance on the “Albert Mohler Radio Program,” in which he and guest host Russell D. Moore discussed the presidential race.
Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, is leading in polls of Republicans nationwide, while Clinton, the Democratic senator from New York, is leading in Democratic polls.
“Some would stay home, and I would counsel them not to do that,” Land said of the prospects of a Giuliani-Clinton presidential race. “They need to go and vote. They can always not vote in that race. I would go and vote, and I would vote for congressmen and I would vote for state senator and state representative, I would vote for U.S. senator, I would vote for governor. But I would not vote in the presidential race.”
Land has told several media outlets in recent days that Giuliani’s past — he is on his third marriage and was involved in a particularly messy second divorce — and his positions on social issues would prevent most evangelicals and Southern Baptists from supporting him. Giuliani, who has yet to make official a run for the Republican nomination, is pro-choice on abortion and supports homosexual civil unions — just like Clinton.
Land has called Giuliani’s history “divorce on steroids.”
Responding to a hypothetical argument that Christians should support Giuliani because he’s solid on other issues, Land responded, “What I would say is the lesser of two evils argument has its limits, and this is beyond those limits…. It would violate my principles, it would violate my convictions, and I would be a hypocrite for having said that character was a key issue with Bill Clinton, and then turn around and make it less of an issue when it’s a candidate that I like better than I like Bill Clinton. I couldn’t compromise my principles to that extent to do so.”
Moore, dean of the school of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told Land, “I agree with you on that completely.”
While Giuliani and social conservatives may agree on 80 percent of the issues, Land said, “[T]he most important 20 percent are where the disagreements are.” Moore said the 20 percent “includes the lives of unborn children.”
Even if Giuliani pledges to appoint strict constructionist judges in order to get conservative support, Land said he wouldn’t vote for him.
“How can we believe him?” Land asked. “He promised … two wives that he would love, honor and cherish and be faithful only unto her until ‘death us do part.’ And twice he lied to his wife — twice. He broke his marital vows. That gets to the basic issue of trust, the basic issue of character. As Harry Truman once argued, he said, ‘I would never knowingly hire a man to work for me who cheated on his wife.’ When he was asked why, he said, ‘Well, if he’ll lie to his wife, he’ll lie to me. If he’ll break his oath of marriage he’ll break his oath of office.’ It’s pretty hard to argue with President Truman’s logic.”
In an earlier interview, Land told MSNBC that Giuliani’s second wife “had to take out a restraining order to keep him from bringing his mistress to the mayor’s mansion.”
Giuliani has led U.S. Sen. John McCain in recent polls of Republicans nationwide. McCain, too, has a divorce in his past, but Land sees a difference.
“John McCain has acknowledged that he was unfaithful and it was a major cause of the breakup of his first marriage,” Land said on the Mohler radio program. “He’s expressed regret for that. He said it has grieved him deeply. He has been in a second marriage now for more than 20 years, and by all outward appearances it’s a strong and committed marriage. There’s never been a whiff of scandal about John McCain as a senator. That’s very different than being in a third marriage, as Rudi Giuliani is, and publicly humiliating your wife…. I find most evangelicals, while they’re not affirming of a divorce and a second marriage, see a huge difference between the number two and the number three.”
But McCain has his own set of problems with conservatives, Land said.
“They know he’s pro-life, but I’ve had numerous pro-life leaders say to me, ‘John McCain’s pro-life, but do we have any reason to believe that his being pro-life would have anything to do with who he would nominate to the Supreme Court?’” Land told CNN’s Paula Zahn. “It’s that kind of uncomfortability with his unpredictability — the maverick nature that makes him so popular with independents — that gives conservatives pause. Social conservatives are looking for a new face, and they’re looking at the other candidates to see if one can emerge that they can coalesce around, because they’re not happy with Giuliani and they’re not happy with McCain.”
On other candidates/possible candidates, Land said:
— Mitt Romney’s Mormonism should not exclude him from the presidency. Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, is running for the Republican nomination.
“I don’t think it’s necessary that [a candidate] be a born-again Christian,” Land said on the Mohler program. “I think it is more important, in terms of their performance of their office, that they be operating out of a Judeo-Christian worldview. So, I would vote for a Jew who agreed with my Judeo-Christian worldview when it came to issues of abortion and marriage over a self-professed born-again Christian like Jimmy Carter.”
— Newt Gingrich’s recent acknowledgement of past unfaithfulness fell short of what Land would like to have seen. Gingrich, who is twice divorced and on his third marriage, said on Focus on the Family’s radio program he has had “periods of weakness” and “periods I’m not only not proud of but that I would deeply urge my children and grandchildren not to follow in my footsteps.”
“I listened to that program, and I didn’t hear the word repentance,” Land told Moore. “I heard that he was sorry and that he expressed regret, and that he had asked for forgiveness, but I didn’t hear the word repentance. You and I would express special significance to that term. I am delighted that he has acknowledged this, that he has acknowledged his misbehavior, that he is sorry for it, that he would certainly counsel his children and his grandchildren not to follow his behavior. Those are all positive signs. But it is still a fact that Newt Gingrich was unfaithful to his first wife, he was unfaithful to his second wife.”
Gingrich — who has not said whether he is running for president — said he was involved in an affair during the same time he was critical of President Clinton’s actions in the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Gingrich, though, asserts the two issues were unrelated. He said he wasn’t judging Clinton “as a person” but felt obligated to stand up and say “you cannot accept felonies and you cannot accept perjury in your highest officials.”
“The president of the United States got in trouble for committing a felony in front of a sitting federal judge,” Gingrich said. “He was involved in a sexual harassment lawsuit in which his behavior was a direct question of whether or not the woman who had accused him was telling the truth. The president of the United States … deliberately committed perjury.”