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Update: James Dobson on John McCain: That was then, this is now

(UPDATE: See end.)

In January 2007, conservative Christian leader James Dobson made this categorical statement: "Speaking as a private individual, I would not vote for John McCain under any circumstances." He also raised the possibility of not voting at all, before endorsing Mike Huckabee when his cause was hopeless.

Later, Dobson said he was likely to vote after all, the first sign of the religious right falling in line for McCain and Dobson thawing towards the senator, whom Dobson blames for restrictions on political communications by non-profits such as his, the result of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reforms.

Tomorrow, Dobson is going to say: "I never thought I would hear myself saying this. ... While I am not endorsing John McCain, the possibility is there that I might."James Dobson: A change of heart on McCain?

This apparent change of heart -- which could influence millions of evangelical voters -- was reported this evening by the Associated Press, which obtained a transcript of Dobson's radio program that will be broadcast on Monday. In a statement to AP, Dobson said:

"Barack Obama contradicts and threatens everything I believe in about the institution of the family and what  is best for the nation. His radical positions on life, marriage and national security force me to reevaluate the candidacy of our only other choice, John McCain."

That's quite a turnaround for Dobson, head of the influential nonprofit ministry Focus on the Family, which supports traditional family values.

Dobson, who has repeatedly noted that he speaks only for himself and not his organization, had previously attacked McCain for his views on embryonic stem cell research and his opposition to a federal constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage. (The fact that the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation put a crimp in the way nonprofits like his communicate with their supporters about political issues also played a role in Dobson's dissing of the Arizona senator.)

Now, Dobson will say on his radio show, McCain's anti-abortion stance and his support for smaller government could win him over. In addition, he'll add, McCain "seems to understand the Muslim threat."

"There's nothing dishonorable in a person rethinking his or her positions, especially in a constantly changing political context," Dobson said in his statement to the AP. "If that is a flip-flop, then so be it."

(UPDATE: Sure enough, as reported here Sunday, Dobson made his broadcast statements strongly criticizing Obama and sort of praising McCain. "Neither of the candidates is consistent with my views," the influential family leader said. "But Sen. McCain is certainly closer to them than Sen. Obama by a wide margin." For a video report from Dobson's organization, click here.)

-- Leslie Hoffecker

Photo credit: Associated Press

Comments () | Archives (9)

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Some Christians tend to think that only their view on certain issues are Christian view, and any view expressed by other Christians that do not agree with them are therefore un-Christian. James Dobson appears to be one of such Chrisitian who thinks that his view is the only one that represent the Christians. The fact is that Christianity is much larger than James Dobson.

so dobson, how much did they pay you? or are you just as big a racist as mccain.

I like Dobson and respect his desire for 100% fidelity to political principles but in politics there is no "100%". He boxed himself into a corner he is no slinking out of. Better to have moderated his criticism knowing conservative Evangelicals, of which I am, really have nowhere else to go.

I do not really care for McCain but believe he is the better of the two choices I am left with. Such is politics. They suck. LOL

I am confused by your reference to Focus on the Family as a ministry, when it is dedicated to only serving conservative political objectives. The concern for so-called traditional family values ignores poverty, promotes war as foreign policy, and rejects protecting God's creation as a moral issue. To call what comes out of Dobson and Focus as evangelical or even Christian demonstrates a profound lack of understanding of what Jesus taught. Focus on the Family is a political organization, not a religious one.

it is not constitutional to coerce people to choose between two illegitimate presidential candidates, and impertinent to even try. it is the constitutional right and duty of all informed people to decidedly refute this offer, and to contrive ways and means to express the choice that reflects their good conscience.
even if it means a write-in vote.

Why is it when a Christian voices his view, the liberal wackos attack him/her unmercifully? Though you left loonies were tolerant! Yes, tolerant, as long one agrees with your thinking.

fellowsinner: your comment that FOTF is a political org only is unfortunately the path that Dobson has chosen. FOTF use to be a truly family-centric organization. I remember my parents reading me their uplifting stories and articles as a child. Back then, Dobson was synonymous with "good wholesome family values." But as you say, fellowsinner, today FOTF is understood as being a political operation only, and Dobson is now known almost uniformly as a reactionary political operative. I agree with you that "reality is what people perceive," but it's really unfortunate to see how far Dobson and FOTF have fallen from where they really need to be focused. (ie, focused on the "family", not focused in the world of politics where the rest of their positive message becomes politicized and thereby invalidated)

gary - waah, waah, waah

fellowsinner - to paint FOTF as political & not religious shows that you listen to them rarely if at all, and tend to believe what secondhand information you get like this article. Jesus taught the issues important to Focus as well as important to you. Not every advocacy group can cover all the bases. Support (for example) Catholic Charities too, if you want, but don't throw mud at the fine work of FOTF.

dave - Ron Paul, Chuck Baldwin or Mike Huckabee! Did I leave anyone out?

G-man is correct on his analysis of FOTF & their ministry to families worldwide, while Rob & fellowsinner show their ignorance. As a nonprofit organization, any overt persuasion toward political affiliation would make them subject to violation of nonprofit statutes. The article CLEARLY states Dr. Dobson is speaking privately as a citizen not as a representative of FOTF. My question is: do people even READ anymore or take the time to investigate before they insert foot in mouth? Doc


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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