Despite prospects that President Bush will soon get to name one or more new Supreme Court Justices, the leader of a major Christian conservative lobbying group expects about a decade of struggle before state abortion laws change in a significant way.
"It is a long-term process," Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said Wednesday at a Monitor breakfast for reporters. It could take "8 to 10 years, once we have seen changes in the court, for that change to move across the country." He expects an anti-abortion state to pass a ban on abortion and ultimately have it upheld by a changed Supreme Court.
The Family Research Council describes itself as championing "marriage and family as the foundation of civilization, the seedbed of virtue, and the wellspring of society." The Nation magazine, no fan of the Council, recently described it as "the Christian right lobbying powerhouse."
The Council's focus will continue to be on judges, even though the retirement and replacement of Chief Justice William Rehnquist would not change the ideological balance of the US Supreme Court. "It is when we get to a second nomination that the real battle takes place," Perkins said.
While taking the long view on abortion, Perkins took partial credit for a short-term political victory. In a congressional primary in Ohio Tuesday, Pat DeWine took fourth place after having been the favorite. He is the son of Sen. Mike DeWine of Ohio, who supported a compromise - opposed by the Council - on judicial nominees.
"We were in the state of Ohio simply bringing attention to what the elder DeWine did on the compromise," Perkins said. "I don't know that I would call it a victory.... It sends a signal. It is a wake-up call for those who think that they can compromise in this city and go home and campaign and not have repercussions." Local observers say the Christian right was a factor in Pat DeWine's defeat, but so were reports of his marital problems.
Perkins signaled continuing displeasure with the so called "gang of 14" Senators who compromised on judicial filibusters, saying the Council "would probably be in Ohio in 2006" when Senator DeWine is up for reelection.
To maintain their political clout once President Bush leaves office, leaders of various Christian right lobbying organizations are planning joint interviews of Republican presidential hopefuls. "What we would like to do is get together and maybe interview the various candidates. We would like to try and stay together on who we are going to talk with." Perkins added that as many as 18 organizations might take part in the interviews.
In assessing likely presidential candidates for 2008, Perkins said "a lot of people have been impressed with Bill Frist." He also listed Sens. Sam Brownback of Kansas and George Allen of Virginia as having conservative credentials. Perkins pointedly noted that he had not seen Mr. Allen "out front with a lot of leadership on core issues that conservatives care about." He says he does not see Sen. John McCain, a leader in the judicial compromise, "getting any support from social conservatives."