By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country
Award-winning U.S. News photographer Jim Lo Scalzo attended last weekend's Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., and got lots of revealing portraits of a conservative Christian movement on the rebound. You can view his photo gallery of the event here.
I asked Jim for his impressions of the summit. Here's what he tells me:
This is the third Values Voter Summit I've covered, and this year's event seemed to employ the defensive tactics, and occasional wild swings, of a fighter on the ropes.
Though speaker Bill Bennett urged this conservative audience to stay on the offensive, other speakers spent much of their time doing the opposite, particularly in response to former President Jimmy Carter's claim that some of the criticism lodged against President Obama has racial undertones. Perhaps that's why African American author Star Parker's speech, in which she blamed the welfare "safety net" for preventing her from taking control of her own life (she was once on welfare and, by her own admission, used abortion as a form of birth control; she had four of them), drew the strongest cheers of the event. Though, frankly, it had to me the too exuberant, 'Look at me, I'm not racist,' kind of feel.
Other villains of the gathering were more familiar than Carter: Obama and Pelosi, socialized medicine, the so-called liberal media. But Fox News took some lumps as well; Fox commentator Jay Rosen was repeatedly interrupted during a live stand-up at the event, and Bill O'Reilly closed his summit speech to all members of the media, including Fox.
Attempts by Gary Bauer and Mitt Romney to rouse the troops were met with polite applause. But having covered many Obama events I couldn't help but think that these attendees, largely middle-aged or elderly, and largely white, were in need of a more inspiring rallying cry. And I thought this doubly so when I attended the Stephen Baldwin book signing. When the best you got is a has-been actor that is millions of dollars in debt (he just filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in New York) there's room for improvement.