Perry campaign exposes Sam Clovis's hypocrisy

Officially, Rick Perry’s presidential campaign wished Sam Clovis well after news broke that Clovis was stepping down as the former Texas governor’s Iowa campaign chair.

Unofficially, Perry supporters made sure a large audience would learn that Donald Trump’s biggest new Iowa fan is a raging hypocrite. Jennifer Jacobs has the story in today’s Des Moines Register.

I was wrong about about where Clovis would land after leaving the Perry camp, but in fairness to me, I thought he was sincere in his conservative political and religious beliefs. Turns out, I had more respect for Clovis’s integrity than he did.

Jacobs reported for the Des Moines Register,

“(Trump) left me with questions about his moral center and his foundational beliefs. … His comments reveal no foundation in Christ, which is a big deal,” evangelical conservative activist Sam Clovis said in an email just 35 days before he quit his job as Republican Rick Perry’s Iowa chairman and signed on with Trump’s campaign.

In the emails, shared by Perry backers Wednesday with The Des Moines Register, Clovis castigated Trump for his past liberal positions and admission that he has never asked for God’s forgiveness for any wrongdoing.

In an interview Wednesday, Clovis verified that he’d written the sharply worded criticisms of Trump, including one email in which he praises Perry for calling Trump a “cancer on conservatism.”

Clovis said this of Trump: “I think when you sit down and ask him directly about those issues and you look him in the eye and ask him the tough questions like I had the opportunity to do,” he offers answers. “And I was satisfied with his answers,” he said.

Satisfied with his answers, or satisfied with the paycheck he offered you?

Look at how Clovis (at the time a college professor and northwest Iowa talk radio host) explained his decision to support Rick Santorum before the 2012 caucuses:

“Many listeners and interested Iowans are always asking me who I will be supporting in the upcoming caucuses.  I think it’s time I take a stand and let people know.”  He said he came to his decision after spending months covering the election cycle and interacting with nearly all of the candidates seeking the Republican nomination president to run against incumbent Barack Obama.

Clovis said, “My ideal candidate must be a conservative who believes in a constitutionally limited government, fiscal responsibility, strong national defense and unflagging devotion to life and traditional marriage.”  He stated that only Rick Santorum had the experience, education and life-example to satisfy all of these characteristics.  Clovis believes that Santorum, of all the candidates, is the one most likely to follow through on his campaign promises.  He sees Santorum as trustworthy and a person who believes that individual Americans are best able to decide what is best for themselves, not some government nanny state.

I suppose “fiscal responsibility” could include someone who admits to taking advantage of bankruptcy laws to benefit his business holdings.

I don’t see how “unflagging devotion to life and traditional marriage” could apply to a philandering, three-times-married guy who speaks crudely about women and said he has never asked God for forgiveness.

Several factors pushed Clovis away from Perry and toward Trump. Perry underperformed in polls, failed to make the prime-time debate stage, fell short on fundraising, and stopped paying his staff. Meanwhile, Robert Costa reported for the Washington Post, the 2012 Santorum campaign veteran Chuck Laudner was “courting” his “close friend” Clovis to switch sides. In a move that surprised me and many other Iowa politics watchers, Laudner signed on to lead Trump’s Iowa campaign six months ago.

Fundraisers often say that donors don’t give money to a cause–they give to a person. Having Laudner make the “ask” gave Trump a big advantage over other candidates Clovis reportedly considered (Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, and Bobby Jindal). Knowing the Trump campaign would never run out of cash was probably reassuring too.

So now, “no foundation in Christ” turns out to be not such a “big deal” for Clovis.

I hope he enjoys the ride as a senior figure in the front-runner’s campaign.

Perry faces the same challenges as Santorum in trying to work his way back to the top tier of Iowa caucus contenders. I doubt he will get there. At least his loyal supporters can take comfort in knowing they didn’t sell out everything they supposedly believed in.

UPDATE: Social conservative blogger Shane Vander Hart takes a charitable view and calls on like-minded people to “cut Clovis some slack.” He notes that Clovis has “done much to advance the conservative cause” and “needs to provide for his family.” Vander Hart also argues,

• Clovis is in a position where he will have a greater impact on policy with the Trump campaign than he was set up to do with the Perry campaign.  Frankly as Trump is the frontrunner, I am glad that he has a guy like Clovis advising him.  Should Trump win the nomination would you rather he has a guy like Clovis or not?

• Clovis was forthright about the emails.  Trump apparently doesn’t care.  Perhaps Clovis was satisfied by the answers he received.  Perhaps he was just in an attack dog role for Perry when he sent the emails.  I don’t know, neither do you.

Three points:

1. To suggest that Clovis will influence Trump on policy is an absurd fantasy. Trump brought him on with one goal only: to win the Iowa caucuses. Even if he cares what Clovis thinks about policy now (which I doubt), he will not care once the caucuses are history.

2. I never said my “ideal candidate” must be someone who has shown “unflagging devotion to life and traditional marriage,” as demonstrated by “life-example.” Clovis laid out those criteria himself. So it’s fair to mock him for teaming up with the guy who has the worst “life-example” in this area.

3. I don’t judge presidential candidates by their religious beliefs. Clovis is the one who said having “no foundation in Christ” is a “big deal.” Vander Hart seems to be saying it’s ok if Clovis didn’t really mean that and was just in “attack dog” mode for Perry when he wrote the e-mails bashing Trump. If you’re going to play the God card in political warfare, at least be sincere about it.

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