Strictly By The Numbers

Sen. Jim Webb’s unwavering criticism after the president’s State of the Union speech this week – including that George W. Bush took this country “recklessly” into war – has reverberated widely.

But it appears that many religious conservatives had a far different beef with the president’s speech: his “silence” over so-called pro-family issues. Sure he talked about compassion and courage, and health care and health insurance, and improving education and combating poverty and HIV/AIDS. But those, apparently, weren’t exactly what folks like Tony Perkins the Family Research Council and other conservative leaders had in mind when it comes to the values they hold dear. “Abortion” and “abstinence,” for example, didn’t appear alongside “Iraq” and “health insurance” – and that is, as they say, disapointing.

After Bush’s speech, the Family Research Council posted Perkins’ videotaped response along with a colorful graphic listing the number of times the president mentioned specific issues, reflecting, what Perkins’ asserted, a “lack of resolve in defending the issues important to ‘Values Voters.’ ” Here’s the official rundown:

— Marriage: 0
— Stem Cells: 0
— Cloning: 0
— Abstinence: 0
— Abortion: 0
— Values: 0
— Global Climate Change: 1
— Judges: 1
— Schools: 4
— Earmarks: 5
— Economy: 7
— Border: 7
— Oil: 9
— Tax/Taxes: 9
— Al Qaeda: 10
— Health Insurance: 11
— Child/Children: 15
— Terrorists: 15
— Iraq: 15

On Jan. 24 Citizenlink, the political Web site of Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family, reported that Perkins wasn’t the only religious conservative wringing his hands post-speech over “new political situation” and how Bush “missed a golden opportunity to define the final two years of his administration by not speaking in defense of the family.”

The article did not quote Focus founder James Dobson directly, but did assert that Bush “neglected any mention of strong families – and the `culture of life’ the president has referenced in past speeches.” Comments from Perkins, Kristi Hamrick of American Values and Jan LaRue, chief counsel of Concerned Women for America were included.

“The president failed to challenge the new majority to advance core family and cultural issues – issues of faith, family and freedom – that many in the new congressional majority campaigned upon last fall,” Perkins was quoted saying.

In his videotaped response, Perkins went after the new Democratic majority with a vengeance, calling the body “the most anti-family leadership in Congress that Washington has seen in over a decade – the stakes for the American family could not be higher.”

“What will become of the culture of life, the defense of marriage and the permanent family-friendly tax policies?” he asked.

And Perkins, apparently, could not bring himself to even say the word “Democratic” – or even “Democrat” – out loud.

Here’s a breakdown of our own:
— Number of times Perkins said the word “Democrats” – 0
— Number of times Perkins said the word “Democratic” – 0
— Number of times Perkins referred to the “New Majority” – 3
— Number of times Perkins referred to the “New Congressional Leadership” – 1

Cara DeGette is a longtime editor and columnist at the Colorado Springs Independent.