Monday, September 27, 2010

Taliban Dan Webster

This is the title of a campaign ad by Alan Grayson against his opponent, Dan Webster, down in Florida. Here is the ad itself:

Don't you just love it? The ad, I mean, not the idea that women should submit to the authority of one Dan Webster. But somehow the idea that a politician would ever have stated that submit-thingie in public doesn't sound likely to me.

Mmm. Here's the video from which those submit-to-me statements were taken from. Webster is speaking to a group of fundamentalist Christian men there, and that is important to remember.

You might want to listen to it a few times. Yes, Grayson took Webster's comments out of context and twisted what was actually said to sound as if Webster was demanding wives to submit to their husbands, even though he only said the Bible does that.

But what is that context? It's a speech to men who believe in the idea that wives should submit to their husbands:
Susannah Randolph, Grayson's campaign manager, defended the ad. She pointed to Webster's ties to the Institute in Basic Life Principles and its founder Bill Gothard, who has taught that women should be subservient to their husbands and not work outside the home. While in the state House in 1990, Webster spent $4,340 of taxpayer money to print and mail a district mailer urging constituents to attend one of the group's seminars.

"He is speaking at a group that teaches that women should be submissive to men," Randolph said. "He's always pushed an agenda that is anti-woman."

Religious conservatives are attacking the ad:

"Alan Grayson is an embarrassment to the citizens of Florida," said Gary Bauer, chairman of the Campaign for Working Families which has backed Webster. "While the voters of his district lose their jobs and their homes, he conducts a campaign of smears and hatred against anyone who challenges the tax raising, big-government policies that he has voted for. Nov. 2 can't come quickly enough."

"The Grayson ads are despicable and reach a new low which reflect the character of the man who approved them," said John Stemberger, president of Florida Family Action. "Christians everywhere ought to be outraged at Grayson and his bigoted claims."
What are the smears and the bigotry in the ad, from the point of view of religious wingnuts like Gary Bauer? This is where it all gets interesting, because someone like Bauer agrees with the idea that wives should submit to their husbands, so that unfortunate warping in the message shouldn't be a problem for them. Indeed, it would be more of a problem for them if Webster had argued that women don't have to submit to their husbands, right?

And as far as I can tell, the votes and policies the Taliban Dan ad assigns to Webster are correct. He is opposed to abortion even in the case of rape, for instance.

So what are the smears and the bigotry? It must be that link to the Taliban.

I once wrote a post which compared how women's rights and roles were viewed by the Taliban and by the extreme Christian right. The similarities were striking and so was the one difference. Even though the U.S. Christian right wants pretty much the same from women as the Taliban: obedience to male authority, practically no education and no visible public presence (in terms of, say, full-time work), the U.S. version is always kinder and gentler, with no stoning, for example.

Perhaps the ad should have stated that? Taliban-without-stoning? But then, of course, the Bible does mention the stoning of adulterous women...