Today, a group of movement right muckety-mucks released "The Mount Vernon Statement," meant to be a guiding document for their side. You've got the heavyweights -- Ed Feulner of the Heritage Foundation, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform -- and a few lesser lights, such as professional gay-basher Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness. The document itself is about as vague as it could be. There isn't a single policy issue mentioned; just a lot of repetitions of phrases like "founding principles" and "limited government."
But you'll note that it's presented on yellowed paper, with clip art of quill pens at the top! And the signatures are in ornate, Hancock-esque script! And it's called the Mt. Vernon statement -- like George Washington, get it?
I'll bet these folks got a wake-up call when Glenn Beck asked Sarah Palin who her favorite founding father was. Palin, who like most of us probably didn't know she was supposed to have a favorite, floundered about, saying, "You know, well, all of them..." to which Beck responded, "Bullcrap. Who's your favorite?" (She eventually pulled out Washington, a safe choice.)
I'll have more to say about this in my column next week, but the Founding Father fetishism of the modern right seems to be reaching a saturation point. You can look at this as the triumph of the tea baggers. What you have here are a bunch of old-school, Reagan-era, DC-based activists (Ed Meese, Reagan's Attorney General and "senior statesman of the conservative movement," is the first name on the list), most of whom have spent the last couple of decades drawing hefty salaries from organizations funded with millions of corporate dollars, frantically running down to the haberdasher to get fitted for tri-corner hats.
You can add your name to the petition, and join such fine Americans as Haywood Jablome and Joe Dufus. Although I suppose the latter could be a real person. If so, Mr. Dufus, my apologies.
-- Paul Waldman