McCain Meets with Wary Ohio Conservatives

By Kelly Moeller

Jun 26, 2008 2:56pm

A late update to the schedule today — at 2:30 pm ET, in Cincinnati, Ohio, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., met with some local conservative leaders.

Specifically, he’ll be meeting with Phil Burress, Mike Gonidakis, Harvey Hook, Chris Long, Dr. Jack Willke, and Lori Viars.

They are not your typical McCainiacs.

Who are they?

*  Phil Burress heads the anti-porn group Citizens for Community Values and was active in the successful drive in 2004 to amend Ohio’s constitution to ban same sex marriages.

"McCain wasn’t my first choice, and I’m not sure about him now," he was recently quoted saying, "but we’ve got a zero chance of getting a conservative Supreme Court justice out of either Clinton or Obama. I don’t know whether we’ve got a 25 percent chance, or a 50 percent chance, or a 100 percent chance with McCain—but it’s better than zero, and I’m going to do everything in my power to help get him elected. He’s our best shot."

In 2003 Burress told the Los Angeles Times that the federal "government should be locking up ‘white-collar pornographers’ like Internet service providers that facilitate pornographic spam and hotels that operate X-rated pay-per-view channels.” "Burress’ hatred of porn rooted in his former love for it," read the headline of a 2003 profile in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

A 2004 New York Times profile described Burress as having been "raised on a farm in Hamilton County outside Cincinnati. He attended a small Evangelical church two and sometimes three times a week, and married a fellow parishioner when he was 18. At 14, he said, he found a pornographic magazine on the roadside and became obsessed with seeing more. Every chance he got, he said, he drove into Cincinnati to buy, and sometimes steal, magazines or videos. Over the next two decades, he had four daughters from two marriages. But he says his obsession with the raunchy fantasy world of pornography ruined both marriages and drove him away from religion. ‘I was living a double life,’ he said. . . . In 1998, he was married for the third time, to a woman he met at an antipornography conference.’"

*  Harvey Hook heads The Gathering in Columbus, an organization that "provides articulate and challenging communicators who address moral, spiritual, ethical, leadership and character development issues head-on."

During l’affair Lewinsky, Hook told the Columbus Dispatch that Bill Clinton should resign. "I think in his position, or for anyone in a position of leadership, the honorable thing to do is to recognize his transgressions, admit them and put them behind him by resigning….When we look at high school principals, counselors, physicians, policemen, officers in the military, they lose their jobs" for such behavior. "I don’t believe we should think of presidents as above anybody else. We call a president to a higher standard. Are we to live up to a lesser standard?"

*  Mike Gonidakis, executive director of Ohio Right to Life, is suing a state ban on broadcast ads mentioning the names of any candidates funded by unions, nonprofit organizations and corporations within 30 days of an election. The ban is based on a federal law that McCain helped write.

*  Dr. Willke, former president of National Right To Life, is also author of a book entitled Slavery and Abortion: History Repeats, which compares the Dred Scott and Roe v Wade decisions. In the movement, Willke and his wife Barbara, a nurse, are widely credited with assembling the collection of photographs of aborted fetuses that one is likely to see at an anti-abortion rally.

"For years, any good right-to-life recruiter knew enough to order a set of the photo collection assembled by Jack and Barbara Willke, the Ohio doctor-and-nurse couple whose paperback ‘Abortion Handbook’ was the talking-points bible of the anti-legalization movement," wrote Cynthia Gorney in her look at the abortion fight in Harper’s four years ago. "Most of the photos were close-ups of just-aborted fetuses, and to this day, when asked whether there was an epiphany that pulled them into the movement, many right-to-life veterans will recall their first look at the Willke pictures. ‘The gross pictures,’ one Texas right-to-life worker in her thirties calls them, remembering having viewed the photos in high school. ‘The graphic pictures of aborted babies.’"

After initially backing the presidential campaign of Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, Willke told the Cincinnati Enquirer last November that he was backing Mitt Romney to prevent McCain and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani from getting the nomination.

"If it was my heart, I’d go with Thompson or Huckabee," he said. "But there is too much fragmentation. If we pull together with our heads, not our hearts, we can keep Giuliani out and go with Romney." Wrote the Enquirer: "Romney has been accused of ‘flipping’ on abortion, but Willke said, ‘We accept converts.’  The other candidates are either unacceptable (McCain) or unrealistic (Huckabee, Thompson), Willke said. And if Giuliani faces Clinton, two pro-abortion candidates would be a huge setback. Romney must defeat Clinton, Willke said. ‘The alternative is almost too horrible to consider.’"

*  Lori Viars, executive director of the Family First PAC, also a big player in the 2004 drive to amend Ohio’s constitution to ban same sex marriages, and had been a supporter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Viars told the Dayton Daily News that her fellow conservatives "would probably hold our nose and vote for McCain."

Apparently before said mass nose-holding can transpire, this meeting was required.

- jpt

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