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The Response: Rick Perry’s Strictly Apolitical Prayerfest Freakout



Guest author Michael Tracey covered Rick Perry’s Christian-only Evangelical prayerfest The Response on Saturday. Here’s his report.

So I covered Rick Perry’s Strictly Apolitical Prayerfest Freakout on Saturday for Mother Jones magazine, unembedded. Luckily I emerged unscathed, although the media people at Reliant Stadium in Houston actually said we were not permitted to enter the festival grounds, and should instead stay confined to a row near the back for print journalists — suggesting that danger may lie ahead. But I ventured out anyway, to be among the many Evangelicals who so revered Perry that as he recited scripture, they lifted their hands to the sky in worship. Just as they would for any other preacher.

A number of indicators suggested that The Response won Perry an important political victory if he chooses to run for president, which many assume at this point is virtually assured. Several people I spoke with rejected the notion that any negative-PR arising from his decision to associate with extreme Christianists would mar Perry’s fortunes in a hypothetical campaign. “I think it’ll help him in the primary, and by the time the general election rolls around, this’ll all be ancient history,” said Bob Price of TexasGOPVote, an advocacy group.

Perry’s message resonated with sacred potency. A gaggle of congregants from Greenwell Springs Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, LA, mulled about Reliant concourse level — forty people had made the five-hour, early morning bus trip to Houston. “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” said Brother Dennis Terry, the presiding pastor. “If there was ever a day and a time when the church needed to get together as one, it’s now.”

I asked how America might be lifted out of its sinful malaise. “Just last Sunday I preached out of Joel 2,” he said, “calling our people to repentance. Repentance begins in the house of God.”

As it happens, Joel 2 – a minor apocalyptic book of the Old Testament – appeared to be Gov. Perry’s primary source of scriptural inspiration for convening The Response. In his opening remarks, he read the very same passage cited by Brother Dennis.

“Blow the trumpet in Zion, Declare a holy fast, a sacred assembly,” Joel reads. “Let the priests, who
minister before the LORD, weep between the portico and the altar. Let them say, ‘Spare your people,
Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn,
a byword among the nations.
Why should they say among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?’

Needless to say, Brother Dennis was very taken with the governor’s piety. “I believe he’s a man of faith. I believe that he will call this nation to repentance and to faith, and I will support him,” Dennis said. “To me, this here confirmed everything I was already feeling in my heart.”

Will he encourage his congregants to vote accordingly in the Republican primary, should Perry decide to enter it? Dennis beckoned the flock to encircle me. They promptly did so. “I will encourage them,” Dennis said, the tenor of his voice escalating. “We’re gonna stand with God’s man!”

“Amen!” the flock called out. “Yessir!”

Then Brother Dennis looked me straight in the eyes. “I truly believe that Gov. Rick Perry can be God’s man for this hour, for our nation,” he said, concluding our conversation and leading his followers off toward the concession stands.

You’ll notice that the preceding anecdote is exactly the type of thing that Perry should want to happen were he running for president, which he almost certainly is. Enthrall the preachers, send them home to organize, but do it under the auspice of attaining salvation — not politics. Brilliant!

The lines at concession stands, by the way, were perpetually clogged as people waited for hotdogs, nachos, and smoothies. Perry, invoking Joel, had called for an optional day of fasting – which gave this sight a tinge of irony. I asked whether beer was on sale. It wasn’t.

At some point I ran into Bryan Fischer, the flagrantly anti-gay radiohost and media personality from the American Family Association, which entirely underwrote the event. He defended his past assertion that Hitler was indeed gay, and that the Defense of Marriage Act is actually a boon to states’ rights. He also reiterated support for a federal anti-gay marriage amendment. No surprises there, but what I found most important was his belief that Rick Perry, soon to be the Republican presidential front-runner for president, is set to move the country in a direction where gay rights will no longer be tolerated, at least in terms of public policy. I’ll actually be on his show tomorrow! Weird, huh?

I moved on from Fischer, feeling morally conflicted about my conclusion that he seemed like a moderately charming person. Players from the Houston Texans, the typical occupants of Reliant Stadium, passed me in the hallways. No matter how many times I see football players up close, I always gawk at their massive size. Most had no idea about what was happening in the stadium, though one told me this year’s defense was looking “awesome.” Later, a bottled-water vendor said she’d been plucked by management from her normal assignment at training camp to work The Response. “I’d rather be at training camp,” she told me, sighing.


Michael Tracey is a freelance journalist based in New York. He has also written for Mother Jones, the Huffington Post, the Washington Post, The Nation, The Awl, and other publications. You can follow him on Twitter.

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‘Our Children Deserve Better’: First Lady Jill Biden Speaks Out After Six Die in Nashville School Mass Shooting



First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, speaking Monday afternoon at a National League of Cities conference, told attendees, “Our children deserve better,” as she broke the news of the Nashville school mass shooting at Covenant Presbyterian School where three children and three adults were shot dead.

“You know,” Dr. Biden, herself an educator and clearly pained by the news, began her remarks by saying, “I hate to say what I’m gonna say next because you know you’re so enthusiastic and with so much energy and hope and I feel it.”

“But while you’ve been in this room, I don’t know whether you’ve been on your phones but we just learned about another shooting in Tennessee, a school shooting and I am truly without words and our children deserve better, and we stand – all of us – we stand with Nashville in prayer.”

READ MORE: New WSJ Poll Is Devastating for DeSantis and His ‘Anti-Woke’ Policies

The First Lady, a former public high school English teacher and currently a professor of English at a community college, was speaking at the organization’s Congressional City Conference.

Watch Dr. Biden below or at this link.

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Death Toll Rises to Six as Three Children and Three Adults Declared Dead In Covenant School Mass Shooting (Streaming Video)



Six people have now died after a shooter shot and killed three young children and three adults at The Covenant Presbyterian School, a private Christian elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee. Police say the shooter was a 28-year old woman who had two assault rifles and a handgun.

WSMV announced the rise in deaths on-air, noting that the shooter is also dead. A police spokesperson later increased the announced death toll from five to six. Including the shooter the death toll is seven.

Live streaming video via CBS News below.

This article has been updated with additional video.

1:56 PM ET: Updated to change age of shooter based on new reporting from WSMV.

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New WSJ Poll Is Devastating for DeSantis and His ‘Anti-Woke’ Policies



“Florida is where woke goes to die,” according to the Sunshine State’s governor, Republican Ron DeSantis, who has based much of his expected 2024 presidential campaign on being “anti-woke.”

But a new poll from Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal is devastating to many of the policies being promoted and enacted by Governor DeSantis in his “free state of Florida,” calling into question how he and other Republicans who embrace his ideas will fare on the national stage.

“Patriotism, religious faith, having children and other priorities that helped define the national character for generations are receding in importance to Americans,” warns the WSJ, with some on social media pointing to a graphic that purports to capture how much America has changed in the past 25 years.

READ MORE: Trump Team’s Efforts to Rein Him ‘Wilted’ in Waco as He Invoked ‘Retribution and Violence’: Report

The importance of issues of patriotism, religion, having children, and community involvement have dropped dramatically across America. The one that has increased? Money.

One Democratic strategist calls it “eye-popping.”

Money is also the only issue on which Democrats and Republicans both agree.

But the real siren for Republicans comes in answers to so-called “culture war” questions.

The gap between Democrats and Republicans, expectedly, is huge, but DeSantis – should he launch a presidential run – will confront conservative and independent voters (not to mention, of course, Democrats) who aren’t as keen on, say, banning books, as he might like.

Asked, “Which of these concerns you more about schools today?,” a whopping 61% chose “some schools may ban books and censor topics that are educationally important.” Just 36% opted for “some schools may teach books and topics that some students or their parents feel are inappropriate or offensive.”

And more than half the country (56%) say they have some or a great deal of confidence in public schools. Just one-third (33%) said very little or none.

READ MORE: ‘Pits Parents Against Parents’: House Republicans Pass Anti-LGBTQ Florida-Style K-12 ‘Parents’ Bill of Rights’

DeSantis’ attempts to radically reshape the concept of public education in Florida made another dramatic move last week, when the Republican-majority legislature passed a bill the expands the school voucher program to every student. It could decimate enrollment in public schools, which would also reduce the amount of federal funding public schools in the Sunshine State get. Expected to cost billions, it could also lead to expansions of private and faith-based schools.

Monday morning, surrounded by school children, DeSantis signed it into law.

And yet nationally, according to the WSJ poll, a plurality of Americans oppose school vouchers.

“Do you favor, oppose, or neither favor nor oppose states giving parents tax-funded vouchers they can use to help pay for tuition for their children to attend private or religious schools of their choice instead of public schools?”

37% oppose the vouchers.
34% support them.

Democratic strategist and former Hillary Clinton campaign national spokesperson Josh Schwerin lists a “few findings from the new WSJ poll that should scare Republicans relying on ‘woke’ attacks”: “1) Tolerance is as important as money 2) Book banning is far worse than offensive content 3) Majorities think society has been about right or not gone far enough on range of DEI issues.”

For those who look at Trump rallies, watch right-wing news, or listen to GOP politicians or influencers, the idea that another “red wave” is coming next year may seem real, but even the right-wing Wall Street Journal found that a plurality of voters (44%) identify as Democrats – and just 38% identify as Republicans. 18% call themselves independents without leaning one way or another.

Nearly half the country (47%) identifies as moderate.

One issue from the poll DeSantis and the GOP do seem to have support on is diminishing the rights of transgender Americans, who are under attack every day.

Despite increased anti-trans hate crimes, despite the 430 anti-LGBTQ bills filed this year alone (according to the ACLU,) a plurality of Americans (43%) say society has “gone too far” in accepting transgender people. Just one-third say society hasn’t gone far enough.

But on other issues of equality, as Schwerin mentioned, nearly half the country (48%) say society has not gone far enough in promoting equality between men and women. And pluralities also say society has not gone far enough in accepting people who are gay, lesbian, or bisexual (37%), and businesses taking steps to promote racial and ethnic diversity (39%).

There’s another statistic that also flies directly in the face of DeSantis and his “where woke goes to die” motto.

Two-thirds of the country say society has either not gone far enough has been “about right” on “Schools and universities taking steps to promote racial and ethnic diversity.”

Just three in ten Americans (30%) say society has gone too far.

See the video and graphics above or at this link.

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