Despite the drubbing that Republicans took in the midterm elections, the religious right is flexing its muscles. As President Trump continues his housecleaning via tweet, conservative evangelical leaders are keen to let him know who is acceptable to them in the Cabinet–and who is not.
In the latter category falls Pam Bondi, the current attorney general of Florida. According to the right-wing Liberty Counsel, Bondi just isn’t hateful enough to deserve to be Jeff Sessions’ replacement.
In a press release, Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver recites a litany of offenses against Bondi, including her failure to stop Obamacare and further the religious right agenda in general. But Staver saves his greatest ire for Bondi’s refusal to be sufficiently homophobic in her opposition to marriage equality.
“Many people called upon Pam Bondi to defend the marriage amendment, but she refused to enter the case until the last minute,” Staver said. “I was in Miami on July 2, 2014, to defend the law as an intervenor…It was obvious Bondi did not want to defend the marriage amendment. Had I not been present, there would have been no defense of the law.”
The problem with Staver’s argument is that Bondi was the single greatest roadblock to marriage equality in Florida. The Tampa Bay Times called her a “modern-day Anita Bryant” for her “relentless” opposition to marriage.
For one thing, she argued that marriage equality would result in “significant public harm.” No wonder Anderson Cooper famously humiliated her on national television when, in the wake of the Pulse nightclub massacre, Bondi tried to pass herself off as a champion of the LGBTQ community.
On top of that, Bondi is incredibly sleazy. At a time when she should have been investigating consumer complaints about Trump’s university scam, she solicited a donation for her re-election campaign from Trump. Once she had the money in hand, she dropped the investigation.
As an added touch, the money came from Trump’s foundation in violation of non-profit legal guidelines.
Of course, this is exactly the type of behavior that Trump would cherish in an attorney general. “She’s doing a very good job,” Trump said just before meeting her at the White House this month. “She’s always done a very good job. But in some form, I’d love to have her in the administration.”
Bondi would be a step up in terms of qualifications compared to the acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker. Whitaker has managed to parlay a second-rate resume into political gold by sucking up to Trump.
But from the religious right’s perspective, Whitaker is one of their own, having run unsuccessfully for Senate in Iowa as an unabashed conservative evangelical. Bondi is merely a supporter, which isn’t good enough.
In terms of policy, though, Bondi would be every bit the lackey that Whitaker promises to be. And if religious right leaders think she’s bad, the other name being thrown around will strike them as even worse: former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
During his failed presidential campaign, Christie was pointedly not invited to the Values Voter Summit. In explaining the snub, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council slammed Christie for being “not at the top of the list when it comes to values voters.” He’s probably not at the top of Perkins’ list for attorney general either.