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My Take: Billy Graham and Ralph Reed are putting politics before God
November 1st, 2012
01:43 PM ET

My Take: Billy Graham and Ralph Reed are putting politics before God

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

(CNN)–Why are evangelicals like Billy Graham and Ralph Reed stumping for Mitt Romney? And why are roughly three-quarters of white evangelicals inclined to vote for him?

Because politics matters more to them than religion.

Last year, in a talk at a conference on Mormonism and Islam at Utah Valley University, I asked my Mormon listeners why they had not rushed to the defense of Muslims in controversies such as the one that raged over the Park51 project near ground zero. After all, they have been the victims of religious prejudice. Their founder, Joseph Smith, was killed by a mob of vigilantes.

Given this history, I expected that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, known as Mormons, would feel the sting of anti-Muslim prejudice and speak out against it. But neither Mitt Romney of the GOP nor Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of the Democratic Party did anything of the sort. In fact, Romney issued a statement opposing the construction of the Islamic center.

Why? Because they were thinking and acting as Republicans or Democrats first and Mormons second.

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I see a parallel story playing out this election season with the religious right.

Until quite recently, many evangelicals saw Mormonism as a dangerous cult spreading false theology and dooming its followers to hell. In fact, only after Romney showed up for a meet and greet with Billy Graham in North Carolina earlier this month did the website of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association erase a reference to Mormonism as a “cult."

Did Mormons all of a sudden change their theology? Did Graham change his definition of a “cult”? Of course not. It just became politically expedient for Graham to declassify Mormonism, given the fact that Romney, a Mormon, was the presidential nominee of his beloved GOP.

Ralph Reed, too, is forsaking his theology for his politics, mobilizing his Atlanta-based Faith and Freedom Coalition to place voter guides in Ohio churches in the run-up to election day.

I am old enough to remember when the main purpose of Reed’s Christian Coalition and other groups on the religious right was to put born-again Christians in the Congress, the White House, and the Supreme Court. And for decades those who were running those groups saw Mormons as non-Christians.

And don't get me started on Mike Huckabee, who in a recent ad says that a vote for Obama is a vote for your own damnation.

Have LDS Church members repudiated the Book of Mormon as “another testament of Jesus Christ” or their view that the Bible is the word of God only “as far as it is correctly translated”? Have they accepted the Trinity? Rejected their teaching that there are many gods?

As Ben Witherington, Albert Mohler, and many other evangelical thinkers continue to insist: no, no, and no.

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I used to believe that the purpose of the religious right was to infuse American politics with Christian politicians and Christian politics. I no longer believe that. The purpose of the religious right is to use the Christian God for political purposes. Why any Christian, conservative or liberal, can say "Amen" to that is beyond me.

I am perfectly happy to see Reed stump for Romney in Ohio and Graham plump for Romney in an ad in The Wall Street Journal. Just don’t tell me they are doing so as Christians. They are doing so as shills for the GOP.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Billy Graham • Christianity • Church and state • Evangelical • Mitt Romney • Mormonism • My Take • Politics • Uncategorized • United States

soundoff (2,430 Responses)
  1. Cindy

    So Mr. Prothero- you know what they are thinking. Wow you can read minds. ALL of our politicians put politics before God and the American people.

    November 1, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Cindy,

      their actions speak louder than their words. Is that not evident to you?

      November 1, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
    • The Mighty Paw of Dog

      I want politicians to put people before politics and god

      November 1, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • MikeinMN

      All Politicians should have No interest, on way or another, of how their personal religious views affect their political views. It's called "Separation of Church and State". It's why our Founding Fathers fled Europe to establish the United States of America. Please go back to school and study what you were supposed to as a junior high school student.

      November 1, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • wisdom4u2

      @ Cindy ~~~~~~ I know; right? He ain't got a clue. And yes, I know that's incorrect English language; but really, 'he ain't got a clue'.

      November 1, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
  2. Rob

    Billy Graham is the modern-day Balaam. He received money from Romney and is now ready to curse all christians. What a sad end for him?

    November 1, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • Reasonably

      Sweet – so you're voting for Obama then?

      November 1, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
    • Cindy

      I don't think so.

      November 1, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • wisdom4u2

      Mr. Graham has done more for more people than you will ever do in your miserable life time. Let God be the Judge of this fine man.

      November 1, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • The Mighty Paw of Dog

      Burn Billy burn.

      November 1, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • Rob

      We are part of a mega-church. Usually we vote for republican. This time, our pastors and members are encouraging all members, their families, and our republican communities not to go to the poll. We decide not to vote at all. It is going to be a lost of votes for republicans. We can't support a mormon. Mormons are not christians. Billy Graham sold his faith.

      November 1, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • MikeinMN

      If you haven't seen the recent reports, Graham has Alzheimer's and can't make any relevant decisions at this point. Shame on his children for letting his name even be used in this discussion!

      November 1, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • wisdom4u2

      He doesn't have 'Alzheimer's'; he's in touch with a Higher Power. Duh

      November 1, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
  3. Michael

    How about leave the God nonsense out of reality? And that includes politics.

    November 1, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • Ken

      How about you shut up about God foolish man

      November 1, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • md22mdrx

      Ken here might as well plug his ears and say "NaNaNaNaNaNaNaNaNaNa" like a 5 year old with that response!

      November 1, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • Dave

      How about your impotent "god" making him, Ken?

      November 1, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
    • MikeinMN

      It would be a good first step but what would those that depend on it for meaning in their lives do after?

      November 1, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
  4. wisdom4u2

    Personally, I will never put 'PollyTricks' (politics) before my Sweet Lord.

    November 1, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • md22mdrx

      Sweet Lord? Sounds like a pimp ....

      November 1, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • zap777

      Easiest way not to put politics in front of God, is never to mix the two.
      Any mixing will put some ones politics in front of other people's believes, or God(s).
      If one wants to keep religion free in this country, keep religion out of politcis and make it priroity in your life.
      Not use God to gain votes!
      That is a sin.

      November 1, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • wisdom4u2

      Nope, not a pimp... want to try George Harrison? Duhhh

      November 1, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
  5. Dave

    Our pasta, who art in a colander, draining be your noodles.
    Thy noodle come, Thy sauce be yum, on top some grated Parmesan.
    Give us this day our garlic bread, and forgive us our trespasses,
    as we forgive those who trample on our lawns.
    And lead us not into vegetarianism, but deliver us some pizza,
    for thine is the meatball, the noodle, and the sauce, forever and ever.
    R'amen.

    November 1, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • wisdom4u2

      I'm sure the Lord thinks this is hilarious. NOT!!

      But, I did kinda lol.

      November 1, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • md22mdrx

      Ramen!

      November 1, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      He was boiled for our sins. May you be touched by his noodly appendage.

      R'amen.

      November 1, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • Truth

      Dave, dude you made my day! Thank you!!!

      November 1, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
  6. barbequebob

    Ralph Reed is not a man of religion. He is a con artist using religion for his grift.

    same goes for Billy Graham, but I will guve him credit for being less transparent than Mr. Reed.

    Charlatans all!!!

    November 1, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
  7. Allen Krahn

    Romans 13: Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God............................ I'm Canadian, so I feel I can comment objectively. That notwithstanding, the only thing I know from scripture with respect to politics is:
    1. God establishes governments;
    2. Christians primary involvement in politics is to respect & Pray for your government leaders.

    November 1, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • wisdom4u2

      AMEN and AMEN!!!

      November 1, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • Reasonably

      Which god establishes governments? Yaweh, Odin, Cthulhu, Ganesh, Allah, Pele?

      November 1, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • wisdom4u2

      If we were to explain which 'God' then we would be wasting our precious time... 'cause you would never understand.

      November 1, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
    • Reasonably

      @wisdom4u2 – it's fun to be self-righteously indignant and exclusionary, isn't it!

      November 1, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • wisdom4u2

      @unreasonably ~~~ Why yes....if that is how you perceive it.... but it doesn't make your view correct. Duhhh

      November 1, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
  8. Scoto

    What a load of nonsense. This is not a Christian country at all. If JC came back he would be appalled at this place

    This is a CHURCH GOING country where religion has been made a commodity, up for sale like everything else here.
    We have a billionaire for heavens sake posing as some kind of Christian running for President. You think that's "Christian"?
    Remember that part about rich folks, camels and the eye of a needle. That mean anything?

    November 1, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • Cindy

      And we have a muslim claiming to be Christian running for President. Which is the lesser of two evils?

      November 1, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
    • holysmokes

      Cindy, You're ignorant.

      November 1, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
  9. thoughts

    as long as usa is 'one nation under god' then politics and god go hand in hand during elections – simple as that.

    November 1, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • 24HCC

      Where is the part in your post where you share "thoughts"?

      November 1, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • timmy

      Which god – like Thor or something?

      November 1, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
  10. kenny

    deep down all u religgies know there is nothing after you die but somehow you can delude yourselves and live a lie. all the while going nuts when anyone challenges your beliefs, that have no proof whatsoever. if you really had faith nothing anyone says would matter to you. you wouldn't need to defend anything. you wouldn't care what anyone says or tells you. your path is between you and jeebus.... but most of you are so full of doubt that you lose your shiiiite everytime someone questions anything... its pretty sad and pathetic... which must be how your entire life is and why you are filled with so much hate... you really just hate yourself for not being able to accept reality... there is nothing when you die and you won't even know it...

    November 1, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • Ken

      you are a foolish man please stop the ignorant comments

      November 1, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • kenny

      ken, i'll try to be as plain and simple as i know you are... if YOU have faith YOU shouldn't need ANYONE to validate it or care what ANYONE says... the path is from YOU to HIM with NO ONE in between... NO ONE ELSE can block your path to him in ANY WAY... so as an atheist, nothing i say matters to a person of faith... NOTHING... yet you don't seem to have faith and are filled with doubt and fear... only YOU can overcome that and be SAVED in YOUR MIND... anyone that tells you different can't block your path unless YOU let them by BELIEVING THEM and not HIM...

      November 1, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
  11. Susan

    It's just the opposite. What Graham is asking is that evangelicals (who are NO friends to Mormons and who consider it a cult) should put their beliefs before politics (i.e. beliefs in pro-life, traditional marriage, etc. etc.). Screwy story for a mixed up guy. Dumb. But then the liberals tend to be that way.

    November 1, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • Reasonably

      So, by your logic, Christians should vote for a cultist instead of voting for a Christian just because that Christian separates religion and politics?

      November 1, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • malonealone

      And it is so Christian of you to call more than half the population of your country, "dumb".

      November 1, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • SkepticalOne

      Your faith that you are smarter than the liberals in no more correct than your faith in God. There is no God and believers are weak minded.

      November 1, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • The Mighty Paw of Dog

      No stupid. Your church prohibits worshipping false idols. Mormons believe in more than one god. They believe in very blasphemous stuff. So for Billy to just change his mind means Billy is going to hell.

      November 1, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • holysmokes

      Susie, what about the part that you are your brothers' keeper?

      November 1, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
  12. Jen

    God wants everyone to fear him and pick up the king james bible and read it and follow the bible. Obama is evil. He kills babies and for gay marriage. God is angry!!

    November 1, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • The Mighty Paw of Dog

      That's why you should join the church of the flying spaghetti monster. He's not as psycho as your god.

      November 1, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • Dave

      R'amen.

      November 1, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      LOL, did you forget your /sarc tag?

      November 1, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • The Mighty Paw of Dog

      That's why you should join the church of the flying spaghetti monster. He's not as psycho as your crazy god. And I think your god has become a bad influence on you. I because you're psycho too.

      November 1, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • md22mdrx

      Why the King James version?
      Why not the earliest versions? It's been changes over and over again. Whole gospels have been added, deleted, revised, changed, etc over 2000 years .... usually due to the political influences of the time. It's a 2000 year old game of telephone.

      November 1, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • Ken

      Exactly ignore the atheist fools below

      November 1, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • timmy

      hey I'm the only one below and you're just being mean

      November 1, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • PFUI

      Tsk Tsk... Ken called someone "fool". I'm t..e..l..l..i..n..g. He's goin' to hell!

      November 1, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • SkepticalOne

      That voice in your head is not God.

      November 1, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
  13. Olsonic

    Yes, do not put the democratic method for solving social problems ahead of an imaginary deity. This should practically be a commandment.

    November 1, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
  14. md22mdrx

    The GOP are the FURTHEST thing from biblical Christans ...... They're the most hypocritical "do as I say, not as I do" ANTI-christian politicians on the planet .... yet they have all the bible-thumpers suckered in.

    November 1, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
  15. Be Ready

    For those of you smug atheists who just love to come on this blog and swing your big "where is your proof" bat around, I have news for you. Christians don't care. You people can indoctrinate yourselves with your lies, but you cannot hide from the big baby blue eyes of the Lord God. He can see you, He can smell ya, and He can smite ya.

    You best wipe the smirk off your face cuz your science and logic don't mean a hill of beans to reality so wake up and smell the sandals folks.

    November 1, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • Meatwad

      I don't have a nose ya'll.

      November 1, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Ah "believe or burn", now where have we heard that before?

      Oh from the fundies – over and over again.

      November 1, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • md22mdrx

      "You people can indoctrinate yourselves with your lies"

      Those in glass houses ........

      November 1, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • Be Ready

      @I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      You don't think you will burn if you don't worship the One true Lord? Where did you get that idea, certainly not from anything written in the scriptures. You are very poorly educated friend. Take some time to sit down and enjoy the good book. Find Jesus. Find salvation.

      November 1, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • The Mighty Paw of Dog

      I lost my sense of smell. But I don't have to smell you to know you're full of crap.

      November 1, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • Dave

      Tell your dear and fluffy "lord" to take a look at what I'm doing right now. I'm sure he/she/it will find my actions instructional.

      November 1, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • Dave

      As to the "smite" threat, tell the pansy to take his/her/it's best shot.

      November 1, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • Gloria

      God made science as well as all else. Some day you can tell him why you had no use for itl I'm not an atheist, it annoys me when Christians diss science.

      November 1, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • Be Ready

      I find it very interesting that all of you people responding to my post are comedians. Because you really do make me laugh. You are so heartless and clueless that actuall bite the hand that feeds you.

      Your soul is starving and you refuse to reach out and safe yourself. You do not have to believe that eternal damnation is true folks, but it is. You are already dead.

      November 1, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • Ralhp

      Right, will you agree that Jesus and Satan are brothers?
      You sale your salvation for a plate of....
      can you live with that?

      November 1, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      "He can see you, He can smell ya, and He can smite ya. "
      Tell the lazy b1tc# to bring it anytime she feels like! I'll be waiting with bells on!

      November 1, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Be Ready,

      where did I get that idea indeed?

      " You do not have to believe that eternal damnation is true folks, but it is."

      I keep hearing it from people like YOU!

      November 1, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • Ken

      Exactly the fools will burn because they are so scared to trust and believe in God bunch of whimps

      November 1, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • Pete

      God is black, he has brown eyes.

      November 1, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • md22mdrx

      Be Ready-

      We're already dead? Does that make us some kind of zombies? Do we have to start eating brains now? Since jesus rose from the dead, is he not a zombie as well?

      November 1, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      And number two on my list of the top thirteen most irritatingly stupid arguments religionists make here:

      2. Proselytizing, particularly of the hit and run kind:
      eg: “Believe or burn”
      eg: ”You’ll find out when you die!”
      A special case of this is copy/paste of trite, meaningless aphorisms
      eg: “Prayer changes things” Ummm, we all know it doesn’t.

      November 1, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • Be Ready

      @Ralhp

      My friend, the great and terrible satan is no joke. Even as we speak and breath, the deceiver is infiltrating every point of good in the universe, bending and poisening it to his will. A day never passes when God does not feel passion and loathing for his fallen angel, and even now would seek to rehabilitate him.

      November 1, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • Olsonic

      what does god needs eyes for?

      November 1, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
    • Be Ready

      @I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV and ye other sinners

      You are not mature enough yet to grasp how the Lord works from the inside out. You cannot find Him n the microscope. You cannot find Him with a telescope. He resides IN everything. He IS everything. He communicates with us with messages to His chosen. He talks to you in your prayers.

      Why are you frightened children? Why do "act-out" against your Father. He loves you, bought He is not afraid to punish the wicked.

      November 1, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      " the deceiver is infiltrating every point of good in the universe"
      Yes, we know. Mitt "The Liar" Romney is running for President!

      November 1, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
    • caldy

      How do you expect to gain any converts when you are (1) so dumb, (2) so nasty and (3) enjoy smelling sandals. As an atheist, I can tell you that the main thing that keeps me from "salvation" is the thought of spending an eternity with people like you. It's far worse than the idea of burning. Has it ever crossed your feeble mind that you might have more success if you were a little nicer and better educated? In fact, when it comes to the reckoning, I wouldn't be surprised if you're one of the first in line for the flames, given that you've likely done more than most to turn people away from the word of your god.

      November 1, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • Be Ready

      @caldy

      Your hatred for the Lord God is no match for His love for you. I am not your problem. YOU are your problem. Seek Him. Find Him. Love Him. Live for eternity with Him.

      November 1, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • Mo

      As a Christian and a scientist, I just want to say the two things are not mutually exclusive. It's possible to believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior and still be fascinated with science, the laws of physics, biology, etc, as they all were created by God and discovered by man, through His sovereignty.
      BUT, the thing that irked me the most is saying Jesus had big baby blue eyes. Did he really?

      November 1, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
  16. Gloria

    I'm following, The Golden Rule, that's why I'm voting for President Barack Obama, and VP Joe Biden.

    November 1, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
  17. TruthPrevails :-)

    Stephen Prothero (the author of this article), you phony you!, You have been a shrill for Obama in your previous articles, why should we expect any different this time? Waste of time to read you eloquatiouns!

    November 1, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • caldy

      i agree – it would be better for you to spend your time reading a dictionary to improve your spelling.

      November 1, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
  18. timz

    Billy Graham and Ralph Reed putting politics before God? When have they not?

    November 1, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
  19. DustyOnes

    They are Voting the Bible....that leads them to casting a vote for Romney.

    November 1, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      They're voting personal interest.

      November 1, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
    • Yosemite Sam

      Or so the GOP has told them so.

      Yes, every man, woman and child for themselves is the Christian way.

      November 1, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • Jsun

      Please elaborate... with specifics.

      November 1, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • md22mdrx

      When did voting the bible mean voting for a mormon over a christian?

      November 1, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      The Bible promotes LIARS?
      Well, it fits the pattern,....

      November 1, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
  20. aj0714

    this is Ralph Reed. http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/09/25/ralph-reed-group-mailer-asks-if-obama-is-worse-than-the-nazis-communists-or-u-s-civil-war/ who cares about Mormonism vs. Christianity? The Christian Right is indeed a shill for the GOP....and sadly anit union Big Business. no wonder so many young Christians are refusing to be hijacked by Choice vs. Life issues and focusing, i believe rightly, on the "politics" of Matthew 25 and what that admonition truly means, and which candidate and party embodies the teaching. Reed has been exposed to be self serving and manipulating Christians for the benefit of the party and his own financial gain. He has ceased to be a credible voice for Christianity. and frankly, considering the policies of the GOP– that no one on that platform said a word when an audience member screamed out "let him die" about the uninsured - you gotta ask where is God in all this? who amongst them embody the Christian Spirit? love thy neighbor as thyself??? it has become the party of gun totin hate. i shudder, given the kind of literature Reed is hawking along with the vitriol the Right is spinning on talk radio and Fox, the upshot of this campaign if Obama wins. not to speak of the lies. this candidate is running ads that he endorses that are filled with lies....bold face lies. witness, the most recent ads on Detroit - that Detroit itself has called out as egregious. yet the Christians and the Churches are lining up to vote for him.

    November 1, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @aj,

      this was a thoughtful post, but it is really hard to read. Please feel free to post it again, but break it up into smaller paragraphs with some space in between.

      Thanks for the link on the FFC mailer.

      November 1, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • caldy

      Sadly, mormonism embodies a culture of shifting positions and maintaining lies that fly in the face of science and history, which explains why it all comes so easily to Romney. If you can change your views on big issues like polygamy and white supremacy (not to mention the presence of horses and Israelites before white people came to the US) then bailouts, foreign policy, healthcare and taxes are small potatoes. Doesn't the bible warn about false prophets gaining power? Are evangelicals no longer of the belief that this country needs to be governed by a christian? I guess I should applaud them for becoming more progressive. Next thing you know we'll be able to get someone with an IQ over 70 into the oval office!

      November 1, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
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