Gary Bauer is a Christian Zionist leader and a former GOP presidential candidate who has helped lead several far-right "pro-Israel" groups, including American Values, CUFI Action Fund, and Keep Israel Safe. Also a longtime supporter of neoconservative advocacy campaigns, Bauer has a track record advocating militarist U.S. foreign policies in the Middle East as well as right-wing domestic programs and social policies. Among his other notable affiliations, Bauer was a supporter of the Project for the New American Century, president of the Family Research Council, advisor to the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy, and a member of the Council for National Policy.
Bauer's is notorious for promoting suspicion and fear of Muslims and Islamic organizations in the United States. In July 2012, for example, Bauer joined a group of more than a dozen conservative religious leaders and public officials in signing a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) in support of then-Rep. Michele Bachmann's (R-MN) controversial call to investigate the alleged "penetration" of the U.S. government by the Muslim Brotherhood. Citing allegations first leveled by Frank Gaffney and the hard-line neoconservative Center for Security Policy, the authors demanded that the agencies investigate whether various government agencies had been infiltrated by the Brotherhood and the intelligence community made "susceptib[le] to subversion."
While observers on the left and the right roundly ridiculed the allegations, especially their focus on Huma Abedin, a Muslim American aide to Secretary State Hilary Clinton—Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), for example, declared that Bachmann's "attacks on Huma have no logic, no basis, and no merit"—Bauer and his fellow signatories argued that the call for an investigation was justified. They wrote: "Members of Congress take an oath to a Constitution that has its viability contingent on the security of the nation whose government it informs. Rep. Bachmann and her colleagues have asked well documented, specific, and serious questions about issues and personnel whose relationships with senior federal officials or branches of the federal government could be animated or influenced by groups affiliated with, or a philosophy grounded in, radical Islam. This is not only within their right as Members of Congress but is necessitated by the risk these groups and individuals might impose to our country."
During the 2012 presidential campaign, Bauer was an enthusiastic supporter of GOP nominee Mitt Romney, particularly after the announcement of his choice of Paul Ryan as a running mate. In a statement posted on the website of Campaign for Working Families, Bauer wrote: "Ryan is a strong conservative. He is pro-life and believes in traditional marriage. Of course, what he is most known for is entitlement reform and stopping the growth of government. He's 42 with a young family. So this will be a youthful, forward-looking ticket, reminding us that with the right choices America's best days are still ahead of us. It will be a stark contrast to Obama's failed tax and spend policies that are taking us down the dead-end road of European-style socialism."
Bauer's dossier of political activities dates back to the Reagan administration, where he served in a number of posts under Secretary of Education William Bennett. From this perch he lambasted purported moral decay in public schools and advocated controversial policies like school prayer. According to a 1986 Washington Post article, Bauer blamed "the public schools for what he called the decay in the nation's morals," criticized textbook publishers as "soft on the Soviet Union for saying that Russians enjoy some freedoms," and criticized teacher unions for promoting "leftist indoctrination aimed at turning today's students into tomorrow's campus radicals."
On foreign policy, Bauer has repeatedly teamed up with neoconservative figures like Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, who is a personal friend, to advocate hawkish U.S. overseas agendas. In particular, as a Christian Zionist, Bauer has promoted a decidedly Israel-centric view of Middle East peace, lambasting President Barack Obama for allegedly not being supportive enough of Israel. He told the New York Times in March 2012, "I'll be brutally honest: I don't trust the president on Israel. I think his record on Israel is abysmal." Bauer's views, however, stand in stark contrast to those of Israeli President Shimon Peres, who said during a February 2012 interview with Barbara Walters: "The most important issue for Israel is our security. I think under President Obama we have the best relationship on the issue of security. Never were the security … needs better met than today under President Obama. This is a fact."
Since the 9/11 attacks, Bauer has been a vociferous advocate of an aggressive "war on terror," supporting neoconservative-led advocacy campaigns like the Project for the New American Century and using outlets like the Weekly Standard and Human Events to attack war critics and press for expanding the anti-terror campaign.
Bauer has helped launch two "astroturf" groups since the election of President Barack Obama that have worked to push the administration to adopt hawkish Mideast policies, including taking a hard line on Iran and accepting the right-wing policies of Israel's Likud-led government. One group, Keep Israel Safe, launched an ad campaign in April 2010 that accused the Obama administration of "coddling" Iran, appeasing terrorists, and not being a friend of Israel. The group, which as of early 2012 appeared to be defunct, was ajoint project of Bauer and Tom Rose, the former publisher of the Jerusalem Post and a contributing editor at the Weekly Standard.
Bauer joined Kristol and other right-wing figures to found the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI) in mid-2010. ECI is a Washington-based advocacy group that claims "to provide citizens with the facts they need to be sure that their public officials are supporting a strong U.S.-Israel relationship." ECI's first act was to run a controversial attack ad in Pennsylvania in July 2010 targeting the track record of Senate candidate Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA), which insinuated that he supported Mideast terrorists. The group has also campaigned vigorously to get the United States to support military action to stop Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program. The group's board members and advisers have included Bauer and Kristol, as well as Rachel Abrams, wife of notorious Iran-Contra veteran Elliott Abrams; Noah Pollak, a neoconservative pundit who has worked for Commentary; and Michael Goldfarb, a former writer for the Weekly Standard who has worked as vice president of Randy Scheunemann's lobbying firm Orion Strategies.
Bauer justified his militarist advocacy efforts in a March 2005 interview with the Providence Journal, making the alarmist claim that "Islamofascism" was threatening western civilization. He said, "There is a need for Western civilization to confront this evil. The things they demand of us would require us to change who we are. ... No politician is going to be able to ignore it. And no one is going to be able to say I will react to it as long as I can get France to go along."
In an April 2007 article for the Weekly Standard, Bauer compared today's "anti-war left" to that of the 1960s, arguing that in both cases the "ugly aggression by the so-called peace movement" fell far outside the U.S. mainstream. He wrote: "Clearly, while the country may be suffering a loss of confidence in how the war is being managed, that concern is not translating into an alignment with the activist anti-war crowd, for whom victory is never an option. In the weeks and months ahead, as the anti-war Left continues to step up public protests of the war (CODEPINK has planned dozens more protests and 'occupations'), they may find that the only sparks they create are in the hearts of Americans who long to see dynamic defenders of the home of the brave and the land of the free."
In 1997, Bauer joined a passel of neoconservative figures in Washington to create the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), an influential pressure group founded by Kristol and Robert Kagan, whose various sign-on letters and statements uncannily forecast—or influenced—the foreign policy course adopted by George W. Bush in the wake of 9/11. PNAC's founding statement of principles, issued in June 1997 with the signatures of a stellar cast of hardline Republicans and neoconservatives, argued that although a "Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity may not be fashionable today ... it is necessary if the United States is to build on the successes of this past century and to ensure our security and our greatness in the next."
Bauer also serves on the Board of Advisers of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a neoconservative outfit founded by former New York Times correspondent Clifford May shortly after 9/11 that claims to be "dedicated exclusively to promoting pluralism, defending democratic values, and fighting the ideologies that drive terrorism."
An important advocate of Christian Zionism in the United States, Bauer is on the executive board of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), a right-wing advocacy organization led by evangelical pastor Johh Hagee that promotes the idea that Christians "have a biblical obligation to defend Israel."
In July 2015, CUFI announced at its annual national summit in Washington, D.C., the launching of a lobbying arm, CUFI Action Fund, to be directed by Bauer. "You can't just bomb Washington, D.C. three days per year. You have got to actually occupy territory," said Bauer at the launch.
Bauer claims that one aspect of CUFI Action's mission is to defend "Judeo-Christian civilization," in part because President Obama supposedly prefers to praise "Islamic civilization" instead. "I seldom hear anybody talk about Judeo-Christian civilization. The president gives us lectures all the time about the wonders of Islamic civilization ... but I am not sure he has ever used the phrase 'Judeo-Christian civilization.' We believe that it exists. We believe that it has brought more liberty to more people than any other culture or government idea. CUFI Action will be very vocal in defending that civilization and the two pillars of it and we are going to be working on the increasing persecution of Christians and Jews taking place in Europe and anywhere where radical Islam is growing."
A key early goal of CUFI Action was to lobby members of Congress to derail the Iran nuclear deal, which Bauer described as "biggest capitulation in the history of Western diplomacy."
Bauer stated at the time: "One of the arguments that we are going to make is that anybody in either party who votes for this deal is putting their career in public life, is turning that career over to the not-so-tender mercy of the mullahs of Iran."
Previously, in 2002, Bauer teamed up with Rabbi Daniel Lapin of the conservative Jewish organization Toward Tradition to create the American Alliance of Jews and Christians (AAJC), the aim of which was "to unite Christians in support of Israel and work with American Jews and Christians on behalf of traditional values," according to the organization's website. Said a July 10, 2002 press release announcing the group: "A unique synthesis of Jewish authenticity and Christian grassroots muscle, the group will draw on Mr. Bauer's Washington experience and influence in the Christian community, including the 100,000 conservative Christians who receive his daily e-mail. The AAJC's Board of Advisers included Dr. James Dobson, Charles Colson, Rev. Jerry Falwell, Rev. Pat Robertson, Pastor Rick Scarborough, as well as Rabbi Barry Freundel, Rabbi David Novak, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, Michael Medved, John Uhlmann."
Bauer has also served on the board of the Jerusalem Summit, an Israel-based advocacy outfit that brings together evangelicals, neoconservatives, and hardline pro-Israel figures from across the globe in an effort to promote Likud Party-aligned views on Israeli security.
Discussing his reasons for supporting Israel during a July 2013 speech, Bauer said: "You may as well ask me why I choose good over evil." He added: "It may be a tough call for the U.N. and State Department bureaucrats, for Jimmy Carter and the religious left, the man in the oval office and the legions of the confused, but it is not a tough call for me—I choose Israel, yesterday, today and tomorrow."
Bauer has also claimed that President Obama is the "most anti-Israel president in the history of Israel," adding: "We know from former [Israeli] Ambassador [Michael] Oren that this administration set out to pick a fight with Israel while sending 'love notes' to Iran. It is beyond outrageous."
Bauer has also led a number of right-wing organizations that focus on domestic politics and issues of supposed moral decay. He is the former head of the Family Research Council (FRC) and in 1981 helped foundthe Council for National Policy along with a group of former members of the John Birch Society.
Bauer now heads American Values, an organization that says it is "deeply committed to defending life, traditional marriage, and equipping our children with the values necessary to stand against liberal education and cultural forces." According to its website: "The culture of death continues to be promoted in our media, courts, and legislatures. Millions of unborn children have been killed over the last 30 years as a result of our country's selfishness justified under the euphemisms of choice and privacy. Advances in science have brought about new challenges for those working to protect life. Embryonic stem cell research and cloning advocates borrow from the pro-abortion playbook by trying to confuse the public about the supposed benefits and dangerous realities of their research."
A statement on the American Values website adds that the group "[b]elieves America's relationship with Israel needs to be the cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy. Achieving peace in the Middle East starts with ensuring the security of the Israeli state. While American Values is deeply committed to the achievement of a peace agreement between Israel and its Arab neighbors, including the Palestinian Authority, peace cannot be achieved as long as terrorism persists against the Israeli people. Israel has attempted to appease the Palestinians, by moving out of the Gaza Strip, but the result has been more violence against Israel. The withdrawal from Gaza as well as the recent war in Lebanon prove that only a strong and viable Israel in concert with a powerful and resolute United States will achieve the peace this region wants and needs."
Despite his espousal of conservative Christian crusades, Bauer's personal behavior has been the subject of sharp criticism from his employees and political allies. He was accused of adultery by his 2000 presidential campaign staff, who "charged Bauer with ill-advised private meetings with a 27-year-old female campaign aide. In October, campaign manager Charles Jarvis and almost half the campaign staff left Bauer over the charges of impropriety."
When Bauer called his own press conference to combat the rumors of adultery, he refused to answer questions about which campaign he thought was spreading the rumors (although he had claimed a rival campaign was doing it), and whether or not any of his former colleagues had approached him about his seemingly inappropriate behavior with the female aide.
According to the liberal People for the American Way, after Bauer dropped out of the 2000 presidential race, the board of the Family Research Council "quickly confirmed that [Bauer] would not be back—no surprise, as FRC had previously given Bauer a thinly veiled notice of expulsion when it released the results of a poll conducted among their staffers. ... In addition, Bauer had reportedly angered James Dobson, founder and head of Focus on the Family, mentor to Bauer, and underwriter of much of the FRC, when he decided to run for president."
When Bauer dropped out of the presidential race, he endorsed the campaign of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), which drew criticism from conservative leaders. Reported People for the American Way, "On his 700 Club television show, Pat Robertson, who himself sought the GOP's presidential nomination in 1988, said, 'I don't think the Bauer thing makes one hill of difference. He didn't do anything anywhere all over the country. ... I would think, frankly, that his political activity is pretty much over.'"
Despite his attempts to become a leading member of the religious right, and despite his strongly right-wing views, Bauer has been known for "scaring the hell out of the Republican establishment," as William Saletan put it in a 1998 Mother Jones article. "Bauer is leading his flock toward a moralist economic philosophy that often seems more Democratic than Republican. The China debate drew Bauer into an open alliance with liberals. He coordinated strategy with House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-MO), attended a Kennedy family dinner, staged a press conference with the AFL-CIO, and dined with Richard Gere after they shared the same stage at a rally."
A September 2013 ThinkProgress alleged that while Bauer's "myriad political organizations and tax-exempt groups claim to support conservative values … he uses them primarily to funnel money into his own pockets." The piece detailed how Bauer has "augmented" his wealth by "hiring himself as a 'consultant' for the various political committees he controlled."