Fickle Values Voters! At their Tony Perkins confab in DeeCee this weekend, Value Voters picked a new favorite for President. (That they also picked the same guy for Vice President does not — it does not! — belie a fundamental misunderstanding of the constitutional system of choosing our leaders. It does not!)

Who is the new favorite of the Value-fraut? Why, it’s “Indiana Market” Mike Pence! Otherwise well known as a fierce unreality advocate.

Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) took the top spot Saturday in a presidential straw poll of social conservatives meeting in Washington, a surprise victory over last year’s overwhelming favorite, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.

Pence placed first with 24 percent in the straw poll of 723 social conservatives at the Family Research Council’s fifth annual Values Voter Summit. Huckabee took second place with 22 percent, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney came in third with 13 percent and former House speaker Newt Gingrich took fourth with 10 percent.

Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin took fifth with 7 percent. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, another potential 2012 GOP hopeful, took 1 percent of the straw poll vote.

Pence beat out 16 other leading Republicans on the straw poll ballot.

One great speech is all it takes to turn some Values Voters’ heads:

Anne Billings, 72, of Olathe, Kan., said that she made up her mind after hearing Pence address the summit Friday morning.

“I thought his speech was excellent,” Billings said. “I think he’d be very conservative, in the strictest sense of the word. He’ll stand up and say no, even if it’s with his party, he’ll say no.”

Saying “no” is something Mike Pence must have gotten better at, especially since he earlier answered “Yes” to some critically important questions about Iraq. Questions Pence answered “yes” to were “Has America found any WMDs yet, Congressman?” and “Does this Baghdad Market, surrounded by US troops and covered overhead by Blackhawk helicopters, remind you of a market in Indiana, Congressman?”

First, the WMDs:

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Congressman Mike Pence spoke today on the House floor about the recent discovery of sarin gas in Iraq, marking the second time this week Pence has discussed WMDs in a floor speech. His comments follow:

“Despite the national media’s best efforts to minimize the news, I am here to report, as the United States military confirmed in Iraq on Monday, weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq.

“They were found in the form of two separate artillery shells containing sarin and mustard gas, shells that had been used by insurgents to create roadside bombs. The 155 mm shell found last week included nearly a gallon of a deadly gas, a drop of which will kill a human being. . . .

‘Where are the WMDs?’ We’ve been asked that again and again. They are where they’ve always been: hidden in Iraq, within the reach of terrorists, a threat to the Iraqi people, U.S. soldiers and the world.”

Except, of course, not hardly:

Experts familiar with Iraq’s chemical weapons program said the shell was likely a leftover from Hussein’s pre-Gulf War stockpile. Iraq acknowledged producing nearly 800 tons of sarin and thousands of sarin-filled rockets and artillery shells between 1984 and 1990.

The experts, including David Kay, the Pentagon’s former top weapons hunter in Iraq, said the discovery did not conclusively prove the existence of stockpiles of concealed chemical and biological weapons.

And we must not forget Mike Pence’s anti-reality bias in describing his visit to the Baghdad market with GOP presidential nominee John McCain:

Another member of the delegation, Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), declared that it was “like a normal outdoor market in Indiana in the summertime.”

Of course, the Lamestream Media immediately knocked that assessment back a bit, with their silly “interviewing eyewitnesses” and “recording actual participants’ observations.” Can you imagine Hoosier summertime market vendors describing daily life the way these actual Baghdad market vendors did?

But merchants on Tuesday said they fear for their lives, despite the drop in killings in Baghdad last month reflected in the morgue data.

They said that the only reason McCain and his delegation could stroll through Shorja market was because of the heavy security that accompanied their visit. Scores of U.S. soldiers in combat gear had cordoned off both sides of the street, their armored Humvees parked nearby, the merchants said. Military helicopters hovered above the rooftops. The visitors wore bulletproof vests on the recently fortified area that now bans vehicle traffic.

“The force was extraordinary,” said Hassan al-Aghaedi, Ahmad’s brother. His other brother Ayad, he recalled, told members of the delegation: “Once you closed the road, the economic center of Baghdad died.”

Ahmad pointed at a small wad of bills on his table and said: “That’s all we made today, 10,000 dinars,” the equivalent of about $7.75.

“Before, we made 1 million dinars a day,” said Hassan. “People are afraid to come here. There have been lots of bombings.”

“This was all done just for the media,” said Ahmad, referring to McCain’s visit. “Security means being able to open the street up, to move freely, to be open until late at night.”

As they spoke, they were shutting down their shop, worried about the threat of kidnapping. About two weeks ago, thugs entered a neighboring shop at around this time, handcuffed the owner and took all his money. Around the warren of shops in Shorja market, he was considered lucky.

“They usually ask for ransom, and then behead the hostage,” said Hassan.

Yeah, that doesn’t sound anything like an Indiana summer market to me, either.

But Mike Pence could hardly get a rug merchant to accept any money, so grateful was he to the Americans for liberating Iraqis from their previous lives:

And when he tried to buy a rug, this is what happened:

The merchant almost refused to take my money. He kept touching his heart and shaking his head no. His eyes, like so many others, radiated with affection and appreciation. He wanted to give me the rugs. I insisted that he accept my ten dollars and, happily, he relented.

Mike Pence wants you to know that he has “seen the impact of the surge firsthand,” and in Baghdad, this is the Surge impact he saw firsthand: “lots of people, lots of booths and a friendly relaxed atmosphere.”

Of course, the rug vendor at the market saw reality a little differently, and had quite another story to tell:

NPR went to Baghdad’s Shorja market after the visit, and spoke with the carpet seller, Ahmed al Krudi: “I didn’t accept the money. I said to myself, they must be guests, so I must give them a good impression of Iraqis. After all, we are occuped by these Americans, and they are accompanied by a lot of U.S. security.”

Of course the guy wanted to give you a rug, Mike. You were there with Blackhawk helicopters, having closed the market to all but your security detail, and were accompanied by John McCain, a man who might have then (possibly) been the next President of the United States.

Glenn Greenwald provides the required caveat for journalists, that you likely won’t find in any descriptions of Mike Pence’s magical one-two punch at the Value Voters Summit this weekend:

Strictly for journalistic accuracy, every article that quotes someone like Mike Pence claiming that things are improving in Iraq and the Glorious Surge is working ought to include a statement that informs readers that Pence has been making exactly the same claims for four years straight, and that he announced in 2004 that we found WMDs in Iraq. Passing along his claims without including those vital facts is misleading.


Mike Pence, Unfamiliar With The Truth
— that sounds much more accurate than Mike Pence, Value Voters Choice. Unless, of course, they’re exactly the same thing.