Obama: We're Going To Agree That You Disagree With Me
The President-elect's justification for choosing Rick Warren to the deliver the invocation at his Inauguration is kind of a mess.
Let me start by talking about my own views. I think it is no secret that I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans. It is something I have been consistent on and something I intend to continue to be consistent on during my presidency.
What I've also said is that it is important for America to come together even though we may have disagreements on certain social issues.
And I would note that a couple of years ago I was invited to Rick Warren's church to speak, despite his awareness that I held views entirely contrary to his when it came to gay and lesbian rights, when it came to issues like abortion.
Nevertheless, I had an opportunity to speak, and that dialogue, I think, is a part of what my campaign's been all about, that we're never going to agree on every single issue. What we have to do is create an atmosphere where we can disagree without being disagreeable, and then focus on those things that we hold in common as Americans. So Rick Warren has been invited to speak, Dr. Joseph Lowery -- who has deeply contrasting views to Rick Warren about a whole host of issues -- is also speaking.
Obama is playing it very coy here. If this was mid-May and he stood with Warren at a conference on reducing poverty in the Third World, THAT would be an example of America coming together and finding common ground. Giving Warren a platform not tied to a particular issue just elevates him to the bipartisan face of religion in America, and gives him cover from the leader of the Democratic Party. And what's unsaid is that the compromises and calls to "agree to disagree" only get invoked when dealing with the left. It's seen as a political power play to kick the hippies in the teeth, never the other way around.
*** When liberals attack: Axelrod and Gibbs have to be smiling this morning with the news that gay-rights groups are angry that Obama has announced that conservative evangelical Rick Warren will give the invocation at Obama’s inauguration. Why are they smiling? Because it never hurts -- at least when it comes to governing or running for re-election -- when you sometimes disappoint/anger your party’s interest groups (in this case, People for the American Way and the Human Rights Campaign). Just asking, but is anyone but People for the American Way and the Human Rights Campaign surprised that Rick Warren is going to give a prayer at the inauguration? Where was this outrage when Obama appeared at Warren’s Saddleback forum back in August? The difference may be that the forum came before Proposition 8 passed in California. As for the pure politics of this, when you look at the exit polls and see the large numbers of white evangelicals in swing states like North Carolina, Florida and Missouri, as well as emerging battlegrounds like Georgia and Texas, you'll understand what Obama's up to.
Destroying your credibility with your base - always awesome. That shape-shifter Jonathan Alter was on MSNBC right after Obama's remarks saying the same thing, that the "era of Democratic fealty to interest-group politics is over." Nice to know that civil rights are just the issues of another one of them "interest groups."
If these Beltway chatterers really think that evangelicals are going to come around to Obama, by the way, they're crazy and they don't know how to read polls. Church-goers in general moved to Obama in 2008, but not evangelicals - they stuck with their tribe. When you see the Family Research Council tossing out press releases knocking Obama's Education Secretary pick for wanting to create a "gay high school," you can recognize how stupid it is thinking that "making nice with social conservatives" will bear electoral fruit. And I know it's only important if someone in DC says it, but lots of us were protesting the Saddleback Forum in August.
The Obama Administration talking points on this one are that the inauguration is "open and inclusive," and Warren's good on poverty and AIDS prevention and the environment, and hey, there's going to be an LGBT Marching Band, and Rev. Joseph Lowery, a pro-gay preacher, is delivering the benediction. But that misses the point entirely. This is about giving agency and bipartisan cover to someone with loathsome views on gays, on the pro-choice movement, and on the assassination of a foreign leader. There is no way to rationalize this.
UPDATE: I agree that the idea that Rick Warren gave protesters water and donuts kind of doesn't make up for stripping away their fundamental rights. And Jane Hamsher has some more good thoughts.