Pallin’ Around With Bigots: Obama and Warren

Six degrees?

Sarah Palin overplayed her hand with a guilt by association shot at Obama last fall. Because Obama served on a board with William Ayers, a former Vietnam War protester who bombed empty government buildings back in the day, Obama too must be a terrorist, she claimed. Palin’s logical leap lacked credibility because it defied the space/time continuum. When Ayers was staging antiwar rallies, Obama was 7 or 8 years old. By the time Obama met Ayers as a grown-up, the former radical was a distinguished college professor and civic leader, having been awarded Chicago’s “Citizen of the Year” honor in 1997.

Even though Palin was wrong to characterize Obama as “pallin’ around with terr-ists,” in degrees of separation at least, that relationship was the real deal.

A lot of people on our team correctly shouted Palin down when she made her ridiculous charges, and most people correctly ignored them on election day. What a difference a few short weeks, and one unpopular decision, can make.

This won’t be the last time Obama seems too inclusive of the ideologically impure to suit those who worked hardest to get him elected

Since Obama invited him to give the invocation at his inaugural, many on the left are throwing everything that “purpose-driven” Pastor Rick Warren ever did at Obama. Warren has worked in a missionary capacity with leaders of African countries (some of whom believe that a shower will wash away exposure to AIDS) who have criminalized homosexuality, locking up gays or handing out much harsher punishments.

Warren has also exhorted his followers to become as fanatical about Jesus as Hitler youth were in their convictions. That’s not a pretty picture but it’s also not uncharacteristic for born-agains, who are routinely urged to accept the Bible as inerrant and follow it literally — even the truly wacky stuff.

In spreading the word of Jebus, Warren has probably met a ton of other superstitious bigots, and slapped them on the back for their “good works” besides.

The problem isn’t that Rick Warren believes things we on the left don’t. The problem is our logic that because Obama invited Warren to offer a prayer on Inauguration Day, Obama is therefore advancing not only whatever Rick Warren does, but everything that everyone Rick Warren has ever been associated with does too.

It didn’t hold up when Sarah Palin said it, and it doesn’t hold up now.

This won’t be the last time Obama seems too inclusive of the ideologically impure to suit those who worked hardest to get him elected. I foresee many more such moves, which our side will classify as mistakes. If I ever fall in that category, remind me that I went on record, here and now, as saying that I trust Obama to have a bigger vision than my own, and that I think he’s right that we will get further by talking to everyone, and including everyone, than we will by staying inside our own little belief bubbles. I’m willing to wait and see how it all works out.


  • January 19, 2009 - 4:23 am | Permalink

    There is a deep difference between Palin’s crass slur and Obama providing a high-visibility forum for a religious extremist. By providing that forum, Obama is implying that he endorses Warren’s radicalism (and thus maybe Palin wasn’t wrong, just turned around 180 degrees?).

    Those chosen to participate in official inaugural events are meant to represent the incoming president in some manner. What these folks have to say and the way that they say it are the earliest display that the voters get to see of the organizational skills of the new POTUS. These people will be seen as speaking for him.

    In this important day’s invitations, Obama is certainly breaking with inaugural traditions by inviting those who oppose him to frame and define him from the very first moments of his tenure with their commentary. I admit to being concerned about the wisdom of this choice, and fear that it is yet another example of Obama succumbing to the triumph of hope over reason.

  • Lev Raphael
    January 19, 2009 - 5:15 am | Permalink

    And what sort of message does it send that the much-ballyhoo’d invocation by gay bishop Gene Robinson, widely seen as an attempt to balance Warren’s presence Tuesday, was not broadcast? And people at the Lincoln Memorial could barely hear it because of apparent microphone problems?
    HBO says the Inaugural Committee relegated Robinson to the “pre-show,” thus deep-sixing his amazing invocation, which can be seen here on the video made by someone attending the event:

  • January 19, 2009 - 5:27 am | Permalink

    Well done, Trish.

    It seems Obama is doing what made him such an attractive candidate to many of us by providing opportunities to reunite the people. We may hold differing belief systems, but in the end we are all human and need to find ways of coexisting. By inviting Warren to speak, he also invites him to find his better self, as I believe Obama is inviting all of us to do. This may have consequences, but silencing those who oppose us only embitters them and can give unintended validation to their views.

  • January 19, 2009 - 5:52 am | Permalink

    Then again, after reading Lev’s comment and following several links about it, I am a bit discouraged. All points of view need to be heard for truth to win out.

  • January 19, 2009 - 2:27 pm | Permalink

    There simply is no way to involve Warren in the inauguration without enabling Warren’s agenda of bigotry, discrimination, violence, and death. You are claiming the impossible in order to rationalize the reprehensible.

  • January 19, 2009 - 2:54 pm | Permalink

    One obvious difference is that Obama’s relationship with Ayers was circumstantial — they were neighbors, and they served on boards together. Pallin tried to make something out of a casual acquaintance that wasn’t there.

    Obama brought his current troubles on himself when he chose Warren for the inauguration. There’s no good outcome here. Either Warren was vetted and Obama knew about his support for Akinola and the rest — and if so, then, yes, Obama is elevating those views — or Warren wasn’t vetted, which means Obama is stubbornly clinging to a bad decision, and the resulting scandal is getting incrementally worse by the day. It’s an inauspicious start, to say the least.

  • Ann
    January 19, 2009 - 3:45 pm | Permalink

    I very much value and applaud Obama’s apparent intention to reach out to his political and ideological opponents, but having Warren deliver the invocation is something different: no, it’s not “endorsing” Warren’s views, but it is conferring an honor or privilege that should have gone to another, to someone who supported Obama’s candidacy.
    There will be countless opportunities in the next 4/8 years to meet with Warren and his supporters to discuss differences and, possibly, come to an understanding on important issues. That’s not what Obama has done here. Instead, he has snubbed those religious leaders who support him, in favor of one who does not.

  • Thomas Kent
    January 20, 2009 - 8:56 pm | Permalink

    “Keep your friends close, hold your enemies closer”

  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *