The Political Junkie

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Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Barack Obama (D-IL) traveled to Unity, New Hampshire to emphasize (read: "hammer home") their admiration for, and support of, each other. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is in Colombia, where he promises not to talk about the campaign. At all. And Gen. Wesley Clark (Ret.) questioned the relevance of a candidate's military experience. Or lack thereof.

Our Political Junkie, Ken Rudin, will join us at the Newseum, to talk about the continuing campaign. And we'll hear from Michael Gerson — once a speech writer for President Bush, now a columnist. McCain met with the Rev. Billy Graham last week, and Obama has talked a lot about religion lately. We'll ask Gerson about the role religious and evangelical voters will play in this election.

If religion plays a role in how you vote, what do you think of what the candidates have said about faith thus far? What would you like to hear them say?



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What Wesley Clark said was absolutely true and not at all belittling to McCain. As to McCain's never claiming that being shot down qualifies him to be president, I beg your pardon but John McCain's entire career, his entire identity is based on his being qualified for whatever he wishes because he was shot down and held prisoner in Vietnam. Even his former stand against torture was informed by his Vietnam experience--that is, until he came to support torturing enemy prisoners as a tactic to win the pure hearts of heartland voters.

Sent by Mike from Boston | 2:17 PM | 7-2-2008

As a very engaged younger Evangelical (23) in seminary, I think that Obama actually has a good shot at pealing away a good portion of the Evangelical vote this election cycle. And on the flip side it seems that McCain and the Republican party is in danger of loosing that block as the future generation of Evangelicals comes to prominence.
The reason I say this is because we younger Evangelicals, while caring about issues like abortion, also care very much about caring for the poor, helping those in 3rd world nations with their many difficulties, and caring for the environment, all areas where the Republicans are seen by many Evangelicals as falling short.

Sent by Mason in Grand Rapids MI | 2:29 PM | 7-2-2008

Michael Gerson's framing of Obama's comments yesterday on government funding for faith-based charities was completely incorrect. He attempted to position Obama's statements as being in agreement with George W. Bush - but nothing could be further from the truth. Obama's comments stand in stark contrast to the Bush administration's position on faith-based funding because Obama wants to correct the wrongheaded Bush policy of allowing taxpayer-funded religious charities to discriminate based on faith. Under the Bush Administration, centuries of church-state separation has been rent asunder as Bush has promoted the interpretation that taxpayer money can be used for proselytizing.

I was very unhappy with Obama when I initially heard reports of the speech from the Associated Press. I was reassured later when I learned that the AP report was incorrect.

Alex Koppelman from wrote an excellent piece about the misinterpretation of Obama's comments:

Sent by Derek DeVries | 3:24 PM | 7-2-2008

Is it just me or do others feel the same way? Why do we have a candidate (being John McCain) with allll this experience that he has, make these simple mistakes that you would think he'd know not to make? I mean it ain't like he never ran for president before (2000 campaign). He's flip-flop on everything from taxes to off-shore oil drilling and beyond! He should know better. He has no right to critize Barack Obama when he himself (with experience) can't even make up his own mind! He my have experience but its obvious, he don't know what to do with it. Obama is showing himself to be a better candidate than McCain, the polls tell it and Obama's demeaner tells as well. EXPERIENCE MY ***!!!!

Sent by jreal | 6:44 PM | 7-2-2008

Religion plays a strong role in how I vote: I'm an agnostic, a Freethinker, and a Humanist, and a member of one of the most underrepresented and underserved minorities in America: non-Christians.

Obama thinks being black gives him a disadvantage? I'm sure it is, but it's nothing compared to the pro-Christian bias of this country. Look at how much damage a mere *suggestion* that he leans towards Islam (another Abrahamic religion, and from my viewpoint, almost identical to Christianity) did to him! Can anyone here imagine a non-Christian president ever being elected in this country? It would be politically impossible.

That being said, one of the things I look for in a candidate is whether they will respect the First Amendment, specifically the separation of church and state. In general, Democrats do a far better job of this, but I've been very disappointed with the way Obama has recently been throwing bones to the religious vote.

Like Derek, I too was thrilled to learn that the AP goofed in its interpretation of Obama. Still, even the appearance of support for Bush's Faith-Based Initiatives is far too much for me. The only course of action that is consonant with the Framers' wishes would be to immediately discontinue these initiatives and redirect the monies towards dedicated secular organizations.

I'm not a single-issue voter. Obama's support for this Bush policy isn't enough to outweigh all his other pro's in my opinion. But don't think that non-Christian / non-religious voters in this country aren't paying attention. We've learned we have to vote to protect ourselves, as the pro-Christian bias in America is even more blind to itself than racism ever was.

In short: I don't care what religion a candidate is a member of, or what beliefs he holds. What I care about is whether that candidate is the sort of person who can hold his beliefs, and his ability to serve a public that is far more diverse in its beliefs than most Americans think, seperately without prejudice.

Sent by Kasreyn | 9:49 AM | 7-3-2008

Mason: I applaud you on your vision, but sadly you seem to be among a minority. After all, just look at how the poor and the environment are faring in this country after 8 years of a (self-described) Evangelical in the White House!

Sadly, at least in recent elections, it appears that Evangelicals' convictions on compassion and environmentalism fall by the wayside in the voting booth, where the primary motivating factor (I was in FL in 2000) seems to be the drive for unconstitutional discriminatory measures against gays, measures which of course have the Republican ticket riding in on their coattails.

If Evangelicals would just remember that only fools base their vote on a single issue, I think they could become a powerful force for social justice in this country. Sadly, this is stymied by their unjust attitude towards gays. I hope that as a future Evangelical leader you will help your peers to see past this obstruction.

Sent by Kasreyn | 10:04 AM | 7-3-2008

Note to the NPR Ombudsman -- isn't there anything you can do to have Neal re-inject some balance in his political junkie segments? I'm sure Ken Rudin is a wonderful guy, but he isn't "balance" against a partisan like Michael Gerson. This is the second week in a row with a ridiculously slanted conversation. NPR listeners aren't been served well by this program.

Sent by Michael in NYC | 11:43 AM | 7-3-2008

Yesterday, Wednesday, July 2, 2008, on Talk of the Nation, the former Bush speech writer, Michael Gerson, discussed the importance and influence of religion or faith in American politics. He said that religion played a big part in the Civil Rights Movement. Later, in the program about African-American patriotism, the Civil Rights Movement was again mentioned as a phenomenal event unique to the U.S. Although both of these statements are true, a more germane point was totally omitted. In the South, the Civil Rights Movement was indeed promoted by some religious groups, black religious groups and some Catholic and Episcopalian groups and individuals deserve special acknowledgment for putting themselves in harms way right along with African Americans. However, the vast majority of white fundamentalist Christians, particularly the Southern Baptists and many, many smaller rural groups such as the Christian Church, the Church of God, etc., did everything they could to fight integration and any move to gain civil rights for blacks. George Wallace and Lester Maddox were both Christians as were their constituents. At one of the churches that I attended as a child in small-town Florida, the preacher was a member of the Klan. Speaking of the Klan--they, too claim to be Christians.
The religious right from the south that elected George W. Bush are the sons and daughters (or maybe grandsons and daughters) of these very bigots who cursed at little children trying to go to school. Is this the best kept secret in politics? I believe a few books have been written about the Republican strategy to win the south in the post Civil Rights era. Why do reporters, even good ones like Ken Rudin and Neal Conan, continue to let people with agendas talk about faith and morality as if the religious right have the market cornered on it?

Sent by Nina | 8:59 PM | 7-3-2008

What Clark attempted to do is portray what is a partisan objection about the war in Iraq as an issue of experience. While McCain's years as a POW may not give him the experience to lead the country, Obama's votes against the war in Iraq, certainly don't constitute leadership experience, as Clark asserted in his interview. His attempts to portray the issue in that light were intellectually dishonest.

Sent by Marc Seebass | 10:16 PM | 7-3-2008

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