Saturday, December 20, 2008

More about Warren (UPDATED)

So, I hadn't realized this, but via a Steve Benen at Washington Monthly, I learn that we've spent most of our history without an invocation nor a benediction. FDR added both at his inauguration in 1933 and, sadly, they've been part of the program ever since.

This factoid makes me even angrier than I was before.

While I grant that Obama is elected to be the president of all the people, not just the people who voted for him - something the current occupant just never got through his thick skull - I still say Rick Warren is quite simply a bridge too far. I have read a lot in the last few days about this issue, both pro and con, and I still come down where I was before: Rick Warren is the wrong choice, a walking, talking insult to the spirit of inclusion Obama has spent so much time and energy creating.

I hate quoting myself, but I must raise a question I asked back in September in the wake of the McCain campaign's mud-slinging: why are we always the ones who must suck it up?
Why am I and my fellow progressives, liberals & Democrats expected to take the high road every single time? Why is the onus on us to make nice and maintain civility while the other side gets to wreck and rob the place with impunity, spewing hate and flinging poo like a monkey? Why are we supposed to just sit there and take it? It is almost as though they know these people are over-grown children and, like children, we grown-ups are required to be patient and tolerant while they go through some adult version of the terrible twos, except sustained and culture-wide.
So, once again, The Left is expected to sit down, shut up and take one for the team, to just be grateful for the fucking-over not being worse than it otherwise would have been. The emotional retards on the other end of the spectrum once again have to be pandered-to, because they will otherwise get their widdle feelers hurt and take their toys home to pout. I just don't recall seeing a reciprocal show of respect when the other side stole the last two elections. I just remember a lot of crowing and chest-thumping about "mandates."

I find the inclusion of Rick Warren to be sickening because the most favorable spin I can put on it is to think that maybe he wants to insure the largest possible audience for the launching of his bold new direction in government and putting Warren at the beginning of the program is the least odious way to get and keep the eyes and ears of a large group of people who would otherwise range from the curiously skeptical to the overtly hostile. Warren, with his genial demeanor and Hawaiian shirts, projects an approachable warmth (however manufactured and shallow it may be) that his predecessors Robertson and Falwell lack and maybe that is a factor for Obama as well, though I must say that even with all of that in mind I still don't think this is what we who worked his campaign and gave him money had in mind.

The intolerant learn nothing when tolerated; for them it just means the suckers on the other side didn't have the guts to let their hate win the day.

Because I think the thing all the Obama defenders lose sight of amid this whole brouhaha is that we've been here before. Democrats have been sucking up to the Reich-Wing since Saint Ronnie of the Ray-Gun slithered into Washington on a tide of racial fear-mongering and cultural resentment. It has never, ever, provided any long-term benefit for the Democrats except to encourage the poo-flinging monkeys to fling even more poo. "Triangulating Bill" Clinton tried and tried and tried to accomodate a burgeoning and ascendant Political Right, in fact he was the finest Republican president we ever had, and all he ever got was impeached for his efforts.

I think some of this has to do with the old saw about a liberal being someone who won't take his own side in an argument. As liberals, we think surely some common ground can be found on any issue since we generally try to see other sides of arguments. Righties think god is on their side and the devil is in any opposition. In such a formulation, how can we ever find the middle? We can't because there isn't one. As Glenn Greenwald wrote yesterday:
Ultimately, the reason politics is unavoidably "divisive" is because people have really divergent and irreconcilable views on passion-provoking controversies. That's what politics is. It's what it always has been. At some point, Obama either will or won't repeal DOMA and don't-ask-don't-tell; he either will or won't rescind Bush's anti-abortion regulations and appoint new Supreme Court Justices likely to re-affirm Roe; he either will or won't close Gitmo; he either will or won't withdraw from Iraq; he either will or won't investigate Bush war crimes; he either will or won't deliver on his promises to unions, etc. People feel very strongly -- and very differently -- about those issues.
And besides, at the end of the day, being an unapologetic atheist, I have to agree with (...a-hem...) Christopher Hitchens when he writes:
As Barack Obama is gradually learning, his job is to be the president of all Americans at all times. If he likes, he can oppose the idea of marriage for Americans who are homosexual. That's a policy question on which people may and will disagree. However, the man he has chosen to deliver his inaugural invocation is a relentless clerical businessman who raises money on the proposition that certain Americans—non-Christians, the wrong kind of Christians, homosexuals, nonbelievers—are of less worth and littler virtue than his own lovely flock of redeemed and salvaged and paid-up donors.

This quite simply cannot stand.


A president may by all means use his office to gain re-election, to shore up his existing base, or to attract a new one. But the day of his inauguration is not one of the days on which he should be doing that. It is an event that belongs principally to the voters and to their descendants, who are called to see that a long tradition of peaceful transition is cheerfully upheld, even in those years when the outcome is disputed.
So, Obama promises us a new politics. With the Rick Warren selection, Obama reveals himself as an epic genius with a secret plan so grand no mere mortal can guess it, or else he is either more of a cynical operator than we thought or more gullible and stupid than he seems.

I'm not sure I like any of those options. I know, I know, he's still the far better option and he's going to give us what we want on Iraq, Gitmo, minority rights, energy policy, environmental policy, labor policy, and he projects competence and tolerance while single-handedly changing the image America projects to the world, blah-blah-blah, but right now, I'm angry and I choose to stay that way until he gives me a reason not to be.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

From the marvelously poisonous pen of Jillian over at Sadly, No:
I must confess that over the past few years I have been completely nauseated by the Sensible Liberal. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Left’s greatest stumbling block is not the Republican party or the Freepers of the world, but the moderate Democrat, who is more devoted to “winning” than to justice, who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension, often called “inclusion” or “getting along”, to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who says “I agree with the goal you seek, but I also understand the point of view of people who think you are little more than crazed pedophiles”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s full citizenship; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the fag to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.


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Broadway Carl said...

Hey Joe,

What you doin' with that gun in your hand? (Sorry I couldn't resist.) I understand the frustration with the Warren crap, but ultimately will it matter? He chose Warren to give an invocation, not to become his new Senior Policy Advisor. I know it seems like a slap in the face to us now, but who's really gonna give a shit a month from now? That's how I'm looking at it. Obama is not all of a sudden going to become pro-life.

This is why I disagree with the Greenwald quote in your post - because his decision to include Warren in his inauguration for a 3 minute prayer (something that shouldn't be a part of the ceremony to begin with, IMHO) isn't going to change his mind on pro-choice, or closing Gitmo, or troop withdrawal from Iraq, or suddenly make him think conservative judges are what we need in the Supreme Court.

Sure, I'm disappointed that he chose Warren for all the same reasons everyone else is, but I don't find the invocation so important that I believe it's the beginning of the end for the Obama administration. Unemployment, health care, getting out of the Middle East, vets care, the economy - these are the things that are important to me, not who says what prayer when.

Which is why I don't agree with Hitchens either. Yes, Obama can be inclusive - that's what he campaigned on - but not on Inauguration day. Either Obama is going to believe what he says every day, or he's going to be politically manuevering every day. I hope it's the former, but it has to be every day.

And look at it another way. Warren's acceptance of the invitation is not sitting well with his base. I would say the evangelical right is freaking out about Warren's attendance more than the liberal left is. So, although I doubt this is the reason, Warren's power and influence is possibly being compromised on Obama's first day in office. That can only be a good thing.

And finally, "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."? Seriously?

Armadillo Hussein Joe said...

New boss? Well, yeah.

New Boss Obama is triangulating his little heart out with all the mighty force of Old Boss Clinton. Up to now, it has been part of some master plan and I was (and still am) willing to sign on because, as you say, in the long run we trust that we will still get what we want on choice, Gitmo, Iraq, environmental policy, etc... Note that I said "trust." Signs are good, sure, but I realize that Washington politics is like making sausage and I'm not going to like a lot of what comes out of the Obama Administration over the next four years. That not-liking starts today.

The Warren choice smacks of wishful thinking to me. Why waste such a valuable moral commodity as the invocation at one's own historic inauguration? Such a bully pulpit for declaring and demonstrating a new direction, wasted on a bigot with a top-shelf PR team.

If Obama understands just how odious Warren (a liar & a bigot) is and thinks throwing these ravenous wolves a bone will quiet them, I point to Bill Clinton's impeachment as counter-evidence. If he understands how odious Warren is and doesn't care, then he needs to be made to show respect to this portion of his coalition. If he understands how odious Warren is and actually agrees with him, god help us, then he isn't the person we've supported all this time and should be called out loudly and often.

I don't think saying to such an important component of the Obama coalition "get over it" is really honest or fair, since that's what the whole political left in this country has heard since BushCo. stole the election in 2000. Warren equates homosexuality with incest and bestiality and loudly and publicly declares that Jews are going to hell. Lending him the weight of the Office of the President legitimizes his bigotry and spits in the face of the people who put him there. It fails to honor their blood, sweat, toil and tears.

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