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December 19, 2008

Comments

It seems to me that having an invocation at all is more controversial than whether the one who offers it is for or against prop 8.

This post is an interesting juxtaposition to hilzoy's post on new rules for medical providers. Both are about how one's beliefs may make than unfit for certain public services.

Aren't progressives just the model of tolerance?

It's also a stark contrast to the current occupant. Can you imagine W inviting Rev. Jesse Jackson to give the invocation at his inauguration?

//In short, Obama's invitation is extremely ambitious -- FDR or Nixon-level ambitious.//

hyperbole?

I was going to write a Warren post, but now I don't have to. ;)

I don't know enough about the world of evangelical politics to know whether there is someone Obama could have asked who would have accomplished a lot of the same things without accomplishing them on the backs of the TBLG community. It's the 'hey, we can just throw them overboard; let them suck it up" aspect of this that really bothers me. I don't suppose there's an evangelical leader who is actually pro-TBLG, but someone who wasn't actively involved in the Prop 8 campaign would have been a big improvement.

That said: in what I've read, a lot of people write as though the goal were just to peel off evangelical votes. I don't think it is (or: it shouldn't be.) I think it is (or ought to be): to reduce the level of distrust of Democrats in that community, to make it easier for us to get a hearing.

The descriptions of Obama from a lot of people on the right, evangelicals included, were venomous, but also (to my mind) plainly false. He might or might not be a good leader, right on the issues, etc., but he is plainly not a Marxist, a mole trained by Bill Ayers, etc., etc. And they were of a piece with a lot of things people have said about Democrats.

I take one of Obama's goals to be: to show that this is a lie; to produce in people who bought that stuff the reaction: Huh? How can a Black Nationalist Communist Atheistical Islamofascist (consistency: not their long suit) be acting this way? And then, hopefully: maybe all that stuff I've heard about Democrats/liberals isn't true. They might be wrong on a lot of things, but they do not seem to be Evil Incarnate.

I imagine that the Warren thing is part of that. I like it a lot better than, say, adopting some actual policy that harms gays and lesbians. But I like it a whole lot less than asking someone less plainly offensive. And that's the thing that gets me: I can't imagine that Warren was the only, or the best, choice.

d'd'd': I suppose you also favor the right of pacifists to serve in the military and have their views accommodated -- right?

It seems to me that agreeing to participate in the Saddleback forum -- anointing a religious Dr. Phil as the person in charge of the very first event featuring the two presidential candidates -- was a much more significant boost to Rick Warren's power than this invocation, which will be forgotten in a day or two -- or would have been if some progressives hadn't decided to try turning it into the Most Important Thing Ever even though it's clear this battle is lost.

Dave, how do you feel about those Muslim cab drivers who were refusing to pick up people at the airport if they were carrying bottles of alcohol?

What's everyone's best guess for the year (in the future - don't get cute) an atheist will be elected to the presidency?

hilzoy - i think that's right. that's exactly what he's trying to do -- trying to *show* it.

as for "why not someone else?", that is the key question. the answer I think is that it's hard to actually find an equivalent to Warren. i mean, he's HUGE, and obama likes to go big. i'm sure if obama could, he'd wave a magic wand and make warren's prop 8 support disappear. but it's hard to imagine a better way to get this message across (and avoiding more vile people like dobson) without picking someone like warren (or indeed warren himself)

hilzoy

Well, yes, of course. In fact it has been the law for a very long time. There have a large number of my co-religionists who have served with distinction in the military as medics - not bearing weapons but bearing aid. One even got the congressional medal of honor for helping hundreds of wounded down a cliff under fire during one of the pacific battles in ww2.

In the days of the draft it was more necessary than now.

My father spent 20 years in the army as a physician, including in the korean war, and he was a conscientious objector in regard to carrying a weapon. I'm not sure what his exact status code was. There are plenty of non-combat roles.

I take one of Obama's goals to be: to show that this is a lie; to produce in people who bought that stuff the reaction: Huh? How can a Black Nationalist Communist Atheistical Islamofascist (consistency: not their long suit) be acting this way? And then, hopefully: maybe all that stuff I've heard about Democrats/liberals isn't true. They might be wrong on a lot of things, but they do not seem to be Evil Incarnate.

You don't quite say it explicitly, so I'm gonna take a crack at it: What Obama is trying to do here with Warren, and with many of his political appointments, is dial down the political polarization in this country to the point where honest reasonable discussion can take place. Progressives have been saying all along that their ideas win when they're giving a fair hearing, so they should be swinging from the [necessary expletive] lamp-posts over this.

There's probably some political lessons to be learned by watching where he thinks this is necessary and where he thinks it isn't. He's not making very many compromises where global warming and labor policy are concerned.

kcindc

muslim cab drivers. I support them. It's a free country (or should be). Why should they be forced to pick someone up?

At the risk of FTT, here goes on cab drivers.

Taxis have to pick up all passengers because they're operate within a regulated/licensed business.

The alternative is to abandon all efforts to control the "taxi" business - let anyone with a vehicle of any kind pick up whatever passengers s/he wants and charge whatever they feel like, any place, any time, complete chaotic free market in the streets.

Some third world countries still operate like this, but in most societies that aspire to civilization and sanity, it has been presumed to be better public policy to control and license taxicabs (and rickshaws and pedicabs and jeepneys and water-taxis).

A certain measure of regulation is almost universally seen as better for public safety (less chance that your driver is a mugger or murderer), for traffic, for passenger convenience, for consumer awareness [I've travelled too much in places where one has to negotiate the price for every single trip in advance - it gets to be a stone drag] and therefore for business, esp. tourism, and thus for the general welfare.

People can and do complain about taxis, and quibble over the precise regulations in effect, but few really want to go back to the anyone-can-drive-anything-for-any-price-under-any-conditions-at-any-risk state that may be inferred from "It's a free country (or should be)."

So, IF you accept the principle of regulation of the taxi business, then we're talking about rules imposed for being part of a business regulated in the public interest. And in the USA one of these rules is: No [overt] Religious or Racial Discrimination. For the privilege of being part of a protected industry, a driver has to pay the price of playing by that rule, which is also seen as conducive to the public interest.

If you don't want to play by the rules, then your choices are:
1) Amend the rules to allow you to express your own personal bigotry;
2) Cancel all the rules and let the anarchy of the road (and market) prevail;
3) Move to a society that has no such regulation. They're out there if you look.
4) Give up the regulated taxi business and go into some line of work that lets you exercise your prejudices more freely.

I choose number one. Which do you choose?

It's fascinating to me that the progressives who say we should be respectful and accomodating of the differences between us then want to restrict the rights of some. And to do it based on an orderly commerce argument is weak.

I guess I have assumed dr ngo is a progressive. Maybe he/she is not and I have falsely accused progressives.

I choose, in this case, playing by the rules, which seem to me to be in the public interest. I have no desire to challenge the system in order to be able to exercise my right (or anyone else's) to be a bigot.

The "right" that you apparently fear is being "restricted" here is the right of a member of a quasi-public utility [which is, IMHO, what a regulated taxi business amounts to] to discriminate against members of the public.

I see it as being roughly analogous to the keeper of a public toll-gate refusing passage to Arabs, or vegetarians, or Cowboy fans. It is not only inherently unjust, it undermines the public utility of the whole project.

FWIW, I regard myself as a progressive. I try to be "respectful and accommodating of the differences between us," but I draw the line at allowing a quasi-public institution to operate in a discriminatory way. Make of that what you will.

Obviously, Prop 8 complicates things. If the wounds of Prop 8 weren't so raw, I think the invite would be a no-brainer good idea.

Would you say that if Rick Warren were a white supremacist anti-Semite who routinely makes speeches about how evil Jews are and how black people don't deserve equal civil rights?

Just curious.

You know: which groups of people is it okay to be really offensive to, in order to reach out to the "evangelical community"?

It's okay to be really offensive to LGBT people, in your view.

Jews? African-Americans?

FWIW, Rick Warren is also a forced-pregnancy nut, but then Obama tends that way himself, so I'm not exactly surprised.

Obama isn't going to cause evangelicals to start loving abortion rights or gay marriage.

Maybe not. But the evangelicals who oppose forced pregnancy and who don't see homophobia as the central value of Christianity - maybe they could. If Obama were interested in hearing from them.

There is a group of people who define themselves by being against gay marriage. They are knotted up at the root with people who oppose same-sex marriage, who oppose contraception and legal abortion - you hear "Demographic winter!" a lot from these people, they also think it's a problem that not enough white babies are being born. Obama is never going to get through to these people because they define themselves by values that are racist, sexist, homophobic, and usually Islamophobic, too. Rick Warren's a natural speaker for these people. But it won't make them think of Obama as anything other than the pro-abortion pro-gay rights President.

There are also a wide range of evangelicals who do not define themselves by their bigotries - who don't see Christianity as about being homophobic, or being against contraception, or being racist. Obama could have picked someone to pray him in who could have spoken to that constituency.

But he picked a homophobic preacher who's claimed that 35% of women in the US are like Nazis and Jews are like fetuses (he compares legal access to abortion, to the Holocaust: apparently women terminating pregnancies is just like concentration camp guards killing Jews).

Rick Warren isn't going to say anything to convince anyone to respect the right of same-sex couples to get married, the right of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people to serve openly in the military, or the right for women to use contraception and access abortion services. Human rights for LGBT people - or for women - is not where Warren's coming from.

That's by far the most compelling defense of the Warren pick that I've seen.

I'd add that Obama is also arguing that Warren is more than the sum of his most repugnant views and in the process modeling for evangelicals how they should treat gay people even if they continue to believe that homosexuality is wrong.

Will that approach work to change anyone's attitude? I don't know but I'm not inclined to bet against Obama at this point.

I'd add that Obama is also arguing that Warren is more than the sum of his most repugnant views

So is John Hagee. Should Obama have him pray at the inaugeration?

and in the process modeling for evangelicals how they should treat gay people even if they continue to believe that homosexuality is wrong

I don't think evangelicals need Obama to model for them how they should insult LGBT people and get patronizing when LGBT people take offense. They already know that part, quite well.

Rick Warren:

You know, to me, not a problem with me. But the issue to me is, I’m not opposed to that as much as I’m opposed to the redefinition of a 5,000-year definition of marriage. I’m opposed to having a brother and sister be together and call that marriage. I’m opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that a marriage. I’m opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage.

When Barack Obama was born, in 1961, multiple states in the US would have denied his parents the freedom to marry. Forty-seven years ago, Rick Warren's spiritual brothers were arguing that if God had meant the races to mix, He wouldn't have separated the races on to different continents.

Now Barack Obama wants a man who believes civil marriage is a privilege, not a right, that for same-sex couples to marry is equivalent to child molestation or to incest, to pray at his inaugeration.

I hear that an LGBT band is going to play at the parade. How humiliating and infuriating for them, to be required by Presidential invitation to attend an event where they will be required to listen to Rick Warren praying.

I see the intention of the pick but I think it is a bad idea to choose that person in particular. Richard Cizik might have been a better choice (and him falling out with the fringe of the evangelical movement would have been a bonus*). Not that he is that gay-friendly but his position seems to be flexible to some degree (at times he even signaled a willingness to accept civil unions). From what I read he is a pragmatist that favors contraception to reduce unwanted pregenancies (and the abortions that follow from that).
I doubt that any choice will make much difference with the evangelicals but Warren seems to me to do more damage elsewhere than he could do good about the relations of the incoming POTUS and the religious conservatives. Any preacher will be a wedge, the question is where to aim it.

*Perkins&Co calling him a traitor should be music to anyone sane's ears ;-)
He also favored Obama over the Son of Cain, if the wikipedia entry is correct.

So why do we need a preacher at the inauguration of the new President into our secular government again?

I find myself, a progressive who understands the religious right, who is not religious himself, applauding this choice of Warren socially and politcally. I think we need to empower those on the right who are open to the left. That's what Warren is.

Here's my say.
http://joshuetree.blogspot.com/2008/12/obama-and-rick-warren.html

ALso, folks, don't let yourself be baited into a discussion on being sufficiently respectful of the differences between us by someone arguing for more opportunity to express bigotry. There's no more reason to be respectful of bigotry than there is to be respectful of assault or robbery.

But I'll make d^nave a compromise: People can exercise their businesses in as bigoted a manner as they please. But they have to have, on their place of business and all sales literature, prominent signage delcaring, explicitly, "We do not serve [x]." X can be Muslims, homosexuals, people with dogs, the blind, transvestites, Catholics, blacks, or whatever you want.

I'll bet two things:

1. Those places would shortly be out of business.
2. The signs you would see the least would be the ones denying service to straights, whites, men and Christians.

"The alternative is to abandon all efforts to control the "taxi" business - let anyone with a vehicle of any kind pick up whatever passengers s/he wants and charge whatever they feel like, any place, any time, complete chaotic free market in the streets.

Some third world countries still operate like this,"

And, speaking as somebody who's experienced it, it works just fine. Much better than the restricted entry cartels we have here in the US. So don't knock it, if the taxi system in the US was comparable to, say, the Philippines, most people wouldn't even bother to own cars.

Anyway, let me suggest a radical thought to you folks: Obama isn't secretly on your side on this.

Your favorite chameleon put a lot of effort into making himself appear everything to everybody during the campaign, but it wasn't just people on the middle he was playing. By the time this is over, you're going to understand that he was playing you, too.

I just wish you had titled this post 'The Warren Wedgie'

Your favorite chameleon put a lot of effort into making himself appear everything to everybody during the campaign

i didn't see that at all. what i saw was that everybody assumed Obama was something he never said he was. and now they get mad when it turns out he won't do what they thought he would do, and what he never said he would do.

do.

frankly, i think the people who are incensed over this are wasting their energy. i don't like this choice, and i sent him an email saying so. but when you get right down to it, this is going to be a brief boilerplate speech by a famous preacher. Warren's not going to be up their slamming LGBTs in his speech, nor will he be setting policy in the administration when it's over. the whole thing will be done in an hour, and then everyone will forget this and move on to the next freak-out.

"i didn't see that at all. what i saw was that everybody assumed Obama was something he never said he was.

Oh, yeah, and that just sorta happened, Obama had nothing to do with it. LOL!

And, speaking as somebody who's experienced it, it works just fine. Much better than the restricted entry cartels we have here in the US. So don't knock it, if the taxi system in the US was comparable to, say, the Philippines, most people wouldn't even bother to own cars.

The rates of accidents and assaults on women passengers would be unacceptable in countries that properly measured such things. Yes, the taxi system is a racket and needs to loosened up, but like nearly every form of government regulation, it originates in efforts to address intolerable externalities.

I get, and see the value of, every point that publius makes, but I also think this is a kick in the teeth for gays.

I don't think Obama has any hostile intent toward gays, or wants to exclude them from public life. I just think they draw the short straw, once again, in the political calculus.

I'm not gay, but I were, I think I would be getting kind of weary waiting for my turn at the table.

And yeah, I know that they WENT OVER THE HEADS OF THE PEOPLE!!11!!! by appealing to the ELITIST COURTS!!!@!%^!.

But let me ask this: why should gay people need anybody's f'ing permission to get married if that's what they want to do?

Why is it even a matter left to popular opinion?

There is no credible practical reason for denying gays the right to marry. None.

Some people are gay. As far as we can tell, some people have always been gay. As far as anyone can demonstrate to me, being gay is not a "lifestyle", it's not a character defect, it's a not a mental illness. It's not a choice.

People who are gay are just like everyone else, except they find people of their own gender sexually attractive.

It's not "normal" in the sense that most people aren't gay, but neither is being left handed or taller than 7'.

I'm just sick of the whole animus toward homosexuals. They're just freaking people like everyone else. If you don't like them, if the whole idea gives you the creeps, that's your problem.

Just let them live their damned lives. They let you live yours.

/rant

So, Obama will play his long game, and a lot of gay folks will, justifiably, feel slighted, because once again some guy with a copy of Leviticus cannot abide the idea that they should be allowed to live together as married couples.

To address triple-d dave's points:

With extraordinarily few exceptions, no religious people are required to do anything that conflicts with their beliefs.

The only exception I'm aware of was one you raised elsewhere -- the Boston Catholic Diocese being required to place adoptions with gay couples in MA. And that was not an issue until O'Malley decided to make his point.

Point made.

And I'm with you. Muslim cab drivers shouldn't be forced to carry passengers who are carrying alchohol. Pharmacists shouldn't be required to provide drugs they think are harmful or wrong. OB/GYNs shouldn't be forced to perform abortions.

As a practical matter, my guess is that most of these folks are not forced to do these things. My guess is that the exceptions are vanishingly rare.

The only time this becomes an issue is when their refusal deprives *other* people of goods or services that *they* need.

Usually there's an easy, pragmatic way to work around this. It usually only become an issue when someone wants to make a point.

There's that word again.

So, you know, if you take it to the law, you have to live with the decision that the law makes.

Folks like the Muslim cab driver, or the anti-abortion pharmacist or OB/GYN, would do better to just sort the situation out, like adults in the real world do.

Thanks -

As for Rick Warren, I think we need to consider how this will influence his future behaviour rather than dwell on his past behaviour. This is something of a Faustian bargain for him too, remember: Obama is bringing him into the circle of power, helping him leap over the older goons in the evangelical scene. Yet he's now going to be a bit of a mover and shaker in a Washington that ought to be dominated by the Democratic agenda for the forseeable future. Most people, once they get into the inner circle, are extremely reluctant to leave it, and so if Pastor Rick wants to keep his newfound status as spiritual figurehead of the Obama era, he's going to have to play ball a little bit with progressive agendas.

I wouldn't expect him to suddenly turn around and support gay marriage, but in the near-medium future, I think we should hope that, as Publius suggests, he will talk a lot more about environmental and social issues, thus implicitly deprioritising abortion, gay rights etc.

If you can break the evangelical movement from being a single-issue crew obsessed with what goes on in other people's trousers, it changes American politics profoundly for the better, IMHO.

Oh, yeah, and that just sorta happened, Obama had nothing to do with it

less than you want to think he did.

the premier example, which comes around here every two-point-four days: he never even suggested that he would be interested in pursuing impeachment against Bush - never used the words, never dropped hints, nothing. but, for all kinds of reasons, people assumed that he was. and they're now finding themselves disappointed when it turns out he's really not that interested, and never was.

And I'm with you. Muslim cab drivers shouldn't be forced to carry passengers who are carrying alchohol. Pharmacists shouldn't be required to provide drugs they think are harmful or wrong. OB/GYNs shouldn't be forced to perform abortions

I fully agree, but why stop with half measures and continue to tolerate the suppression of the religious beliefs in other ways? Certainly conservative taxi drivers shouldn't have to accept women traveling without their husbands as passengers, nor should OB/GYNs have provide any medical services whatsoever to those same harlots fornicating out of wedlock. Pharmacists clearly should be able to pick and choose which medications they deem moral; scientologists could refuse to supply mental health medication, others could refuse to supply anything at all except placebos and the good book - the only healin' you need!

Sarcasm aside, these people have a choice - they can choose to perform their jobs properly, or find another one.

why did dr ngo call me a troll at December 19, 2008 at 01:47 AM? It's simply because I did not agree. Nice job of setting an example of respectful tolerance.

these people have a choice - they can choose to perform their jobs properly, or find another one.

Yeah, that's true.

But it's also not that hard, in most cases, to just figure something out that will be suitable for everyone.

Not always, but most of the time.

At a certain point it becomes absurd -- a Christian Scientist MD who refuses to provide any medical care at all -- but those folks will probably just go out of business.

Actually, those folks will probably never get into that line of business.

But if you're not actually looking for a fight, you can usually find a solution.

Milk of human kindness, dude. Cheaper and easier than lawyers.

Thanks -

why did dr ngo call me a troll at December 19, 2008 at 01:47 AM?

Maybe he thought you were trolling. Sometimes people misunderstand each other. It can take time and effort to establish credibility.

If your goal here is to score a point about liberals or progressives not being perfectly tolerant of other people, hey, one for dave!

If you actually want to put your point of view out there, maybe a different angle will be more fruitful.

Thanks -

You answered him at 2:15, and you only figured out what FTT meant at 8:17? I understand you may be sleepy, but try and keep up a bit. If you are a bit more prompt with your rejoinders, maybe your feelings won't get bruised as badly, (which, to be frank, seems kind of strange for someone who works in a business with sharp elbows like the real estate world)

russell 7:49a: i agree.

But if you're not actually looking for a fight, you can usually find a solution.

Milk of human kindness, dude. Cheaper and easier than lawyers.

I think certain areas of economic activity -- transportation and health care especially -- require equal access.

russell 8:31
Yes, point scoring is counterproductive. Have you counted the shots taken at evangelicals here?

L jap. The long time gap was because I went to bed. When i answered dr ngo the first time i ignored FTTt because I thought there was a chance of a mutually respectful discourse. This morning, when i read his later response, i realized his/her mind is made up.

I think certain areas of economic activity -- transportation and health care especially -- require equal access.

I guess what I think is that there needs to be access, and it quite often doesn't really matter how that happens.

The Muslim cabbie thing came up, IIRC, in an airport setting. There's usually a queue of cabs. If cabbie 1 doesn't want to take you, ride with cabbie 2. You'll still get there, and nobody has to do anything they're not comfortable doing.

As an aside, it's always been unclear to me how the cabbie knows you have booze in your luggage.

Not sure if pharmacists and ob/gyns are quite so fungible, but my guess is that in the vast majority of situations, everyone can find a way to get what they need.

Usually this stuff comes up when somebody wants to Make A Point.

But I also *do* agree that the public broadly should not be deprived of needed services due to the sensitive consciences of some providers.

All I'm saying is that if you can work it out without recourse to the law, it's a lot easier. And quite often you can.

Thanks -

I take Publius's argument to be that Obama is doing this on the (speculative) theory that inviting Warren will peel off some significant number of evangelicals who will be converted to the view that Obama doesn't have horns, etc. Against this hoped-for result, for which Publius can claim no supporting evidence, he is quite willing to countenance a gesture that is obviously disrespectful and even humilitating, RIGHT NOW, to millions of LGBT folks stung by the Prop 8 debacle. Facing this, I really can't avoid the force of Jesurgislac's objection at 2:38 - what if the people being dissed this way were blacks? Jews? retarded people? Would we think the chance of successful outreach to evangelicals was worth inviting a guy to bless Obama's inauguration who suggested those folks were less than human or morally bankrupt? I think Publius makes the best argument you can make for the general goal behind this choice, but as it played out in this specific context it accomplishes nothing concrete at all while offending millions. I don't think that's a good balance to strike. And it makes me wonder about the values of some liberals, who always seem to think that it's worth toying pretty cruelly with those who support them in order (maybe/possibly/kinda) to successfully "reach out" in some gaseous and undefined way to known haters. Great values!

d^dave,
Perhaps the problem is that you need a bit more rest, as you don't come off as tolerant as you apparently think you are. Responding to someone before you actually have figured out what they are saying to you is not really conducive to good communication.

So why do we need a preacher at the inauguration of the new President into our secular government again?

beats me.

and the fact that we apparently do is a slap in the face under the bus with a knife in the back of all the people who wish we didn't.

damn you Obama! you promised to get religion out of politics!

"I imagine that the Warren thing is part of that. I like it a lot better than, say, adopting some actual policy that harms gays and lesbians."

Well, sure.

But propping Warren up like this certainly doesn't add a positive voice to gay citizens and their causes -- especially in the wake of Prop 8.

As Jes noted, Warren's views that "civil marriage is a privilege, not a right, that for same-sex couples to marry is equivalent to child molestation or to incest" are not just condescending. They are hateful.

It's one thing to reach out to the other side -- it's another to show tacit acceptance toward their bigotry.

I don't think that's a good balance to strike.

...

As Jes noted, Warren's views that "civil marriage is a privilege, not a right, that for same-sex couples to marry is equivalent to child molestation or to incest" are not just condescending. They are hateful.

It's one thing to reach out to the other side -- it's another to show tacit acceptance toward their bigotry.

I'm in agreement.

Rick Warren is not just a guy who I might or might not disagree with. He's a guy who wants to, and works to, deny basic civic privileges that are available to everyone but gays, to gays, because they're gay.

Because his particular reading of the handful of meager handful of passages in the Bible that discuss homosexuality at all leads him to believe that it's wrong.

The fact that many Christian believers read those passages differently, or the fact that many, many people have no interest in what the Bible says on the topic at all, are of no weight.

Rick Warren's understanding, and the understanding of folks like him, of a handful of passages in the Bible lead him to a certain conclusion, so millions of *other* people cannot marry.

Nobody will make Rick Warren enter into marriage with a man. Nobody will make Rick Warren, as a minister, officiate at the marriage of two men or two women. Nobody will make him do anything he doesn't want to do.

It's all well and good to bear witness to what you understand the truth to be, and to live that out as you understand it.

It's another thing altogether to require other people, who do not share your point of view, to have their lives circumscribed by your conscience.

It would take exactly nothing away from Rick Warren's life, or the lives of anyone who believes as he does, if gay people were to marry.

I have no animosity toward evangelicals per se, and I also recognize the Warren is not cut from the same odious cloth as guys like Dobson or Perkins.

But his insistence on enshrining his religious beliefs in public law is wrong. It just is. Other people don't see things the same way, and they live here too.

Noone has the right to tell other people how to live.

/rant2

Thanks -

it's another to show tacit acceptance toward their bigotry.

i agree with the general notion that he should've picked someone without an aura of bigotry like Warren's, because, according to the rules we're all used to, the choice does seem to legitimize that bigotry.

but Obama has said, in clear, unambiguous words, that he doesn't accept it. he invited Warren for reasons which have nothing to do with LGBTs. he acknowledges the bad, but supports the good. he's not reducing Warren to synecdoche, as all of the supposedly-tolerant lefties have.

the left really needs to come to terms with the real Obama, and fast.

The following comments are directed to the many handwavers who have posted above:

1) Jesus people. You have your president. now you're arguing over who gets to deliver a 3 minute invocation/prayer at the inauguration? symbolism of that 3 minutes aside, focus on the fact that you've elected an african-american candidate who has, in essence, a 75% approval rating at the moment.

Consider this: mccain could be president-elect with falwell delivering the prayer... your heads would explode.

2) Arguments by analogy are counterproductive, as the argument inevitably devolves into whether the analogy itself is apt. For this reason, analogies re muslim cabdrivers and christian are better suited for a 200 level college course.

3) As to the "substance" of the selection, most of you seem to object to warren's stance on 2 issues: gay rights and abortion. But have you considered his views on the many issues on which you would likely find agreement, namely, poverty, hiv/aids, etc? Or would you have objected to anyone with whom you are not in 100% agreement on every issue?

4) Finally, many people loved obama's Machiavellian instincts in rejecting public financing of his general election campaign. well, he's used those same instincts to select warren. he's setting himself up for re-election people... yes, already. you take the good with the bad... (you take them both, actually, and then you have the facts of life.)

The following comments are directed to the many handwavers who have posted above:

1) Jesus people. You have your president. now you're arguing over who gets to deliver a 3 minute invocation/prayer at the inauguration? symbolism of that 3 minutes aside, focus on the fact that you've elected an african-american candidate who has, in essence, a 75% approval rating at the moment.

Consider this: mccain could be president-elect with falwell delivering the prayer... your heads would explode.

2) Arguments by analogy are counterproductive, as the argument inevitably devolves into whether the analogy itself is apt. For this reason, analogies re muslim cabdrivers and christian are better suited for a 200 level college course.

3) As to the "substance" of the selection, most of you seem to object to warren's stance on 2 issues: gay rights and abortion. But have you considered his views on the many issues on which you would likely find agreement, namely, poverty, hiv/aids, etc? Or would you have objected to anyone with whom you are not in 100% agreement on every issue?

4) Finally, many people loved obama's Machiavellian instincts in rejecting public financing of his general election campaign. well, he's used those same instincts to select warren. he's setting himself up for re-election people... yes, already. you take the good with the bad... (you take them both, actually, and then you have the facts of life.)

sorry for 2X, guys.

what Unfrozen Caveman said.

To pick up on what russell was saying, the problem I have with pastors like Warren is the lack of tolerance they show.

If there is one thing I want from my pastor, it's tolerance.

And compassion.

In the age we are living in, there is not enough of that toward gay citizens.

Now that we have a Democrat in the White House -- and supposedly a liberal one -- I think it would be a missed opportunity if P-E Obama doesn't take real steps toward advancing this cause.

"Noone has the right to tell other people how to live"

....(when that way of living has no ill effect on others)

Other than that, good rant.

"Consider this: mccain could be president-elect with falwell delivering the prayer... your heads would explode."

Seeing how Falwell is dead, that would be a neat trick.

Seeing how Falwell is dead, that would be a neat trick.

* * *

Wow. he IS dead... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerry_Falwell

only the good die young.

"focus on the fact that you've elected an african-american candidate who has, in essence, a 75% approval rating at the moment."

It's precisely because Obama has a 75 percent approval rating that whatever he does or doesn't do at this point sends out a huge message.

We just went through eight years of a presidential administration whose own vice president's daughter was gay. Yet what did that administration do to promote gay rights?

Isn't it time we stop feeding into Warren's crap and start treating gay people who live and work with us, who serve in the military, who raise good families, as more than second-class citizens?


Unfrozen Caveman: there are certain issues on which compromise is unacceptable--even if a person has good ideas in other areas, the mere fact of holding those views makes them unacceptable to what you might call civilized society. Right now, hardcore racism and anti-Semitism are amongst those issues--what's up for debate here is whether homophobia should be as well. Jesurgislac is claiming that it should be, while Publius bows to what he sees as political reality and disagrees. Now say what you will about Jes' point--maybe it's wrong, although I don't think so--but it's a legitimate point to make, no?

With all due respect, I believe that I've followed fundamentalist, evangelical, and religious right organizations a good deal more closely over the last 25 years than John Cole -- and Rick Warren represents a repackaging of, not a challenge, to the old guard religious right.

There are indeed moderate evangelicals. A significant slice of them have reacted unhappily to the increasing politicization of their churches, culminating in the outright electoral manipulation of the 2004 presidential campaign. Another significant slice have become disenchanted with Republican policy because of the debacles of Iraq and Katrina.

But their leader is not Rick Warren. Obama's giving him the prominence of delivering the invocation assists in the repackaging campaign, falsely portraying him as a different kind of evangelical, and a moderate. He is nothing of the kind.

Pleased as I am to see the inclusion of the Rev. Joseph Lowery, the symbolism of him at the end of the ceremony has a distinctly "back of the bus" feel.


i agree with the general notion that he should've picked someone without an aura of bigotry like Warren's, because, according to the rules we're all used to, the choice does seem to legitimize that bigotry.

but Obama has said, in clear, unambiguous words, that he doesn't accept it. he invited Warren for reasons which have nothing to do with LGBTs. he acknowledges the bad, but supports the good. he's not reducing Warren to synecdoche, as all of the supposedly-tolerant lefties have.

the left really needs to come to terms with the real Obama, and fast.

I'm going to delurk for a moment (free time is more or less nonexistent right now por moi) to echo cleek's point. Regardless of the merits of the Warren pick (both sides have a point IMHO), if this is coming as a shocking surprise to you then you weren't paying attention to what Obama had to say during the election.

On multiple issues, from diplomatic negotiations with enemies, to the dialog regarding race he proposed in his Philadelphia speech during the height of the Rev. Wright imbroglio, to his language with regard to Republicans and/or conservatives, Obama made very clear the following points (or so it seems to me):

1 - He sees fundamental changes as driven from the ground up rather than from the top down. Which means that policy choices will be more enduring and effective in the long run when coupled with and supported by cultural change at the grass roots level. Enduring political changes are built to last that way, otherwise they evaporate as soon as the political weather shifts.

2 - He is a pragmatic incrementalist when it comes to change. Baby steps add up with repetition. Do not confuse the size of the steps he seeks to take with the ultimate direction in which they are heading when accumulated over a considerable period of time.

3 - Expanding circles works better at achieving the changes sought via 1 & 2 above than drawing lines of division between people. Better to look for the finite good in people and find ways to co-opt and work with them on some issues, in support of incremental progress in some areas where we can constructively work together, than to look for the bad in them and draw up lines of battle marking the division between "us" and "them".

If you thought all that talk about unity and building bridges and talking to our enemies was just a bunch of pretty sounding campaign rhetoric, then think again. Obama was expounding the fundamental keys to his political method, right out in the open for everybody to hear. It will be a wrenching change for anybody who thinks that the you’re-either-with-us-or-against-us methods of the past decades are the only way to practice politics, but I suggest you get used to it, because there is (I predict) going to be a lot more of this in the months and years to come.

If you want to understand what Obama is doing, I respectfully suggest that the first question to ask when he is working with somebody on some issue is: what is the patch (however tiny) of common ground that can be used to get something done? What kind of deal, however small, is available? Because that is where the heart of the matter will lie, not in the differences that are unbridgeable. If you want to focus on what is wrong with the other side rather than what is right with the other side, Obama is going to drive you nuts over the next 4 years.


I think we need to empower those on the right who are open to the left.

what will the three of them accomplish for us that'd be worth the effort and political costs of courting them?

I agree with Dan Miller re how this choice sends a message about what is, or isn't, socially tolerated. What Caveman ("you take the good and you take the bad") and Publius seem to be saying is that, yeah, Warren's a homophobe, but that shouldn't be an impediment to doing business with him and even conferring an honor upon him with the invocation. I think it should be. From a practical perspective, I also think the pose of realpolitik that accompanies this is risible. As Greenwald goes into today, our liberal "leaders" have been bending, swaying, accommodating, and kissing ass for decades with this kind of symbolic reaching out, and it's yielded us nothing. So what has Obama gotten with the latest bit of post-partisan magic? A speculative pig in a poke, a children's story where the evangelicals will suddenly like us (despite real, non-negotiable differences on abortion and gay rights) because he picked one of them to give the blessing. Who's being unrealistic here? I'd say it's not the people who protest when the guy they elected sticks it to one of the party's constituencies in a very personal way without getting anything tangible in return.

byrningman: If you can break the evangelical movement from being a single-issue crew obsessed with what goes on in other people's trousers, it changes American politics profoundly for the better

It certainly would. And there are evangelical leaders moving in this direction. Rick Warren is emphatically not one of them.

Where's the common ground with Rick Warren, TLT? What is even one actual example of his concrete support for a progressive policy, even a baby step?

He's a right-wing, conservative huckster, no more genuinely Christian than his political predecessors.

If Mr. Obama truly wants to be the Common Ground President, I'd like to see him select Rick Warren and a gay pastor to give a joint invocation.

If you can break the evangelical movement from being a single-issue crew obsessed with what goes on in other people's trousers, it changes American politics profoundly for the better

and if housecats could vote, that'd change the political scene also.

an obsessive focus on other people's sexual activities is part of how the vocal evangelical movement defines itself; indeed, it's a significant part of how most of that movement's individual members define themselves. speculating about what might happen if they stopped doing that is to speculate about what would happen if they stopped being evangelical.

Where's the common ground with Rick Warren, TLT?

From the news stories I've read, it would be in the area of green issues aka environmental stewardship, but I remain open to correction on that score if I've been misinformed.

I think there's an element of shrewdness going on here (particularly when I stop to consider how they have the white homophobic guy giving the invocation and, in the wake of Prop 8, the black defender of gay rights and gay marriage giving the benediction -- there's some attempted symbolism at work, I suspect) but I'm not sure if it's working.

But I do like Rev. Lowery.

Maybe Obama is the good cop and the irate progressives are the bad cop.

Just think of that.

Brett: if the taxi system in the US was comparable to, say, the Philippines, most people wouldn't even bother to own cars.

I'd be happy to enter into a discussion about how the Philippines is, and is not, like the United States, and what part the differing taxi systems play in these comparisons. (FWIW, it's not actually the case that taxis in the Philippines are unregulated - it's just that the regulations are never enforced.)

After all, I studied, taught about, and published on the country for more than thirty years.

But I'm guessing this may not be the thread for that discussion.

Pleased as I am to see the inclusion of the Rev. Joseph Lowery, the symbolism of him at the end of the ceremony has a distinctly "back of the bus" feel.

Again, I just don't know.

In creative writing students are always told that they should load the points they want remembered at the end of a sentence/graf/etc, because that's what will stick with readers. Even in this debatee, it's peoples closing paragraphs I'm seeing quoted and reposted. Is this purposeful, is it supposed to be a "out with the old, in with the new" sort of thing?

A lot, a lot, a lot is going to depend on what Obama himself says in his speech.

(I don't approve of these pally-pally backslapping pictures of the pair of them, though.)

(I have no idea how that extra "e" got into the word "debate" up there.)

Seriously asking, though -- what kinds of speeches tend to be remembered more -- intros or exits? Could this actually work?

Mac: Your point about closing strong is well-taken. But it's just as important that one doesn't bury the lead.

My father used to tell a tale from his seminary days about one preacher's basic approach:

"First I tells them what I'm going to tell them; then I tells them; then I tells them what I done told them."

To send a strong, clear message (as opposed to invoking conflicting ideas/emotions and subtle nuance, which is what creative writing often tries to do) BOTH the start and the finish should foreshadow/echo the main theme.

In this case, I fear, the main theme may turn out to be "We don't really know who we are or where we're going."

I'd say it's not the people who protest when the guy they elected sticks it to one of the party's constituencies in a very personal way without getting anything tangible in return.

nobody has stuck anything to anybody else. a pro-forma prayer is not a rallying cry to the forces of bigotry. if people on the right want to interpret it that way, or if people on the left do, they're both missing the point.

remember when Obama was campagning and he promised to "reach across the aisle" and to get past the divisive culture war? this is what he meant.

remember when he told the Senate that he wanted Lieberman to stay? that is what he meant.

ending the divisions does not mean crushing the enemy and scattering their bones. it means working to find ways we can all benefit. he is not a partisan flag-waver. he is not going to defeat the GOP in armed combat. he is a pragmatic conciliator.

so we should all expect a lot more of this.

nobody has stuck anything to anybody else.

This is a crucial point. What Obama is trying to do is to put to rest for a while the politics of WHO-WHOM?

There is an assumption built into our thinking about politics which is so deeply ingrained that mostly we don't even see it any more, which I think Obama is laboring mightily to overturn, and is willing to expend political capital to do so. And that is the assumption that politics is a zero sum game - for every winner, there must be a corresponding loser.

Think about what the results of the last several decades of US politics have been. Is anybody happy with the results? Liberals? Conservatives? Does anybody (other than the kpleptocrats who have taken advantage of the mayhem and noise to quietly loot the place while the rest of us were distracted) feel that they came out ahead on the deal?

It sure doesn't look like it to me - seems that plenty of folks on both sides of the left-right divide are deeply unhappy with the results of our political process (just as one example, look at the http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2008/12/mirabile-dictu-fox-news-is-suing.html”>across the political spectrum dismay over the Wall St. bailouts).

But how can that be? How can both sides feel that they have lost?

Game theory has an answer to that question: The Prisoner's Dilemma game. When you rig the payoff matrix so both sides have an incentive to defect rather than cooperate, everybody loses. And that is exactly what has happened to our political system - it has descended into a nightmarish exercise in karmic payback and 3 Stooges like eye-poking, making losers of us all. And we will remain trapped in that cycle for as long as we continue to assume that it is a zero-sum game.

When Obama talked about “Change” on the campaign trail, what I heard (YMMV) him addressing was as much the process (and the assumptions which we bring to bear in determining it) as the outcomes of our political debates. And that process can be fixed if we are willing to take 2 crucial steps:

(1) extend respect to people with whom we deeply and passionately disagree, by looking for some sort of constructive common ground (however small) with which to start,

and

(2) to get the process started, you have to be willing to turn the other cheek.

In an iterated Prisoner's Dilemma which has descended into mutual defection, somebody has to start the process of cooperation by taking a chance on breaking the pattern. And that is most likely to work coming from the side which is currently stronger, because it has a larger margin of error to work with. That means the 1st olive branch comes from the winners, not the losers of the recently completed electoral cycle.

Obama is trying to get us to re-evaluate the payoff matrix in our political Prisoner’s Dilemma. We can start by understanding that is possible to honor and include one portion of our political community in a public event like the Inauguration without automatically assuming that this must therefore also be interpreted as an insult to somebody else, because the person who is included has bad views which we oppose. Inclusion and wholesale endorsement are not the same thing, unless we choose to make it so.

It seems to me that the last couple of decades worth of politics have something to teach us, which is that the politics of outrage and opposition have yielded little in the way of benefits, and that those (on both sides) who feel that this was so simply because they didn't push hard enough are deluded. Perhaps another way of doing things is worth giving a try, not because we know for certain that it will work, but because we know for certain that if we keep doing the same thing, similar outcomes are to be expected.

Now you may think that I'm simply projecting my own wishes and thoughts onto Obama as a blank canvas, but it seem to me that he said this very thing directly and in a very pointed way on multiple occasions during the campaign, see for example his post-Iowa caucus victory speech.

Ah. So the "same old thing" of accommodating, reaching out, and kissing ass of the right wing that our liberal leaders have excelled in so well over the last couple of decades won't work, so we'll double down with more impassioned and heartfelt ass-kissing? I love the part where it's those pesky gay people who are the REAL culprits in this drama because they "choose" to be offended when Obama invites a man, who hates them, to bless him. I don't believe in gratuitous eye-poking, but I also don't believe in honoring people who endorse hatred of others and then unctuously urging the rest of us to get along with one another and rise above our petty differences. I really can't imagine, though I'm trying, how angry and disrespected gay people must feel to have a liberal leader single out a guy like this for this distinction, and then have the leader's most fervent supporters essentially tell them to get over it because the leader has a secret master plan for conciliation. All I can say is that they have a right to be angry, and telling them they don't because Obama (someday, somewhere, over the rainbow) will serve the greater good makes me want to vomit.

Sometimes, the best way to make a man look like a fool is to let him talk. On that premise, I can contemplate Obama's giving Warren a platform with some equanimity.

As an out-and-out atheist, I put my "faith" in my fellow human beings. It may be a misguided faith, but it's all I've got. And my faith holds that human beings will eventually resolve the clash between simple human decency and hoary religious precepts in favor of decency. Letting "pastors" like Warren talk is a pretty good way to expose that clash.

From an atheist's point of view, a religious "invocation" is as silly a way to open a political ceremony as sacrificing a spotless ewe, or reading a chicken's entrails. Warren can "invoke" his deity -- but he might as well invoke the Great Pumpkin for all the practical difference it makes. If his presence on a prominent stage provokes greater examination of Warren's views, I say that's a good thing.

--TP

Well said, scott.

Common ground: donuts.

Maybe Obama is the good cop and the irate progressives are the bad cop.

Well duh ;-)

In an iterated Prisoner's Dilemma which has descended into mutual defection, somebody has to start the process of cooperation by taking a chance on breaking the pattern.

As a member of the "don't cut him any slack" (DCHAS) faction may I be allowed a moment of mind reading in order to riff on what That Left Turn said, and thus clarify my position?

Obama is supremely confident about his ability to negotiate and influence people. He's amazingly resistant to the endowment effect and so regards the cost of alienating potential allies as being roughly similar to the cost of alienating current allies. If you look at his actions and signals the pattern is very consistent.

Our next President may be a methodical gambler, but not surprisingly he's definitely a gambler. He's happy to ante up and stay at the table as long as he thinks he come out ahead in the long run. And thus far he always has. He's won at every single table he's sat at. So far.

Thus the good news is that he's methodical and serious and pays attention to the odds he's playing against. Coming after a guy who treated the blood and treasure of not just the US but the entire world with all the caution and reverence I used to have for my Friday night nickel-ante poker, beer and whisky tasting parties stakes, that's pretty refreshing.

The flip side of course is that humans are subject to the endowment effect for good reasons. Bird in the hand, etc. What TLT neglected to mention is that the winning strategies in a game of iterated PD are all variations on tit-for-tat. It's true that the best strategy is, as TLT points out, optimistic tit-for-tat, where you play nice first, and every so often after that, but retaliate immediately when an opponent defects. It's still tit-for-tat.

Having come out ahead at every table you've ever sat down at is, at least arguably, a very good thing. But you can never guarantee that you haven't just happened to be lucky. There's no way to know that. You can throw a dozen sevens in a row, but the chances that you'll throw another one never actually change. Likewise, there's no way for those of us in the DCHAS camp to be sure that he's not Really Just That Good. This is the whole point of Nick Taleb's "Black Swan" book, and others before it. You can't know.

However, when I try to map the payoff matrix for "real change" it looks better for the DCHAS strategy than for the "let's trust him for now" (LTHFN) strategy.

Now you may think that I'm simply projecting my own wishes and thoughts onto Obama as a blank canvas

Yes. I must confess that I do think that. But I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. When there's no good cop the system doesn't work.

ThatLeftTurninABQ:

(2) to get the process started, you have to be willing to turn the other cheek.

In an iterated Prisoner's Dilemma which has descended into mutual defection, somebody has to start the process of cooperation by taking a chance on breaking the pattern. And that is most likely to work coming from the side which is currently stronger, because it has a larger margin of error to work with. That means the 1st olive branch comes from the winners, not the losers of the recently completed electoral cycle.

TLT, you are on the very short list of commenters here (actually, of people anywhere) whose thoughts I most respect and learn from. And it's not just the content of your comments, it’s your approach, a calm thoughtfulness that, kind of ironically in the present context, is one of the qualities I also most appreciate in Obama.

I am having a hard time following along with you this time, though. Not in terms of the intellectual content, but emotionally. Unless you’re one among those of us who, Rick Warren thinks, are no better than rapists, then without rancor but out of hurt and frustration, my first response to your comments is:

Easy for you to say.

Easy for you to offer my other cheek to be turned.

Easy for you to describe me as one of the “winners” in the recently completed electoral cycle, when I’m having to wonder if I’ve just been duped again by another politician who was willing to take my vote without intending to do a damned thing to make sure that when he says “we’re not red states and blue states, we’re the United States,” he means me too.

I have had my other cheek, and in fact the first cheek, turned for a long time. Russell has said it well more than once in this thread: I'm just tired of it. I’m tired of hearing myself described as vile and evil. I’m tired of watching while close friends bring foreigners into the country to marry them, while I couldn't bring the person I loved here to be an American along with me. (This is not a made-up example, this is part of my life’s history.) So if you substitute “straight citizens and gay citizens” for “red states and blue states,” it is a little hard right now for me to have much faith that Obama means it.

Am I supposed to believe that there’s not a single dignified and respected religious leader in this country who doesn’t stand so sharply on one side of that divide that Obama is supposedly trying to heal?

I’m reminded of a story I once heard about the aftermath of one of many failed attempts in the Maine State House to get a gay rights law passed. The most visible leader of the opposition -- that era’s Maine Rick Warren, so to speak -- came up to some gay activist acquaintances of mine in a pizza joint after it was all over, clapped one of them on the shoulder, and said, “No hard feelings, guys, it’s just politics.”

Bullshit.

It’s not just politics, it’s my life. The only one I’ve got.

*****

On the other hand (there’s always another hand.....and another cheek?)......

A huge irony is that I once wrote http://www.mainespeakout.org/history.htm”>this letter. [It was put online, half-converted into an essay, without my knowledge, permission, or editing oversight. But since it’s there, I might as well point to it.]

In the mood I’m in right now, that essay feels to me like a fairy tale abstraction to put next to your intellectual abstraction of the prisoner’s dilemma.

Deep down, though, I have to admit: In the abstract, I was right then (or if I wasn’t, it’s really not worth bothering to try to change anything). In the abstract, you are right now.

In the real world, I’m not so sure.

I don’t think I’ve got a lot of choice, though, given the alternative.

JanieM`s link fixed.

If Obama repeals DOMA and abolishes DADT, those two changes will be enormous steps forward for American equality and human rights. And if he does - especially, if he repeals DOMA - the homophobic evangelicals, including I should think Rick Warren, will regard him as their enemy.

So, either Obama is stupid enough to think that inviting Rick Warren will somehow shut up the homophobic evangelicals. Or, it`s a public signal to the homophobic Christian movement that whatever he's said to LGBT Americans, the feelings of homophobic evangelicals come first and foremost with him. Wonder which is most likely?

Since you broke your link, Janie, I'll give the correct one here. You do realize you're giving your Real Name out, I hope?

Link, corrected.

Yes, Gary, I did realize it. At this point, if anyone cared to figure it out, it wouldn't have been that hard. Maine is pretty sparsely populated.

Thanks for correcting the link.

;)

Jes -- I'm not sure, and only time will tell. I may be projecting what I consider to be my better self onto Obama, as TLT suggested he too was doing, but I think Obama may actually believe that it's not either/or, and that with patience the game can be changed. So to speak.

There's an inherent paradox in the quest to make sure there's room at the table for everyone. If we are tempted to say that the only people there's not room for are the ones who say there's not room for everyone, then we're in a bind, and there seem to me to be only two ways out of it. (Granted, I know nothing about game theory.) One way is to give up and admit that there will never be a table that has room for everyone, that everyone will actually want to be at. The other way is to do the long slow patient hurtful waiting work I talked about in the essay.

I would like to think that Obama is trying to do it that way. He is, after all, an African-American who has become the President-Elect of the United States; I'm pretty sure he knows something about this.

But I could certainly be wrong. He may not be trying to do it that way. Even if he is, it may not work.

I consider the part of me that hopes he is, and hopes it will, and hopes I can have the patience to keep playing myself, as my better self. Of course, from that point of view I have my own internal conflicts to work out (for a change ;). So I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised when the outer conflicts remain stubbornly intractable too.

[Thanks to you too for fixing the link.... Gary had clues, but as far as I know you didn’t. This must be that google fu that you have mentioned now and then :) ]

I love JanieM's comment and wholeheartedly agree with it. And to me, the key part of it was the riff on the word "abstract." It's easy to speak in airy, general terms about your noble motives. Also easy to embrace "diversity" and "tolerance" and "conciliation," all the while celebrating our leader's tactical and strategic moves. And easy to promise that somehow all this unpleasant stuff will eventually sort itself out for the better. But here at ground level, with all of us running around, a very specific thing will happen: The President of the United States will receive his chosen blessing from a man who hates gay people and equates them to pederasts and animal fuckers.

How much moral imagination does it take to understand that such an act will make lots of gay people think they've been sucker punched?

That they'll believe, and maybe rightly, that the President of the US thinks it's worth sanctioning that sucker punch because he needs for political reasons/cover to suck up to people who hate them?

How much of an effort does it take to realize that gay people might be made to feel that Rick Warren matters more in this drama than they do?

That gay people are being asked to exercise tolerance for this choice and for honoring Rick Warren in this way when Rick Warren has shown them no such tolerance?

So in the abstract, perhaps Barack Obama has noble motives, and perhaps his defenders here do as well. But they're defending what amounts to a fairly shitty act of disrespect, and a painful one at that for millions of real people, in the hope of an evidence-free dream of conciliation with folks who have shown no interest in accommodation and not a shred of tolerance. I call that a crappy deal, and one that's not worth the pain it's caused a lot of people.

I wonder how much input Barack Obama received in making this decision.

I wonder how much he has considered the hurt it has caused the gay community -- or how betrayed those of us who voted for him and believe in equal rights feel.

Certainly, there are enough gay members in the Democratic Party that he could received such input -- if he wanted or felt it was important to do so.

After reading JanieM's passionate plea, it's clear at a time and at an event -- his inauguration -- that our new president should be trying to unite and uplift the country, he should rescind his invitation to a figure who is clearly divisive and polarizing and better left to explain himself on the Oprah show where one could at least turn the channel if they do not wish to hear his bigoted doctrine.

I wonder how much input Barack Obama received in making this decision.

I wonder how much he has considered the hurt it has caused the gay community -- or how betrayed those of us who voted for him and believe in equal rights feel.

Certainly, there are enough gay members in the Democratic Party that he could have received such input -- if he wanted or felt it was important to do so.

After reading JanieM's passionate plea, it's clear at a time and at an event -- his inauguration -- that our new president should be trying to unite and uplift the country, he should rescind his invitation to a figure who is clearly divisive and polarizing and better left to explain himself on such outlets as the Oprah show where one could at least turn the channel if they do not wish to hear his bigoted doctrine.

From JanieM's excellent essay:

SPEAKOUT training is based on a deep faith that if we make ourselves available to other people, even "enemies," simply as fellow human beings, the way is opened for them to respond in kind. It may take years for that kind of change to happen, and we may never see the flowering of some of the seeds we sow.

Ayuh. Only way things really change is when we reach out to our neighbors. I think one of the problems here, with all due respect to Obama, is that he doesn't actually trust populist outcomes. He's genuinely worried that his supporters need to be guided and constrained and kept in check or else they'll ruin everything.

Also, presumably, he personally just likes Rick Warren, and doesn't regard the symbolism as significant. The friends with a bigot part I can live with -- that's everybody's private decision. But the symbolism aspect is pretty problematic, because if Obama wants progress he has to persuade lots of queers to reach out and persuade lots of bigots. Other way around is pretty unlikely when you think about, no? And in order for queers to reach out they have to feel safe. Have to feel like the establishment has got their back in a general sort of way.

The Warren business makes queers feel disenfranchised, and bigots feel empowered, which is not likely to have the desired effect. It's true that queers making a big fuss about it just makes bigots feel even more empowered. But if queers and friends of queerdom don't make a fuss Obama won't get the message at all. If there's one lesson that's been internalized by queer culture it's that silence is consent.

Black folks OTOH, appear to be getting some long overdue sugar. I have no idea what Rev. Dr. Lowery is going to say, but I have to admit that I'm very much looking forward to hearing it, and despite my best efforts to be good I'm also hoping he pisses some people off :D

bedtimeforbonzo -- My gut feeling, like the rest of me, isn't a very good politician. But I suspect that whatever Obama thought he could gain by doing this, he could have gained in some other way that wouldn't have lost him so much, or hurt so many people. Now that it's done, however, I think it would make an unfortunate situation disastrously worse to rescind the invitation.

radish --

And in order for queers to reach out they have to feel safe.

Yes. (That goes for anyone, actually.)

Have to feel like the establishment has got their back in a general sort of way.

No.

At least, the hard work is done by people who bring their own safety, or are brave enough to try to do without it.

If "the establishment" provided the safety, the work wouldn't be needed, or at least not in the same way.

So, either Obama is stupid enough to think that inviting Rick Warren will somehow shut up the homophobic evangelicals. Or, it`s a public signal to the homophobic Christian movement that whatever he's said to LGBT Americans, the feelings of homophobic evangelicals come first and foremost with him.

no. it's neither. he's not trying to "shut up" anyone. and he's not trying to send signals. he is not playing the game you think he is.


If Obama repeals DOMA and abolishes DADT, those two changes will be enormous steps forward for American equality and human rights.

Jes,

I'm going to wager what little credibility if any I have as a forecaster and political analyst and say that I think both of these things will happen within the next 3 years. That is a hard prediction. If we get to Dec 2011 and either one is still standing, you have permission to throw shoes at me and I promise not to duck them (you can throw shoes now, but I reserve the right to dodge 'em).

JanieM,

Thank you for your very kind and thoughtful responses (and BTW I greatly value your comments, from which I learn a great deal).

Just to clarify, I'm not advocating that you and others should remain silent and just take Warren's appearance laying down, or to urge patience when you have a life to live. You have every right to be PO'd about this.

My Panglossian interpretation of this run of events is that both you and Obama are doing the right thing, in his case by acting to extend an olive branch to some evangelicals on behalf of the establishment by way of Warren, and you by pushing on the Overton window. My comments earlier were offered in the hope that by shedding some light on what (I think) are the political dynamics at work here, some comfort can be taken in seeing a path forward here, that some good may come of this in the long run.

I think the key here is that evangelicals, like any other group, are not a monolith, and there are varying degrees of homophobia with which to contend, amongst both them and other groups (Catholics are not immune for example), and also varying degrees of hostility and effective opposition. Hearts and minds are won one at a time, not en-bloc. And lowering the rhetorical temperature helps that process, because it gives us a better chance of appealing to individuals at that level rather than having them perceive themselves as members of a threatened group first and as individuals second. Circling their wagons is what the haters want to do, because it increases their hold over their followers.

Contrary to how it feels from your end, many evangelicals see themselves as being on the defensive on these issues, or so they say in the conversations which I've had with some of them. Their perception of the culture wars is very different from yours - because rather than perceiving the power which they hold and wield over others, they see a society which is slowly changing (and sometimes not so slowly) in ways which reject their values. From their point of view, you are winning the culture war and they are fighting a rearguard action, and a failing one at that. This means that their opposition stems from fear - fear of change, fear of the unknown, and obviously fear of people different from them. And that fear is what drives their hostility and opposition. Defuse some of that fear, and you have a chance to weaken the hostility and opposition. It won't go away, but if enough of the edge can be taken off that we can get things like DADT and DOMA repealed, and Prop 8 reversed in CA, then surely that will be for the better.

And in that context it seems to me that what Obama has done, which is to clearly state his position on these issues while at the same time indicating his willingness to tolerate others who differ quite strongly with him, and to do so symbolically and publically, is the best way to work on defusing that fear without giving up substantive ground from a policy standpoint. That seems like a good trade to me, or in other words: what poorman said.

Contrary to how it feels from your end, many evangelicals see themselves as being on the defensive on these issues, or so they say in the conversations which I've had with some of them.

So do white supremacists see themselves as being on the defensive. And for them, the prospect of President Obama is even worse, isn`t it?

Why then not `extend an olive branch` and invite a white preacher who hates black people to do the Invocation?

Do you think that would be a good trade? A black President and a racist Invocation?

Defuse some of that fear, and you have a chance to weaken the hostility and opposition.

You're right, of course. But the way to defuse the fear is not to give the fearmongers like Rick Warren Presidential approval.

The most effective way to defuse the fear that some people have that gay marriage is going to make the skies fall is, quite simply, for Obama to do all he can to make civil marriage legal throughout the US for same-sex couples. Because the skies will not fall, civilisation will not collapse, and loads of people who thought same-sex marriage was something strange and terrible will see that it's not.

Same goes for DADT. And for laws against homophobic hate crime. Ignore Rick Warren and his ilk, pass the laws, end the fear.

Give Rick Warren a voice and Presidential favor, and watch the fear rise. Fear and hate is what the Warrens of the world trade in.

TLTinABQ -- yes to most of it, or really to all of it, except not all the way to its applicability to Obama's invitation to Warren.

Your "I think the key here" paragraph is crucial to remember and easy to forget. (That old us/them thing.) Pretty much the same goes for your "Contrary to how it feels from your end" paragraph, as far as it goes.

I just don't quite see how it goes far enough to justify Rick Warren at the inauguration. It seems to me that there would have been, and hopefully there still are, many other ways to act on the truth of what you say, without the slap in the face that this feels like to so many people, especially given Prop 8 and Warren's role in relation to that.

Jes's question, Why then not `extend an olive branch` and invite a white preacher who hates black people to do the Invocation?, is apt. No public figure who has said equivalent things about African-Americans to what Warren has said about gays would be offered this kind of prominence and platform, even if the president-elect weren't African-American. It's just unthinkable.

And I guess I don't see why any of your analysis -- as much as I agree with it at some level -- makes it any less unthinkable.

Logic got a little tangled up with syntax there at the end.

The point -- which I suppose was more or less clear regardless -- was that I don't see how your (TLT's) analysis makes giving Warren the role any more "thinkable" than giving the role to a correspondingly nasty racist would be.

To poorman's (and your) point, the symbolism works both ways. It's quite a gamble to hope the downside of this particular symbol doesn't swamp the upside.

That seems like a good trade to me, or in other words: what poorman said.

foxtrotsky's response from that thread:

Um, no. Giving something to a Republican in exchange for the possibility of getting something in return is a trade you don't make, ever.

I happen to disagree with the "ever" part, but this goes back to the game-theoretic analysis. If we assume that Obama's strategy is both rational and correct, and that Warren "defected" in the last round, then one of the following things must also be true:

1) Obama has information about Rick Warren which is not known to all players. Meaning Obama has some reason to believe that Warren will not defect this/next round as well.

2) Obama's payoff matrix is different than what we have been assuming it is. Meaning that Obama's cost for a Warren defection in the next round is zero or less, for whatever reason.

There's no way around this. The best defense available, in game theory terms, is #1. And the reason not everybody finds it satisfactory is that (again!) it boils down to "trust him, he knows what he's doing."

There's nothing wrong with saying that. Please just keep in mind that it's a claim that cannot be confirmed or falsified until it's too late, and that the other people for whom the real payoff could be quite negative are jittery for good reasons.

N.B. You could of course dispute that Warren's support for prop 8 constitutes a "defection", or that Obama is being rational about it, but then there's really no point talking about it. I suppose you could also argue that this is the first round of the game, and dispute any path dependence at all, but I assume it's clear why this is not applicable in practice.

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