This post title comes from a great routine by the late comedian Bill Hicks, whom I wrote about for NRO a couple years back here.
The Spectacle Blog
I will be on Hannity and Colmes tonight around 9:30 (eastern) discussing Jack Murtha's willingness to make a deal with undercover FBI agents offering bribes.
I thought I might put you off disputing the religious reason question and I apologize for any offense given. Nevertheless, it is a red herring.
In working toward refutation of my argument, you note that Dobson said God wanted him to intervene on Toomey's behalf. That's not the same thing as supporting a specific policy position by adverting to scripture or personal revelation from the Almighty. It's one thing if Dobson says, God wants me to oppose abortion. It's another if Dobson says, "God doesn't want you to allow legalized abortion" and leaves it at that. The latter instance would be what I think you were talking about earlier when you said he failed to offer public reasons in favor of restricting abortion.
Point taken on Dobson, Shawn, and I never presumed you were one of the pundits who wrote from assumptions rather than real reporting. You're too good for that.
You raise the crux of the argument when you wonder whether Dobson's rhetoric contributes to stasis rather than moving the issue ahead. The time frame 97-98 is significant here. I wrote a column called "My Christian Radio Can Beat Up Your New York Times" at about that time, and pointed out that I could listen to a whole day of Christian radio and hear nothing about politics. At about that time, on the issue of abortion, that began to change in 97-98, with Dobson and D. James Kennedy leading the way.
Why did they do that? Kennedy is plainly conscience-stricken and feels that he has to speak out against mass murder. Dobson plainly stated that he was fed up with the Republicans in power doing nothing about abortion, and threatened to leave the party and "take a lot of people with me." Made the cover of Time Magazine, he did.
Hunter, I think we're at a standstill here, as far as making any actual headway on this argument, since clearly you have a respect for this man that I don't share, which I fully appreciate. One thing I'm afraid I can't let go, however, is this bit about the "canard" I am "decieving" myself with vis a vis religious overtones of Dobson's rhetorical approach, which seems to suggest I am either being doubly deceptive or doubly stupid. When I saw Dobson endorse Toomey in Amish country two years ago he said he normally didn't get involved in these sort of things but that God specifically encouraged him to intervene. In the Pennsylvania Republican primary. Must have been a slow day in the rest of the kingdom. The remainder of Dobson's talk reinforced this. And, like I said, I've actually listened to his radio show. I am familiar with the schtick. Better than Falwell? Yeah, sure. High bar.
Shawn, as I said before, I think it's easy to understand why a libertarian type wouldn't like Dobson, just as a matter of ideological temperament, but I don't think you should deceive yourself with the old "he uses religious reasons" canard. (This whole line of argument is squarely within the subject matter of my dissertation in progress, but I won't bore the crowd with that!)
The left loves to protest that Christians in politics are ever-guilty of invoking revelation to make their policy points. The problem with the claim is that it is rarely true. If you listen to Dobson talk about abortion you hear a lot of the ugliness of the procedure, the development of the fetus/unborn child, the emotional cost, the philosophical deception, etc.
What you don't really hear is much scripture being quoted. Heck, guys like Stephen Carter protest that the Christian right has gotten too good at the public reason game and that they have gotten away from a more religious way of thinking. Per Carter, the trouble with Christian right-wingers is that they are sometimes too Republican and not enough Revelation!
In my defense, I'm not one of those commentators who hasn't bothered to find anything out about Dobson. I've sat through no fewer than three events where he was the main speaker and have listened to his radio show several times. I appreciate the urge to speak out on matters of conscience, but I don't find anything in Dobson's poise or his grating rhetorical approach to abortion that would find fertile ground anywhere outside of the born again camp...which is to say, the people who don't really need convincing. The only thing that's going to move that ball down the court (not Supreme), in my opinion, is for someone to make an argument that does not rely on religion but individual rights.
So from my perspective, I find Dobson's work not only too narrow in scope but also actively contributing to stasis where he presumably wants to see movement. On other issues--especially those regarding gays and lesbians--I honestly feel he crosses the line into the distasteful quite regularity and with a spirit that is not of a positive nature to say the least.
Shawn, I have to ring in on Hunter's side here. In the first Internet column I ever published, I wrote:
Most commentators who attack Dr. Dobson don't have any idea who he is, and mostly they don't bother to find out.
Dobson, according to the pundits, is a fire-breathing ideologue kind of like Jimmy Swaggert. Dobson, to his listeners, is the genial, kindly, soft-spoken host ("psychologist and author," as he's always introduced) of a highly professional radio variety program, by turns funny, touching, sentimental, and inspiring. Dobson has achieved a rapport with his huge audience best compared to the status of such radio icons as Arthur Godfrey, Art Linkletter, and Garrison Keillor.