The Spectacle Blog

RE: Dobson

By on 9.30.06 | 11:57PM

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.

More Dobson

By on 9.30.06 | 10:02PM

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!


By on 9.30.06 | 6:28PM

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.

On Dobson vs. Armey

By on 9.30.06 | 7:33AM

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.

Dobson v. Armey

By on 9.29.06 | 10:00PM


I have a tendency to react to criticism of Dobson the way an African-American of a certain age might react to somebody going after Malcolm X. For those of us who grew up in the age of low rent televangelism, Dobson was a revelation (no pun intended). He was extremely articulate, compassionate, and yes, righteously indignant.

Instead of being yet another preacher, he was a superbly well-educated man who gave up a very nice academic existence to risk his career on this grass-roots radio ministry idea centered around traditional values and the Gospel. It took a long time for him to become a punching bag of the left because he addressed politics only peripherally during most of his public life.

Some Timing

By on 9.29.06 | 9:52PM

In addition to my article, today's other Murtha news is that he announced he is now publicly campaigning for the House majority leader spot (if the Dems take the House).

That is bold.

RE: Dobson Vs. Armey

By on 9.29.06 | 7:22PM

Oh, no doubt Dobson is more important than Armey...I just wish he weren't. The divide between someone who is "useful to civilization," as I called Armey, and someone who is important in America sometimes these days is about as wide a gulf as my little brain--no prestigious academic am I--can imagine. Having adopted a philosophical outlook that resents busybodies meddling in my life, I certainly wish Armey were more important than Dobson. Hillary Clinton is important, too, after all.

So we disagree! But I still think your posts here are brilliant, Mr. Hunter!

Re: Murtha and Wolf

By on 9.29.06 | 6:59PM

Not surprisingly, Murtha blatantly contradicted himself in his CNN appearance with Wolf Blitzer. As Dave points out, first Murtha said he didn't know money was being offered. Then he said, "they offered me the money, I said no." Did Wolf Blitzer call Murtha out on his explicit contradiction and likely fib? Of course not. Blitzer continued lobbing gentle questions with carefulness one would expect from an aging soft-ball coach.

Blitzer quickly went on to change the subject from Murtha's involvement in Abscam to the subject of why someone would bring this up at all. He then allowed Murtha to go on and criticize President Bush's handling of the Iraq War and comment on Bob Woodward's new book -- a story that dominated Blitzer's broadcast for the previous 45 minutes before the Murtha segment.

Dobson v. Armey

By on 9.29.06 | 6:18PM

Shawn, perhaps unsurprisingly, I don't agree that Armey is massively more important than Dobson.

One thing people don't understand about the "Religious Right" is that guys like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell are not as important as James Dobson and Chuck Colson. The latter two have formed an axis of respectability for conservative Christians for decades.

Dobson takes a lot of fire now because he's been more outspoken since the late 1990's and has been determined not to let the GOP take cultural conservatives for granted. I think that's a worthwhile function. Armey certainly didn't keep them from going spend-crazy. Maybe Dobson can keep them pro-life.

Between Dobson and Armey, Dobson may actually have been the more prestigious academic. Back before he went full-time for Focus on the Family, Dobson was on the faculty of the University of Southern California med school (as a children's psychologist). Dick Armey was with the University of North Texas.

Murtha and Wolf

By on 9.29.06 | 6:11PM

Same old stories from Jack Murtha today on CNN's Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer about the "alleged" FBI surveillance tape from the "conservative publication" The American Spectator.

At first he said, "I had no idea they were offering me money." But he later acknowledged the agents put $50,000 in front of him.

He still says he was "only interested in investment in my district." CNN chose a rather innocuous quote about Murtha's influence from the transcript. But let's go to the tape: