Barack Obama's dismissive remark about embittered Americans clinging to their God and guns sounded like a good description of congregants in his own church: the Malcolm-X-style black separatists who were doing cartweels as Jeremiah Wright inveighed against America. The same media that yawned at those YouTube videos find Sarah Palin's talk at her church riveting and revealing of extremism.
The YouTube clips of it look positively innocuous next to the rantings of Wright, or for that matter the open radicalism of Obama. Even Palin's comment about American soldiers doing the will of God is hardly over-the-top. What should she have said? That in the struggle between American soldiers and terrorist insurgents God is neutral?
Palin's comment seemed at the very least like a bit of harmless spiritual uplift, but to the cultural elite any evidence of religion, provided it is coming from the right not the left, foreshadows theocracy.
CNN's Campbell Brown on Monday night knitted her brows over on-the-ground reports from Anchorage that Palin has been known to pray from time to time. She is a "bible-believing" Christian, announced CNN's correspondent. Will CNN henceforth describe Obama as a bible-disbelieving Christian?
The report was billed as a look at Palin's religious views, but the reporter didn't know enough about them to say much. Also disappointing to CNN is that Palin hasn't pursued much of a socially conservative agenda as governor of Alaska. So it was reduced to unconvincing speculation about what she might do at some later point.
MEANWHILE, bumptious Romulus and Remus over at MSNBC -- Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann -- continued to deride Palin's Middle America views on Monday. Matthews remains very troubled by her alleged insufficient regard for the claims of modern science -- a criticism I've yet to hear him level at Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden, despite the enduring respect for 5th-century and 13th-century embryology they displayed during Meet the Press appearances. Pelosi finds St. Augustine's scientific speculation still relevant, while Biden recalls for consideration St. Thomas Aquinas's speculation about fetal "quickening."
Olbermann, conferring with Rachel Maddow, smugly chuckled at Palin's notion of God taking an interest in human affairs. Doesn't he have better things to do? Olbermann asked a nodding Maddow.
Given this glib level of public discourse, it is not surprising that Obama thought it appropriate to use "that's above my pay grade" to fend off Rick Warren's question about the beginning of human life at the Saddleback Forum. Amongst Obama's fans, like Olbermann, that's an applause line.
The Democrats' newfound respect for religion, post-John Kerry's defeat, is dissipating amidst their anger at Palin. The frothing seems reminiscent of their attacks on Reagan and his alleged views about the "Apocalypse." (CNN found somebody in Palin's church who thinks Alaska may serve as a refuge during the "last days.")
The Democrats are very excited to discover that Palin, like Reagan, opposes abortion in all cases. According to Obama's campaign, Palin is too extreme for America. But what would make her safely mainstream? Appearing on the Ellen DeGeneres show like Michelle Obama? As Obama's wife danced with Ellen DeGeneres, Obama aides were busy attacking Palin for holding reactionary views. On MSNBC, Michelle Obama's chief of staff declared that women won't vote for a candidate who categorically opposes abortion.
Somehow many Democrats and independents, including some women, managed to vote for Reagan, and he held that view. That Palin thinks all unborn children possess a right to life, regardless of the circumstances around their birth, isn't as off-putting as the Obama campaign seems to believe and explains her most powerful pro-life credential: giving birth to a child with Down syndrome.
She thinks all unborn children deserve protection; he thinks none of them do. Do Americans consider the latter position less extreme?
IN OBAMA, A STRANGE TENSION exists as he can't decide whether to mock Palin or imitate her. Still anxious about Americans' unease over his elitism and radicalism, he recently let it be known that he once considered military service; still anxious about questions into his religion, he hastily corrected a slip of the tongue about his "Muslim faith." He calls Palin a "moose hunter," but also wants everyone to know that he is fervent believer in the Second Amendment. Perhaps now that Obama -- who earlier in the campaign got into trouble for calling a female reporter "sweetie" -- is describing the McCain-Palin campaign as an attempt to put "lipstick on a pig," which is seen as an oblique reference to her joke about hockey moms and pit bulls at the convention, he can sell his perceived sexism as a conservative credential.
Palin's line at the convention last week about Obama saying one thing in Scranton and another in San Francisco still stings. So while his friends in the media mock her for once attending a church where people "speak in tongues," he, too, is clinging to God and guns as he uses forked-tongue rhetoric to try and put the fears of ordinary Americans to rest.