Yesterday President Obama tried to boost his religious credentials with religious groups. While he was aiming for a theocratic-style impression, I think, he came across as a bumbling, lying demagogue.
From yesterday’s blogtalkradio address sponsored by 30 religious groups:
I know there’s been a lot of misinformation in this debate. And there are some folks out there who are, frankly, bearing false witness.
This was said without any hint of sarcasm. My guess is that the phrase “bearing false witness” is not part of Obama’s everyday vocabulary.
You’ve heard that this is all going to mean government funding of abortion. Not true.
These are all fabrications that have been put out there in order to discourage people from meeting what I consider to be a core ethical and moral obligation. And that is that we look out for one another. That I am my brother’s keeper and my sister’s keeper. And in the wealthiest nation on earth right now, we are neglecting to live up to that call.
The first line is an out-and-out lie. Unless Obama is right here commiting to vetoing health care reform legislation unless a Hyde Amendment-sytle provision prohibiting funding for abortions is added, it’s very black-and-white. The AP headline: “Gov’t insurance would allow coverage for abortion.”
(Note that in the second paragraph he imputes the worst possible motives to his opponents — they’re trying to prevent people from fulfilling a core moral obligation.)
There are a few problems with his reference to the account of Cain and Abel. On a literal level, his gender-inclusive use of the phrase “brother’s keeper” (i.e. he says “sister’s keeper” too) is nonsensical. The biblical reference is not to some abstract commandment or ideal, but to a specific story, in which Cain kills his brother Abel, covers up his actions, and later pleads ignorance of his brother’s whereabouts to God, asking rhetorically, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” There are no sisters in this story.
On another level it’s ridiculous for Obama to use this phrase as a justification for government intervention. There’s a lot in the Bible about feeding the poor and clothing the naked, etc., but not a lot about getting the federal government to provide entitlements. It’s a bit rich for him to say “we are neglecting to live up to that call” on the basis of our aversion to coercive and probably harmful governmental policies when in fact we are the most generous nation on earth.
That’s what you can do again today to help us achieve quality, affordable health care for every American so that you don’t have families out there who are worrying about going bankrupt because a child gets sick. So that you don’t have people who are desperate about a situation where they lose their job and suddenly can’t find health insurance again.
That’s not the way that our religious faith instructs us.
Does Obama really think that people of faith really believe that all religions and denominations have some sort of encompassing, one-size-fits-all “religious faith” that instructs us all? I don’t think that Catholics and Unitarians or Muslims and Congregationalists or Seventh-Day Adventists and Jews really think that they have a common religious faith that instructs them alike. What a weird comment. It’s the kind of oddly out of touch remark that, to me at least, betrays a deeper failure to comprehend even broad religious differences.
And from his conference call with rabbis from across the country:
In a morning conference call with about 1000 rabbis from across the nation, Obama asked for aid: “I am going to need your help in accomplishing necessary reform,” the President told the group, according to Rabbi Jack Moline, who tweeted his way through the phoner.
“We are God’s partners in matters of life and death,” Obama went on to say, according to Moline’s real-time stream.
And again, note that Obama thinks he can win the rabbis to his cause with the breeziest of vaguely religious sentiments — “God’s partners.” If their interests overlap, it’s understandable that Obama would think they would want to work together. But why would he think it was necessary to try to persuade them he was one of them?
Tevi Troy explains that the phrase Obama used is from a Jewish prayer that is apparently not appropriate for the subject. Furthermore, Obama also opened the call with a Jewish greeting used for Rosh Hashana, which is a month away.
Also, in past episodes of Obama’s awkward attempts at playing the theocrat, we’ve seen him confusedly invoke the Sermon on the Mount while speaking on the economy and on gay unions, and also use the name of Jesus even more than his evil theocon predecessor George W. Bush.