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    December 18, 2008

    Obama's unity call falls on P.C. ears

    Posted by: Chris

    Obamawarrent It hasn't taken the gays long to find fault in the still-transiting Obama administration. You can almost guess from the level of fury that what's at stake isn't something real, like a retreat on policy or foot-dragging on a campaign promise. That's because content- and consequence-free is exactly how the politically correct crowd likes their controversies.

    Barack Obama's offense was to select Rick Warren, a conservative evangelical who opposes gay marriage, to deliver the invocation at his inauguration. Never mind, for the moment, that Obama also opposes marriage equality, as did Hillary Clinton and every other viable presidential candidate.

    Warren also spoke out in favor of Proposition 8, but never mind that support for a constitutional amendment overturning a historic gay marriage ruling puts Warren in smack dab the same spot as presidential candidate John Kerry, who nonetheless received heaped praise from the Human Rights Campaign and other gay rights groups. And never mind that Warren was selected to deliver a prayer, not a political speech, and will no doubt say nothing at all relating to gays or marriage -- come to think of it, that kind of avoidance would have practically qualified Warren for a "strategery" role in the No on 8 campaign.

    Never mind all of those things because they do not matters as much as ideological purity, as defined by those who somehow think of themselves as "progressive" despite their own naked intolerance. We must demand exclusion in the name of "unity"!  Isn't that ironic, doncha think?

    A number of critics trace Obama's supposed betrayal to this transition-team promise:

    "The Presidential Inaugural Committee, at the direction of President-elect Obama...will organize an inclusive and accessible inauguration that...unites the nation around our shared values and ideals."

    "Shared values and ideals?" huffs Leah McElrath Renna on HuffPo ("Rick Warren, Obama? Really?"). How dare Obama when we don't share Rick Warren's views on gay marriage!

    Shared values and ideals, Leah. Do please try to focus, honey. You successfully honed in one of those un-shared values. Try to remember that the whole idea behind unity is finding areas of agreement, not disagreement, and focusing on common ground to bring us together as a nation.

    Can you imagine what sort of "unity" party that HuffPo and the "progressive" left would have Obama throw? One in which only other progressives are invited, thereby completely missing the point. Yes, election night was magical, and as a long-time Obama supporter I too was moved and inspired. But recreating Grant Park (or the Denver acceptance speech) will not unify the country.

    This twisted idea of unifying only among the like-minded reminds me of the joke about St. Peter giving a tour of Heaven. "Keep quiet as we pass this next doorway," he tells the new arrivals. "This is where we keep the fundamentalists, and they think they're the only ones here." I hate to break it to you P.C. stormtroopers, but your Obama-America Paradise includes more than gays and gay-friendlies.

    Another predictably knee-jerk response was Queerty shrieking headline -- "Barack Obama's 'new pastor' is a slap in the face to the gay community":

    Barack Obama's decision to allow a direct enemy of gays and lesbians to officiate at his inauguration isn't just alarming, it's outrageous and indefensible. We call on President-Elect Barack Obama to rescind his offer to Rev. Warren immediately.

    I'm sure Obama is quaking in his boots, Queerty. So I best step up to your challenge. I am hereby defending what you call "indefensible" (and "alarming" and "outrageous," those rhetorical handmaidens to lazy left outrage). And I will do so as someone who has closely watched, cared about, cried over and covered the gay rights movement since you were in diapers -- and as someone whose life and livelihood depend far more than yours on Obama living up to his LGBT campaign promises.

    Keep your eyes on the prize, boys. Obama's campaign to unify the country -- which last I checked includes millions of Warren's fellow travelers -- is in the service of an administration whose stated policy positions are the most supportive ever on LGBT civil rights. Winning over support for a pro-gay president from anti-gay leaders isn't just defensible, it's downright brilliant.

    Ahh but the shiny bauble of a controversy will always distract the ideological purists among us, who are spoiling for a fight more than they are fighting for a cause. Still, how disappointing and sad that it is the gays who are first to break ranks and declare some other (much larger group) as untouchable. It's the kind of exclusionary politics we should expect from our enemies, not from ourselves.

    (Photo of Barack Obama and Rick Warren via L.A. Times)



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    1. Andoni on Dec 18, 2008 8:07:16 AM:

      I agree with you 100%, Chris.

      In fact I was thinking of posting something along the same lines this morning about the Warren invite and the reaction from our side, but you beat me.

      Besides the unity argument you make, here's a couple more. I bet that when the time comes to tackle some progressive AIDS legislation (you know the promises Obama made to us and are on change.gov under Agenda, then Civil Rights), that he calls on Rick Warren to endorse that legislation. That would be powerful, my friends.....and unbeatable. That alone will be worth the price him making the invocation.

      Don't think Obama isn't ahead of us at least two steps on this. What I've learned watching him over the past two years is that he knows what he is doing and is always thinking ahead.

      Also, I wouldn't fall over dead if he cultivated Warren and got him to endorse some gay rights legislation (not marriage of course, but there are other things that Warren has said he supports in the way of general equal rights for gays).

      Let's not be high school children here --- you know, insisting that our friends cannot be friends with people we don't like. That's not looking at the big picture and that immature conduct doesn't get us anywhere.

    1. Kevin on Dec 18, 2008 8:53:16 AM:

      Chris -- I think you're right to a large extent, except you missed one important element.

      This "controversy" gives the Human Rights Campaign and other currently useless organizations something to yell about. It gives them cover for the deeper, more disturbing problem of having absolutely no action plan, no strategy and no leverage to achieve any of the legislative gains that were promised (and are slowing being back-burnered or left to wither):

      - Repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell
      - Repeal the Defense of Marriage Act
      - Federal recognition of same-sex unions (even as pathetic as hospital visitation)
      - ENDA, hate crimes, etc and so forth

      If they can rant and rave about a prayer at a symbolic event with the same gusto as they can call the inclusion of a gay and lesbian marching band in the parade some kind of historic triumph, then the air will be filled with cupcake nonsense and nothing substantial.

      And they bet that no one will hold them accountable for the substance, because they bet that all we care about is the nonsense.

    1. Tim on Dec 18, 2008 9:56:29 AM:

      Yeah I agree with Kevin, it's a naked ploy by Solomonese to pretend to be an opposition voice to Prop 8, when in truth they barely raised it as an issue. Gays have better things to protest.

    1. mademark on Dec 18, 2008 10:25:10 AM:

      Chris, I have to take exception to this post. I’m much closer to conservative than to some gay-left liberal orthodoxy, but I am offended at the Warren choice. It was during the Saddleback faux-debate that I first shouted at the television in derision when Obama signaled to millions of viewers that he opposes marriage equality and, for a nice bit of robocall usage, ‘God’s in the mix.’ (If that wasn’t providing cover to the supporters of the CA and FL amendments, I don’t know what was.)

      Had Rick Warren thrown his support behind an amendment harming any other minority group in this country, he would not be giving this invocation. I’m not offended because I’m P.C. I’m offended because I wonder how many times this President (elect) is going to turn a deaf ear to gay people and hide behind some ‘inclusiveness’ bullshit. Having a gay marching band in the inaugural parade (can we all say ‘minstrel’?) is not the same as winking to millions of born-agains that they’ve got a place of pride in the Big Tent while we get to twirl batons.

      Obama’s mediocrity is showing. I hope for a successful presidency because I care for my country, but I do not expect greatness. And gay people should get used to living under the bus. As a middle-aged, middles class, moderate gay man, I can be offended at the Warren choice, too. It’s not a matter of wanting to exclude evangelicals, but of asking how many times I can be slapped in the face before slapping back.

      I hope my perspective can at least be understood.

    1. Kris on Dec 18, 2008 10:27:39 AM:

      Hello!!! Obama is against gay marriage, so Rev. Rick Warren is the perfect choice for his invocation. You Obama supporters have selective hearing, he has repeatedly said that he believes marriage should only be between a man and a woman, so I don't understand the big uproar. Hey HRC...Stay focused on the issues he does support.

    1. mademark on Dec 18, 2008 10:54:39 AM:

      Actually I was a Clinton supporter. She lost the nomination and McCain was not an acceptable alternative. I've believed for some time we will get very little from an Obama aministration, and nothing with any real political cost. I can be unsuprised by the Warren selection and still be offended by it. I responded because I don't believe everyone who finds the Warren pick distasteful is from the far gay left, that's all, and I've believed for quite some time that gay illusions about Obama will slowly evaporate with diminished returns. I know he doesn't support marriage equality - which makes him, to my mind, intelletually dishonest. Anyway, I won't be watching or attending the inauguration, so ultimately I don't care, but Warren's a hack and Obama is a politician first, last and always.

    1. Hawyer on Dec 18, 2008 11:03:41 AM:

      Chris buddy - you're dead wrong on this one. In your contorted attempt to deep-tongue the fundies on the alter of inclusiveness, you've successfully pulled your head through your ass.

      Now hear this: Having been washed in the swill of Christianists since childhood, I am qualified to tell you a thing are two about them. Foremost, they are unalterable when it comes to their dogma. Don't think for a minute that Obama will have a scintilla of impact on Rev. Warren's heart. He is an implacable bogot whom Obama has chosen to deliver the spiritual message.

      Now just imagine for a moment if Obama had chosen the Rev. Jeremiah Wright to deliver the invocation. Can you imagine the caterwauling from the religious right,

      Polarization is only addressed through centrism - and I am frankly gobsmacked at Obama's spectacular lack of judgment in this call. Makes me want to drop out and get in a fetal position.

      But I'll give you righties one thing: Obama made it perfectly clear about us homos - we don't have the human qualities for him to support full equality.

    1. Strict Scrutiny on Dec 18, 2008 11:12:24 AM:

      I'm joining with Mademark on this one.

      While I agree that all this outrage may be too much, I am still very disappointed with this choice and I don't think it should go totally unnoticed.

      If Obama wanted to find someone of "shared values," I've no doubt he could have found a person of deep religious conviction and moral authority, but who was also more GLBT supportive. But then, that wouldn't have been such a huge PR coup.

      Also, by mocking the Queerty post (i.e. I'm sure he's quaking...), you have nicely highlighted one of Kevin's longstanding gripes -- that the GLBT movement has little or no leverage over Barack Obama or the Democratic Party. You are exactly right -- I'm sure Obama doesn't give a rat's ass that picking Warren is offensive to GLBT community. Seriously, Chris ... should we all be at home clapping and cheering because he didn't pick Mike Huckabee to do the invocation?

    1. Pender on Dec 18, 2008 11:20:38 AM:

      Rick Warren equated gay relationships with pedophilia in a televised interview.

      Please try to tell me with a straight face that, e.g., Jewish people should not be offended if Obama selected someone who had equated THEIR relationships with pedophilia to give the convocation at the inauguration of a Democratic President.

      This entire struggle is primarily about acceptance. Moving the boundaries of civilized discourse to make it clear that this kind of anti-gay rhetoric is NOT TOLERATED would be much better for most of us than passing ENDA or a hate crimes act. That is what HRC et al are fighting for on this issue, and they're right to do so. Believe me, I am no fan of HRC or the other impotent activist organizations that lost Prop 8 for us, but on this score they are doing the right thing.

    1. Chris on Dec 18, 2008 12:23:09 PM:

      mademark: You'll get no argument from me that inclusion of the gay band inclusion was symbolic and not meaningful. Kevin is absolutely right about that one, and I plan to post on it later. But dismissing inclusiveness as "bullshit" shows you are willfully missing the political point here, even if you don't buy into it as a genuine call for unity (which I do).

      Hawyer: Oh please. I'll put my "exposed to Christianists" experience up against yours any ol' day of the week buddy. I was raised in it, grew up it, and only escaped from it well into my 20s. But I don't hate it, or throw the baby out with the bath water. I never expected Obama to impact Rick Warren directly, but I think Andoni is absolutely right that he'll get much more support from Warren and his peeps on AIDS, the environment etc -- common ground and shared values, people -- than he would by excluding him and all others who disagree with us on gay marriage (which, btw, so does Obama and Hillary and everyone else who ran for president and had a snowball's chance in hades).

      Pender: Sorry but I don't buy it. You don't equate things by using a slippery slope argument, you claim that by allowing x, it will inevitably lead to y. For slippery slope to make any sense, y has to be at the end of a parade of horribles. If you raise taxes, it will slow the economy, put people out of work, throw us into a recession and require socialist bailouts to get us back on track. Is that "equating" raising taxes with socialism? No.

      Take a deep breath, people. Not only do we sound like intolerant, we are damaging relationships that we need going forward. Why not save our "outrage" for a real policy dispute or, more likely, the interminable delay before Obama and the Dems actually enact meaningful gay rights legislation.

    1. Randy on Dec 18, 2008 1:25:18 PM:

      This post is why I read your blog. I posted a shorter response critical of those on my side of the spectrum (conservative Christians) who are getting bent out of shape about it as well.

      Obama's policies, almost across the board, scare the heck out of me. And when I say scare , I mean scare. Even so, it sent a very *good* signal that he would include Pastor Warren in this manner. I may be showing my "patriotism through disagreement" over the next four years but it doesn't mean I don't want God to bless Obama and our country. Why wouldn't I want a great Pastor to pray a blessing over our soon to be President?

      It is my hope that the screaming neenies (and not everyone who is upset is one) on both sides are indicative that the culture war is coming to an end or at least changing for the better. We shall see.

    1. Pender on Dec 18, 2008 1:25:58 PM:

      No, Chris, he didn't say that legalizing gay marriage would LEAD TO pedophilia, he said he opposed gay marriage JUST LIKE he opposed pedophilia, incest, and polygamy. The reporter clarified: "Do you think those are equivalent to gays getting married?" Warren: "I DO." These are exact quotes.

      Here, have a link. The relevant portion is right at the beginning: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cdeub37MGBc

      The man is not a moderate as much as he wants to be perceived as one. He has literally said on TV that gay marriage is "equivalent to" an "older man marrying a child." How can you defend this selection? Please don't tell me about the Lowery guy who's giving the closing prayer; you can't sort of morally "cancel out" giving a microphone to a total hateful lunatic in front of ten million people just by later giving the microphone to someone who's not a total hateful lunatic.

    1. k.d on Dec 18, 2008 3:25:46 PM:

      So then Chris if it's all just so simple as you say then why didn't he bring Rev. Wright to the inauguration?

      And then you could have asked all the outraged conservatives to just focus on our "shared" values and seek "unity."

      Yet, for some reason when we object to giving someone who's against our civil rights such a national platform we're just being "unreasonable" and "P.C."

      I usually agree with you Chris on most things, but not this one.

    1. James on Dec 18, 2008 8:31:05 PM:

      "And I will do so as someone who has closely watched, cared about, cried over and covered the gay rights movement since you were in diapers -- and as someone whose life and livelihood depend far more than yours on Obama living up to his LGBT campaign promises."

      Oh lord. Not the "I've been working in the movement longer than you" line. Jeesh. The very pc people you despise use this tired line all the time. You can do better than this.

    1. BobN on Dec 18, 2008 8:36:15 PM:

      Why do defenders of this decision hide behind half-truths?

      That would be you, Chris. How come?

      Warren opposes same-sex marriage. You're right there. But why fail to mention that he opposes civil unions. Why fail to mention that he opposes putting hospital visitation rights for us in the law?

      And why try to smear other Dems with Warren's positions? Which of the top Dems you mentioned opposed civil unions? John Kerry? Since when?

      And, as far as common ground on AIDS goes, Warren goes to Africa and cooperates with and heaps praise upon African Christian leaders who fully support the CRIMINALIZATION of same-sex support, let alone same-sex sex.

      And, if "inclusiveness" is the point, which one of the folks gathered with Obama is the White Supremacist? And who's the anti-Semite?

    1. jomama on Dec 18, 2008 8:51:09 PM:

      I will be brief Ms. Crain.


      No go shave your back you hairy pig. and do domething about those ugly close set eyes of yours.

    1. jomama on Dec 18, 2008 9:09:34 PM:

      I wonder how Chris Crain makes a living. It sure is not from this low traffic blog. Probably doing what all log cabinettes do, living of mom and dad. Or perhaps his brizallian friend has money. hmmmmmmmmmm. that would make sense. i have seen his picture and looks alone would not make move half way around the world.

      the problem with his poorly thought out article, it that warren has much more of a history with gays then chris took the time go goggle up.


    1. Lady Olive on Dec 18, 2008 9:25:02 PM:

      Re: Hawyer's bigoted comment: "Now hear this: Having been washed in the swill of Christianists since childhood, I am qualified to tell you a thing are two about them. Foremost, they are unalterable when it comes to their dogma."

      This is unacceptable. Not all Christians share the same dogma. Hence the many denominations. Ever heard of gay Episcopalian priests? Newflash, Bigot, they are Christians too...Your childish adherence to simplistic binaries devoid of nuance, shows that you are intolerant, bigoted and unable to participate in any unifying activity. You are not interested in anything but eliminating people who don't think like exactly you. And that's sick The only difference between you and a Klan member is the way the get off and different fashion sense. But at your core, you are just as limited.

      Crain: Kudos to you. Excellent post.

    1. BobN on Dec 18, 2008 9:28:14 PM:

      Lady Olive, did you miss the difference between "Christians" (whom you defend) and "ChristianISTS"?

    1. Lady Olive on Dec 18, 2008 9:33:32 PM:

      Did you miss that I wasn't defending Christians, but actually rejecting the practice of painting all people with a broad-stroke bigoted brush...I guess you did. Whoops...

    1. Yuri Broze on Dec 18, 2008 9:45:01 PM:


      Like the first poster, I agree with you 100%. I cannot express how pleased I have been to find this well-thought-out post amongst a morass of liberal "outrage" over this choice. No doubt all of it comes from people who haven't ever thought about invocations at inaugurations before. Raising a big fuss over this type of truly admirable gesture by Obama really undermines the President-Elect's message of unity.

      The inauguration ought be a symbol of the nation coming together and finding common ground to work toward -- for far too long we have been paralyzed by politically correct nonsense (ignoring the problems) and wrapped up in partisan bickering. Progress is in more than only one direction, friends; if we're tussling amongst ourselves trying to push in opposite directions over one issues, it makes a wealth of sense to unite in moving the nation perpendicularly.

      But alas, this outcry over a purely symbolic choice makes me slightly more abashed when I call myself a liberal. I don't want to be associated with ineffectual nonsense. I am far more interested in supporting the president, whose oft-reiterated commitment to LGTB equality is certain. All this hoopla only detracts from his strength.

      Anyway, you said it better, but kudos to you, Chris.

    1. Craig Ranapia on Dec 19, 2008 1:02:39 AM:


      Hey, if Obama really wanted to be "inclusive" why didn't he invite a senior Mormon to deliver the invocation -- they not only despise the gays, but from 1848 until 1978 blacks were forbidden to worship in Mormon Temples or hold Priesthood because they (according to official doctrine) were the cursed children of Cain whose skin colour was the mark of their original sin.

      How inclusive and healing it would be to have the invocation at his innauguration delivered by the leader of a chruch that institutionalised racism at the most fundamental levels until a mere twenty years ago.

      Or would be a political incorrectness too far?

    1. :-( on Dec 19, 2008 2:14:03 AM:

      Both you and Sullivan have lost me on this. There can only be one obese American Ayatollah at a time in this country and Warren is it. Remember he recently called for American bombs to "take out" the Iranian president. What's the difference between him and Falwell, if not in tone? This is a play to the greasy religious businessmen, and this talk of Unity with a capital U is nonsense. It's something only capable of being accomplished by a tyrant. Political division is the normal outcome of a political system that tolerates debate. Only by ending debate and dissent can there be unity.

      So fuck unity.

    1. Kate on Dec 19, 2008 3:12:24 AM:

      The person delivering the benediction at the inauguration is Joseph Lowery, one of the founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and one of the relatively few black ministers who strongly supports gay marriage.

      It's interesting that Obama chose someone who is way more conservative than he is on marriage equality and other issues, and someone who is more liberal than he is on marriage equality.

    1. Kate on Dec 19, 2008 3:18:43 AM:

      "Actually I was a Clinton supporter..I know he doesn't support marriage equality - which makes him, to my mind, intelletually dishonest."

      Mademark, I agree with you that a lack of support for marriage equality from Democrats involves intellectual dishonesty. But may I ask if you had issues with Clinton's lack of support for gay marriage as well? She and Obama were pretty much identical on this issue--both of them support civil unions with all the rights and benefits of marriage.

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