Thursday 18 December 2008

Obama Asks Bigot to Host Inauguration Ceremony

Because the search for a 'saviour' is an anathamea to radical politics, I have never understood the blind adoration for Barack Obama.

But his choices so far have shown some very worrying signs of just how much 'change' was just a merchandising slogan. Obama's selection of the preacher Rick Warren to host his Presidential inauguration ceremony in January is particularly fascinating - and poses some difficult questions for his liberal fans. I read the following by Michelle Goldberg in today's Guardian:

If nothing else, Rick Warren is a miracle worker in the realm of public relations. He is a man who compares legal abortion to the Holocaust and gay marriage to incest and paedophilia. He believes that Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and other non-Christians are going to spend eternity burning in hell. He doesn't believe in evolution. He recently dismissed the social gospel – the late 19th- and early 20th-century Protestant movement that led a religious crusade against poverty and inequality – as "Marxism in Christian clothing". Yet thanks to his amiable attitude and jocular tone, he has managed to create a popular image for himself as a moderate, even progressive force in American life, a reasonable, compassionate alternative to the punitive, sex-obsessed inquisitors of the religious right. And Barack Obama, who should know better, has helped him do it.

Yesterday brought the news that Warren would be giving the invocation at Obama's inauguration. For Warren, this is a bit of a coup, since he seems to aspire to be the country's unofficial national pastor, a role once occupied by Billy Graham. He already played an unprecedented role in the 2008 presidential election when he conducted back-to-back interviews with John McCain and Obama, which essentially made him the moderator, and his church the stage, for the first joint event of the campaign season. By participating in that exercise, Obama lent Warren undeserved legitimacy as a kind of national moral arbiter.

Still, his taking part could be defended as an act of canny political outreach. After all, one of the great things about Obama was the way he tried to connect with audiences that hadn't previously been receptive to Democratic messages. It made sense for Obama to try and win the vote of Warren's followers. But honouring Warren by giving him a major role at the inauguration does not make sense. It is a slap in the face to many of Obama's staunchest supporters.


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