Salon Radio: Pam Spaulding on Rick Warren

What's behind Obama's choice of one of America's most extremist pastors to deliver the invocation at his Inauguration?

Published December 18, 2008 4:05PM (EST)

(updated below)

Pam Spaulding, the writer and blogger at Pam's House Blend and Pandagon, is one of the country's most trenchant writers on issues of gay equality and race.  She's my guest on Salon Radio today to talk about the implications of the repellent selection of Pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at Barack Obama's inauguration.

Of all the preachers Obama could have selected to elevate and validate (and, in every sense, it was Obama's choice), Warren is one of the most destructive -- not only having been one of the most vocal supporters for Proposition 8, but also using the most inflammatory rhetoric on gay issues generally, expressing anti-abortion views in the most fanatical terms possible, and even sitting with Sean Hannity recently and urging the murder of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (making his prominent inclusion in Obama's inauguration -- as Atrios notes -- a rather odd step for a President who claims devotion to a diplomatic resolution with that country).

There is a respectful and civil (even if clearly wrong) case to make against gay marriage, or against abortion, or in favor of a hard-line towards Iran.  But in each case, Warren opts for the most hateful, not respectful, rhetoric to defend his position.  Embracing someone like Warren is no more "inclusive" than inviting a White Supremacist or, for that matter, a Christian-hater to deliver the invocation.  People like that espouse views that are shared by many Americans; why not include them, too, or have Pat Robertson deliver a nice prayer?  Obama's "inclusiveness" mantra always seems to head only in one direction -- an excuse to scorn progressives and embrace the Right.  Not even Bill Clinton's most extreme Dick-Morris-led "triangulation" tactics involved an attempt to court Jerry Falwell.

That this selection is principally symbolic makes it, for reasons I discuss with Pam, worse, not better.  In many ways, this is vintage Obama -- at least the worst side of him -- and it also illustrates the truly disturbing willingness of so many of his most blindly loyal "progressive" followers to reflexively defend, or at least justify, whatever he does -- because he does it (that mentality is quite redolent of the age-old theological question:  does God do what he does because it is the right thing, or is it the right thing because God does it?).   Though there is some debate about the motivations behind Obama's choice here, I think Digby's analysis of what Obama is up to is almost entirely accurate.

My discussion with Pam is roughly 20 minutes and can be heard by clicking PLAY on the recorder below.


UPDATE:  Here's Jane Hamsher with CNN's Rick Sanchez earlier this afternoon, discussing Warren.  Sanchez can't comprehend the difference between (a) sitting down to speak with enemies in an effort to forge compromise and (b) endowing someone with a validating platform who has a history of expressing repellent views.  Note, too, his inability to identify any rationale to explain why, if Warren should be invited to speak in the name of "inclusiveness," then anti-semites or KKK leaders or, for that matter, Dick Cheney shouldn't be invited to speak as well.  They all espouse views to which large numbers of people subscribe:


On a very related note, Chris Bowers notes an emerging standard media theme -- that it is good for Obama when he infuriates the Left.  Along those lines, Chris writes briefly about a meeting held in Washington, DC this past weekend -- sponsored by Accountability Now -- for the purpose of creating an infrastructure to launch and fund numerous primary challenges against incumbent Democrats as a means of addressing exactly this problem.  The meeting was very well-attended -- large advocacy groups, unions and others -- and I'll write more about it shortly.

By Glenn Greenwald

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