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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Response to Rick Warren Choice: Just a "Kerfluffle" to WaPo "Blogger"

Obama and Rick Warren share a precious moment

I'm aware that this issue may seem inconsequential to some who take their civil rights under the law for granted, but I'm still spitting mad about Obama's choice of Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration. Warren is a wealthy religious huckster who says my life with my partner of 19 years is comparable to incest and pedophilia. How holy and wise and loving. Warren's views are comparable to those of a drunken and ignorant bigot at a tavern in the hollers in my book.

But I may be even angrier about the lack of widespread criticism of the choice on the part of elected Democratic officials, Dem Party powers and progressives who aren't members of the GLBT community. Then there's the media.

Washington Post "blogger" Chris Cillizza has reduced the response of the gay community and others to Rick Warren's inclusion in the inauguration ceremony to a "kerfluffle." I wish I were kidding. His piece today is entitled, "Wag the Blog: The Rick Warren Kerfuffle." Apparently Cillizza views the issue as mere fluff -- a kind of minor brouhaha to be chuckled about and dismissed as unimportant by those who get full protection under the law as a matter of course. I guess he's got his and to hell with the rest.

Sadly, I'm finding a similar degree of shallowness and look-the-other-way narcissism on the part of too many self-defined "progressives" today on the web. How many local blogs, for instance, are covering this story? How many national blogs are putting it front and center? (Note: David Corn has and so has Ezra Klein.) How many "progressive" organizations have issued any response? One guy, who used to work within the party structure here, chose today to state "I'm an Obama Democrat" on his Facebook status. I wonder what he means by that at this particular point in time.

Obama's Response
Then there's Obama himself. A WaPo reporter questioned Mr. Change We Need about Warren at a press conference today and got this response:

Obama was asked by the Post's own Peter Slevin about his decision to allow Warren to say the invocation at his inauguration during a press conference this morning. He cast it as yet another example of his belief that now is a time to be inclusive rather than exclusive.

"It is important for America to come together even though we may have disagreements on some social issues," said Obama, who also pointed out that he had been and would continue to be an advocate for equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans.

GaymarchingTake This Band and Shove It
Too bad the reporter didn't think to ask Obama how, exactly, he was including GLBT citizens in his inauguration ceremonies. Oh wait, one of the Obama team's talking points about the Warren issue is that, "for the very first time, there will be a group representing the interests of LGBT Americans participating in the Inaugural Parade." Again, I wish I were kidding. The Obama bunch is conflating having someone on the inaugural platform with a gay and lesbian marching band in the parade. This strikes me as the equivalent of having a Black tap dancer in the parade and claiming that shows your support for African-American civil rights.

Real Inclusiveness
Although it would still be disgusting to me to have Warren on the dais with Obama on January 20th, it might at least be more bearable if Obama had also invited a gay or lesbian member of the clergy to participate. That would show he's trying to be "inclusive" not only of rightwingnut dominionists, but the millions of GLBT citizens who voted for him, donated significant amounts of money and gave hundreds of thousands of hours of volunteer time to his campaign.

We might also ask Obama why only Christian preachers of certain denominations are important to his "inclusive" strategy. I guess the clergy of Jewish, Muslim, Greek Orthodox, Buddhist, Hindu, Catholic, Unitarian, Native American and other religious and spiritual persuasions can suck lemons as far as Obama is concerned. Not to mention the secular humanists among us.

You Could Be Next
If Obama is willing to poison his relationship with the GLBT community to further his "inclusive" political gambit, what other segments of the Democratic (and American) community is he willing to insult, dismiss, ignore and minimize in order to gain political points with those who have spent the past dozen years or more working in the most shameless manner against everything we believe in?

Inclusive is one thing; pandering and providing an international bully pulpit to a man who has deemed the life I live with my partner of 19 years as comparable to incest, polygamy, bestiality and pedophilia is another. The inclusion of Warren gives him credibility world-wide that he could never gain otherwise. This is a good thing?

I know that the participation of Rev. Joseph Lowery is supposed to make up for having Warren on the platform. Sorry, it's not enough. Yes Lowery is a civil rights hero and he has courageously stood up for GLBT citizens within the African-American church community. I am very pleased that he will be a part of Obama's inauguration. I have respected him for decades. But how many people across the nation and the world know about Rev. Lowery's views on GLBT issues? He is known primarily as a supporter of African-American civil rights.

If Obama wanted to be truly inclusive, he'd have Rick Warren share the spotlight with a member of the GLBT clergy. In that way and that way only would he be showing the world that he intends to fight for the rights of all, not just some, of our citizens. Actions speak louder than words.

So Tired, Tired of Waiting
I've been a Democrat all my life and I've been instructed to be quiet and patient about GLBT rights for what seems like eons now by Dem officeholders, leaders and activists. I'm tired of being told to meekly accept second-class citizenship while I work for the rights of others. I expect meaningful legislation to be produced in terms of GLBT civil rights at a time when the President is a Democrat and both houses of Congress are dominated by Dems. If you were me, would you expect anything different?

Also see my previous post on this topic.

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December 18, 2008 at 01:01 PM in Civil Liberties, Democratic Party, GLBT Rights, Justice, Media, Obama Transition, Progressivism | Permalink


Well said. I agree with all you wrote.

Now Obama is also dissing Dean:


Posted by: Old Dem | Dec 18, 2008 1:33:29 PM

Latinos are celebrating the appointments of Richardson, Salazar and Solis. I am an anglo but I am celebrating those too. Are Latinos expressing criticism of Rick Warren? No. What is wrong with this picture?

Posted by: erin | Dec 18, 2008 1:53:54 PM

Hey Obama....and the rest of our representatives we got elected in 08.... bullshit about coming together. We got to come together..gays have always just been shunned that is why obama can put this hate spouting bigot on the stage. I guess the message is come together unless you are a homo.

Posted by: mary ellen | Dec 18, 2008 3:27:32 PM

Your reaction to this is completely overwrought and you're reading way too much significance into this choice. I can understand disappointment and disapproval. I'm disappointed he chose Warren but the level of outrage is completely disproportionate to the offense.

First of all there are absolutely no policy implications. Obama hasn't appointed Warren to anything and he's made clear where he stands on GLBT issues so this is all just symbolism. Obama didn't choose Warren because of the issues he's wrong about but because of the issues he's right about. Remember that many evangelicals that oppose gay marriage are liberal on the environment, torture, and other issues. Just because Obama wants to find common ground doesn't mean he's abandoning his other views.

Second, you admit that Obama is trying to consciously include the GLBT community and send a signal he doesn't agree with Warren on GLBT rights by including Rev. Lowery but all of that doesn't matter. Its not enough symbolism for you.

Obama isn't even in office yet, he hasn't passed one law or regulation and you're already claiming he's "poisoned" his relationship with the GLBT community. This is what the GLBT community wants to use its political capital on? Who says the invocation at the inauguration? Really?! Whether Rick Warren gives the invocation will have no effect on how quickly GLBT issues are advanced. None. Way to take your eye off the ball.

I don't think this is inconsequential because I take my civil liberties for granted. I think this is inconsequential because it is. It won't have any consequences for GLBT rights except a few hurt feelings.

Posted by: Mike in the Mountain West | Dec 18, 2008 8:27:24 PM

At each and every public venue, we recite the pledge to the flag of our nation. At the end we say proudly with conviction,"with liberty and justice for all" In the declaration of Independence, it declares that all men are created equal have certain rights that can't be taken away from them. Those words should apply to everyone. Our democratic party includes in the affirmative action section that we are not to discriminate for religion, sex,creed, color and sexual orientation. Are these just words? Do we do as I say but not as I do. I have been a county chair in New Mexico, Otero County to be specific,and very conservative to put it mildly. When I was chair I worked very hard to be the most inclusive party that we could be. Those attending the meetings were Anglo, Hispanic, African-American, Cherokee. There catholics, protestants and muslim religions represented.There were democrats from the Gay community as well as PFLAG members. I was proud as a first time chair I had an inclusive party and I wanted to work with all of them. From that time things have changed in our party. When John Kerry ran against Bush,many that either were republicans or leaned more to the right were very dissatisfied with Bush and ended up changing their party affiliatin to democrat. On the surface that is not a bad thing. But in the bigger picture although they had changed to democrat in registration their heart and their ideology of conservatism was unfortunately alive and well and ready to attack those who they perceived as "different" from them.
One woman who I believed to be more republican than democrat confronted a strong democrat and good worker who happened to be a "cross dresser" and proceeded to tell him that he couldn't be a democrat because he was cross dresser. She and her friends who felt the same made this man's life pretty miserable and we lost a good democrat. Another incident was when a Gay man, openly gay, expressed a desire to run for office somewhere down the road. perhaps after retirement. I don't really know. But upon expressing this he was told that he coudn't run because he was gay.I am appalled.

I do not know why Obama would choose such a divisive man to speak at his inauguration. I appreciate the fact that he wants to reach out and come together. But it has been my experience that Democrats do all the reach out and republicans just bite off your hand.Regarding Obama, I don't know what can be done. But I do think letting him know that we as democrats and those who supported him, Gay and straight are not happy. I wonder if Hillary would have chosen such a controversial figure to speak at her swearing in. I have said this in the past, as I visit each of the counties the head tables are less diverse than 10 years ago. Sorry to run off at the mouth. But I hate injustice in any form. Thanks, Stephanie

Posted by: Stephanie DuBois | Dec 18, 2008 8:54:33 PM

Thanks Stephanie! It was a pleasure to read your comment after reading mike in the mountains admonishing how foolish and over the top we are.
Easy for you to say Mike. This is a big deal, obviously not for you, but it is for me. BS to the olive branch crap to the right...that would be the day there would be an olive branch to the GLBT americans.

The thing is if you grow up black, your parents usually accept you and even give you esteem. When you grow up gay you are ridiculed, openly mocked, and too often disowned by your parents. There is no olive branch even at the blood level. At the age of 50 I am used to it, years of the trying to be polite to not offend, dont be too gay because you may lose your job, your rental house, your doctor's respect.

It all plays into the life of being gay. Mike you deserve to rant and after all these years i deserve to rant - i also deserve to have some democrats who we have helped selflessly over the past years to stand up and defend me. And I am ashamed at Obama for being so thoughtless.

Unfortunately, I now cannot believe a word the man says. I say bad on me for being so gullible that maybe there would be change. It saddens me that the gays are still the abused children, where it is ok to state openly hidious things about them.

Posted by: mary ellen | Dec 19, 2008 6:26:23 AM

I think a lot of the outrage goes back to prop 8. If prop 8 had not passed my guess is the heat level would have been a lot lower. That is totally understandable. Knowing that many of the people that voted for Obama also voted for Prop 8 must be very hurtful for gay and lesbian americans and it was clearly insensitive and tone-deaf for Obama to include Warren but what I object to is the wholesale rejection of Obama because of this. GLBT rights will advance more under Obama than any President in history. DADT will be repealed, couples will get more benefits, and I'm sure there will be other things. Now, if Obama doesn't deliver on those things then "Change" will clearly be empty.

Posted by: Mike in the Mountain West | Dec 19, 2008 10:51:23 AM

Mike: This is personal with GLBT people. It is emotional and it isn't the first time we have been stabbed in the back by politicians who have gained greatly from our support. There is a long history of betrayal, publicly and privately, from Clinton on down to Democrats in the New Mexico Legislature.

It is now up to Obama to convince us he is serious about what he has said during his campaign. When a politician like Obama breaks trust with a constituency it is up to him or her to repair the damage, not the other way around.

I think it is imperative that GLBT citizens and those who truly support equal rights under civil law for all continue to speak out on this issue. Politicians respond to pressure, not acquiescence, when they signal a direction to the world like this one.

As kos pointed out in one of his posts, Obama was forced by the pressure to address the issue at his press conference yesterday and go on the public record with a claim that he is a "passionate supporter of equal rights for GLBT people." No president (or president-elect) has ever said that in quite that way. That alone makes our protests of his choice of Rick Warren worth it.

We are not naive. We understand political calculations. But this one hurt GLBT people in the heart and gut in a way that it's no doubt hard to understand for many who have not experienced hurtful acts and hateful words and actions -- even from our own families -- over many years about our personhood. It's a visceral thing, and it hit hard yesterday.

As with all presidential administrations, it will be important to keep the pressure on for real change on many issues. Politics is about power blocs colliding -- even though many would like to think it's more a parlor game. We must be vigilant and outspoken if we want to counteract the incredible power held by the forces that are dead set against change and against the interests of the people --barb

Posted by: barb | Dec 19, 2008 11:55:19 AM

dear people, i do understand your frustation, however if you look at it in the light of trying to reach out you must realise that it is important to sit at the same table with those with whom you disagree in order to have a conversation. Abe Lincon said "there is none so intolerant as those who will not tolerate the intolerant" the outrage reminds me of a religous conference i went to in chicago that was for world religons and some people came knowing that there was to be people from all religons all over the world, and then protested that they were there and left. we can not find a way to talk to those whom we disagree without sitting at the table with them. please sit with them and find some way to start a common ground. then when you fially reach that point where you can find no more stop, do not fight and remeber the golden rule and the american and constitutional way and respectfully diagree but i will defend to the death your right to disagree.

Posted by: mjd | Dec 19, 2008 1:43:58 PM

mjd- Sitting at the table and discussing issues with Rick Warren would be fine. Putting him in as the pastor to give a prayer for all Americans at the historic inauguration is not.

I wish Obama was truly honoring diverse religious and spiritual thought and had representatives from as many religions and sects as he could fit at the inauguration. He could invite some nonbelievers too. Obama is featuring two protestant Christian ministers. How is that honoring diversity?

Posted by: Old Dem | Dec 19, 2008 1:48:42 PM

i also am not a christian how ever i do not expect this majorly christian place to understand my beliefs. but i do beleive like budda and gandi and wicca 'do what you will but harm none'. this means to accept others and try to promote more understanding. that also means to cultivate patience. a rock is worn away one drop of water at a time.we must remember to be many drops of love all in a row like a waterfall.

Posted by: mjd | Dec 19, 2008 3:09:59 PM

I am beyond pissed right now with Obama.

Obama's diversity argument is nonsense - it he wants to be inclusive why not have a racist on stage after all he already has a homophobe. He might also throw in a member of the KKK for good measure. I hear David Duke is available.

What I'd like to see is what to do about it - for one I think we should hold some mix of a fair well party for GW and a event opposing homophobia. Maybe wear our Obama tee shirts inside out to question his support of human rights. Certainly I will not be watching the Inauguration - we have been dis-invited. Let Obama and his homophobe friend have a good old time.

Posted by: mwfolsom | Dec 20, 2008 9:19:19 PM

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