A “Civil” Forum, But A “Religious Test”
It has long been a – dare I say “sacred?” – belief that there would be no “religious” test required for those who wish to hold public office. That belief was phony, of course. There have always been “religious” tests imposed on all our candidates. In a country that pretends to pride itself on separation of church and state, a nation that pretends to be civil and secular, it has rightly been said that no atheist or agnostic would ever get elected president.
But last night’s bizarre televised vetting by Pastor Rick Warren has set a new low in public discourse. And is a good indication of just how far this country has sunk in pandering to the “religious right.”
There the presidential candidates were, mouths wide open like horses waiting for the Vet to check their teeth, as Pastor Warren, before his huge audience in his huge evangelical Saddleback Church, asked them to explain how their religious faith played out in their daily lives. And instead of saying, “Sorry, Bub, but my religious life is between me and my Maker, none of your beeswax,” each candidate was falling over themselves to let the audience know that they had the “right kind” of religion (personally saved by Jesus Christ, their Lord and Savior, who washed their sins away, & etc. Thank God neither had said, “Well, Pastor Warren, I just recently became an Orthodox Jew.” The ceiling of the mega-church would have caved in, killing all contestants and audience alike.)
No, we now must make sure our presidential candidates take a public religious test to make sure they have the “right” religion because God knows the country’s still spooked by the spectre of Mit Romney becoming president, a man whom comedian Bill Mahr says “believes in magic underwear,” not to mention a man who belongs to a religious sect that is still tainted by the ghosts of anti-black religious doctrine and foundational beliefs in polygamy. Oooo, wrong sort of religion. A country filled with a good chunk of people who think Obama is a “muslim.” Oooo, wrong sort of religion. Nope, give us snake handlers every time
On the other hand, this public vetting was called a “civil forum,” and it was delightfully “civil” – no “gotcha” zingers, no yelling talking heads. Just the Pastor trying to ask open-ended questions and then letting the candidates answer how they would – Obama with his measured cadences and careful nuances; McCain with his “my friends” campaign trail sound-bites and folksy anecdotes.
Indeed, this quieter forum allowed the candidates lots of rope to go hang themselves. The result for me was a creepy revelation: That awful realization that McCain was simply a very old George Bush. It was as if Bush had been put into one of those Fast Forward Time Machines and out he stepped, twenty years later. There was the same swagger, the same false macho bravado --My friends, I’ll go to the gates of hell to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice! Shades of “We’ll smoke ‘em out! Dead or Alive!” This from a man who’d have trouble getting to the gates of JFK International, a man who’s clearly excited by war (the prospect of armed confrontation with Russia seemed to energize him into an aggressive posture, eyes blazing, talking about Georgia being a “lovely country” – a damsel in distress and in need of our armed rescue?), yet a man apparently unaware that his army, the real people who would actually be expected to go to those hellish gates, is stretched to the breaking point in a country that’s broke from warfighting. There also was the jokey, heh-heh, hail fellow, back slapping posturing and the meaningless political buzz word sound bites. Creepy.
But, the forum did allow McCain to make some of his positions absolutely clear: He is pro life, anti-choice, and he will appoint more Supreme Court members like Roberts and Scalia, men who would happily strike down Roe v Wade and didn’t think much of habeas corpus, and he would shun justices like Ginsberg and Stevens who supported the Great Writ that is enshrined in the Constitution. He would also support a constitutional ban against same-sex marriage, thinks more private school vouchers will solve the educational crisis, and doesn’t believe in raising taxes, not even on the “rich,” but offered no information as to what he’d do about our dire financial situation. Presumably the Blood of the Lamb will take care of that.
There’ll be some upcoming Obama/McCain debates, which can test the debating skill of the candidates. But this forum – a civil one – despite the clear religious context -- was most interesting for allowing the candidates to speak their minds. Let’s hope the voters are actually listening to what they SAY and then will go back to check their voting records so they can be clear as to what they actually DID and then compare the two to get an inkling as to what they are likely to DO, should they get elected, and then, most important of all, go take a factual reality check – Turn off Fox News and check out some more credible sources of information – of what’s actually happening on the ground.
Or, better yet, get a copy of Andrew J. Bacevich’s new book, “The Limits of Power; The End of American Exceptionalism,” and or track down a transcript of his interview with Bill Moyers on Moyers’ recent PBS Journal ( www.pbs.org ). Bacevich has outlined the disease that is killing us as a country with stunning clarity and unblinking honesty. That interview was one of the most succinct, powerful things I’ve seen, ever. And naturally, will be seen by only a tiny handful when it should be mandatory viewing for the whole nation, certainly before November’s election.
Zelig Now Faces a Challenger
Months ago I snorted at the headline that our State Senator Abel Maldonado was trying to get his name listed on the Democratic ballot so he could run unopposed (except by himself) in the upcoming election since there was no Democratic challenger. The whole silly scheme reminded me of Wood Allen’s film, “Zelig,” about this time traveling character who kept appearing everywhere with everyone during every famous moment. Reminded me of Maldonado who makes sure he’s at the elbow of the powerful at every photo op. And in this case, if he had to pretend to become a democrat in order to get on the ballot twice, Oh well.
Well, pretty soon I noticed people out in front of the supermarket with petitions to get Jim Fitzgerald of Nipomo on the ballot to run against Maldonado. Fitzgerald got enough signatures and now it’ll be a horse race, sort of. The money machine always favors the incumbent so it likely won’t be much of a horse race. But at least Zelig will now have to make more of an effort than just showing up for the cameras.
Biz Buzz in the Tribune, Los Osos FAMOUS Sylvester’s hamburgers, is going to open shop in Atascadero. So all you north county folks are in for a yummy treat! New place will be at El Camino Real and West Mall Ave and is scheduled to open in Oct. Get ready! Bring napkins.
And Finally, A Question For CA Voters in November
Comedian/actress/talk-show-host Ellen DeGeneres is supposed to be getting married to actress Portia de Rossi this weekend. The two have been together since December 2004. The wedding is supposed to be “small, intimate ceremony with only a few close friends and family.” Said DeGeneres, “It’s something that we’ve wanted to do and we want it to be legal and we are very, very excited.”
So, here’s the question for California voters. Are you mean enough to vote for Prop 8, which would take away Ellen’s right to marry the person she loves, and force her to get un-married?
Personally, I think that would be really, really mean. But, we’ll have to see where my fellow citizens fall on the Mean-O-Meter come November.