Posts tagged ‘obama’

Rick Warren gets mixed reviews

Rick Warren gets mixed reviews… that’s charitable! My take is Warren totally botched the inaugural warreninvocation. Starting with Deuteronomy 6:4-9, “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God…” (text of the Shema) was encouraging. But everything started downhill from there.

I predicted he would end the prayer invoking the name of Jesus, and he did. It was bothersome in the sense that it excludes all non Christians. What really stung was his attempt to invoke Jesus’ name using multiple languages including the Hebrew for Jesus, Yehoshuah. This version is most often used by the ‘Jews for Jesus’ folks as a way of pacifying or mollifying listeners. It did the opposite, raising the collective hairs of informed listeners.

The pièce de résistance (or straw that broke the camel’s back) – ending with the Lord’s Prayer. Now, there’s nothing objectionable in the text of this lovely piece. However, it is unrepentantly a Christian missive. I happen to know that Warren was coached, or at least requested, to be inclusive. Come on Rick!

But let’s be real here – Warren had to be Warren. He’s an evangelical, fundamentalist pastor. While he might think differently in private (and I think he does), he has a constituency he must serve. So, was it really Warren’s fault? I think not – I think Obama screwed up. That’s screw up number one for President Obama and I’m sure not the last. He’s entitled, and I’m sure he thought having Warren up there would broaden his appeal with evangelicals. The truth is, they still think Obama’s a Muslim. Let it go Barack… you can’t appeal to everyone. Stick with us folks who already like you!

January 21, 2009 at 8:44 pm 2 comments

Obama’s Jewish staff

Are Obama and Biden assembling a staff or gathering a minyan?

So far we have:

Rahm Emanuel – Chief of Staff – Jewish

David Axelrod – Senior Advisor to the President – Jewish

Ronald Klain – Chief of Staff to the Vice President of the United States – Jewish

Larry Summers – Economic Advisor to the President – Jewish

Paul Volcker – Economic Advisor to the President, Former Head of Fed Reserve – Jewish

Tim Geithner – Treasury Secretary – Jewish

Peter Orszag – Head of Budget – Jewish

January 19, 2009 at 6:58 pm 8 comments

Hypocricy

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of being on a panel for a joint conference of the Indiana Muslim Alliance and the Islamic Society of North America. The topic of the panel was social justice from the perspective of the three Abrahamic faiths. My Muslim and Christian colleagues both gave eloquent, passionate speeches about our respective edicts to help the poor, feed the hungry, take care of widows and orphans, etc. All three Abrahamic faiths have strong social justice components – in both Islam and Judaism to do so is mandatory.

After our presentations we took some questions from the audience. The first question posed to us was ‘can you relate your faith’s social justice perspective to the war or politics?’ My colleagues were thoughtfully quiet, but I jumped t the chance to speak about something that’s been bothering me.

During this election season (which is thankfully almost over) I’ve heard much said about taxes – how both candidates will cut taxes for me (a middle classer). At the same time I hear the voices of supposed ‘people of faith’ saying we need to take care of others, but at the same time they refuse to pay more taxes. My question is, if we cut taxes, how do they suppose we take care of those who have less?

I admit, I’m a liberal, at least when it comes to social justice issues. My faith teaches me that it’s not an option to provide for those who are needy – it’s an obligation. I also understand that government is not always the most reputable source of aid and I agree with those who say we need to hold social programs accountable, both fiscally and programmatically. But what I cannot reconcile are those who purport to be ‘good people of faith,’ (especially in my own state) who uphold ‘family values’ and then flat out refuse to financially support programs that aid those in need.

Many say we need to rely on our faith communities to provide this aid. I agree. But the reality is they cannot do it and we have ample evidence of their lack of success. If churches, synagogues and mosques could provide all the aid necessary, we wouldn’t still need government programs. We do.  

The Republican principle of less government is not a bad idea except when it becomes exclusionary, particularly for those least able to advocate for themselves. When it does it is elitist, exclusive, self serving and discriminatory. If that’s what people want, I advocate their right to say so. But don’t call it an expression of any faith – it’s not.

I can hear conservatives labeling me a bleeding heart liberal. If that’s so, I gladly accept their critique and will paint myself pink. When did caring for others, doing the right thing, and loving justice become a weakness or a shortcoming?

October 28, 2008 at 11:50 pm 1 comment

Obama and the Jewish Vote

An excellent article from RealClearPolitics by Professor Pierre Atlas

www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2008/08/obama_and_the_jewish_vote.html at August 01, 2008

By Pierre Atlas

In order to win the “Jewish vote,” candidates often try to out-trump each other in demonstrating their support for Israel. The media play into this game, as many journalists and pundits tend to assume, along with politicians, that American Jewish opinion is monolithic (and uniformly hawkish) when it comes to Israel: that no criticism of Israeli policies or actions will be tolerated, and that no pressure should ever be put on Israel to make compromises.

As Barack Obama traveled to the Middle East last week, his every move was scrutinized by the media. Was he pro-Israel enough to secure the vote of American Jews? Would any nuance in his statements be interpreted to mean he was pro-Palestinian?

It does a great disservice to both American foreign policy and to the Jewish community to portray American Jews as of one mind, marching in lockstep and demanding that all candidates read from a script when it comes to Israel. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of Jews are not single-issue voters. George W. Bush, arguably the most “pro-Israel” president in American history, was able to garner only 24% of the Jewish vote in 2004. Fully 76% voted for John Kerry according to exit polls. Jews have traditionally voted overwhelmingly for Democrats since the 1930s. That didn’t change after the Second Intifada, 9/11 or the invasion of Iraq. Indeed, Bush was able to increase his Jewish support by only 5 percentage points from the 2000 election.

One reason for the widespread belief in a monolithic and inflexible Jewish position on Israel is the success and perceived power of AIPAC. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee has played a key role in helping to establish and maintain bipartisan support for Israel in Congress and the executive branch. AIPAC, which has become increasingly pro-Likud in recent years, is a textbook example of a successful interest group, on par with the NRA, AARP, and the farm lobby.

But American Jewish opinion, although not as diverse as that of Jewish Israelis, is more varied on Israel than AIPAC’s pronouncements would suggest. According to the November 2007 American Jewish Committee’s annual survey of Jewish opinion, 46% of American Jews supported the creation of a Palestinian state, with 43% opposing and 12% not sure–this, in a poll taken just months after Hamas’ violent takeover of Gaza. Asked whether they were “willing to compromise on the status of Jerusalem as a united city under Israeli jurisdiction” in a permanent peace deal with the Palestinians, while 58% said no, 36% said yes and 7% were not sure.

Reflecting this diversity of Jewish opinion, American pro-Israel peace groups such as Brit Tzedek v’Shalom and J-Street, the new pro-Israel PAC, have emerged as more moderate alternatives to AIPAC.

On July 16, J-Street released the results of a new survey that demonstrates “a remarkable gap between the attitudes of American Jews and the conventional wisdom about how Jews view America’s role in the Middle East.” According to the survey, 86% of Jews would support the US “playing an active role in helping the parties to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict [even] if it meant the United States publicly stating its disagreements with both the Israelis and the Arabs.” Eighty-one percent would support the US exerting pressure on Israel as well as the Arabs “to make compromises necessary to achieve peace.”

American support for Israel is longstanding and bipartisan and the reasons go well beyond AIPAC’s influence. The political, cultural, religious, scientific and economic ties between America and Israel are substantive and multi-faceted. Both Obama and McCain understand Israel’s security needs and its existential anxieties. Regardless of which man becomes the next president of the United States, the special relationship between the US and Israel will continue.

Many Israelis, however, are concerned that Obama might be hostile to the Jewish state. The false assertions that he is a Muslim and that he was raised in a radical madrassa in Indonesia, concerns about his association with Rev. Wright, and even his middle name have all played into the fears of some Israelis–just as they have with some Americans. When I was in Turkey last month, I spoke with an Israeli tourist in my Istanbul hotel who was convinced that Obama would be “bad for the Jews.” When I asked him why, most of the “facts” he cited about Obama were patently false, based on the same email rumors and innuendo that have been sent to American Jews.

Obama has sought to reassure Jewish voters and his trip to Jerusalem and Sderot was an important move. Yet he too may have bought into the simplified image of American Jews. When he spoke before the AIPAC convention in June, Obama declared that Jerusalem “will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.” In so doing, he unnecessarily went further than the official US position on Jerusalem, which states that the city’s fate should be left to the final status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Obama’s declaration came off as pandering for the Jewish vote. Ironically, while it caused consternation in the Arab world and dismay among peace negotiators, it is doubtful whether the statement did anything to satisfy the more hawkish Jewish and Christian supporters of Israel in the United States.

In its three-thousand year history, Jerusalem was divided for only eighteen years, from 1949 to 1967. This was a disaster and should not be allowed to happen again. But for a two-state solution to succeed, Jerusalem must become the capital of both Israel and Palestine. Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have been exploring the idea of dual municipalities for years. Imagine if Obama had told the AIPAC audience that while Jerusalem should not be re-divided, it ultimately must be shared. He could have shown bold leadership and vision on one of the most vexing issues of our time, and he would have been supported by a large number of American Jews.

If the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to be resolved, the next president will need to take steps that facilitate Palestinian statehood while also maintaining Israel’s security. This will require bolstering Palestinian moderates in their political struggle against extremists, encouraging key compromises on both sides, and rewarding cooperative behavior by neighboring states.

The questions posed to McCain and Obama should not be simplistic queries as to who supports Israel the most, but how they plan to move the peace process forward. What is each candidate’s vision for a new Middle East, and what role does he see for the US in achieving it?

For both the candidates and the media, acknowledging the diversity and sophistication of American Jewish opinion will be a much needed first step.

As for Obama, if he can debunk the false rumors and make the case that he is no less supportive of Israel than previous Democratic candidates, he should have little problem attracting Jewish voters, who tend to be liberal on social issues and are most comfortable with the Democratic Party. He won’t have much difficulty convincing younger Jews. The real challenge will be with the older Jewish voters.

Atlas is an assistant professor of political science and director of The Richard G. Lugar Franciscan Center for Global Studies at Marian College.

August 1, 2008 at 1:41 pm 1 comment


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