The 2008 election campaign is certainly proving to be The Campaign Of Faith.
First, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney had to try and deal with anti-Mormon sentiments within the GOP and general electorate that have check-mated his Presidential hopes.
Now, Barack Obama has had to stress his faith amid false rumors quickly (and at times gleefully) spread on the Internet, on talk radio and — it has emerged — by someone connected to Senator Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
What next? Will Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman soon be under pressure to prove he really had a bris?
But today Obama — again showing a flair for overcoming objections and battling the growing American cottage industry (talk radio, some blogs, commentators and political operatives) of driving up a foe’s negatives by spreading half-truths or exaggerating truths — took on the rumors that have dogged him and made some voters balk:
Democrat Barack Obama on Sunday confronted one of the persistent falsehoods circulating about him on the Internet.
He went to church.
His attendance here at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, with the news media in tow, was as much an observation of faith as it was a rejoinder to baseless e-mailed rumors that he is a Muslim and poses a threat to the security of the United States.
Obama did not address the rumors, but described how he joined Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago two decades ago while working as a community organizer.
What’s notable in this story is that he didn’t decide to confront it by lashing out and whipping up anger against people who had whipped up anger against him. Some still mockingly call him “Osama.” Others note pointedly that his middle name is Hussein. And — brace yourself, now — his step-father was (GASP!) Muslim.
The underlying — and at times blatant — assertion is that a Muslim should never be allowed to hold high elective office…even though Obama is not a Muslim (facts, schmacts what does it matter if it undermines someone you don’t like?).
Obama’s way of handing this is a sign that perhaps he is from a different generation that wants to conduct campaigns a bit differently.
The baby boomers (I’m one of them) seem less stuck “on stupid” than fixated on Vietnam War-derived divisions and influenced by the Lee Atwater/Karl Rove school of political knife-em-in-the-gut battle. Other people have said it and I agree: American politics may never get out of polarization mode until the Baby Boomers’ influence on the levers of power begins to wane.
“What I found during the course of this work was, one, that ordinary people can do extraordinary things when they come together and find common ground,” he told the congregation. “The other thing I discovered was that values of honesty, hard work, empathy, compassion were values that were spoken about in church …. I realized that Scripture and the words of God fit into the values I was raised in.”
Obama regularly attends church while on the campaign trail, but seldom with reporters watching. He is known to invoke religious references in his speeches and has said he has a “personal relationship” with Jesus Christ. He often has said that religion has a place in public life and that faith and politics are not exclusively the domain of conservatives.
“During this holiday season and during this political season I’m continually reminded that the values that I learned at Trinity and as part of the UCC community are values that can’t just stay in church but have to be applied outside of church,” he said.
Obama staffers and volunteers say they periodically encounter voters who say they cannot support Obama because they’ve heard he is Muslim, a claim that has been making its way through Internet sites and blogs since he announced his candidacy for president.
The issue gained prominence earlier this month when Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign forced the resignation of two Iowa volunteer coordinators who had forwarded e-mails that falsely tried to tie him to Islamic jihadists.
So now you have TWO candidates who have had to “prove” to voters that their religious backgrounds don’t make them somehow dangerous to the existence of The Republic As We Know It if they make it into the Oval Office.
Get ready, Joe Lieberman…