Saddleback Obama-Romney Forum Canceled “Due to Lack of Civility”
Pastor Rick Warren has canceled his highly anticipated “Saddleback Civil Forum” with presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, citing a lack of civil discourse between the two campaigns. Warren will hold a forum on religious liberty instead, which may bring attention to the Obama administration’s birth control mandate less than two months before the presidential election.
... [Said Warren:] “The forums are meant to be a place where people of goodwill can seriously disagree on significant issues without being disagreeable or resorting to personal attack and name-calling. But that is not the climate of today’s campaign.
“I’ve never seen more irresponsible personal attacks, mean-spirited slander, and flat-out dishonest attack ads, and I don’t expect that tone to change before the election. ... It would be hypocritical to pretend civility for one evening only to have the name-calling return the next day.”
I think Pastor Warren is right. It is not yet even Labor Day, and already the presidential campaign is looking more and more like a mud fight. (I am reminded of an old “Confucius say” jibe: “Man who sling mud lose ground.”)
So what will Saddleback do instead?
Warren will hold a forum on religious liberty instead, which may bring attention to the Obama administration’s birth control mandate less than two months before the presidential election.
Government bureaucrats at the federal, state and local levels, Warren said, “are daily trying to limit that freedom, impose restrictions, and stifle expressions of faith on campuses, in hospitals, and in businesses. There are widespread attempts to redefine the First Amendment to simply mean ‘You are free to believe anything at your place of worship but you are not free to practice your conscience elsewhere.’”
... Warren did not specifically mention the [Obama administration’s] birth control mandate in his [earlier] interview with The Orange County Register, but he did say that “Obama’s policies clearly show what he values and I have told him that I adamantly disagree with those particular policies.”
We are headed into an election where the lines are being drawn ever more sharply—along with the allegations bandied about. Politicians, always among the least esteemed, deplore the “lack of civility,” but then continue with their smoke and propaganda as always, and make things ever worse. One wonders if the nation will recover from this divide after November. Just as hard cases make bad law, so hard feelings make bad politics.
“Citizen” and “civility” ultimately come from the same root. There have been many bitter campaigns before this (the one between Adams and Jefferson in 1797 comes to mind), but then it took three weeks or more for the speeches and allegations to reach beyond their immediate audience. The instant global coverage of today’s media is intensifying their impact, and threatens to turn off the electorate. More money is being spent to sling more mud than ever before, and there is quite a bit of ground being lost on all sides.
[UPDATE 08/24/2012: Over at The New Republic, blogger Amy Sullivan reports that the real reason Pastor Warren canceled his proposed forum was that neither candidate had even committed to attend. If true, there seems to be no reason why Pastor Warren could not have announced that fact, as it says just as much about the candidates as does their campaigns’ lack of civility. The fact that neither could see any advantage in meeting with Saddleback’s huge audience would indicate that the campaigns each believe that the real swing voters they have to reach are elsewhere. And if conservative evangelicals are not an important factor in this race, what does that say about all the polls that supposedly show a very tight race?
I don’t know about you, but as for me, I think that the Romney campaign pretty much believes that it has the Christian right in its pocket, and does not have to make any effort to woo them (even though those Christians do not view Mormons as sharing their religion). The Obama campaign, on the other hand, has written off all Christians except for Unitarians, and liberal Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians and Episcopalians—but they scarcely count in the overall numbers. Instead, Obama’s campaign appears to be counting on the trend toward secularism to provide its voter base.
So the real line-up that appears to be forming is between conservatives, most of whom tend to be devoutly church-going, and liberals and progressives, who can take or leave their religion as they choose, i.e., even if they belong to a denomination, they do not let any creeds or doctrine get in the way of their political and social beliefs, and a great number of them prefer just to stay away from church altogether.
Under these circumstances, it is easy to see why Pastor Warren could not get the two sides to meet at Saddleback. At the same time, however, it is clearer than ever that this election will be a turning point in the direction the country will take after November.]
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