Monday, December 29, 2008

'NYT Columnist Calls Out Obama on Warren Selection'

From The Advocate online here. (But see immediately below.)

New York Times columnist Frank Rich took to the Op-Ed pages Sunday to rail against President-elect Barack Obama for his selection of conservative pastor Rick Warren to deliver the opening prayer at January’s inauguration.

The Obama camp has attempted to justify the selection of Warren as a way to shine a light on the “wide range of viewpoints” in a “diverse and noisy and opinionated” America. But Rich, a columnist for the Times since 1994, says Obama should know better, saying the president-elect “knows full well that a ‘viewpoint’ defaming any minority group by linking it to sexual crimes like pedophilia is unacceptable.”

Liberal writers have been up in arms about Warren’s selection since the announcement was made. So too have evangelical voices, who claim Warren should have rejected the invitation because of Obama’s pro-choice (“pro-death” in their words) beliefs.

But this is perhaps the most visible column yet to come out of the opinion pages that really calls into question Obama’s rationale in choosing Warren, the Saddleback Church pastor who campaigned heavily for the passing of Prop. 8 in California.

In the column, Rich reasons that despite calls from liberal activists to remove Warren from the inauguration, Obama now has to follow through with his decision -- civil-rights icon Reverend Joseph Lowery, an outspoken supporter of gay rights, was selected to deliver the Benediction, though that announcement was rather overshadowed by the selection of Warren.

Rich then pushed the conversation forward by turning to Timothy McCarthy, a historian who teaches at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and “an unabashed Obama enthusiast” who served on his campaign’s National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Leadership Council. His question – what happens next?

McCarthy noted that Warren’s role at the inauguration is symbolic, saying that it is now time “to move from symbol to substance,” calling on Warren to “recant his previous statements about gays and lesbians” and on Obama to start following through on his promises to LGBT Americans.

McCarthy also urged “LGBT folks to choose their battles wisely, to judge Obama on the content of his policy-making, not on the character of his ministers.”

The column’s up note, Rich reasons, is that conservative evangelical America is on its way out, albeit slowly. After spending a half million dollars in Caliofnria to pass Prop. 8, James Dobson’s Focus on the Family has now had to lay off 20-percent of its workforce.

Warren’s new generation of leaders, he says, “departs from the Falwell-Robertson brand of zealots who have had a stranglehold on the G.O.P.” He points to the recent removal of top evangelical leader Reverend Richard Cizik – known for addressing global warming and, more recently, support for civil unions – as a sign of “old establishment’s panic.”

Rich ends the column with a call to action for 2009: “Here’s to humility and equanimity everywhere in America, starting at the top, as we negotiate the fierce rapids of change awaiting us in the New Year.”

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