Obama’s Outreach to Religious Right Somehow Not Sitting Well With Liberals

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Why do we know what this guy looks like?
Why do we know what this guy looks like? Photo: Getty Images

The program for Barack Obama's inauguration was announced yesterday, and it's an impressive lineup. Let's see: Aretha Franklin, Yo-Yo Ma, and Itzhak Perlman will perform — very classy. Civil-rights icon Reverend Joseph E. Lowery will deliver the benediction, and poet Elizabeth Alexander will be there too (reading poetry, naturally). Saddleback megachurch pastor and author of bazillion-selling book The Purpose-Driven Life Rick Warren will be giving the invocation. Great, everyone happy? Oh, wait ... we're hearing dissent in the Obama ranks over Warren. Isn't he one of those good religious leaders, preaching about poverty and AIDS? And also an adamant supporter of Proposition 8 who likened gay marriage to incest, pedophilia, and polygamy? Right, that guy. What gives with the invite, Obama?

• Marc Ambinder assumes that Obama picked Warren "because (a) Obama likes the guy, and (b) he knows it would send a message to groups like the HRC [the Human Rights Campaign], and to conservative Christians who might be wary of the new president." Obama has made clear many times that he disagrees with Warren on some issues, but he's making clear that "Rick Warren is a part of Obama's America, too." [Atlantic]

• Jonathan Stein is puzzled and shocked that Obama would choose someone "whose views stand in stark contrast to the ones held by the tens of millions of Americans who elected Obama." [MojoBlog/Mother Jones]

• Andrew Sullivan concedes it may be "[s]hrewd politics, but if anyone is under any illusion that Obama is interested in advancing gay equality, they should probably sober up now" based on this "depressing omen." [Atlantic]

• Damon Linker also believes that it's a shrewd move, noting that Warren extols "a fairly anodyne form of American Protestantism," and that giving him "a prominent (but purely symbolic) place in the inauguration is a politically cost-free way of furthering this partisan agenda." [New Republic]

• Steve Benen reasons that by "elevating a conservative religious leader to new heights, giving him stature and credibility, and making his far-right message that much more meaningful when he challenges Obama administration policies in the future," Obama is making his biggest mistake so far. [Political Animal/Washington Monthly]

• Steve Waldman claims that, "despite some areas of disagreement" with Obama, Warren has many admirable characteristics and his selection "helps to depoliticize prayer — which, of course, is very politically shrewd." [Beliefnet]

• David Brody "can understand why the liberals are not happy. Can you imagine President Bush going with a prominent pro-choice pastor for his inauguration?" But Obama told us "all along that he wants to reach across ideological lines," and the Warren pick "says a lot about Obama and how he's trying to make good on his promise." [Brody File/CBN]

• Ta-Nehisi Coates finds it an "obvious move to embrace the 'new' religious right." And while Warren is perceived as a moderate, Coates "can't find much daylight between a dude who equates gay marriage with incest and the old right." [Atlantic]

• Chuck Todd and friends suspect "Axelrod and Gibbs have to be smiling this morning" because "it never hurts — at least when it comes to governing or running for re-election — when you sometimes disappoint/anger your party’s interest groups." [First Read/MSNBC]