Steven Waldman

Steven Waldman


Obama: Bush’s Faith-Based Plan Didn’t Go Far Enough!

posted by swaldman

What will the liberals who criticized President Bush’s “theocracy” make of Sen. Barack Obama’s speech yesterday — which argued that the problem with Bush’s faith-based approach is that it didn’t go far enough?
In his speech, Obama said Bush’s office of faith-based aid “never fulfilled its promise” because the programs were underfunded and used for political purposes.
“Well, I still believe it’s a good idea to have a partnership between the White House and grassroots groups, both faith-based and secular. But it has to be a real partnership – not a photo-op,” Obama said.
Let’s look at Obama’s speech substantively and politically.
Politically, it operates on several levels. First, as has been much noted, Obama is making a major play for evangelicals. His faith-based plan will help that endeavor. But many forget that the main political target of Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” (the centerpiece of which was his faith-based program) wasn’t evangelicals but centrist Catholics. Obama needs them, too.
Second, Obama gets the benefits of being attacked by the left. “[Bush's] initiative has been a failure on all counts, and it ought to be shut down, not expanded,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “I am disappointed.” It provides Obama a low-cost way of showing himself not to be a standard-issue liberal (whatever that means these days).
Third, faith is Obama’s way of countering the charges of elitism. Hillary Clinton and many Republicans have cast him as culturally out of touch with the mainstream, and they had plenty to work with: low bowling scores, Ivy League education, a seemingly anti-American pastor, his preference for arugula over cheese whiz. (Obama plays basketball well but the campaign kept that under wraps until Indiana (a basketball-crazed state) out of fear it would play into racial stereotypes. )
For Obama, the ticket to middle-American trust is in part through religion. By talking about his faith and showing through this proposal that he’s faith-friendly, he casts himself as part of the mainstream. Obama may not be able to bowl, but he sure can pray. And he can’t possibly be a Harvard elitist if he’s a Man of Faith. Can he?
How does Obama’s approach differ substantively from Bush’s? Obama says Bush underfunded the programs but then offers no proposal for increasing the funds, except one summer-reading program and a general promise that it will be “central” to his administration. Obama emphasizes better coordination of federal and local faith-based agencies,fine in theory but hard to assess in the abstract.
The plan does grapple with one of the central paradoxes of the faith-based charity world: Many of the best programs are effective because they’re small; but because they’re small they don’t know how to apply for aid or administer a grant. Obama focuses on “training the trainers” — helping large national nonprofits, such as Catholic Charities, to train the small groups on how to apply for government aid. This may not be sexy, but it’s a sensible focus.
But most important element of Obama’s plan may be the one that will get the least attention. Bush had promised that programs would be funded on the basis of “results” but then did little to evaluate whether programs were working. Obama says he would change that.
All of this gives a glimpse of what kind of liberal Obama is. Much of his emphasis is better coordination, training and evaluation, not money. It’s worth remembering that the bulk of Obama’s work as a community organizer wasn’t drawing together national groups in grandiose efforts or lobbying drives. It was connecting one church to another, a dozen residents of a project here with a dozen over there. In that sense, he is more like an early 1960s liberal (the sort who focused on fight poverty through local community organizing) than he is a 1970s liberal (which emphasized large scale national programs). Or, more accurately, he’ is a hybrid of the two that we’re just beginning to understand.
Finally, one of the tragedies of the Bush approach was that he took an idea with strong bipartisan potential and crafted it in a way designed to polarize. David Kuo’s insider book about the Bush faith-based effort described how the administration chose to pick fights rather than join forces with those across the aisle. By contrast, Obama’s plan was praised by Kuo and Bush’s first faith-based chief, John DiIulio, who called it “a principled, prudent, and problem-solving vision for the future of community-serving partnerships involving religious nonprofit organizations.” By saying he would build upon rather than scrap a major Republican initiative Obama is trying to offer a model of his bipartisan impulse.
Adapted from “Political Perceptions” the Wall Street Journal Online’s center for political analysis.



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Mr. Incredible

posted July 2, 2008 at 9:35 am


When Dubya wanted to do it, the Libs screamed, “Church-State!”
Now, NObama says he wants-ta do it. What, no “Church-State”??



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ancientmanuscript

posted July 2, 2008 at 1:05 pm


Fine. CHURCH-STATE. Make you happy?
Any faith-based anything is against the Constitution and Bill of Rights because it takes taxpayers money and uses it for religion. If one is a non-believer it is spending that persons tax dollars on something that individual doesn’t believe in. Has the RIGHT not to believe in. How is that fair in any way? In addition, those same monies will be used primarily for CHRISTIAN organizations. So now we can add Jewish citizens and Muslim citizens and Buddhist citizens, etc., to that bunch that are getting fleeced.
The only way to make it fair is for NO religion to be in government at all. That will never happen in my lifetime, but it is the way it should be.



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Nancy M.

posted July 2, 2008 at 1:18 pm


Jesus in Baghdad
Why we should keep Franklin Graham out of Iraq.
By Steven Waldman
Posted Friday, April 11, 2003, at 6:23 PM ET
REGARDING THE ABOVE ARTICLE, YOU SHOULD FIRST GET INFORMED AS TO WHAT ISLAM IS ALL ABOUT AND STOP BASHING PRESIDENT BUSH AND FRANKLIN GRAHAM. THEY GET IT AND KNOW THAT THIS IS A SPIRITUAL WAR WE ARE IN. ONE FIRST HAS TO KNOW TRUTH, WHICH IS JESUS CHRIST. THOSE THAT DON’T KNOW HIM, FEEL THREATENED BY HIM AND CHRISTIANITY, BECAUSE WE ALL WILL BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR OUR SINS AND STAND IN JUDGEMENT BEFORE HIM. WE NEED MORE FRANKLIN GRAHAMS, WHO REALLY KNOW THE BIBLE, BECAUSE THEY HAVE THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THEM. HE PREACHES THE GOSPEL (GOOD NEWS),WHEREVER HE CAN, UNLIKE OBAMA, WHO IS NOT A TRUE CHRISTIAN, AS EVIDENCED BY HIS SOCIAL POSITIONS AND DISTORTIONS OF SCRIPTURE. MAY I ADD – THAT HE SAT IN A SO-CALLED CHRISTIAN CHURCH, THAT GAVE AN AWARD TO FARAKAN. JESUS SAID “I TELL YOU THE TRUTH, NO ONE CAN SEE THE KINGDOM OF GOD UNLESS HE IS BORN AGAIN” (John 3:3). CHECK IT OUT FOR YOURSELF. A CHRISTIAN IS A FOLLOWER OF CHRIST (MEANS MESSIAH) AND OUR MISSION IS TO GIVE THE TRUTH – THAT JESUS CHRIST IS LORD OF ALL AND ONLY THROUGH HIM CAN WE ENTER HEAVEN. IT IS A CHOICE THAT WE MAKE.
GOD BLESS YOU!!



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Steve

posted July 2, 2008 at 1:25 pm


Some of this is just politically smart tactics by Obama. Some of it smacks of being a program he realy believes in. It is what he did for a while. He beat Hillary by out-organizing her, and Hillary’s ineptitude helped. This style of organizing appears to be something at which he is accomplished. The devil will be in the details. Who carries this stuf out will matter also. Will it be some party hack out for revenge who makes sure only the “right” groups get money? Will it be results oriented as Obama stated?
Steve



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Brendan D, Niles, IL

posted July 2, 2008 at 1:27 pm


Ancient Manuscript,
Religious charities being involved with government-sponsored programs is far from using taxpayer money for religion. These charities simply have an infrastructure already set up. If the government tried to set one up, it wouldn’t be as localized nor as organized, and it would take more money to do. No one is advocating giving Baptists the only say or making Presbyterianism the official religion of the state (which are the two things the first amendment prohibits in regards to religion). The separation of church and state does not necessarily have to imply the suppression of the church in public life.
Meanwhile, Mr. Incredible seems to think everybody who supports Obama was against faith-based initiatives just because President Bush supported it. That’s ridiculous. I was against the way President Bush wanted to funnel money to it. There was no oversight given, and his programs disproportionately went to rural Evangelical Southern parishes that didn’t need the money to deal with poverty issues the way that inner-city charities do. The idea wasn’t wrong; but, as with the War in Afghanistan, the implementation was. Oh, and guess what? I support Sen. Obama.



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Willy T Patriot

posted July 2, 2008 at 1:29 pm


Mr. Incredible sir, Libzis, NObama? Have a nice twenty years in the political wilderness. Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch! Peace



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wendy

posted July 2, 2008 at 1:38 pm


I think some of my liberal brethren are getting a little over-heated about this faith-based support from Obama. I say this as an atheist democrat. Despite the fact that I’m not a church-goer, I have worked in several faith-based organizations—I volunteered for 7 years in a local breakfast program run by an episcopal church in my neighborhood.
They don’t proselytize, they serve people breakfast as part of their church’s mission. I believe Obama when he says that there will be guidelines on these organizations. I think these kinds of groups serve a vital function in our communities, and certainly one that government can’t really duplicate.
I believe in the separation of church and state, but I don’t think it’s helpful to be so doctrinaire as to object to faith-based community programs.



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Mike J.

posted July 2, 2008 at 2:18 pm


“Bush had promised that programs would be funded on the basis of ‘results’ but then did little to evaluate whether programs were working. Obama says he would change that.”
So the difference is that Bush said that funds would be based on results, whereas Obama has SAID that funds will be based on results. Crystal clear now, thank you.



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Mr. Incredible

posted July 2, 2008 at 10:24 pm


==Religious charities being involved with government-sponsored programs is far from using taxpayer money for religion. ==
We were told that “involvement” and “gobvernment-sponsored” amount to “promotion.”
Is that inoperative now that NObama is for it? You people relaxed the standard for politics? Nice. Real nice.



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Mr. Incredible

posted July 2, 2008 at 10:29 pm


==…an episcopal church in my neighborhood…They don’t proselytize…==
Why not? Didn’t Jesus tell those who are born again to bring people to Him? Then, why does that church disobey Him?



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Mr. Incredible

posted July 2, 2008 at 10:32 pm


== I believe Obama when he says that there will be guidelines on these organizations.==
You believe him when he says that he will impose guidelines on worshp by these organizations????? How does THAT keep Church separate from State?



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historychick

posted July 3, 2008 at 1:44 pm


based on his affiliation with a racist pastor, we know what Obama thinks is “faith-based.” Will an Obama administration funnel public funds to racist institutioans like his “former” church?



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Mr. Incredible

posted July 3, 2008 at 4:24 pm


==based on his affiliation with a racist pastor, we know what Obama thinks is “faith-based.” Will an Obama administration funnel public funds to racist institutioans like his “former” church?==
Great point!
We know what the answer to your question is.



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Corey Nathan

posted July 6, 2008 at 10:47 am


As a Christian, the sad thing is that my bet is I would have a more honest conversation partner in someone like Wendy than in Mr. Incredible. She refers to herself as an atheist yet sounds as if she’d have the integrity to consider a different point of view if it were presented to her. I have some views that would be associated with what we call conservative and some liberal. But everything, for me, is informed by my Christian faith. The most difficult thing, as a Christian, is when I see the hypocrisy and disingenuineness of the likes of… well, we all know the most current, public figures… but we have one right here in our midst in Mr. Incredible.



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Mr. Incredible

posted July 6, 2008 at 5:28 pm


==As a Christian, the sad thing is that my bet is I would have a more honest conversation partner in someone like Wendy than in Mr. Incredible.==
Translation: “I can’t get Mr. Incredible to agree with me, and, so, he is not honest in his conversation.”
==…everything, for me, is informed by my Christian faith.==
Ahhhh, yes, and yet, you support NObama, even though he supports abortion and so-called “same-sex ‘marriage.'” We see.
==The most difficult thing, as a Christian, is when I see the hypocrisy and disingenuineness of the likes of… well, we all know the most current, public figures… but we have one right here in our midst in Mr. Incredible.==
Translation: “I can’t get Mr. Incedible to agree with me, and, so, he must be a hypocrite and disingenuous.”



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Mr. Incredible

posted July 6, 2008 at 5:36 pm


==I would have a more honest conversation partner in someone like Wendy than in Mr. Incredible…I see the hypocrisy and disingenuineness…right here in our midst in Mr. Incredible.==
Translation: “I tried to sweet-talk Mr. Incredible into siding with me, but he is stubborn and has his own ideas which, of course, are wrong cuz I, of course, am right, and he should realize that.”



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