The Obama team has come out with its official talking points on the Warren invocation, and there's nothing there that's all too surprising. They want the celebrity power at their ceremony but they don't want to take responsibility for picking a known homophobe and extreme-right ideologue.
This battle isn't about the fact that someone who disagrees on politics is being brought into the fold. This is about someone who's a liar and a charlatan being brought into the big tent, someone, who, if he had his way, would kick the rest of us out. This is someone who doesn't agree with Obama on anything and who has specifically stated that his political opinions are non-negotiable. This is someone who worked on behalf of Bush's 2004 campaign to ensure four more years of pain for the United States for his political gain.
There are no openly LGBT speakers at this ceremony, and Obama has refused to nominate an openly LGBT person to a cabinet-level position. The message all this sends is clear: Rick Warren and his homophobic followers are the people who Obama's administration will value, not LGBT people. Their votes count more than ours, and they're the elusive Real Americans that need to be reached out to. The rest of us aren't worth their time.
Here are Team Obama's talking points, via the Huffington Post:
• This will be the most open, accessible, and inclusive Inauguration in American history.
• In keeping with the spirit of unity and common purpose this Inauguration will reflect, the President-elect and Vice President-elect have chosen some of the world's most gifted artists and people with broad appeal to participate in the inaugural ceremonies.
• Pastor Rick Warren has a long history of activism on behalf of the disadvantaged and the downtrodden. He's devoted his life to performing good works for the poor and leads the evangelical movement in addressing the global HIV/AIDS crisis. In fact, the President-elect recently addressed Rick Warren's Saddleback Civil Forum on Global Health to salute Warren's leadership in the struggle against HIV/AIDS and pledge his support to the effort in the years ahead.
• The President-elect disagrees with Pastor Warren on issues that affect the LGBT community. They disagree on other issues as well. But what's important is that they agree on many issues vital to the pursuit of social justice, including poverty relief and moving toward a sustainable planet; and they share a commitment to renewing America's promise by expanding opportunity at home and restoring our moral leadership abroad.
• As he's said again and again, the President-elect is committed to bringing together all sides of the faith discussion in search of common ground. That's the only way we'll be able to unite this country with the resolve and common purpose necessary to solve the challenges we face.
• The Inauguration will also involve Reverend Joseph Lowery, who will be delivering the official benediction at the Inauguration. Reverend Lowery is a giant of the civil rights movement who boasts a proudly progressive record on LGBT issues. He has been a leader in the struggle for civil rights for all Americans, gay or straight.
• And for the very first time, there will be a group representing the interests of LGBT Americans participating in the Inaugural Parade.
A few quick responses:
- Rick Warren is anathema to the "spirit of unity and common purpose." His politics center around divisiveness.
- Rick Warren has a history of talking himself up when it comes to activism and helping the down-trodden. He's dishonest about his record and has a big head about it to boot. His church was not the first on the scene when it came to HIV, climate change, or helping the poor, and they definitely have not done more than many progressive churches have. Plus, LGBT people have a longer history and have been working harder to help people with HIV/AIDS, and yet we're not represented among the speakers. Instead, we're insulted.
- Obama and Warren do not agree on poverty-relief, or at least I hope they don't. Rick Warren is on record as saying that tax-cuts are the way to help the poor, a tried and failed method that only serves to give more money to the rich. When it comes to "moral leadership abroad," Pastor Rick Warren has called for the head of Iranian president Ahmadinejad. He's lock-step with John McCain's desire to "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran."
- There is no common ground with Warren. He has said that his political positions are "non-negotiable." The only common ground is to agree with him. He is absolutely opposed to women's choice and LGBT rights.
- While it's encouraging to see someone like Joseph Lowery address the crowd, the choice should not be between one pastor who's OK with the fact that LGBT people exist and another who plain doesn't like us. Presenting them side-by-side creates an illusion that acknowledging LGBT people's humanity is a choice on which respectable people can disagree. But it's not - opposing equal rights and others' basic autonomy is a moral failing.
- It's in poor taste to drag the LGBT marching band in the middle of this. Presenting them as another counter-balance to Rick Warren makes their presence a political choice on their part. It's implicitly asking them to quit if they have a problem with Warren's presence. But this isn't about them, it's about the speakers, none of whom are L, G, B, or T.
Obama was asked about Warren at a press conference, and here was his response:
I am fierce advocate for equality for gay and -- well, let me start by talking about my own views. I think it is no secret that I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans. It is something I have been consistent on and something I intend to continue to be consistent on during my presidency.
What I've also said is that it is important for America to come together even though we may have disagreements on certain social issues.
And I would note that a couple of years ago I was invited to Rick Warren's church to speak, despite his awareness that I held views entirely contrary to his when it came to gay and lesbian rights, when it came to issues like abortion.
Nevertheless, I had an opportunity to speak, and that dialog, I think, is a part of what my campaign's been all about, that we're never going to agree on every single issue. What we have to do is create an atmosphere where we can disagree without being disagreeable, and then focus on those things that we hold in common as Americans. So Rick Warren has been invited to speak, Dr. Joseph Lowery -- who has deeply contrasting views to Rick Warren about a whole host of issues -- is also speaking.
We can disagree without being disagreeable, but Rick Warren cannot. He can't just disagree with same-sex marriage, he had to liken us to pedophiles and then say that our rights would take away from his.
Also, it's a bit disingenuous to call himself a "fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans." "Lukewarm" would be a better adjective. He can't use cred from other issues here because, while he's definitely in favor of some positive changes for LGBT people, he's not one of of our foremost advocates, in the Congress or elsewhere.
And for those people who still think Obama didn't pick Warren, the committee that plans the inauguration is saying something different.
This ceremony was supposed to be a momentous occasion, a time to come together to acknowledge the historical significance of this occasion as well as, well, celebrate the end of the Bush era. Instead, we have a president-elect who's drawing lines about who's counts and who doesn't in this country and who has counted us out. It'll ruin the day for a lot of us, but I guess when you try to stuff as many people under one tent as possible, some people will have to stand out in the rain.