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Tilting at Windmills

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May 7, 2009

SETTING THE NDP RECORD STRAIGHT.... We talked earlier about President Obama breaking with Bush's habit of recognizing the National Day of Prayer. In the past few hours, though, the bizarre lies from the right about the president's decision have been remarkable.

Let's quickly summarize. In the early 1950s, when lawmakers were adding "under God" to the Pledge and changing all American money to include the phrase "In God We Trust," Congress created an official annual Prayer Day for the nation. Congress, under pressure from the religious right, changed the law in 1988 to set the National Day of Prayer as the first Thursday in May. Obama, like his predecessors, issued a proclamation (pdf) honoring the "holiday."

So, what's the problem? Unlike George W. Bush, Obama didn't open up the White House to the self-appointed National Day of Prayer Task Force, run by religious right activists, which has hosted exclusive events for the last eight years.

This has led a variety of conservatives to make a variety of demonstrably false claims.

Lie #1: Rush Limbaugh said Obama tried to "cancel" the National Day of Prayer.

That's obviously not true; Obama issued a proclamation acknowledging the day. No effort was made to "cancel" anything.

Lie #2: Fox News' online project, Fox Nation, said the president "won't celebrate" the National Day of Prayer.

Again, the proclamation proves otherwise.

Lie #3: Fox News' Gretchen Carlson said the president's decision to participate in "private" prayer on "National Prayer Day" is evidence of Obama "giving in to the PC society that we live in."

No one pressured Obama to keep the National Day of Prayer Task Force out of the White House; it was just the obvious thing to do. As for the knock on "private" prayer, I might recommend Gretchen Carlson read Matthew 6:6.

Lie #4: Fox News' Steve Doocy said Reagan and George H. W. Bush held events similar to that of George W. Bush.

As hard as this is to believe, Doocy has it backwards. Reagan largely ignored the NDP for his first seven years in office.

Lie #5: Elisabeth Hasselbeck said on Fox News that the National Day of Prayer "has been a huge tradition" in the U.S.

That's just nonsense, since most presidents, like most Americans, have largely ignored the "holiday." Besides, Obama is keeping the "tradition" going by doing what his predecessors have done -- he issued a proclamation. [Update: And if we're really going to talk about American "traditions," it's also worth remembering that Thomas Jefferson and James Madison explicitly rejected state-sponsored prayer days. And all Madison did was write the Constitution.]

Hasselbeck -- who is she again? -- concluded, "We should be able to gather and pray as we see fit." What I'll never understand about conservative activists is why they think they need government to get involved in spiritual matters. Hasselbeck could get together with others to pray as they see fit yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Whether the Dobsons get to hang out in the East Room of the White House is irrelevant.

Honestly, I'm not sure which is more annoying -- the conservatives' prayer-related dishonesty or their prayer-related whining.

Steve Benen 3:20 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (59)

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Comments

What does the Bible say about "bearing false witness" again?

Posted by: DJ on May 7, 2009 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

the self-appointed National Day of Prayer Task Force

I can't imagine what kind of professional failures I would have to go through to make me get involved with a non-recognized, unofficial "task force" and then start getting upset that I was not invited by the president to have my participation in a self-appointed group recognized. I am a busy man and don't demand that the president kiss my ass just because of my extracurricular activities with unofficial, self-appointed organizations.

Posted by: Tyro on May 7, 2009 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

Obama screwed this up. He should have hosted a White House event with an Imam from Detroit leading prayers in Arabic. And he should have painted a huge red arrow on the ceiling of the East Room to indicate the direction of Mecca. That surely would have caused Hasselbeck's head to explode.

Posted by: fostert on May 7, 2009 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

"Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people can see them. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you" (Matthew 6:5-6).

Posted by: Jon on May 7, 2009 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

Let them gnash, wail and rend.

Posted by: gbear on May 7, 2009 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

And Fox has dedicated how many hours of airtime to praying today? Howz 'bout they and RushBo and any other media gasbags start off their daily shows with a prayer of their choice? Maybe then I start to believe they are sincere (maybe and start, not actually do so).

Posted by: martin on May 7, 2009 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder what about Thou Shall Not Bear False Witness The Right does not get.

Posted by: veloer on May 7, 2009 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

What I find interesting is that those people seem to think that only Christians pray.

Posted by: smiley on May 7, 2009 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

I'm confused, if God actually cared about people like Hassleback wouldn't HE have put Sarah Palin in the White House? Perhaps Obama was just being tactful and didn't want to rub it in that God, like Joe the Plumber, has left the Republican party?

Posted by: Cioran Sellars on May 7, 2009 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder if Keith Ellison was invited to Dobson's event?

Posted by: TonyB on May 7, 2009 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps Obama was just being tactful and didn't want to rub it in that God, like Joe the Plumber, has left the Republican party?

How much of a loser is the GOP to have Samuel Wurzelbacher walk out on it?! That's pure, distilled humiliation, man.

Posted by: shortstop on May 7, 2009 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

Heck....this is such a well-known event that not a single person I've talked to in the last twenty minutes here at work even knew that it even existed, let alone that it was today.

Just another example of right-wing Republicans making a big fuss over something that matters only in their shrinking bubble of a universe.

Posted by: mfw13 on May 7, 2009 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder what about Thou Shall Not Bear False Witness The Right does not get.

Bear? Where. Aaaaaaaaaaaah!!!!

Posted by: Sarah Save Us on May 7, 2009 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

What martin said. If Rush Limbaugh, Gretchen Carlson, Steve Doocy, and Elisabeth Hasselbeck want to pray on air, then they should feel free to do so, rather than whinge about Obama's not praying in the way they would like.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on May 7, 2009 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, way OT.

Notre Dame is withdrawing its invitation to President Obama to speak at commencement.

Posted by: msmolly on May 7, 2009 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps the corporate christians and their apologists really do need a day of government sponsored prayer -- they want us to forgive them for destroying the economy and shrinking the middle class. But THAT will never happen.

Posted by: Kurt on May 7, 2009 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

What I find interesting is that those people seem to think that only Christians pray
I am sure there might have been a liberal prayer once in the last thousand years. Maybe not.

Posted by: EC Sedgwick on May 7, 2009 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

Apparently I've been living in a cave. I didn't know we had a National Prayer Day.

Posted by: Lynn Dee on May 7, 2009 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

The other thing about all these fundie whingers is that, if they actually had any faith - if they believed that their god was the Creator of all there is, the Alpha and the Omega, and on top of all that, cared about them and played an active, benevolent role in their lives, then they'd just go about their business, trusting in their god, and sharing the good news of his existence with others.

But all their huffing and puffing over nonsense like this demonstrates that their view of their god is that he's like an inflatable doll, and if nobody's huffing and puffing to keep him inflated, he'll shrink down to nothing.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on May 7, 2009 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

I'm confused, if God actually cared about people like Hassleback wouldn't HE have put Sarah Palin in the White House? Perhaps Obama was just being tactful and didn't want to rub it in that God, like Joe the Plumber, has left the Republican party?

Posted by: Cioran Sellars

actually he does care about hasslebeck; that's why he put Obama in the white house

Posted by: mudwall jackson on May 7, 2009 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

I've been told by a bone fide member of the Religious Right™ that God only meant that commandment to apply to people under oath in courts of law.

Posted by: idlemind on May 7, 2009 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

They say they despise the power of government, but if the G or its officials don't follow the procedures they demand, the dextrowingers act like it's trying to keep them from doing their own thing. What mixed up people.

Posted by: Neil B ☺ on May 7, 2009 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

"Hasselbeck -- who is she again?"

A RightWing airhead.

Her utterances are as embarrassing as those from Chimpy.

Posted by: Joe Friday on May 7, 2009 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

They all seem to be preying alright. The National Day of bullshit if you ask me. Religion is immoral.

Posted by: The Galloping Trollop on May 7, 2009 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

Hasselbeck could get together with others to pray as they see fit

Exactly. For example, right now I'm praying that I never have to hear another deranged opinion from that sorry waste of carbon, Hasselback, ever again.

Posted by: ckelly on May 7, 2009 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

I'd never even heard of a national day of prayer. What exactly was I being called on to pray for? Did the government publish an official list of things, or was I suppose supposed to wing it? And to whom and/or what was I expected to pray?

Anyway, doesn't the Thanksgiving holiday supersede it (if not render it superfluous altogether)?

Posted by: JL on May 7, 2009 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

I find it hard to believe that Christian leaders felt snubbed by the man they claimed was a Muslim 6 months ago ? Where they going to bring their prayer mats, did they expect the Muslim President to pray in Christian, or did they simply lie about his religious preference for their own personal benefit.

Right, and now he's the jerk for not wanting to meet with them and pray.

Posted by: ScottW on May 7, 2009 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

Fox News' Gretchen Carlson said the president's decision to participate in "private" prayer on "National Prayer Day" is evidence of Obama "giving in to the PC society that we live in."

No, it's evidence of Obama following Jesus's instructions - Carlson probably isn't familiar with them.

Posted by: kc on May 7, 2009 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

Howz 'bout they and RushBo and any other media gasbags start off their daily shows with a prayer of their choice?

I'd rather they start with a moment of silence lasting, oh say, 3 hours.

Posted by: ckelly on May 7, 2009 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

"Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people can see them. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you" (Matthew 6:5-6).

I don't know, Jon. That doesn't sound very BIBLICAL to me. It sounds like something more out of a left-wing magazine like Mother Jones or the Utne Reader.
...
On a slighter broader topic -- this is a perfect illustration of how politicizing religion (inevitable if it is going to a political power player) is bad for religion.

This just occurred to me: We are experienced a liberal backlash now against all the conservative obnoxiousness of the last eight years.

Posted by: inkadu on May 7, 2009 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

I'm reluctant to assume that Hasselbeck is as stupid as she seems, but this makes me wonder. Does she really not know that the Dobsons don't regard her -- or any other Catholic -- as a Christian? More and more, whenever I think of the religious right, I'm reminded of what Bush family friend said about GWB: "There's no question that the president's faith is real, that it's authentic, that it's genuine, and there's no question that it's calculated . . . George Bush doesn't know when he's operating out of a genuine sense of his own faith, or when it's calculated, and there must be gray areas in between . . ."

Posted by: penalcolony on May 7, 2009 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

Fucks "News" and Limbarf putting out bullshit? I shocked, shocked I tell you.

Posted by: In what respect, Charlie? on May 7, 2009 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks (I think) for posting the idiocy. But, in the interest of accuracy, Madison didn't "write the Constitution." He was part of the Constitutional Convention, he was instrumental in getting the CC to happen at all, he was one of the very few delegates to attend every session, and he did keep copious notes of the proceedings that are our best and most comprehensive account of what happened there. But the Convention rejected a majority of his ideas for the Constitution, and the actual writing of the document was done by a committee led by another delegate, Gouverneur Morris, a delegate from PA.

Posted by: Sam on May 7, 2009 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

PC to pray in private? Gah. Give me a break. Pathetic and weak. I didn't even know we had a National Prayer Day. I don't think we should have one, so I am more than pleased that Obama didn't make a big hoo-ha about it.

Posted by: asiangrrlMN on May 7, 2009 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

Hasselbeck -- who is she again? -- concluded, "We should be able to gather and pray as we see fit."

And if a nonChristian wishes to pray to their God wherever they want to, what's wrong with that. Isn't that what she said?

Posted by: Ray Waldren on May 7, 2009 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

Uh, Steve, MADISON wrote the constitution? Did I miss something?

Posted by: catherineD on May 7, 2009 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

I did, didn't I. I'm thinking of the Declaration of Independence. Never mind.

Posted by: catherineD on May 7, 2009 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

Notre Dame is withdrawing its invitation to President Obama to speak at commencement.

A hoax. Bogus e-mail is fluttering about the internet. No such e-mail was ever sent by ND.

Posted by: DJ on May 7, 2009 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK

How about a national day of fucking silence...

Has there been a single day in the last 100+ where the righty crowd HASN'T gotten their panties in a bunch about some bullshit lie?

Oh yeah, BTW, there is no god. It's a myth.

Posted by: Ranger Jay on May 7, 2009 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK

Conservatives are dicks.

Posted by: David Bailey on May 7, 2009 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

Two people above have mentioned the bible passage Matt 6:6, but this should be emphasized. Jesus in the bible DENOUNCES those who attempt to gain secular advantage by making a show of their piety or prayer. But that's just what these purported Christians do. And they complain if their political opponents don't. It would appear they don't know their own religion. Of course, in reality, they don't really care, about the truth or their god. They just say anything they think will hit where they want.

Posted by: chas simmons on May 7, 2009 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

Obama, like his predecessors, issued a proclamation (pdf) honoring the "holiday." -- Steve Benen

I'm glad you put "holiday" in quotation marks. The banks were open today as was the Post Office. IOW, whatever the hoopla *is* it's not a holiday. Prayer or no, there was no rest for the wicked...

Posted by: exlibra on May 7, 2009 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

"...I'm not sure which is more annoying -- the conservatives' prayer-related dishonesty or their prayer-related whining.

Of course, there's also the whole "Worshiping Invisible Superheroes Who Live In Outer Space"- thing, but perhaps that's just me.

Posted by: Cazart on May 7, 2009 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

Actually I think it's fair to say Obama didn't celebrate it. He acknowledged it which is different. And I'm just fine with not him celebrating it.

Though for me personally, it was always a big deal because I went to private evangelical tinged schools for K-8 and it was always my classmates circling the flagpole and praying to stop abortion or something. My response was "1)Too early, I'd rather sleep and 2)It's a religious school we can pray anytime we want here, what's the big deal?"

Posted by: MNPundit on May 7, 2009 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

That surely would have caused Hasselbeck's head to explode.

Posted by: fostert on May 7, 2009 at 3:25 PM

I'd pay to see that.

Posted by: Schtick on May 7, 2009 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

How about a national day of fucking silence...

Or silent fucking. Either one would be more interesting to me. But that's just me.

And let's see, that's Limbaugh, Fox News, Fox News, Fox News, and finally Fox News.

I hear the sun is going to rise again tomorrow.

Posted by: e henry thrsipshaw on May 7, 2009 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

I prayed today - all day. I prayed to my secular god to make the Republicans shut up.


Posted by: sheridan on May 7, 2009 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

"We should be able to gather and pray as we see fit."

Except, apparently, for President Obama - Hasselbeck wants him to pray only as she sees fit, not as he does.

Posted by: g on May 7, 2009 at 7:01 PM | PERMALINK

There is way too much chatter coming from Earth today. What hath I wraught?

Posted by: The Big G on May 7, 2009 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK

"We should be able to gather and pray as we see fit."

Since when do they NOT have the ability to gather and pray as they see fit. They just can't do it in the White House. They are not entitled to do so.

This is one of the big lies that the fundie leaders perpetrate on their weak-minded followers. I've got evangelicals all in my family, so I'm constantly getting emails about how we've taken prayer out of the schools, about how we've banished prayer altogether in the public square. Never mind the whole issue of Jesus' own words about public prayer, posted many times above. It is just NOT TRUE that children are prohibited from praying in schools, and prayer is NOT outlawed in any public place, as far as I know. It's the state-sanctioned and -supported kind of public prayer that is prohibited. What lies.

Posted by: carolatl on May 7, 2009 at 8:35 PM | PERMALINK


Writing a simple but you have weight, I am interested in reading it. I try to visit you more often. Thank you my friend.

Posted by: samsyu on May 7, 2009 at 9:03 PM | PERMALINK

"Honestly, I'm not sure which is more annoying -- the conservatives' prayer-related dishonesty or their prayer-related whining."

Their prayer-related whining is more annoying. Whinig is almost always more annoying than anything it is compared to.

However, I'd change "dishonesty" to hypocrisy. It's not just that their are dishonest, the profess publicly what they don't do privately.

Posted by: Cal Gal on May 7, 2009 at 10:19 PM | PERMALINK

God's Own Party: parasitic and Pharisetic.

Posted by: Jeany on May 7, 2009 at 11:27 PM | PERMALINK

"Obama, like his predecessors, issued a proclamation (pdf) honoring the "holiday." -- Steve Benen

I'm glad you put "holiday" in quotation marks. The banks were open today as was the Post Office. IOW, whatever the hoopla *is* it's not a holiday. Prayer or no, there was no rest for the wicked..." - exlibra

Don't you know that the ability of American corporations to make money is what guarantees us our freedoms? It's in the Bible. (snark)

Actually, I'm wondering if the righties conspired not to show up so they could through a hissy about it. Perhaps because they found out in the planning phases that Obama would be ecumenical in his invitations and withdrew in a snit?

All in all, I think it a welcome return to sanity and the ending of the commmercialization and exploitation of religion by politicians. If you are in it strictly as a power play, I guess that would suck for you.


Posted by: Always Hopeful on May 7, 2009 at 11:58 PM | PERMALINK

I know very few Republicans who even pretend to live the Sermon on the Mount. There's a whole cottage industry -- Catholic, Protestant, evangelical -- explaining why Jesus Christ's most extensive and detailed explanation of his teachings does not actually apply to Christians.

Who was it who said that Christianity is a wonderful religion, it's a pity no one's tried it?

Or, as Mark Twain said, "There has been only one Christian. They caught him and crucified him--early."

Posted by: Jon on May 8, 2009 at 12:17 AM | PERMALINK

Who is Elizabeth Hasselbeck? She's a moron who could past the IQ test low enough to become a reality TV queen on "Survivor." Whoopi goldberg once questioned whether she actually had a brain.

BTW - if you're dumb enough to watch "Reality TV" in any incarnation, you're too goddamned stupid to be here. Get thee to Fox Nation where your moron stupidity will not be so apparent.

Posted by: TCinLA on May 8, 2009 at 3:11 AM | PERMALINK

Symbolically, I've always found the National Day of Prayer really absurd and offensive, especially as an atheist. I wish that in addition to signing the declaration that Obama had made a statement the importance of the seperation of church and state and said that America is NOT a theocracy. But I understand he didn't, pick your battles and all that.

For the past 15 years I've often referred to the religious right as what they truly are-- theocrats. This is a perfect example of how much they want America to be a Christian theocracy. They want the government to put their faith above all others and get really pissed when it treats all religions as equal. They really just need to fuck off once and for all, go pray quietly and stop using their faith as a weapon.

Posted by: zoe kentucky on May 8, 2009 at 8:20 AM | PERMALINK

Hassleback needs a great deal of prayer, so her husband can return to the NFL and re-grow some hair. But, geez, she did call "Joe the Plumbingproblem" an ignoramous for his "queer" remark.

Posted by: berttheclock on May 8, 2009 at 8:26 AM | PERMALINK

Why all the hate people? Geez....you got what you wanted! A Godless heathen in Obama, or is he a muslim extremist? Same thing I guess! Anyway, instead of wasting my time worrying about what political pundits are spewing, I'm going to be spending my time enjoying the great bounty that God has given me! It's fishing opener here in Minnesota. The air is clear, the lakes are clean and full of walleye, and hunting season is just around the corner! Can't wait to kill some Grouse and Pheasant that God so graciously provided for my nourishment. And when I'm in church,( Hebrews 10:24-25
24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another�and all the more as you see the Day approaching.)
I'll thank Him for His glorious gifts, and also pray for you Heathens!

Posted by: Get a grip on May 8, 2009 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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