Americans to some degree and particularly those on the Right are now beset by a true conundrum. Is Barack Obama a Christian or a Muslim? According to the latest Pew Research polling: “nearly one-in-five Americans (18%) now say Obama is a Muslim, up from 11% in March 2009. Only about one-third of adults (34%) say Obama is a Christian, down sharply from 48% in 2009. Fully 43% say they do not know what Obama’s religion is.” Well, it’s no wonder people are so confused, especially when two of the most prominent talking heads on the far right differ as to what is the actual religion of the President. If Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh aren’t on the same page on this, how can we expect the lowliest schlep to know what’s real and as opposed to contrived?
In a recent anti-Obama rant, Mr. Limbaugh intoned: “Imam Hussein Obama is probably the best anti-American president we’ve ever had.” Limbaugh has been at center stage in railing against the proposed “Ground Zero Mosque’ while trying to somehow insinuate that Obama’s defense of the constitutional right to religious freedom somehow proves that the President is an Islamic. Meanwhile just this past Sunday, in a follow up to his Lincoln Memorial Rally, Mr. Beck appeared with Chris Wallace of Fox News to proclaim that Obama is in fact not a racist after all, but a practicing Christian who just happens to be enamored with Liberation Theology. This brand of Christian thought is defined: “as a movement in Christian theology which interprets the teachings of Jesus Christ in terms of liberation from unjust economic, political, or social conditions.” According to Beck himself: “he misunderstood Obama’s philosophy and his theology…which is liberation theology… he didn’t understand, really, his theology his viewpoints come from liberation theology. That’s what I think as in — at the gut level I was sensing. And I miscast it as racism. And really, what it is liberation theology.” Thus, its now official, according to Glenn Beck, Barak Obama is legitimately some sort of Christian. Well fancy that, one of the most prominent forces in the American right has reaffirmed that the President is in fact a Christian while the other is still working overtime to convince Americans otherwise.
So what is really going on here? Is there a genuine question as to Barack Obama’s faith or are we in fact looking at a garden variety witch hunt perpetrated from two different angles in a crass and unvarnished attempt to undermine a legitimately elected president through the propagation of falsehoods? Do Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh really believe what they are publicly saying or are they and their followers just unable to face up to the fact that their idea of what America should be just does not comport with what people voted for in 2008. Is that truth just too much to bear? And where is the leadership that we should be seeing from responsible and respectable Republicans in opposition to this political falderal and farce? Perhaps the leaders of the G.O.P. are just too cowed by the far right to stand up for political decency or perhaps they just don’t have the requisite courage. In a recent op-ed on this very topic, Paul Krugman opined: “What we learned from the Clinton years is that a significant number of Americans just don’t consider government by liberals – even very moderate liberals – legitimate. Obama’s election would have enraged those people even if he were white. Of course, the fact that he isn’t, and has an alien-sounding name, adds to the rage. And powerful forces are promoting and exploiting this rage…Meanwhile, the right-wing media are replaying their greatest hits. In the 1990s, Limbaugh used innuendo to feed anti-Clinton mythology, notably the insinuation that Hillary Clinton was complicit in the death of Vince Foster. Now, as we’ve just seen, he’s doing his best to insinuate Obama is a Muslim. And where, in all of this, are the responsible Republicans, leaders who will stand up and say that some partisans are going too far? Nowhere to be found.” That said, it’s more than evident that the time for the truly patriotic to stand up for political decency and honest debate is now and that’s especially true for the leadership of the G.O.P. How can they legitimately ask for our votes when they allow this type of anti-democratic demagoguery to take place right under their noses and in plain view? Perhaps this is what you get from a political party that may be on its way out of business in the long run. Then again, maybe it’s what you get when there is just a lack of courage in a party that has for so long prided itself as the repository of “real American values.” At any rate every American voter has to ask himself this question: If the leaders of the Republican Party lack the courage to take on Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, where will they find the courage and stamina required to get us out of the Great Recession or face down Al Qaida or any other threat that will surely emerge in the brave new world of this new century? Failing that courage, do they really deserve our votes?
Steven J. Gulitti
New Haven, CT.