Biden, Palin Focus on Issues, not Ideology

After a campaign overflowing with God-talk – the Compassion Forum and the Saddleback Forum , Obama’s reaching out to Evangelicals … Continued

After a campaign overflowing with God-talk – the Compassion Forum and the Saddleback Forum , Obama’s reaching out to Evangelicals and Palin’s energizing the religious right – religious references were almost absent from the Vice Presidential debate.

Palin quipped that Biden’s wife (a teacher) would “find her reward in heaven”, and Biden asked God to protect our troops – and that was about it.

There was a brief mention of Roe v. Wade, a dignified discussion about same-sex relationships, and the typical back-and-forth on Iraq and Afghanistan. But no lectures on Christian morality from Sarah Palin, no mention of Catholic faith by Joe Biden, no debate about whether ‘radical Islamic extremism is the gravest threat we face’ (a frequent McCain applause line) in the foreign policy section.

Maybe the most God talk that happened last night was in the homes of Republican strategists, who you could almost picture pointing to heaven like a wide receiver who just caught a touchdown pass, grateful beyond belief that their Vice Presidential candidate brought some coherence to the debate along with her folksy charm.

You have to wonder what those strategists are going to tell Palin now, though. Remember, conservative Christians like James Dobson were tepid about McCain until Palin – who many view as one of theirs – was selected for the ticket. Who knows what the Dobson crew thought of Palin stressing how tolerant she was of same-sex relationships last night. Remember how big a deal a hard line on the same-sex marriage issue was to the Republicans in 2004? Well, there was no talk of Constitutional amendments to define marriage or direct references to religion in that whole discussion last night – just oblique statements about “tradition”. Which meant there was no joy in Colorado Springs last night.

As well as Palin did in the debate – and I found her generally fluent and likable – that most important audience of hers, conservative Christians, might have been left a little lukewarm.

I predict that faith is going to return to center-stage in this campaign sooner rather than later, and not only because Sarah Palin needs to put it up front in her speeches to please social conservatives.

We typically think about religion only in the context of social issues (what does a candidate’s faith tell them about abortion or same-sex marriage), or foreign policy matters (why is there so much religious conflict in the world), and since those two topics are taking a backseat to the economy, God talk seems to have faded from the scene.

But I actually think our financial problems make faith an even more important issue in the campaign. When the economy hemorrhages jobs, and government has to cut programs because of a lack of tax revenue, it is inevitably faith-based groups who step up and provide the safety net.

I was with John DiIulio – Bush’s first Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives – a few weeks ago and he emphasized to me the gargantuan amounts of direct service work faith communities provide in areas like job training, child care, homeless shelters, family counseling, and the like. Those programs are going to need to expand as our economy spirals downward, and it’s going to be the time, talent and treasure of people in churches, synagogues and mosques who are going to lead that effort.

Obama has put forth a plan for his White House to work with faith groups on providing direct services to communities – the type of services that are even more needed during hard economic times.

It’s time for McCain to respond with his own plan, and for all the candidates to stress just how much we are going to need Americans of all faiths and no faith at all to help each other through what promises to be a very painful period.

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  • HemiHead66

    Who cares how Palin did in the debate. Everything she said was written out for her. Two days ago she couldn’t tell us what newspaper she reads and now she’s commenting on Darfur. Does she really expect me to beliieve that she knew about all those things prior to last week. If John McCain is the maverick of reform why is our country in the position that it’s in today. I think she needs to take a better look at McCain’s voting record. Instead of her talking about Obama not wanting the troops, maybe she should’ve mentioned how McCain has voted against their health care throughout this war. McCain wouldn’t even give up corporate tax loopholes so that that funding could go to the troops.

  • jen0830

    Palin was great. I read some “neutral” news sources that said “she wasn’t that bad after all”. Did the press form any judgments ahead of time, with accolades to their sainted Barak and Biden?

  • CCNL

    From Concerned the Christian now Liberated:Not one debate question about Witches, Holy Cows, Holy Ghosts/Spirits, Pretty Thingies (Gabriels), Ascending/Descending Bodies, Wine to Blood and Bread to Flesh and the rest of that ancient Voodoo with some first century Palestine hoodoo and six to seventh century Arab Hoodoo!! Shocking???? Or maybe we have finally grown up and put away Dark Age superstitions!!!!!!

  • mijarybu

    Everyone has faith. There is no people group that does not have faith. Even those who don’t believe in God claiming agnosticism or atheism still have faith. It requires faith to proclaim there is no God. As well, even the non-church going folks tend to be a part of a religion. It is called Humanism. That is the religion of our world. There aren’t any church buildings but it is a religion.

  • scooterlibre

    In the beginning, God created the world, Adam, Eve and an apple tree. Near the end, Joe and Sarah stood 10 feet apart arguing about the wrong war that George created.

  • Manolete

    The time is now!The time is now!The time is now!The time is now! The time is now! Country First!

  • TeriB

    I thought she laid the folksy act on pretty thick, and her accent seemed thicker than ever. I actually found it pretty excruciating to listen to for 90 minutes. Other than the overly cutsy “dog gonnit” Joe Six Pack nonsense, she didn’t do much differently than she did in her debates running for governor, which was answer different questions than she was asked when she didn’t know the answer, and unleash a BS storm, laced with outright untruths and misrepresentations. Tragically, too many people in this country easily fall for that kind of thing.Can’t we just put her on a reality show where she belongs, instead of letting this actress hold high office? Then all the folks who like her can still watch her act every week, but we won’t be governed by fools – again. I’m really sick of getting what they deserve.

  • DaveMiner

    She was as likable as the hyped up product demonstrator at the mall: all manufactured “personality” and “excitement”! But Palin is her own product. I slice, I dice, I can core a apple! I can pronounce nuclear, noo-que-ler just like George W. Bush! But no pointing fingers backwards at the bridge to nowhere!! Luckily for her, there is only one debate. She’ll never have to actually answer a question as she didn’t last night. She’s a talking points robot on speed.

  • ottothewise

    Mr Patel is ignoring McCain’s actual stance on helping others.Asking McCain to make a speech on how he would support churches now, after running for a year and never bringing it up, is like giving Palin talking points to mention during a “debate”.PS. It was not a debate. Palin didnt answer half the direct questions.McCain has answered the question, Mr Patel. He is not interested in doing good works. Christians can vote for Obama because he has said that

  • annanink

    Every voter should remember the First Amendment of the United States Constitution regarding “separation of church and state,” supported by Thomas Jefferson. Our founding fathers were more progressive than many of the Palin and Bush supporters. Say we are in the Middle Ages during Bush’s term, we may go back to the Stone Age with Palin in the office.


    Just what did you learn from Ms. Palin last night? That she can memorize talking points and has at least the intelligence to know where to insert them in the conversation? Haven’t we seen enough of that type in the oval office for the last eight years? How about some original thought processes for a change and not another republican robot at the mercy of big Texas oil and investors. These are the very snake oil salesmen who gave us ENRON and the mark to market accounting method for charging top dollar for hot air we were forced to purchase. Sounds like credit cards and AIG insurance doesn’t it. Obama may be black, he may be young, he may have radical views of religion, he might believe in science and Charles Darwin’s origin of species, who cares if his past actions are for people rather than investors? I doubt that any of us can say we NEVER had a friend or acquaintance who broke our own moral values somewhere along the line. The Obama track record appears to be superior to that of the rest based on service to the working class and that alone makes him a better choice than John McCain. Joe Biden has the experience to get things done in D. C. and Ms. Palin has a track record of Dick Cheaney abuse of power and lack of regard for truth. Holier than thou has resulted in the worst administration in world history and I personally do not want to repeat that embarrassment with more of the same so I will give Obama Biden a shot for they couldn’t possibly be any worse than the monkey and the mad man.

  • ktaugher2

    Sarah Palin is great! She is down to earth and plain spoken. She is just the sort of person we need as President of the United States. This is the same sort of person I would want to remove my brain tumor: somebody I could have a beer with, someone I would lend my lawn mower to. I wouldn’t want some “doctor” who diddled away years in some ivory tower “medical school”. Go Sarah!

  • hamishdad

    I have no faith that the policies of McCain/Palin will be any different than those of Bush/Cheney, which have pushed our national debt to over $10 trillion and climbing, and have pushed us to the brink of the second Republican Depression in U.S. History.If there is a God, He surely must be in favor of a health system that cares for people, regardless of their ability to pay.

  • kert1

    Let me just remind people that the “separation of Church and State” is not found in the constitution. This actually is a phrase from Jefferson’s letters well after the Constitution was completed. If he wanted to put it in the constitution is would have been there. Many people believe this phrase has been taken out of it’s context.The actual First amendment only restricts governments from meddling in Church affairs. It does not restrict the Church from petitioning the governement or getting involved in politics in any way that other individuals can. In fact the first amendment guarentees these rights. It makes sense that churches want to get involved and they should to help those of faith to figure out who to vote for.“ Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. ”

  • KYJurisDoctor

    I am still GROGGY from doing the 600 miles roundtrip drive (with my entire family) to Washington University where the Vice presidential debate was held.If you were there, like I was, you’d see it was an Obama event (by 80% to 20%), judging by the number of supporters and hand held signs!And Chris Mathews was standing before us — in the pre debate broadcast — doing his best to make the crowd go wild!!How did I see the debate and who won?Well, WITHOUT a doubt Joe Biden won — I and I’m sure EVERYONE else, who is true to themselves, expected him to win — and he did.Two BIGGEST surprises?NO gaffes from Joe Biden!And the other?While I, and millions like me were holding our COLLECTIVE breaths — yes, we turned blue in the face many times — THERE WERE NO “DID SHE REALLY SAY THAT” MOMENTS FROM SARAH PALIN (other than maybe her dissing of “the East Coast”), AS SHE ALMOST HELD HER OWN, WITH THE OBVIOUS EXCEPTION THAT SHE WAS VIRTUALLY NON RESPONSIVE TO QUESTIONS.BUT SHE HELD HER OWN, AND I DID NOT HAVE TO GRIMACE AT ALL.NOW THOSE TWO EVENTS REPRESENT UNEXPLAINED PHENOMENA. OsiSpeaks[dot]com

  • fart1

    Talking about faith, Biden has only given $300 to charity per year for ten years! Most people of faith give so much more than that per year with one tenth of Biden’s salary. Biden and Obama are frauds. Biden loves to talk about his kitchen table on every campaign stop. Biden should take his kitchen table and give it away rather than talking about it all the time.

  • seemstome

    Palin followed her talking points religiously. Her faith has been a radioactive issue ever since the laying on of hands of her African “witch doctor”. She knew it would be a loser.

  • seemstome

    I’m surprised that the Palinites would be posting here. Like their false idol I didn’t think they read newspapers much less leftist ones like the New York Times or The Washington Post.


    It is the Senate that confirms justices Lib, not the house.


    But good point, can you think of any Presidential Appointees that were NOT confirmed by the Senate?


    Oops- SEEM TO ME- that link was to Doniger’s post a few eeks ago that drew about almost 1,000 slathering foaming at the mouth moose-huntin’ gun-totin’ gosh darn REAL americans who support the Palindrone. And it was pretty funny because, after a show by Roland Martin (I love his dissections of cultural aspects of politics) where one of his Palindrone supporting guests directed the audience to Donger’s blog on WAPO Onfaith- They had to stop accepting submissions on that blog.

  • coloradodog

    The reason “Christian” Conservatives talk more about abortion and civil rights for gays is political. Rather than talking about the love and inclusion of Jesus, these neochristians dwell on political wedge issues to manipulate their fellow lemmings with fear and hatred.

  • CCNL

    From Concerned the Christian now Liberated:Last time we checked, Congress reviews and has the final say on all Supreme Court nominees.


    I think you’re right Lib- I always think of the house because the Senate is always referred to separately, and the general term for the house is always congress- But you miss the point- so George nominated John Roberts, another conservative. Nothing can stop a president from nominating justice appointees to thesupreme court. And if a seat is vacant- it is their duty to do so. I guess you have bever watched a Senate confirmation hearing- they are not taken lightly- can last for several day, tying senators up from performing other duties- and are very serious affairs. To imagine that the Senate will continue to reject nominees is not realistic. So, if McCain gets in, most assuredly he will be appointing a conservative justice. And that is the point. So, out of your list- in the past 78 years-Clement Haynsworth 1969 Nixon Rejected G. Harrold Carswell 1970 Nixon RejectedRobert H. Bork 1987 Reagan Rejected There are only 3 rejections of presidential justice nominees- in 78 years- Stay off of wikipdia. It erodes ones ability to think.


    You seemed to have forgotten the original point you were (disagreeing with?)And she can tell us all,”I said, Thanks, but no thanks to Congress on that bill to institute same sex benefits.” Dubya first nominated a woman based upon her adherence to ultra right wing stances- but he failed to take into account that she would have to be conversant with constitutional law- which she wasn’t, and failed miserably on the pre-test given to her, so her nomination was withdrawn- Whereupon he nominated the pro-life conservative justice John Roberts, who currently sits on the bench. A McCain-Palin (or Palin-McCain according to the palindrone) adminsitration would UNQUESTIONABLY nominate an ultra conservative pro-life justice who reflects their own philosophy- which would tip that checks and balance over to the right-

  • CCNL

    Astoria, Astoria, Astoria,I am sure you will survive if McPhalin wins the election. And it will be up to the Senate to decide your apparent concern about the world going up in smoke if another Supreme Court justice retires and a conservative, family-value oriented, judge is approved.

  • CCNL

    Astoria, Astoria, Astoria,There have been few rejections/withdrawals of Supreme Court judges in our country’s history because the nominees in most cases were top-notch jurists whether they were liberal or conservative thinkers on some issues i.e. the intent of the US Constitution was to establish checks and balances on the federal government. So far, it is working quite well. And I have watched many Supreme Court nominee hearings on C-Span. The time spent by our Senators is not wasted and is “supremely”Are you saying Wikipedia’s list of rejected/withdrawn Court nominees is in error??


    It looks like my personal prediction has come true with a vengeance. McCain is going to go on the uber-attack- he may raise up Pastor Wright in an effort to terrify the white people- (he NEEDS those white blue collar vote desperately now.) And he will refer endlessly to the islamo-fascist terrorist threat- but other than fear-mongering a dim and dulled sheeple-