Tag Archives: President Obama

Presidents Obama and Bush Invoke America’s Religious Heritage at Ground Zero 9/11 Memorial

Last week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City made headlines when he expressly excluded clergy-led prayer from the planned 10th anniversary 9/11 Memorial Service at Ground Zero. It troubled many Americans that a prominent public official would ignore the profound role the faith community played in the aftermath of 9/11. Yet, thanks to the intervention of two American Presidents who were invited, the memorial service ultimately did reflect our nation’s religious heritage.

Following remarks by Mayor Bloomberg, President Obama stood to offer solace to the families of 9/11 victims who were gathered. His entire speech was taken straight from Psalm 46, a passage cited in difficult times by courageous leaders from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Reverend Billy Graham used this text in his memorable sermon at the National Cathedral on September 14, 2001.

Former President George W. Bush briefly spoke at the Ground Zero memorial service as well. He pointedly acknowledged the American tradition of faith, as he echoed the words of Abraham Lincoln: “I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost.”

President Obama’s policy record on supporting religious liberty, including freedom of conscience for chaplains and health care professionals, has been lacking. His decision to invoke our nation’s Judeo-Christian heritage in the public square, when organizers insisted on a nonreligious program, is a recognition of the continuing significance of religious practice for the common good—and should be followed up in policy deed.

Cross-posted at The Foundry

[cpac recap] Priority #1: Your Message

We all have Alzheimer’s because your mind retains basic ideas for only 16 days. It takes 7 repeated impressions for a message to be absorbed. — nationally syndicated columnist Joel Mowbray

Mowbray, an energetic speaker in his 30’s, is a media expert: he knows how much to tell the press, and precisely when so it makes the greatest impact.

Combine that knowledge with preceding speaker Christopher Doss, whose campaign work and historical studies collide in his talk on how to best craft your political message… What you get is uncommonly useful ideas for public activism.

A Leadership Institute veteran, Doss kicked off the morning with a selection of quotes from our Founding Fathers:

“Even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.” – Thomas Jefferson

“I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” – James Madison

“The issue today is the same as it has been throughout all history, whether man shall be allowed to govern himself or be ruled by a small elite.” – Thomas Jefferson

Freedom must be worked out in each sector of society. There is no shortage of ideas to increase freedom—but how can we mobilize others around that message and make it viable? Doss and Mowbray use a simple formula.

M = E*C³ or Message = Emotion multiplied by (Credibility x Contrast x Connection)

Here’s how that formula works in real life…

Say your Message is limited government. How can you rephrase that? Coining the phrase “partial-birth abortion” and getting the media to use it won that debate for the pro-life cause.
– A Congressman can get his emotion into shrinking the state, because it’s directly related to individual freedom in America.
– To have credibility, this Representative must refuse the subsidies that many in his district demand.
– Such a bold stand also shows the contrast between this leader and the opposing candidate. (Republicans had no contrast with Democrats in ’06 and ’08, thus they lost.)

– Where many fumble is connection. To sustain your message, the folks who care about what you say need reminders on what it is, why it matters and how it’s playing out today.

Once you’ve thought through the Message Formula, dealing with the media becomes easy. Just stay on message. Reporters are not the enemy, but their goal is to put words in your mouth… through their questions.

It’s a balancing act to answer questions satisfactorily, while not giving the press much selection about what to print. Your message should make it into any answer (President Obama is a master at this).

Bottom line: stay on offense with your message and it will go a long way.

[cpac recap] Politics is 75% relationships, 25% policy

First in a series of posts from my time at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC 2010)…

It’s common for me to criticize talk-show hosts who emphasize emotional connection over actual ideas (when I review Glenn Beck’s CPAC speech I heard live, you’ll get another dose.) But according to Ron Nehring, chairman of the Republican Party in California, that’s almost exactly how you win in politics.

His seminar, part of the training track offered by Leadership Institute at CPAC, was peppered with insights that showed how a “people person” will always succeed in politics:

A 30-second visit in person to a voter is 10 times more effective than any phone or direct mail contact

Barack Obama won a majority of both the Jewish vote and Muslim vote. He won majorities of both environmentalists (who want the U.S. to build nothing) and trade unions (desperate for their workers to build anything.) He did it by showing he cared about people’s needs, not by staying 100% pure to a political ideology.

Americans hire drivers, not mechanics.

Nehring, who has helped keep Republicans together in a hostile liberal environment, closed with four principles to win:

  1. Listen: “You have 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason.”
  2. Learn: “Demonstrate that you’ve really been listening.”
  3. Help: “Your candidacy should help local groups like the Chamber of Commerce, TEA Party, etc. achieve their goals.”
  4. Lead: “Build relationship with all stakeholder groups you could possibly influence – folks on your side and those far outside your comfort zone.”

You can still be a conservative purist, as long as publicly you present the right emphasis: winning candidates, campaigners or (I suppose) even media personalities follow this strategy. Nehring’s ideas clearly line up with what I’ve learned — in seven months on Capitol Hill — about how politics works. Your thoughts?

It is very, very rare…

…that I agree with nearly everything an opinion journalist says in a wide-ranging 4,000-word interview. Charles Krauthammer has that sort of wisdom: I strongly encourage you to go read his recent interview with a popular German newspaper. Then comment here if you so desire.

Krauthammer touches briefly on President Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize. I got a lot of flak for posting the following Facebook status when the Prize was announced: “When an African American man became leader of the free world, the dreams and aspirations for millions of kids worldwide changed. They began to think bigger. Though I disagree with the President’s policies – and have little regard for the Nobel Committee – I see no need to heap abuse on today’s news.”

My point may have been good, but in retrospect it was irrelevant to the Nobel Prize. It did get some interesting discussion going, so words well spent. Any thoughts on the Krauthammer interview?

In Praise of Government (1 of 3 branches, anyway)

Conservatives are discouraged right now. Both houses of Congress hold large Democrat majorities, and their left-leaning agenda is being aided by President Obama – who, even with an incomplete staff, has changed enough policies and made enough statements to set aflame an entirely new grassroots movement.

For all the talk of “government takeover,” there remains a third branch of government doing an admirable job of defending the Constitution: the Judiciary. Now I know the right wing loves to get worked up about activist judges, specifically the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California. In many cases, they have a point.


To a casual observer like myself, the Supreme Court is a lean operation with a laser-sharp focus on its mission. Congress and the White House, with their bloated budgets and legions of staff members, could learn a thing or two from the highest court in our land. When I visited SCOTUS recently, I found the experience simple, educational and even somewhat boring (which a government building should be, right?)

Back to why the Court is important… Sitting on the Supreme Court are justices whom I trust more than most of our legislators. John Roberts and Clarence Thomas are two men with vastly different styles – though both possessing unquestionable wisdom and deep interest in staying true to America’s founding principles. Word has it we should also be applauding Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy, whose opinions are consistently constructed on the Constitution.

C-SPAN has produced a new series called The Supreme Court, which includes hour-long interviews with each justice. Everything C-SPAN does is available online for free, so I definitely encourage you to check out this series.

In working my way through the C-SPAN series, including the Interviews (iTunes link here), I started with the Roberts and Thomas episodes:

Interview with Chief Justice John Roberts

Interview with Justice Clarence Thomas

At the same time, a discerning friend encouraged me to “immediately” go read the autobiography of Clarence Thomas. I’m glad I did – that story My Grandfather’s Son tells of a current-day American hero if ever there was one. More about this best-selling book soon.

Talk radio will keep yelling and of course there is room for some concern (justices Kennedy and Scalia may be nearing retirement age.) Looking at the big picture, the Supreme Court continues to be founded solidly on the rule-of-law and responsibility to America’s highest ideals.

From its inception, the Court was one of few government building programs to ever come in under budget. Today, that tradition continues under Chief Justice John Roberts – who has called for greater compensation for the Judicial branch while also implementing cost-saving measure throughout the court system.

It’s how you play the game, they say in sports. The Supreme Court makes winners and losers in every case. And on the Court we see both ultra-liberals and strong conservatives represented. What’s impressive is how they all stand together and respect each other, despite their difference. It’s how politics should be.

In-depthU.S. News and World Report ran an article in 2008 entitled “The Politics of Supreme Court Justices,” well worth reading. You may be interested in Alliance Defense Fund’s list of Supreme Court Victories or a similar list from the American Center for Law & Justice. If you’re looking for a highly readable blog that covers the Supreme Court, check out The Daily Writ – designed to make law easy enough for all of us to understand.

President Obama’s Agenda: Two Things I Support

From all indications, President Obama has not been doing a great job endearing himself to conservatives.

Call it reactive, call it partisan, call it whatever (if you’re talking about Cheney’s comments to Politico, you would be correct on both counts – what happened to respecting opponents, Mr. Vice President?)

In the midst of a sea of decisions I disagree with—notably the massive bailout that adds another trillion to our country’s national debt—two recent moves by the Obama Administration give me a small glimmer of hope. Or, at least, convince me to disbelieve the hyperbole on talk radio.

1) Priorities announced for the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

As the White House press release clearly states, a primary aim of this revamped office will be to “reduce the need for abortion.”

I understand from a person closer to the situation that this office’s priorities really boil down to a) reducing the number of abortions in America and b) supporting a broad-based fatherhood initiative. All I can say is: Bravo, amazing goals.

Now this may be empty rhetoric compared to the reinstatement of funding for overseas abortions, as the entire pro-life cause has been up in arms about. And rightfully so. I just wanted to point out a positive…

2) In the midst of a press corps on-his-side, a conservative stance still gets a mention.

Now it didn’t take a right-wing sleuth to tell that this scripted press conference wasn’t going to reveal much. “Next question, NBC… uh, NPR… Huffington Post…” Even Fox News wasted their question on something about Biden. Clowns all around.

Worth watching? Sure, everyone likes a good show:

Back to my point… it’s a rare Democrat who—in the midst of such a supportive crowd—would go out of his way to mention a somewhat hot-button issue for liberals: charter schools. Supporting school choice is a conservative position, empowering parents and local school boards to decide how education dollars are spent.

That one offhand remark in the dog-and-pony show (“…we should experiment with things like charter schools that are innovating in the classroom…”) surprised me. And his Education agenda online backs this up.

There you have it, two recent observations. I better keep quiet for awhile, don’t want to spoil the forthcoming analysis of The President’s First 100 Days.

Your thoughts?

We have seen the enemy. And he is us, the Republicans.

I find it interesting that Republican leaders seemed to take no time for soul-searching after the election. Instead, they all descended on Georgia to campaign for the suddenly-very-important Saxby Chambliss. He won, big whoop.

Now perhaps this really was a vital race; Club for Growth makes a compelling argument for why a filibuster-proof Democratic Congress would’ve been frightening.

But the way that John McCain and Sarah Palin hit the campaign circuit for Saxby, interest groups were raising money, and good ol’ Governor Huckabee was sending out update e-mails, you’d think that towing the party line never went out of style. And this after a massive 8.5-million-votes-difference showed how poorly Republicans did on Nov. 4.

I certainly contributed to the GOP presidential effort: writing blogs, donating funds, and making calls for Republican offices in two states (gotta blog on those experiences at some point.) Though when pressed on certain vital issues like economic policy, all I could say was “lesser of two evils.”

And I’m tired of that.

John McCain lost because thousands of conservatives, like author Rod Dreher, simply stayed home.

John McCain lost because he was more of a crony than a maverick.

John McCain lost because he listened more to Sean Hannity than Peggy Noonan, a conservative pundit who today seems almost upbeat about President-elect Obama. (Man, she had such good advice throughout the years-long campaign… Republicans ignored it all.)

John McCain lost because America rejected fear-mongering.

John McCain lost because so many believe President-elect Obama will reinvigorate the country (even some very smart people).

Which candidate was the lesser of two evils? We’ll never know, only one gets the chance to lead. But I for one am proud that America made a decisive stand against the lingering issue of racism. It’s also encouraging that so many citizens exercised their right to vote.

And I’m up for giving President-elect Obama 100 days in office to show us how he’ll lead… provided nothing insane like the Freedom of Choice Act is proposed during that time frame.

Where do conservatives go from here? First and foremost: Christmas and the new year.   : j

Any thoughts while mine are still brewing?