Thursday, January 4, 2007

A Thorny Question of Religion for Obama.

barack obama

If He Became One Even Temporarily as a Child, it Could Immensely Complicate His Presidential Candidacy. Father’s Likely Affiliation Basis the “Hussein” Middle Name, Mother’s Remarriage to Indonesian in Heavily Muslim Country Points to Strong Possibility.

Two Pronged Political Headache: Americans May Not Want a former Muslim President…and, As if You Didn’t know, Muslims Vow Vengeance on all who leave the Faith. Is This a Hillary-Fomented Backlash? Just Asking.

Media Not Going Out of Their Way to Confront Senator with Religious Question

Unlike the Tack They Used in 1960 Against Catholic John F. Kennedy.

Senator’s Office Insists Question is “Bigoted Attack!”

By Thomas F. Roeser

[Updated Story from The Wanderer, the oldest national Catholic weekly.]

CHICAGO—A Barack Obama Democratic intra-party backlash has started, with a blog item from the “Sun-Times’” astute political writer Lynn Sweet, significant in this birth-state of Hillary Clinton where the regnant Democratic party would have endorsed her for president except for its favorite son, born in Hawaii, who has become a national phenomenon of sorts: Barack Hussein Obama. Sweet is an Obama enthusiast but beyond this is an excellent reporter. The backlash smacks of Hillary Clinton, showing that the little lady won’t take this Obama phenomenon stuff lying down.

Most of the malicious attacks, leaked to the media, don’t come from Republicans but from Hillary Clinton allies. Obama craze not withstanding, the New York Senator commands significant elements of support in her home state. Before we get to the mischievous leaks, take a look at who’s for whom in this prairie state which owns most of the significant action for the Democratic nomination.

The most powerful Democrat, Mayor Richard M. Daley, who has announced his own candidacy for reelection in Spring of 2007, has announced that he supports Obama. This is mandatory because of the clout blacks have in the Democratic party. Also, there is little doubt that Illinois’ reelected Democratic governor, Rod Blagojevich, who will head the delegation to the national convention, will do the same. Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) is in a particularly tight spot: owing his soul to Daley who supports Obama but whose rise after Daley first hired him came from patronage by the Clintons—although Hillary Clinton caused him to be demoted in White House hierarchy but Bill, who rescued him and plopped him back front-and-center, is heavily involved for Hillary. Look for Rahm to remember that he doesn’t need the Clinton’s animosity. He will most certainly finesse it and come down on the side of a Hillary-Obama ticket.

Intriguingly, Daley has caused to be leaked—in order to placate Hillary supporters—his own private misgiving that Obama is too liberal, scoring 100% on the ADA scale thus far in his Senatorial voting record, six points more than even Sen. Ted Kennedy. Daley, father of a serviceman, worries that Obama’s dovishness on national security could make him vulnerable to Republican charges in 2008 and thereby hurt the Democratic ticket. Nor is the mayor alone in his misgiving. Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, chairman of the Democratic party here, is one of the very few Democrats who has tiffed seriously with Obama, calling him derogatorily “the Messiah,” after Obama’s state treasurer with mob ties, Alexi Gianoullias, candidate defeated Madigan’s. So for now while the Obama rock-star fad is hitting a national high, only Madigan has had the guts to low-ball the incipient presidential candidate. But behind the scenes, all Illinois media know the Hillary leak-brigade is hard at work.

Thus far only one Obama backlash news story has done some scuffing of the Obama image: but not much. And it was not a Hillary leak but from a Republican source: the one from the “Chicago Tribune” that details how Obama profited personally thanks to the solicitude of an indicted fixer’s wife. Tony Rezko was indicted by the feds for siphoning kickbacks from firms doing business with the state of Illinois. When Obama bought a Chicago mansion in 2005 for $300,000 less than the asking price a stunning coincidence occurred when, the same day, Rezko’s wife bought an adjoining lot for the full $625,000 asking price, which caused the “Tribune” to speculate that Mrs. Rezko subsidized Obama’s $1 million plus house in addition to providing a park-like preserve with no access to a public street. That was serious enough to draw a public admission of fault from Bambi. Other news leaks bear a shadowy imprint of the Hillary forces. Most are inconsequential. Obama’s path to glory is not going to be blocked by a Tony Rezko indiscretion.

Ah, but one has the potential to do serious damage.

That’s the rumor, reported by Sweet that began with blogster Debbie Schlussel, a conservative talking-head on MSNBC, now carried widely by word of mouth by some political cognoscenti in Chicago bars. Right now the tale is in a decidedly phase 3 cyclonic stage as a key rumor in the bars. The rumor goes: While Barack Hussein Obama is affiliated with the Unitarian-like United Church of Christ in Chicago, he may have, at one time, been a Muslim—or at the very least was accepted as one in his early years: which, if verified, could truly be explosive and possibly disqualifying politically for the presidential nomination of a major political party in a nation at war with extreme elements of the religion. There has been no formal answer to that charge by the Obama people but the rumor gains currency.

First, his Kenyan father, Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., killed in an automobile accident, was apparently a Muslim. No big stuff so far as it goes although it’s interesting to note that Hussein, given to both father and son, is a distinctively Muslim name—derived from that of Husayn ibn Ali [626-680], grandson of the prophet Muhammad. He was killed in the battle of Karbala in A. D. 680 and is a day of mourning and religious observance for Shi’a Muslims. Let’s say if you got a kid running around named Hussein, it means something.

Second, according to best-selling lawyer-novelist, Chicago native and fervent liberal Democrat, Scott Turow in the Internet publication “Salon,” young Obama went to a Muslim school for two years in Indonesia. Third, his mother, Anna, re-married an Indonesian man (most likely a Muslim as Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world).

Fourth, while Junior’s affinity is for Kenya which is largely Christian, it has a fast-growing Muslim population which has engaged in a good deal of religious violence and riots against Christians. Kenyan courts apply Sharia (or Muslim) law when the participants are Muslim. Fifth, in Junior’s book Dreams from My Father, after his father died in Nairobi in 1982, Obama was working in Chicago. He met his Kenyan sister, Auma, a linguist educated in Germany who was visiting in the United States. When she returned to Kenya in 11986 to teach for a year at the University of Nairobi, Obama finally made a trip to his father’s homeland. There he fully embraced the heritage and family he’d never known and came to terms with his father whom he had mistakenly believed was a foreign prince but who now realized was a human being burdened by his own illusions and vulnerabilities: this from his best-seller autobiography.

Schlussel puts it out this way: “Even if he identifies strongly as a Christian, and even if he despised the behavior of his father (as Obama said on “Oprah”), Obama is a man whom Muslims think is a Muslim and who feels some sort of psychological need to prove himself to his absent Muslim father and who is now moving in the direction of his father’s heritage.” She asks: Is this “a man we want as President when we are fighting the war of our lives against Islam? Where would his loyalties be?” She goes further: “Is [he] even the man we’d want to be a heartbeat away from the presidency if Hillary Clinton offers him the vice presidential candidacy on her ticket (which he certainly wouldn’t turn down)?

Or, put another way: A president thought to have been a Muslim as a child and who left the faith for Christianity is the last person to “heal”—which is Obama’s favorite word applied to foreign affairs. Even a third way: a president trying to disabuse a suspicious world that he’s soft on the Muslim religion may want to use replete examples to get tough. Finally a fourth: how would a president once viewed as a Muslim who became a backslider do in the concert of world politics?

Now there has been no substantiation or denial by the Obama people of the rumor that Ms. Schussel has put forward other than for Obama people to claim it is (a) racist, (b) vindictive and (c) full of suppositions. Very well, then let them answer it. Racist? It has nothing to do with Obama’s half caste black-white heritage. Vindictive? Not any more so than the theory put forward against John F. Kennedy, when he was the Democratic nominee in 1960. Full of suppositions? Sure: so the best way to clear the air is for Obama or his staff to give out all the facts.

Kennedy was called an inappropriate candidate for the presidency by none other than Norman Vincent Peale who cited Catholic theology on the absolute nature of the Pope in spiritual governance. Peale said that if the Catholic Kennedy were elected president he would not be beholden to the electorate but to the Pope. This writer remembers well the controversy spawned by Peale and others who asked: does separation of church and state mean what it says or does it mean subordination of state to the church or the other way around? Then they linked many interesting questions: the dominant role of the Pope as head of the church and infallible, or immunity from all error, when promulgating a doctrine on faith or morals. Protestant critics confused the doctrine of infallibility with that of impeccability.

It got to the point in 1960 that Peale found some quotations from St. Paul which he used to assume that Kennedy would be subservient to the papacy in a number of secular actions. Peale’s affirmations went on to specify numberless questions until none other than Adlai Stevenson, a wordsmith, was asked on a Chicago street by a television reporter to comment while the TV camera rolled. Here was an example of brilliant political answering almost unrivaled. The reporter asked Stevenson: “Dr. Norman Vincent Peale has questioned John Kennedy’s loyalty to the country by citing an epistle from St. Paul. Would you comment, sir?”

Stevenson said: “Yes. You can say that I find Paul appealing but Peale appalling!”

That quip got the country chuckling and gained Kennedy time until he could make a definitive statement to the Greater Houston, Ministerial Association on September 12, 1960. Kennedy specified that if elected president he would follow an independent course and if there ever came a time when he could not in conscience he would resign the presidency. The key sentence was: “If the time should ever come—and I do not concede any conflict to be remotely possible—when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office, and I hope any other conscientious public servant would do likewise.”

That answer satisfied. Interestingly enough, the man who wrote the speech for Kennedy was John Cogley, a radicalized Catholic, a writer for Commonweal who later became religion editor of The New York Times whose difficulties with the Church later led to his leaving it over the issue of Humane Vitae and dying as an Episcopalian.

“Schlussel’s article is the latest example of the bigoted conservative attacks against Senator Obama,” said Karl Frisch, a spokesman for the Senator. But, come on: that’s won’t satisfy. On the December 5 edition of Fox News’ “Special Report with Brit Hume,” senior political correspondent Carl Cameron told viewers: “Though he’s written two books about himself already, most people know very little about Barack Hussein Obama, Jr.’s uncommonly privileged life.” They know nothing about whether Obama was ever a practicing Muslim or if the school he attended required adherence to that belief.

If he had professed as a Muslim even as a kid and backslid, Obama would likely have more to worry about than merely losing a presidential election. His life could be in danger from Muslim sources. As an expert in Islam, Robert Spencer, has written in The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), “…[I]n traditional Islamic law, when a Muslim converts to another faith, it can bring a death sentence. This is not, mind you, `extremist’ Islam. It is the Islamic mainstream, based on a statement of Muhammad: `Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.’ It is also based on a statement of the Qur’an: `But whoever of you recants and dies an unbeliever, his works shall come to nothing in this world and the next and they are companions of the fire forever” [Qur’an 2:217]. Spencer writes, “This has been widely interpreted by traditional Muslim commentators as giving sanction to the death penalty for apostates—which they derive from the verse’s assertion that the apostate’s work will come to nothing in this world’ as well as the next.”

Questions concerning whether or not he ever embraced the Muslim religion will be front and center before Barack Obama gets very far along in the presidential campaign. They aren’t questions Hillary Clinton is asking but assuredly are ones some of her supporters are spreading in rumor form before the mainstream media—enthusiastic Obama sycophants—will be pressed to ultimately ask. As eager as Lynn Sweet is to see Obama win, her better nature—that of an outstanding reporter—won out. Good for her.


  1. For the Chiasmus alone:

    "You can say that I find Paul appealing but Peale appalling"

    is as brilliant of a response as one could ever get from a poet or songwriter let alone a politician.

    How long did he think of that one before he said it?


  2. The danger for Obama exists in that some extremist Muslims believe that death is the penalty one must pay for leaving their faith. That is, if Obama ever was a Muslim.

  3. Per the attached link
    I think that a Virginia elected official should learn religious tolerance. I further believe that Obama can be relied upon to be a as patriotic as Senator Kennedy, whose former sister-in-law has endorsed Senator O.
    The problem is not that Hillary and her disingenous cohorts can demonize Islam and pretend that the War on Terror is a war against a "religion" rather than militant mercenaries hiding behind a facade of religion. The problem is not that ignorance of Islam in America has generated a religious intolerance which feeds radical Wahabbism by having Americans condemn Allah to the delight of the Osama's ergo thereby proving we are in fact the Great Satan at war with ,well, God.
    No. The problem is that while the Anti-O forces are not above raising the patriotic religious combine issue like was done with Joe Lieberman as VP, we are not addressing the liberalism and statism of both Hill and O to our own detriment.
    The challenge of 2007 will be to redefine Republican purpose ala 1994 Contract to show that America is not adrift heading to a socialist future of less free market and less individual freedom and more , well, tax and spending. And that just about says it all.
    Ralph W. Conner

  4. I don't know who you're confusing the UCC with, but from Trinity's website: "Trinity United Church of Christ has been called by God to be a congregation that is not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ and that does not apologize for its African roots! As a congregation of baptized believers, we are called to be agents of liberation not only for the oppressed, but for all of God’s family. We, as a church family, acknowledge, that we will, building on this affirmation of "who we are" and "whose we are," call men, women, boys and girls to the liberating love of Jesus Christ, inviting them to become a part of the church universal, responding to Jesus’ command that we go into all the world and make disciples!"

  5. john joseph "c"January 10, 2007 at 9:48 AM

    all obama has to do is change his name to daley and it doesnt matter what he does , he will get away with it. or he might think he will get away with it. tom, i am adding you to my web link for your book on the lovely father mcdermott.great book! the father often moves me to tears when i think of all the saint has done.thank you for writing and introducing me to the father, i am an alcohol and drug counsel and i do a lot of charity building my web sight as we speak its you and bless the father.