January 18, 2009
January 20, 1961
“Washington is a city of northern charm and southern efficiency,” said John F. Kennedy about the nation’s capital. The city’s southern efficiency had never been so much needed as the night before the charming northerner took the oath as President. The city had been blanketed with eight inches of snow the night before the Inauguration. The army, city employees and 1,700 Boy Scout volunteers moved stranded cars, shoveled paths, and swept snow off the Inaugural stands.
At noon on that frigid Friday, the temperatures stood at just twenty-two degrees. The brilliant mid-winter sun glinted off the snow, almost blinding the frail poet Robert Frost as he tried to read his tribute to America. Boston’s Cardinal Cushing offered a lengthy invocation—the first time a Roman Catholic prelate could pray for a new President of his own faith. During the Cardinal’s prayer, the lectern actually caught fire.
When John F. Kennedy rose to take the oath from Chief Justice Earl Warren, the white-haired jurist was administering the historic words to the youngest man ever elected the nation’s Chief Executive. Watching the vigorous Kennedy that day, hatless, coatless in the cold, his forefinger jabbing the air as clouds of breath steamed forward, few would dream that Warren would write the multi-volume report that tried to quell public doubts about Kennedy’s death by assassination in less than three years time.
This day, though, was all ruffles and flourishes. Kennedy the liberal Democrat was determined to show that he could be as strong in standing up to communist tyranny as the old warrior, Dwight D. Eisenhower, had been. To a listening world, he vowed: “We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” Summoning Americans to a long twilight struggle, he challenged his people: “My fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”
Americans were stirred and thrilled by his words. They nodded in agreement when he said: “The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.” No one complained about Kennedy’s violating the separation of church and state. No one called him divisive. All Americans believed his words then. Have we stopped believing them?
January 17, 2009
March 4, 1933
Not since Abraham Lincoln’s first Inauguration in the secession winter of 1860-61 had a President come to power in such a crisis atmosphere. President Herbert Hoover was thoroughly thrashed in the 1932 election. He won just six states (out of forty-eight) and a mere 59 Electoral Votes. Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Governor of New York, had racked up an invincible 472 Electoral Votes. Roosevelt’s mandate was deep and broad. His fellow Democrats had rolled over their opponents in elections for Congress, Governorships, state legislatures. There were even candidates for Recorder of Wills in Sleepy Eye County, Minnesota who were eager to grasp FDR’s coattails.
As the winter deepened, so did the economic crisis. President Hoover was increasingly desperate. Banks were failing daily. The government had to put armed guards on U.S. Mail Trucks. Then, just days before the Inauguration, the President-elect faced an assassination attempt while riding in an open car in Miami. FDR was unhurt, but he calmly ordered the Secret Service to take the mortally wounded Mayor of Chicago to a hospital.
When Roosevelt finally took the oath in Washington, all eyes in the nation were on him.
His rich baritone rang out: “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself!” His words were like an electric charge running through the country.
Many of his policies were wrong. Many failed. Still, Roosevelt’s indomitable confidence, his commanding presence, his unquestionable courage are what made millions of Americans love and support him. They honor his memory to this day.
FDR’s confidence was not in himself alone. He concluded his inspiring address with these words: “We humbly ask the blessing of God. May He protect each and every one of us. May He guide me in the days to come.”
Thus did the nation’s most liberal President conclude this First Inaugural Address. He alone would deliver three more Inaugurals.
January 17, 2009
The homosexual Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson will offer a prayer at a pre-inauguration event at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday. Here’s part of what he told National Public Radio about his preparation (thanks to David Brody of CBN for this link.):
Robinson: I have actually read back over the inaugural prayers of the last 30 or 40 years and frankly I’ve been shocked at how aggressively Christian they are. And my intention is not to invoke the name of Jesus but to make this a prayer for Christians and non-Christians alike. Although I hold the scripture to be the word of God, those scriptures are holy to me and Jews and Christians, but to many other faith traditions they have their own sacred texts. And so rather than insert that and really exclude them from the prayer by doing so, I want this to be a prayer to the god of our many understandings and a prayer that all people of faith can join me in.
NPR Host: The god of many understandings?
Robinson: “Yes. I was treated for alcoholism three years ago and grateful to be sober today. And one of the things that I’ve learned in 12 step programs is this phrase, ‘the god of my understanding’. It allows people to pray to a God of really many understandings. And let’s face it, each one of us has a different understanding of God. No one of us can fully understand God or else God wouldn’t be God.”
NPR Host: I’m not sure that a God of many understandings has been invoked at an inauguration before?
Robinson: Well, I’ve done a lot of things for the first time in my life and I will be proud to do this one.
Let me note a couple of things here. Robinson says he is “shocked at how aggressively Christian” inaugural prayers” of the last 30 or 40 years” have been. Forty years ago would have been the inauguration of Richard Nixon, which was probably the first inauguration I ever watched, and I think I’ve watched all but two of them (when I was overseas) since. I haven’t actually done the research Robinson has, but I don’t remember any as “aggressively Christian.” My impression is that prayers at such events tend to be blandly, generically monotheistic, while perhaps also being “aggressively” patriotic. Giving an altar call would be “aggressively Christian.” Simply praying “in Jesus’ name,” or quoting from the Bible, is not.
Secondly-does it strike anyone else as odd that a Christian clergyman, a bishop no less, takes his theology from a twelve-step program? Such programs have helped a lot of people, and I’m glad Bishop Robinson got help for his alcoholism-but didn’t the man ever go to seminary? A Christian seminary, even?
Robinson is right in a certain sense when he says, “No one of us can fully understand God or else God wouldn’t be God.” But Christians believe that our own incapacity as finite humans to figure out God on our own is the very reason why God took the initiative to reveal himself to us, both in the person of Jesus and in the words of Scripture. That’s where Christian theology goes beyond the twelve-step theology.
With that said, though, Bishop Robinson seems to be mis-applying even the twelve-step theology. The idea is for each individual to pray to “the god of my understanding.” That is not the same as one individual praying to “a God of many understandings,” which is what Robinson is pledging to do.
I would submit that when a Christian clergyman prays at a public event “in Jesus’ name,” he is doing exactly what the twelve-step program calls for-praying to the “[G]od of [his] understanding.” It is those who would deny him that right-not the Christian clergyman-who are guilty of the worst form of intolerance.
January 16, 2009
Kevin Martin has proven himself to be an unwavering ally for families throughout his tenure at the Federal Communications Commission. He has crossed party lines to protect consumers and families from indecent and obscene programming. He has never hesitated to go up against corporations and networks when necessary.
Martin consistently demonstrated a genuine concern for the impact of telecommunications on the family. I thank him for safeguarding the public’s right to make the airwaves suitable for viewing and listening. It is our hope that Julius Genachowski, Obama’s pick to head the FCC, follows in Martin’s footsteps and continues this commitment to the American people.”
January 16, 2009
POSITION: PRESS SECRETARY
NOMINEE: Robert Gibbs
Born: March 29, 1971 in Auburn, Alabama
Occupation: Political consultant, most recently the communications director for Senator Barack Obama and Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign
Family: Married, one child
Education: B.A., North Carolina State University (majored in political science), graduated cum laude
Career: Robert Gibbs has spent his career working as a communications specialist in the campaigns of various politicians. Prior to becoming involved in Obama’s presidential campaign, he served as the communications director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. He served as the campaign spokesman for Fritz Hollings in 1998 and was the press secretary for Representative Bob Etheridge. He was John Kerry’s press secretary during his 2004 presidential campaign. He has worked with Obama since 2004.
On Homosexual “Marriage”
“One of the sponsors of the bill (Illinois Non-Discrimination Bill Senate Bill 2597, formally SB 101, which would give special rights in housing, employment and public accommodations on the basis of one’s sexual orientation.) is Keyes’ opponent Obama.
Robert Gibbs, spokesman for Obama, said Obama is against discrimination.
While Obama supports laws that guarantee basic rights to same sex couples, including recognition of domestic partnerships, Obama opposes gay marriage.
‘Our position on gay marriage is the same position held by John McCain and Dick Cheney, who are opposed to gay marriage, but are also opposed to a constitutional amendment that is unnecessary,’ Gibbs said.” [source (from Senator Obama’s Senate campaign in 2006)]
On Homosexuals in the Military
“In a response to a question on the Web site Change.gov asking whether Obama would get rid of the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said: ‘You don’t hear politicians give a one-word answer much. But it’s yes.’
Gibbs on Wednesday expanded on his answer, saying, ‘There are many challenges facing our nation now and the president-elect is focused first and foremost on jump-starting this economy. So not everything will get done in the beginning but he’s committed to following through” with ending the policy against being openly gay in the military.’” [source]
Quotes about Gibbs:
“He’s the last person Barack talks to when he’s thinking about how to handle reporters’ questions,” says Linda Douglass, a campaign spokeswoman. “We call him the Barack Whisperer. He completely understands his thinking and knows how Barack wants to come across.’” [source]
“Robert is the guy I want in the foxhole with me during incoming fire…If I’m wrong, he challenges me. He’s not intimidated by me.” - Barack Obama [source]
“His aggressive communication skills; while close to Mr. Obama, Mr. Gibbs does not always share his boss’s steady temperament, and this has caused dust-ups during the presidential campaign. Mr. Gibbs’s friends say he is working at being calm under pressure, a vital skill for a press secretary who stands at the White House podium as the face of the administration.” - [source]
Quotes by Gibbs:
“I’ve always wanted to be in a position where as a staffer I could always speak freely and in an unvarnished way with whoever I was working for…I don’t think you serve somebody well if you don’t feel like you can.”
- On his reputation as one of the few people who can challenge Obama [source]
“It was requisitioned for a higher purpose. I have never gotten that back and I never had the illusion that I would.”- On the light blue tie hijacked by Obama for his 2004 convention speech. [source]
January 16, 2009
March 4, 1865
The Capitol dome now finished; it was topped by a 19-foot Statue of Freedom. Those young black men who first muscled that statue into storage were slaves in the District of Columbia. But by the time they hoisted her into position atop the Capitol, they were free. Four long and bloody years had accomplished this much, and so much more. Not all the President’s hearers had come to applaud. John Wilkes Booth can be seen in grainy photographs of the event.
President Lincoln, defying all expectations (including his own), had been powerfully re-elected the previous November. Four years after appealing to “the better angels of our nature” to avoid civil war, 620,000 young Americans had fallen in a war of brother against brother.
Suddenly, at noon on that overcast Inauguration Day, the sun broke thought the clouds. Seeing victory in sight, Lincoln sounded no note of triumph, gave no hint of self righteousness. The war came, he said, and it was a judgment of heaven upon north and south alike. God could have given the victory to either side, many times. But it was not His perfect will. It would be our task, the President said, “to bind up the nation’s wounds.” He continued: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in.”
The seven hundred and one words of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address have been carved in stone in his memorial. Every American should read them every year. After the ceremony, Frederick Douglass, the great abolitionist orator and editor, went to the President’s House. He wanted to shake Lincoln’s hand. He was the first black man invited to a Presidential Inaugural. Barred from entry by an officious policeman, Douglass simply climbed through an open window. Lincoln spotted him in the receiving line and called out to him: “There’s my friend, Douglass.” The President asked for his opinion of the speech, and Douglass replied: “It was a sacred effort.” And so it remains. Just weeks later, Abraham Lincoln would belong to the Ages.
January 16, 2009
March 4, 1861
Wheezing old General Winfield Scott, gouty but doughty, was determined. The hero of a score of battles since 1812 would not let rebels disrupt the inauguration of the first Republican President. Virginia-born but Army-bred, great Scott stationed sharpshooters on the roofs of all the prominent buildings along the inaugural route. If anyone tried anything, Scott thundered, he would use his cannon to “manure the Virginia hills” with their bodies.
Scott’s brave show worked. Abraham Lincoln’s path to power was unimpeded. Lincoln rose before the as-yet-uncompleted Capitol building. As he spoke, seven states had already declared themselves out of the Union. They had set up their own rival government in Montgomery, Alabama. Lincoln weighed his every word. If he came down too strongly, he could tip Virginia and Maryland against the Union—and then the nation’s capital would itself be surrounded. But if he did not take a strong enough stance, his own supporters would be disheartened.
Holding Lincoln’s stovepipe silk hat on that Inaugural stand was his defeated rival, Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois, the Democrat. Another Democrat, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, author of the infamous Dred Scott decision, would administer the oath. Taney had said “the black man has no rights which the white man is bound to respect.”
Lincoln appealed to reason. Secession, he said, was illegal. And it was impossible. A husband and wife can get a divorce, but how can sections of the same country separate? He spoke eloquently of those “mystic chords of memory stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone.” He urged his “dissatisfied fellow-countrymen” not to take the momentous step of civil war, reminding them: “You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to ‘preserve, protect, and defend it.’” Finally, he called upon “the better angels of our nature” to avert the looming catastrophe. Those better angels would not abandon this troubled land—despite four long and bloody years of fratricidal conflict.
January 16, 2009
March 4, 1829
Do you think the campaign we’ve just witnessed was too long? How about a four-year long campaign? Do you think it was too dirty? How about charging one candidate with being an adulterer, bigamist, and killer? And calling his opponent a pimp? That’s how long and how bad the campaign of 1824-28 was. Ever since the House of Representatives chose Secretary of State John Quincy Adams to be President—and Adams promptly chose a defeated rival, Henry Clay, to be his own Secretary of State—backers of Andrew Jackson howled “Corrupt Bargain!” And they kept howling for four long years. To his enthusiastic supporters, Jackson was, simply, the Hero. He had won the Battle of New Orleans in 1815, saving Louisiana and the West, and really saving the young country from the British. For the four years of his single term, President John Quincy Adams lived in the shadow of Jackson’s inevitable triumph. Jackson championed democracy. His opponents feared “King Mob.” Adams’ backers, though not Adams himself, circulated all the old rumors of Jackson’s 1791 marriage to Rachel Robards, a woman whose divorce was not final. They circulated the infamous Coffin Handbill, showing nine black coffins with the names of men the hot-tempered Old Hickory had killed, in duels, or as an iron-willed military commander. Jackson’s people responded with the wholly false charge that John Quincy Adams had procured a young American virgin for the lecherous Tsar of Russia when Adams was our ambassador. Talk about ugly!
President Jackson’s demeanor on the day of his Inauguration, March 4, 1829, could not have been more dignified. He wore mourning black, in honor of his recently deceased wife. On seeing the newspaper accounts of her long-ago sin, Jackson’s beloved Rachel had suffered a heart attack and died. He would blame Henry Clay to his dying day—and hate him for it.
Jackson bowed to the inaugural crowds, but their conduct was not so dignified. They mobbed the President’s House, backwoodsmen with muddy boots standing on damask covered chairs to get a glimpse of their idol. Jackson’s friends had to form a flying wedge to keep the rescue the new President and keep him from being crushed by his admirers. Bowie knives cut souvenir tassels from elegant draperies.
Nothing we’ve yet seen of Obamamania has equaled the raucous first Jackson Inaugural.
January 16, 2009
Here’s what we are reading this morning.
- “Gay marriage still linchpin issue for evangelicals,” James Kirchick, The Politico (January 16, 2009)
- “Against same-sex marriage? Think about the kids,” Karen Beaudoin, MaineToday.com (January 15, 2009)
- “Abortion opponents form clubs at Dallas-area schools,” Katherine Leal Unmuth, The Dallas Morning News (January 16, 2009)
- “What the FOCA?” Right Girls (January 15, 2009)
- “Evidence-based sex ed,” Janet Rosenbaum, The Baltimore Sun (January 16, 2009)
- “Religious Liberty in America: An Idea Worth Sharing Through Public Diplomacy,” Jennifer A. Marshall, The Heritage Foundation (January 15, 2009)
- “Judge kicks Newdow to the curb,” Lynn Vincent, World Magazine (January 15, 2009)
- “Churchgoing linked to lower suicide risk,” Jennifer Harper, The Washington Times (January 16, 2009)
Family Research Council
January 15, 2009
Are you looking to see politicians stand up for what they believe in? Then I suggest you rent “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” Otherwise here is an updated schedule for hearings and votes next week on HRH President-elect Barack Obama’s nominations. To watch the hearings as they are happening tune into the Committee websites or CSPAN.org
Timothy F. Geithner, nominee for Secretary of the Treasury
Hearing date: January 21st, 2009
Location: Senate Finance Committee
Ray LaHood, nominee for Secretary of Transportation
Hearing date: January 21st, 2009
Location: Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee
Scheduled committee vote on Susan Rice, nominee for Ambassador to the United Nations
Vote date: January 23rd, 2009
Location: Senate Foreign Relations Committee
James B. Steinberg, nominee for Deputy Secretary of the Department of State;
Jacob J. Lew, nominee for Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources of the Department of State
Hearing date: January 24th, 2009
Location: Senate Foreign Relations Committee