ABC Touts Religious Friendly Dems; Could They Be the ‘New Party of God?’

On Tuesday’s "Good Morning America," the ABC program devoted two segments to promoting the religiosity of the 2008 Democratic contenders. At the same time, a graphic hopefully asked, "Are evangelicals embracing Democrats? New party of God?"

Recapping a CNN sponsored event on Monday night where '08 contenders talked about their faith, ABC featured two liberals who were making the Democratic case for Christian voters. GMA co-host Robin Roberts interviewed Jim Wallis, the left-wing editor of Sojourners magazine. Neither Roberts, nor the ABC graphic made any mention of his liberal slant. Additionally, a segment hosted by reporter Dan Harris featured this quote from one Mara Vanderslice:

Mara Vanderslice (Sr. Partner, Common Good Strategies): "This year, I think the Democrats are more comfortable talking about religion and values."

 

Vanderslice just happens to have strong ties to the Democratic Party, is the former Director of Religion for the 2004 John Kerry campaign and had past associations to extreme left wing groups. Perhaps GMA viewers should have been apprised of those facts in relation to Vanderslice’s contention that Democrats are "more comfortable" with religion.

A few minutes earlier, co-host Roberts introduced the segment by noting that the Democrats hope to close, what she pointedly called the "so-called God gap." Dan Harris used his segment to prominently highlight just how Democrats are "comfortable" with religion:

Dan Harris: "John Edwards said he strayed from the church for many years but that his faith came roaring back during a personal crisis."

Edwards: "When Elizabeth and I lost our son, we were non-functional for some period of time and it was the Lord that got me through that. And the same is true when Elizabeth was diagnosed with cancer."

Harris: "Barack Obama talked about how his faith informs his policy views on helping prison inmates reintegrate into society–"

Illinois Senator Barack Obama: "There is a biblical injunction that I see to make sure that, to make sure that those young men and women have an opportunity to right their lives."

In a follow-up segment, Roberts interviewed Reverend Wallis. She also reiterated the point that Democrats are comfortable with religion by noting, "We should say Senator Obama out on the campaign trail has, has freely talked about his faith." Roberts then gave Hillary Clinton what amounted to an extended campaign spot by playing a longish clip of her talking about religion:

Clinton: "I've been tested in ways that are both publicly known and those that are not so well-known or not known at all. My faith and the support of any extended faith family, people whom I knew who were literally praying for me in prayer chains, who were prayer warriors for me, and people whom I didn't know, who I would meet or get a letter from, sustained me through a very difficult time."

Finally, Roberts closed by noting that Reverend Wallis had extended a similar invitation for Republicans to talk about climate change, poverty and AIDS at a Sojourners event. Now, if the Christian Coalition, at the height of its power, had invited Democrats to attend a meeting, wouldn’t it be likely for a media member to ask whether or not those liberal candidates would show up? Well, Roberts didn’t bother asking Wallis if he really expected the GOP contenders to appear.

Instead, she ended the segment by mentioning facts about the Republicans that would seemingly disappoint evangelical voters. Roberts noted that Rudy Giuliani is pro-choice and that Mitt Romney has changed his opinion on abortion:

Roberts: "Very free in talking about that. Reverend Wallis, I want to ask you, you have extended an invitation to the top three Republican candidates to have a similar forum to this, as this, and they have their own issues when you look at the top three. Rudy Giuliani has been married three times and has taken a pro-choice stance. We know about Mitt Romney, who has, when it comes to abortion, has changed his stance as well. McCain, in talking about stem cell research and being for that. So, what do you read into all that?

A transcript of Roberts’ interview with Reverend Wallis, which aired at 7:09am on June 5, follows:

Roberts: "And the reverend Jim Wallis organized that forum last night. He's the author of ‘God's Politics: Why The Right Gets It Wrong And The Left Doesn't Get It.’ He joins us now from Washington. Good morning, reverend. Thanks for joining us."

Jim Wallis: "Good morning, Robin. Thank you."

Robin Roberts: "So, after what you heard last night from the Democratic presidential candidates, the top three like that, do they now get it when it comes to trying to reach Christian voters?"

Reverend Jim Wallis (President, Sojourners/Call to Renewal): "Robin, what you saw last night was a connecting of faith to a much broader set of issues. Last night, poverty was a religious issue. HIV-AIDS, climate change, prisoners, war. So, we’re no longer going to have a two-issue conversation about faith and politics. I think it is a much better conversation. The agenda is wider and deeper. A whole new generation now sees poverty as a defining issue of faith for them. And you saw that last night."

Roberts: "But when you see all the polls the polls, Reverend, both from Democrats and Republicans that are going to be voting, they say the war in Iraq is number one, the economy, other things like that, health care, that those are the top priorities, that we don't see them talking about poverty and other things like that. Four years ago, as you know, of course, in the presidential election, the exit voting? Voters said the number one issue with them? Moral values. So, what do you think has changed?"

Wallis: "Well, that's the question: What are the moral values. All the issues you just talked about have moral dimensions. Last night, these Democrats were talking about the moral dimensions to those issues, and that's a critical thing. We've had a very narrow conversation. I think the era of the religious right is over. It’s really finished. A new conversation has begun. It will be a better conversation in 2008 than it was in 2004. God is not a Republican or a Democrat and people of faith shouldn't be in any party's political pocket. We should hold them accountable to our moral compass. And last night, that's what we tried to do."

Roberts: "Well, last night we heard a lot from the top three and we should say Senator Obama out on the campaign trail has, has freely talked about his faith. We haven't heard as much from Senator Clinton until last night. I want to play a little more of what she said."

Clinton: "I've been tested in ways that are both publicly known and those that are not so well-known or not known at all. My faith and the support of any extended faith family, people whom I knew who were literally praying for me in prayer chains, who were prayer warriors for me, and people whom I didn't know, who I would meet or get a letter from, sustained me through a very difficult time."

Roberts: "Very free in talking about that. Reverend Wallis, I want to ask you, you have extended an invitation to the top three Republican candidates to have a similar forum to this, as this, and they have their own issues when you look at the top three. Rudy Giuliani has been married three times and has taken a pro-choice stance. We know about Mitt Romney, who has, when it comes to abortion, has changed his stance as well. McCain, in talking about stem cell research and being for that. So, what do you read into all that?"

Wallis: "Well, as you say, last night there were tough questions and it showed these candidates, faith for them is very personal and very real. And I think that's good for American politics and the churches to see that faith isn't on one side or the other. The Republicans this time have some difficulties with those issues on their side. And so, there is going to be a whole new conversation, I think, about the relation of faith and politics. I think it's a good thing that we don't see God on one side of the aisle or the other. Faith is personal and real and it must connect to the leading moral issues of the day and we should hold both sides accountable for that. The Republican side now is going to have to deal with the same set of questions and we're going to have a forum for them hopefully in the fall. I'm looking forward to the same conversation, not just whether a candidate has faith. We shouldn't have religious litmus tests in politics. It is important to know what a candidate's moral compass is. So we'll ask them, too, how their faith connects to the biggest moral issues of our time. Three billion people living on $2 a day is religious issue, and it's time we address that as people of faith around the world."

Roberts: "As you said, the conversation will continue. Reverend Jim Wallis, thank you very much."

 

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org