Friday, October 15, 2004

MSNBC's O'Donnell: Bush's God attractive to "very simple-minded religious people"

Last night (Thurs., Oct. 14) I saw MSNBC senior political analyst Lawrence O’Donnell commenting on Bush's view of God, and I was floored. The contempt O'Donnell showed for religion, and for believers in God, was palpaple. He framed his comments as a critique of Bush's views of God, and it was truly cringe-worthy.

Update: Here is the transcript:

O'DONNELL: Well, but most Americans do not have that kind of simpleminded faith.

George Bush's God is a very strange God. This is a God who wants everyone to be free. That‘s a very, very peculiarly frustrated God. That is a God that has been apparently frustrated for centuries in George Bush's imagination...

O'DONNELL: Well, this is a God—this is also a God who gives the gift of freedom. He says that's a gift from the almighty, that the Afghan people got this gift from the almighty this year.

What was George Bush's God doing to those people up to now? You see, that‘s the problem with this. For very simpleminded religious people, that stuff works. That is a minority of the American population, who have a more sophisticated view of God, those who accept it. [Emphasis added.]

O'Donnell was responding to this Bush statement at the last debate:

BUSH: First, my faith plays a lot—a big part in my life. And that‘s, when I answering that question, what I was really saying to the person was that I pray a lot. And I do.

I believe that God wants everybody to be free. That‘s what I believe.

And that‘s been part of my foreign policy. In Afghanistan, I believe that the freedom there is a gift from the Almighty. And I can‘t tell you how encouraged I am to see freedom on the march.

And so my principles that I make decisions on are a part of me, and religion is a part of me.

FYI, O'Donnell's bio is here. Some highlights include: producer/writer for The West Wing, political columnist for New York magazine, Democratic chief of staff of the US Senate Committee on Finance, senior advisor to Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Harvard graduate.

Update: Betsy Newmark wonders if O'Donnell has read any Locke or Lincoln.

Update: Apparently O'Donnell dug in his heels tonight (Fri., Oct. 15) when MSNBC revisited the issue. I only caught the very tail end of the segment. I'll post highlights when the transcript is available.

Update: The Oct. 15 transcript is now available.

One of O'Donnell's chief complaints (first voiced in the Oct. 14 episode) is that Bush prayed before sending troops into war. Paul Kengor, a scholar of religion and the presidency, states that he "cannot name a single president in all of American history who didn‘t pray before committing troops. I can‘t name one." O'Donnell is unimpressed.

The segment includes video clips of Presidents Carter, Clinton, Reagan and Kennedy invoking God. But O'Donnell seems to think that if he likes a president, then it is okay for that president to invoke God, because he must be doing it for good. In response to a clip of JFK stating (in his inaugural address) that "God's work must truly be our own," O'Donnell says:

George Bush would use those words exactly. It would mean something else.

What JFK was asking for there was more welfare spending, was more intervention on behalf of the poverty population. And what he was referring to there—although, look, I absolutely agree the words are interpretable in the Bush style, what he was asking for there is, remember the commandment to love thy neighbor as thyself. Remember the generosity, the actual direct financial generosity that implies to other people.

To summarize, if JFK says words, the words are good; out of Bush's mouth, the same words are nefarious. Incredible.

Why does MSNBC give this guy air time?

Update: O'Donnell states that Bush's God is a very strange God for wanting everyone to be free. Two commenters on Betsy's Page draw attention to the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness... [My emphasis.]

Seems the Founding Fathers' God must have been a very strange God, too, per O'Donnell's way of thinking.