Over the course of two programs on Tuesday evening, CNN political analyst Roland Martin unhesitatingly ran to the defense of Barack Obama against the recent criticism of Dr. James Dobson, who characterized the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate of "distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview, his own confused theology" in a 2006 speech. On the "Election Center" program, Martin tried to deny Dobson’s influence in the American evangelical community: " I think we're doing the nation a disservice by calling James Dobson an evangelical leader." Then on "Anderson Cooper 360," he accused Dobson and other evangelicals of wanting to "tear down Obama, the person who is talking about faith..."
During the "Election Center" discussion, which began 22 minutes into the 8 pm hour of the CNN program, even host Campbell Brown objected to Martin’s assertion that Dobson isn’t an evangelical leader: "Whether you want him to be or not, he's an incredibly influential person among the evangelical community. You can't deny that." Martin stuck to his guns: "No. What he's done -- with Focus on the Family, what he's done is talk about family values. But here's somebody who wants to have an evangelical or religious conversation who now wants to run away from the reality of religion. He said it out of his own mouth. That was not my interpretation."
During both programs, Martin appeared with Family Research Council Tony Perkins, who defended Dobson’s position. In response to Martin’s "Dobson isn’t an evangelical leader" line, Perkins acknowledged part of Martin’s point, that Dobson is "not a minister, a reverend, or a theologian:" "He is not a reverend, not a pastor. He's often referred to in the media as one." Indeed, even Campbell Brown referred to him as "reverend" at one point in the discussion. He continued: "He [Dobson] makes very clear he's not. What he is -- is a leader who has been very involved in public policy as it relates to families." But Perkins also pointed out how Obama "certainly in his policies does not embrace the fact that life begins at conception. So, there's a disconnect."
Exactly two hours later, Martin and Perkins participated in another roundtable discussion, this time on "Anderson Cooper 360" and including Al Sharpton (now that’s a "balanced" panel). Host Anderson Cooper asked Martin, "...Obama has been very active in trying to court evangelicals. Is he off the mark on this  speech that he made?"
Of course, Martin defended Obama’s speech:
MARTIN: No, I don't think he's off the mark. What he is talking about -- he's talking to a broader audience here and that is -- those who are evangelicals who are on the right, they have defined what the issues have been. He's been challenging progressives. I think what you have here is, you have -- you have evangelicals who are conservative who frankly aren't happy with John McCain. So, they want to tear down Obama, the person who is talking about faith, because the person they really want to back doesn't talk about faith, is afraid to have any conversations, doesn't get really along with them. That's what you have going on here, and see, Tony, what also is important is that Obama is trying to broaden this conversation beyond just the traditional issues. When he went to Rick Warren's church and talked about HIV and AIDS, you don't see a lot of other white evangelicals or conservative evangelicals trying to drive that particular issue home. He's saying, we can broaden this religious topic beyond abortion and homosexuality. That's what people are afraid of. They're afraid he's going to pull some of those voters.
Later in the "Anderson Cooper 360" discussion, Perkins and Martin had a heated exchange over Obama’s "disconnect," as Perkins earlier put it, between his Christianity-tinged words and his "pro-choice" policies, during which Martin made the typical liberal argument that pro-lifers, including evangelicals, don’t care about babies after their birth:
PERKINS: ...[H]e [Obama] made a great speech in Chicago on Father's Day about fatherhood, and he said, you know, fatherhood does not end at conception. But, you know, when you look at that, when does life begin? My son -- I became a father at -- if I became a father at conception, when did my children become my children? At conception. See, there's an inconsistency when it comes to some of these other issues. And, again, I agree with Roland that there are other issues. But, if he's trying to reach to the orthodox, conservative Christians, who care deeply about those issues, it's going to require more than just talk. There has to be policy to back it up.
MARTIN: But, Tony, I can say about the exact same thing about those pro-lifers who say nothing about prenatal care, who say nothing about the infant mortality rate in inner cities in this country being higher than Third World countries. They talk about being for somebody in the womb...
PERKINS: That's not true.
MARTIN: ...but they do nothing for them outside of the womb.
PERKINS: That's absolutely not true.
MARTIN: So, Tony, you can go with that.
PERKINS: That's not true.