NYT Runs Interference for Obama on Rick Warren Inauguration Invocation Selection

December 18th, 2008 10:20 AM

Barack Obama has selected Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the president-elect's inauguration.

Based on yesterday's New York Times story about this and other inauguration decisions, you would think that complaints about Warren's selection represent a mere tempest in a teapot. The Times devoted all of one sentence (bolded) to the controversy:

Barack Obama has selected the Rev. Rick Warren, the evangelical pastor and author of “The Purpose Driven Life,” to deliver the invocation at his inauguration, a role that positions Mr. Warren to succeed Billy Graham as the nation’s pre-eminent minister and reflects the generational changes in the evangelical Christian movement.

..... The choice of Mr. Warren, pastor of a megachurch in Orange County, Calif., is an olive branch to conservative Christian evangelicals. Mr. Warren is an outspoken opponent of abortion and same-sex marriage — litmus-test issues for Christian conservatives. In fact, his selection set off a round of criticism by gay rights groups angered by his support for California’s ban on same-sex marriages.

But Mr. Warren has also been one of the most prominent evangelical leaders calling for Christians to expand their agenda and confront global problems like poverty, AIDS, climate change and genocide in Darfur.

Mr. Warren flaunted his clout this year when he managed to draw both John McCain and Barack Obama to his Saddleback Church for a forum in which he interviewed them on stage about faith issues. He has sometimes angered the older generation of conservative evangelical leaders aligned with the Republican Party, as when he invited Mr. Obama to speak about AIDS at an earlier event at his church.

The Times, in essence, seems to be telling readers who despise Warren to chill.

Many are not in the mood, as Ben Smith and Nia-Malika Henderson at Politico duly noted yesterday, while they were sure to include a quote that ripped into our current president (bolds are mine):

..... (Warren's) support for the California constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage that drew the most heated criticism from Democrats Wednesday.

“Your invitation to Reverend Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at your inauguration is a genuine blow to LGBT Americans,” the president of Human Rights Campaign, Joe Solomonese, wrote Obama Wednesday. “[W]e feel a deep level of disrespect when one of architects and promoters of an anti-gay agenda is given the prominence and the pulpit of your historic nomination.”

The rapid, angry reaction from a range of gay activists comes as the gay rights movement looks for an opportunity to flex its political muscle. Last summer gay groups complained, but were rebuffed by Obama, when an “ex-gay” singer led Obama’s rallies in South Carolina. And many were shocked last month when voters approved the California ban.

..... The editor of the Washington Blade, Kevin Naff, called the choice “Obama’s first big mistake.”

“His presence on the inauguration stand is a slap in the faces of the millions of GLBT voters who so enthusiastically supported him,” Naff wrote, referring to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. “This tone-deafness to our concerns must not be tolerated. We have just endured eight years of endless assaults on our dignity and equality from a president beholden to bigoted conservative Christians. The election was supposed to have ended that era. It appears otherwise.”

John Hawkins at Right Wing News has a roundup of some of the very harsh criticisms coming from the leftosphere.

During the Clinton Era, the Times's excuse-making for Clinton's failures to advance the far-left's environmental, trade-restricting, and gay-rights agendas were legion, and were somewhat successful in muting opponents' objections. Whether the current financially weakened and credibility-challenged Times can consistently do the same for Obama in the era of blogs, Twitter and the raging nutroots is a very open question.

Another very obvious item the Times "somehow" missed is Barack Obama's answer to Rick Warren's question at the "flaunted" Saddleback presidential interview. Warren asked, in a discussion of abortion and life, when a baby's human rights begin. Obama, as you can see in this video, hemmed and hawed before finally saying that it's "above my pay grade." It may or may not prove effective, but the Times is clearly going to do its best to cover for its man as long as it can.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.