Just a few days ago I wrote an article slamming Ben Carson for his asinine view that a Muslim should not be president of the United States and that the values of Islam are incompatible with our Constitution. The irony here, of course, is that Carson’s very views are inconsistent with our Constitution, which expressly prohibits a religious test for president (or any federal office.)
But on Monday night Carson actually said something I agree with. While on Fox News, he stated, “I don’t care what religion or faith someone belongs to if they’re willing to subjugate that to the American way and to our Constitution.”
He even said he would support a Muslim American seeking office if the person “clearly will swear to place our Constitution above their religion.”
I couldn’t agree more with Carson. And I say that as a Muslim American. If a Muslim candidate for office were to advocate imposing Islamic law in America or revising our Constitution to agree with the Koran, I would be the first one to loudly oppose that person.
But I also feel strongly the same test should apply to all candidates of any faith. John F. Kennedy, a man I greatly admire, espoused a similar view when running for president in 1960 when he was subject to vile religious bigotry for being Catholic. Like Carson is now saying about Muslims, in 1960 some on the right claimed that Roman Catholicism was “incompatible with the principles” of our nation and that Kennedy was not truly loyal to America simply because of his faith.
In response, Kennedy gave a famous speech in 1960 before a group of Protestant ministers in Houston to address these allegations head on. There, Kennedy said that “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.” Adding, “I believe in a president whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation, nor imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.”
Kennedy did, in essence, what Carson advocated Monday; namely that he swore “to place our Constitution above” his religious beliefs. And I believe it’s now time for the GOP presidential field to do the same. (The Democrats as well but let’s be honest, the religion talk comes from the Republican presidential field.)
So in accordance with the “Carson doctrine,” at the next GOP debate, all the presidential candidates should be asked if they would expressly pledge to place our Constitution above their religious beliefs. Yes, I know some will try to squirm there way out of it saying things like, “America was founded on Christian values and that is my faith” or “America is a Christian nation and I’m a Christian so there won’t be a problem.”
Not so quick. If any candidate refuses to make this pledge, follow up questions must be asked. We, as a nation, need to know specifically which of their respective religious beliefs they view as superior to our Constitution. Here are a few proposed questions:
- In the Bible it says that, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.” Do you agree or reject that principle?
- If a woman is not a virgin on her wedding night, would you support the men of the town stoning her to death as expressly as mandated by the Bible?
- We have heard American pastors called for killing gays for “for their abominable deed” as it’s described in the Bible. Is that something you reject or agree with?
- If a woman is raped in the city but does not cry out for help, would you stone the woman to death to “purge the evil from your midst” or reject that and instead follow our Constitution?
- Do you believe in death for those who commit blasphemy as required by the Bible?
We can even ask about modern day issues such as if a bill was put in front of you to ban all abortions, would you sign it, imposing you religious believes upon all Americans or follow the Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade?
Don’t we need to know which passages they would follow if elected president and which they would reject? And yes, I know that many of the above passages are from the Old Testament and some Christians will claim that they don’t follow that book—except when some cite it to demonize gays, of course.
Well I’m far from a theologian but Revs. Billy and Franklin Graham are. Billy believes that Christians mistakenly ignore the Old Testament when in fact God gave “the whole Bible to us.” And his son Franklin has echoed that very sentiment with his words, “I believe the Bible from cover to cover. I believe the Old Testament, as well as the New Testament.”
But even before the next debate, we know some would fail the Carson test. For example, Mike Huckabee has stated that conservatives cannot accept “ungodly” court rulings on gay marriage and abortion. He has even urged that we need “to amend the Constitution” to agree with the Bible.
But the jury is still out on the rest including Carson himself. Isn’t it time we know if these candidates will place the U.S. Constitution over the religious beliefs or are they more beholden to the Biblical passages listed above? I, for one, very much want to know the answer to that question.
By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, September 22, 2015
“Absolutely Unpresidential”: The Extremism On Display At The GOP Debate Would Have Horrified Anyone Who’s Actually Been President
I woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat after the last Republican debate. I had a vision of President Ronald Reagan sitting in the front row at his library watching the debate. Alongside him were fellow Presidents Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Gerald Ford and even Richard Nixon.
Very quickly the blood drained from their faces. They began to fidget, to shift awkwardly in their chairs. They began to look around for the exits. These men who had led our nation, made difficult decisions and participated in politics their entire lives were appalled at what was going on before them.
Sure, they were shocked at the nastiness and vitriol among the candidates – this was way over the top. Sure, they were amazed that the front-runner was one Donald Trump, who belonged on “Entertainment Tonight,” not a presidential debate. Sure, they understood that how the candidates were behaving was counter to everything they knew about getting elected in America.
But my guess is what really frosted these men was that the substance of what most of these candidates were saying was so unreasonable, so off base, so totally devoid of reality, that it was downright scary.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and others, saying they would tear up the Iran agreement on day one of his presidency, thereby ensuring that no foreign leader would trust the U.S. to keep its word in the future. Former CEO Carly Fiorina stating flatly she would not ever talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin. No negotiating, no contact, nada. That would surprise Reagan and the others who always talked to our enemies and kept the lines of communications open – from the Soviet Union to “Red” China.
And how about blanket threats, with Fiorina’s phone call to the “Supreme Leader” of Iran that we will throw out the agreement and “move money around the global financial system.” Trump showed no knowledge of foreign policy and simply said he would hire great advisers – where are they now, the ones he watches on cable TV? And then there was the suggestion that we deport 11 million people because “the good ones will come back.” And, of course, there was the fight about who was the worst CEO or who could attack Planned Parenthood with the most vengeance.
The sheer level of ignorance, lack of preparation and categorical, extreme statements on critical policy matters was astounding. My guess is that these former presidents, had they been present, would have truly wondered what had happened to their country and the quality of the candidates running for the highest office in the land.
By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, September 18, 2015
“Because of his unsure and indecisive leadership in the field of foreign policy, questions are being raised on all sides,” the writer declared, adding that the administration was “plagued by a Hamlet-like psychosis which seems to paralyze it every time decisive action is required.” Is the writer one of the many recent critics of Barack Obama’s foreign policy? Actually, it’s Richard Nixon, writing in 1961 about President John F. Kennedy. Criticizing presidents for weakness is a standard practice in Washington because the world is a messy place and, when bad things happen, Washington can be blamed for them. But to determine what the United States — and Obama — should be doing, we have to first understand the nature of the world and the dangers within it.
From 1947 until 1990, the United States faced a mortal threat, an enemy that was strategic, political, military and ideological. Washington had to keep together an alliance that faced up to the foe and persuaded countries in the middle not to give in. This meant that concerns about resolve and credibility were paramount. In this context, presidents had to continually reassure allies. This is why Dean Acheson is said to have remarked in exasperation about Europe’s persistent doubts about America’s resolve, “NATO is an alliance, not a psychiatrist’s couch!”
But the world today looks very different — far more peaceful and stable than at any point in decades and, by some measures, centuries. The United States faces no enemy anywhere on the scale of Soviet Russia. Its military spending is about that of the next 14 countries combined, most of which are treaty allies of Washington. The number of democracies around the world has grown by more than 50 percent in the past quarter-century. The countries that recently have been aggressive or acted as Washington’s adversaries are getting significant pushback. Russia has alienated Ukraine, Eastern Europe and Western Europe with its recent aggression, for which the short-term costs have grown and the long-term costs — energy diversification in Europe — have only begun to build. China has scared and angered almost all of its maritime neighbors, with each clamoring for greater U.S. involvement in Asia. Even a regional foe such as Iran has found that the costs of its aggressive foreign policy have mounted. In 2006, Iran’s favorability rating in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia was in the 75 percent to 85 percent range, according to Zogby Research. By 2012, it had fallen to about 30 percent.
In this context, what is needed from Washington is not a heroic exertion of American military power but rather a sustained effort to engage with allies, isolate enemies, support free markets and democratic values and push these positive trends forward. The Obama administration is, in fact, deeply internationalist — building on alliances in Europe and Asia, working with institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations, isolating adversaries and strengthening the global order that has proved so beneficial to the United States and the world since 1945.
The administration has fought al-Qaeda and its allies ferociously. But it has been disciplined about the use of force, and understandably so. An America that exaggerates threats, overreacts to problems and intervenes unilaterally would produce the very damage to its credibility that people are worried about. After all, just six years ago, the United States’ closest allies were distancing themselves from Washington because it was seen as aggressive, expansionist and militaristic. Iran was popular in the Middle East in 2006 because it was seen as standing up to an imperialist America that had invaded and occupied an Arab country. And nothing damaged U.S. credibility in the Cold War more than Vietnam.
Obama is battling a knee-jerk sentiment in Washington in which the only kind of international leadership that means anything is the use of military force. “Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail,” he said in his speech Wednesday at West Point. A similar sentiment was expressed in the farewell address of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a strong leader who refused to intervene in the Suez crisis, the French collapse in Vietnam, two Taiwan Strait confrontations and the Hungarian uprising of 1956. At the time, many critics blasted the president for his passivity and wished that he would be more interventionist. A Democratic Advisory Council committee headed by Acheson called Eisenhower’s foreign policy “weak, vacillating, and tardy.” But Eisenhower kept his powder dry, confident that force was not the only way to show strength. “I’ll tell you what leadership is,” he told his speechwriter. “It’s persuasion — and conciliation — and education — and patience . It’s long, slow, tough work. That’s the only kind of leadership I know — or believe in — or will practice.”
Maybe that’s the Obama Doctrine.
By: Fareed Zakaria, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, May 29, 2014
After half a century, the March on Washington has moved into the historical record as a courageous but hardly radical event. It is widely remembered for Martin Luther King’s brilliant extemporaneous riffs on “I Have a Dream.” But even a peaceful assembly by “Negroes,” as black Americans were then known, was a dangerous idea in a volatile era.
President John F. Kennedy was dead-set against it, and protest planners were careful about choosing their allies for fear of informants to the Kennedy administration and his Federal Bureau of Investigation. Civil rights leaders formally demoted their best strategist, Bayard Rustin — though he continued to do most of the work — because he was openly gay and a one-time Communist, either of which would have been ammunition for those who wanted to derail the civil rights movement.
The march succeeded, though, perhaps beyond its organizers’ wildest dreams. A solemn demonstration of the power of black Americans’ simple plea for full citizenship, it proved to be one of the pivotal episodes of the civil rights movement. Its success in setting the stage for the Voting Rights Act shaped politics for the next 50 years, helping to propel President Barack Obama into office.
In the current political climate, it’s easy enough to minimize the remarkable progress toward full equality that the nation has made since 1963. It’s true that racism lives on, re-energized by pandering politicians and media demagogues. The criminal justice system is replete with discriminatory practices. Pernicious stereotypes still shadow the lives of black Americans.
Most damning, black workers have come no closer to closing the economic gap than they had in 1963. The Washington Post recently cited figures from the Economic Policy Institute showing that the unemployment rate was 5 percent for whites and 10.9 percent for blacks 50 years ago. The yawning gap remains today, with unemployment at 6.6 percent for whites and 12.6 percent for blacks, according to the Post. Furthermore, over the past 30 years, the average white family has gone from having five times as much wealth as the average black family to 6 1/2 times, the Post said.
Still, it’s disrespectful to those hardy and brave souls who stood on the Mall 50 years ago to suggest that little has changed. The nation has undergone a remarkable transformation in five decades, as the two elections of a black president attest.
Black men and women now hold positions of influence and authority throughout academia, business and the professions. They lead the U.S. armed forces. They are cultural icons, some so popular they are known simply by their first names.
The everyday interactions of Americans from different racial and ethnic groups have changed, as well. Interracial marriage is broadly accepted, and biracial children are a growing part of the population. Schools may not be as well-integrated as King had dreamed, but they are much more diverse than they were 50 years ago. So are churches and civic clubs.
Even the angry backlash by Tea Partiers and other sectors of the far right is a sign of changing times. Much of the hysteria that is lathered up by right-wing talk show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh is a last surge of protest by an aging demographic: older whites who resent or fear the changes fostered by the civil rights movement. The country is growing browner, and by mid-century, whites will no longer constitute a majority of the population. As a voting bloc and cultural influence, their power is waning. And they know it.
The good news is that younger whites are much more likely to embrace diversity, to accept cultural change, and to support the nation’s civic creed of full equality for all, regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation. Polling data show they diverge from the views of their parents and grandparents on many social issues.
Of course, younger Americans will have their struggles, too — their bitter disagreements and their political challenges. And they will have to tackle the economic injustices around which King planned his last crusade.
But they seem less likely to forge a future cleaved by color, and that’s worth celebrating.
By: Cynthia Tucker, The National Memo, August 24, 2013