Suddenly, President Obama’s religious beliefs are a subject of intense interest to America’s reporters. This is a marked contrast with 2008, when Obama’s religion (“God damn America!”) was considered off limits by reporters and editors. It is odd, though: one politician who won’t be asked about Obama’s religion is the only one who plausibly could answer the question, Obama himself.
It’s not just Obama’s religious beliefs, either. Ever since Rudy Giuliani ignited a firestorm by observing that Obama doesn’t seem to love America, the president’s patriotism and Communist associations, along with his religion, have been front and center. This morning, the Washington Post buttonholed Scott Walker to ask whether he thinks Obama is a Christian:
Wisconsin Gov. Scott K. Walker, a prospective Republican presidential contender, said Saturday he does not know whether President Obama is a Christian.
“I don’t know,” Walker said in an interview at the JW Marriott hotel in Washington, where he was attending the winter meeting of the National Governors Association.
Told that Obama has frequently spoken publicly about his Christian faith, Walker maintained that he was not aware of the president’s religion.
“I’ve actually never talked about it or I haven’t read about that,” Walker said, his voice calm and firm. “I’ve never asked him that,” he added. “You’ve asked me to make statements about people that I haven’t had a conversation with about that. How [could] I say if I know either of you are a Christian?”
That’s not a bad answer, but Republicans need to push back more strongly against Democratic Party reporters. I would suggest something like:
Dan, that is a very stupid question. And not just stupid, but inappropriate. I have never met Barack Obama. How could I possibly comment on his religious views? It would be totally inappropriate for me to do so. Why would you ask me a question like that? If President Obama’s religion is of concern to you for some reason, I suggest you ask him about it. It is not of concern to me. Now, does someone else have a more relevant question?
Republican candidates should be prepared with similar answers on irrelevant topics like evolution (which was sprung on Walker when he was in England) as well as global warming, a more pertinent issue. On global warming, Republican candidates should be prepared to say things like:
Given that the IPCC cut its prediction of future warming in half at the end of 2013, the science obviously is not settled.
Am I a climate change denier? I don’t know what you mean by that. The Earth’s climate has been changing for millions of years, and it will continue changing as long as the Earth exists. I don’t know of anyone who denies that the climate changes. It always has, and always will. You do understand that we are living in a brief warm period between ice ages, don’t you?
Everything you just said is based on computer models that have deliberately been created in such a way as to predict warming. But we know for a fact that those models are wrong, because they predicted significant warming between 1998 and 2014, and atmospheric measurements show that the forecasted warming hasn’t happened. So the models are useless.
I am not sure why you are asking me about extreme weather events. You do understand that there have been a below average number of such events in recent years, don’t you?
Evolution is a tremendously interesting subject. There are multiple theories of evolution, but none of them has been able to command a scientific consensus because they all have problems. It would be a full-time job to keep track of all of the scientific literature on evolution, and since I have been busy as Governor of Wisconsin [or whatever], I haven’t had time to do that. There are a lot of scientists who could give you better answers to such questions than I can, if you are really interested in the subject. Which I doubt.
You just used the word “science,” but I don’t think you know what it means. Science is a method, not a body of dogma. “Science” doesn’t take positions on issues of public policy. So if there is a particular set of data that you want to ask me about, you need to be more specific.
In general, Republicans need to push back aggressively against the many ambushes that will be sprung by Democratic Party reporters. They need to foresee the topics that will be raised, and be prepared with answers that, where possible, make the story about the reporter and his or her bias. Republicans have this going for them: Americans hate the news media, because they correctly see it as biased, corrupt and lazy. So Republicans shouldn’t be afraid to fight back aggressively.
UPDATE: Here is another one, that can be adapted to various circumstances:
Sally, you ask that question because you are a Democrat and you are trying to help your party. But your question contains an assumption that isn’t true…
The point is that Republicans should openly reject the assumption that most reporters are objective, or neutral, or fair, or possess superior knowledge. For the most part, they are simply Democratic Party operatives, and should be treated as such.