I’ve just listened to James Dobson's Focus on the Family radio program denouncing Barack Obama. Dobson is a right-wing crackpot, advocating all sorts of bizarre ideas about child-raising and the Bible that I detail below. But Dobson is also a powerful political figure in the Republican Party, someone whose incredible influence has been used on behalf of corrupt figures like Jack Abramoff.
In his radio show, Dobson attacks Obama for a June 28, 2006 speech in which Obama declared, "Even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would it be James Dobson's or Al Sharpton's?"
Dobson’s host called Al Sharpton "a black racist" and Dobson said, "Obviously, that is offensive to me," bizarrely complaining that he himself was being accused of racist by the mere comparison with Sharpton.
Dobson also attacked Obama for discussing Biblical passages that defend slavery, ban eating shellfish, and urge stoning of a misbehaving son. Obama noted about Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, that it "a passage that is so radical that it's doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application." According to Dobson, "He’s taking a direct shot at the Defense Department." In reality, Obama was simply pointing out that many Biblical ideas can be taken out of context and wrongly applied to public policy.
Dobson accused Obama of wrongly equating Old Testament texts and dietary codes, that Dobson says no longer apply, to Jesus' teachings in the New Testament. Dobson said, "I think he's deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview, his own confused theology... He is dragging biblical understanding through the gutter."
Of course, none of this is true. Obama was simply pointing out how ridiculous Biblical literalism is, and why it cannot be used the sole basis of political decision-making.
Dobson also accused Obama making "a fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution." Why? Obama made a statement in his 2006 speech about how, in arguing for legislation, we shouldn’t invoke God’s will but instead make an argument on principles that transcend a particular faith. Dobson bizarre claims that this means "he’s trying to make the case that it is anti-democratic to fight for moral principles." Dobson claimed, "Am I required in a democracy to conform my efforts in the political arena to his bloody notion of what is right with regard to the lives of tiny babies? What he's trying to say here is unless everybody agrees, we have no right to fight for what we believe." According to Dobson, "we don’t have to go to the lowest common denominator of morality, which he is suggesting."
This really is a "fruitcake interpretation" of Obama’s words. All that Obama was saying is that in the political realm, we should make arguments that appeal to reason and people of all faiths, rather than simply invoking the Bible to prove our claims. It’s a perfectly reasonable position to take. More importantly, it has absolutely nothing to do with interpreting the Constitution, and Obama was in no way talking about government restrictions how people argue about politics.
Note, Dobson also condemned McCain in the broadcast for not expressing support for the Arizona legislature’s efforts to put an anti-gay resolution on the ballot. In the past Dobson has said that he would not vote for McCain.
As a critique by Frederick Clarkson noted, Dobson has a shaky understanding of the Constitution.
Dobson has plenty of odd ideas, such as urging a father to educate his son about manhood by showing the kid his penis:
He can even take his son with him into the shower, where the boy cannot help but notice that Dad has a penis, just like his, only bigger.
In his best-selling 1970 book, Dare to Discipline, Dobson urged beating children from the age of 18 months to 12 years old, using a switch or a paddle, and called for hitting kids with "sufficient magnitude to cause the child to cry genuinely."
Dobson suggests that heterosexual marriage rates in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden are falling due to the recognition of same-sex relationships. According to Dobson, "There is no issue today that is more significant to our culture than the defense of the family. Not even the war on terror eclipses it."
Dobson believes that because of bills prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, "every woman and little girl will have to fear that a predator, bisexual, cross-dresser or even a homosexual or heterosexual male might walk in and relieve himself in their presence."
At one event, Dobson appeared with a "policeman suspended from service for joining a violent abortion protest while on duty."
Dobson has also said, "Patrick Leahy is a God's people hater. I don't know if he hates God, but he hates God's people."
Some conservatives have dared to speak out openly about Dobson’s lunatic beliefs.
Gil Alexander-Moegerle, a former Focus on the Family, noted in his 1997 book James Dobson’s War on America:
James Dobson believes that he has been entirely sanctified, morally perfected, that he does not and cannot sin. Now you know why he and moralists like him make a life of condemning what he believes to be the sins of others. He is perfect.
Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey declared:
The criteria of choice in just about every behavior you see in Congress today is politics. Where in the hell did this Terri Schiavo thing come from? There’s not a conservative, Constitution-loving, separation-of-powers guy alive in the world that could have wanted that bill on the floor. That was pure, blatant pandering to James Dobson. That’s all that was. It was silly, stupid, and irresponsible. Nobody serious about the Constitution would do that. But the question was will this energize our Christian conservative base for the next election.
To a large extent because Dobson and his gang of thugs are real nasty bullies. I pray devoutly every day, but being a Christian is no excuse for being stupid. There’s a high demagoguery coefficient to issues like prayer in schools. Demagoguery doesn’t work unless it’s dumb, shallowas water on a plate. These issues are easy for the intellectually lazy and can appeal to a large demographic. These issues become bigger than life, largely because they’re easy. There ain’t no thinking.
Yet Dobson’s political power continues. In 2007, Dobson led 25 evangelicals who called for the ouster of Rev. Richard Cizik from the National Association of Evangelicals for opposing global warming, accusing Cizik of "using the global warming controversy to shift the emphasis away from the great moral issues of our time."
Dobson also has a connection to the disgraced Republican Jack Abramoff, by following former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed's request in 2002 for Dobson to help Abramoff in opposing a casino license sought by a competitor to Abramoff’s casino interests. Focus on the Family compounded this evil by lying and claiming that "there is no connection" between Dobson and Reed’s efforts for Abramoff. But three days after Reed guaranteed to Abramoff that "Dr. Dobson would privately urge Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton to oppose the Jena Choctaw casino," Dobson wrote a letter to Norton doing exactly that. Focus on the Family’s radio show also did a "special edition" radio broadcast aired only in that state on behalf of Abramoff’s cause.
As a kid, Dobson recalls that he tried to become a bully and targeted a boy he regarded as a "sissy." When the boy beat up Dobson instead, Dobson decided to use words rather than fists to launch a movement aimed at bullying children and "sissies" on a much larger scale.
Dobson’s attacks on Obama reveal what Dobson truly is: a right-wing nut with delusional interpretations of the Bible who wields enormous influence within the Republican Party.
This piece originally published at John K. Wilson's Daily Kos Diary.
Start your workday the right way with the news that matters most. Learn more