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Jon Ward   |   June 12, 2013   12:01 PM ET

WASHINGTON - Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) appeared at a forum on immigration reform Wednesday morning. Not much new is being said at many of these types of events right now, but there was one moment where Ryan did something a little different.

As he ticked off the reasons why he supports the effort to pass a bill, he pulled out his iPhone, and showed it to co-panelist Doug Holtz-Eakin and moderator John Harwood, of CNBC.

"I come from Irish peasants who came over during the potato famine," Ryan said. "And this is a poster, I have it on my iPhone here, that was put on the ships by the Irish government for the Irish immigrants coming over in the 1850s. It says, 'Advice to Irish immigrants.'"

Ryan then read the 128-word message in full (you can see the image of what he was reading from below, provided by his office).

In the United States, labor is there the first condition of life, and industry is the lot of all men. Wealth is not idolized, but there is no degradation connected with labour; on the contrary, it is honorable, and held in general estimation. In the remote parts of America, an industrious youth may follow any occupation without being looked down upon or sustain loss of character, and he may rationally expect to raise himself in the world by his labor. In America, a man's success must altogether rest with himself. It will depend on his industry, sobriety, diligence and virtue; and if he do not succeed, in nine cases out of ten, the cause of the failure is to be found in the deficiencies of his own character.

After Ryan finished reading, he said that the poster's message demonstrated, essentially, the spirit that was drawing new immigrants to the U.S. today.

"This is the American idea. That's the melting pot. That's what people came then and now for. This is something that is in absolute keeping of our principles of our party and our country, and that's why people like me are supporting immigration reform," Ryan said.

This is a central tension in the debate among conservatives about immigration reform. Groups like The Heritage Foundation have released studies estimating that giving undocumented immigrants permanent legal status and ultimately citizenship will lead to increased strain on welfare and social services, based on the idea that many immigrants will not work but instead rely on government benefits.

Ryan's point in reading the poster was to argue that most immigrants are here to work.

Here is the image Ryan was looking at as he read. The 2012 vice presidential nominee read from a print version of this poster during an April 22 speech in Chicago.

Irish Immigration Poster

Jon Ward   |   May 16, 2013    6:21 PM ET

While former IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, has agreed to testify before Congress next week, the senior manager who oversaw the division that targeted tea party groups has yet to commit to do so.

Lois G. Lerner, who managed the IRS exempt organizations unit that approved applications for nonprofit status, is in Montreal, according to her attorney, a congressional source said, and has not yet said if she will come to Washington for testimony next week. Lerner has hired William W. Taylor III, the lawyer who represented Dominique Strauss Kahn, the former International Monetary Fund head accused of sexual assault by a New York hotel housekeeper, the source said.

Shulman, who told a congressional committee in March 2012 that the IRS had conducted "absolutely no targeting" of conservative tea party groups, will appear before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee next Wednesday. Lerner's presence has been requested. Others who have agreed to appear include J. Russell George, the treasury inspector general for tax administration, and Neal S. Wolin, deputy treasury secretary.

On Friday morning, George, the inspector general, will testify before the House Ways and Means Committee, along with Steven Miller, the acting commissioner of the IRS who is so far the only government official to lose his job in the scandal. President Barack Obama announced Wednesday that Miller had resigned.

Jon Ward   |   May 15, 2013    4:51 PM ET

One of President Obama's central promises as a candidate for the White House in 2008 was that he would transform the culture of Washington and the country's politics.

"Change has come to America," he declared the night he won the presidency.

There is the hint of a fledgling counter narrative emerging now - as Obama deals with multiple scandals - from the man who many think wants to replace Obama in the White House in 2016: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla). In a speech on the floor of the Senate Wednesday, Rubio said the president has changed the culture of Washington, but for the worse.

Rubio began by pointing to the treatment of State Department personnel who were on the ground in Benghazi, Libya and have since said they were pressured to keep quiet, he pointed to to the IRS scandal, and then to the AP scandal. But Rubio said that "none of this is new."

"What we see emerging here is a pattern, a culture of intimidation, of hardball politics that we saw both on the campaign trial, and now through the apparatus of government," he said.

As evidence he cited the case of Frank VanderSloot, an Idaho businessman who donated to a super PAC supporting Republican Mitt Romney and was listed by the Obama campaign as one of several ”wealthy individuals with less-than-reputable records," and then was subsequently the subject of audits by the IRS and the Labor Department. No definitive proof has been offered or found to connect the Obama campaign appearance and the audits, but the IRS scandal of the past week has given more reason for those who speculate about a connection to do so.

Rubio also mentioned the improper IRS leak of nonprofit applications from conservative groups to ProPublica, a nonprofit news organization, which may have been a violation of the law, as well as the example of the National Labor Relations Board's complaint against Boeing for moving a plant from Washington state to South Carolina.

Rubio then launched into a section of his speech in which he accused Obama of worsening the culture of the nation's capital.

"This is what you get when an administration is all about politics. This administration is a 365-day-a-year, year round political campaign. Every issues is a potliical campaign ... Every issue is a wedge. Few times in the history of this country has anyone used this office to drive more wedges among the American people than this president and this administration. And so yes, this is the culture that's been created: 'They're bad and we're good. Our enemies are bad people. The people who disagree with us on policy are bad people. If you don't support us on guns, you don't care about children and families. You don't support some measure against religious liberty, you're waging a war on women.'

On issue after issue, a deliberate attempt to divide the American people against each other for the purposes of winning an election. That is the culture that's been created. And that culture leads to this kind of behavior ... I'm not saying someone in the White House picked up the phone and said, 'Do these audits. Leak this information.' I am saying that when you create a culture where what's rewarded is political advantage ... it leads to this kind of behavior throughout your administration."

And Rubio also said, in strong terms, that he is opposed to Tom Perez's nomination for Secretary of Labor. Perez, said Rubio, "has an admirable personal story which I admire and applaud, but ... has a history of using the government and his position in government to intimidate people to do what he wants them to do."

"I would submit to you that Mr. Perez's nomination is bad for the country in any time, but in this administration, in this political culture, after what we have learned over the last few days, even more so. I hate to single him out but that's one of the pending ones before us," Rubio said.

Here is video of the speech:

Jon Ward   |   April 18, 2013    4:34 PM ET

WASHINGTON - Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), one of the most adamant opponents of the Senate's immigration reform bill and a longtime hardliner on immigration, said Thursday that there are not currently enough no votes in the House to stop the Senate legislation from passing.

"They're not here yet," King told The Huffington Post.

King called the Senate bill "a terrible idea" and said he is unalterably opposed to it. "You can't take a bill that's that bad and start to amend it and fix it," he said.

"The alternative would be, I suppose, for a bill to come out of the Senate that the House would accept and send to the president. I don't think that's going to happen," King added.

King said that he thinks the immigration legislation will "be severely wounded when it comes over from the Senate, and then we have to mount a real big effort here in the House."

"I don't think I can say what [are the] key votes," King said when asked who the anti-immigration bloc needs to win over in the House. "But it's about messaging and the American people need to wake up to what's going on. And that's starting."

Jon Ward   |   April 17, 2013   10:11 AM ET

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky) on Wednesday accused President Obama of using the families of gun violence victims for political purposes.

"I think gun control is a legitimate issue for us to debate," Paul said. "I hate to see using people, I think, as props and politicizing people's tragedy. When I see the father and the mothers and them testifying - and I know they're coming voluntarily, and they want to come and be part of this debate - but it still saddens me just to see them, and I think that in some cases the president has used them as props. And that disappoints me.

Paul, speaking with reporters at a breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor, seemed to recognize that he needed to soften his comments. When he was asked about the gun control debate a second time, he went out of his way to express empathy for the victims of gun violence crimes and their families.

"I'm someone who is presenting a face to the public, and the fact I want to represent is that I do care about those kids, and that I understand the grief that they're going through, and that I do care about it. Politics isn't only about facts. It is about whether you're seen as empathetic, and I do want people to know that I do care about those families and I understand their grief," Paul said.

But he reiterated his point about what he sees as Washington's tendency to pass laws and hold press conferences for their own sake.

"A lot of things that are done in Washington are done as window dressing. It's a dog and pony show, it's a parade, it's theatrics and histrionics, all to show people that something bad happened, which it did. Something terribly tragic happened and I don't want to demean or in any way lessen that. But the response to it is, 'Hey look at me I did something.'"

Jon Ward   |   April 17, 2013    9:59 AM ET

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) defended his performance at Howard University last week in a 48-minute session with reporters on Wednesday morning, and said that he will continue his efforts to speak with minority groups because he wants to change what he said is a widely held view that the Republican Party is racist.

"There is a perception that Republicans don't like people of color, they don't like black people, brown people or people of different color skin. It's not true, but that's the perception that we have to overcome," Paul said at a breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor. "And the only way to overcome that, I think, is by showing up and saying over and over again that it is not true."

Paul said he will continue to speak at places like Howard about the Republican Party's "rich history in civil rights."

"I'll keep trying. I don't give up easily," he said.

Paul also said that he was criticized unfairly after his speech at Howard last week for asking questions of the audience that seemed to presume ignorance about portions of the Republican Party's history and its relationship with African Americans.

"That was misreported," Paul said. "I asked them, 'Do you know?' and I didn't know the answer. This is my first time to go to a historically black college."

"People say, 'Well, you should know the answer.' Well, that was part of the reason for going there, was I didn't know the answer," he said. "I said, 'Did they all know that the NAACP was founded by Republicans?' And in retrospect it sounds like it is a dumb question, but it's like, Republicans haven't been going to Howard for 20 years, so maybe by me going there I did learn something. And I did learn that everybody there knows, and I left there knowing that: Everybody there knows."

Even if the students at Howard did know the history of the GOP, Paul said, "I think you'd find that 90 percent of the public has no idea."

Paul was not happy with the media coverage of the event.

"It's unfair what the media tries to do to me on this," Paul said. "I'm a little sensitive to some of it."

Jon Ward   |   April 12, 2013    4:58 PM ET

Rand Paul's speech at Howard University this week was widely panned, with much of the criticism coming from the left. Yet Artur Davis, a black Republican who switched from the Democratic party to the GOP in 2012, also slammed Paul's performance, calling it a "wasted day."

It's way premature to say the Kentucky senator wasted his time at Howard. But much of the criticism by Davis and others of Paul's speech was well founded. Paul's remarks were uneven and clumsy, and the Republican lawmaker exposed his own ignorance of his audience.

And that's why it was worth doing.

During the roughest portion of his speech, as Paul was fumbling for words, he let slip a line that - if he is sincere about genuine, sustained interaction minority voters - was significant.

"I'm trying to find out what the connection is," he said, apparently speaking of himself and his audience.

Indeed. And the only way to figure out how to connect with African-Americans and other minorities is to do what the 50-year old senator did: spend time with them, talk to them, more importantly listen to them, figure out what you don't know and what they don't know, and then try to find areas of agreement to build on.

Much was said after the 2012 election about how Republicans had given up on minorities, especially black voters. The first step, the bare minimum, some said, is to at least make an effort to go to where they are and talk with them (not at them).

Well, that's what Paul did at Howard and then again Friday at another historically black university, Simmons College of Kentucky. Admittedly, Paul did talk at the Howard students some, and that's what produced some of his worst moments.

Adam Serwer wrote that Paul didn't "deserve a gold star" just because he spoke at Howard. Of course he doesn't. But Paul is hopefully not doing this to simply score political points in some short-sighted attempt to build "buzz." He said himself on Friday that he's doing it to win over voters. And if the 2012 Obama ground game taught us anything, it's that building relationships is a key element of building support.

Time will tell if Paul, and the Republican party in general, is genuinely committed to an ongoing, sustained effort. But the only way to make any progress starts with the kind of stumbling, awkward, and lesson-producing effort that Paul made this week.

Obama Pastor Did Say That About Religious Right

Jon Ward   |   April 3, 2013    6:14 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- On Easter Sunday, President Barack Obama went to services at St. John's Episcopal Church, where the Rev. Luis Leon preached a 15-minute sermon on the Gospel of John, chapter 20. Leon's remarks made waves when it was reported that the pastor took a shot at the "religious right."

Leon was reported to have said the following: "It drives me crazy when the captains of the religious right are always calling us back ... for blacks to be back in the back of the bus ... for women to be back in the kitchen ... for immigrants to be back on their side of the border."

This comment -- an apparent accusation that the religious right is animated by racism, misogyny and xenophobia -- was picked up in press accounts and quickly drew condemnation from conservative websites and Christian religious leaders. The Fox Nation website called it "another Obama pastor problem," a reference to the president's former minister in Chicago, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

"It's sad when clergy egregiously politicize worship," Mark Tooley, president of the conservative Christian organization Institute on Religion and Democracy, wrote in a blog post. "Is this characterization of religious conservatives as racists, chauvinists and bigots really fair and accurate?"

On Tuesday, a congregant at St. John's took issue with the way Leon's comments were reported.

"The story was basically the same -- look at this guy race baiting on Easter, pandering to the President. That's not what happened," wrote Brian Schoeneman, a Republican activist from Virginia who was a senior speechwriter for Labor Secretary Elaine Chao in the Bush administration.

In his blog post, Schoeneman called the press reports "a mischaracterization of what Luis said."

"It was certainly not what he meant. But that didn't stop people from jumping to ridiculous conclusions and vilifying him, our church, and Episcopalians in general," Schoeneman wrote.

Schoeneman's argument, which is quoted at length below, was that Leon accused the religious right of being insensitive to the wrongs of the past. The implication of his argument was that Leon did not accuse the religious right of literally wanting to bring back segregation and subjugation of women and to deport undocumented immigrants.

To understand why Schoeneman's blog post raised questions about the accuracy of the quotation, one must understand how Leon's remark was reported.

The quote came from a pool report written by a single reporter. Every time the president travels outside the White House, he is accompanied by a "protective pool," a handful of reporters including representatives from print, radio and TV outlets. The members of the pool rotate in and out by news organization. Reporters at many news organizations sign up to receive the print pool report by email and write stories based on it, but the report itself comes from a single person. So cross-checking details with other press accounts is not possible. On Sunday, Jenee Desmond-Harris, a staff writer at The Root, was the pool reporter. Her account of Leon's sermon was the only one available.

In addition, Desmond-Harris' use of ellipses left the quotation vulnerable to questions about its accuracy once Schoeneman raised his objections. The lack of other press accounts compounded this problem.

Here is what Schoeneman wrote, laying out in detail what he said Leon's real point was:

Luis was preaching on our Gospel lesson for the day, which came from John 20: 11-18, where Mary Magdalene sees Christ for the first time since he rose from the dead. She refers to him as "rabbouni" (teacher) and he tells her she must not cling to him. Luis explained that passage by talking about the dangers of nostalgia, and how Christ was explaining to Mary that she must not live in the past because we cannot go back to the past, no matter how much we may want to. Christ knew that because he came, died for our sins and was resurrected, nothing would ever be the same again. Mary and the disciples needed to understand that, and she did -- when she tells the disciples of what she saw, she tells them "I saw the Lord" not "I saw our rabbi." His sermon was a message of hope, not hate, that he was delivering to our congregation.

But it was in this discussion of the dangers of nostalgia that he made the comments that created all the conservative hate on Easter. He made the point that he is frustrated when "captains of the religious right" want to call us back to times they say were better, but that those times were also times when blacks had to sit in the back of the bus, when women were kept in the kitchen and immigrants on their side of the border. The point was simple and one I've said to many people myself -- those of us who pine for the "good old days" need to keep in mind that those good old days weren't always that great for everybody else.

Was that hatred? No. Was it an attack on the religious right? No. Was it pandering to Obama? No -- he gave the same sermon at both the 9 AM and 11 AM services and used the same line in both (I was a lay reader at the 9 AM, so I heard that version -- it was the same as the 11 AM based on the pool reporter's notes). Was it a straw man attack? I don't think so. Pat Robertson, among others, has long lamented how society is more immoral today than it was in the past, especially when talking about gay marriage and other social issues. Luis's point is that those people are living in the past and ignoring that in that past that may have been better for some, it wasn't better for all. We can't go back, no matter how much we want to. What we can do is make the future better, and through Christ, we have that opportunity.

This wasn't a political speech. One reference to the "captains of the religious right" doesn't make it a political speech any more than Barack Obama quoting scripture in a State of the Union address makes that a sermon.

I asked Desmond-Harris for audio of the sermon, and she sent it over. St. John's has also posted audio of the sermon on its web page. The tape shows that Desmond-Harris quoted Leon accurately.

Here is the full context of what Leon said, with emphasis added on the language in question:

When we dwell on the past, when we dwell on the "if only's" of life, we forget that God addresses us in the now. Jesus' response to Mary -- and I think that Jesus' response to us is gentle, but it is firm -- Jesus says, "Don't hang on to me. Don't hang on to the past. Don't hang on to the way things were." I hear all the time the expression "the good old days." Well, the good old days -- we forget they had been good for some, but they weren't good for everybody. You can't go back. You can't live in the past. It drives me crazy when the captains of the religious right are always calling people back, never forward, forgetting that we are called to be a pilgrim people who have agreed never to arrive. That's true to our faith. The captains of the religious right are always calling us back, back, back, for blacks to be back in the back of the bus, for women to be back in the kitchen, for gays to be in the closet and for immigrants to be on their side of the border. But you and I understand this, that when Jesus says you can't hang on to me, he says, "You know it's not about the past, it's not about the before, it's not about the way things were, but about the way things can be in the now."

The only substantive language missing from Desmond-Harris' pool report is the clause about gays "in the closet."

Leon went on to talk about how Mary Magdalene realized, after seeing a resurrected Christ, that "life has changed and she's invited, we're invited, to see our world completely different."

"The message of Easter is the proclamation of the victory of powerful love over loveless power. And I think that what Mary has been offered on Easter Day in the story of John is Easter vision. And you and I are offered Easter vision, the ability to see things and realize reality differently," Leon said.

In an email to HuffPost, Schoeneman noted that he "never said [Leon] wasn't quoted accurately -- I said the quote was taken out of context and it was mischaracterized." And it's true that much of his criticism was of the conservative response to Leon's comments.

But Schoeneman's blog post argued that Leon was not explicitly accusing the "religious right" of wanting to bring back segregation or a misogynistic culture. Leon, Schoeneman wrote, was saying that when individuals are nostalgic for the past, they are ignoring the fact that many groups of people did not enjoy the "good old days."

"The point was simple and one I've said to many people myself -- those of us who pine for the 'good old days' need to keep in mind that those good old days weren't always that great for everybody else," Schoeneman wrote.

It's true that this was one of Leon's points. But unless he misspoke, the plain reading of his language goes beyond that. Leon's language, despite the larger context, seems to accuse the religious right of actually being in favor of segregated schools, subservient housewives, bullied gays and an immigrant-free society.

That's not the way it came across to the audience, said Schoeneman in a second email.

"As a conservative, if I thought that's what he was saying, I'd have had a conversation with him myself about it," Schoeneman wrote. "But that's just not what I heard and I don't think folks in the audience did either. I think there would have been a reaction had that been the case."

Leon himself didn't back away from his words when asked about them earlier this week.

"It's in there. People will do what they want with it," Leon told HuffPost's Jaweed Kaleem.

Jon Ward   |   April 1, 2013    7:30 AM ET

A brief item on Rand Paul by Time's Alex Altman describes the Republican Kentucky senator speaking recently to a group of Republican women in his home state and catching himself when he brings up the idea of shutting down U.S. military bases on foreign soil.

“I’m not saying don’t have any,” he said. "I'm just saying maybe not 900. I mean, I’d rather have one at Fort Campbell and Fort Knox than one in Timbuktu.”

And it turns out Paul is not opposed to keeping military bases in Iraq, or in that part of the world, for the foreseeable future. When he sat down a few weeks ago with a few reporters at an event hosted by National Review, I brought up a report that morning in The Wall Street Journal about the CIA taking responsibility for U.S. operations in Iraq from the Defense Department, and asked Paul if that was a good model for him, or whether he wanted "total removal" of U.S. forces from the country.

Paul said he supported something "in between all that."

"I think having some places and bases where we could orchestrate attacks if we had to, if there's a regrouping of people, wouldn't be too unreasonable. But I think out patrolling the villages after 12 years, the Afghans should be doing that," Paul said.

A few minutes later, Paul came back to the issue of closing military bases on foreign soil, and reiterated a middle ground approach.

"There are some who want to come completely home. Some want to stay forever. And the answer might be somewhere in the middle that we'll still have bases in places, but we don't necessarily have to maybe have 900 bases. Maybe we have less," he said.

The fact that Paul expressed support for the idea of some military bases abroad, and even some in or near Iraq, is interesting because it is a significant difference from his father, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas). Asked on Fox News in June of 2011 which bases on foreign soil he would like to see closed, the elder Paul answered succinctly, "All of them."

Rand Paul shares his father's belief that U.S. troops being stationed on foreign soil often increases anti-U.S. sentiment in the countries where they are stationed. "If U.S. occupation is a primary recruitment tool and what inspires Islamic terrorists, are many of our current efforts overseas actually fighting terrorism and diminishing the threat?" he wrote in his 2011 book, The Tea Party Comes To Washington.

But Paul has expressed interest in running for president in 2016, and a full withdrawal of all U.S. bases from the world would clearly mark him as an isolationist, even though his father and his father's supporters call themselves "non-interventionists." Rand Paul calls himself "a realist."

And Paul has also acknowledged, during a foreign policy speech at The Heritage Foundation last month, that "the West is in for a long, irregular confrontation not with terrorism, which is simply a tactic, but with radical Islam."

"Some libertarians argue that Western occupation fans the flames of radical Islam -– I agree," Paul said in that speech. "But I don’t agree that absent Western occupation that radical Islam 'goes quietly into that good night.'”

Paul favors a more surgical approach to foreign policy, is vehemently opposed to nation-building and wants to limit the power of the president and the executive branch to initiate and wage war.

Jon Ward   |   March 29, 2013    2:04 PM ET

Tim Keller's comments on gay marriage, which I wrote about earlier this week, appear to have caused something of a stir inside the evangelical Protestant community, so much so that Keller was forced to clarify his position on the issue in a short blog post Friday.

Here's Keller:

A recent article on the Huffington Post reported on a discussion among journalists about how younger evangelicals view the issue of same-sex marriage. I was present, and I said that I have noted many younger evangelicals are taking an Anabaptist-like position; that is, that while they still believe homosexuality to be a sin, they don't think the government should put that belief into law for the nation.

In explaining the Anabaptist tradition, I was quoted saying, "You can believe homosexuality is a sin and still believe that same-sex marriage should be legal." I did say that—but it was purely a statement of fact. It is possible to hold that position, though it isn't my position, nor was I promoting or endorsing the position. I was simply reporting on the growth of that view.

I can see how some readers might be confused at these points in the article and think that I support the legalization of same-sex marriage. I do not. I hope that clarifies things for those of you who asked about this article.

Here is the full context of what Keller said during the Faith Angle forum last week in Miami:

"This is a good spot to point out something, which is that you can believe homosexuality is a sin and still believe that same-sex marriage should be legal. Those are not the same issues. They overlap. And I do think it would be fair to say, like people more in the Anabaptist tradition, like Duke University and Stan Hauerwas and those folks who would be saying, if you try to make the world like the church you end up making the church like the world ... We don't make it illegal -- as Christians we don't think you should bow down and worship little statues, but we wouldn't want a law out there in America saying it's illegal to worship statues. So that view is to say, look, for Christians, we believe this but for same sex marriage it shouldn't be a problem because it's not our position to try to legislate Christian morality ... I do agree that even if you think the Bible teaches homosexuality is wrong, you have to have a somewhat separate set of arguments to then go and say it should be public policy too, and I do know that Christians who are very evangelical in every way do differ on that."

The audio of the entire session posted online this morning and can be heard here.

Jon Ward   |   March 27, 2013   12:12 PM ET

I wrote yesterday about the tensions that evangelicals are facing between their moral view of homosexuality (most still think their faith does not allow it) and their political view of gay marriage (while most still oppose it, younger evangelicals oppose it in fewer numbers).

But there is another major tension in this debate, facing another group: the growing number of Americans who favor gay marriage. The question for them is how to treat those who disagree with them.

Piers Morgan's CNN segment on Tuesday night was a vivid illustration of this tension. Morgan invited Ryan T. Anderson, a 31-year-old fellow from The Heritage Foundation, on his program to debate the issue. But Morgan did not have Anderson to sit at a table with him and Suze Orman, the 61-year-old financial guru, who is gay. Instead, Anderson was placed about 15 feet away from Morgan and Orman, among the audience, and had to debate from a distance.

The message, in both the language used by Morgan and Orman, and the physical placement of Anderson on the set, was clear: they thought him morally inferior. Evangelical leader Tim Keller talks about this dynamic -- opponents of gay marriage being treated akin to bigoted groups such as white supremacists -- in yesterday's piece.

Many in America would feel the same way about Anderson as Morgan and Orman, but the largely undiscussed aspect of the current gay marriage moment is that there is a significant number of Americans who continue to disagree with gay marriage or simply with condoning homosexuality within their faith community, and their views are more deeply held than many likely realize.

Walter Russell Mead explores this further in a post today. But he prefaces his comments on religious liberty by stating that "whether you like it or not, [gay marriage is] coming" and that "the climate of bigotry, brutality and violence that so many gay people have had to live with in the past was clearly an evil." He then moves on to discuss the question of how to treat those who disagree with gay marriage or homosexuality.

The other policy question we face is the question of what to do about the substantial minority of Americans who continue to think gay marriage is a bad idea. The Roman Catholic Church and many evangelical churches, as well as many Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, and Hindu groups aren’t going to change their historical doctrines just because the secular Zeitgeist has changed. The American people is not a flock of starlings who sweep in unison around the sky, all changing direction at just the same moment. If the laws recognize gay marriage, many religious groups will dissent against these laws, refuse to recognize the religious validity of these marriages, and continue to discourage the practice of homosexuality by their members.

Some gay rights advocates will believe that society needs to punish and repress these beliefs. Just as we don’t let segregated schools enjoy tax benefits and deny racists the “right” to discriminate in hiring and promoting, shouldn’t we hand out the same treatment to those backward bigots who refuse to move with the times?

At Via Meadia, we think that’s wrong. The distinction we would draw is between those who promote violence and bullying, and those who dissent from the new laws on moral grounds.

Jonathan Rauch's prescient piece from 2010 on how gays should treat those who disagree with them deals with this at length.

Jon Ward   |   March 1, 2013   10:13 AM ET

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) said Thursday evening in an interview that even though the sequester has gone into effect he will continue to work to reverse it.

"My goal is to try to get it stopped. It really doesn't kick in hard for a little while, and I continue to try to get em to reverse it. Kelly Ayotte and Lindsay and I did have a proposal of cuts that I thought were reasonable. ... But I think what you're going to see is a real backlash on the defense side here in the next week or two: jobs, particularly in industrial, military-industrial complex, the complaints from the service men and women about they don't know what their lives are going to be like.

You know, when they cancel the deployment of an aircraft carrier --whether they had to or not I'd be glad to try to find out -- but you know if you're going on a nine-month deployment on your ship, you close your house, you make arrangements for being gone for nine months, and all of a sudden a few days before they say, eh, well you're not going. We're disrupting people's lives that are an all-volunteer force in the military, and it's a big mistake in my view."

Jon Ward   |   February 26, 2013    3:19 PM ET

President Obama has the kind of power that most politicians can't touch: cultural power.

In my piece today on the relationship between the president and the press, I touch on how this plays a factor in helping the White House go around the Washington press corps and gain the upper hand. From the piece: "He is a celebrity politician the likes of which has not been seen before in an age where image rules supreme."

Consider this: among the top five Twitter accounts in the world, two are outspoken supporters of the president who campaigned for him (Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, with 34 million and 32 million followers respectively) and Obama himself is at number five. There are no other American politicians in the top 100, or 200 for that matter. It is all musicians, movie stars, athletes, and other pop culture icons. The only politician anywhere close is Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, who is at number 182 with 4 million followers to Obama's 27.5 million.

With a few keystrokes on his Twitter account, Obama (or a staffer from Organizing for Action, which controls the account) can reach more people than watch all the TV networks and cable news on an average night (22 million for the networks and 3 million for cable in 2011).

But Obama's presence in that list of top accounts is more symbolic than anything. He is a global force of personality and marketing. This fact is often lost Washington, where everything is viewed through a political lens and every move on Capitol Hill is catalogued by a thousand Tweets. But in real America, not much out of Washington cuts through the clutter more than the president's bully pulpit. That's even more so now given this president's celebrity.

Howard Fineman also touched on this topic in his column yesterday.

Jon Ward   |   February 25, 2013    5:58 PM ET

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal coined a memorable post-election phrase in November when, a week after the 2012 election, he said the GOP had to stop being "the stupid party."

On Monday, during a press conference focused mostly on the sequester debate, Jindal snuck in another clever phrase that neatly captures the outsider image he is cultivating.

"What's clear to me is we've gone from the greed of Wall Street that caused many of our problems, to today the greed of government," he said. "And Washington D.C. is the one boom town, the one recession proof town during these economically challenging times."

Jindal, who appeared at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, was talking about how he thinks the impact of the sequester should not be as damaging as the White House is arguing it will be.

"I think the American people know there's at least three percent of wasteful spending in the federal government, that these kinds of reductions can be made without jeopardizing national security … without jeopardizing food inspections or critical health care services," Jindal said.

From the greed of Wall Street to the greed of government. That phrase, while not as pithy or succinct as the "stupid party," launches a conservative critique of President Obama's quest for higher tax revenues from the positioning of a populist who also condemns the financial sector's contribution to the financial crisis. It's a message Jindal was pushing back in November, but the "stupid party" comment got all the attention.

Yet even then, Jindal told Jonathan Martin that the GOP is "a populist party and we’ve got to make that clear going forward."

And in a CNN op-ed that same week in November, Jindal wrote that the GOP should "quit 'big.'"

"We are not the party of big business, big banks, big Wall Street bailouts, big corporate loopholes, or big anything. We must not be the party that simply protects the well off so they can keep their toys," Jindal wrote.

Jindal said then that he was supportive of capital requirements for banks, and for something similar to the Volcker Rule. It will be interesting to see whether he'll come out in support of breaking up the big banks at some point.

One interesting side note regarding Jindal's populist positioning: political observers in Louisians believe he has been pushed on the issue by none other than U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La), who has joined with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) to propose legislation cracking down on big banks. Vitter is also a leading candidate to run for governor of Louisiana in 2015.

Vitter and Jindal have a long, complicated and not so friendly history. So it's not unreasonable to think Jindal does not want to be outflanked on in the economic populism arena.

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