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Faith Forum an Occasion for Obama-Clinton Sparring

by Perry Bacon, Jr.
PITTSBURGH -- For Democrats who have been pushing the party's candidates to talk about faith and values since the 2004 election, in order to better compete with the GOP, the forum last night at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa., was a success: the two leading Democrats repeatedly invoked the Almighty only days before a crucial primary, while Republican Sen. John McCain declined to attend the event.

Whether this will make any difference in November is a different question. At the forum, Sen. Hillary Clinton, with her own political motives in mind, suggested Sen. Barack Obama had lost his chance to connect with certain kinds of voters, thanks to his controversial remark that Americans "cling" to religion and guns because of economic frustrations. Clinton, who appeared first in the forum, also suggested both former vice president Al Gore and Sen. John Kerry lost presidential elections because voters saw them as "out of touch," and that Obama might follow in their footsteps.

When Obama appeared after Clinton, he jabbed back, saying "I thought Al Gore won."

Their actual themes differed little from what other Democrats have emphasized both before and, particularly, after the 2004 election: religious faith informs their values, which include helping the poor and looking for ways to stop the spread of diseases like AIDS. Obama spoke about his support for faith-based initiatives and spoke of the need for Democrats to "acknowledge that there is a moral dimension to abortion."

"The lord is just waiting for us to respond to his call," Clinton said, "because this despair, this impoverishment of body and soul is what we are expected to be spending our time responding to, and so few of us do."

"Even those who are doing wonderful work with organizations represented in this audience, we are just not doing enough," she continued. "And it's a personal call -- it's a family, community, religious call -- and it's a governmental call. And we've got to do more to respond to that call."

But Clinton seemed reluctant to discuss the specifics of her faith, citing both "my personal reserve" and "the way I was raised."

"I don't think that I could have made my life's journey without being anchored in God's grace and without having that, you know, sense of forgiveness and unconditional love," Clinton said. "And I am not going to point to one or another matter. I mean, some of my struggles and challenges have been extremely public."

Obama, defending himself against the controversial remarks that have dogged his campaign in recent days, was more specific.

"I am a devout Christian," he said. "I started my work working with churches in the shadow of steel plants that had closed on the south side of Chicago ... Nobody in a presidential campaign on the Democratic side in recent memory has done more to reach out to the church."

"The notion that somebody like myself," he continued, "who has been working in churches since I got out of college, and whose entire trajectory -- not just during this campaign, but long before -- has been to talk about how Democrats need to get in church, reach out to evangelicals, link faith with the work that we do. The notion that somehow I am standing above that -- when that essentially describes much of what I've been doing over the last 20 years -- doesn't make much sense."

But the most striking part of the event remained the optics of two Democratic candidates coming to a Christian college and speaking about their faith in a way that the likely Republican nominee did not. Of course, even in 2006, with poll numbers showing Americans widely dissatisfied with the GOP, the stark gap between people who attend church weekly and those who do not remained, with frequent church-goers favoring the Republicans.

By Web Politics Editor  |  April 14, 2008; 12:33 PM ET
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Next: Clinton Met With Cries of 'No!' in Latest Bitter Speech


Hey everyone,

Been reading the forum for a while just wanted to introduce myself - what's up?

Posted by: RonnieLRQ | May 8, 2008 1:29 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: GHJansom | April 17, 2008 12:44 PM | Report abuse

ow can anybody vote for Hillary, after all the twisted truth. What kind of president will she be. I never vote for her. Obama is an intelegent man.I wish Hillary would disapier. Is there nobody who can tell her the thrut.There is not enough air time for Obama and to many hours for all 3 Clintons, Who wants to see them all the time

Posted by: Libi | April 15, 2008 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Hillary Clinton has launched some of the most caustic, and often, dubious attacks against a fellow Democrat (Sen. Obama), than she has launched against the Republicans. Can someone tell me, how, if after these attacks, anyone is going to convince me to vote for her, if she were to be the nominee?

Hillary Clinton has embarked on this political suicide journey, by her really very negative and divisive campaign against a fellow Democrat. She is destroying her political future (I just hope, not the Democratic Paty's, also). On the one hand, it may be prudent to allow her to self destruct.

However, I think the uncommitted so-called 'super delegates" in the Democratic Party, who have not yet, declared their support for either candidate, are among the most cowardly Americans, I know. What-else are they waiting for -for God to give them signs? These individuals are among the most cowardly "Party elders"! Only in the Democratic Party can individuals who are so cowardly and lack fundamental courage for, and cannot make tough decisions, are rewarded with exalted position in the democratic process? They have implicitly, allowed Hillary Clinton to go on with these attacks, to the detriment of the Democratic Party in the 2008 general election.

James Carville -one of the nastiest men (in thought and physical appearance)I know in politics, recently, suggested that some recognition be accorded to Hillary Clinton, by the Party (the nominee), if she does not win the nomination. I ask James Carville and the likes of him: on what moral basis should the nominee and/or the Democratic Party accord Hillary Clinton an honor, if she not win the nomination -because she has run a positive campaign that has brought more people into the Party, or what? It would not happen.

I would suggest, hence-fort, super delegate status should no longer be handed out by Party cronies. They should instead, be voted on by the voters during the lection, and to serve for a definite period of time.

Posted by: Ignatius Anyanwu | April 15, 2008 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Obama was correct in his analysis of small town America. Some white working class voters won't vote for a black candidate, or a latin, asian or whatever american.....that is a fact we cannot hide behind. When asked why he was having problems with these voters, instead of labeling it as racism (which in some parts it is) he triangulated it somewhat.

I am a small town PA voter and I see this in my community everyday. People are bitter, frustrated and angry. They hold on to things they cherish like their faith, like voting on 2nd ammendment and there are those that harbor bigotry towards people that are not like them. Let's not deny that, my neighbor tells me outright, that Obama is right....he said because of his mindset that he couldn't vote for Obama because he was black, but he thought Obama was an honest man(he is a 73yr old widower....kinda sweet in his own bigoted way- likes him, but won't vote for him).

Telling the truth is not being an elitist or patronizing, quite the contrary. I trust Sen Obama, I respect him and I believe if changes can be made, he's the one more likely to make them.

Posted by: Monique | April 15, 2008 2:11 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: DJ | April 14, 2008 11:49 PM | Report abuse

Quick every independent voter, which of the 3 main candidates has been most consistently against the war?

Posted by: eljefejesus | April 14, 2008 11:22 PM | Report abuse

I am well over 50 years old now I have voted in every election since I was 19 years old. I have voted for Republicans and Democrats. We all have to remember that regardless who get into office they will up hold the United States of American. We still believe in States rights, even after they lost the war. So American lets stop ranging back and forth let stand for America. So we can be the most powerful country in the world.

Posted by: rc | April 14, 2008 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Now is the perfect time for Gore to endorse Obama!!

Posted by: Susan | April 14, 2008 6:56 PM | Report abuse

And, since Barack HUSSEIN Obama was elected to the U.S. Senate, he has voted the EXACT SAME way as she has re: Iraq. In addition, in 2004, he said he didn't know how he would have voted on the authorization to invade Iraq had he been in the U.S. Senate with Hillary. So, your point?

Posted by: JakeD | April 14, 2008 5:08 PM | Report abuse




Posted by: . | April 14, 2008 5:02 PM | Report abuse

laura q:

Wow! What is the "meaning of life"? I mean, I could go on for awhile on that one, I hope you realize. Alas, that (as well as the source of my "apparent hatred") would be off-topic. Suffice it to say that I'm retired, with plenty of time on my hands, and enjoy playing the devil's advocate. If it helps, my "agenda" is not for any particular candidate (as I've said, I'm not sure whether I will even vote for one of the three still running). John SINDEY McCain was not my first, or even 101st, choice.

As for capitalizing Obama's middle name, I simply want to make little-known facts KNOWN -- it means "handsome" in Arabic -- did you know that?

As for "private citizen" Carter's right to talk to Hamas, I have previously stated that Carter's passport should be revoked and/or he should be sent to Gitmo -- so, I am much further to the right than even McCain on that one -- but Carter is no longer part of the police. I have no problem with the RIGHT people doing their jobs. Do you think it would be o.k. for a fired and disgraced hostage negotiator to barge in during a real bank robbery too?

Apart from Gitmo detainees, all accused criminals should have a right to a defense, as set forth in the Constitution and defined by the ROBERTS Supreme Court. In addition, all abusive marriages should consider going for counseling, preferably one that is faith-based.

Any more questions?

Posted by: JakeD | April 14, 2008 4:35 PM | Report abuse

JakeD, what is your agenda? First, you capitalize Obama's middle name. Then, you disparage Obama for not criticizing former President Carter decisively. Obama said that he would not talk to Hamas, if he were president of the U.S., because they are not representing a state. As a private citizen Carter had a right to talk to Hamas--which is both a democratically elected political faction in Palestine, as well as the militant "terrorist" faction in part.

I applaud Carter's efforts to communicate with Hamas. I suppose you don't think the police should have hostage negotiators either! I suppose you don't believe accused criminals should have a right to a defense. I suppose you believe that all abusive marriages should never consider going for counseling.

I used to work in a juvenile hall. "Bad" kids, i.e., kids who did bad things, respond to someone listening to their issues and respecting their humanity.

Until you've walked in the shoes of the Palestinians, some of whom have turned to Hamas, please open up your heart and mind to the possibility that communication can help open the door to peace. Polls of Hamas and other Palestinians and of Israelis indicate that this is what the people want.

Is it fear that motivates your apparent hatred? Or is it a political game you are playing with other people's minds? What is the meaning of your life?

Posted by: laura q | April 14, 2008 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Back on the topic of the Dem. primary:

The latest American Research Group poll, taken after the "bitter" comment hit the news (April 11-13), shows Hillary DIANE Clinton ahead in Pennsylvania 57% to 37%!!!

Better start "praying" to more than just Allah up there ; )

Posted by: JakeD | April 14, 2008 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Her = He (Barack HUSSEIN Obama)

Posted by: JakeD | April 14, 2008 3:55 PM | Report abuse


Her is leading in the popular vote ONLY if you don't count Florida and Michigan ...

Posted by: JakeD | April 14, 2008 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Marian Williams:

You are aware that "the list goes on" as to the Clintons as well, right?

Posted by: JakeD | April 14, 2008 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Hillary should not judge Barack Obama----
She has shown too many times in this campaign that she will twist anything you say even at a FAITH Forum. Barack is a very respectful person and his message is on point--that is why he is leading in the votes.

Posted by: marie | April 14, 2008 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Obama - Black is Wright

Obama attracts thugs and bullies to his campaign and personal life and is able to do so with impunity.
If Obama where Caucasian, he would have been bulldozed by the media long ago.

Look at Obama's affiliations:

- Senator Meeks who openly hates whites and gays and is listed prominently on Obama's campaign website as a major Obama supporter and backer and is one of Obama;s super-delegate. Mr. Meeks has been integral in Obama success in politics.

- Mr. Ayers of the Weather Underground, a group that killed police and tried to bomb the US Capitol, served with Obama on the board of the leftist foundation called the Woods Fund.

- Robert Malley a close senior adviser to Obama who advocates negotiations with Hamas and providing international assistance to the terrorist group.

- Larry Sinclair alleges in 1999 Senator Obama's arranged to meet him in a limousine, sold Senator Obama cocaine and then gave Senator Obama oral sex. Larry then claims that he and Obama went to a hotel and preformed oral sex again. Mr. Sinclair is testifying in court under oath that these allegations are true.

- Mr. Auchi is an Iraqi billionaire and major financial sponsor and closely connected to Obama's rise to power.
While working with Saddam Hussein, Auchi made his fortune through the selling of arms in Iraq and the funneling off of money from the Oil for Food program.

- Mr. Rezko an Iraqi citizen and Obama's and Auchi's long time friend of 17 years and a major mob figure. Rezko is NOT known for his civic sense of duty and does not do favors without asking something in return. Coincidently the Chicago Times reported yesterday that Rezko was negotiating to purchase rehab buildings in Obama's district.

- Mr. Wright a racist who hates America and whites (and Italians?). Mr. Wright has been Mr. Obama's spiritual mentor for over 20 years. Before the media exposed Mr. Wright, he was Obama's chief religious advisor on Obama's campaign staff. Mr. Wright and Mr. Meeks are ideologically closer to Karl Marx and Black Nationalism, than to Christianity.

- Rashid Khalidi a fundraiser for Obama and is one of Obama's close friends. Khalidis claim Israel as a "catastrophe", and supports Palestinian terrorist groups.

- Mr. McPeaks is Obama's military adviser and national campaign co-chairman who publicly states that American Jews are the "problem." and "Christian Zionists were driving America's policy in Iraq to benefit Israel."

Abongo "Roy" Obama is the older brother to Senator Obama. Roy Obama is a militant Muslim activist in Kenya who according to a report from the Investor's Business Daily has repeatedly urged his half brother Senator Obama to embrace African heritage and supports implementation of Sharia law.

- Michelle Obama trumpets Obama as "the second coming of the messiah," and also states that she "has NEVER been proud to be an American in her adult life".

The list goes on...a list that strongly suggest Obama sympathizes with al-Qaida.

How can Obama's bad judgment to choose to affiliate with criminals and fanatics be justified? And with so many red flags in Obama's past, present rhetoric, and future intentions how could we possibly justify electing him into the most powerful position of this country?

Are we so in love with the color black that we forget to see the man?

Posted by: Marian Williams | April 14, 2008 3:45 PM | Report abuse


ARLINGTON, VA -- U.S. Senator John McCain today issued the following statement on former President Carter's plans to meet with Hamas:

"It is a grave and dangerous mistake for an American leader to meet with a terrorist organization like Hamas. Engaged in a campaign that deliberately targets innocent Israeli civilians, Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of Israel. President Carter is wrong to meet with Hamas, a terrorist group that has also killed innocent Americans.

"The very idea that a former President of the United States and Commander-in-Chief would meet with a terrorist organization demands a clear stance from all presidential candidates. Refusing to take a stand, as Senator Obama has done, is not the strong leadership we need today. If Senator Obama is not decisive enough to condemn former President Carter, how can he be strong enough to deal with the threat they pose to America and to our allies?"

Posted by: JakeD | April 14, 2008 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Keith Hood:

Perhaps it was Easter in 2007? I know, for a fact, that she went to Saddleback Church on December 1, 2007. Maybe she forgot that one?



Posted by: JakeD | April 14, 2008 3:29 PM | Report abuse


Only Obama didn't sin, he mis-spoke which is something Hillary has done on more than one occasion. Perhaps she should do unto others as she would like to have them do unto her.

Posted by: Sueb2 | April 14, 2008 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Only Obama didn't sin, he mis-spoke which is something Hillary has done on more than one occasion. Perhaps she should do unto others as she would like to have them do unto her.

Posted by: Sueb2 | April 14, 2008 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Clinton recently said that she was last in church on Easter Sunday but it was reported on TPM ( ) on March 25 that Hillary DID NOT GO TO CHURCH on Easter Sunday. It appears that she has been caught in a lie again or maybe she didn't mean Easter Sunday of 2008.

Posted by: Keith Hood | April 14, 2008 3:21 PM | Report abuse


Even Jesus Christ said "Now, go and sin no more."

Posted by: JakeD | April 14, 2008 3:19 PM | Report abuse


The Clintons made more than $100 million in the SEVEN (not one) years since they left the White House. To answer your question, however, Barack HUSSEIN Obama.

Posted by: JakeD | April 14, 2008 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Clinton's remark about Gore being out of touch which cost them the election was clueless. Obama's comeback "I thought Gore won." Priceless!
Only Hillary Clinton would go to a faith and COMPASSION forum and use the occasion to twist a knife in her opponents back. That says a lot about the kind of person she is.

Posted by: Sueb2 | April 14, 2008 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Who is more likely to be out of touch with ordinary American Blue Collar, hard working folks? Hillary Clinton who combined with her husband's income making a 100 Million Dls last year Or Obama who was out there on Chicago Streets working for regular Blue Collar American People? A drowning person will hold on to even a tiny piece of straw and more so if it was a Clinton. She is the one who is out of touch with American people who don't want her and have shown that by voting for Obama in huge numbers.

Posted by: MukulPipalia | April 14, 2008 3:11 PM | Report abuse

This was a forum on faith, not a campaign oppurtunity to score points on your opponent by calling them 'elitist' So the line, "...with her own political motives in mind..." makes complete sense. Clinton should rethink her argument. She said Gore and Kerry both lost because they seemed to be what she is claiming Obama is now: out of touch. Isn't she just hurting the democrats in the same way as the republicans did in 00 and 04

Posted by: B | April 14, 2008 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Good point Feedup. It seems a petty thing to bring up negatives for one candidate, especially one so far removed from the present, and without contexual surroundings and leave other candidates alone. Maybe it just proves what Mr. Obama said about clinging to religion when the going gets tough.

Posted by: philt | April 14, 2008 2:24 PM | Report abuse

All of America seems obsessed with one candidates religious faith/connections. If sermon material from 2003 is relevant in the case of Obama, then lets examine what all 3 candidates pastors sermons contain for the last 5 years. What is Hilary's commitment to church and how about McCain? Either pick on all 3 or none.

Posted by: feed up | April 14, 2008 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Hillary Clinton '08

I am a devout Christian, but that duck I shot in Arkansas had it coming.

Hillary Clinton.

Lock and Load!

Solutions for the American Corporation

Posted by: UncleRemus | April 14, 2008 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Obama, now we know why he wasn't offended by Rev. Wright. he was pretending to believe just to get votes.

Posted by: Trey | April 14, 2008 1:47 PM | Report abuse

obama and edwards started this food fight!! so stop it obama be a man and stop it

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2008 1:32 PM | Report abuse

At the forum, Sen. Hillary Clinton, with her own political motives in mind...

So, does this mean Bacon is giving up pretending to be a journalist?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2008 1:32 PM | Report abuse

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