ALSO: Where we disagree with his condemnation of Obama critics on the Left...
By Brad Friedman on 11/18/2009, 12:57pm PT  

The wingnuttery continues to devolve. Last night, Rachel Maddow covered, among other recently related points, the new Rightwing "Pray for Obama" movement supporting, and selling merchandise in support of, Psalms 109:8 which begins this way: "Let his days be few; and let another take his office," and continues with "Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow."

Frank Schaeffer, repentant former rightwing fundamentalist evangelical, and now a contributor here at The BRAD BLOG, was on her show last night to discuss that point, and where it seems to signal that things may be frighteningly headed.

He also raised another point, in condemnation of critics on the Left, with which I'll offer a slight quibble. The video of the full Maddow interview follows, along with a crucial excerpt from the text transcript, and my thoughts on where I disagree with one of Frank's now-repeated assertions...

SCHAEFFER: Look, this is the American version of the Taliban. The Taliban quotes the Koran, and al-Qaeda quotes certain verses in the Koran, in or out of context, calling for jihad and bloody war and the curse of Allah on infidels. This is the Old Testament biblical equivalent of calling for Holy War.

Now, most Americans will see the bumper sticker and smile and think that it's facetious. Unfortunately, there are 22 million Americans, or so, who call themselves "super conservative evangelicals". Of this, a small minority might be violent, but the general atmosphere here is really getting heated.

And what surprises me is that responsible --- if you can put it that way --- Republican leadership and the editors of some of these Christian magazines, etc. etc., do not stand up in holy horror and denounce this.

You know, they're always asking "Where is the Islamic leadership denouncing terrorism? Why are the moderates speaking out?"

Well, I challenge the folks that I used to work with, that I talk about in my book Patience With God, and I would just say to them, "Where they hell are you? This is not funny anymore, and be it on your head if something happens to our President, if you are going to go around supporting, and not speaking out against this stuff"

It's not a question of whose doing it. The bigger question is, where are the people speaking out against these things? I don't hear those voices raised in the evangelical fundamentalist community. And, until I do, my opinion is, they're culpable.

Schaeffer has been a clarion voice on these issues for some time. Let's hope he doesn't some day turn out to be a prophetic one.

There is one point, however, which he also raised last night, about which he has written previously --- for example, in a quick graf in his post here yesterday on "Sarah Palin - America's Evita" --- on which I'd like to register a slight quibble, some constructive criticism, or at least an alternative viewpoint, in reply.

After the comments quoted above, Schaeffer added, as the segment concluded:

One last thing on this. I think it points up the fact that Obama supporters --- of which I have been one since he began been running --- had better start speaking up in support of him, and not sniping at him all the time because he's not moving towards change as fast as we'd like in every area.

This is serious stuff. The chips are down. He has real enemies. Some of them are violent. And as far as I'm concerned, it's time to support our President, stand with him, and not only wish him the best, but as a believing Christian myself, pray for his safety in the face of these religious maniacs who, everyday... You know, one time I was on your show a while back and they were talking about "Is he the anti-Christ?" Now they're saying he's an unjust ruler and they're asking God to strike him down. There are not a lot of steps left on this insane path.

I'm in full concurrence with Frank's points on the "maniacs" and the "insane path" they seem determined to be on. But I believe there is a nuance that he may either be missing, or glossing over, in his virulent chastisement of those Obama supporters who have been critical of him for "not moving towards change as fast as we'd like in every area."

Support for Obama, standing with him, wishing him the best and praying for his safety, is not mutually exclusive from the important civic duty of criticizing him, and applying pressure on him to do the right thing, by holding his feet to the fire when he does not.

Obama, while on the campaign trail, reportedly alluded to a comment from FDR purportedly said in response to a group of civil rights activists who met with him to argue their point. "You've convinced me," FDR supposedly told the activists, "Now go out and make me do it."

Whether FDR actually said that is a matter some dispute, and I was unable to find Obama's oft-referenced campaign allusion to it. Nonetheless, apocryphal or not, the point is an apt one. We do no favors to Obama, or anybody else, by holding our tongues when there is legitimate criticism to be offered. (Note I say legitimate criticism. The bulk of the nonsense offered by the wingnuts and tea baggers of late, sadly and shamefully, has no relationship whatsoever to fact-based legitimacy.)

There are, no doubt, many on the Left who "snipe" too quickly as they fail to fully appreciate the extent of the various Constitutional and bureaucratic hurdles Obama faces in driving his agenda, not the least of which is a Congressional Democratic caucus which is too-often maddeningly hypocritical, short-sighted and cowardly in addition to being the frequent stooges for their corporate benefactors. Moreover, there is something to be said for taking action in a way that does not echo, and thus legitimize, his predecessor's penchant for an Imperial Presidency wherein Congressional powers are usurped with the stroke of an Executive pen, even where such actions may have been established as "legitimate" and "legal" by his predecessor's horrible precedents.

But, at least so far, there remain many points where Obama has failed to bring the bold change he'd promised so fervently, about which legitimate critics are fully within bounds to 'make him do it'. Indeed, I believe it is every patriotic American's duty to do just that.

Frank's language, when he mentioned to Maddow that supporters "had better start speaking up in support of him" is uncomfortably close to Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleischer's infamous warning that "all Americans...need to watch what they say, watch what they do", in response to Bill Maher's criticism of the Bush Administration following 9/11. Yes, Fleischer's pulpit (the WH press room podium) and immediate audience (the WH press corps) were very different, but the underlying dark tone of "warming" from both men is equally troubling.

Yesterday, Frank expressed a similar sentiment to that mentioned on Maddow's show in his piece on Palin earlier in the day:

Problem is President Obama has "friends" who seem more like enemies every day: the impatient juvenile left is already trumpeting his "failure" because he hasn't fixed everything in one whole year!

Where any "friends" of Obama would "trumpet" him as a "failure" at this still-early stage, I'd agree with Frank that such "friends" are indeed rather "juvenile", as well as short-sighted. But to paint such an overly-broad swath of an "impatient juvenile left" or to warn that "Obama supporters ... had better start speaking up in support of him, and not sniping at him all the time", in apparent disregard of the duty of all of us to do so legitimately --- Obama supporter or otherwise --- seems short-sighted on its own, and (dare I say it in the most respectful, constructive sense, if it's possible) even "unAmerican".

I suspect that sort of thinking and language could remain as a bit of a holdover from Schaeffer's "radical" days as a far-rightwing leader in a community where those who don't follow the word of the gospel are seen as a direct threat to the gospel itself. So I offer this well-intentioned criticism in hopes that it might spark either a fresh reflection from the good Mr. Schaeffer (who is, of course, welcome to respond in full here as he sees fit) and/or a spirited debate on these points, including discussion of the sometimes-overly critical and unfair attacks from some on the Left, which I also find to be cringe-worthy from time to time.

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