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Mitch McConnell on Obama's Religion: Clearing the Air or Clouding It?

4 years ago
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When Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Sunday that he would "take the president at his word" that he's a Christian and not a Muslim, it's a safe bet that many Republicans, and others, won't.

David Gregory of NBC's "Meet the Press" asked McConnell about the poll out last week from Pew showing that 18 percent of Americans believe Barack Obama is a Muslim, up from 11 percent, and that just one-third of adults say Obama is a Christian, down from 48 percent in 2009. Among Republicans, 34 percent believe the president is a Muslim. And that despite the fact that Obama has been more open about his Christian faith and arguably invoked Jesus more than George W. Bush.

Mitch McConnellMcConnell at first tried to sidestep the question, but Gregory pressed him on whether he has a responsibility as a national leader -- and a top Republican -- to try to stop such misinformation from spreading.
McCONNELL: The president says he's a -- the president says he's a Christian, I take him at his word. I don't think that's in dispute.

GREGORY: And do you think -- how, how do you think it comes to be that this kind of misinformation gets spread around and prevails?

McCONNELL: I have no idea, but I take the president at his word.
Politico's Mike Allen led his daily Playbook e-mail about McConnell's carefully crafted comments this way: "SIREN -- OR SHOULD WE SAY 'DOG WHISTLE'?" -- a reference to sounds that only those with finely attuned ears can pick up. In this case, those ears would belong to McConnell's fellow conservatives, who might infer that Obama's "word" is insufficient.

NBC's Chuck Todd, via Twitter, wrote that it was an "Odd way to phrase it."

As the Huffington Post's Sam Stein wrote:
"McConnell may have been trying to avoid engagement in a debate defined both by confusion and, under the surface, a bit of Islamophobia. But by constructing his response in such a peculiar way -- suggesting that the debate over Obama's religion was legitimate and that the president was arguing one side of it -- he not only invited the type of skeptical coverage he received Sunday morning but will further spur claims that the GOP doesn't mind having this image of Obama spread."
Stein also noted that during the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama's chief rival for the nomination, Hillary Clinton, made a similarly phrased evasion, saying "as far as I know" Obama is a Christian.

Clinton got hammered for her comments, and lost the nomination to Obama. But with the economy floundering and the "Ground Zero mosque" dominating the national debate, it's unlikely McConnell is going to pay a similar price.

"I think one of the reasons the president's approval rating is so low now is that he doesn't pay a whole lot of attention to public opinion," McConnell told Gregory.

McConnell himself isn't making that mistake.

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9 Comments

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chrissf4529

Unfortunately, taking any politician (regardless of party) is a big mistake. Obama's religion WOULD not be a big deal if he didn't make it one. But, he never answers the question. HIs refusal to participate in the national day of prayer. Comments like " I will make it easier for Muslims to practice their religion in America". HIs waffling on rev Wright, " He's a close personal friend" to Just a pastor, to denouncement all again reinforce nothing. Simply answer the question.

August 25 2010 at 2:07 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
snrar

He answered the question " I take the presidents word on this " What more can anyone say ,unless you ask the president himself . The left is trying to make this an issue when he has answered the question . Maybe if they write out the answered they want he could say it the way they want.

August 24 2010 at 6:44 PM Report abuse -5 rate up rate down Reply
jaimzee

MC CONNELL AND HIS REPUBLICAN BUDDIES ARE ALL SO OBSESSED WITH HATRED FOR THE PREDIDENT THAT THEY CARE LESS ABOUT AMERICA AND MORE ABOUT THE PARTY LINE TO STALL ANY GOOD WORK IN THIS COUNTRY SO THEY CAN WIN ELECTIONS. SELFISH UNPATRIOTIC AND LYING POLITICIANS....... EVERY ONE OF THEM.

August 23 2010 at 10:30 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
judgejfm

Jesus knows. The Constitution doesn't care. The issue is settled.

August 23 2010 at 9:44 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
wbaird721

I wish, but would never expect, McConnell to just continue his sentence with something like "I take him at hiw word, but that is not the important issue anyway. We have people of every religion in this country and a person's right to worship as he pleases is what built our country. Now the economy is the most important issue, or our guys being killed in Afganistan, so let's talk about something really important. I disagree with the President on these issues because......."

August 23 2010 at 9:40 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
mcgowann

I'm trying to understand this. You can't know what is in someone's heart and mind. So, how could Mitch McConnell and Hillary Clinton vouch for his beliefs? And were they saying that Hillary lost the primary because she didn't stand up for his religious beliefs. His books tell you that his father was muslim and so was his stepfather. His mother and his mother's parents didn't attend church. He didn't attend church when he was in college. He didn't start going to church until it was suggested that he do so in order to run for IL state senate. Then he goes to a black theologin church to hear sermons on how evil America and white people are. What a tolerant and love one another type of religion. Then, Obama gets to Washington and refuses to attend a church. He thinks having ministers come to the Whitehouse makes him a christian. Well, he has muslims there, too, to celebrate Ramadan for example. Now, Hillary Clinton and Mitch McConnell are condemned.

August 23 2010 at 9:35 PM Report abuse +12 rate up rate down Reply
ernestvalerius

Speaking of clearing things up. McConnell should clear up how he was "cleared" from active duty in the U.S. Army during the height of the Viet Nam war. He should also be taken at his word.

August 23 2010 at 8:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to ernestvalerius's comment
troofdetector5

ernest, give us more details. I suspect you have none.

August 23 2010 at 9:03 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
ernestvalerius

troofdector5: "Mitch McConnell"; Wikipedia; Military service. While my original posting contained more details than McConnell's answer, it was constructed to illustrate the rhetorical trick used by McConnell and others in their incessant attack on our President. It takes the form of a true statement and, through inneundo, its opposite.

August 23 2010 at 11:14 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
Jcwfuntime

Well we finally have a Republican politician willng to tell the truth, and say it like it is. Most of the Republicans are just willint to perpetuate the false rumor that he is a Muslim. They have proven that wrong, and that he is a Christian, yet many Republicans live in a "Dream World", and are separated from reality, and have convinced themselves to the contrary. Well, now you know you're wrong! Paybacks are Hell!!!

August 23 2010 at 7:24 PM Report abuse -8 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Jcwfuntime's comment
troofdetector5

How has it been proven wrong?

August 23 2010 at 9:04 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
ddan8719

Uhhhh..what paybacks?...

August 23 2010 at 9:40 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Len

Let's see, the Republicans have assaulted liberals, moderates, Hispanics and Muslims in their quest for control of Congress. Up next: Jews, Catholics, Mormons, Quakers and effete snobs (anyone who finished college). Sounds like a plan to me.

August 23 2010 at 6:14 PM Report abuse -6 rate up rate down Reply
eyeforeye42

What religions are each member of Congress and are they worthy religions? Considering what the "Christians" did to the indigenous population in the USA, the Inquisition and Crusades, keeping one's religion to one's self might be in order. Might just be considered pious too!

August 23 2010 at 6:09 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

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