August 23, 2008

What Joe Biden said about the public expression of religiosity.

So I'm looking back at all my old posts tagged "biden" to see how I've reacted to him over the last few years, and he comes out looking pretty good.

Now, I didn't like his voting against John Roberts and Samuel Alito, but I understand why he did it, and I didn't object to his questioning the hearings. Simulblogging the hearings, this is the worst thing I ever said about Biden:
Joe Biden is hamming it up big time, dramatizing the frustration of not getting Roberts to say how he'll decide specific cases. We've been through this so many times, but Biden seems to think that, if he just emotes more than the others, the American public will finally see the outrage of a judge not committing his vote before hearing the case. Yet every time Roberts explains why he won't answer, he sounds so eloquent and even inspiring about the role of the judge, that it ends up making the Senator look childish.
I was pretty nice to Biden over the "clean and articulate" gaffe, and basically, I can see that I haven't disliked Joe Biden .

But there's one thing that really stood out in all those posts, and that was his discussion of religion at the debate that took place September 27, 2007. From my live-blogging:
What is your favorite Bible verse? Obama says Sermon on the Mount, but then blabs generically. Hillary Clinton says "The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Which is not exactly a Bible verse, but okay. Why should the candidates be ready to recite Bible verses? Kucinich holds up a card with a prayer from St. Francis, which fits his theme (peace) but, again, isn't a Bible verse. Edwards is impressive with "What you do unto the least of those, you do unto me." This resonates with his poverty theme, and I like the way he doesn't point out that it does. Richardson says the Sermon on the Mount. Yeah, well, Obama already said that so it's boring. You had time to think of a specific verse in the Sermon to distinguish yourself. "Blessed are the peacemakers" would have been so easy. Gravel: Love! Dodd cites the Good Samaritan. Biden: "Christ's warning of the Pharisees." Which is a clever answer to the question, essentially critiquing the question. The idea is: Don't parade your religion in public.
The next day, I reflected on that:
Last night at the big debate, Tim Russert asked each of the Democratic candidates to recite their favorite Bible verse. They all made a stab at the assigned task. No one rebelled against the assignment. Who would dare to use the occasion to do a little lecture on the importance of the separation of church and state? It worked for Bush, back in 2000, to sidetrack a question about philosophy into religion and say that Jesus was his favorite philosopher, so who will be bold enough to veer away from an invitation to display religiosity?

Joe Biden came the closest, when he said "Christ's warning of the Pharisees." If you understand the reference, it actually is a subtle way to imply that religion should not be used publicly for the purpose of achieving worldly goals. It's good to remind religious people -- especially religious people who crave more religion in their politics -- that Jesus set his religion apart from politics and gives Christians a religious basis for the separation of church and state.
Here is video of the debate. If you start at 6:04, you'll have a little laugh before the relevant material begins and you can hear what all the candidates say about their favorite Bible verse. To hear just Biden, begin at 8:01:



Now, I'm especially interested in what Biden said there because I was just talking to Bob Wright about the candidates and religion, and he was knocking John McCain for failing to take more opportunities to "witness" to his Christianity, and my immediate response to that was Christ's warning of the Pharisees:



I discussed this a couple days ago, and I was guessing that maybe Bob was reflecting his Baptist background, and I my Episcopalian background, while McCain was had a basically Episcopalian orientation, but had, more recently switched to Baptist, and perhaps this could help us understand McCain's varying levels of expressed religiosity. And now, here is Biden showing what I'd theorized was the Episcopalian style. Biden is Catholic.

Episcopalian, Catholic, whatever... I like this modesty about religion in public life.

32 comments:

Richard said...

Religion aside, it just struck me what Obama and Biden have in common: Both are self-absorbed and vain, each in his own way.

When Biden, for instance, gabbled on and on during the confirmation hearings for Alito and Roberts, he was preening.

Both of these guys are models of what we mean when we call someone a dork. They are dorkiness personified.

Quayle said...

Yes. Some of the Democrat Catholics are so modest about their religion that they don't ever vote their religious tenants.

That's modesty to the point of apostasy.

Paddy O. said...

modesty about religion in public life.

Using a quote from Jesus...

tee-hee. That's fun.

Others just used the sermon on the mount, that big public speech Jesus gave on religion, one of many and many.

madawaskan said...

Ya it's a Catholic thing.

I wish Biden felt the same way about other things.

He's showy about and bragadoon about everything else.

Every C-130 trip for him is a near death experience-and he tells about his "visits" as if he were on the FRONT.

Senator Corkscrew-that should be his nickname.

The Drill SGT said...

Ann,

You missed this Biden line:

If I'm the nominee, Republicans will be sorry. The next Republican that tells me I'm not religious, I'm going to shove my rosary beads down their throat."

Simon said...

Ann said...
"Now, I didn't like his voting against John Roberts and Samuel Alito, but I understand why he did it, and I didn't object to his questioning the hearings."

He asked a question? I must have missed it amidst all the bloviating. How can it make sense that Obama has picked someone who was - less than three years ago - the laughing stock of politics, a caricature of everything that is wrong with the Senate and the Supreme Court confirmaion process, under the banner of "change"?

rhhardin said...

the clean and articulate gaffe

Saying it was a gaffe, but the thing itself was correct. He was simply making a mental comparison.

Kirk Parker said...

"it ends up making the Senator look childish"

Uhh, isn't that the appropriate summary any time Biden speaks? (See "bloviating" above.)

rcocean said...

Simon,

To be fair to Biden, "Am I right?" and "Don't you Agree?" are questions.

madawaskan said...

Or how about this?

How many times ha the American ELECTORATE told the Democratic party that they don't want this guy-Biden-anywhere near the Oval Office?

He's been running for The Presidency ever since I can remember....since Dukakis-hell Dukakis beat him and how did Dukakis do?

Biden might be the worst performing retread candidate for the Presidency in recent history.

What is the largest percentage of the ELECTORATE'S vote that he has ever won?

I've got to run but man this really is uninspiring.

Simon said...

madawaskan said...
"I've got to run but man this really is uninspiring."

To the contrary, it inspires me to give the McCain campaign oodles of money and volunteer time. Obama has picked the one contender who could make the ticket even more toxic to me.

somefeller said...

How can it make sense that Obama has picked someone who was - less than three years ago - the laughing stock of politics, a caricature of everything that is wrong with the Senate and the Supreme Court confirmaion process, under the banner of "change"?

Simon, with all due respect, just because you have a strong dislike of Biden and he was harsh towards people you admire doesn't mean that he generally was considered to be a political laughing stock or a caricature of everything wrong in the Senate. You may loathe the guy, but he's been a respected Senator for a long time, and unless you can come up with examples of lots of people on both sides of the aisle referring to Biden as someone who couldn't or shouldn't be taken seriously, you're arguing from assertions, not generally-accepted facts.

Simon said...

somefeller, I remember very specifically that that was the case, because it was refreshingly unusual that everyone agreed with me about him for once.

AlphaLiberal said...

Ann, I missed this when you wrote it and am glad I got a chance to catch it. This is well said and something I'll reflect on:
"It's good to remind religious people -- especially religious people who crave more religion in their politics -- that Jesus set his religion apart from politics and gives Christians a religious basis for the separation of church and state."

AlphaLiberal said...

p.s. And Kudos to Biden for voting against Roberts and Alito! (nyuck, nyuck)

Stephen C. Carlson said...

The Golden Rule is a Bible verse. It's Matthew 7:12.

Ann Althouse said...

I know it points to a verse, Stephen, but she wasn't able to quote or decided not to, and that means something. If she'd said something closer to "do to others what you would have them do to you" it would have been more apt an answer. Simulblogging, I perceived the question as a test of how deeply embedded in religion they really were. Russert asked for "a verse," which I thought should have prompted a recitation, as indicated by my "Which is not exactly a Bible verse, but okay. Why should the candidates be ready to recite Bible verses?" Actually, recitation of verses can sound too fundamentalist and rote to some people, so it's probably a good idea not to show off if you can do it.

Impartial observer said...

Althouse arguing for modesty of any sort is downright hilarious!!

ricpic said...

Biden is callow. That's his defining characteristic. So is Obama. So callow has picked callow to give us callow squared. Not that either one thinks of himself as callow. No, each sees himself as a gift to us lesser mortals. That's why they're both going to be shocked! shocked! when the silent majority sends them packing on election day.

vbspurs said...

Ooh, Bragadoon, Madawaskan.

"The Obama/Biden Musical"?

somefeller said...

Actually, recitation of verses can sound too fundamentalist and rote to some people, so it's probably a good idea not to show off if you can do it.

Yes, and it specifically sounds really Protestant Evangelical. People who were raised Catholics (like Biden or me, though I'm very, very much of a lapsed one) tend to react negatively when they hear people going overly heavy on the verbatim Bible quotes. Such people end up sounding like the Baptist kids that the nuns told us to stay away from in parochial school.

Simon said...

somefeller said...
"People who were raised Catholics (like Biden or me, though I'm very, very much of a lapsed one)"

Given that Biden is pro-choice, he seems to be lapsed, too.

reader_iam said...

he seems to be lapsed, too

Unless being pro-choice is equal to lapsed (as opposed to the concept of someone who is going against the teachings of one's church, in which one is active), this is factually inaccurate.

You may hate him with every fiber of your being, Simon, but you need to be more fair than that, if only due to the presence of certain stubborn facts, and all of that. Biden's connection with, and history and habits in regards to, his Catholic faith and church, are known things, and it's easy to find out about them.

It's up to you to prove that he's "lapsed," since that's what you contended.

Also, as pro-choicers go, he's not the most extreme. He does oppose public funding and late-term/partial birth abortions. He's said that this the toughest public-policy issue in terms of his personal faith. I know that people more starkly positioned on either of the debate don't like that sort of thing, but I can tell you that it resonates with a lot of people who aren't so black and white on all abortion-related issues.

Eli Blake said...

The problem with the whole abortion debate is that it seems that the issue itself destroys any possibility of compromise.

On one side, people who are 'pro-life' see it as a matter of murder (pure and simple.) On the other side, people who are 'pro-choice' see it as a matter of state-mandated slavery (and with it a way to shove women back to being 'pregant, barefoot and in the kitchen.') In this framework neither side can compromise (I mean, how do you give up even a little on 'life' or 'freedom?')

Both sides are then suspicious of the other sides' motives, so that for example a bill requiring babies born alive to receive care is considered by pro-choice people as a back-door method to banning abortion, while a bill allowing the 'morning after pill' or sex ed is seen as a backdoor way to allow more sex by unmarried women (not sure what is bad about people having more sex if it is done responsibly, but some consider it to be bad) without facing the 'consequences.'

I know how polarizing this can be because at one point I suggested a way out of the debate (i.e. taking 'legal but rare' seriously) by suggesting that all hospital delivery charges to uninsured women be paid for, and financed by a tax on abortions) and I was thoroughly attacked by both the left (who were outraged I'd even consider a tax on abortions, which some seem to consider should not even be regulated) AND the right (whose aversion to the government paying anyones hospital bill even seems to outweigh their concerns over abortion.)

We've had a lot of success with smoking-- something we as a society have decided is bad, but don't want to take anyone's choice away. We've cut the smoking rate approximately in half by a combination of reasonable restrictions, education (especially for kids), support and resources to help people who want to make a different choice by quitting smoking, and taxing the hell out of it so that the cost/benefit equation shifts significantly in the direction of not smoking (and helps finance anti-smoking programs.)

Nevertheless, if we don't come up with some kind of practical solutions like that (or suggest your own) we will likely be having the same contentious, black-and-white abortion debate in twenty, forty or sixty years that we have today (and which also distracts from our ability to come together and solve bigger problems like those that threaten the country as a whole.)

Trooper York said...

Hey Biden is just as good a Catholic as Obama is a Muslim. They both went to parochial schools. But supposdedly the teachings didn't stick.

Simon said...

Reader, as I understand it, the Catholic church is quite clear: "abortion willed as an end or as a means[] always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written word of God, is transmitted by the Church’s tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal magisterium. No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the law of God which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church." John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae 62. And as I understand it, the term for Christians who reject the teaching of The Church is "protestant." So if Biden rejects the teachings of the church, I'm at a loss to see how he can be a Catholic, which makes him constructively lapsed.

blake said...

Althouse arguing for modesty of any sort is downright hilarious!!

Good point. Althouse's last Penthouse spread left nothing to the imagination!

blake said...

On a less idiotic note, I seem to recall you speaking very harshly against those who voted against Roberts and saying that would weigh heavily in your choice of who to vote for.

Now you have a ticket with not one, but TWO people who voted against Roberts.

Thoughts?

amba said...

(I wish people would stop saying "tenants" when they mean "tenets." Like George Tenet. Use him as an aide-memoire.)

This reminds me that I heard one of the journalists say, a couple of nights ago (sorry I don't remember which talking head it was, not one of the usual ones), Why didn't more people object to the idea of having a political forum sponsored by a church with all these religious questions?? This guy was very struck that most people bypassed that whole question and talked about how they liked the format, how unusual it was, etc. They had simply accepted the premise. He found that a little shocking as an indicator of how stealthily and far the mixing of church and state has penetrated our consciousness and become matter-of-fact.

Simon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Simon said...

Blake - Indeed. Althouse said in September 2005 that those Senators who voted against Roberts, which includes both halves of this year's Democratic ticket, "have openly embraced an ideological view of the Court from which they can never credibly step back. For them, appointing Supreme Court Justices is a processes of trying to lock outcomes in place, and we shouldn't believe them if in the future they try to say otherwise."

"I hope," she concluded, "no one on that list is running for President."

Commenting on the same post, she added that Obama and Biden (inter alios) had "permanently brand[ed themselves as] ... ideologue[s] who do[] not respect judicial independence." They had "abused their constitutional power," she thought. She was "disgusted" with them ("contemptuous" of them, even, in Podcast #7). And, she said, she "won't forget it when they run for President."

Also sprach Althouse. She did not say, however, that she wouldn't vote for them.

The Drill SGT said...

Nothing ever disappears on the Internet :)