Censure and move on

CENSURE AND MOVE ON…. I probably run the risk of a reader revolt with one more Rick Warren-related post, but let’s say this is the last one. Probably.

As regular readers have probably noticed, I’ve been more than a little bothered about the Warren invocation invitation, for all of the reasons that are now familiar — Warren is a conservative extremist, wrapped in soothing tones, undeserving of such a high-profile validation. It’s symbolism that sends the wrong message (tolerance of intolerance) and serves no greater goal. When Warren uses his expanded stature to undermine Obama’s agenda in the future, it’s the kind of mistake that may have political consequences.

But, while I’ve been clear about why I find the symbolism frustrating, I also think it’s possible to lose perspective on this.

Time’s John Cloud, who defended Ann Coulter’s use of the word “faggot,” blasted Obama yesterday as a “rational-sounding sort of bigot,” comparable to a racist segregationist in the deep South during the era of Jim Crow.

I will gladly argue, and have repeatedly, that the Warren invitation is a mistake, and I’d hoped Obama and his team would have known better, but Cloud’s criticism strikes me as excessive, not because it’s intemperate, but the disparagement doesn’t match the error. Obama, to my mind, is poised to become the most progressive president in history on social/cultural issues, including gay equality.

One dumb invitation does not a bigot make.

I found Todd Gitlin’s take pretty compelling.

My initial reaction to Obama’s Rick Warren announcement was horror. After what seems like weeks of intense back-and-forth, but in fact is only a day’s worth, I’m still appalled. It’s one thing to invite the adversary into the tent the better to defeat him with a smile — neutralize him, in colder terms — but it’s quite another to give him a throne, even if a purely symbolic throne. Warren’s political interventions are mostly terrible (AIDS and environment are the exceptions). […]

But meanwhile, some proportion here, people. Other appointments are arguable but some are clearly superb…. Wes Boyd and Joan Blades had the right idea, back in the fading days of the 20th century, when they started what became the excellent Move On with a simple petition. Vis-a-vis Clinton-Lewinsky, recall that their petition read: “Congress must Immediately Censure President Clinton and Move On to pressing issues facing the country.”

Censure Obama over Warren — directly, sincerely, viscerally — and move on.

That sounds about right. Looking back over the week, we’ve seen Obama make a variety of decisions, including support for an ambitious economic rescue plan, the introduction of a great environmental team, the introduction of an amazing science team, and some very encouraging nominations on labor and education. When it comes to substance and policy matters, these announcements are going to matter long after Warren heads back to Saddleback.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.