Religious right leaders to visit White House

RELIGIOUS RIGHT LEADERS TO VISIT WHITE HOUSE…. The Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody has an interesting scoop about some of President Obama’s fiercest religious right detractors visiting the White House today for a policy chat.

The Brody File has learned that conservative Evangelical groups will meet with the head of the White House Faith-Based Office on Tuesday.

Concerned Women for America and the Family Research Council will meet with Joshua DuBois, the man who leads the administration’s office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Wendy Wright, the president of CWA reached out to the Obama administration and they responded by inviting CWA and some of these other conservative Evangelical groups to The White House. The meeting plans to focus on the need to reduce abortions in the country and on responsible fatherhood programs. Also present at the meeting will be Tom McClusky, Senior Vice-President of the Family Research Council as well as representatives from the Christian Medical Association and Care Net, a pro-life Evangelical pregnancy crisis group.

To put this in perspective, imagine George W. Bush aides agreeing to meet with representatives of the ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and People for the American Way, to discuss culture war issues. If that sounds like a ridiculous scenario, then you can appreciate why this meeting between Obama’s faith-based guy and leading activists from the religious right is unusual.

I’m not necessarily troubled by their chat, anymore than I was concerned about the president stopping by George Will’s house for a dinner with Krauthammer, Brooks, Kudlow, Barone, and Kristol. If Obama and his administration are interested in honest discussions with conservatives, and they want to engage detractors in a good-faith dialog, fine. I’m skeptical it will amount to much, but I certainly respect the administration’s mature approach to spirited discourse.

As long as it’s just discourse. As Kyle at Right Wing Watch explained very well, the same religious right figures visiting the White House today are the same far-right critics who’ve been ruthless, arguably vicious, in their attacks on the president. There is literally nothing Joshua DuBois can say to them — barring a complete and total reversal of the president’s perspective on all domestic policy — that will weaken their abject disgust for Obama and the White House agenda. Friendly dialog is fine, just so long as expectations are kept to a minimum.

And with that in mind, the DuBois and the White House have nothing to gain by making concessions to the religious right (a movement that even the Republican Party is starting to ignore with greater frequency). These far-right evangelicals aren’t open to compromise or moderation, so striving for common ground is likely to be an exercise in frustration.

I’m not saying there’s anything necessarily wrong with this meeting. I’m saying the meeting will be a mistake if Obama aides believe a) they should give up ground to make the religious right happy; and/or b) they can win over those who hate them.