The media excoriated George W. Bush for indicating that his faith played a role in his decision to go to war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Now Barack Obama has acknowledged that he too depends on prayer when addressing his toughest problems, including his decision to launch a war against Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.
In a fawning interview last week, ABC’s Diane Sawyer absurdly compared the problems Obama faces with those that confronted President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War. Sawyer then talked about how Lincoln often found time for prayer in his most trying times.
To which Obama responded, “I do a lot of praying. Absolutely. Every night. Right before I go to bed. I am praying that I make the best possible decisions. And that I’ve got the strength to serve the American people well.”
Sawyer seemed very pleased with Obama’s answer, reminding me of the double standard that defines the media’s treatment of our leaders’ faith.
Obama’s words are similar to those for which President Bush was lambasted in the media during the height of the Iraq war. Journalist Bob Woodward once quoted Bush relating his decision to invade Iraq with his evangelical faith. Bush told Woodward that instead of consulting his father, President George H.W. Bush, for advice on what to do in Iraq, there is “a higher Father that I appeal to.”
Bush’s comments became fodder for late-night comedians and the liberal media, serving to reinforce the characterization of Bush as a religious crusader. “Bush: God Told Me to Invade Iraq” ran a 2005 headline in Britain’s The Independent after it was revealed that Bush had told Palestinian officials that he felt God was directing him to end tyranny in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Never mind that Bush was always careful to clarify the role faith played in his decision-making. “I’m surely not going to justify war based upon God. Understand that,” he told Woodward. “Nevertheless, in my case, I pray that I will be as good a messenger of His will as possible. And then of course, I pray for forgiveness.”
The media obsessed over the role Bush’s faith played in his foreign policy, even as they ignore Obama’s appeals to religion. It’s clear why—Bush saw the fight against Islamic radicals as part of a larger war of good versus evil. The only evil Obama seems to be able to acknowledge is the supposed evil of America’s past.
The media have mostly ignored the President’s God talk. Unfortunately for Obama, so has the public. A Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life poll last summer made headlines for revealing that nearly one in five Americans believed Obama is a Muslim. The confusion is understandable. Obama has gone out of his way to reach out to Muslims abroad and ingratiate himself with those at home.
But the bigger news was that the share of Americans who believe Obama is a Christian decreased over his first year and a half in office, from 48% in March 2009 to just 34% in August 2010. A near majority of Americans simply have no idea what their President believes.
Obama’s religious beliefs seem murky to most Americans, and so do his objectives in Libya. A definitive Obama Doctrine doesn’t exist. But it is becoming clear that the only wars President Obama wants to be involved in are those in which the U.S. has little or nothing at stake.
There sometimes are strong arguments for going to war for humanitarian reasons, and there may be legitimate reasons for the U.S. military to be involved in Libya. But Obama got elected in part for his loud opposition to American involvement in Iraq, a war that served both national security and humanitarian ends.
Obama’s decision to commit an overextended military to a war in support of a rebellion whose leaders remain unknown to us is untenable. The President better pray that it does not become apparent that we are putting U.S. resources on the line and risking American lives on behalf of rebels who are worse than the devil we know.
There is broad unease among Americans about U.S. involvement in Libya. A Quinnipiac University poll last week found that a strong plurality of registered voters opposes the war, while a majority (58%) doesn’t think Obama has clearly articulated why we are involved there.
Public dissatisfaction over Obama’s handling of the war in Libya helps explain why Obama’s job approval rating has hit a record low of 42%, according to Quinnipiac, and why numerous polls find that most Americans believe Obama does not deserve another term in office.
Most Americans would be reassured to learn that Lincoln, Bush, Obama or any U.S. President prayed about difficult decisions. Prayer conveys thoughtfulness and humility. It’s what most of us do in our own lives when confronted with difficult choices and challenging times.
Sadly, the same media that obsessed over President Bush’s faith refuse to acknowledge the deadly role distorted faith plays in the Islamists’ continuing jihad against Western civilization. Given the willful blindness of our elites, including Obama himself, to what motivates our enemy, perhaps we all need to pray for God’s direction, lest we find ourselves plunged back into the Dark Ages.