June 24th, 2008
04:38 PM ET

Dobson, Black and Rove... But what about McCain, Obama?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/06/24/art.triple.gergen.jpg caption = "James Dobson         Charlie Black             Karl Rove"]
David Gergen
CNN Sr. Political Analyst
Fmr. Presidential Adviser

The latest remarks by James Dobson, just like those yesterday by Karl Rove and Charlie Black, are sure to stir up a public fuss. Every presidential campaign brings these flare-ups when partisans let fly with criticisms about rival candidates (sometimes off the wall, as these seem) and naturally enough, the news media focuses in.

But I wish that storms like these would pass quickly. They are tending to drown out public conversation about issues more central to the next Presidency.

Just yesterday, John McCain offered some interesting ideas about the growing energy crisis (gas prices have now reached $4.75 in some areas around New York City and could hit $5 by July 4), but they were lost in the Charlie Black controversy...

Similarly, Barack Obama yesterday put forward some interesting ideas about working women (e.g., requiring small employers to provide at least 7 days of paid sick leave to their employees, something now denied many workers who have sick children at home), and they, too, were ignored in nearly all coverage.

Last week Obama offered his most comprehensive statement to date about his long-term strategy for the economy; it wasn't a particularly compelling speech - in some ways it was disappointing . But it was completely lost from sight, even in the New York Times, as attention focused on Al Gore's endorsement on the same day as the speech.

So, Dobson, Black and Rove will all come under scrutiny - as they should - but personally, I hope not for long.

Filed under: Barack Obama • David Gergen • John McCain • Raw Politics
soundoff (102 Responses)
  1. Kent, Illinois

    Dobson, Black, Rove................who cares. What they say and do are mostly nonsense...............

    June 24, 2008 at 6:37 pm |
  2. sarah

    This is important – because we are seeing Obama's real self come out: He is a man that creates division and strife between the classes, races, and different religions. He is not a man of unity, but a man of division. He keeps saying he is a man of unity, but all I have seen is the opposite from him – which is deception and lies.

    June 24, 2008 at 6:33 pm |
  3. Steve Mpls

    We have twelve people to interpret the Constitution and they can debate for weeks. For the Great User Manual for the soul we have several millions of interpretations We all have one Judge and someday we will be judged. Most every faith has this belief yet we must exist with one another under one flag. Those that refuse to acknowledge the belief of another are only admitting their own lack of faith.

    June 24, 2008 at 6:31 pm |
  4. Young Seneca

    amy and dobson are both dangerous fools who had better learn that religion is a cancer for the entire world that should have been buried centuries ago. now, religion will bury us instead. wake the hell up you fearful cowards, let go of your bibles and korans, utilize reason and embrace the uber-humanity within us all and focus on real issues. religion has no place in politics and consistently holds us back from evolving into a world-improving species.

    June 24, 2008 at 6:28 pm |
  5. Joe

    As most people point out here, CNN should have probably made this a short quip that one would have to read by following a few links. As a person that is training in Christian theology and working toward a fuller and more wholesome understanding of God in the world, Dobson is fraudulent in his claims and at risk spiritually for his unchristian behavior. CNN, please give us a break from this man in the future.

    June 24, 2008 at 6:22 pm |
  6. Gary Chandler in Canada

    Who looks and sounds more like a 'fruitcake', Obama or Dobson?
    Thank God we don't have to listen to Dobson's voice very often. It sounds like strained juice.

    June 24, 2008 at 6:20 pm |
  7. Cynthia

    Karl Rove needs to go to Capitol Hill, be sworn in and testify before Congress. Hopefully that will keep him busy for a while

    Black needs to be fired. His past activities and this comment should be enough for Senator McCain to fire him. If he keeps him he is probably doing Senator Obama a favor.

    Mr. Dobson needs prayer.

    The candidates need to stick to the issues which are more important to the American people.

    June 24, 2008 at 6:19 pm |
  8. DCMata

    Amy..Are you for real? What silly comments! God does not micro manage our lives- God helps those who helps themselves.


    June 24, 2008 at 6:17 pm |
  9. DCMata

    Barry...Agree with everything you said-

    Am also bothered when religious leaders inject themselves in politics!

    June 24, 2008 at 6:13 pm |
  10. Diann


    Yes, I agree, as well. And as a resident of Colorado Springs where Mr. Dobson radiates his messages from, I can tell you that many of us are angry, really angry, with the media attention that he has somehow been given. Why? What difference does his criticism make to mainstream America and with the past scandals (Haggard, et al) why would anyone care what he has to say?
    This too, shall pass. Soon, I hope.

    June 24, 2008 at 6:12 pm |
  11. DCMata

    Dobson want some publicity- he needs everyone to pay attention to him!
    Let's hear more facts and a lot less opinions.
    China will be a huge issue...economically and militarily!
    More dangerous than even the terrorist

    June 24, 2008 at 6:10 pm |
  12. Diana Beckman

    I agree as well David. And an issue I hope we don't lose sight of in the midst of all these distractions is ...The FISA Compromise...if you can call that a compromise! It seems the Dems have given up so much... to gain so little! One has to wonder what "dark secrets' are the DEMs in Congress hiding from the public.

    It just makes you loose trust with the lot of them- DEMS and RePub and politions as a whole. Now, we have no right to privacy...seem dictorial to me!

    June 24, 2008 at 6:10 pm |
  13. Barry Hemphill

    What utter nonsense. James Dobson, self appointed keeper of things religious, is an irrelevant demagogue. So-called religious leader should focus on their core values and keep their political beliefs off the table.

    June 24, 2008 at 6:08 pm |
  14. Stacy

    David, I completely agree. I actually responded to your comment on the live-blog last night with basically the same sentiment you've posted here. Unfortunately, though both of us may hope that minor controversies stop pushing the bigger issues out of the headlines, I know they won't. Ever.

    This is how news works now–with regard to the 24-hour cable networks anyway. It's all about controversy, tapping into people's sense of outrage, and outright sensationalism. Sure, paid sick leave is important, but tell me, where's the pizzazz? Feet showing up on a beach, teenagers maybe or maybe not pacting to get pregnant, and Don Imus once again opening his big mouth to say something racial? That's good TV!

    Of course, we can't completely blame the media. Just look at the number of comments the flare-up stories get versus those based on actual issues. Last week's post on Boumediene v. Bush wasn't exactly hopping. Our friends in the media have a responsibility to stop feeding us junk over substantial news (something the soldiers fighting the two wars that no one talks about anymore would probably appreciate), but ultimately when it comes to a story's staying power, ratings rule and if we watch junk, we can look forward to more junk in the future.

    June 24, 2008 at 6:05 pm |
  15. Amy

    I would add, too, that in its discussion of some of the above mentioned issues, particularly the more controversial, often the media allows only the two most opposing points of view, perhaps because it makes for more interesting television, rather than including voices that might represent the middle ground or a third way.

    For example, not all Christians, including those who would identify as Evangelicals, espouse the views of Mr. Dobson, or for that matter, of Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council on a broad number of issues. When issues like teen pregnancy, the war, pro-life, or the role of religion in politics comes up on AC360 or any other program, I hope there may be a broad range of voices heard instead of only "the Christian right" or the far left.

    June 24, 2008 at 6:05 pm |
  16. MikeM

    On the contrary, I want to see people like Dobson keep opening their mouths. They should remember an old saying: "It's better to keep one's mouth shut and be thought a fool, than to open one's mouth and confirm it."

    Dobson won't remember that one.

    He keeps telling us we non-believers don't know the Bible (which turns out to not be true; I was a Christian once), and when we prove we do, he tells us we're distorting it. Which one is it, James? When we come across stories in the Bible that you insist are literally true and criticize them, we're distorting the Bible?

    Why do you think rational people are leaving the religion?

    He thinks he's making McCain look good by saying these things. Oh, he says he won't vote for McCain, but who is he kidding? Not me.

    Remember the adage in the first paragraph, James. You'll be glad you did.

    June 24, 2008 at 6:05 pm |
  17. Kasha

    I agree. The trouble is there is such a fine line between news and enterainment in so many places. We need campaign and electoral reform to get our elections out of this three ring circus.

    KC MO

    June 24, 2008 at 6:03 pm |
  18. Stacy from NJ

    If we never heard from all three of these guys again, I would throw a party.

    Politics should be about real issues, not soundbites from them.

    June 24, 2008 at 6:02 pm |
  19. Henry Drummond


    You are certainly well connected enough to know that comments like James Dobson's are no accident. They are calculated to take public attention away from a discussion of energy policy, education, social security, health care, and the war in Iraq – all issues the vast majority of voters believe Republicans have done a miserable job on.

    In the past we have had politicians try to distract voters with flag burning amendments, the Pledge of Allegiance, "Mediscare", U.N. command of American Troops, immigration, and of course if all else fail you can always bash homosexuals.

    I have a funny feeling Jame Dobson is just test driving the Republican's latest wedge issue to see if it gets any traction. If it blows up in their face there isn't anything lost, after all what can you expect from someone like James Dobson? If the focus group shows it is working, it will be on Sean Hannity's show by the end of the week.

    Henry Drummond
    Dayton, Tenn.

    June 24, 2008 at 6:01 pm |
  20. stanley Lehto

    David: I notice you want those "snafu's " go away for those three right wing thugs, but you welcome all the mud that is thrown against any one of the Democrats. I notice most of the networks are bombarding Obama every day, but rarely do I see anything against McCain. But I think the American people are wising up to your dirty news.
    Stan Yelm Wa

    June 24, 2008 at 6:00 pm |
  21. Paul

    Dobson gives Christianity a bad name. He is the fruitcake. Unfortunately, his wacko comments make all of us Christians look like we're from another planet. It gets pretty tiring.

    June 24, 2008 at 5:56 pm |
  22. Chris, CA

    What happend to the separation of church and state? We're not voting for a paster or priest, we're voting for a president. Religion should NOT be an issue in this or any election!

    June 24, 2008 at 5:55 pm |
  23. Julene

    You know what would be nice? Um, a link to or discussion of those issues that you are afraid will be lost to others. Hmm, who could do something like that? CNN? Maybe you, David Gergen in your blog post since you are political corresponsdent? Nothing like complaining about something that you have the power and job to do, but clearly have chosen not to. Too bad there's no one around to, you know, actually cover the news at a news organization. If you can't get around to blogging about it, how about if you bring it up when you're on the air?

    June 24, 2008 at 5:54 pm |
  24. Karen-Phoenix

    Focus on the issues. That headline about Dobson was almost an imbarresment CNN!!! Obama was right!!!! And I'm a Lutheran. Focus on the issues!!! There is soooo much personal stuff Obama could hit McCain with its not funny and he's being a real gentleman. Take a look at Obama vs McCain energy package. Put them side by side. Obama's is for the American people and the future. McCain's is again for big oil companies. Just like all the other issues. American middle class vs oil. We have had 8 years of big oil and corporate control–time to change!! Nothing more to say!

    June 24, 2008 at 5:52 pm |
  25. David

    Yeah, I agree with David Gergen. I believe there should be less sensationalizing and more serious discussion of vital issues. I think James Dobson would contribute far more by starting a discussion of the morality of killing people we did not have to kill, as in Iraq. And whether it is morally defensible to perpetuate a system that provides health care only to people who are wealthy or lucky enough to have the right job. I am a Christian and I am embarassed when people like Dobson pretend to speak for me when they espouse positions that are fundamentally immoral.

    June 24, 2008 at 5:51 pm |
  26. james

    These are the trademarks of a neocon religion, war and slander.

    Dobson = religion
    Black = war
    Rove = slander

    All this = a screwed up America.

    June 24, 2008 at 5:49 pm |
  27. Rich

    I can't understand why any news organization would give James Dobson the time of day. Leave it to conservative, read fundamentalist, Christians to jump on anything that might compromise their narrow and distorted biblical interpretations. Rantings like these should stay where they belong, outside the public eye.

    Rich... Oregon

    June 24, 2008 at 5:46 pm |
  28. Amy

    I think that Dobson was right on target. Yes, gas prices and food prices are the worst ever. People are really struggling. money and food is not going to help anyone. God is!! When will America see that if this country continues to ignore the principles that we were founded on, the Bible and God, we will never be a properous nation. If we continue pushing God out of schools and out of places where our founding Fathers placed them because some seem to think that it is "offensive," then our country will certainly come to ruin.............read the Bible, that is what God says will happen. We continue to kill unborn babies, gay marriages, etc, and allow so much that is far from what the "interpretations" of freedoms that our founding fathers would have wanted. They were Christian men who set this country in motion founded on religious beliefs. So why are we straying so far from that now? If you don't read the Bible from cover to cover and make an attempt to understand it, then you shouldn't try to take things out of context. That is what Obama and now sadly many other Obama supports are doing. I wouldn't want a President who thinks these things about the Word of God. The thing that is so important to me. That is God breathed and is my food and water every day. It is my sincere prayer that this counrty opens their eyes and sees the Truth for what is really is before it is too late. A concerned but NOT angry Christian. : (

    June 24, 2008 at 5:45 pm |
  29. John

    The campaign from the Religious Right to sell fear has begun in earnest. The suggestion that Obama is "twisting" the Bible is crudely designed for the Republican "base" (pun intended) to whip up their prejudices and get them to turn out. Besides, what could be more twisted than admiring a man of color (like Christ)?? I'm just surprised he hasn't been called the the Devil.....yet.

    June 24, 2008 at 5:45 pm |
  30. Ellen Yorke

    It is "the press" – including, alas, CNN – that whips up these storms and then beats them to death. Dobson is entitled to his views; Rove has done his damage and is thankfully retired. There's no need to give such talking heads free publicity at the expense of verbatim statements from the candidates themselves.

    June 24, 2008 at 5:44 pm |
  31. Mark in Phoenix

    I agree the Black, Rove and Dobson 'issues' really aren't issues at all and the only thing that makes them "newsworthy" is that they show what the GOP's mindset is regarding the election and the electorate, which is nothing more than a continuation of the same sanctimonious ,self- serving and ultimately hypocritical tactics they have employed for many years. Let's hope this year the people are finally wise to their ultimately meaningless distractions.

    June 24, 2008 at 5:43 pm |
  32. Randy

    In referencing Obama's "confused theology", I challenge Mr. Dobson's confused theology.
    Over the years, I have heard some very different interpretations of the Bible. As a matter of fact, I would prefer a re-editting of the bible to include some of the books that were not included in the current versions. Like the DEAD SEA SCROLLS! I believe that the selection committee that compiled the Bible, in the 14th century, did so with a purpose. That purpose was to tell only the parts of the story that they could use to control the congegation. That was before more than 3 percent of the world population could read. Now that most of the population is educated to some degree, the pulpet pounding falls on a questioning congregation that can ask and will ask questions. Blind faith is a thing of the past!

    June 24, 2008 at 5:42 pm |
  33. Greg

    Dr Dobson is wrong,
    Here's why, in the pulpit it's easy to spout your views, i'm sure everytime he utters a word people are in his audience nodding their heads up and down, because like Obama, Dobson doesn't agree agree with abortion either. He's a preacher not a politician. Comparing these 2 occupation is like comparing apples and oranges, a preacher represents 1 group, a politician or president all groups. As a christian who hates abortion and think that it's wrong, my comment to James is, God gave every human the ability to make their own choice. Their is nothing we can do to stop them from making it.

    June 24, 2008 at 5:41 pm |
  34. Adam


    The idealist in me hopes for the same, but, for many if not most, the controversy is what puts up the competition necessary to warrant a departure from "Celebrity Circus" or whatever other junk people are addicted to on their flat screens. Issues? That would require people to care about something besides personal entertainment.

    I think I was born in the wrong decade.

    Murray, KY

    June 24, 2008 at 5:41 pm |
  35. Jesus

    Can someone tell this moron to read his bible and stay out of politics please.

    June 24, 2008 at 5:41 pm |
  36. John Kansas

    The U.S. Stock market is in a power dive. I don't know what is causing a lack of confidence in others, but I'm not buying a home, car or anything in America as long as people persist in this ignorant "Yes we can" nonsense. If Obama gets in with his mouth, America will shortly become a third-world nation due to internal strife and lack of investor confidence. Like those who elected Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, people will soon wish they had stayed away from this charismatic puffer of magical smoke.

    June 24, 2008 at 5:40 pm |
  37. Dale

    In all fairness, it's not like Dr. Dobson was not provoked. He had a legitimate reason to respond to this particular speech. Sen. Obama called Dr. Dobson out by name and compared him to Rev. Al Sharpton. I don't blame him one bit for responding.

    June 24, 2008 at 5:39 pm |
  38. Anita from TN

    Some time ago Lou Dobbs commented that it seemed the media was giving Hillary Clinton a raw deal in that they had given Obama more air time than Hillary ( I am paraphrasing his comments). Now it seems that the media is giving McCain more air time, and when not so doing, is giving a pass to McCain on controversial issues. Today it seemed that the Imus-Pacman Jones story received way more coverage than did the McCain-Black comments–as it is soo much more important? As Queen Noor once commented that she is so amazed at how the American public and press put so much emphasis on celebrities and their stories than on what really matters in the world! (I am paraphrasing her comments also.) You press folks really can do a better job!

    June 24, 2008 at 5:39 pm |
  39. Dave Wright

    That article from James Dobson is laughable considering his interpretation of the Bible which is bizarre at best. They use Old Testament writing all the time to validate their bigotry.
    Someone needs to tell Mr. Dobson GLASS HOUSES!

    June 24, 2008 at 5:36 pm |
  40. Inutuk

    Adage reminds us that "we become like our enemies" The US is quickly becoming a religious state – politically and corporately. I think Obama offers some hope that this trend will be reversed.

    June 24, 2008 at 5:35 pm |
  41. Kristina

    Thank you for that, I agree completely. I don't believe all arguments disassociated with policy are necessarily arbitrary, some arguments do make a point that voters need to know. However, Charlie Black making a to-do about the Old Testament is ridiculous and Karl Rove's ignorant remarks about Obama's "elitism" are just results of vaguely noteworthy people wanting their fifteen minutes in this election.
    Regardless, they are out there and whether or not Black wants to admit it, Obama's statements about the bible were correct. As well, I doubt Rove eats at Burger King and hangs out at the B-Ball court in his free time.

    June 24, 2008 at 5:32 pm |
  42. Chris


    I enjoyed your blog. Unfortunately the GOP, and I've often voted along with them, are becoming the shrill, white, intolerant party once made famous by a speech during the 1992 GOP convention by Pat Buchanan. There's no denying that this is the year of change and Obama is one of the most articulate and intelligent presidential candidates that we've had in a very long time. Meanwhile John McCain is certainly a hero however, like Bob Dole before him, he looks a bit feeble at times, and certainly is too old for the job given the many messes being left by President Bush & Co.

    I look forward to the contest but I'm already thinking ahead to a President Obama.

    June 24, 2008 at 5:30 pm |
  43. Nick A

    Let's face it, it's easier for the media to focus on well know figures as composites for entire groups of people (Dobson = evangelicals; Rove = Core Republicans). It simplifies the message into one, albeit exaggerated, messenger.

    Unfortunately, it is a complete disservice to the citizens of this country, and reinforces the indentity politics that have distracted this nation from progress.

    You hit the nail on the head, Mr. Gergen. The media needs to pass these moments up. CNN having it as the main story of its home page is no exception. It reinforces our stalemate.

    June 24, 2008 at 5:29 pm |
  44. form

    Whenever the Dems pull ahead in the polls be ready for the Christian Right low blow!

    June 24, 2008 at 5:27 pm |
  45. maryann johnston

    Personally, Dobson should stop mixing politics and religion, or perhaps he has forgotten Jesus's warning 'to render unto Ceasar that which is Ceasar's and unto God that which is God's'. I'm personally sick to death of the listening to endless diatribes for the religious right telling the rest of us what to believe..it is downright un-American. As for Rove, I expect at some point he;ll be charged and pardoned..and Black ENOUGH.

    June 24, 2008 at 5:23 pm |
  46. Andy Koin

    When will this country ever learn the "separation of church and state" rule? What has the Bible got to do with running a country. I grew up a Catholic and saw through that hocus-pocus when I was a 12 year old altar boy. Happiest day in my life was when I got religion out of my life. Have enjoyed 60 years of peace of mind and not fear of going to hell. By the way, where is heaven and hell? I am still wondering!

    June 24, 2008 at 5:23 pm |
  47. DonDallas

    Well, well, well. . .

    Isn't that the pot calling the kettle black!!! From the article:
    "Dobson said Obama should not be referencing antiquated dietary codes and passages from the Old Testament that are no longer relevant to the teachings of the New Testament."

    And what about "antiquated codes" about homosexuality, women's right to choose. . .etc.? Oh, I'm so sorry - I forgot that Dobson and his ilk have the God-given right to interpret everything exactly as THEY see fit. WE don't!!!

    June 24, 2008 at 5:22 pm |
  48. Schwartz

    Mr Dobson. I suggest you get all your religious answers from George Carlin

    June 24, 2008 at 5:20 pm |
  49. JC- Los Angeles

    Well said; historians will say that the VP has little influence on an election, however, I truly believe this year will be different. Due to McCain's age and Obama's lack of experience, lack of military background and lack of foreign policy experience, the VP selections will be crucial. I believe that McCain and Obama need to select their candidates as soon as possible. Waiting until the conventions will be death. The first person to present a team approach that captures the middle will win come fall. The sooner McCain stands alongside a strapping VP like Bloomberg, he will deliver the first blow. The sooner Obama stands alongside his VP, he will be able to remove Michelle Obama from center stage and start capturing the middle. Hurry up, it's getting late.

    June 24, 2008 at 5:06 pm |
  50. Cindy

    I totally agree. I hope that these little snafus go away quickly and we get to go back to what really matters in this election. We want the media and candidates focused on what really matters not this smut.

    And BTW...gas has gone down here in Georgia. It is $3.89 here..woo hoo! LOL


    June 24, 2008 at 4:50 pm |
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