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. Patricia from Germany

    I think that these guys are just embarrassing themselves. I can't imagine that this helps McCain. What about real issues?

    June 25, 2008 at 6:42 am |
  2. Robert A. Gibson

    James Dobson needs to focus on the family_preferably his own_ and leave politics alone. It is really silly for him to have a theological debate with a politician in order to draw attention to himself. Is he so attention-sarved that he had to inject himself into the presidential race? Dobson is not the spokesman for all Christians, not even a majority of evangelical Christians, especially when it comes to politics.When Dobson speaks a lot of us don't even listen.

    June 24, 2008 at 9:37 pm |
  3. Annette (CA)

    WOW David your right on target. We as a country are in dire straits and we have better pay attention or we will continue the devil in all the details that have managed to ruin all of us.

    June 24, 2008 at 9:28 pm |
  4. Chris, CA

    These words from the Dahli Lama give me comfort when this religious chatter and self righteousness is spotlighted: "Ignore all organized faiths and keep the road of higher consciousness. Without relying on religion, we look to common sense, common experience and the finding of science for understanding." Religion – spirtual belief – is very personal, not political. There is a reason why our great country was founded on the separation of church and state. No one can control what I believe in.

    June 24, 2008 at 9:23 pm |
  5. Amy

    the God that I know loves you and helps you that helps OTHERS. You are seeing things from truly the world perspective and not Gods. The people who have made comments that Dr Dobson doesn't know the Bible or doesn't know what he is talking about...........hum, that's interesting. If you know anything about the Bible (old and new testiment) as I have heard some references to, then you would know that some laws changed after Jesus death. So, there were some things in the old testiment that are no longer laws that Christians practice today. So if you read the Bible from cover to cover, you'd get it. Not trying to throw anything in anyone's face. I am just saying that Sen Obama obviously doesn't do the reading yet pretends to do so and Dr Dobson does. So please before you criticize, judge, or call him or Christians (including) a racist, just get the facts straight.

    June 24, 2008 at 9:23 pm |
  6. Dori in AZ


    We have to watch and read SO MUCH news coverage just to get bits and pieces of the substantial and necessary information.... It's difficult, and I imagine that many of us are missing more than we're getting. There is such a distracting tabloid mentality!

    I like Senator Obama, and though he is (no doubt) lacking in areas – as, I imagine any presidential candidate would be – I trust that he will surround himself with great advisers who really know their stuff. I think he has the "right stuff" for the role, overall. And, no one knows better than you how important a presidential adviser's role is!

    June 24, 2008 at 9:13 pm |
  7. Amy

    yeah but separation of church and state had an entirely different meaning than it does today!! Read your history books. Just think back to the way that schools and courtrooms were run 100's of years ago! Most schools were started by churches. Children were educated because of religion. Heaven forbid that we bring religion into schools now.

    June 24, 2008 at 8:48 pm |
  8. Alexis

    I totally agree with this. Hopefully the media will get smart and focus on Obama and McCain.

    June 24, 2008 at 8:47 pm |
  9. jess from Canada

    Hi David, Please comment on this issue. I have heard Obama referred to as the being viewed by many as a "Messiah figure". This past weekend I watched an interview with ? Ford of the Demo. party on the BBC & the moderator asked Mr. Ford several questions about the Obama/Messiah image projected in the USA.

    June 24, 2008 at 8:40 pm |
  10. Eddie Nunez

    I believe the reason for separation of church and state was not becasue iof atheistic tendencies by the founding fathers but because of their civilized nature and respect for other religions (Something the English did not give them and they had escaped from)

    June 24, 2008 at 8:36 pm |
  11. Eddie Nunez

    Anyone that listens to what James Dodson said about Obama and the Bible should remember what Dr. Bruce Prescott of Mainstream Baptists Oklahoma (and a member of the Americans United Board of Trustees), said about him: "Only a fundamentalist demagogue who has made a career of 'manipulating' and 'brainwashing' people to read the Bible through medieval lenses could find cartoon characters teaching tolerance so threatening." ( he was refering to a spongebob / winnie the pooh, barney cartoon about tolerance)
    Key words been " Fundamentalist demagogue"

    June 24, 2008 at 8:33 pm |
  12. Susan


    The media determines what they want us to see. All these incedental people and their comments feed on each other thus creating controversies attacting viewers and yes comments on a blog.

    I do not see an end to this. It will be up to the individual to filter out what they think is unimportant in their decision as to who becomes the next President.

    Here is an idea: Mr. David Gergen gets a show of his own on CNN.
    Build it and they will come !!!!!


    June 24, 2008 at 8:22 pm |
  13. Annie Kate

    There are too many "little" people out there – Dobson et al – who think their opinion matters to the majority of Americans and the press perpetuates this belief by giving them air time I could care less what they think – I want to hear what the candidates propose to do about the issues that are dragging us down. The American people are the losers when the Dobsons of the world get more attention than the candidates' speeches on the issues.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    June 24, 2008 at 8:18 pm |
  14. justin chicago

    there needs to be a re-birth in this country and the world. we need to abandon this outdated notion that a man with a white beard is watching you and protecting you(sometimes). we need to embrace reason andintelligence and renew our commitment to science and math again. china is producing more engineers than us.the us is falling behind.if there is a god why does he or she allow children to be born in this world only to suffer and die? what kind of divine plan is that? I wish George carlin was still around to comment on this. these so-called religous leaders need to get off their church welfare and get a real job. and these fools get a tax exempt status? please. the world would be better off without religion. look what religion has done to the world. the founding fathers wanted there to be a separation of church and state

    June 24, 2008 at 8:18 pm |
  15. Mari, Salt Lake City


    Dobson's comments DO NOT deserve the attention given! I listened to what Sen. Obama said, back in 2006...... and I heard NOTHING BUT CALLING FOR US, CHRISTIANS TO FIND COMMON GROUND AND WORK TOGETHER!


    June 24, 2008 at 8:11 pm |
  16. Sharon

    David Why print such utter nonsense. You're a better journalist than this. James Dobson should know that the bible is open to interpretation. I am so sick of all these little demi-gods prancing around. This will not be any part of the election this time – not this year. CNN would do well to print news.

    June 24, 2008 at 8:07 pm |
  17. Franky

    You know, Karl was one of the boys but let's just say he broke his contract. And Black, well, let's just say I only say that, thank you very much. And as for Dobson, let's just say he's hoping that the messiah comes. You know, I could care less about Karl or Black but Dobson, ohhh yeah, now that's in my ballpark....

    June 24, 2008 at 8:03 pm |
  18. William Joseph Miller

    Imagine that some one from Obama's campaign said that a terrorist attack on American soil would be a big advantage for Republicans. What would be the reaction of CNN? They would spin it 24.7. I haven't noticed that Charlie Black gets that much coverage, even though he will be one of McCain's major advisors if McCain gets elected. For Charlie Black, protecting Americans against terrorists is not as important as whether a terrorist attack will help or hurt Republicans.
    McCain claims he wants to protect America – but Charlie Black is still on McCain's campaign team, so for McCain protecting America is not as important as protecting is wealthy lobbyist friends. And that seems to be the number one priority for John McCain.

    June 24, 2008 at 7:58 pm |
  19. frank thomas

    By using the so-called bible as a lunch buffet where you can pick and choose what you want to believe at the moment, only shows what a farce religion is one would think with all the knowledge humans have become aware of since these so-called words of god were written,the bible and all other written material attempting to control minds would have been rejected long ago,people like dobson only hasten the demise of religions.

    June 24, 2008 at 7:57 pm |
  20. Gurman Bal

    John McCain is experienced? At what? Blindly following the 'great" George W. Bush. McCain voted 90% in lockstep with Bush over the past 7 years and a staggering 95% with Bush this year.

    Being a POW as McCain was DOES NOT make him a foreign policy expert. Otherwise, all those US detainees in Guantanamo are experts too.

    McCain's 'experience' is blind obedience to the evil Bush-Cheney regime.

    June 24, 2008 at 7:41 pm |
  21. ryan

    I've seen a few mentions of our Founding Fathers in these comments. Weren't many of our Founding Fathers deists or were at least influenced by deism, which some people thought at the time were atheistic? They preferred logic and reason versus interpreting scripture. That's why they included separation of church and state. Also, don't ask what they would do about today's issues – that's anachronistic.

    June 24, 2008 at 7:34 pm |
  22. Rose from Southern Calif

    Who will pay for these sick leave? Many small business's most are runned by families because they can't afford the extra cost of paying somebody eles. Obama needs to do his homework about this issue.

    June 24, 2008 at 7:28 pm |
  23. mike

    Sarah, Obama is not creating divisions. The divisions between the religious right and the religious left, the hawks and the doves, the blacks and whites, the men and the women, the educated and the non-educated, the rich and the poor, the pro-life and the pro-choice, and countless others, have existed for decades. Obama is simply not afraid to point them out, suffer through the pain of exposing these divisions as they are, bringing them into the scrutiny of the full light of day, and then, and only then, being able to move on to some level of compromise. To be a man of unity, as you suggest, would be to simply sweep all of these divisions under the rug and to pretend they don't exist. The person of deception was actually Karl Rove/W, who chose to use these divisions as wedges in our society.

    June 24, 2008 at 7:23 pm |
  24. svp

    Republican party is soo messed up this election cycle that even if the democrats were to put a monkey as their candidate..they will win..All these distractions do not seem to matter to the public..they just need a job and be able to fill a gas of tank to drive around and waste it..

    June 24, 2008 at 7:19 pm |
  25. Sandy

    So I'm a little surprised by this Mr. Gergen. You are a CNN Sr. Political Analyst, and you are saying you're tired of the amount of press that these satellite and often extreme political figures get, and yet it is the lead story on the CNN web news right now. I mean, I couldn't agree with you more, that I can't stand this sort of opportunistic hay making succeeding in making hay, but isn't that at least in part your responsibility?? I realize filtered news reporting may place too much message control in the hands of the news reporters, but that cat was let out of the bag long ago, and for one would appreciate a filter that keeps these segues from the real issues at bay.

    June 24, 2008 at 7:16 pm |
  26. Thelma from Illinois


    I also agree with you. You are one of my FAVORITE !

    June 24, 2008 at 7:15 pm |
  27. robin

    While it's true that most of the people who colonized America were Christians in one form or another, our actual constitution and identity as a nation was formed as secular. If you read the writings of Jefferson, Washington, Madison, etc, you will see that they all advocated a clear seperation of church and state.

    I wish religion would mind its own business, and let people make up their minds on the basis of the issues that actually will impact ALL of our lives.

    June 24, 2008 at 7:14 pm |
  28. Noans, South Pasadena

    If James Dobson would spend more time doing what Christ asked us to do, feed the hungry; minister to the sick; love one another, treat one another as we would like to be treated, tolerance; etc; the world would be a better place.

    It just goes to show you how out of touch many organized religions are.

    June 24, 2008 at 7:11 pm |
  29. Frieda

    What an article. CNN is notorious for bias coverage FOR Obama. Lou Dobbs can't get through 1 show
    (and that's what CNN is,because it's not about News anymore)
    without putting the President Of the United States down in some way.
    As well as many of the CNN anchors. Little bit late to be crying foul now. What;s the matter is most of the 300 million of Obama's money going to another rival show?

    June 24, 2008 at 7:10 pm |
  30. Kim

    These three are no longer relevant or newsworthy, and I question if Dobson ever was! Dobson is part of the search for the "BogeyMan"...he scans the scriptures, he scans the text of Obama's speech(es), searching for that evil-doer, that Bogeyman...please, please, Dr. Dobson, consider your constant haranguing and whining, embrace the scriptures and retire! for all of our sakes!

    June 24, 2008 at 7:10 pm |
  31. Liz

    The three little pigs.

    June 24, 2008 at 7:07 pm |
  32. Raymond Carter

    Dobson say something and it's THE CNN Headline !
    We are all in trouble.
    Big Corporate Media/ will not let Obama win.

    June 24, 2008 at 7:06 pm |
  33. Jake Chicago Illinois

    I agree that the news media should focus more on the issues and the candidates rather than a retarted right wing church freak, a sleezy political advisor and whoever charlie black is. People couldn't care less about what they have to say. I completely agree with you david.

    P.S. You should inform wolf of us viewers feel

    June 24, 2008 at 7:05 pm |
  34. Sean from CT

    Dobson is a raving nut-case. You should check out his child-rearing books and his advice on what to do if you think your child might be gay!

    June 24, 2008 at 7:01 pm |
  35. Benny

    James Dobson is right and it point directly at the inexperience of Barack Obama when it come to the details. Barack Obama's notion of taking the democratic approach for any political solution is not possible. If Barack Obama does not believe in the Biblical truths, he should note that this country is founded on its core beliefs. German Nasicsm was a populistic apporach and was morally accepted among their people at that time. At times, the president would have to take a stand on the firm beliefs that he is grounded to and thats what will determine the future direction of this nation.

    June 24, 2008 at 6:57 pm |
  36. Jerry Kaline

    Mr. Dobson should spend less time trying to insinuate himself into the political process as a power broker for the religious right fringe, and more time in Christian pursuits like feeding the hungry and nursing the sick.

    As we like to say in Colorado Springs, Focus on your own damn Family!

    June 24, 2008 at 6:54 pm |
  37. AHerbert; San Diego, CA

    Wow what happen to the economy, war and domestic issues? I wonder if the folks that is expediting the flood really cares about this crap – separate church and state please and that goes for all parties concern and stick to the issues of America.

    June 24, 2008 at 6:54 pm |
  38. John

    I totally agree with David. Why does the media even give people like Dobson any press or air time? I think it's Dobson who drags the Bible through the gutter with his literal translation and ideology like he actually walked with Jesus 2000 years ago. This is Dobson's way of trying to stay relevant, which he really isn't. More important issues are blotted out certainly with the press give people like Dobson valuable press and media coverage that should be spent on other issues. The press should be examining themselves on the issue of why all of you, all networks, just give McCain a "free pass" on everything. You should be questioning him HARD like you do Obama. You can't have it both ways media. Cover real issues and leave people like James Dobson alone in his state of confusion and irrelevance. Thanks.

    June 24, 2008 at 6:51 pm |
  39. big al

    i hate to ruin the nice tone of this discution but lets be honest , Dobson is just a self appointed voice of god wind bag, he represents no christian i know AND IS JUST A CLOWN , CAN I MAKE IT MORE CLEAR ? as a god fearing person i can say ,he is NOT talking about the same jesus i know...hey AMY GOD BLESS YOU, ILL PRAY FOR YOU...JUST REMEMBER FALSE PROPHETS BEFORE YOU AGREE BLIDLY WITH THAT CLOWN...

    June 24, 2008 at 6:51 pm |
  40. Carrie

    People like Dobson talk about how great heaven is and how they cant wait to get there, Well i wish they would all hurry up and go so we can get to whats important. Like war, globel warming , the national debt, healthcare, economy and world starvation...Quit bible nitpicken and maybe focus on what Jesus would do.....not your ego..Shame on you James Dobson.

    June 24, 2008 at 6:50 pm |
  41. william montague

    And exactly why is it that we value the opinions of people like Dobson who believe in mythical, invisible, beings that live in the sky? (That speak in English to Republicans.)

    For the sake of fairness, we should get an opinion from astrologers and those who read the future in sheep's intestines.

    Mr Dobson is the worst kind of holier-than-thou bible-thumping con artist. You only have flocks if you have sheep.


    June 24, 2008 at 6:49 pm |
  42. J. Graaf

    At 72 years old, I have seen elections and presidents come and go.
    I was very pleased this time with candidate voter turnout. Now, towards the presidential elections I only see and hear personal and partisan attacks between the two camps. It's sickening and boring to watch the "progress" and endless TV commentary by strategists.

    June 24, 2008 at 6:49 pm |
  43. Dave

    Before making comments about our founding fathers, you really should put down your bible and pick up a book on American history. The founding fathers were Deist. You should also read up on the Treaty of Tripoli.

    June 24, 2008 at 6:48 pm |
  44. Tracy

    Once again, Dobson opens his ridiculous, bigoted, petty, small, sad little mouth and embarrasses the whole state of Colorado by insisting that his own narrow reading of what the bible says is the only accurate, relevant reading. What is it, Jim-Bob? Is the bible the last and only word of god or not? If it is, it DOES say the things Obama iterated...are you telling us that one CAN cherry pick the bible, as it appears you are doing? And if the Old Testament is irrelevant, as you indicate in your rebuttal comments to Obamas speech, than the whole Leviticus passage about homosexuality is irrevelant, too, throwing your whole homophobic argument out the proverbial winder.

    So which is it, Bible Boy?

    June 24, 2008 at 6:48 pm |
  45. Steve Peach

    I agree, I think all the talk about "who is a better Christian" or "Who's distorting the words in the Bible" is all a bunch of nonsense. The facts are really simple and should be looked upon as such. John McCain is without a doubt in favor of Big Oil and high priced Energy (just ask his old buddy Phil Graham, part of the Elect McCain team). Barack Obama has his finger on the REAL problems with our economy and that has a lot of Republicans affraid of their positions with the major energy companies who back them. I want to know who the candidate is, what he stands for, and how he is going to fix this country's failed economy, PERIOD. I guess when James Dobson and the like start attacking you, it must mean you're doing something right, even if your views lean a little left. As a Christian, I'm more than a little embarassed by Dr. Dobson's rant.

    June 24, 2008 at 6:44 pm |
  46. Donna Green

    What hypocrites – distorting the bible you say! The "Bible" and Christianity has been used throughout history to reinforce slavery and countless other calamities. Please, Mr. Dobson, I bet you can also find in your history distortions.

    June 24, 2008 at 6:42 pm |
  47. Ed-CT

    Will CNN please get that silly Dobson face and headline off their website.
    For all the news in the world this is the most compelling one you have found to highlight ? Good grief !

    CNN : Cartoon News Network

    June 24, 2008 at 6:39 pm |
  48. Donna A. Reuter, Bremerton, WA

    Dobson is totally ignorant of what the Good Book means, if he did he would not be spouting comments that would make a certain Nazi proud. When I here him speak and close my eyes and I could swear that I have been transported to the rally's in 1930s and early 40s Nuremburg, Deutchland. What a fascist and racist.

    June 24, 2008 at 6:39 pm |
  49. Doug

    if the religious right is so concrned about issues, the direction of the country etc...why don't they run their own candidate, these guys are just getting tiring....I thought the religious leaders decided a few months ago to focus on religion and not politics...guess Dobson couldn't ressit the media attention....pretty sad and patheitc...if anyone looks to a fellow like DObson for religious enlightment they need to read the bible again themselves...

    June 24, 2008 at 6:38 pm |
  50. Michael

    Dobson does not really matter any longer. His influence has waned and as a percentage of all Americans, very few people listen to him. And I live in his home town.
    Get used to this Dobson, President Barack Obama!!

    June 24, 2008 at 6:38 pm |
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