Jewish World Review Sept. 8, 2010 29 Elul, 5770
Polls Lie About Obama
By Roger Simon
Take the recent polls that have dominated talk radio, talk television and the blogosphere for weeks now.
These are the polls that say a surprising percentage of Americans believe Barack Obama is a Muslim.
Pew did a poll about a month ago saying that 18 percent of Americans said he was a Muslim, up from 11 percent in March. Time magazine put the figure at 24 percent.
Maybe those figures should not have been too startling. I found a column of mine from April 21, 2008, quoting an AP-Yahoo poll as saying that 15 percent of Americans thought Obama was a Muslim.
That was almost two and a half years ago. We should know Obama and his true beliefs a lot better now, but we don't seem to.
On Aug. 23 of this year, an Iowa member of the Republican National Committee, the ruling body of that party, said "she believes President Barack Obama is truly a Muslim, contradicting his earlier statements that he's a Christian," the Des Moines Register reported.
Nor is it now enough for Obama to once again proclaim that he is a Christian. He has to undergo questioning — an inquisition, if you will — as to the nature of his Christian beliefs.
The RNC member, Kim Lehman, said Obama should be asked: "Are you a Christian? Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven, because that's what the Christian faith believes?"
(Iowans were not unused to the dispute. In December 2007, just before the critical Iowa caucuses, two Hillary Clinton volunteers sent out e-mails accusing Obama of being a Muslim intent on destroying the United States. When the story surfaced, both volunteers were asked to resign.)
The White House has done what it can to handle the recent polls and stories. Deputy press secretary Bill Burton said: "The president is obviously a Christian. He prays every day. He communicates with his religious adviser every day. There's a group of good pastors that he takes counsel from on a regular basis. And his faith is very important to him, but it's not something that is a topic of conversation every single day."
Oh, yeah? Says who?
On Aug. 25, the supermarket tabloid the Globe ran a picture of Obama in Somali garb, wearing a white turban, from his visit to Africa in 2006, with the headline, "Obama IS a Muslim!" (The huge headline dominated the cover, though the smaller cover story headlined "Demi Moore's WILD ROMP — With Another Woman!" might have drawn more readers.)
A few days ago, Glenn Beck of Fox News continued the theme that even if Obama is some kind of Christian, he is not the right kind of Christian.
"People aren't recognizing his version of Christianity," Beck said, describing Obama's version as "Marxist."
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about this and replied, "The president is a committed, mainstream Christian."
You can make the argument that it is beneath the dignity of the White House to address such matters, but when you refuse to answer questions, no matter how ridiculous, you get accused by the press of "not controlling the message." (It used to be that controlling the message was looked upon askance by the media, but now the media bash you when you don't try to control them.)
Also, when your approval rating is about 46 percent, it is risky to go around ducking anything.
But Obama has been pretty definitive on the subject, telling Christianity Today in 2008: "I am a Christian, and I am a devout Christian. I believe in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that that faith gives me a path to be cleansed of sin and have eternal life."
You can bet, however, that the Pew poll and other polls regarding his religion are going to come up at the president's news conference on Friday.
But what did I mean at the top of this piece when I said that polls lie? Gary Langer, the longtime polling director for ABC News, who now polls and consults for the network, said in his blog a few days ago:
"It's quickly mushroomed into the summer's hottest data point: A boatload of Americans believe Barack Obama's a Muslim.
"Except that, maybe, they don't. Consider this, instead: They're just willing to say it."
According to Langer, people tell pollsters stuff that people don't really believe as a way of bashing a person they don't like.
"It's human nature," Langer wrote. "Some people who strongly oppose a person or proposition will take virtually any opportunity to express that antipathy."
According to Langer, "calling Barack Obama a Muslim is — for people who see this as a negative attribute — a handy way to say you don't like the guy."
In other words, we should not get into a tizzy about religion when we read such polls.
It is not about Christian vs. Muslim, it is about people vs. Obama.
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
© 2009, Creators Syndicate