April 30, 2009
Obama's First 100 Days
As President Obama marked his first 100 days in office yesterday, a new Gallup poll shows that 41 percent of weekly church attenders supported Obama before the election, but the number has jumped to 57 percent.
Dan Gilgoff offers a round-up of what's happened in the last 100 days, but most of Obama's focus has been on the economy and more recently on the swine flu.
The Southern Baptist Convention's Richard Land has worked with presidential administrations going back to Ronald Reagan's, but he can't remember any that has convened an advisory council composedised mostly of religious leaders, as President Obama has done. The council gives religion "an institutionally higher profile than under President Bush," says the conservative Land, who directs public policy for the nation's largest evangelical denomination. "No president that I've dealt with has had anything like it."
During his press conference last night, Obama was asked whether he hopes Congress sends him the Freedom of Choice Act soon, which Obama said was not not highest legislative priority.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. In a couple of weeks, you're going to be giving the commencement at Notre Dame. And, as you know, this has caused a lot of controversy among Catholics who are opposed to your position on abortion.
As a candidate, you vowed that one of the very things you wanted to do was sign the Freedom of Choice Act, which, as you know, would eliminate federal, state and local restrictions on abortion. And at one point in the campaign when asked about abortion and life, you said that it was above -- quote, "above my pay grade."
Now that you've been president for 100 days, obviously, your pay grade is a little higher than when you were a senator.
Do you still hope that Congress quickly sends you the Freedom of Choice Act so you can sign it?
OBAMA: You know, the -- my view on -- on abortion, I think, has been very consistent. I think abortion is a moral issue and an ethical issue.
I think that those who are pro-choice make a mistake when they -- if they suggest -- and I don't want to create straw men here, but I think there are some who suggest that this is simply an issue about women's freedom and that there's no other considerations. I think, look, this is an issue that people have to wrestle with and families and individual women have to wrestle with.
The reason I'm pro-choice is because I don't think women take that -- that position casually. I think that they struggle with these decisions each and every day. And I think they are in a better position to make these decisions ultimately than members of Congress or a president of the United States, in consultation with their families, with their doctors, with their doctors, with their clergy.
So -- so that has been my consistent position. The other thing that I said consistently during the campaign is I would like to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies that result in women feeling compelled to get an abortion, or at least considering getting an abortion, particularly if we can reduce the number of teen pregnancies, which has started to spike up again.
And so I've got a task force within the Domestic Policy Council in the West Wing of the White House that is working with groups both in the pro-choice camp and in the pro-life camp, to see if we can arrive at some consensus on that.
Now, the Freedom of Choice Act is not highest legislative priority. I believe that women should have the right to choose. But I think that the most important thing we can do to tamp down some of the anger surrounding this issue is to focus on those areas that we can agree on. And that's -- that's where I'm going to focus.