Dobson: Liberals Have No Values
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Nov 24, 2006 at 12:27:27 PM EST
Larry King says that James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family, is one of his favorite guests.  The reason?  "You always know where he stands. That's what makes a great guest."

Indeed, for the promotion of religious and antigay bigotry, crackpot science and bogus history, one can hardly find anyone better.

Millions of people saw this interview on November 22nd, but far fewer were probably aware of how far out on a limb Dobson was on many important matters.  What's more, as far as I can tell, there was little media or blogger coverage of Dobson's interview, which was chock full of extraordinary material deserving of response.

The sole news outlet that reported on the interview, according to a Google News Search, was The Rocky Mountain News.

The paper reported mostly on the Ted Haggard story, but pulled a few remarkable quotes from the interview, notably one in which Dobson claims that liberals have no values and do not know the difference between right and wrong:

Those again on the liberal end of the spectrum are those who have no value system, or at least they say there is no moral and immoral. There's no right or wrong. . . . But when a religious leader, or especially an evangelical, falls, guess who is the most judgmental of him and calling him a hypocrite? . . . Those that said there is no right and wrong in the first place. The truth of the matter is there is right and wrong. And we all within our midst have failures, and they do occur."

OK, liberals, what do you have to day about that?  

Meanwhile, Dobson says that Christian counseling could cure disgraced evangelist Ted Haggard of his homosexuality in three to five years.

KING: Well, how could a gay person preach against gays? How could you do that?

DOBSON: Well, a lot of people wonder that. He, obviously, was, again, at war with himself. He was involved in activities that I think horrified him. He said that he fought against it, but he also knew what he believed.

It was not hypocrisy. It was a struggle between behavior and the belief system.

KING: How long does counseling last in this kind of case?

DOBSON: It could be a long time. I would think that the restoration process here, if Reverend Haggard chooses to go through with it, would be three to five years.

KING: And is success the fact that he is no longer gay? Would that be your definition of success?

DOBSON: That would be part of it. It's a spiritual restoration, too. It's a personal and marital restoration. It involves every aspect of life.

Here is Dobson explaining his admittedly controversial theory of homosexuality:

KING: We discussed this before in the past, but not recently: Do you still believe that being gay is a choice rather than a given?

DOBSON: I never did believe that.

KING: Oh, you don't believe it.

DOBSON: I don't believe that. Neither do I believe it's genetic. I said that...

KING: Then what is it?

DOBSON: I said that on your program one time and both of us got a lot of mail for it. I don't blame homosexuals for being angry when people say they've made a choice to be gay because they don't.

It usually comes out of very, very early childhood, and this is very controversial, but this is what I believe and many other people believe, that is has to do with an identity crisis that occurs to early to remember it, where a boy is born with an attachment to his mother and she is everything to him for about 18 months, and between 18 months and five years, he needs to detach from her and to reattach to his father.

It's a very important developmental task and if his dad is gone or abusive or disinterested or maybe there's just not a good fit there. What's he going to do? He remains bonded to his mother and...

KING: Is that clinically true or is that theory?

DOBSON: No, it's clinically true, but it's controversial. What homosexual activists, especially, would like everybody to believe is that it is genetic, that they don't have any choice. If it were genetic, Larry -- and before we went on this show, you and I were talking about twin studies -- if it were genetic, identical twins would all have it. Identical twins, if you have a homosexuality in one twin, it would be there in the other.

Dobson later indulged in some well debunked revisionist history. Dobson claims that there is no such thing as separation of church and state, while the historical record clearly shows that while it is true that the phrase separation of church and state is not found in the constitution or the first Amendment, the phrase was in wide use among leading thinkers at the time, and that Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists was an effort by Jefferson to explain his understanding of the meaning of the First Amendment. That is part of the reason why the Supreme Court borrowed the phrase to in explaining what it meant in interpreting the first amendment, and why it has become a standard part of our understanding of the meaning of the constitution.

KING: But we have a separation of church and state.

DOBSON: Beg your pardon?

KING: We have a separation of church and state.

DOBSON: Who says?

KING: You don't believe in separation of church and state?

DOBSON: Not the way you mean it. The separation of church and state is not in the Constitution. No, it's not. That is not in the Constitution. That was...

KING: It's in the Bill of Rights.

DOBSON: It's not in the Bill of Rights. It's not anywhere in a foundational document. The only place where the so-called "wall of separation" was mentioned was in a letter written by Jefferson to a friend. That's the only place. It has been picked up and made to be something it was never intended to be.

What it has become is that the government is protected from the church, instead of the other way around, which is that church was designed to be protected from the government.

KING: I'm going to check my history.

And finally, it is worth noting that the ever-militant Dobson is more than a little politically tone deaf. The Terry Schiavo episode was a  turning point for many Americans' understanding of how extreme and how powerful the religious right had become in the GOP, and in the government.

KING: On reflection though, were you politically wrong on Schiavo?

DOBSON: Absolutely not.

KING: Not politically?

DOBSON: Not politically or morally wrong. I believe that the position that many, many people took -- and there were a lot of them -- who felt that Terri Schiavo was being deprived of life and liberty -- she was handicapped, she was damaged, but since when do we kill people who have a handicap? Where do you start...

KING: Do you believe it was OK for Congress to get involved?

DOBSON: I think they should have done that. They took a moral stance. They took a courageous stance.


As of this writing, there is no significant news or blog coverage of the matters discussed in this post.  As far as I can tell, no liberal religious or political leaders or liberal pundits have weighed in on the latest outrages from Dobson. Much has been made in recent years of how John Kerry did not respond to the Swift Boat Veterans attack on his character and military service record.  But I daresay that the silence in response to Dobson epitomizes what has been going on in America for a generation: a failure to seriously engage the religious right.

did a pretty good job of gently-but-directly challenging Dobson on some key points.

So where is everyone else?  

by Frederick Clarkson on Fri Nov 24, 2006 at 12:38:34 PM EST

Perhaps because on Thanksgiving eve not many folks were much interested in what Dobson had to say--or Larry King, for that matter. Had this interview aired in the week before the election--sandwiched between the outings of Mark Foley and Ted Haggard--it would have gotten buzz. But it didn't and Dobson said nothing newsworthy, nothing more than he's put forth for years. Without a telegenic drama, especially one with a "tick-tock" countdown and lots of street theater--Roy Moore on the courthouse steps defying the federal judges; Terri Schiavo's death watch accompanied by a chorus of fulminating GOP Congressmen, climaxing with a crosscountry midnight flight by the President--the appearance of a hectoring  dour-faced scold in this post-election holiday season doesn't generate "must-see" TV for the viewers at home.

by mreyn on Fri Nov 24, 2006 at 04:09:04 PM EST
We are ataling about the liberal leadership in the United States. Dobson has reached millions of people with dangerous and demagogic views. They have so far, gone unanswered.

Election season is not the only time we need to hear from leaders, and by leaders I am not only talking about polititians.

Thanksgiving or no, the media keeps reporting, pundits offer opinions and bloggers keep blogging.

Where are they?

by Frederick Clarkson on Fri Nov 24, 2006 at 04:50:43 PM EST

Fred, I humbly disagree--we should be talking about "most folks" because they are the ones that delivered the stunning rebuke to the Bush/Right-wing GOP in this last election cycle, and they are the ones who have the potnetial to keep this fringe from exercisins the power they mustered in 2000 and 2004. The Religious Right machine appeals to and consequently musters a minority of the activtive Christian voting bloc. Granted they are dangerous and have extraordinary resources when compared to  progressive and moderate professing Christian efforts--but that is, has changed. Though James Dobson and FOTF claim a--what? 4 million listener base--don't believe for one moment that all those who listen to the ginger-haired panjandrum adhere to to his political exhortations. As for the mdeida, I've already explained that; as for liberal pundits, I see no dearth in commentary. However, until this machine is exposed and taken apart in fundamental ways--i.e.,its money, its broader agenda (way beyond abortion, gays, school prayer, evolution) it's all just dancing in contra-step to the gospel tune the right-wing sings.

by mreyn on Fri Nov 24, 2006 at 10:21:33 PM EST
I am talking about engaging the wider audience of folks who are receiving Christian Rightists messages from Dobson, still one of the most influential men in America with a much wider audience -- the national audience of Larry King.  

There is a reason, just for example, that voters passed antigay marriage amendments in all but one of the states where is has been attempted. And it is not soleley because of religious right voters.

And BTW, please don't drink the Democratic cool aid on the election results, which were neither stunning or particularly surprising. Historically, out of power parties do well in the sixth year of a two term presidency. The only thing that surprises is that the Demodrats did not do better. As for the religious right, it is just an election. They will be back big and strong and regrouped for the next one.

Democrats and liberals have a simple choice. They can engage when opportunities like Dobson's interview come up, or they can reassure themselves that the religious right is on the ropes and all is well in the land -- just as they have pretty much for the past 30 years and go shopping.  After all, we all know that no one could possibly take the religious right seriously -- right?

by Frederick Clarkson on Sat Nov 25, 2006 at 09:42:37 AM EST

Fred, we both agree on that item--meanwhile there willl be reposturing of leadership in the RR in the ensuing year, as already seen here in Alabama and in Georgia post-election. Not to fear-- I've not been imbibing Dem kool-aid. What I found interesting in the election results were mainly internals in the states among the broad white evangelical and Catholic voters, the failures of the well-greased RR machinery to bring in abundant sheaves for Blackwell, DeVos, Santorum, Hayworth and others.  

by mreyn on Sat Nov 25, 2006 at 01:05:34 PM EST

And Larry King didn't do his homework for the Dobson interview.

You can't expect King to defend liberalism, but he missed some great opportunities for challenging Dobson's extremist positions.

King could have asked Dobson why he doesn't seize on Haggard as an opportunity to prove his  'homosexuality is treatable' theory?

King needs to read up on the separation of Church and State.

King could have destroyed Dobson's position on the Terry Schaivo episode.

It would be interesting to see what a competent interviewer would do with Doibson. 



by justintime on Sun Nov 26, 2006 at 01:43:20 PM EST
I stopped watching Larry King years ago -- actually, I never really started watching him.  He is one of the interviewers to whom politicians and pundits flock whenever they want to get their viewpoint across unchallenged.

He's a lightweight who is fine when hosting celebrities plugging their latest book or cause, but if you're looking for a hardhitting interview, King's the wrong man to watch.

by tacitus on Sun Nov 26, 2006 at 01:57:11 PM EST

Dobson was my only reason for watching the show.
Dobson on the Stephen Colbert or Jon Stewart show would be great entertainment.
The big challenge would be to expose Dobson in front of his faithful supporters. 

by justintime on Sun Nov 26, 2006 at 02:27:39 PM EST
I don't think that Dobson would allow himself to be interviewed by anyone but a 'lightweight'.
He's far too clever for that. Let's see some of these paragons of the so-called 'Christian Right' get interviewed by really savvy 'Christian Left' people!  They would be smeared.

by rdrjames on Sun Nov 26, 2006 at 10:23:17 PM EST
So it is important to take one's opportunities where one finds them. Rather than blaming Larry King, who went about as far as his congenial format could go, how about demanding that progressive religious and political leaders take the ball and run with it?

by Frederick Clarkson on Mon Nov 27, 2006 at 12:54:28 PM EST

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