The Irony of Barack Obama

Niebuhr

A large segment of the American electorate may believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim, but two Saint Anselm College professors argue that the president is not only a Christian, but one whose leadership is guided by his faith.

In their new book, The Irony of Barack Obama, professors Ward Holder, a theologian, and Peter Josephson, a political scientist, say that Obama is deeply influenced by the Christian political thinker, Reihnhold Niebuhr. Holder calls Niebuhr the greatest 20th century American theologian, while Josephson says he is a political theorist who is unusual for being both critical of and devoted to American democracy.

Niebuhr understands the tension between Christian biblical teachings and the demands of governing. This balance of faith and politics, of Christian pragmatism and progressiveness, can be identified in everything from Obama’s foreign policy to his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech and his stand on gay marriage, the professors say.

It is thus ironic that Barack Obama is the favored candidate of the secular left, say the professors, while Mitt Romney has the support of Evangelical Christians. And while Romney declares that faith will have nothing to do with his governance, Obama talks about how Christianity guides his presidency.

 

Live: New Hampshire Republican Presidential Debate

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Tonight, we are broadcasting the New Hampshire Republican Primary Debate live from the Dana Center. Watch the live stream right here, join in on the live discussion with Rev. Dale S. Kuehne, Ph.D., and interact with us.

Live Stream and Discussion

Recent Videos

Faculty Experts Weigh in on New Hampshire Primary Hot Topics

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Every four years, New Hampshire serves as a magnet to politicians and the media as the nation’s first presidential primary unfolds. Saint Anselm College professors weigh in on the latest issues affecting candidates coming out of the Iowa Caucuses. Click on the videos below for their thoughts. For information on these faculty experts or for other media inquires, please contact Laura Rossi at 603-656-7242 or lrossi@anselm.edu.

See the full list of faculty experts here.

Saint Anselm College Associate Professor of History Matthew Masur, Ph.D., offers his thoughts on the importance of the New Hampshire primary and debates as well as the lack of foreign policy discussions among candidates.

 

Saint Anselm College Assistant Professor of Politics Jennifer C. Lucas, Ph.D., offers her thoughts on the role of Michele Bachmann in the presidential race and how gender issues have shaped recent media coverage.

 

Saint Anselm College Assistant Professor of Politics Chris Galdieri offers his thoughts on the GOP candidates leading up to the New Hampshire primary.

This post was submitted by Jack Morris.

New Hampshire Voters Taking a Second Look at Gingrich

Saint Anselm College professor Elizabeth Ossoff
Newt Gingrich at NHIOP at Saint Anselm College on November 21, 2011.

Newt Gingrich at New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College on November 21, 2011.

Regarding Newt Gingrich’s recent rise in the New Hampshire polls against long time frontrunner Mitt Romney, Professor Elizabeth Ossoff, director of the research center at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, says:

“One could say that Gingrich is the anti-Romney ‘Candidate of the Month.’ But the combination of national news accounts showing Gingrich’s rise in the polls and the New Hampshire Union Leader’s recent endorsement, which anointed Gingrich as a ‘true conservative,’ may have New Hampshire voters taking a second look. Perhaps Gingrich appeals to their desire to not be pigeon-holed. New Hampshire voters do the unexpected at times. Sometimes we react against that which is expected of us. Maybe the expectation that New Hampshire would definitely go for Romney rubs some voters the wrong way, and has led them to reassess their choice now that the primary is closer at hand.”

Professor Ossoff’s research interests include the psychology of political behavior, from perspective of both the voter and the candidate. She is also interested in politics and the media, and the psychology of gender.

Saint Anselm College professor Elizabeth Ossoff

Elizabeth Ossoff, Ph.D, Professor of Psychology at Saint Anselm College.

Director of the research center at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, Professor Ossoff speaks to reporters frequently about public attitudes toward politics and candidates, gender and politics and other themes. She has been interviewed by CNN, New England Cable News, New Hampshire Pubilc Radio, the Associated Press, The New York Times and other news outlets.

To speak to Professor Ossoff, please call Barbara LeBlanc at (603) 641-7241 (office) or (603) 486-8760 (cell).

This post was submitted by Barbara Leblanc.

Newt Gingrich Town Hall Meeting

Newt Gingrich signs a book for a Saint Anselm College student at NHIOP.

Newt Gingrich made a swing through New Hampshire Monday, stopping at the college’s New Hampshire Institute of Politics to present his alternative to Social Security. Speaking to an audience of more than 200 students, faculty and staff, as well as members of the general community, Gingrich said he would give young workers the option of investing their payroll taxes in private accounts, rather than in traditional Social Security. Gingrich, who has been topping the polls nationally, remains behind Mitt Romney in all but one New Hampshire poll, which has the two in a statistical dead heat. Gingrich took questions from the audience and then met privately with about 20 Saint Anselm students.

This post was submitted by Barbara Leblanc.

Journalist Balz Shares Primary Insights

Dan Balz (photo by Bill O'Leary/TWP)

“This is one of the strangest primary years we’ve ever seen,” said Washington Post journalist Dan Balz at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics (NHIOP) Friday morning. “Almost nothing we predicted is playing out the way we might have expected.” He addressed an audience at the Politics and Eggs series attended by business people and members of the faculty and student body, and even a Parliamentarian from Belgium.

Washington Post reporter Dan Balz (photo by Bill O'Leary /TWP)

Washington Post reporter Dan Balz (photo by Bill O'Leary /TWP)

Balz, the co-author of The Battle for America 2008, discussed the ups and downs of various contenders for the Republican primary nomination and the American people’s current disenchantment with President Barack Obama.

This primary process started out much more slowly than in previous years, he observed. “We have had the most fluid Republican lineup any of us can remember. There was almost as much attention to people who decided not to run as to people who decided to run. In almost every case, there was a great deal of discussion and commentary about them that created another story, which was, ‘What’s wrong with this field?’”

He also stressed the importance of this election cycle’s primary debates, saying that “virtually every debate has been consequential and has had significant impact on people’s impressions of candidates.” Saint Anselm College hosted one debate in June and will be the setting of another Jan. 7, just before the first-in-the-nation primary.

This is in many ways a high stakes election and a crucial election, Balz noted, as it plays out against the backdrop of a terrible economy and dissatisfaction with the way things are done in Washington.

He pointed out that a lot of Republicans are still reluctant to embrace Mitt Romney, who has a strong organization in New Hampshire. A poll released last month by the NHIOP and the Institute of Politics at Harvard University put Romney 18 points ahead of his closest rival in New Hampshire, Herman Cain, at 38 percent to 20 percent. The institutes will issue a second poll shortly before the Jan. 10 primary.

“I don’t know yet how much affection there will be for Mitt Romney,” Balz said, “but the party doesn’t have to love its nominee. It has to believe they are capable of winning in the general election and rally around that. The passion issue is going to be created on the Republican side by President Obama.”

He said that even unlikely candidates are valuable to the process by creating discussion around certain issues. “Things always change when the voters begin to vote. Let’s remember that come January, something is going to happen that we don’t expect.”

Asked by a listener how social media is affecting this campaign, he said, “with Twitter and the rolling, running news cycle, journalists run the risk of getting out ahead of where the story really is.”

Romney Holds Town Hall at NHIOP

Romney

Former Gov. Mitt Romney took questions from an audience of about 225 people, during a town hall-style meeting at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics. Romney kicked off the event noting he was happy to be back at Saint Anselm College, following his most recent visit during the June 2011 GOP debate.

More than a dozen media outlets – ranging from local newspapers, to The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, Manchester joined Boston TV stations, and Carl Cameron of Fox News on the press risers to cover the event. Following the town hall, reporters met with Romney outside the NHIOP, asking him questions about rival Rick Perry, the likelihood that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie would run and fundraising.

Here’s a sample of the coverage:

WCVB-TV (Boston): Romney campaigns in New Hampshire

Mitt Romney returned Wednesday to politically safe territory, but he faces continuing questions about his appeal to Republicans in the rest of the country. Romney, who is holding a town hall in Goffstown at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, is returning fire by attacking Perry's most vulnerable spot — his position on immigration, which many conservative Republicans find too weak.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution: Romney brushes off flip-flopper critics

The Republican presidential contender won't pretend he's never changed his mind on every issue he's ever considered. He says that during his business career he learned that people have to change when facts change. If they don't, they get fired for being stubborn and stupid. Romney's comments came in response to a question during a town hall meeting Tuesday at Saint Anselm College. He also attacked top Obama strategist, David Axelrod.

CNN: Romney on Christie: “It’d be fun if he got in”

Mitt Romney said Wednesday he would welcome New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie into the presidential race, calling him "a great friend, colorful character." Outside the town hall at Saint Anselm College Wednesday, a reporter asked Romney if he was insulted by the persistent enthusiasm for a Christie candidacy.

"He's a governor I'd love to see in more political settings," Romney said. "Who knows–maybe he'll get in. It'd be fun if he got in."

Esquire: On the Trail: Mitt Romney likes the sound of his own laugh

And so he sails serenely on, all the flavor-of-the-week turmoil surrounding the rest of the Republican ticket barely a ripple beneath his well-tailored keel. Four years ago, Mitt Romney was a profound public maladroit. The more people were exposed to him, the more they wanted to hit him in the face with a pie. Now, though, with the Bachmann boom surrendering to the Perry Boom, which collapsed because Rick Perry proved to be more of a maladroit than Mitt Romney ever dreamed of being, and with the thunderous hoofbeats of a Christie boom just now rising (maybe), Romney has begun to look like the safest vessel among the various ships of fools. All this nautical stuff is at high tide because today, at a town-hall meeting at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm's College, Mitt decided to seize upon what Obama advisor David Axelrod had said here recently when Axelrod described the upcoming campaign as "a titanic struggle."

John McCain Rallies Supporters at Saint Anselm College

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A morning rally held in the Thomas F. Sullivan Arena on the campus of Saint Anselm College featured all key Republican candidates for the upcoming election, headlined by Senator John McCain. [Read more...]

The Question the Vice-President Answers

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Dale Kuehne, Ph.D.

On Sunday I head to Denver to attend the Democratic National Convention, but if Obama picks his VP as expected on Saturday, the convention begins on Saturday. Hence it is time to begin blogging the convention.

Provided the Clinton's don't engineer an overthrow on the floor of the convention, Obama will be the first nominee of the Democratic Party to be elected via a coalition of elite progressives and African-Americans. Moreover, he will be the first nominee of the elite wing of the party since George McGovern.

So what plan does he have for avoiding the fate of McGovern (which in 2008 means not winning)?

By almost every historical reference point, the Democrats ought to win in November. Given the economy, the war, and Bush's approval rating, 2008 should be to the Democrats what 1980 was to the Republicans.

Accordingly, Obama ought to have a double-digit lead in the polls.

But he doesn't. Statistically it is a dead heat, even though Obama also has a huge advantage in money and received enormous publicity during his recent tour of Europe.

Why?

His problem may not lie with winning independents, but with winning the white working class voters that have been part of any winning Democratic Presidential coalition in recent history.

There is little statistical evidence to suggest he has made any headway in "closing the deal" with this heavily Catholic group ever since the media declared him the nominee.

This is a group that are loyal to Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Does he believe he can win this group without Hillary as the VP?

We will find out Saturday.

Dale Kuehne, Ph.D., is executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College.

Sen. Joe Biden Delivers Policy Address at Impact '08

Sen. Joe BidenIn this second podcast from the recent Impact '08 event held at the NHIOP, we feature a major policy address delivered by presidential candidate, and U.S. Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware. With an emphasis on the current situation in Pakistan, Senator Biden offers his remarks on U.S. foreign engagement, focusing on what he describes as "reengaging America in the world."

Impact '08 New Hampshire, presented by The Center for U.S. Global Engagement took place at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics on November 8, 2007. The forum, designed to foster a greater understanding about America's role in the world has been holding events in key early-election states to unite business, civic, faith-based and military leaders. The New Hampshire event featured remarks from presidential candidates Governor Bill Richardson (N.M.) and Senator Joseph Biden (DE).

Photo by Brian Wozniack