On the 'Constantly Changing' Political Environment

As Christian leaders go, I am casting my lot with the Rev. Rick Warren this week. The best-selling author of The Purpose-Driven Life and head of Saddleback, the 20,000-person megachurch in California, has managed to do what no one else yet has — get Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) together onstage before the fall debates. (Luke Russert, bless him, managed to bring McCain and Obama together at his dad's memorial service but hey, they didn't have to talk.)

In a forum titled "Compassion and Leadership" on Aug. 16, the candidates will address a key audience. McCain, of course, has struggled with evangelical voters who dreaded his nomination; Obama, whom Democrats originally hoped could attract such voters, is now supported by fewer of them than Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) was at this point in the 2004 race. Warren's event is a Saddleback Civil Forum, which sounds anything but hostile, and he promised to play nice. “Since I’m their friend, I’m not going to give them any ‘gotcha’ questions,” Mr. Warren said, adding that he would ask questions like “What’s the most difficult decision you’ve had to make, and how did you make it?"

Focus on the Family founder Dr. James Dobson, on the other hand, isn't calling anyone a friend. He not only wrote off McCain publicly more than a year ago, declaring "I would not vote for John McCain under any circumstances," but he recently went after Obama, accusing him of distorting the Bible and promoting a "fruitcake interpretation" of the Constitution.

News out now is that Dobson may just be endorsing McCain, much as it troubles him. "I never thought I would hear myself saying this," Dobson said Monday. "While I am not endorsing Sen. John McCain, the possibility is there that I might." He later added in an interview with The Associated Press: "There's nothing dishonorable in a person rethinking his or her positions, especially in a constantly changing political context … Barack Obama contradicts and threatens everything I believe about the institution of the family and what is best for the nation. His radical positions on life, marriage and national security force me to re-evaluate the candidacy of our only other choice, John McCain."

No word yet on what has changed in this "constantly changing political context," but should we guess that Hillary's nomination would have kept him from endorsing McCain? Dobson sure could work hard against Obama without endorsing McCain, but then again, that kind of thing wouldn't keep him in the news. Better to dangle a bitter and belated endorsement out there to make sure the media keeps checking back in.

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