From Sunlen Miller:
While calling for more civility in politics, President Obama today likened Washington to the “Tower of Babel” – a place where sometimes the sound of God’s voice is lost.
“There is a sense that something is different now, that something’s broken, that those of us in Washington are not serving the people as well as we should. At times it seems like we’re unable to listen to one another, to have at once a serious and civil debate.”
Speaking at the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. the president said this “erosion of civility” sows division and distrust.
“It poisons the well of public opinion. It leaves each side little room to negotiate with the other. It makes politics an all-or-nothing sport where one side is either always right or always wrong, when, in reality, neither side has a monopoly on truth.”
Before a packed ballroom Obama said that the city needs to find their way back toward civility and he cautioned that this in many cases begins with stepping outside comfort zones to bridge divisions.
“Stretching out of our dogmas, our prescribed roles along the political spectrum that can help us regain a sense of civility,” Obama said giving examples, “We see that in many conservative pastors who are helping lead the way to fix our broken immigration. It’s not what would be expected from them, and yet they recognize in those immigrant families the face of God. We see it in the increasing recognition among progressives that government can’t solve all of our problems talking about values like responsible fatherhood and healthy marriage is integral to any anti-poverty agenda.”
Mr. Obama said many in the room disagree over gay marriage – but they can all agree “that it is unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are, whether it’s here in the United States or….more extremely in odious laws that are being proposed most recently in Uganda.”
The president said that progress does not come when we “demonize opponents,” or challenge each other’s motives.
“Surely you can question my policies without questioning my faith or, for that matter, my citizenship,” the president said to laughter in the room, a not-so-subtle joke at the birther movement.
The president said that rightly or wrongly most people are inclined to lean on faith in times of need – and mentioned the tragedy of Haiti’s earthquake.
“God’s mercy seemed far away from our neighbors in Haiti. And yet I believe that grace was not absent in the midst of tragedy. It was heard in prayers and hymns that broke the silence of an earthquake’s wake. It was witnessed among parishioners of churches that stood no more, a roadside congregation holding Bibles in their laps. It was felt in the presence of relief workers and medics, translators, servicemen and -women bringing food and water and aid to the injured.”
Mr. Obama said that as a man and as the president he lets faith guide him and inform him.
“I assure you, I’m praying a lot these days.”
The First Lady joined the president for his remarks – as well as Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Clinton, Sens. Orrin Hatch, Ron Wyden, Johnny Isakson and Amy Klobuchar; Rep. Charlie Wilson, Todd Akin, and Tim Tebow at the head table.