Pray Tell

I flippin' love this clip (care of Petulant, natch; transcript below) from yesterday's Dem debate in Iowa. First of all, I just love the question: "My question is to understand each candidate's view of a personal God. Do they believe that, through the power of prayer, disasters like Hurricane Katrina or the Minnesota bridge collapse could have been prevented or lessened?" What a brilliant query! I almost can't imagine a finer question to help us choose our next president. I mean, sure—the candidates' positions on, say, getting our troops the fuck out of Iraq are pretty important, but even more important is whether prayer can offset the inevitable fucktastrophes of our underfunded, disregarded, and crumbling infrastructure. Fucking genius!

I also really love how Mike Gravel and Barack Obama were the only ones to pick up on the fact that asking a question about failed levees and a bridge collapse isn't asking about the will of God but about competent fucking governance. Yeesh.

But most of all, I love how this video totally proves all those rightwing paranoid fantasists right: The Democratic Party truly is the soil in which germinates the seeds of radical secularism and godlessness.

* * *

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me move on now. We've got a question -- we've got an e-mail question from Seth Ford of South Jordan, Utah. And he said, "My question is to understand each candidates' view of a personal God. Do they believe that, through the power of prayer, disasters like Hurricane Katrina or the Minnesota bridge collapse could have been prevented or lessened?" I'd like each of you to answer it. Let me start with you, Senator Clinton.

…CLINTON: Well, I don't pretend to understand the wisdom and the power of God. I do believe in prayer. And I have relied on prayer consistently throughout my life. You know, I like to say that, if I had not been a praying person before I got to the White House, after having been there for just a few days I would've become one. (LAUGHTER) So I am very dependent on my faith, and prayer is a big part of that.


DODD: I agree with what Hillary has just said here. I would not want to try and second-guess the lord's intentions here and to assume that part of his great plan includes some of these actions we see, for a variety of different reasons, here. And the power of prayer I think is important to all of us. I hope it is, recognizing that we don't do anything without His approval.

EDWARDS: I have prayed most of my life; pray daily now. He's enormously important to me. But the answer to the question is: No, I don't -- I prayed before my 16-year-old son died; I prayed before Elizabeth was diagnosed with cancer. I think there are some things that are beyond our control. And I think it is enormously important to look to God -- and, in my case, Christ -- for guidance and for wisdom. But I don't think you can prevent bad things from happening through prayer.

GRAVEL: What I believe in is love. And love implements courage. And courage permits us all to apply the virtues that are important in life. And so you can pray -- I was always persuaded or struck by the fact that many people who pray are the ones who want to go to war, who want to kill fellow human beings. That disturbs me. I think what we need is more love between one human being and another human being. And then we'll find the courage to dispel many of the problems we have in governance. The answer to governance is not up here on the dais. The answer is with the American people and the people of Iowa. That's where the answer is. And I have a proposal, and it's the only one that talks of change. The change is to empower the American people with a national initiative. And my colleagues, with all due respect, don't even understand the principle of the people having the power. (APPLAUSE)

RICHARDSON: I pray. I'm a Roman Catholic. My sense of social justice, I believe, comes from being a Roman Catholic. But, in my judgment, prayer is personal. And how I pray and how any American prays, for what reason, is their own decision. And it should be respected. And so, in my view, I think it's important that we have faith, that we have values, but if I'm president, I'm not going to wear my religion on my sleeve and impose it on anybody.

BIDEN: George, my mom has an expression. She says that, "God sends no cross you're unable to bear." The time to pray is to pray whether or not you're told, as John was and I was, that my wife and daughter are dead, to have the courage to be able to bear the cross. The time to pray is to pray not only before, but pray that you have the courage, pray that God can give you the strength to deal with what everyone is faced with in their life, serious crosses, serious crosses to bear. The answer to the gentleman's question is, no, all the prayer in the world will not stop a hurricane. But prayer will give you the courage to be able to respond to the devastation that's caused in your life and with others to deal with the devastation.

OBAMA: I believe in the power of prayer. And part of what I believe in is that, through prayer, not only can we strengthen ourselves in adversity, but that we can also find the empathy and the compassion and the will to deal with the problems that we do control. Most of the issues that we're debating here today are ones that we have the power to change. We don't have the power to prevent illness in all cases, but we do have the power to make sure that every child gets a regular checkup and isn't going to the emergency room for treatable illnesses like asthma. We may not have the power to prevent a hurricane, but we do have the power to make sure that the levees are properly reinforced and we've got a sound emergency plan. And so, part of what I pray for is the strength and the wisdom to be able to act on those things that I can control. And that's what I think has been lacking sometimes in our government. We've got to express those values through our government, not just through our religious institutions. (APPLAUSE)

KUCINICH: George, I've been standing here for the last 45 minutes praying to God you were going to call on me. And my... (LAUGHTER) (APPLAUSE) And I come from a spiritual insight which says that...

STEPHANOPOULOS: You have a direct pipeline, Congressman. (LAUGHTER)

KUCINICH: I come from a spiritual insight which says that we have to have faith but also have good works. So when we think of the scriptures, Isaiah making justice the measuring line; Matthew 25, "whatever you do for the least of our brethren"; where the biblical injunction, "make peace with your brother" -- all of these things relate to my philosophy. Now, the founders meant to have separation of church and state, but they never meant America to be separate from spiritual values. As president, I'll bring strong spiritual values into the White House, and I'll bring values that value peace, social and economic justice, values that remember where I came from. Thank you. (APPLAUSE)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you, Congressman.

[Full transcript here.]

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