Columns

Political Mercury

September 16, 2010
By Douglas Burns

 

Manatt wants Obama in church, Campbell King on stage

 

A former chairman of the Democratic National Committee says President Obama should start being more public about his family’s church attendance to puncture challenges to his Christian faith from political opponents.

“If we’re ever going to get rid of this issue about him being a Muslim, start going to church,” Charles Manatt said in an interview.

According to The Associated Press, a recent poll found that nearly one in five people, or 18 percent, said they thought Obama was Muslim, up from the 11 percent in March 2009. The proportion who correctly said he was Christian was 34 percent, down from 48 percent in March of last year. The poll, conducted by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center and its affiliated Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, surveyed 3,003 people, the AP reported.

If Obama were more visible with church attendance, “it would satisfy 80 percent of the people in the United States,” Manatt said.

Manatt grew up in Audubon and went on to substantial success in business and law in California and Washington, D.C. He served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 1981 to 1985.

Manatt said the recent challenges to Obama’s Christianity won’t have staying power.

“It’s a flash in a pan,” Manatt said. “If I were advising the president tomorrow, I’d say, ‘Start going to church.’ ”

He added, “He’s a Christian. They used to go to church in Chicago, and in D.C. he’s gone to St. John’s, the Episcopal Church right across the square from the White House. They’ve gone to church in Anacostia (Washington, D.C.)”

Overall, Manatt said, the state of the Democratic Party is solid.

“The question is of public issues,” Manatt said. “If people don’t think we should have had a stimulus bill and don’t think we should have a banking reform bill and don’t think we should have a health-care bill and don’t think we should have the recent stimulus to create enough money to keep the teachers and the police and the firemen working in the cities in which they are — then we’ve done everything we can.” …

Democratic congressional candidate Matt Campbell of Manning renewed his challenge to opponent U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, to debate in a formal, televised setting.

Campbell approached King at a town hall meeting and asked for a debate. During an event at Manatt’s Audubon farm, Campbell said that debates between major-party candidates for offices are central to representative government.

“It’s why competitions are held,” Campbell said. “It’s no different than why sons and daughters go out and play games and football games.”

“Matt is such a wonderfully competent and well-trained and vigorous candidate for Congress that if I were state chairman in Iowa, I’d be thrilled to have him running in this district,” Manatt said in an interview.

Campbell said King’s refusal to debate amounts to an “abuse of his office.”

At the town hall, King said flatly he would not debate in direct response to a question from Campbell on the matter.

Campbell said he sent a formal debate prospectus and certified letters to King’s campaign and Washington, D.C., congressional offices.

“I certainly think I can win this race, and there’s a good chance I will win this race,” Campbell said.

Campbell, 40, a Manning native with University of Iowa and Georgetown University law degrees and international tax experience, moved back to Iowa just before Christmas in 2009.

A self-described “Blue Dog” Democrat, Campbell said he is conservative on fiscal issues and progressive on social issues. He plans to make economic development in western Iowa his top priority.

“I bring, I think, a strong business background into the race,” Campbell said.

When asked directly how he would respond to suggestions that he’s a carpetbagger or political opportunist, having declared office only weeks after moving back to Iowa, Campbell said he has long-term plans to remain in western Iowa, regardless of the outcome of the Nov. 2 race.

“I’m a son of five generations of Iowa farmers,” Campbell said. “Where I live right now has been a family farm since 1880. Campbells have a long history here in Manning. I don’t think there’s anyone more Iowan than what I am.”

Campbell did not discuss potential career options should he lose.

“I’m not focused on losing right now,” Campbell said. “I think its red-hot on the ground right now.” CV

 

Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman who writes for The Carroll Daily Times Herald and offers columns for Cityview.

 


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