MATTHEWS: … But we kick off with today’s debate itself. Matt Continetti writes for “The Weekly Standard.” Rachel Maddow’s a radio talk show host for Air America. Rachel, you go first. I know you’re on the political left. Who won on the right today?
RACHEL MADDOW, AIR AMERICA RADIO: Alan Keyes. Alan Keyes was the star of this debate today, unexpectedly. He took over. A lot of the pundits are trying to ignore him and pretend like he wasn’t there. But he was like the-he was the uninvited guest at the party who stole the show.
MATTHEWS: You are causing trouble here because you don’t…
MATTHEWS: I would like to put you-I would like to waterboard you right now because there’s no way on God’s earth you believe it! Let’s go to Matt for straight answer. Who won today?
More bullying below-
MATTHEWS: I guess the question there is, there’s the good-sounding Huckabee, and then we read in “The New York Times” article the bad-sounding guy who’s certainly bearing false witness against his Mormon neighbor, if you believe the Mormon church.
MADDOW: Well, it’s two sides of the same coin, as far as I can tell. And the real substantive story here is that almost all of the Republican candidates have argued against the separation of church and state, have argued for it to be less, have argued that it’s been overdone, that there ought to be more religion in the public sphere and that candidates’ religion ought not to be just seen as a private matter, which is what Kennedy argued in 1960.
Once you cross that line, one you say that religion ought to be a public matter, yes, you’re going to get ugly attacks on one another’s religions, particularly if you’ve got minority religion candidates in the race. This is what-this is what American politics look like if you get rid of the separation of church and state. I feel like this is a civics lesson for all of us.
MATTHEWS: OK. Matt-I guess we’ve never really had full separation because the Civil Rights movement was led by ministers, wasn’t it.
CONTINETTI: Well, the Republican Party…
MADDOW: But that’s…
MADDOW: … from this White House.
CONTINETTI: … seems to be arguing not against separation of church and state, Chris. They’re arguing against the advancement of secularism, as Romney put it. Some secularists, to his mind, almost want to establish a new religion. And so that’s what the candidates are arguing against. This is a party in which religious faith is very important, and Huckabee has been able to exploit his-his the fact that he’s an ordained Baptist minister to appeal to these constituencies. He speaks their language much the same way that Governor George W. Bush spoke the language of Christian conservatives back in 1999 and 2000.
MADDOW: Making the…
MATTHEWS: Do you think we should take…
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Rachel, now that we’ve raised this issue, just to show there’s two sides to this debate. Do you think we should take “In God we trust” off of our currency?
MADDOW: I think that there’s no great harm that it’s doing since it’s already been there. I think if we were starting to advocate on it-if we were starting the debate on it right now, I would not argue for that being instituted now. I think we should accept it as tradition because I don’t think it’s doing any harm, but I think there’s…
MATTHEWS: How about “One nation under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance? Would you get rid of that?
MADDOW: Again, I’m not going to go out of my way to drop these things that already exists. But if we were arguing about it now, I’d say we do more of a favor to religion and religious freedom in this country to not have mentions of God in our public…
MATTHEWS: Should we fire…
MATTHEWS: Should we fire the Senate chaplain and House chaplain in the Congress? Fire them, get rid of them. Why pay a salary to somebody who’s a religious person in the Congress of the United States. We pay for two of them. Why should we do it?
MADDOW: I’m not arguing for getting rid of traditions that we have inherited. I’m not arguing that we ought to have more of them starting now. I don’t-listen, I think this is the wrong way to approach the debate because I don’t think there really is a war of secularists on the United States. And if Mitt Romney says he’s going to defend us against the encroaching battalions of secularism, I think he’s going to be laughed off the political stage. I don’t think that’s a credible…
CONTINETTI: The fact is, Chris, there are people who want to do all the things that you mentioned. So Rachel may not want to do them, but there are parties, special interests in America who do want to achieve these goals. And so the Republican Party has found itself in the position of having to defend public expressions of religion that aren’t overtly sectarian, for example, and don’t to the…
CONTINETTI: … to any commonsensical view, don’t erode the separation of church and state. So Rachel may not want to do them, but there are people who do. And so Romney’s going to fight those guys.
MADDOW: If that’s all they were fighting for, then there wouldn’t be controversy about Mitt Romney saying, for example, that he wouldn’t put a Muslim in his cabinet. There wouldn’t be controversy about the Republican candidates calling America a Christian nation. That’s the kinds of issues that are substantively what we’re fighting about. Whether or not “In God we trust”…
MATTHEWS: Who did that? Who did that?
MADDOW: … is on the money is a side issue.
MATTHEWS: Rachel, who said we’re a Christian nation?
MADDOW: Almost every Republican candidate has made that claim at one point or another. I mean, Romney’s argument centrally in his big speech on religion was that “Freedom requires religion,” and that…
MATTHEWS: Did he say we’re a Christian nation? I think you’re wrong.
MADDOW: He didn’t say we’re a Christian nation in that speech…
MATTHEWS: Did anybody say that? Did anybody say we’re a Christian nation in this whole campaign?
MADDOW: In this campaign-that’s a mainstream claim by Republican politicians. I can’t believe…
MATTHEWS: No, I’m just asking…
MATTHEWS: You said-you just said that they say this. I want you to give an example of one who did.
MATTHEWS: Name one Republican in this race for president who’s called this a Christian nation.
CONTINETTI: I’ll give an example. John McCain said we have Judeo-Christian heritage…
MADDOW: But that’s different.
CONTINETTI: … which is different, absolutely, from what-the kind of thing that Rachel is saying. It’s a different idea to express American heritage…
John McCain- ‘Christian Nation’
“I would probably have to say yes, that the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation.”
Now this would have been a kick ass diary at dK, has Reclist written all over it because we ♥ us some Rachel and hate us some Tweety except that’s where my poor research skills leave me.
The above cite (which if you read the link proves both Maddow and Continetti were right), is the #1 google hit on |John McCain “Christian Nation”|. I have no idea about BeliefNet and whether it’s a credible source, I just included it because it has both transcript and video.
Mike Huckabee is frequently mentioned as another Republican frontrunner who has said the United States was founded as a ‘Christian Nation’, most of the top google hits refer to a speech at the Salt Lake City Southern Baptist Convention.
Unfortunately for my argument, the quotes they give don’t exactly contain ‘Christian Nation’ (though the meaning is quite clear) and there aren’t any links to newspapers or transcripts.
It’s really about Representative Steve King’s (R-IA) stupid Christmas bill.
GOP Rep Declares US a Christian Nation, Calls on Americans to “Stand Up” and “Worship Christ”
Posted by Satyam Khanna, Think Progress
at 2:09 PM on December 12, 2007.
Oh, and why did Rachel think Alan Keyes won the debate?
MATTHEWS: … did decide to put him (Keyes) in there. I guess, Rachel, you got him in there.
MADDOW: I think that-listen, you know, if I could have, I would have, but I didn’t have to. What was important today about Alan Keyes is that Alan Keyes sounds really crazy when he opens his mouth. He’s angry. He’s eloquent, but he does sound crazy. But some of the stuff that he was arguing for today, like when he talked about the fact that we have a “national creed,” he sounded nuts. But it’s not that different than what Romney has made the case for in his supposedly sober-sounding, sane-sounding case that we ought to not treat religion as a private matter in American politics anymore. He was an actual truth-teller today in Republican politics.