Barack Obama

Priorities of the First Presidential Debate: Q & A with Marianne Williamson

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Monitors are tested during preparations for the Presidential Debate on October 3. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Editor's Note: Tweet @newshour to ask the candidates to #TalkPoverty in Wednesday's debate.

Marianne Williamson, a bestselling author and convener of the upcoming Sister Giant conference on women and politics, has called on President Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney to address “a meaningful array of topics” – including poverty, money in politics and incarceration rates in the U.S. – tonight during the first presidential debate. 

Williamson talked to us earlier today about these issues, which are particularly pressing for Christians who take Matthew 25 seriously.

The interview was edited for length and content.

Q: What are you doing to get these issues out there?

A: Having a voice and creating your own platform is not all that difficult with today’s technology. I think what’s happening now is that, firstly, people are realizing that. Secondly, people are realizing that there are certain things that need to be said that simply are not being said as loudly as other things being said. When it comes to a politics of conscience, why wouldn’t we expect that during the debates there would be a conversation about the 23.1 percent of America’s children living in poverty, or the 34 percent of poor children, or the 46 million Americans living in poverty?

Why Our Presidential Candidates Need a Manicure

Manicure, Galina Mikhalishina /

Manicure, Galina Mikhalishina /

I was groomed in a Latino home where nail salons were viewed as rites of passage for becoming a senorita — growing young lady. Sometimes when I’m looking for some TLC, I head to my local nail salon in East Harlem. I could go to a more upscale salon, but here at Pretty Nail Salon, is where I want to be — connected to a neighborhood of ladies who have utilized storefront nail salons, beauty parlors, and hair-braiding places as makeshift therapeutic spaces where counsel and support is just as paramount to looking beautiful.

I have also discovered that nail salons are burgeoning places of policy concerns. Pretty Nail Salon has provided me with an informal education on how social policy affects the everyday day lives of working class folks. Our presidential candidates could also benefit from an appointment at Pretty Nail Salon, to listen to the local narratives and deepen their understanding of how social policy is affecting the lives of the urban poor and working class. 

White Working Class Voters Still Looking for a Candidate, Still Religious

The white working class, a potentially rich bloc of voters for Republicans or Democrats, hasn’t settled on Mitt Romney or President Barack Obama, a new study from the Public Religion Research Institute shows.

“These white working class voters are not particularly enamored of either candidate,” said Daniel Cox, PRRI’s research director. “In terms of their favorability, they’re both under 50 percent.” Forty-four percent look favorably upon Obama and 45 percent upon Romney.

Released seven weeks before the election, the August survey found Romney with a double-digit lead over Obama among the white working class, which preferred the GOP candidate 48 to 35 percent.

But Cox points out that the gap narrows to statistical insignificance among women voters in this group, and in the Midwest and West, home of several swing states. The upshot for Romney and Obama?

If they want to woo this group, which makes up 36 percent of the nation according to the study, the campaigns may want to consider other findings of the PRRI poll.

We Asked; They Answered: Obama, Romney on Poverty

Brandon Hook / Sojourners

Circle of Protection releases presidential candidate videos. Brandon Hook / Sojourners

As the faith leaders said yesterday, we have no choice but to respond when we learn that so many of our brothers and sisters are living in poverty. It makes these presidential candidate videos ones that every Christian should watch before they vote.

We asked the candidates, what will you do to address the highest numbers of people in poverty in America in almost 50 years—numbers that we learned today are still growing? We believe these messages from the Presidential candidates should lift the issues of poverty into the national debate into this election season.

We invite members of the press to watch these videos and to question these candidates even further about their visions and policy choices for overcoming poverty. The poverty numbers that came out yesterday require responsible journalists to make the question of poverty an important part of this election year discussion. 

A Season of Civility in Response to Campaign Incivility

photo   © 2012   DonkeyHotey , Flickr /

photo © 2012 DonkeyHotey , Flickr /

"In a democracy, the people get the government they deserve." – Alexis de Tocqueville

With the Democratic and Republican national conventions behind us, and an increase of political campaigning in front of us, we recognize the timeliness of the above quotation from Alexis de Tocquville. In a democracy the citizens choose their government, thus we indeed receive the government we deserve. As Lisa Sharon Harper recently stated:

"In its purest form, politics is simply how we organize our life together in society…in a Democratic Republic like our own, the [people are] ultimately responsible for the policies, laws, and structures that guide daily life. As we vote for candidates and ballot measures, we shape our society."

With such thoughts in mind, we affirm the collective ability to “shape our society," but we do so not only through the ability to choose our candidates and pass ballot measures, but we also possess the capacity to shape the process of how our leaders and policies are selected. In other words, while many complain about the high quantity and low quality of political campaigns, we are confronted with a harsh reality: In a democracy, we get the political campaigns we deserve. 

The Politics of Poverty

Save America photo, Andrew Rich / Getty Images

Save America photo, Andrew Rich / Getty Images

I’ll be honest … I’m a coward. During the political season I find myself avoiding certain conversations that I do care about. Mind you, I do have opinions. My wife would say I have an opinion on everything. Faith and social issues are extremely important to me, and I have spent a lot of years studying and following the trends and their impact on people I care a lot about. I am especially focused on issues that affect the poor, mentally ill, unemployed, addicted, and homeless. Topics of Medicare, unemployment benefits, the death penalty, gun control, abortion, gay marriage, state and federal budget and deficits, immigration, and foreign policy all matter to me. I do have opinions! (And I vote!)

Yet during the final months of America’s presidential street fight, I tend to lay low. I know that one simple conversation with almost anyone can turn volatile and unleash the beast within them. If educated congressmen, presidential candidates, governors, and even local representatives can be as nasty and polarized as they have publicly shown, there is little reason to honestly discuss an issue, since the potential for alienation and misrepresentation is at an all-time high. No one seems to be listening, having crystallized their presuppositions with a crafty skill of spinning any topic into their agenda. Ironically, our children are watching adult leaders model behavior we wouldn’t let them get away with. 

Cardinal Timothy Dolan Asks Candidates to Sign Civility Pledge

Photo: Cardinal Timothy Dolan: lev radin /

Photo: Cardinal Timothy Dolan: lev radin /

NEW YORK — Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who sparked controversy by agreeing to deliver the closing blessing at the Republican convention in Tampa this week, on Monday drew further attention to his political role by asking both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama to sign a “civility pledge” promoted by a leading conservative Catholic activist.

The archbishop of New York wrote to Romney and Obama, as well as their running mates, Paul Ryan and Joe Biden, asking them to sign the “Civility in America” pledge developed by Carl Anderson, head of the powerful Knights of Columbus and a man with long-standing ties to the Republican Party.

Mitt Romney Ad Says President Obama Launched ‘War on Religion’

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney accused Democratic President Barack Obama of launching a “war on religion” in a television ad released on Aug. 9.

“President Obama used his health care plan to declare war on religion, forcing religious institutions to go against their faith,” the ad’s announcer states.

The ad pans to a shot of Romney on his recent visit to Poland saying, "In 1979, a son of Poland, Pope John Paul II, spoke words that would bring down an empire. Be not afraid."

It concludes, “When religious freedom is threatened, who do you want to stand with?”

New $6.5 Million GOP Campaign Targets Jewish Voters

Republican Jewish Coalition, screenshot via website

Republican Jewish Coalition, screenshot via website

Michael Goldstein voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and supports gay marriage and an assault weapons ban. Before moving to New Jersey 11 years ago to raise a family, the Brooklyn native fit right in with other lifelong Democrats in Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

But Goldstein now says he has buyer’s remorse. And last week the 48-year-old East Brunswick man became the face and voice of a national campaign aimed at converting fellow Jews who voted for Obama four years ago into supporters of Republican Mitt Romney.

In a video on the Republican Jewish Coalition website, Goldstein talks about his disappointment in Obama’s handling of the economy and U.S. relations with Israel.

“I was a big Obama supporter. I really believed in him and believed in what he stood for,” Goldstein says in the video. But, he continues, “when he gave the speech about the ’67 borders, it was nothing that had come up in his campaign originally. That really changed my mind about him.” 

Black Churches Conflicted on Obama’s Gay Marriage Decision

RNS photo by Mary Godleski

Members of Mount Airy Church of God in Christ in Philadelphia take part in a service. RNS photo by Mary Godleski

The pulpits of the nation's black churches took measure Sunday (May 13) of President Obama's decision to support gay marriage, and the result was conflicted.

Some churches were silent on the issue. At others, pastors spoke against the president's decision Wednesday — but kindly of the man himself. A few blasted the president and his decision. A minority spoke in favor of the decision and expressed understanding of the president's change of heart.

Bishop Timothy Clarke, head of the First Church of God, a large African-American church with a television ministry in Columbus, Ohio, was perhaps most typical. He felt compelled to address the president's comments at a Wednesday evening service and again Sunday morning. He was responding to an outpouring of calls, emails and text messages from members of his congregation after the president's remarks.