Above my pay grade

When Rick Warren asked Barack Obama when a baby is entitled to human rights (a very well-crafted question, for which I give Rev. Warren credit), the presidential candidate said that the answer was “above my pay grade.” That answer–flippant, condescending, and disingenuous–irritates me greatly.

Obama is running for the highest office in the land, so the figure of speech is especially inept. So he doesn’t have an opinion on the matter? He certainly has other opinions that he wants us to accept. He has made plenty of votes on abortion that suggest he has views on the subject. At any rate, if you don’t know when life begins, doesn’t that mean that you need to safeguard the fetus at all stages just to be safe? The fact is, there is no real uncertainty among scientific experts, who recognize the unbroken continuum from conception through childhood. The only arguments that a fetus is not a baby hinge on unverifiable philosophical assertions (such as, a fetus becomes a child only when the mother wants it).

I hope someone asks Obama what other issues are above his pay grade, that he will not venture an opinion about, preferring to defer to experts. War? The economy? More deference to people with more knowledge and experience on various issues would indeed show humility and a willingness to learn. But I don’t see him actually doing that when it comes to abortion.

Can any of you Obama supporters defend that “above my pay grade” response?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://www.brbible.org Rich Shipe

    Yes, a very well worded question from Rick Warren. That wording gets to the heart of the issue and everyone who arrives at an opinion on abortion must first answer that question.

    Also, on the Obama as messiah meme…

    His “above my pay grade” comment made me think of Mark 13:32 where Christ says:

    “…no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”

    Except Christ here is talking about his future return. But still, who exactly is above Obama’s pay grade? Actually he made it clear later in his answer that he has decided when a person gets human rights and it is NOT before delivery… And maybe several hours after delivery depending on whether the child is wanted based on his votes in the IL Senate on Born Alive legislation.

  • http://www.brbible.org Rich Shipe

    Yes, a very well worded question from Rick Warren. That wording gets to the heart of the issue and everyone who arrives at an opinion on abortion must first answer that question.

    Also, on the Obama as messiah meme…

    His “above my pay grade” comment made me think of Mark 13:32 where Christ says:

    “…no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”

    Except Christ here is talking about his future return. But still, who exactly is above Obama’s pay grade? Actually he made it clear later in his answer that he has decided when a person gets human rights and it is NOT before delivery… And maybe several hours after delivery depending on whether the child is wanted based on his votes in the IL Senate on Born Alive legislation.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    “Can any of you Obama supporters defend that ‘above my pay grade’ response?”

    No, it was pathetic, a dodge.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    “Can any of you Obama supporters defend that ‘above my pay grade’ response?”

    No, it was pathetic, a dodge.

  • http://missionarybroadcasting.com Chris

    Good column Bro. Veith. This is a theme for the Obama campaign…when asked a difficult question Sen. Obama chooses to punt. There are usually two reasons for wiggling out of a question and both are negative; lack of knowledge or lack of principle. Obama struggles with both. This (the habit, not just these comments) is going to hurt him on the campaign trail.

    New kind of politician? Maybe. The kind who doesn’t know very much and is afraid to comment on what he does know. Change “you can believe” will be a failure.

  • http://missionarybroadcasting.com Chris

    Good column Bro. Veith. This is a theme for the Obama campaign…when asked a difficult question Sen. Obama chooses to punt. There are usually two reasons for wiggling out of a question and both are negative; lack of knowledge or lack of principle. Obama struggles with both. This (the habit, not just these comments) is going to hurt him on the campaign trail.

    New kind of politician? Maybe. The kind who doesn’t know very much and is afraid to comment on what he does know. Change “you can believe” will be a failure.

  • Manxman

    From Lawrence Auster’s View from the Right site -

    When I said that Obama’s comment that the beginning of human life was “above my pay grade” was thoughtless, I was missing something. He had to say something along those lines. Since the real meaning of his absolutist pro-abortion position is that there is no point prior to birth when the fetus deserves to live, period, and since he couldn’t afford to state such a shocking idea openly, he was required to act as though the subject was simply beyond his understanding. Yes, his answer made him sound thoughtless and unserious; but that was better than sounding evil.

  • Manxman

    From Lawrence Auster’s View from the Right site -

    When I said that Obama’s comment that the beginning of human life was “above my pay grade” was thoughtless, I was missing something. He had to say something along those lines. Since the real meaning of his absolutist pro-abortion position is that there is no point prior to birth when the fetus deserves to live, period, and since he couldn’t afford to state such a shocking idea openly, he was required to act as though the subject was simply beyond his understanding. Yes, his answer made him sound thoughtless and unserious; but that was better than sounding evil.

  • http://www.rebelliouspastorswife.blogspot.com Rebellious Pastor’s Wife

    So is he basically saying that the rich dictate morality?

    He certainly makes more than my pastor husband…and I don’t make a thing, so I can’t judge right from wrong at all.

    If judging right from wrong is above his pay grade, what is he doing in politics — making laws and determining what is right and what is wrong?

    I believe Aristotle said the application of morality to the individual is ethics. The application of morality to a group of people is politics. (paraphrase)

  • http://www.rebelliouspastorswife.blogspot.com Rebellious Pastor’s Wife

    So is he basically saying that the rich dictate morality?

    He certainly makes more than my pastor husband…and I don’t make a thing, so I can’t judge right from wrong at all.

    If judging right from wrong is above his pay grade, what is he doing in politics — making laws and determining what is right and what is wrong?

    I believe Aristotle said the application of morality to the individual is ethics. The application of morality to a group of people is politics. (paraphrase)

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    RPW (@5), “is he basically saying that the rich dictate morality?” No. He’s saying that someone with more authority than he on the topic should make that decision, though it’s not clear if he’s referring to, say, a biologist or God. In other words, “Hey, I’m just a politician — who am I to say?” Either way, he’s dodging the question.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    RPW (@5), “is he basically saying that the rich dictate morality?” No. He’s saying that someone with more authority than he on the topic should make that decision, though it’s not clear if he’s referring to, say, a biologist or God. In other words, “Hey, I’m just a politician — who am I to say?” Either way, he’s dodging the question.

  • Anon

    I would take it that he was confessing that he was not qualified for the presidency, which involves nominating judges.

  • Anon

    I would take it that he was confessing that he was not qualified for the presidency, which involves nominating judges.

  • Daniel Gorman

    Putting the best construction on Sen. Obama’s “above my pay grade” comment, I believe he is saying that God has not revealed (to him) the time of ensoulment of human beings. His votes reflect an unwillingness to go beyond his understanding of scripture and the constitution in protecting the unborn. Although I disagree with Sen. Obama, his votes are consistent with his publicly stated Christian doctrine.

    On the other hand, Sen McCain says that the unborn are entitled to human rights but he votes to have the federal government pay for their murders. Sen. McCain Christian doctrine is inconsistent with his voting record.

  • Daniel Gorman

    Putting the best construction on Sen. Obama’s “above my pay grade” comment, I believe he is saying that God has not revealed (to him) the time of ensoulment of human beings. His votes reflect an unwillingness to go beyond his understanding of scripture and the constitution in protecting the unborn. Although I disagree with Sen. Obama, his votes are consistent with his publicly stated Christian doctrine.

    On the other hand, Sen McCain says that the unborn are entitled to human rights but he votes to have the federal government pay for their murders. Sen. McCain Christian doctrine is inconsistent with his voting record.

  • Rose

    Charlie Sykes (WTMJ, Milwaukee) played an unbelievable audio of Obama this morning. On tape, Obama explains his “No” vote on the Born Alive bill in Illinois.
    Obama:
    “And that essentially adding an additional doctor (pediatrician?) who then has to be called in on an emergency situation to come in and make these assessments is really designed simply to burden the original decision of the woman and the physician to induce labor and perform an abortion.”
    Charlie observed that Jill Stanek didn’t believe it was “above her pay grade” as a nurse to comfort the newborn she found in the soiled utility room. She spent 45 minutes rocking it to death.

  • Rose

    Charlie Sykes (WTMJ, Milwaukee) played an unbelievable audio of Obama this morning. On tape, Obama explains his “No” vote on the Born Alive bill in Illinois.
    Obama:
    “And that essentially adding an additional doctor (pediatrician?) who then has to be called in on an emergency situation to come in and make these assessments is really designed simply to burden the original decision of the woman and the physician to induce labor and perform an abortion.”
    Charlie observed that Jill Stanek didn’t believe it was “above her pay grade” as a nurse to comfort the newborn she found in the soiled utility room. She spent 45 minutes rocking it to death.

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