Cuss words, James Dobson, John McCain, and Dubya

And while I’m directing traffic to Peter Chattaway‘s blog…

…let me hand the microphone to him again. Chattaway links to a story about why James Dobson won’t vote for John McCain. Why? Well, there are several reasons related to policy, but there’s also one that might surprise you. (Or it might not.) Apparently the ex-Navy man has been known to use a cuss word now and then.

Chattaway links to The Atlantic‘s Ross Douthat, who offers the obvious response to that point (although I’m glad Chattaway linked to his own previous post on “flowery language” as well).

P.S. To those posting comments…

Clarification: I am not saying this is the only reason Dobson objects to McCain. I never did.

Yes, yes, I know… it’s one of Dobson’s observations, not the whole statement. I have no interest in a discussion of McCain’s politics or policies here. Rather, I’m just amazed, once again, at how easily and violently offended Christians can be by someone who uses “salty language,” whether in the real world or in entertainment. It was that point that made me chuckle, so it’s the point I’m commenting on. And I’m not interested in allowing the comments-thread here to turn into a debate about McCain as a politician.

I’m always amazed at how many prominent Christian voices in the media insist on making such a big deal out of a little “salty language,” especially considering that there are times and places for “salty languge” (as the Apostle Paul knew). Occasions of blunt references to excrement in the New Testament have been “airbrushed” in our current translations… and that’s just for starters. Should we withdraw our support for the Apostle Paul?

And it doesn’t make sense to me that Dobson would object so strongly to this in McCain when the very Dubya/Cheney ticket Dobson has celebrated so publicly has become well-known for dropping F-bombs and even flipping middle-fingers to the camera.

And again — just as my previous post about Obama was not to be taken as a vote for Obama, so this post in defense of McCain’s apparent offenses should not be taken as a vote for McCain.

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  • dtitus

    There are some problems with Dobson’s other concerns about McCain as well. For anyone who’s interested, you can check it out here.

  • epaddon

    I think it is only fair to point out that Douthat’s piece does not quote the entire statement Dobson made, which was on Laura Ingraham’s radio show. It takes the bottom part of the first of a three paragraph statement that when read in whole, makes it abundantly clear that Dobson is not using cuss lanugage for either “starters” or as a “punchline”, and is also not the “final point” he makes. Dobson’s statement went on for an additional two paragraphs after that, where language and cussing wasn’t even mentioned again, but only the general point about the deficiencies of McCain as a conservative.

  • mrmando

    JO: “a prominent Christian voice in the media is making a big deal out of bad language when there are far more important issues to discuss.”

    But Dobson did mention other, more important issues, and he mentioned them before talking about cussing. The comment about McCain’s language does receive some emphasis because it’s at the end of a list at the end of a paragraph, yes, but I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that such emphasis was unintentional on Dobson’s part.

    The problem with mentioning cussing isn’t that there are more important things to discuss, but, as PTC observed, Dobson publicly backs a president and vice president who are known to drop F-bombs once in a while.

    BTW, Abraham Lincoln, the most eloquent politician in the history of the Republican Party, was known to tell salty, off-color jokes to his cabinet…

    EP: “(4) a weak policy on illegal immigration. That was the focus of what Dobson talked about…”

    Dobson did address the first three points you mention (a bit more succinctly than you did), but he didn’t say boo about illegal immigration. Seems you’re as guilty of misrepresenting Dobson as anyone else is.

  • petertchattaway

    I’ve never thought a political leader should be picked based on what it was like to “work under” them. I’ve always thought they should be picked based on what sort of results they get — both at home and abroad.

    It’s kind of like how I choose my favorite movies based on what’s up on the screen, and not based on the rumours I hear about the director’s on-set behaviour.

    James Cameron reportedy loses his temper a lot — and the set of Aliens was reportedly filled with clashing temperaments — but I still think that that film is the best of the series, and one of the best sci-fi films ever, period.

    In the world of politics, it hasn’t necessarily bothered me when I hear that an American president tends to tell people what they hear, etc. That could be a valuable asset in foreign relations, for example. The trick is to make sure they’re not snowing the people at home the same way they’re snowing the people overseas.

    Anger management would be an issue only if it affected McCain’s (or any other nominee’s) relationship with foreign heads of state and state governors, etc. But if the only people who had to face his wrath were those on the White House staff, I can’t say it would matter to me at all.

    So… to take this back to the “cussing” issue… it’s kind of like how it doesn’t matter to me one way or the other if a politician uses four-letter words when meeting with his staff, but it would matter to me if the politician began peppering his speeches with salty language.

  • For the record, I completely agree that it was silly to include it, and to give it the position of prominence at the end of the list. Mostly because it gives people an “out” to ignore the rest of his concerns.

    For example, is it true that McCain often loses his temper? I know that’s part of the media spin about him, but I don’t really know whether it’s true, and I do think it is terribly relevant in choosing a chief executive.

    I’ve worked under bosses (and observed corporate CEOs) who let their temper get the better of them, and on the whole I’d much rather work for somebody who thinks before he speaks, and then lays out his thinking in clear, calm, polite terms.

    The “everybody swears and loses their temper” argument doesn’t really get me very far in assessing whether McCain is capable of doing this job he’s applying for.


  • epaddon

    The implication conveyed in saying Dobson is against McCain “for starters” because he’s been known to curse, is that somehow this is the #1 hang-up Dobson has McCain. A more thorough reading of why Dobson, not to mention many other leading conservative activists have problems with him, would take note of the substantive reasons: (1) McCain-Feingold and its limiting effect on freedom of speech in campaigns (2) McCain’s constant habit of currying favor with political Left while saving his harshest comments for conservatives (3) McCain’s role in caving in to illegal Democrat filibusters on judicial nominees and his association with Warren Rudman, the man responsible for getting President Bush I to nominate David Souter to the Supreme Court, thus rendering hollow his commitment to allegedly be willing to appoint real judicial conservatives and (4) a weak policy on illegal immigration. That was the focus of what Dobson talked about and it strikes me as equally misleading to imply that “cussing” was what he chiefly talked about as a reason for opposition just as it would be misleading to imply that Obama is actually a Muslim.

  • petertchattaway

    It was the last item . . .

    Exactly. It was Dobson’s punchline, his closer. And it was silly!

  • Just to play the devil’s advocate for a moment: the cussing thing is not what Dobson mentioned “for starters.” It was the last item in a list of six or seven reasons he gave for not supporting McCain. Convenient how everybody seems to be ignoring the rest of his list.

  • clrussell

    The only comment I am going to make is: other words do far more damage than “cuss” words (which vary from culture to culture and generation to generation).

    One other thing, (comments are like Lays, I have to make more than one) if the worst thing the former POW has ever said is a cuss word now and again, he’s a far better person than I will ever be.

  • dtitus

    Something bothers me here: Dobson complains about McCain using foul language. Dobson himself, as far as I know, has never used foul language himself, but he has often spoken in ways that are less than charitable. It seems to me the larger issue here is how one uses their words. whatever they may be. Personally, I feel Dr. Dobson has done more damage with some of his more divisive rhetoric than McCain ever has done by letting a “swear” drop once in a while. Just a thought.