Cheese on Chinese food

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There was a very fun non-religion bit on the Daily Show this week, embedded above, that compared the rhetoric of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and found them similar. Jon Stewart played videos of Bush using the same phrases and ideas as Obama were played after each other. The "reporter" begs Stewart to stop, saying it's ruining his post-inaugural buzz. I thought of that when I read many stories in the last day including this Associated Press report on religion at the inauguration:

The clergy were Protestant, and so was the new head of state. But the inauguration Tuesday of President Barack Obama aimed for a much broader audience: an increasingly diverse America, where people want their beliefs acknowledged in the nation's most important ceremony. In his address, Obama referred to God and Scripture, saying, "the time has come to set aside childish things," from 1 Corinthians.

The piece mentions Obama's public acknowledgment of non-believers, something I'm surprised hasn't gotten more attention.

But check this out:

Prayers at inaugural ceremonies generally draw little attention, but this year was different. Obama spoke of his faith openly during the election, trying to change the image of the Democratic Party as hostile to religious voters. He has also welcomed nonbelievers, who tend to vote Democratic, in his speeches and public appearances since his earliest days of campaigning.

His supporters had been deeply upset by the prominence of the Christian right during the administration of President George W. Bush, and they watched to see what religious signals Obama would send at his swearing-in.

Here's a brief bit from President Bush's 2005 inaugural address:

In America's ideal of freedom, the public interest depends on private character - on integrity, and tolerance toward others, and the rule of conscience in our own lives. Self-government relies, in the end, on the governing of the self. That edifice of character is built in families, supported by communities with standards, and sustained in our national life by the truths of Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, the words of the Koran, and the varied faiths of our people. Americans move forward in every generation by reaffirming all that is good and true that came before - ideals of justice and conduct that are the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Emphasis mine. I can't say I know a reporter who feels anything other than dislike for Bush. And in my press section yesterday, reporters were openly cheering and clapping for President Obama.

In the Daily Show bit last night, the reporter explained the bias by comparing it to how cheese tastes great on Italian food and horrible on Chinese food -- a great line. But reporters should be careful that their narratives are buttressed by facts. You could just as easily write that Bush was more overtly interfaith at his last inaugural while Obama was more narrowly Protestant.

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