The Rushmore Report: President Obama’s Faith in His Own Words

Several years ago, a series of interviews with prominent American leaders, focused on their faith, gave birth to the book, The God Factor: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People. One of the interviews was conducted with Illinois State Senator Barack Obama at the Café Baci in Chicago on March 27, 2004. This remains his most comprehensive interview on his faith. Here, we will consider some of the most revealing answers Mr. Obama gave to questions about his faith – none of which he has retracted in the 12 years since the interview.

What do you believe?

“I am a Christian. So, I have a deep faith. So I draw from the Christian faith. On the other hand, I was born in Hawaii where obviously there are a lot of Eastern influences. I lived in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, between the ages of six and ten. My father was from Kenya, and although he was probably most accurately labeled an agnostic, his father was Muslim. And I’d say, intellectually, I’ve drawn as much from Judaism as any other faith.”

What is the road to truth?

“I’m rooted in the Christian tradition. I believe there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power. There are values that transcend race or culture.”

Have you always been a Christian?

“I was raised more by my mother and my mother was Christian.”

What denomination were you most influenced by?

“My grandmother was Methodist. My grandfather was Baptist. But my mother, she wasn’t a church lady. We’d go to church on Easter. My mother was deeply spiritual, but I had no structured religious education.”

What church are you a part of now?

“The church I have become involved with is the Trinity United Church of Christ. And the pastor there, Jeremiah Wright, became a good friend. So I joined that church and committed myself to Christ in that church.”

Did you actually go up for an altar call?

“Yes. Absolutely. It was a powerful moment for me because it not only confirmed my faith, it allowed me to connect the work I had been pursuing with my faith.”

When was that?

“1987 or 1988.”

So would you say you were born again?

“Yeah, although I don’t like to think I have a monopoly on the truth or that my faith is automatically transferrable to others. I think religion at its best comes with a big dose of doubt.”

Do you pray often?

“Uh, yeah, I guess I do. It’s not formal, me getting on my knees. I think I have an ongoing conversation with God. I think throughout the day, I’m constantly asking myself questions about what I’m doing, why am I doing it.”

Who is Jesus to you?

“Jesus is a historical figure for me, and he’s also a bridge between God and man, in the Christian faith, and one that I think is powerful precisely because he serves as that means of us reaching something higher. And he’s also a wonderful teacher. I think it’s important for all of us, of whatever faith, to have teachers in the flesh and also teachers in history.”

Is Jesus someone who you feel you have a regular connection with now, a personal connection with in your life?

‘Yeah, yes. I think some of the things I talked about earlier are addressed through, are channeled through my Christian faith and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Have you read the Bible?

“Absolutely. But I don’t read it as regularly as I would like.”

Do you take time for prayer and meditation each day?

“I’ll be honest with you, I used to all the time, in a fairly disciplined way. But now I don’t . . . just too busy.”

What do you think will happen to the people of the world who aren’t Christians?

“I find it hard to believe that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell.”

Do you believe in heaven?

“Do I believe in the harps and clouds and wings?”

A place spiritually you go to after you die.

“What I believe is that if I live my life as well as I can, that I will be rewarded. I don’t presume to have knowledge of what happens after I die.”

Do you believe in sin?

“Yes.”

What is sin?

“Being out of alignment with my values.”

Let’s go back to that moment in 1987 or 1988. Was that moment – the altar call – an epiphany for you?

“No. I think it was just a moment to certify or publicly affirm a growing faith in me.”

 

The Rushmore Report: David Letterman Says Retirement Has Ruined His Self-Esteem

David Letterman’s beard has captivated the country with its chill retirement aesthetic, but as it turns out, the former Late Show host has a few qualms about retiring since leaving the show in May 2015. Accepting a Peabody Award this week from his friend Steve Martin, Letterman discussed how retirement has been a blow to his self-esteem. Accepting the award, he said this . . .

“Thank you very much. Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Steve Martin, first of all – if you want to be in show business of any description, Steve Martin is who you ought to shoot for. When I leave this planet, I will leave behind a body.”

His rambling comments continued: “First, of course you must tire, then retire. If you want to have something affect your self-esteem, retire. I got very excited because the Obamas invited myself and my wife to a state dinner, and I said, ‘Oh my God, Regina, we’ve been invited to a state dinner!’ And she says, ‘Oh, I love steak!'”

He described the event. “So I’m seated at dinner next to a man who is the assistant chief of staff to the prime minister of Norway. And I’m feeling like a big shot. And we’re chatting, and we’re chatting, and we’re chatting. And when it comes about dessert time, and the guy says to me, ‘Excuse me, Why are you here?’ And I said, ‘You know what? I think I picked up somebody else’s mail.’ And he says, ‘So you’re here by mistake?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ And he said, ‘Oh.'”

In his concluding remarks, Letterman said, “So there you go – you get invited to the state dinner, nobody knows why. That’s the sum total of being retired.”

About the Author

Jennifer Vineyard writes for Vineyard Magazine. In 2014 she joined the New York magazine’s staff as a full-time senior editor.

The Rushmore Report: Celebrities Who Endorse Trump

“Hollywood is in the tank for Hillary.” That oft-repeated statement is true – mostly. But believe it or not, there are some celebrities who have come out in support of Donald Trump to be our next president. They include pro athletes, movie stars, and other entertainers. So when you hear that all of Hollywood supports Mrs. Clinton, remember this list.

1. Hulk Hogan – The most famous wrestler in the world backed Mitt Romney in 2012. Now he has gone even further. A couple of months ago, he told TMZ that he not only endorses Trump, he wants to be his running mate.

2. Ted Nugent – The famed singer has recommended Trump for the Medal of Freedom “for speaking his mind in such a bold, honest, and straight-forward manner.” Nugent went on to praise The Donald for his “refreshing” message.

3. Willie Robertson – The Duck Dynasty star endorsed Trump early, on January 21, 2015. He calls him “a real leader” who “represents success and strength, two attributes our country needs.”

4. Mike Tyson – This may be the endorsement Trump wants the least. “He should be president of the United States,” Tyson said on HuffPost Live. “Let’s try something new. Let’s run America like a business.”

5. Gary Busey – In September, 2015, Busey said, “I know him personally. He’s a great guy. He’s sharp. He’s fast. He can change the country after the last eight years.”

6. Stephen Baldwin – The Christian actor was “fired” from Trump’s show, The Apprentice. But he still told CNN, “I think he’d make a great president. He’s not a politician, and he doesn’t care what anybody thinks. That’s why he’s surging in the polls.”

7. Loretta Lynn – The Hall-of-Fame country singer is direct and simple in her endorsement. “Trump has sold me – what more can I say?”

8. Jon Voight – The famously conservative actor (and father to Angelina Jolie) threw his support behind Trump in March  “I pray all Americans who have seen and felt the meltdown of America with the Obama years will fight for Donald Trump.”

9. Scott Baio – The man from Happy Days told Fox News’ Judge Jeanine Pirro that Trump “speaks like I speak.” He continued, “It’s very simple, because when he speaks I understand him.”

10. James Woods – The respected actor says, “Riddle me this: if Secretary Clinton never sent one single classified email on her only server, how did she send classified emails?”

The Rushmore Report: Bill Kristol’s Mystery Candidate for President

Bill Kristol has been making news for months. The neoconservative political analyst tweeted over the weekend: “Just a heads up over this holiday weekend: There will be an independent candidate – an impressive one, with a strong team and a real chance.” Donald Trump has fired back: “Bill Kristol has been wrong for 2 yrs-an embarrassed loser, but if the GOP can’t control their own, then they are not a party. Be tough, R’s!” Well, it turns out Kristol did have a candidate in mind. And we are prepared to announce that candidate’s name here.

First, let’s be fair to Mr. Kristol. He correctly and repeatedly states the contradiction that is Donald Trump. “Donald Trump would be the most unreliably conservative president the Republican Party has ever nominated,” he says. “He is a candidate of convenience, committed to one cause – himself.” So, for the sake of everything sane, Kristol has recruited a mystery candidate. And as of today, we can announce this candidate’s name . . .

Her name is Hillary Clinton. No, Kristol won’t say that. Reportedly, Kristol has tried to recruit the likes of Mitt Romney or Rick Perry to run, with no success. And while polls show support for a generic third-party candidate, when a name is dropped in, it always helps Mrs. Clinton. The Data Targeting Poll finds that 55 percent want another candidate to consider, but when actual names are floated, none gets over 10 percent support. And because Kristol’s choice would certainly be conservative, any such candidate would clearly take votes away from Trump, thus securing the election for Clinton.

Bill Kristol is no dummy. So what is he thinking? It’s called the electoral college. It’s called the House of Representatives. Kristol knows a third-party or independent candidate can’t possibly garner 270 electoral votes. But in his thinking, this person wouldn’t have to. The idea is to keep both Clinton and Trump from reaching that sacred number – because if no candidate gets over the 50 percent threshold, the election is tossed to the House, which will still presumably be under the control of Republicans. And Republicans in the House, Kristol believes, would prefer this Romney-type to Donald Trump.

The logic is sound. Except for one thing. It won’t work. Here’s why. In the presidential election, each state is winner-take-all. That means that for the mystery candidate to successfully toss the Kristol monkey wrench into the election, he/she would have to win at least one strategic state. And that won’t happen.

It is conceivable that a third candidate can exceed ten percent in the national vote. But it is inconceivable that he/she will win 35 percent in a single state, the threshold necessary to have a chance at winning that state. So this mystery candidate would take away votes from Trump, get no electoral votes himself, and would thus elect Hillary Clinton the 45th president of the United States.

So, Bill Kristol does have a new candidate in mind. And effectively, her name is Hillary Clinton.

The Rushmore Report: 2016 – The Year of the Disaffected Voter

The fact that Donald Trump is the Republican presumptive nominee and Bernie Sanders is still chugging along in the Democratic primary can mean only one thing: Voters are angry. With 94 million Americans out of the workforce, middle class voters seeing wages decline, and the average college graduate facing $35,000 in student loan debt with few job prospects, it is no wonder people are so angry.

These disaffected voters could be Hillary Clinton’s undoing and propel Trump to the White House.

Clinton is facing a big problem. The “us versus them” populist messages of political outsiders Trump and Sanders have been music to the ears of so many Americans. They want to blow up the system Clinton has helped create and the system they believe has failed them. And failed it has: Middle Class Americans are suffering.

A new nationwide Pew Research study shines some light on why so many voters feel left behind by this economy. The study finds that middle class America is shrinking and wages are declining. Lead author Rakesh Kochhar said, “The shrinking of the American middle class is a pervasive phenomenon. It has increased polarization in incomes.”

The report finds that more than four-fifths of America’s metropolitan areas have seen household incomes decline this century. Only 39 out of 229 metro areas saw medium household incomes grow. With manufacturing jobs shrinking 29 percent, it is pretty obvious why Trump’s and Sanders’ anti-free trade messaging has resonated with voters who have seen their jobs sent overseas and manufacturers close.

The cities hardest hit are located in key electoral states like Michigan and Ohio, which could prove to be politically problematic for Clinton. Her unlikable personality and tone-deaf comments like “we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business” will not earn her any brownie points with these voters.

Further, her position on trade could end up hurting her with the working class voters who agree with Trump and Sanders that bad trade deals are hurting American workers.

It was her dumb coal comment and trade positions that caused her to get shellacked by Sanders in West Virginia, a state she won with over 60 percent of the vote in 2008. More than half of Democratic voters said that trade with other countries is taking jobs away from Americans; two-thirds of Republicans echoed that sentiment.

Even more problematic for Clinton is that 44 percent of Sanders voters said they would vote for Trump, while only 23 percent said they would vote for her, and 32 percent would vote for neither.

Exit polling from Michigan, another important swing state that Clinton embarrassingly lost, showed the same problem for her. A significant 57 percent of Democratic voters and 55 percent of Republicans believed that trade takes away American jobs.

Blue-collar workers aren’t the only ones who feel left behind by this economy. Whether it is the jobless college graduate who can’t find work or the African-American who is facing an unemployment rate that is twice as high as for Caucasians, Trump has an opportunity to tap into the frustrations of Americans in a way that Clinton cannot.

Yes, Republicans face a daunting electoral map, but Clinton is a uniquely unappealing candidate and Trump has already tapped into the disaffected voters who could help tip the balance of the 2016 election in his favor.

About the Author

Lisa Boothe is a contributing columnist for the Washington Examiner and president of High Noon Strategies.

Trump Leads Clinton for the First Time

Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump has overtaken Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in an average of head-to-head national polls, according to the RealClearPolitics average of polls. Trump leads Clinton by 0.2 percentage points, 43.4 percent to 43.2 percent on the average, overtaking the Democrat for the first time in the average of polls.

Several recent surveys have shown Trump with an advantage over Clinton. An ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted May 16-19 shows a tight race between the two candidates, with Trump holding a 2-point lead over Clinton. A Rasmussen Report poll conducted May 17-18 had the presumptive GOP nominee up 5 points over Clinton. A recent Fox News poll also showed Trump with a lead.

Clinton’s lead over Trump has been decreasing over the past several weeks, according to the RealClearPolitics average of polls. Trump has, in recent weeks, started to pivot toward the general election after his last two rivals dropped their presidential bids following the Indiana primary.

Clinton’s rival, Bernie Sanders, has vowed to remain in the race until the primaries wrap up, although Clinton has a large delegate lead over the Vermont senator.

The Rushmore Report: State Department Lands Clinton in Trouble

The State Department’s independent watchdog has issued a highly critical analysis of Hillary Clinton’s email practices while running the department, concluding that she failed to seek legal approval for her use of a private email server and that department staff would not have given its blessing because of the “security risks in doing so.”

The inspector general, in a long awaited review released Wednesday, found that Clinton’s use of private email for public business was “not an appropriate method” of preserving documents and that her practices failed to comply with department policies meant to ensure federal record laws are followed.

The report says she should have printed and saved her emails during her four years in office or surrendered her work-related correspondence immediately upon stepping down in February 2013. Instead, Clinton provided those records in December 2014, nearly two years after leaving office.

The report found that a top Clinton aide was warned in 2010 that the system may not properly preserve records, but he dismissed those worries, indicating that the system had passed legal muster. But the inspector general said it could not show evidence of a review by legal counsel.

The 83-page report reviews email practices by five secretaries of state and generally concludes that record keeping has been spotty for years.

It was particularly critical of former Secretary of State Colin Powell – who has acknowledged publicly that he used his personal laptop to write emails – concluding that he too failed to follow department policy designed to comply with public-record laws.

The timing of the report is inconvenient for Clinton, who now faces an intense onslaught of attacks from presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.

But its release – as well as the conclusion of an ongoing FBI investigation – have also been seen for months by her allies as a key milestone to finally putting the email issue to rest. The inspector general has rejected allegations of bias, noting that the scope of the review encompasses secretaries of state from both political parties and that it was undertaken at the direction of Clinton’s Democratic successor, John Kerry. The report includes interviews with Kerry and Powell and former secretaries of state Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice, but it says Clinton declined to be interviewed.

Mrs. Clinton has not explained how she intended emails sent to private citizens, who did not use government email, to be preserved. Some emails have emerged, particularly from Clinton’s first months in office in 2009 when her aides have said she was transitioning technology.

In December 2014, nearly two years after leaving office, she turned over more than 30,000 emails she said represented all of her work related correspondence. She said she also exchanged about 31,000 personal emails during her time as secretary and those notes have been deleted.

About the Author

Rosalind Helderman is a reporter for the Washington Post. She has covered the Clinton email story for several months.

The Rushmore Report: Kenneth Starr Reportedly Out at Baylor

In the wake of a report Tuesday that Baylor president Ken Starr has been fired by their board of regents, a Baylor spokesperson issued a statement intimating that no such decision has been made – yet. “The Baylor Board of Regents continues its work to review the findings of the Pepper Hamilton investigation and we anticipate further communication will come after the Board completes its deliberations,” Tonya Lewis said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “We will not respond to rumors, speculation, or reports based on unnamed sources, but when official news is available, the University will provide it. We expect an announcement by June 3.”

Baylor and its football program have been at the center of a series of sexual assault allegations. Last September, Baylor hired Pepper Hamilton, a Philadelphia law firm, after Bears defensive lineman Sam Ukwuachu was convicted of sexually assaulting a fellow student.

Starr has been Baylor president since 2010. He was the special prosecutor who investigated President Bill Clinton’s sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

In a February statement issued by the university, Starr said, “Our hearts break for those whose lives are impacted by execrable acts of sexual violence.” At a prayer breakfast last month, Starr told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “I am in favor of transparency. Stand up, take your medicine if you made a mistake.”

About the Author

Bruce Feldman is the New York Times best-selling author of numerous books and articles. He has covered college football for two decades, including 17 years at ESPN. Feldman currently serves as the CBS Sports senior college football columnist.

The Rushmore Report: Bill Cosby – Lessons Learned

On Tuesday, a Pennsylvania judge ruled that there is enough evidence to proceed with a criminal trial for Bill Cosby, accused of sexual assault, in the 2004 case of Andrea Constad, the first of over 50 accusers. He could be sentenced to 30 years in prison. I see four lessons.

1. Actions have consequences. History is filled with examples. We all get to choose our actions, but not our consequences. Bill Cosby, if found guilty, could spend the rest of his life in prison, as the sentence brings prison time of at least 10 years. He is accused of drugging and raping women, many of whom may be called on to testify in this case.

2. Judgement plays no favorites. No one is beyond the reach of the law. Bill Cosby was named the second most favorite comedian of the 20th century (only behind Bob Hope). He is 78 years old and in declining health. While he countersued Constad, claiming their sex was consensual, the judge has found the evidence against him to be credible.

3. This doesn’t take away the good Cosby has done. Bill Cosby was Dr. Huxtable, America’s dad. He has served on boards, given millions of dollars to charity, and blessed Americans for over 50 years, with clean humor and a message of high morals. Good men do bad things and bad men do good things. This is not to excuse his despicable behavior (if proven true). But it does remind us that even the most frail among us can be used for good.

4. God forgives when man does not. I would never ask Mrs. Constad to forgive Mr. Cosby for what he did 12 years ago (again, if proven true). Only the true Forgiver can set that standard. It is hard to imagine anything worse than what Cosby is accused of doing, short of taking a person’s life. Having said that, as hard as it is for us to imagine, nothing – I repeat, nothing – we ever do puts us beyond the reach of God’s forgiveness.

Is Mr. Cosby guilty? I don’t know. But I do know this. There is nothing Cosby can ever do that will make God love him more. And nothing he will ever do will make God love him less.

 

The Rushmore Report: Celebrities Who Love God

There is a widely held and well earned impression that Hollywood celebrities aren’t in love with God. They tend to mock believers as “weak,” while they hold to liberal views on religion and ethics. But we have found some notable exceptions.

1. Dwayne Johnson: “I have my very own special relationship with God. I am very blessed. I count my blessings every day.”

2. Mark Wahlberg: “For me to sit down and ask for material things is ridiculous. It’s a much bigger picture than that. I want to serve God and to be a good human being and to make up for the mistakes I made and the pain I put people through. That’s what I’m praying for.”

3. Denzel Washington: “I pray that you all put your shoes way under the bed at night so that you gotta get on your knees in the morning to find them. And while you’re down there thank God for grace and mercy and understanding.”

4. Kevin James: “I’ve been very guilty of not showing my faith and just praying when I needed it, when something bad happened in my life and not being thankful when things turned good. All good is from God, and so I want to honor him.”

5. Carrie Underwood: “I’m not the first person to sing about God, Jesus, faith, or any of that, and I won’t be the last. And it won’t be the last for me, either. If you don’t like it, change the channel.”

6. Terry Crews: “God is good and has always been! Thanks to him for everything!”

7. Sean Astin: “The fundamental value in Christianity is forgiveness.”

8. Chris Pratt: “The birth of my son restored my faith in God, not that it needed to be restored. But it really redefined it.”

9. Pierce Brosnan: “Prayer helped me with the loss of my wife to cancer and with a child who had fallen on tough times. Now prayer helps me to be a father, to be an actor, and to be a man.”

10. Corbin Bernsen: “Making films has been kind of my way of getting closer to God. These films come out of me, out of my journey. I feel that there is purpose to what I’m doing. It goes beyond money, beyond ego, beyond fame.”

11. Mr. T: “You’ve got to testify! God is good! I pity the fool that don’t get it!”

12. Kristen Chenoweth: “I’m an actress and a singer and I’m also a Christian. I just want to be like Jesus, forgiving and loving.”

13. John Schneider: “People think God doesn’t pay attention to the details. God is in the details.”

14. Patricia Heaton: “You have to be willing to sacrifice everything to follow God and to follow what he’s called you to do.”