There are a few things to say about about the incident in which President Obama was heckled by an apparent militant Christian at Monday night’s campaign fundraiser at Los Angeles’ House of Blues in Los Angeles. (My colleague Mark Memmott reports on the incident over at The Two-Way blog.)
One is that the president used the incident to testify to his own Christian beliefs. With many Americans still doubting that he’s a Christian and believing he’s a Muslim, at least as suggested by a recent poll done in South Carolina, the president clearly saw a chance to affirm his faith and took it.
After the front-row heckler shouted “Jesus Christ is God” and called Obama the antichrist, Obama said: “First of all, I agree Jesus Christ is the Lord. I believe in that.”
If you were on Obama’s image team, that random opportunity for the president to be able to proclaim his faith (of course, some will no doubt argue it was predestined) was video gold.
Second was the contrast between the heckler’s form of Christianity and Obama’s. One was as extroverted, loud, aggressive and closed to reason and the norms of polite society as the other was private, soft-spoken, amused and tolerant.
Third, it was another chance to see how skilful presidents must be at dealing with the unexpected from someone in an audience. Whether its George W. Bush artfully ducking a pair of shoes at a Baghdad press conference or Obama staying cool when being called the “antichrist” by someone a few feet away, it’s an impressive ability.
Fourth, can you imagine what it must be like to be a Secret Service agent in this situation? You’d have to ask and answer several questions in very short order. Is the man a physical threat to the president? Is he a diversion for an attack from another direction? If not, how long do you let the ranter rant before moving in? Is he on our list of people to keep an eye on? If he wasn’t before, he probably is now.