In a recent full-page advertisement in the Wall Street Journal, 93-year-old Billy Graham made a drastic political about-face by endorsing President Barack Obama for another term. The lifelong conservative evangelical Christian appears to have had quite the change of heart just days after meeting with Republican candidate Mitt Romney.
Although The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association said, “The ads intentionally do not mention any candidate, political party, or contest,” the support for the incumbent candidate is evident when one reads between the lines. For those who have difficulty decoding politically suggestive messages, have no fear: my expertise in composition and rhetoric will serve to guide you through Graham’s thinly veiled support for Barack Obama.
First, let us take a look at the text of the ad in its entirety:
The legacy we leave behind for our children, grandchildren, and this great nation is crucial. As I approach my 94th birthday, I realize this election could be my last. I believe that it is vitally important that we cast our ballots for candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel. I urge you to vote for those who protect the sanctity of life and support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman. Vote for biblical values this November 6, and pray with me that America will remain one nation under God.
Now there is certainly some fluff to Graham’s message–and I do like how he cleverly reminds everyone to send him a birthday card—but there are three specific points in the advertisement that prove Graham wants Americans to “gobama” this election:
1. “…it is vitally important that we cast our ballots for candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel.”
[Expert Analysis] Since deciphering “biblical principals” is impossible (an eye for an eye?–or–turn the other cheek?), Graham is clearly nudging voters toward the candidate who supports Israel. A quick look at Barack Obama’s website provides plenty of cited evidence for the claims that the President “has repeatedly stood up for Israel in the international community, has sent record levels of security assistance as President, and believes that Israel must remain a Jewish state.” Graham could have probably stopped here, but he wanted to make sure Americans understood some other reasons why Obama deserves their votes.
2. “I urge you to vote for those who protect the sanctity of life.”
[Expert Analysis] This one is easily pointing to Obama, and even Mitt Romney makes a strong case for the President on this issue. Romney keeps mentioning how Obama has enabled more poor Americans to benefit from food stamps than ever before. If providing nourishment to hungry people isn’t protecting the sanctity of life, I don’t know what is. There is no life without food, and maybe there is an explanation as to why Romney is anti-food: he is constantly accused of being a robot, and a robot doesn’t even need food!
3. “I urge you to vote for those who… support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman.”
[Expert Analysis] Apparently, Obama supports this particular definition of marriage so much that he actually went out and married a woman. Now that is backing up policy with action. So many politicians say one thing about how people should live and yet don’t model the behavior. It is nice to see that, although President Obama doesn’t tell people what socio-religious practices they should follow, he leads by example instead. It was nice of Billy Graham to point out the President’s often overlooked relationship to the First Lady.
In conclusion, the current President of the United States clearly meets all the requirements that Billy Graham thinks are important for this nation’s leader. Yet it is understandable that Graham chose not to explicitly name the President in his “non-political” advertisement; after all, the 501(c)(3) government entitlement program that benefits Graham’s non-profit association stipulates that organizations “may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.” Well played, Mr. Graham. I am sure that as a gesture of thanks for your coy public advertisement, President Obama will put in a good word for your organization with the IRS so you can continue to “not” support any political candidates–wink, wink.