Chairman Donatelli on CNN’s “Situation Room” on the idea of Christian Nation


April 6, 2009
5:30pm

Wolf Blitzer:
Joining us now the Democratic Strategist and CNN Political Contributor James Carville and Frank Donatelli, Chairman of GOPAC, the high ranking official in the Republican Party. Thanks, guys for coming in. I’m going to play this little clip, this is what the president said earlier today in Turkey, a Muslim country and NATO ally.

(Plays Clip) “one of the great strengths of the United States is, as I have mentioned, we have a very large Christian population, we do not consider yourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation. We consider ourselves a nation of citizens. Who are bound by ideals and a set of values.”

Wolf Blitzer:
In your native South, how is that going to play, James, when he says we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation?

James Carville:
There are some people who say we should have Christianity in the Constitution, as I understand it, the founding fathers thought about that and they rejected that idea. We are a nation of values and not one religion. I think most people understand that, I am a Christian and some people are not that’s not what defines us as a nation and we’re defined by laws, and whether we go to church on Sunday, or Rriday or Saturday is their own business. I think the vast majority of Americans agree with that statement.

Wolf Blitzer:
In the past many Americans have referred to the United States having Judeo Christian values, but what do you think of the way the President phrased that today.

Frank Donatelli:
Frank DonatelliIf we’re a nation of shared values, Wolf, the question then becomes where do these values come from? The Democratic platform of 2008 is surely it’s something deeper than that and the answer is that it’s the Judeo Christian tradition that informs America as a country, it’s where we get our respect for the individual, it’s where we get our respect for freedom of religion and everyone is free to practice their own religion. But for the president to deny that our country is formed by Judeo Christian values.

Wolf Blitzer:
He didn’t deny that, he said precisely, let me read it to you, he said we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation, a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation, we consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.

Frank Donatelli:
A better answer would have been to say we are a nation that considers ourselves as a product of the Judeo Christian tradition because that happens to be answer.

Wolf Blizer:
There are some people who say we are a product of the Abrahamic tradition. Actually what he said is very accurate and of course we’re shaped by many things and certainly the founding fathers will help shape the Abrahamic tradition or the Judeo Christian tradition, but what he said was an absolute fact. And I think that he just repeated something, but sometimes there’s value in stating the object and I think there was some value to it.

James Carville:
I think he was trying to underscore countries like turkey, where it’s a mostly Muslim nation, there should be a separation of church and state. That’s not a problem for our country, we believe in the separation of church and state. That the president has to appear and apologize for that seems to be ridiculous. Turkey has been a pretty good in the past, even though there have been some problems. I just don’t think we advice our ability to work with Muslim nations.

Frank Donatelli:
I didn’t hear the President apologizing.

James Carville:
I don’t know what Frank is exactly talking about, and by the way, no country in the world has struggled more with the distinction between religion and politics as Turkey has, and they very distinctly decided to separate the two. I think it was very important what the president did and this right wing claptrap will say he was apologizing for the United States, or denying our heritage or something. It’s just not based in fact. What he said was an absolute fact, it was something that was necessary to say, and he said it in a country that has a unique history in dealing with religion and politics.

Wolf Blitzer:
Frank, let me move on to the dramatic announcement by the defense Secretary Robert Gates, to cut back on the presidential helicopters, that devote billions more for insurgencies as opposed to some of the old Cold War missions. What do you think about what he’s trying to do?

Frank Donatelli:
Well, there’s a lot to recommend what Secretary Gates has talked about, and I think that the Secretary of Defense is very, very good at getting the best out of all the resources we possibly have there, Wolf. Obviously procurement reform is a good thing, more devotion to special forces. I would say, though, they do think the budget in the beginning is whofully inadequate to deal with the crises that we are going to face as a country at a time when North Korea just shot off a missile, not to have more money in the budget for missile defense for example strikes me as very shortsighted.

Wolf Blitzer:
It’s one thing to make these proposals and it is another thing to get Congress to go along with it. There’s a lot of vested interest, a lot of jobs at stake, a lot of districts and states that want to continue to build some of these projects.

And those people are not just going to go away and evaporate. This is the opening round in a many-round struggle here. Yes, we got a lot of responsibilities, our Defense Department does and Secretary Gates does, and we also got many other things that we’re trying to deal with at the same time. This will go through the political process, it will be an interesting process and we’ll see where it comes out in the end, but the first shots have been fired in a pretty long war here.

I don’t know how the Defense Secretary wanted to eliminate the B-52, but members of Congress disagreed and guess what they’re still building.

It goes to show that members also fight to the death about cuts of any programs that the Secretary wants to cut back, but I think he has some good ideas here.

Wolf Blitzer:
On that note, we’ll leave it. James and Frank, thank you.