Sorry, folks (especially Ari), for the light posting during the holidays. Family does have a way of consuming one's blogging time.
At any rate, a quick thought that I've been stewing over since Obama's announcement last week that Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church will offer the opening prayer at next month's inaugural ceremonies. As I recall, President Clinton made numerous outreaches to the conservative evangelical community during his presidency. He spoke at evangelical churches. He encouraged prayer in public schools. Many of these attempts, while no doubt political in nature, were, I believe, sincere. That is, Clinton is a commited Christian and believed that he had a common spiritual agenda with many of the religious right. What's more, these outreach attempts had costs within Clinton's own coalition. Many on the left (e.g.: supporters of abortion rights, defenders of secular public schools, etc.) were not comfortable with such efforts and felt just that much less enthusiastic about defending Clinton as a result.
In the end, Clinton's efforts amounted to roughly nothing. If anything, the religious polarization of the nation only grew, with self-described evangelicals voting even more Republican. And it's not as though the conservative Christian community offered forgiveness or absolution during the impeachment. Meanwhile, Clinton gave some bipartisan legitimacy to ideas and individuals that had properly been considered conservative while disappointing his own supporters.
I get the impression that Obama is going down that same route. I don't think it's smart politics to reach out to Pastor Warren, simply because it angers his own coalition members (notably including, but not limited to, gays and lesbians, whom Pastor Warren has compared to pedophiles) while begging the support of a community that will likely attack him ferociously throughout his first term and his reelection campaign. Perhaps he did it as a personal favor to Warren, who has extended some courtesies to Obama at key times in Obama's career. This is fine, but there are far less public ways for a president to return a favor.