Issues analysis
Obama and the universal moral law
Fred Hutchison, RenewAmerica analyst
November 3, 2008

Does Barack Obama believe in the universal moral law? Hard to tell. Obama insists he is a Christian and admits that evil exists, but answers questions about morality and evil in an equivocal way. As a very astute politician, he knows that who is not at least a nominal Christian and anyone who does not believe in good or evil, or in right and wrong, is not likely to be elected president.

On the other hand, if Obama were to say that he agrees that there is a universal moral law, he would fall out of favor with some the secular-progressive leaders of his party and with the mainstream media. Such a statement would offend his hard-left financial sponsors who have developed a brilliant internet fundraising apparatus. He would also fall into disfavor with the leftist foundations and liberal billionaires who support him.

Obama has never said no to those in power — at least not to liberals or leftists or corrupt politicians or those in a position to help him politically. If he is a moral relativist, his conscience might not bother him for accepting the support of morally questionable people. On the other hand, if he believes in a universal moral law, he is doomed to live with a bad conscience. His amazingly consistent coolness and composure suggests to me the former rather than the latter.

The rider on two horses

In another essay, I described Obama as a man who is riding two horses. I now see him as an expert stunt performer who can ride two horses while he juggles and keeps several balls in the air. He juggles the issues as he changes or modifies his positions on issues twice a month.

Obama's left foot is on the horse of the secular left. His right foot is on the horse of moderate swing voters who support him even though they believe in a universal moral law. A surprising number of doctrinally orthodox Christians have switched over to Obama.

I know of no comparable political tour de force in the history of American politics. As a political junkie, I see Obama's remarkable stunt of standing on two cantering horses while jugging as the greatest show on earth, a phrase that was once the motto of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Obama makes Bill Clinton look like a political amateur. But is Obama's political tour de force the massive swindle of a master con man?

The great swindle

If Obama does not personally believe in the universal moral law, his political tour de force is the greatest swindle in American history and he is a master con man. Unfortunately, it is hard to figure out what Obama really believes and where he stands because his statements on issues are thickly woven with equivocations — which is what con men, politicians, and clever lawyers refer to as "deniability." However, deniability often does not last and a fallback position is needed.

By the time one of Obama's circumlocutions comes back around to bite him, he is no longer there. He has retreated to a fall-back position. Most people can't do that. "What a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive." Most people get caught in their own web. However, a master con-man can stay a few jumps ahead of the day of reckoning for years — especially if they have powerful allies.

Obama's fall-back positions might include a reinterpretation or modification of his original position. He can get away with this if his original position was cloaked in equivocations. Or he may fall back to an all-new position and build a bridge between the new position and the old position. Then he can say, "This what I really meant," and say something he did not really mean.

When confronted with his own words, his equivocations have put him in the position to say, "I never said that, what I do believe and have always said, is thus..." Then he says something he has never said before. He gets away with it because when challenged, he can walk you back across the bridge of prior equivocations.

Watch out for that phrase "and I have always said..." because that is the point when Obama gets the closest to a straightforward lie. The only time Obama flinches a little is (1) when he says "and I have always said..." and (2) when he needs a spare second or two to gather the threads of an equivocation that will enshroud his answer to an unexpected question. Listen for that "uh...uh" to signal the one or two second stumble and watch the equivocations fly.

Melting ooze

John McCain said that trying to find out exactly where Obama stands on the issues is like "nailing Jello to the wall." Obama researchers must follow a trail of melting ooze.

Obama plays the game of equivocation so deftly, coolly, and with such aplomb that it resembles the effortlessness of truth — except for those occasional one or two second stumbles. In like manner, the rider on two horses in the center ring of the circus shifts his balance so gracefully that it appears easy — except for the occasional bump that throws him off rhythm for one or two seconds.

Into the briar patch

Come with me into the briar patch in search of Obama's positions on the issues. As we descend into the briar patch, we must follow the narrow, twisting rabbit trails. It is a dark labyrinth down there.

In this analysis, I am using a table on The Ohio Christian Alliance web site that provides of the positions of Obama and McCain on the issues. (<(http:/>

Defense of Marriage

The Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) defines marriage as a union between a man and woman — which means that there will be no federal recognition of "gay marriages." John McCain supports DOMA, Obama opposes DOMA. Obama said, "I personally believe that marriage is between a man and a woman." Yet he wants to repeal DOMA because "federal law should not discriminate against lesbian and gay couples, which is precisely what DOMA does." It does?

See here, Mr. Obama, if marriage is between a man and a woman as you said you believe, lesbian and gay unions are not marriages, right? Therefore, how does DOMA discriminate against them? It does not discriminate against a category of marriages if gay unions are not marriages — and therefore cannot be a category of marriage.

It is not likely that Obama misunderstands the logical contradiction of his statement, because he has a first-rate mind. We know this because Obama was rewarded with the prestigious position of president of the Law Review at Harvard. This could not have been racial tokenism, because a second-rate mind could last a week in that intellectually heady post. Obama has a high IQ. He mastered the rules of logic at Harvard. Why then did he deliberately take a self-contradictory position?

The answer is clear: Obama is a rider on two horses. His statement that DOMA discriminates against gays pleases the horse on the left. His statement that marriage is between a man and a woman pleases the other horse of moderate swing voters. The man is good — if you admire a good hustle.

Are homosexual acts immoral?

Dear reader, as I escort you deeper into the Obama briar patch, you may get a little dizzy. Beware, the next curve on the rabbit trail has a double twist.

When a general said that "homosexual acts are immoral," Obama refused to comment on it for a while. Larry King (CNN) asked him asked him whether homosexual acts are immoral. Obama was on camera and was not in the position to dodge the question. What then did he say?

Obama said, "I don't think homosexuals are any more immoral than heterosexuals are immoral."

It sounded like he answered the question, but he did not. The question of whether homosexuals are immoral is a different question than whether homosexual acts are immoral.

Consider that Socrates had some admirable classical virtues, but he saw nothing wrong with having sex with boys. If Obama were a politician in ancient Greece, he would have changed the question "Does sex with boys constitute immoral acts?" to "Is Socrates a virtuous man?"

Obama's trick answer had a second twist: he brings up a moral equivalent between homosexuals and heterosexuals. "I don't think that Socrates is any more immoral than Protagoras is immoral."

Obama has concealed the question he did not want to answer in a verbal haze. Students at Harvard Law learn polemical tricks just like that to prepare them for the legal battles in the courtroom. Through a trick of words, the students learn to make the question they do not want to answer disappear.

The disappearing rabbit in a hat

Courtroom tricks that cause a question to disappear, require as much skill as the magician who makes a rabbit in a hat disappear.

Why did Obama not want to answer this particular question? If he had said, "Homosexual acts are immoral," the horse on the left would buck him off. If he had said these acts are not immoral, the other horse would buck him off.

What other question does Obama not want to answer?

Two questions — (1) The public display of the Ten Commandments, and (2) the provision of entitlement programs for illegal aliens. Can Obama make these questions disappear, like the rabbit in the hat?

The Ten Commandments

The public posting of the Ten Commandments is a no-win question for Obama. The Ten Commandments lie at the core of the universal moral law. If he says he approves of the posting of the Ten Commandments, the horse on the left will throw him off. If he says he disapproves of the posting of the Ten Commandments, the horse of the moderates will throw him off, or get very nervous.

I am quite sure Obama would do a good job of arguing against the posting of the Ten Commandments in a court of law. However, he would have a difficult time explaining his arguments to the public. The general public is increasingly suspicious of the Obama-like equivocations and circumlocutions that judges use to rationalize their banning of the Ten Commandments from the public square. The separation of church and state argument does not work anymore, because no one believes that posting the universal moral law is an advocacy for a church.

"The judges just don't believe in the moral law and don't want us to know it." Such is often the thought of the man on the street. Obama knows this, and frankly admits that we are coming to the end of the usefulness of courts in pushing social change. From here on out, we will need to build political coalitions to push through legislative social engineering projects.

Obama also understands that if he uses clever arguments to oppose the public posting of the Ten Commandments, the man on the street will think, "Obama just doesn't believe in the moral law and doesn't want us to know it." That is why Obama refuses to take a position on this issue.

Entitlement programs for illegal aliens

This is one of those things that is loved by liberals and minorities and hated by everyone else. During a debate in one of the primaries, both Hillary and Obama stumbled badly when asked if they were in favor of drivers licenses for illegal aliens. Obama required several painful seconds to put together his equivocations and when he found them, they made no sense. He got away with it because Hillary, his chief rival, tried to duck the issue, and ducking looks worse than a failed equivocation.

Is there an issue relevant to the universal moral law about which Obama has been unequivocal? Yes, abortion!


Obama knows that he if he ever says that he is in favor of making abortion illegal, the horse on his left will not only throw him off, but will kick him, trample on him, and try to bite his jugular vein.

However, Obama long worried that if he openly supported abortion, it would startle the moderate horse. That is why he voted "present" five times in the state legislature when abortion came up for a vote.

Out of the closet

Alan Keyes had a series of debates with Obama when Obama was running against Keyes for the Senate. Keyes forced Obama out of the closet on abortion.

Obama was careful to voice his personal dislike of abortion and his hope that unwanted pregnancies could be reduced and that more opportunities for adoption could be provided. But — he could not give up on a woman's right to choose. He tried to smooth things over by saying that good men can disagree. He repeatedly said that he agrees with Alan Keyes on this point or that relating to abortion — in an attempt to make the people think that there was not that much difference between them. Keyes insisted that there was an immense moral difference between them.

Obama has never forgiven Keyes for pulling him out of the closet on abortion.

Trampled by the feminists

The feminists never forgave Obama for his five votes of "present" on abortion. The feminists regarded this abdication as a betrayal. The National Organization for Women (NOW) backed Hillary in the primaries because of this betrayal. The loss of the feminists nearly cost Obama the nomination. Obama now understood that he must be unequivocal about abortion and to comfort the moderate horse as best he can.

The pony bucks!

Partial-birth abortion! The gruesome murder of living babies that are in process of being born! Senator Obama voted against the ban on partial-birth abortion. The moderate pony was startled and began to buck.

Obama comforted the pony by saying that he only voted against the bill because it lacked a provision to protect the safety of the mother.

Obama clearly knew that abortionists routinely will cite "the safety of the mother" every time. The mother might get a headache, she might weep into her pillow, she might get depressed. In the contemporary abortion environment, "the safety of the mother" is a fraud. Obama knew that, but the nervous pony did not know that.


Does Obama believe in the universal moral law? After our trip through the briar patch, only three options are open to us: (a) Obama does not believe in the universal moral law, (b) he is an amoral hustler, who puts his personal ambition above all moral considerations, or (c) both.

When I started this essay, I expected that I would wind up proving b, but fall short of proving a. However, looking at what I wrote about the moral monstrosity of partial-birth abortion and Obama's fraudulent defense of his vote, I am satisfied that I have offered an adequate case for c.

Therefore, (1) Obama is an amoral hustler who puts his career advancement above all moral considerations. He has gone far because he is a brilliant con man who had powerful political connections. Also, (2) Obama does not believe in the universal moral law. Therefore, he remains cool and calm with an untroubled conscience. He only gets flustered when he cannot find an equivocation to serve the political needs of the moment.

A message from Stephen Stone, President, RenewAmerica

I first became acquainted with Fred Hutchison in December 2003, when he contacted me about an article he was interested in writing for RenewAmerica about Alan Keyes. From that auspicious moment until God took him a little more than six years later, we published over 200 of Fred's incomparable essays — usually on some vital aspect of the modern "culture war," written with wit and disarming logic from Fred's brilliant perspective of history, philosophy, science, and scripture.

It was obvious to me from the beginning that Fred was in a class by himself among American conservative writers, and I was honored to feature his insights at RA.

I greatly miss Fred, who died of a brain tumor on August 10, 2010. What a gentle — yet profoundly powerful — voice of reason and godly truth! I'm delighted to see his remarkable essays on the history of conservatism brought together in a masterfully-edited volume by Julie Klusty. Restoring History is a wonderful tribute to a truly great man.

The book is available at

© Fred Hutchison

RenewAmerica analyst Fred Hutchison also writes a column for RenewAmerica.


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They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. —Isaiah 40:31