How he should have responded to the “gotcha” question

I have mixed feelings about Gov. Scott Walker running for President.   It would be hard to lose him to the state I live in, because he is doing a cracker-jack job.   Time will tell.

Anyway, liberal newsies are already launching “gotcha” questions at the potential candidate.  Here is how The Blaze covered one.  I love the fictional response suggested by blogger Matt Walsh:

Many left wingers and Barack Obama sycophants are fainting over Gov. Scott Walker’s recent comments where he said doesn’t know if Obama is a Christian.

I disagree with Walker. I think we all know for sure Obama isn’t a Christian.

Of course, he only made this statement because some ridiculous reporter at the Washington Post thought it necessary and prudent to ask the governor of Wisconsin about the religious convictions of the president. The media that showed little interest in Obama’s religion during his presidential campaign have now discovered it as a relevant issue — relevant for Republican candidates, that is.

Obviously this was a trap question.

If Walker had said “yes,” then the headline would be something like, “Scott Walker Renounces Conservatism, Calls Obama a Wonderful, Godly Christian,” or if they went the other route, it would be, “Racist Scott Walker Assumes Obama Is a Christian Because He’s Black.”

But if Walker had said “no,” the headlines about his unseemly attack on the president’s faith would be automatic. And, it turns out, they were automatic even though he tried to take the middle road.

This should be a lesson to Republicans everywhere (then again, a million things a week should be lessons to Republicans, yet they don’t seem to learn). You never win, no matter what, under any circumstance, when the liberal media set out to trap you. It doesn’t matter what you say or how you say it.

These are dishonest people, and dishonest people are notoriously unconcerned with what actually happens or what is actually said. The moment they put a camera in front of your face, you’re screwed.

So what can you do? Well, you can stow away in a cave and hope they never find you, but it can be difficult to run a campaign that way, so the next best strategy is to call them on their crap whenever given the opportunity.

The governor lightly scolded the reporter for playing games — progress, I suppose — but If I were him, I would have come down much, much harder.

Here, for the record, is the appropriate way to respond:

Do I think Obama is a Christian? Do I look like his biographer? Why not ask me his shoe size next? Maybe his preferred Sleep Number setting? Truly, sir, this line of questioning is the dumbest thing I’ve encountered since the last time I encountered a reporter from the Washington Post. Why in the name of all that is holy are you quizzing me about the president’s religion? Why don’t you quiz him? Oh, that’s right, you’re a groveling coward and a pathetic excuse for a journalist. You forget that you’re job is to get to the truth and enlighten the people, not to seek out Republicans for cheap gotcha moments. You, sir, are a fraud, a disgrace, and an embarrassment to what’s left of your dying profession. This president has prosecuted, spied on, and stifled the media, yet you still carry his water like a spineless vassal. Why don’t you shine his shoes while you’re at it? You should be questioning authority, not shielding it from scrutiny, you shameless hack. I will not legitimize you by answering this question. Instead, I will pray that the Holy Spirit sees fit to endow you with even a shred of integrity and courage, so that you might one day decide to do something that in some way resembles journalism. Until then, please leave my presence before I become physically ill. Thank you, sir, good night.

I’ll tell you one thing: the first candidate who says this to the media will have my vote.


Not bad.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. LarryW2LJ says:

    Shades of Winston Churchill.

  2. Sonshine135 says:

    I would have to respond, “Why don’t you ask him that question yourself?” The truth is a lot of people call themselves Christian, but many don’t practice it. How is anyone to know anyone else’s disposition when their content of character seems not to identify them as such? The question was just dumb and irrelevant.

  3. Chick says:

    My inclination would be to turn the question around and ask “If I accused the president of being a Christian, is there enough evidence to get a conviction?”

  4. Legisperitus says:

    William Safire back in 1987 recommended a somewhat briefer response to irrelevant questions: “Go to hell!”

  5. MrTipsNZ says:

    This actually highlights a lack of quick thinking that was evident in politicians of the past and it is a world wide phenomenon. They are indeed duller.

    And for the record, I would have said “As you are a Moonie, would it bother you if he was?”

  6. PA mom says:

    In my mind, Walker is the strongest candidate out there.

    That is why they want to take him down.

    Love, love, LOVE the “appropriate response”.

  7. Legisperitus says:

    Didn’t they ask Marco Rubio how old he thought the earth was? He should have given his own age and said it’s at least that old.

  8. Gerard Plourde says:

    I’m always somewhat cautious regarding this question. A number of Evangelical Christians believe that only those who have had a “born again” experience are true Christians and that Baptism is only a public sign of that already-made committment, thus lacking in any salvific effect. They therefore do not believe that Baptized Catholics are automatically to be considered Christians. Whether Gov. Walker’s church holds that position is uncertain although the belief statements on its web site appear to support it.

  9. acricketchirps says:

    I think, “Are you going to ask the President if he thinks I’m a Christian? And if not then maybe you should examine your own prejudices,” would have been just fine.

  10. snoozie says:

    MAN!!! Fr. Z for president!!!!

    Seriously, that was OUTSTANDING! If someone actually had the kahonees to say that I would be in tears (of laughter and joy!)…and might even mortgage my home to contribute mightily to their campaign.

    Is Walker Catholic?

  11. Imrahil says:

    “He declares that he is a Christian. I have no reason to question the fact of his being baptized. So, yes, he is a Christian.

    You should know, though, that for us Roman Catholics, to say ‘someone is a Christian’ means to state just the little fact that he is, well, a Christian, and has nothing to do with a moral estimation of his personality, morality, policy, or correctness of his opinions at all.”

  12. New Sister says:

    Newt would have given such an answer – other republicans should take lessons from him.

  13. David Zampino says:

    Governor Walker’s father was a Baptist minister (American Baptist Convention). I believe that the Governor is a practicing Lutheran.

    I LOVED this blog post!

  14. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Following on from Gerard Plourde’s comment, Governor Walker could have asked the reporter to clarify: what exactly did he understand ‘Christian’ to mean, in asking that question? And, indeed, what did he know about the matter?

    Terry Mattingly has an interesting article (with interesting comments, too):

    He links to a 25 June 2007 Daniel Pulliam article for his quotation from what Pulliam describes as “a noteworthy speech on Saturday before 10,000 members of the United Church of Christ in Hartford, Conn.”, but Pulliam’s link to the (purported?!) source, produces a “The page you’re looking for doesn’t exist” page.

    So, even if one had ever encountered this quotation about Mr. Obama’s ‘conversion experience’, it is not easy to check the source. (Is that litotes?)

    Mr. Mattingly also links to a “7/12/08” Lisa Miller story as with reference to Mr. Obama being baptized by the curse-happy Mr. Wright, but all it in fact says about this (purported?) event is “His baptism presents its own problems. The senior pastor at Trinity at the time of Obama’s baptism was the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr.”, with no fuether details and no source. Again, how does one come accurately to learn more about Mr. Obama’s (purported? putative?) baptism – readily? – at all?

    What if Mr. Walker had said something like, ‘Correct me if you can add details, but, let us assume that Mr. Obama is putatively validly baptized – was there something more you were trying to ask?’ Would that simply have baffled the reporter, and, if nonetheless accurately reported, myriad readers?

  15. Elizabeth D says:

    I am okay with Scott Walker or Jeb Bush as the Republican candidate, I like either one immensely better than Romney. I am with Fr Z that it would be sad to lose Walker in Wisconsin. I shook his hand and had a brief interaction with him one time (after a Mass he and Paul Ryan were at, which Cardinal Dolan celebrated!) and he was totally nice. One of my friends wanted her picture taken with him he very much obliged while I took the picture. Not having a TV or following politics, I didn’t even know the man’s face before that, though at the time he was in the middle of the HUGE storm of the recall here in Madison. Yet he was completely relaxed and happy, this was someone who dealt VERY well with the intense circus-like pressure against him. The upside of me knowing nothing about Governor Walker is that I was not nervous to meet him since I would not have known him from Adam the minute before!

  16. John of Chicago says:

    I still don’t understand why Gov. Walker simply wouldn’t answer: “Yes, the President is a Christian. And that is only one, rather trivial, example of how I am not just one more generic Republican candidate trying to score cheap headlines with off-the-wall, inflammatory and inconsequential remarks. Now here a few substantial things I actually do care about…”

  17. Moral_Hazard says:

    Actually, I think Walsh’s “appropriate way to respond” is very stupid. It makes the speaker look like a spittle flecked loonie. I think, “Great gotcha question!” said slightly sarcastically, couple with, “If you’re interested in the President’s faith, why not ask him? He’ll know better than me.” or something to that effect. Ranting isn’t leadership and when one runs for president, one must show leadership.

  18. Elizabeth D says:

    I would say that it is my understanding President Obama has received Christian baptism and at that moment became a Christian. What his personal beliefs are, is not a question to ask me. I can answer that I believe in the Bible, the Apostles’ Creed and Nicene Creed either of which I would be happy to recite for you; I am a Catholic Christian and believe in the Christian Faith handed on down through the centuries from the Apostles and from Jesus.

  19. mburn16 says:

    Obama professes to be a Christian. He accepts at least the most basic tenants of Christian faith. Therefore, in my view, he is a Christian. Now….certainly he is a flawed Christian. A disobedient Christian. A Christian who’s salvation is an open question…but, yes, a Christian.

    We should be careful about taking the view that “not as many people are actually Christians as they say”. We should aim for thwre to be as many Christians in the country as possible…because it is vastly easier to demand scriptural aherence from a Christian than from a non-Christian.

  20. Gerard Plourde says:

    Dear David Zampino,

    My understanding is that Gov. Walker is an Evangelical Christian (not to be confused with Lutheranism which in German is called the “Evangelische Kirche” but whose doctrine, teachings, and liturgical forms differ considerably from those of American Evangelicals. Fr. Z grew up as a Lutheran and would probably be better able to discuss the fundamental differences between the two.

  21. SKAY says:

    Quite possibly Gov. Walker was just telling the truth–he doesn’t know. I know I certainly don’t.
    Actions speak louder than words.
    I was glad he did not fall into the usual MSM trap.
    David Axelrod said in his book that President Obama lied about his beliefs concerning ssm while
    campaigning for his first term. Of course, according to Obama, he suddenly “evolved” after being elected for a second term and he is now FOR ssm.
    As I said, actions speak louder than words and his actions are screaming at me.

  22. Kathleen10 says:

    This seems humorous, but it is actually deadly serious, and unless we get this right, I can’t see how any Republican can get elected. The media has to be understood as a manipulation machine. It is ALL in for Democrats, and ALL out for anyone else. It is now just like any other branch of the government. We have the Judicial, the Legislative, the Executive, and the Media branch, and the Media may be the most powerful because they control propaganda under the guise of “news”. The pretense of “truth seeking” is long gone, because our largely dumb populace doesn’t even expect it anymore. Tell us lies we like and we believe.
    Whoever is the GOP candidate, needs to be prepped and ready, because they are going to get a grilling from minute one, and the traps will be laid, as this one was for Scott Walker. No GOP candidate can “win” with the mainstream media, ever, because no matter what they say the media will distort it and try to use it. Give them as little as possible to use, but go after them when they abuse you, without spending too much time on it. Then dismiss it, let it go and say “I’ve already addressed that, next”. If Mittens had done this, shown a little “fire”, he might have had a chance, but he was too busy being a nice guy and they had him for lunch. He frustrated the American people who expect their leaders to show some gumption.
    Any candidate seriously considered should have the personality to stay cool under duress. The best example of this quality I can think of is Newt Gingrich. He stayed cool and always had an answer. His debating skills are extremely strong, another critical quality to have. He’s just verbally ready for anything and you have to have that today.
    Here’s the thing. The candidate has to be someone who can handle the press, not someone who gets handled. Being cool under fire, able to respond, even angrily, can win the day, because even the press will respect someone who can put them in their place, but you have to be really skilled at it, or they will portray you as a “loose cannon” or “unstable”. And as we see, when a lie is repeated often enough, people believe it, and the media is going to be relentless because they don’t want a Republican in the White House. They got their guy in, have covered for him all these years, and they like things as they are now.

  23. JuliB says:

    Having read an early interview (in 2004) with Obama on religion, he answered that Jesus was the link between God and man. There were a few other statements that led me to think that he is NOT a Christian.

    If pressed, I suppose I could answer, yes he’s a Christian, but a heretic. That might make a few heads pop.

    Here’s the link to the interview:

  24. mariadevotee says:

    I would respond “I have no idea what is in his heart, (pause) or in his head most of the time! Next question…….”

  25. Mandy P. says:

    Honestly, I’m not a huge Walker fan, but I’m glad that for once a politician isn’t claiming to have some kind of special insight into every single thing, ever. It’s refreshing to see that at least one guy realizes he doesn’t have to have an opinion on everything, and that maybe he’s not qualified to give an opinion on absolutely everything.

    As far as responses go, I’d love to see more people throwing the media’s bias and ignorance back in their faces. It doesn’t have to be nasty. Just a simple, “Forgive me, but I’m having a hard time understanding how this question relates to good governance. If you can explain to me in what way having an opinion on this subject has anything to do with and/or affects my ability to govern, then I’ll consider answering the question. Otherwise, I’ll be happy to continue this interview by answering questions that are relevant to my position or the position I’m seeking.”

  26. Imrahil says:

    A Christian who’s salvation is an open question

    Sorry for the ah-we-all-knew-that-before interruption,

    but any living Christian’s salvation is an open question. As, for that matter, any living heathen’s.

    A similar reasoning holds for the supposition that you have to look somewhat into the depths of someone’s hard to answer “is he really a Christian or not, etc.”. [Sure, people can formally apostatize in their hearts and then lie about it, but that rather theoretical possibility is not what, i.m.h.o., such talk is going after.]

    That’s just the Protestant concept of faith. Yet it is our concept of faith that is more down to Earth, more easy to grasp into reasonable terms, more helpful and, most importantly, more true.

    So… despite it may have sounded like criticism…

    I strongly second what the dear mburn16 has said.

    Dear JuliB,
    “Jesus is the link between God and man” does sound strongly Christian to me. Such as it stands, it isn’t even heretical (though, dependent on the context, it may be rather insufficient.) So,

    I suppose I could answer, yes he’s a Christian, but a heretic.

    That’s the spirit.

    As are, of course, all these Lutherans, Evangelicals, Calvinists, Baptists, Pentecostals, and so on out there. I. e., all those that are not Roman Catholics. (Or at least Eastern Orthodox, though they’ve at least in practice got erroneous teaching too.)

  27. Uncledan says:

    Father, that was an absolutely STUNNING answer. How I wish we had a politician who had the spine to say something like this.
    I’ve never seen people so afraid of offending people who hate them and everything they stand for.

  28. The Masked Chicken says:

    “As far as responses go, I’d love to see more people throwing the media’s bias and ignorance back in their faces. It doesn’t have to be nasty. Just a simple, “Forgive me, but I’m having a hard time understanding how this question relates to good governance. If you can explain to me in what way having an opinion on this subject has anything to do with and/or affects my ability to govern, then I’ll consider answering the question. Otherwise, I’ll be happy to continue this interview by answering questions that are relevant to my position or the position I’m seeking.”

    Actually, one’s religion has a profound influence on their good governance, because it informs their moral view. John F. Kennedy was wrong. St. Pope John Paul II wrote about this. Obama’s stance on religion informs his governance choices.

    You guys are way too unguileful (yes, I know that’s not a word). Here is how he should have dealt with it:

    Reporter (call him, John): Is President Obama a Christian?

    Walker: Well, John, what is your definition of Christian? There is a difference of opinion, as surely you know, among various denominations and churches within Christianity, so I need to understand your definition before we can have a meaningful conversation on that topic.

    Reporter: A Christian is someone who professes Jesus as Lord and Savior.

    Walker: Well, John, as a reporter, have you found any evidence of that, since you have covered the President for so long? Can you give some citations so that I can study the issue?

    Reporter: Sure. At the [microphone fuzzes out]…So, it seems that President Obama is a Christian.

    Walker: Well, John, I think you’ve answered your own question. Next question, please…

    The Chicken

  29. CPT TOM says:

    The Chicken: That one works for me. It also succeeds on pushing back on the reporter in a thoughtful manner and puts other reporters on notice to be prepared to be put on the spot.

  30. Mandy P. says:

    @The Chicken,

    Yes. But honestly most people (as in the average, possibly nominally religious person) aren’t going to appreciate that kind of retort. And this particular question is extremely irrelevant to Walker anyway. If they’d asked about Walker’s own religious faith and how it might affect his governance then that’s one thing. But asking whether he thinks Obama’s faith is genuine really has no bearing on *Walker’s* fitness for office, which is what they’re trying to tie it to. They’re just fishing for a sound bite of Walker that they can spin and push as him saying he thinks Obama’s a bad Christian, no Christian at all, or even a sooooper seeeekrit Muslim. They’re just looking to tie him to kookiness and conspiracy mongering to smear him. And since he didn’t bite, they’re still going to spin it into something negative about Walker to sabotage him. The media is just out of control.

  31. Gerard Plourde says:

    Dear Imrahil,

    While we Catholics and most mainline Christian denominations recognize that we are not assured of salvation until we have, as St. Paul puts it, “run the race”, there are Evangelicals and Fundamentalist Christians who hold that declaring that Jesus is their personal Savior is sufficient for salvation. Because of a very narrow reading of St. Paul, filtered through Calvinist and Reformed theology concerning the total depravity of fallen humans (a heretical teaching), they reject the part good works play in a Christian’s journey to God and claim that no action we take in this life has an effect on our damnible state acquired through Adam’s sin and only a person’s profession of acceptance of Jesus means anything. The Catholic response to this is that of St. James – “faith without works is dead.”

  32. HeatherPA says:

    I really like The Chickens reply.

    Though I must admit, I would find it impressive if a reporter would be able to quickly answer correctly what a Christian is.

  33. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Meanwhile, 45% of the Democrats surveyed by Professor Theodoridis last autumn think Mr. Obama is a Christian…

  34. AnnTherese says:

    Imrahil said, “You should know, though, that for us Roman Catholics, to say ‘someone is a Christian’ means to state just the little fact that he is, well, a Christian, and has nothing to do with a moral estimation of his personality, morality, policy, or correctness of his opinions at all.”

    I suppose this can be said about Catholics, as well. In God’s eyes, is being baptized Christian enough to make one a Christian? Or is God looking at: Does this person truly follow Jesus with whole heart and soul and life?–his teachings, example, values, etc.? Does this Catholic person do that? To call ourselves Christian has enormous meaning– to follow and emulate someone who loved and lived so radically. To give our very lives up for God–and for God’s dear anawim.

    As for Walker, on Thursday he stated that his ability to control Wisconsin teachers who were picketing at the Capitol was evidence of his ability to handle ISIS:

    Impressive. As ever.

    I’d love to lose him in Wisconsin. Wouldn’t wish him on America, though. I pray God guides him toward a different, less destructive path for his life.

  35. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    One gets the impression that there are many in Wisconsin for whom one might more urgently pray God guide them “toward a different, less destructive path”:

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