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What has been the biggest debacle on Obama's watch?

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Cultural losses

“Though the movement [the Rev. Jerry] Falwell helped launch was unable to enact much of its agenda into law, there is no question that it transformed the American political landscape. …

“Despite these political inroads, Falwell’s brand of religious conservatism has suffered losses in the culture wars. Feminism, its radical excesses mostly discarded, has become firmly integrated into America’s cultural mainstream. … Acceptance of gays is now at a level that would have been unthinkable in 1980. Sexual content in mainstream entertainment has steadily increased, and adults-only material is more available than ever, thanks to new technologies. While divorce rates have dropped somewhat, so have marriage rates; in much of America, sex between single adults is widely accepted as a social norm.”

Cathy Young, writing on “Jerry Falwell’s Paradoxical Legacy,” in the August/September issue of Reason

Secular trend?

“Nothing divides the United States from Europe like religion. America has its public piety and its multitude of thriving sects; Europe has its official secularism and its empty, museum-piece churches. Ninety percent of Americans say they believe in God, while only about 60 percent of Britons, French and Germans say the same.

“American politics is riven by faith-based disputes that barely exist across the Atlantic, while European debates take place under a canopy of unbelief that’s unimaginable in the United States, where polls show that a Muslim or a homosexual has a better chance of being elected president than an acknowledged atheist.

“The aftermath of 9/11 has thrown this contrast into sharp relief and seemingly pushed Europe and America into permanent, Venus-and-Mars opposition. But paradoxically, our era may be remembered as the moment when the religious gulf between the continents began to slowly close. In the United States, the Bush era has summoned up … a mass secularism that looks to Europe and sees a model for America to follow.”

Ross Douthat, writing on “Crises of Faith,” in the July/August issue of the Atlantic Monthly

Reagan’s ‘godchild’

“In 1987, three major broadcast networks presented the semi-official newscasts. You could choose between ABC, CBS and NBC. But there was really no choice at all. All three evening newscasts were remarkably similar — almost as if they were produced by the same team. And indeed it was.

“That team was called the New York Times. The front page was show prep for all three network newscasts.

“There was no talk radio, to speak of, in 1987. The AM dial was moribund. Programmers dared not deal with controversial topics for fear they would have to provide government-mandated ‘balance’ from opposing views. …

“The Fairness Doctrine was a policy of the Federal Communications Commission from 1949 to 1987. …

“But in 1986, a federal appeals court recognized the obvious — that the Fairness Doctrine was not law and could be overturned without congressional approval.

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