Keyes's antigay rhetoric returns
October 23 2004 12:00 AM ET
The fiery rhetoric that Republican U.S. Senate candidate Alan Keyes uses on the campaign trail returned during his first televised debate against Democrat Barack Obama after being noticeably absent from their radio matchup last week. Keyes, a former ambassador who has focused his campaign around his stances against abortion and gay marriage, on Thursday called Obama naive and ignorant on constitutional issues.
Obama was ready for the marked change in tone, saying Keyes calls people names if they don't agree with him and that he didn't need Keyes to lecture him about religion. Unlike their first debate, which included fewer fireworks and more policy discussion, the pair's second debate centered on faith and morals as they battled over abortion, gun control, and gay rights.
Keyes said Christians committed to their faith should vote for him because of Obama's stands on issues such as abortion. "I stand for the defense of innocent life. I stand for the defense of traditional marriage," Keyes said.
Obama, a state senator, began by criticizing Keyes for focusing his entire campaign on moral issues. He also reminded voters that Keyes is not from Illinois. Keyes came to the race this summer from Maryland after primary winner Jack Ryan dropped out amid a sex scandal. "My opponent in this race doesn't have a track record of service in Illinois," Obama said. "Instead, he talks about a moral crusade and labels those that disagree with him as sinners."
Many of the questions--including those the candidates were able to ask each other--referred to controversial statements that Keyes has made during the campaign, including labeling homosexuality an abomination and saying Jesus Christ would not vote for Obama. Keyes said those statements were misinterpreted, but he did not back down from them. "I do not say that homosexual relations are an abomination--the Bible says so," Keyes said.
He also said that it is true that those who support abortion take a "slaveholders position" and that Jesus Christ is against the taking of innocent life through abortion. He accused Obama of trying to take faith and morals out of government. "I don't need Mr. Keyes lecturing me about Christianity," Obama said. "I'm not running to be minister of Illinois. I'm running to be its U.S. senator."
Keyes is against abortion in all cases except as an inadvertent result of efforts to save the mother's life. Obama supports abortion rights. Both are against gay marriage, although Obama is for civil unions. The candidates showed stark differences on gun laws. Obama said Keyes was against "commonsense" laws like the assault weapons ban, while Keyes said Obama would arm criminals and leave law-abiding citizens defenseless.
Given a chance to question Obama, Keyes asked why he is for "age-appropriate" sex education even in kindergarten, something he often highlights on the campaign trail. Obama said the type of health education he supports is, for example, warning young children about inappropriate touching. Obama asked Keyes why he has supported state legislatures electing U.S. senators rather than individual voters. Keyes said the question showed Obama's ignorance of the U.S. Constitution because its drafters intended the U.S. Senate to represent the states. Obama retorted that he teaches constitutional law at the University of Chicago.