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James Dobson Unmasked

Focus on the Family founder James Dobson (the evangelical leader called by Karl Rove to help sell the Harriet Miers nomination) is revealed in a feature article by Pulitzer prize winner Eileen Welsome in this month's 5280. And on the Eighth Day, Dr. Dobson Created Himself is free and online, don't miss it.

The evangelical leader is going strong at 70:

Today, his behemoth ministry, based at the foot of the Rockies, reaches more than 220 million people around the globe through its radio and television programs, magazines, books, videos, audio recordings, and a powerful website that offers webzines, podcasts, music, and even movie reviews.

Tom Delay credits him with "walking him back to Jesus." Republicans generally are in his debt:

In the 2004 election, Dobson's political arm, Focus on the Family Action, was instrumental in turning out the conservative vote that gave Bush a second term and ushered in U.S. senators with socially conservative agendas. Having reached the pinnacle of evangelical Christendom, these should be halcyon days for James Dobson.

The second page of the article recaps Dobson's role in the Miers and Alito nominations. Alito send Focus on the Family a thank-you note after his confirmation:

Alito's confirmation fulfilled his lifelong ambition to "warm a seat on the Supreme Court," and was further evidence of Dobson's reach. One of the first things Alito did when he took his warm seat was dash off a thank-you note to the folks in Colorado Springs. "This is just a short note to express my heartfelt thanks to you and the entire staff at Focus on the Family for your help and support during the past few, challenging months," he wrote. "As long as I serve on the Supreme Court, I will keep in mind the trust that has been placed in me."

There's lots more about Dobson's childhood and parenting advice -- he wrote a book on how to spank your kids -- and big surprise here (not) -- his own parenting was far from ideal:

Dobson scarfed down whatever Shirley cooked, but other aspects of family life left him queasy. While changing Danae's diapers, he stuffed cotton balls in his nostrils. After a hard day at the office, he didn't like the kids crawling all over him when he walked through the door, so the family instituted a rule, giving Dad 30 minutes to unwind, read the paper, or watch the news before the fun could begin.

Where did he take out his frustrations? On the family dog.

A fifth member of the household, a stubborn little dachshund named Sigmund Freud, added to the chaos. When "Siggie" refused to go to bed one night, Dobson got out a belt and whacked him. The dog bared its teeth and Dobson gave it a second whack. "What developed next is impossible to describe," writes Dobson in The New Strong-Willed Child. "That tiny dog and I had the most vicious fight ever staged between man and beast. I fought him up one wall and down the other, with both of us scratching and clawing and growling. I am still embarrassed by the memory of the entire scene."

There's lots more, I recommend the whole thing. Also, there will be a part 2 to the article out next month. And on a related note, Christina Larson at Washington Monthly notes the results of a recent poll showing that 50% of American hunters and anglers identified themselves as evangelical.

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  • Re: James Dobson Unmasked (none / 0) (#1)
    by Dadler on Sat Jun 24, 2006 at 09:23:17 AM EST
    Well, if he walked Tom DeLay back to Jesus, I guess he should be able to turn water into wine. DeLay seems to have walked past Jesus and straight to Lucifer.

    Re: James Dobson Unmasked (none / 0) (#2)
    by Al on Sat Jun 24, 2006 at 09:31:58 AM EST
    He has at least two things in common with Dubya, then: Cruelty to animals, and the ability to reach out and directly or indirectly ruin millions of lives.

    Re: James Dobson Unmasked (none / 0) (#3)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Jun 24, 2006 at 09:32:18 AM EST
    Dadler I think that's Dobson's intent.

    Re: James Dobson Unmasked (none / 0) (#4)
    by Dadler on Sat Jun 24, 2006 at 09:37:47 AM EST
    Agent99, Intent or not, it is the result. Close-minded fundamentalism. Why does that sound familiar? Oh wait, 9/11, War on Terror, that's where I heard it.

    Re: James Dobson Unmasked (none / 0) (#5)
    by Ernesto Del Mundo on Sat Jun 24, 2006 at 09:43:16 AM EST
    Well, if he walked Tom DeLay back to Jesus,
    Hmmmm...I don't recall The Exterminator ever railing against the moneychangers or doing anything Jesus-like in his life, for that matter. This must have been a very recent development.
    I guess he should be able to turn water into wine.
    Dobson is good at turning people's prejudices into money.

    Re: James Dobson Unmasked (none / 0) (#6)
    by cpinva on Sat Jun 24, 2006 at 01:09:46 PM EST
    Tom Delay credits him with "walking him back to Jesus."
    unfortunately, not far enough back, he's still with us.
    railing against the moneychangers or doing anything Jesus-like in his life
    ernesto, you, as have so many others, misunderstood this event. jesus wasn't railing against the money changers per se, he was upset at their location; inside the temple. had they been hawking fruit or other items, in the temple, he would still have railed at them. dobson is a scary guy, not because he comes across as scary in person, but because he comes across as so very reasonable. hitler, mussolini and mao also came across as very personable and reasonable, in person. most psychopaths do.

    Re: James Dobson Unmasked (none / 0) (#7)
    by desertswine on Sat Jun 24, 2006 at 03:35:47 PM EST
    I'd rather spend my time reading about an honest crook like Willie Sutton than a dangerous slimeball like Dobson (uck vomit). I recommend "Where The Money Was" (1976).

    Re: James Dobson Unmasked (none / 0) (#8)
    by jondee on Sat Jun 24, 2006 at 09:15:27 PM EST
    What you get when you place a premium on nurturing a nation of anti-intellectual, impulse buyers: a herd of lost souls all too eager to latch onto the first charismatic medicine man or fratboy that itches that scratch.

    Re: James Dobson Unmasked (none / 0) (#9)
    by Ernesto Del Mundo on Sat Jun 24, 2006 at 09:41:17 PM EST
    jesus wasn't railing against the money changers per se, he was upset at their location; inside the temple.
    cp...I understood the event and meant that DeLay should have railed against the moneychangers in the temple, i.e., influencing legislation in the Capitol Building.

    Re: James Dobson Unmasked (none / 0) (#10)
    by aw on Sun Jun 25, 2006 at 12:11:41 AM EST
    All things bright and beautiful, All creatures great and small, All things wise and wonderful: The Lord God made them all. Dobson forgot everything when his ego took over.

    Re: James Dobson Unmasked (none / 0) (#11)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sun Jun 25, 2006 at 05:36:48 AM EST
    I read Dr Dobson's books, "Dare to dicipline" and "The strong willed child." The event about the dog, was a mistake in his past that he used as an example,one of the reasons I like Dobson so much is that he bears his soul, to help others better themselves. Of course the fact that he is human and has made mistakes is no suprise, we all have.It suprises me that you all have made a judgement about this man that has devoted his life to the Lord and helping families, I have listened to him for 18 years now and feel I know his heart pretty well, he's about as good and honest a man as they come.I bet it would be hard to find some real dirt on him( besides his own shortfalls he has already told you about himself).Comparing a man like Dobson to Hitler is really saying something about the persons character making that accusation, I would say it is very hateful in fact.How about giving the man a break and not casting the first stone please? Atleast until you have proof of what you are accusing.

    Re: James Dobson Unmasked (none / 0) (#12)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sun Jun 25, 2006 at 08:03:38 AM EST
    It's nice that you know Dobson's heart. Then you must know his elderly-dog-beating story is not an example of his mistakes at all, but rather a perfect example of his "sometimes they're just asking for it" approach to "managing" those physically smaller and weaker than yourself. A couple more:
    "Some strong-willed children absolutely demand to be spanked, and their wishes should be granted. . . [T]wo or three stinging strokes on the legs or buttocks with a switch are usually sufficient to emphasize the point, 'You must obey me.'" - From The Strong-Willed Child, pp. 53-4.
    "[P]ain is a marvelous purifier. . . It is not necessary to beat the child into submission; a little bit of pain goes a long way for a young child. However, the spanking should be of sufficient magnitude to cause the child to cry genuinely." - From Dare to Discipline, pages 6 and 7
    A key difference between liberals/progressives and the authoritarian right has been, and always will be, that liberals believe a parent's role is to guide and teach a child to become a self-sufficient person able to deal with adversity while respecting both himself and those around him. The right believes it's to break the spirit and will of the child to make him conform and obey authority. Dobson represents those who believe it's good to bomb some people because they're just "asking for it." That sometimes it's *necessary* to beat your elderly dog for wanting to sleep on the fuzzy toilet seat cover because obedience to authority is the highest principle. Dobson's "beat them, but don't go 'too far'" legalistic disclaimers are supposed to convince us that what really matters is that he is a "nice guy", despite acknowledgements that sometimes when using the "they're just asking for it" approach "collateral damage" does, regrettably occur. The left believes our laws and society are built on the principle of universal human rights and dignity and so, Dobson's "niceness" aside, his "beat them into submission" approach to child rearing is something we find abhorrent.

    Re: James Dobson Unmasked (none / 0) (#13)
    by squeaky on Sun Jun 25, 2006 at 09:56:16 AM EST
    raisin-Thank you for articulating why Dobson is such a threat to free society. I cringe when I read stuff like mainemom's garbage. Your calm and composed answer to her tripe is more than I could muster. Religion, Dobson style is truly an opiate of the masses. The whole point seems to create a servile voter class of drone sycophants. Dobson gets rich while his flock 'votes' for the fascist who licks his butt the cleanest.

    Re: James Dobson Unmasked (none / 0) (#14)
    by squeaky on Sun Jun 25, 2006 at 09:57:30 AM EST
    raisin-Thank you for articulating why Dobson is such a threat to free society. I cringe when I read stuff like mainemom's garbage. Your calm and composed answer to her tripe is more than I could muster. Religion, Dobson style is truly an opiate of the masses. The whole point seems to create a servile voter class of drone sycophants. Dobson gets rich while his flock 'votes' for the fascist who licks his butt the cleanest.

    Re: James Dobson Unmasked (none / 0) (#15)
    by Dadler on Sun Jun 25, 2006 at 12:38:28 PM EST
    This just of the AP wire: Jesus denies ever walking with DeLay. Responds with frustration that he doesn't even know the guy. As for Dobson, Christ would only say, "Try stuffing him through the eye of a needle. Go ahead. Use all the lube you want."

    Re: James Dobson Unmasked (none / 0) (#16)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sun Jun 25, 2006 at 01:25:36 PM EST
    I disagree with you, I don't think Dr.Dobson wants anyone to break the spirit of a child, quite the opposite actually.Sometimes a child needs an adult to be the leader setting firm bounderies and not allowing behavior that is either harmful or destructive.Some parents raise children trying to steer from behind. There is a time for that as they get older, but when young, a strong loving adult that knows what is better for the child then the child himself, is what makes self secured young people that make wise choices in adulthood.I have to ask raisin, have you read the whole book, or just picked it apart? I think you are taking his words out of context.You are entitled to your opinions on child rearing, but smearing the name of an honorable man is plain wrong.

    Re: James Dobson Unmasked (none / 0) (#17)
    by jondee on Sun Jun 25, 2006 at 01:32:24 PM EST
    If he's an honorable man than he shouldnt be dirtying himself by associating himself so thoroughly with the eminently dishonorable realm of politics or the even more problematic pursuit of mammon.

    Re: James Dobson Unmasked (none / 0) (#18)
    by squeaky on Sun Jun 25, 2006 at 01:34:42 PM EST
    gosh mom your glowing praise of Dobson and his method of childrearing sounds just like something a normal person not hooked on god would write. Fabously reasonable. Guess it is because you left out the part about beating them into submission with a stick. Sheep.

    Re: James Dobson Unmasked (none / 0) (#19)
    by squeaky on Sun Jun 25, 2006 at 01:38:31 PM EST
    Oh yes you also left out the part about scaring the bejeezus out of them with descriptions of burning in everlasting hell when they get a little rambunctious.

    Re: James Dobson Unmasked (none / 0) (#20)
    by squeaky on Sun Jun 25, 2006 at 01:40:42 PM EST
    Interesting how scaring and scarring are such similar looking words.

    Re: James Dobson Unmasked (none / 0) (#21)
    by Dadler on Sun Jun 25, 2006 at 01:47:23 PM EST
    Mainemom, Hitting another adult for reasons other than self-defense is criminal. How people can rationalize hitting A CHILD, or beating them with tree branches or woooden spoons or shoes or whatever, as parenting as opposed to child abuse and battery is beyond rationality. Attributing it to their literal interpretation of a metaphorical god (small g, thank you), is simply evidence that they have left their free, critical, god-given minds for others to operate. Many of us, including myself, raise wonderful, intelligent, creative AND disciplined children withOUT having to whip, beat, spank, slap or otherwise physically abuse them. Are you going to tell your child, that when another person does something they don't like that it's okay to hit them? Try to make a child understand why THEY get hit and an adult doesn't. Try to make yourSELF understand it. Peace.

    Re: James Dobson Unmasked (none / 0) (#22)
    by Johnny on Sun Jun 25, 2006 at 02:43:43 PM EST
    *sarsasm* I gotta side with mainemon here, nothing subdues a child and makes him love and respect his parents more than a good old fashioned arse-whupping... Followed by some acute psychological torture about the blazes of hell and topped off with dose of scripture citing the mercy of god... Yep, everytime I hit my child hard enough to make her cry, I know that she is no doubt rationalizing the pain into a solid life lesson. Children are capable of that, you know. Making intuitive leaps such as that. Especially the 3 or 4 year olds. *sarcasm*

    Re: James Dobson Unmasked (none / 0) (#23)
    by Ernesto Del Mundo on Sun Jun 25, 2006 at 04:24:55 PM EST
    I imagine Dobson could easily rationalize dropping white phosphorous rounds on Iraqis with the same relish he describes inflicting painful beatings on toddlers and pets. Ya gotta let these little buggers know who's in charge, after all.

    Re: James Dobson Unmasked (none / 0) (#24)
    by kdog on Mon Jun 26, 2006 at 08:38:56 AM EST
    I was never struck be my parents in my life...I learned right from wrong.

    Re: James Dobson Unmasked (none / 0) (#25)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Jun 26, 2006 at 03:36:25 PM EST
    No one on this blog knows James Dobson, and no one can vouch for his heart - not even mainemom. That said, let's start here. Dr. Dobson does not advocate child abuse, as most of you wish to position his quotes. I'm quite certain you would like that to be the case, but he doesn't. It's about discipline, people, not punishment. If you don't know the difference between the two, look them up. He DOES advocate corporal punishment, only when necessary, and there are times when corporal punishment is necessary and effective. However, to hit a child without cause is abuse and reprehensible - as is beating a child, and there is a world of difference between giving a defiant child three swats on their bottom to correct their behavior and beating a child. As for why Dr. Dobson says to use a "switch," the answer is simple: so that the child won't grow to fear his parents' hands. Did any of you point out that he also says never to spank a child on their bare bottom (because it's humiliating), and always to tell your child whay they were spanked (to correct flagrantly, inappropriate, disrespectful, dangerous or just plain bad behavior) and, finally, to ALWAYS hold your child afterward and love them? I have a 5-and-half-year-old boy. I spank him as a last resort, and it truly does hurt me more than it does him. I can tell you that on the rare occasion when I spank my child - after talking with him hasn't worked, after taking something away from him hasn't worked, after a time-out hasn't worked, and after any other creative discipline my wife and I can come up with hasn't worked - he always knows why he was spanked and recognizes that it was done because I love him, not because I want to hurt him. Indeed, he never fails to squeeze me tight when I hold him afterward and tell me that he loves me. So while I don't profess to know Dr. Dobson's heart - and, to be honest, I don't agree with him across the board - I would put his track record up against anyone's when it comes to integrity, supporting the family and the Judeo Christian values that - whether anyone likes it or not - this country was founded upon. And, for the record, my son is a great kid. He's smart, well-adjusted and respectful. He knows I love him and his mother. I'll put him up against any 5-year-old when it comes to being a good boy.

    Re: James Dobson Unmasked (none / 0) (#26)
    by Sailor on Mon Jun 26, 2006 at 04:12:59 PM EST
    No one on this blog knows James Dobson, and no one can vouch for his heart
    we don't care about his heart, we care about his actions, and you mispreresented them.
    I would put his track record up against anyone's when it comes to integrity, supporting the family and the Judeo Christian values that - whether anyone likes it or not - this country was founded upon.
    Actually the country was founded by folks getting away from religious persecution, and no jews were allowed. Try reading history instead of the bible.
    He DOES advocate corporal punishment
    Call it what it is, he advocates beating children, but only if he doesn't like them.
    And, for the record, my son is a great kid. He's smart, well-adjusted and respectful
    No, he fears you, big difference. Please write back, I'd LOVE to quote more of dobson's abuses to you.

    Re: James Dobson Unmasked (none / 0) (#27)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Jun 26, 2006 at 05:33:47 PM EST
    No problem, Sailor. I've read Dobson's book, "Dare to Discipline" - have you? (And, because it's relevant to the discussion, do you have any children, Sailor?) I misrepresented nothing. If you think I did, provide details. Actually, Sailor, you might want to try history - factual, not revisionist. The vast majority of the founding fathers were Christians. They fled England because they disagreed with the persecution they suffered at the hands of the Church of England, also Christian. As for your ridiculous comment that "no jews were allowed:" Whom were they not allowed by? How can you support that? And by the way, the Bible IS history and has been proven so time and again as a manuscript unto itself. Scores of archeological sites throughout the Middle East have been discovered because they were where the Bible said they were. Ditto historical records of rulers. You may not want the Bible to be historically accurate, but it is. Sorry. Sailor, you sure like to throw around inerrancies. Show me an example - just one - of where Dr. Dobson advocates "beating" children. Finally, regarding my son. Sailor, who are you to claim knowledge of how my son feels towards me? I mean, seriously? How can you possibly justify that?

    Re: James Dobson Unmasked (none / 0) (#28)
    by Dadler on Wed Jun 28, 2006 at 11:58:48 AM EST
    The reasons Dobson cites for justification to strike a child are STILL criminal if applied to an adult. Hitting children as punishment for being "bad" is a sickness of the adult mind carrying out this punishment, and evidence of a critical lack of imagination. You hit a child because it's easy and intimidating and, until the kid is big enough to kick your ass in return, "effective" in a completely inhumane sense.

    Re: James Dobson Unmasked (none / 0) (#29)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Jun 28, 2006 at 12:53:23 PM EST
    You're right, Dadler, it is criminal if applied to an adult. But we're not talking about adults. We're talking about children under the age of about seven. Never once have I - or Dobson - advocated "Hitting children for being 'bad'....". As I indicated earlier, it's discipline, not punishment. Look both words up if you don't know the difference. As for a "critical lack of imagination," I'm as imaginative as the next guy. It doesn't really have anything to do with imagination. I can be as imaginative at A.A. Milne all day with my son, but when he wants to be defiant or wants to test me to see how far he can go, that will make no difference. I must assume that you don't have children, so let me explain something to you: they come into the world with ZERO knowledge of what is acceptable and not acceptable, safe and unsafe, etc. They learn by experience and consequences - some good, some bad. They don't learn rationally at that age, like you do, because they're not yet capable of it. Hence when they do something they're not supposed to do, they receive a consequence. Then they learn not to do it again. (There are some children who never need a spanking, but such compliance is exceedingly rare - and maybe not such a good thing, since those kids probably also rarely experiment or extend themselves, which can be a very good thing.) I would agree that hitting a child is easy and intimidating (and I would add sick and evil), but since you will not acknowledge any difference between "hitting" - as in beating - and spanking, let me tell you this about the latter: it is most assuredly NOT easy - it's the worst part of being a parent. I wish I didn't need to do it, ever. But I love my son more than life itself - literally - and if giving him three swats on the rump will reinforce the message that he isn't supposed to run out in the street without looking, I'll do it. And Dadler, it's quite possible that my son will be big enough to "kick my ass" one day, but he won't, for two reasons: 1) I'm 6'3" and about 250 pounds - I think I'll be able to hold my own for awhile, and FAR MORE IMPORTANTLY 2) he will know with absolute certainty that I love him.

    Re: James Dobson Unmasked (none / 0) (#30)
    by Sailor on Wed Jun 28, 2006 at 03:30:13 PM EST
    The Jews in America (p. 21):
    "Two weeks after they landed, Stuyvesant heard the complaint from the local merchants and from the Church that 'the Jews who had arrived would nearly all like to remain here.' Stuyvesant decided to chase them out. Using the usual formulas of religious invective -- he called the Jews 'repugnant,' 'deceitful,' and 'enemies and blasphemers of Christ'
    John Adams noted that "it is very hard work to love most of them [the Jews]. And he looked forward to the day when "the asperities and peculiarities of their character" would be worn away and they would become "liberal Unitarian Christians."
    Thomas Jefferson thought Jews needed more secular learning so that "they will become equal object of respect and favor," implying that without such learning they could not expect to be respected. Writes Arthur Hertzberg in The Jews in America (p. 87):
    "Jefferson was thus expressing the view of the mainstream of the Enlightenment, that all men could attain equal place in society, but the 'entrance fee' was that they should adopt the ways and the outlook of the 'enlightened.' Jefferson did not consider that a Yiddish-speaking Jew who knew the Talmud was equal in usefulness to society with a classically trained thinker like himself." This idea that there was freedom for you in America as long as you were not "too Jewish," kept most Jews away. Until 1820, the Jewish population of America was only about 6,000!
    Dobson on abusing children:
    However, the spanking should be of sufficient magnitude to cause the child to cry genuinely.
    I would require him to stop the protest crying, usually by offering him a little more of whatever caused the original tears.
    When a youngster tries this kind of stiff-necked rebellion, you had better take it out of him, and pain is a marvelous purifier.
    Two or three stinging strokes on the legs or buttocks with a switch are usually sufficient to emphasize the point, 'You must obey me.'
    Most (children) need to be spanked now and then.
    Minor pain can...provide excellent motivation for the child... There is a muscle, lying snugly against the base of the neck... When firmly squeezed, it sends little messengers to the brain saying, 'This hurts; avoid recurrence at all costs'
    and it goes on and on and on. He not only advocates beating children he thinks you should do it with a stick! He is a sick SOB just for this and should be in prison if he has utilized these methods.

    Re: James Dobson Unmasked (none / 0) (#31)
    by Dadler on Wed Jun 28, 2006 at 05:41:41 PM EST
    Chicago, You assume wrongly. I have a six year-old son. And don't split hairs, if a child is being "defiant" and you strike him, then you're striking him for being "bad". There is no difference in our usage of these words. None. And hitting a child or spanking them is the SAME thing, since the desired result is physical pain acute enough to affect behavior. Again, stop splitting hairs. And OF COURSE I know the difference between a standard spanking and beating the sh*t out of a kid (I was one of those sh*t beaten kids), and OF COURSE I know children need guidiance and discipline, and OF COURSE it's a tough fine line any good parent has to walk, BUT...if a child isn't as rational as an adult (an inarguable point you hilight), then expecting them to properly rationalize why they are getting hit is, well, pretty damn IRrational. My son is defiant all the time, as any child is when testing the boundaries. I have never had any desire or need to strike him. And my imagination is powerful enough to realize the down side of striking him, the negative reaction, the loss of credibility on my part, isn't even worth it on paper, much less in reality. I couldn't live with myself, in the simplest terms. It goes against everything I am. In truth, children acting out to an extreme are generally lacking vital emotional attention and nurturing, not brute discipline in the form of pysical retribution. You think differently, fine, but don't attribute it to any greater insight into anything. You said it yourself, it's easy. Period.

    Re: James Dobson Unmasked (none / 0) (#32)
    by Dadler on Wed Jun 28, 2006 at 06:11:05 PM EST
    Add Chicago, If the Bible is SO historically accurate, how could something as important as Jesus's birth be so off in the Bible? The reigns of Caesar and Herod did NOT overlap.

    Re: James Dobson Unmasked (none / 0) (#33)
    by Sailor on Wed Jun 28, 2006 at 07:21:11 PM EST
    Ahh, but Dadler; the reigns are plain, but only to the sane;-)