Out on the campaign trail, President Obama is fond of quoting the Declaration of Independence. Time after time as he has appeared on behalf of Democratic candidates, he has quoted the famous passage that reads:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Except that Obama always edited the passage a bit. Specifically, he took out the phrase “by their Creator.” For example, at a Democratic fundraiser in Rockville, Maryland October 18, the president said, according to a White House transcript:
It has to do with this idea that was started by 13 colonies that decided to throw off the yoke of an empire, and said, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that each of us are endowed with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
At an October 17 Democratic fundraiser in a private home in Ohio, the president discussed the Founders “drafting a document that says, we find these truths to be self-evident, that all mean are created equal, endowed with certain inalienable rights…” And earlier that day, also in Ohio, Obama said at a rally, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that we are endowed with certain inalienable rights…”*
In every case, no “Creator.” It was a striking omission, since in the Declaration the “Creator” is the source of all the inalienable rights the president is discussing. In recent days, some conservative critics have noticed the word's absence and wondered why the president, a scholar of the nation's founding, was leaving it out. Last Tuesday, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about the omission and answered simply, “I can assure you the president believes in the Declaration of Independence.”
Now, just a few days later, Obama is still on the trail, but he has changed his speech. At rallies in California and Nevada Friday, he included “Creator” in his remarks on the Declaration. “They said in their Declaration, 'We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal,'” Obama said at a rally at the University of Southern California, “'that we are all endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.'” Later, at a Las Vegas rally for Sen. Harry Reid, Obama said, “'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.'”
Suddenly, the “Creator” has appeared in the president's speeches. And each time he discussed the Declaration, “Creator” included, his quotations were met with enthusiastic applause. Barack Obama has learned that Americans like to be reminded of their founding documents — even the passage that explains the ultimate source of those unalienable rights.
* Obama consistently refers to the rights as “inalienable,” while the Declaration describes them as “unalienable.”