Dan Gilgoff in US News & World Report says he's "mystified" at Obama's decision:
There are a couple of obvious reasons that Obama might want to skip a formal ceremony for the National Day of Prayer. The official task force for the event operates out of Focus on the Family, a longtime critic of Obama and of Democrats generally. It would have been awkward to have Focus's James Dobson on the White House grounds.
Then again, Obama has courted high-profile religious conservatives with more zeal than any other Democrat I can remember.
Another explanation for skipping an event: The Obama team might not have wanted to needle its generally secular base after catching so much flak over the Rick Warren inauguration appearance, expanding White House faith-based initiatives, and inviting conservative evangelical Tony Dungy onto its faith advisory council.
But Obama hasn't yielded to those pressures in the past.
My view: this kind of miscue is inevitable in the Obama Administration. It wasn't elected by Americans who respect things like National Days of Prayer - that is to say, the historic American nation - and has almost no contact with them. To quote me:
Although you wouldnâ€™t know it by watching the coverage on election night, McCain very easily won the white vote in America in 2008. He won about 55% of it, a remarkable achievement really, considering the catastrophe of the Bush presidency...The 2008 exit polls have a lot of other fascinating details. They reveal these very deep and systematic divisions. So deep that you have to wonder whether the US really is still a nation with a common culture, or whether it has already become sort of a heterogeneous empire. One thing that fascinated me was the discovery that white Protestants still make up 42% of the electorate. 42% of the votes were cast by white Protestants still. And they voted 65% for McCainâ€”overwhelmingly for McCain.
You have to wonder at this situation: white Protestants, of course, essentially invented the United States. As Phillip Roth says in one of his novels, [American Pastoral, p. 311]"Letâ€™s face it, they are America." But theyâ€™ve completely lost control of the government.
Obama doesnâ€™t have 43% of his appointees white Protestants, in fact I donâ€™t think even 4% are white Protestants. So you have to ask yourself whatâ€™s going on here. How can the founding stock of the country have so completely lost control? They could reasonably regard the Obama administration as kind of an occupation government: a coalition of united minorities that succeeded in uniting the minorities and dividing the majority.