Browsing articles tagged with " Mitt Romney"
Photo illo by Scott Dvorin
Grab any time machine you can find, take it back to any year from the founding of the Republican party until about 1970, and show the bios of this year’s GOP presidential ticket to the party leaders of the past. No doubt, their first response will be, “Weren’t there any Christians available?”
After all, the very first Republican party platform grouped the Mormons in with slaveholders, labeling polygamy and slavery “twin relics of barbarism” and calling for their eradication. President Lincoln later tried to do just that, signing into law the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act, which specifically outlawed polygamy in the frontier territories. Its sponsor, Congressman Justin Morrill, called the practice “a Mohammedan barbarism revolting to the civilized world,” and likened it to “cannibalism or infanticide.”
And that’s nothing compared with what some Republicans used to say about Catholics.
This year marks the first time in the history of the Republic when a major party has not had a Protestant on the ticket. Indeed, the only Protestant left in the race is President Obama, who just four years ago was excoriated for the “fringe” views of his old pastor and religious mentor.
One would think that a candidate from a religion that has preached, say, that all Indians are the wicked and degenerate descendants of ancient Hebrew tribes would be reluctant to spark a culture war. But Mitt Romney went there the other day, pledging that if elected, he, for one, “will not take ‘God’ out of the name of our platform,” or “off our coins,” or “out of my heart.”
He somehow failed to elucidate that, according to Mormon doctrine, ‘God’ is a former man who lives somewhere near the planet Kolob. But never mind. I’m a big-tent Christian myself. About half of my relatives are Catholics, and some of the others are fundamentalist Protestants. I love them all dearly, including the one who told me that the Republican convention in Tampa was likely to be attacked by anarchists with “acid-filled eggs.” (Don’t bother to contemplate the logistics of that too closely. Let’s just say it reflects a strong inclination toward a belief in the miraculous.)
To me, the real story about religion in the campaign has much more to do with the struggle being waged within the Catholic Church.
Speaking before the Democratic convention was Sister Simone Campbell, one of the “Nuns on the Bus” who have toured the U.S. arguing that vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s proposed budget “failed a basic moral test, because it would hurt families living in poverty.” Sister Simone pointedly asserted of herself and her fellow nuns that, “We agree with our bishops” in condemning the Republicans’ favorite choirboy scamp.
Just this spring the Vatican’s conservative hierarchy decided to push U.S. nuns back into line, issuing a report accusing them of straying toward “radical feminist themes” and emphasizing social welfare causes over the church’s anti-abortion, anti-contraception priorities. Sister Simone shrewdly hauled the bishops’ liberal positions on poverty out into the convention spotlight—then went on to defy her bosses by explicitly endorsing the Affordable Care Act.
As head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, New York’s own Cardinal Timothy Dolan has led the fight to amend the act, insisting that allowing the employees of Catholic hospitals, schools and charities to choose a health-care plan that includes contraception—as the care act mandates—is tantamount to religious oppression in “China or North Korea.”
Cardinal Dolan, who it is said would very much like to be the first American pope, has also served as the Vatican’s point man against legalizing gay marriage, dismissing it as a “chic cause.” He has fought against removing the statutes of limitations on child abuse, paid off pedophile priests in his old archdiocese in Milwaukee to leave the clergy (Dolan insists on characterizing these payments as “charity”) and approvingly reprinted a column from longtime Catholic League wacko William Donohue denouncing SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, as “a phony victims’ group.”
On Cardinal Dolan’s watch, the conference of bishops also issued its notorious, 2011 “Blame it on Woodstock” report, which concluded that, among other things, “The rise of abuse cases [by priests] in the 1960s and 1970s was influenced by social factors in society generally …”—confirming theories long held by the bishops themselves and by Pope Benedict XVI.
Whatever the excesses of the ’60s, few would argue that they included an endorsement of child rape. And even if they had, since when did the wayward teenager’s excuse, “Everyone was doin’ it,” come to serve as absolution from the age-old Christian concept of personal responsibility? For that matter, the report also claims that most of the abusive priests could not even be considered true pedophiles under the official psychiatric definition, because most of their victims were under 13 years of age … but not under 10.
The report was compiled under the aegis of Dr. Karen Terry, the Cambridge-educated Ph.D. who is the interim dean of research and strategic services at John Jay College, part of the CUNY system. Dr. Terry has since tried to walk back the controversy her investigation ignited, insisting upon her own objectivity. But there’s no getting around the fact that her data was supplied by the church itself, or the damning conflict of interest observable on her John Jay website, which lists all of the funding sources for her reports.
This site puts the total cost of the “Woodstock” job at more than $1.9 million—of which $1 million came directly from the conference of bishops, and almost $500,000 more came from various Catholic charities and foundations. Indeed, of the total amount of almost $3.5 million that Dr. Terry claims to have received in funding to date—primarily for studies of sexual abuse—over $1.5 million came from the conference of bishops and over $2 million from all Catholic sources.
What we seem to have here, in other words, is a publicly funded university operating a cozy little “academia-for-hire” sideline, in which the client provides his own data and his own funding. Belief in Dr. Terry’s objectivity under such circumstances strains my faith to the breaking point.
But Cardinal Dolan’s ability to wrangle the results he wants out of politicians and academics alike continues to impress. Running for pope is an intricate business, infinitely trickier than trying to be a mere president. The cardinal trumped Sister Simone by delivering benedictions at both the Republic and the Democratic conventions, pointedly praising freedom of religion and asking God’s blessing on “those waiting to be born, that they may be welcomed and protected.”
No one was offended, the bishops’ message was delivered, and the nuns got back on the bus. Another day on the campaign trail.
Follow Kevin Baker via RSS.
SOURCE: AP/Stewart Cairns
Archbishop Timothy Dolan offered his prayer at both the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention this year.
When Catholic Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan announced he would be offering a prayer at this year’s Republican National Convention, commentators were quick to weigh in with both words of praise and derision. Conservative Catholics such as Thomas Peters, who writes for CatholicVote.org, lauded Dolan for his willingness to establish “close working relationships” with Republican politicians. Centrist and progressive pundits, meanwhile, blasted Archbishop Dolan’s decision as overly partisan and dubbed him “The Republican Cardinal.”
But just days before he offered his prayer at the Republican National Convention, Democrats announced that they too invited Dolan—who publicly criticized the Obama administration earlier this year for what he and others claim were attacks on religious freedom—to give the benediction at the Democratic National Convention and that he accepted. That revelation prompted David Gibson of the Religion News Service to wonder if Archbishop Dolan’s bipartisan appearances could “upstage GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s Catholic outreach.”
What’s more, Sister Simone Campbell, head of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby, and leader of the recent nine-state “Nuns on the Bus” tour, a progressive-leaning social justice campaign, was also revealed to be a speaker at the Democratic National Convention. As with Dolan’s announcement, pundits responded quickly, including Democratic political strategist James Carville, who quipped, “The bishops are Republican and the nuns are Catholic.”
In the midst of the back and forth over the political and theological alliances of Archbishop Dolan and Sister Campbell, many are curious as to what the presence of religious leaders at a political convention actually signifies to voters, as well as whether their participation at political gatherings violates the separation of church and state.
These questions are valid ones. Why do we pray at party conventions, and what does the image of religious leaders at political gatherings mean to American voters? More to the point, what are Archbishop Dolan and Sister Campbell actually doing at these events? And perhaps more importantly, does their presence help or hurt the parties?
At the intersection of politics and religion
While inviting clergy to pray at party conventions might raise the hackles of some Americans, the presence of religious leaders at political gatherings is not a new phenomenon. American political conventions, like inaugurations and sessions of Congress, have always included prayers from prominent Christian clergy and other religious figures. In fact, some of the earliest Democratic conventions in the 1830s were held in churches.
These days, allowing party officials to share the stage with religious leaders is something of a practical decision for convention organizers. True, some clergy used political events as a gateway into electoral politics, but having clergy members on the convention stage is a way for a party to show religious voters that they are “faith friendly.”
Moreover, inviting prayer is considered a good way to showcase an idealized vision of a party’s religious diversity. The Republican convention in Tampa included prayers from a Catholic bishop, an Orthodox rabbi, a Hispanic evangelical pastor, a Sikh cleric, a Greek Orthodox archbishop, and two Mormon religious leaders. With few exceptions, this panel of preachers represents constituencies that make up a sizable percentage of the American—and particularly the Republican—electorate.
Not to be outdone, the Democratic National Convention boasted an equally diverse lineup of faith leaders who reflect the party’s multifaceted base of supporters and, like the Republicans, have the potential to help expand the appeal of the Democratic party among religious voters.
Most religions claim politically diverse flocks, meaning faith leaders find themselves routinely courted by both parties. Archbishop Dolan, for example, is by no means the first cleric to be asked to pray at both conventions. Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Church in America prayed at both political gatherings in 2008, and famed Christian evangelist Billy Graham did the same in 1968.
In short, while the image of religious leaders hobnobbing with politicians might rub some the wrong way, it is certainly not unprecedented. Moreover, the mere fact that religion plays a significant part in the lives and voting patterns of most Americans (more than 94 percent claim to believe in God) means religious groups—and by extension, religious leaders—are destined to play an important role at Democratic and Republican conventions for years to come.
Archbishop Dolan: Ears to hear?
Best intentions of convention organizers notwithstanding, faith leaders who pray at conventions sometimes spark controversy. When it came time for Archbishop Dolan to deliver his prayers at the Republican and Democratic conventions, he didn’t shy away from difficult subjects. In fact, his prayers stand in a lengthy American tradition of faith leaders such as Rev. Billy Graham and Rev. Jerry Falwell who used institutional religious clout or status to weigh in on political issues, even when it caused debate.
But the potential for controversy wasn’t Archbishop Dolan’s biggest problem. Instead, the main issue for his style of religious advocacy is whether anyone will listen–or whether anyone could actually hear him. His prayer at the Republican convention, for instance, included a possible reference to immigration reform that had the potential to irk some conservative Republicans.
“Bless those families whose ancestors arrived on these shores generations ago,” Dolan said, “as well as those families that have come recently, to build a better future while weaving their lives into the rich tapestry of America.”
Archbishop Dolan’s words, however, were difficult to make out, as many of the convention delegates were busy loudly popping balloons that fell from the ceiling to celebrate the close of the convention.
He got a second chance at the Democratic convention the following week, with an even more politically targeted benediction. He spoke fondly of Republican vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), using prayerful language to voice views contrary to the Democratic platform.
He referenced the need to respect “the laws of nature and of nature’s God,” a possible dig at marriage equality, and gestured to the debate over religious liberty and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’s current lawsuit against the Obama administration by asking God to “Renew in all our people a profound respect for religious liberty: the first, most cherished freedom bequeathed upon us at our Founding.”
But few outside the convention hall saw his moment at the DNC podium. Many television viewers undoubtedly already turned the channel after President Barack Obama’s speech earlier in the evening, and some networks reportedly cut away from the proceedings before the prayer even began.
But even if viewers heard Dolan, neither political party risks much by allowing prayers from religious leaders who don’t necessarily tow the party line. The Rev. Billy Graham stirred controversy for Democrats in 1968 when he prayed at the Democratic convention while simultaneously supporting Republican Richard Nixon’s candidacy for president.
Republicans and Democrats likely asked Archbishop Dolan to pray for the same reasons they asked Rev. Graham in 1968—he is a prominent religious figure who represents the leadership of an important voting bloc (Catholics make up a quarter of the electorate), and thus is a good conduit to conduct strategic “faith outreach.”
Despite all the bluster and targeted language, Archbishop Dolan’s prayers received far less coverage than did the decision to invite him in the first place. True, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) did offer a somewhat strategic introduction of Archbishop Dolan, but it was ultimately the bishop’s presence, not his words, that constituted a memorable political act.
Sister Campbell: Preaching, not praying
Sister Campbell’s journey to the Democratic National Convention took a markedly different route than that of the Archbishop. Since Sister Campbell is a nun, and thus technically Catholic laity, she is not automatically granted the status accorded to clergy. Instead, her string of faith-led political victories catapulted Sister Campbell to prominence among progressives.
Over the past two years, she advocated strongly for passage of the Affordable Care Act, went toe to toe with conservative pundits such as Bill O’Reilly on issues of poverty, and launched the “Nuns on the Bus” tour through nine states decrying the Republican-backed budget that passed the House of Representatives as unjust and immoral for slashing safety net programs that serve the poor while increasing tax cuts for the wealthy.
Sister Campbell also differed from Archbishop Dolan in that she was asked to address the convention—in prime time, no less—instead of pray. Asking a faith leader who isn’t an elected official to give a televised speech before a national party convention is exceedingly rare, if not unprecedented. Moreover, while the invitation highlights the impact Campbell and other Catholic nuns carry over the American political landscape, it also risked offending Democrats who wanted a firmer separation of church and state.
But Sister Campbell walked the church-state line with delicate precision. In fact, she reportedly threatened to pull out after handlers revised her speech in a way she felt was “too political.” Instead, she used the stories of others to highlight issues dear to Democrats.
She spoke about the role of health care, for instance, by telling the story of Margaret, a woman Sister Campbell learned about on her “Nuns on the Bus” tour who lost her health insurance and subsequently died of cancer. “She died unnecessarily,” Campbell said, adding, “The Affordable Care Act will cover people like Margaret.”
Thus, Sister Campbell’s speech offers a different model for how faith leaders can operate in the political sphere. While the gathering itself was partisan, her speech called on “the 100 percent,” not a specific bloc of Americans, to join her in her religiously motivated activism. What’s more, her decision to use the stories of others as a means of expressing political opinion stands in stark contrast to the single-mouthpiece style of other convention prayers. It signals a different approach to religious advocacy and possibly a different approach to Catholic faith.
Sister Campbell also models a different kind of faith-led political activism. Granted, the decision by the Democrats to include her appears to be an effort to spotlight a progressive activist who also happens to be a Catholic nun. That might be a happy coincidence in a year where the Catholic vote is up for grabs, but it’s also a possible indication of something else Democrats would want to cultivate: the revival of a robust and energized “religious left,” particularly among Catholics.
Ultimately, Archbishop Dolan and Sister Campbell represent two different versions of “faith outreach.” Dolan’s dueling convention prayers, while notable, line up with the tradition of inviting prominent and/or politically powerful clergy to pray at conventions. Campbell, meanwhile, seems to represent a burgeoning movement of progressive religious activists who are developing an inventive way of navigating the church-state divide.
There will always, of course, be questions as to the motives behind who is or who isn’t invited to a national political convention, and the debate over the appropriate role of clergy at partisan gatherings will undoubtedly rage for years to come. But if the impact of prayerful leaders like Archbishop Dolan or Sister Campbell proves fruitful this election season, faith leaders are likely to remain fixtures on convention stages well into the foreseeable future.
Jack Jenkins is a Writer and Researcher with the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative and the Center for American Progress. For more on this initiative, please see its project page.
To speak with our experts on this topic, please contact:
Print: Katie Peters (economy, education, and health care)
202.741.6285 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Print: Christina DiPasquale (foreign policy and security, energy)
202.481.8181 or email@example.com
Print: Laura Pereyra (ethnic media, immigration)
202.741.6258 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Radio: Anne Shoup
202.481.7146 or email@example.com
TV: Lindsay Hamilton
202.483.2675 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Web: Andrea Peterson
202.481.8119 or email@example.com
A sand sculpture of Barack Obama in Charlotte advertises vacation destination Myrtle Beach (Streeter Lecka/Getty …President Barack Obama told USA Today in an interview published Monday that Republicans led by Mitt Romney have so twisted his record and his words that they may as well be taking on “a fictional Barack Obama.”
That message, delivered on the eve of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, follows days and weeks of increasingly strident complaints from the Obama campaign that Team Romney is lying about his record.
Republicans “have spent a lot of time creating a fictional Barack Obama who is supposedly taking the work out of welfare reform, or doesn’t think small businesses built their own businesses,” the president told the newspaper.
The welfare reform charge stems from the Obama administration’s decision — at the request of governors, including Republicans — to give states more flexibility with the work requirement. But that waiver requires that states move 20% more people to work than they do currently. The small business comment refers to the way Republicans have pulled out of context the president’s remarks at a campaign really in Virginia. Obama said small businesses could not succeed without government investments in education, infrastructure, or the Internet. “If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that,” he said. Republicans eager to portray Obama as hostile to entrepreneurs jumped on the comment.
(Democrats haven’t been particularly shy about using this tactic themselves, ripping Romney’s “I like being able to fire people” out of its context — he was talking about giving Americans more choices in health insurance — to make it seem he just enjoys handing out pink slips. And Obama himself said Sunday that Romney “doesn’t have a timetable” for getting American forces out of Afghanistan — which is a bit awkward, given that Romney has endorsed Obama’s own timetable.)
Obama mocked last week’s Republican convention, saying Romney talked about himself and the president but did not offer much by way of policy details.
“I guess their premise is that the American people will be convinced, if we just get rid of Obama, then somehow that will be enough,” he told USA Today.
That won’t happen in Charlotte, Obama said, which will be “less an introduction to the American people than a conversation with them.”
“The American people know me,” he said. “They know my strengths. I’m sure they know my weaknesses — and if they aren’t familiar with them, the other side will be happy to point them out.”
Paul Ryan touched on his Catholic faith and Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith in accepting the Republican nomination for vice president Wednesday night.
“Mitt and I also go to different churches. But in any church, the best kind of preaching is done by example. And I’ve been watching that example,” Ryan said. “The man who will accept your nomination (Thursday) is prayerful and faithful and honorable. Not only a defender of marriage, he offers an example of marriage at its best. Not only a fine businessman, he’s a fine man, worthy of leading this optimistic and good-hearted country.
“Our different faiths come together in the same moral creed,” Ryan continued. “We believe that in every life there is goodness; for every person, there is hope. Each one of us was made for a reason, bearing the image and likeness of the Lord of Life.”
— Stephen Ohlemacher — Twitter http://twitter.com/stephenatap
EDITOR’S NOTE — Convention Watch shows you the 2012 political conventions through the eyes of Associated Press journalists. Follow them on Twitter where available with the handles listed after each item.
The Sun’s lamentation over “not knowing” Mitt Romney is hard to swallow given that no one knew anything about then-Sen. Barack Obama either when he was running for president in 2008 (“Who is Mitt Romney?” Aug. 28).
In fact, almost four years later we still know more about Mr. Romney’s platform and personal issues than we do about Mr. Obama’s.
When, if ever, will The Sun proffer the news and opinion in a fair and equitable manner? I won’t hold my breath!
Gail Householder, Marriottsville
On The Washington Post’s “The Fix” blog, Chris Cillizza says:
Clint Eastwood gestures toward the not-there President Obama in his speech Thursday night at the Republican Convention in Tampa. (AP Photo)
“There are no words for what the actor did on the convention state Thursday night. The conceit of an empty chair and an invisible Obama was bad enough. But Eastwood rambled off script repeatedly, and he bordered on downright incoherence several times… Eastwood was a totally unnecessary distraction that had to leave the Romney convention planners grimacing.”
The Romney campaign – and Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann, of course had a different take.
Said the campaign:
“Judging an American icon like Clint Eastwood through a typical political lens doesn’t work. His ad-libbing was a break from all the political speeches, and the crowd enjoyed it. He rightly pointed out that 23 million Americans out of work or underemployed is a national disgrace and it’s time for a change.”
On CBS This Morning on Friday, Ann Romney said: “We appreciated Clint’s support and he’s a unique guy and he did a unique thing last night.”
What do you think? Did Clint Eastwood help or hurt Mitt Romney? Take our poll and/or leave a comment.
Tags: bnblogs, Clint Eastwood, GOP Convention, Mitt Romney, President Obama
This entry was posted
on Friday, August 31st, 2012 at 11:21 am and is filed under Economy, Elections, Politics.
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney delivers his nomination acceptance speech during the final day of the Republican National Convention.
In 1951, William F. Buckley, Jr. published his famous book, “God and Man at Yale: The Superstitions of ‘Academic Freedom.’” The book by the young Yale grad articulated ideas that would form the basis of modern conservatism: liberal ideology attempts to destroy faith in God and undermine individualism.
“Man” from the Buckley title was clearly in ascendance at the 2012 Republican National Convention, defined as the entrepreneurial individual who does not need anybody or anything to succeed.
This idea of “man” was well displayed especially in the kick-off convention theme of “We Built It” and carried through in many of the speeches. It struck me, in fact, that “We Built It” does assert “man’s” effort. But then that seemed to me to contradict the God language used by some speakers, but especially as phrased by Paul Ryan. that “our rights come from nature and God.”
Which is it? We did it all by ourselves, or do we rely on God?
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, left, and Republican vice presidential candidate, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) wave on stage after accepting the nomination during the final day of the Republican National Convention.
This contradiction carried all the way through the convention to the conclusion on Thursday night. When in evidence, faith in God was personal, individual and private; when it came to policy, “man” was the key.
Women were not especially included in the theme of “We Built It” either, at least from the main speech directed to “women,” that of Ann Romney. Indeed, the contrast between Chris Christie’s “‘real men don’t need love, they get respect” tough guy speech, and Ann Romney’s repeated appeals to love was startlingly gender stereotyped. Men get respect, women give love.
Mitt Romney, in his acceptance speech, tried to address the clear gender gap the GOP, and he in particular, has developed.
Romney got to “women” via “love” as well, the “unconditional love” of both parents for children, and “God’s love” for us. I thought that paragraph was the best personal theological statement of the evening, perhaps of the convention, and certainly seemed to be Romney’s personal theology. God as literally “Father” and the nuclear family are key cornerstones of Mormon theology.
But how does Romney connect this faith to policy? Not at all, as Joanna Brooks, a Mormon, writes. In her view, Romney failed Mormonism in his acceptance speech as he did not connect his faith commitments to his policy views; indeed, the policy is contradicted by his faith:
“How do individual religious good deeds for the ill, elderly, and vulnerable balance against national economic policies that disproportionately impact the ill, elderly, and vulnerable? How does a presidential candidate who has worked closely with the poor countenance a budget that cuts away, for example, at food stamps while preserving military spending and offering tax cuts to the wealthiest? How do individual acts of mercy balance with international saber-rattling?”
I would also add this contradiction extended to the lack of connection between Romney’s theology and his statements on women. After talking about his mother’s Senate run, and his father’s support of her, he listed women who spoke at the convention and women he had hired when he was governor, and women in mentored in business.
Those sentences contrasted sharply with his tribute to his wife as “I knew that her job as a mom was harder than mine.” Romney said that women can work in business and government, but Mom’s job is best.
This flatly contradicted what Romney has said about requiring mothers on welfare to work. “[E]ven if you have a child 2 years of age, you need to go to work,” Romney said of those moms.
The most jarring note in the speech, however, also had faith language. “Americans have supported this president in good faith,” Romney said. The statement was hypocritical about the deliberate obstructionist role Republicans have played in the last four years. From day one, as articulated by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, Republicans have been working to make sure President Obama failed.
“Keeping faith” with one another is the religious underpinnings of the social contract, the idea of a common good. The solitary individual as entrepreneur is diametrically opposed to that concept. To say otherwise is hypocritical.
But you simply can’t beat the GOP vice-presidential nominee when it comes to hypocrisy, or as we in the Judeo-Christian tradition like to call it, the ninth commandment, “you shall not bear false witness.” (Exodus 20:16)
Paul Ryan’s speech contained so many untruths, half-truths and misleading statements that the speech as deliberate distortion became a main story after the address. The Washington Post editorial board felt compelled to write on “Mr. Ryan’s misleading speech” and Washington Post opinion writer James Downie called it “breathtakingly dishonest.” Fox News contributor Sally Kohn gave Ryan a “gold” in lying. Kohn wrote that “Ryan’s speech was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech. On this measure, while it was Romney who ran the Olympics, Ryan earned the gold.”
How can Ryan, or any Christian, express their faith in God with one breath, and with the next breath engage in such public falsehoods? What could possibly be the reason for this “bearing false witness” when Ryan’s points could have been made with actual facts?
I have started to wonder whether the sustained and deliberate lying by the Romney campaign, like the repeated falsehoods about welfare to work and Medicare, is part of a “real men don’t care about stuff like facts” narrative that is developing in the GOP. Could it be? Real guys don’t like to be “dictated by fact-checkers?”
The idea that truth telling is something “real men” don’t do doesn’t go well in marriage, let me tell you. And equally ineffective is the “men get respect, women give love” interpretation. Those concepts don’t work in marriage any better than they work in public life.
The Republican platform comes out strongly against gay marriage, though Log Cabin Republicans and young conservatives support it.
After 42 years of being happily married to the same man and, as a pastor, doing a lot of marriage counseling, I can tell you that telling the truth to each other and the equality of give and get of both love and respect for both parties is what makes marriages endure and be happy. That’s simply the case, in fact, in both heterosexual marriage and gay marriage. There’s no difference.
The word “God” came and went in the speeches, it’s true, but to me the most “religious” theme was “American exceptionalism” as presented not only in the GOP platform, as adopted, but also especially in the national security addresses. “American exceptionalism” stripped of all its policy trappings, means simply “God loves the United States best.”
The national security speeches, and Sen. John McCain’s in particular, touted more American interventionism, and that was not contradicted by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in her address.
How could a political convention, with a debt ticker running over their heads, ignore how two unfunded wars exploded the deficit? Ironically enough, the “We Built It” sign, when it was displayed, was directly beneath the debt ticker. It’s the truth. The GOP did build that deficit, and they built it in large part by engaging in reckless foreign wars.
God didn’t do that. Man did.
While “man” as the entrepreneurial individual both at home and abroad, making economies and war with equal world-shaping prowess, meant essentially men, it also often meant “white men” despite diversity on the podium. The attack on an African American CNN camerawoman highlighted the issue of racism among the attendees.
The ascendancy of today’s GOP is largely built on appealing to the white working-class precisely as Joan Walsh explains in her new book, “What’s the Matter with White People: Why We Long for a Golden Age That Never Was.” This makes racism not only inevitable, but a necessary component of today’s GOP approach. It only took an actor, Clint Eastwood, talking to a chair as a prop for an invisible President Obama, to underscore this in a bizarre way. Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man,” the iconic 1952 novel that addresses the conflicts of identity and individuality in the African American experience through the metaphor of the invisibility of African American men.
The religious issue that the racial insensitivity raised for me is stated clearly by Walsh: empathy. “I think of all the scarce resources in our society today, I think the most precious is empathy.”
I was frankly surprised that “man” was so much in ascendancy from the first day when I saw the “We Built It” sign at the RNC. For many speakers, “God” was often a phrase mid-way through a speech, though not always.
I especially did not expect the extreme gender stereotypes about “real men” as strong, and women as loving and best when they stay at home to be so clearly in evidence.
But “God” as guiding not only our private lives, but also our public commitments was ignored, if not actually derided. Indeed, faith as central to the support of our social compact took one more hit on the last night of the RNC.
In introducing Cardinal Timothy Dolan to give the benediction, Speaker of the House John Boehner, a Catholic, curiously undercut Catholic theology on connecting faith to the world. Dolan, said Boehner, understood that “the preferential option for the poor doesn’t always translate into a preferential option for big government.” Many Catholic nuns and American Catholic bishops disagree.
When “God” and “man” went to Tampa, it became increasingly clear that “God” is confined to personal and private belief, and “man” as the entrepreneurial individual, straight, white and male, is in charge of public life and work.
Former president of Chicago Theological Seminary (1998-2008), the Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.
View Photo Gallery: Strong spiritual beliefs were on display during prayers, forums and speeches delivered by some of the nation’s top religious, political and social leaders.
Mitt Romney’s latest TV ad, featuring Blessed John Paul II and Lech Wałęsa, got one thing right. The former pope and son of Poland did say “Be not afraid” in 1979.
Beyond that, however, the ad distorts reality in a number of ways. Romney and his aides should recall another famous phrase of the former pope: “Freedom must always be grounded in truth.” In fact, the entire thrust of the Solidarność movement was encapsulated in its untiring demand for “life in truth.”
Romney’s ad, on the other hand, contains a number of untruths.
Romney’s ad falsely claims the endorsement of Lech Wałęsa, the heroic leader of the 10 million strong Solidarność movement, which played a major role in toppling Communism in Europe. According to the Polish news outlet Dziennik, Wałęsa explicitly denied endorsing Romney after their meeting. Poland’s most widely circulated paper Gazeta Wyborcza reported that Wałęsa stated: “We are similar to each other, we look for solutions in a very similar manner. The visit allowed me to gain a sense of the direction in which the USA will go if Romney wins. But I am not giving any endorsement, it is not appropriate; one is not allowed to interfere in internal affairs…” Wałęsa made a statement to the same effect in a Polish television interview
The ad’s disregard for truth goes beyond ignoring Wałęsa’s words. Romney, the staunch adversary of unions in his business and political careers, is cynically attempting to co-opt Wałęsa’s and Solidarnosc’s legacy, which is built upon the demand for free and powerful labor unions.
Why then did Poland’s former president meet with Romney? Some Polish commentators have speculated that he did it for his own gain. According to Wałęsa, he wanted to learn more about Romney’s stances on various issues. Even if the gregarious Wałęsa publically praised Romney, how does one possibly square Wałęsa’s support for Occupy Wall Street with Romney’s decidedly pro-Wall Street stance and his background as a well-heeled financier? And what about his support for his vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s budget proposal, which has nothing in common with solidarity and creates massive budget cuts that will harm the poor?
The Solidarność union’s current leadership was less cordial than Wałęsa. The union issued a statement disavowing any connection to the meeting with Romney. The statement also criticized Romney’s anti-union stance and expressed solidarity with besieged unions in the U.S.
Romney’s ad likewise takes John Paul II’s exhortation “Be not afraid” out of context, trivializing the pope’s words and the plight of Poles under Communism. The insinuation is clear. Americans need to realize their freedom of religion is under attack by President Obama, just as Poles’ faced an assault against religion by the Communists. The comparison, however, falls flat on its face.
Although the Roman Catholic church remained stronger there than in other Communist countries, thousands of priests, nuns and lay believers were persecuted because of their faith in Poland. Poles of all persuasions were forced to put a gag in their mouths, as the Polish intellectual Adam Michnik put it, and suppress their convictions.
Those who did not, such as Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko, who was killed by the Communist Secret Police, suffered the consequences. According to the renowned Polish historian Andrzej Paczkowski, Poles “suffered every form of Stalinist terror: the hunt for spies, dekulakization, anticlericalism, national and ethnic ‘cleansing,’ the Great Purge, the purges of border regions … forced labor, the execution of prisoners of war, and mass deportations of groups of people labeled ‘socially dangerous elements.’”
Most churches did remain open, and Poles attended mass regularly, especially during the Solidarność years. However, the regime closed all Catholic theology deparments save one, the Catholic University of Lublin. No religiously-based schools existed for the mostly Catholic children to attend, and discussion of faith was banned from schools. Church properties were confiscated, including hospitals, orphanages and monasteries
When the Primate of Poland Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński refused to allow the Communist party leaders to choose bishops, he was thrown in jail for three years.
Thus, John Paul II felt compelled to tell his compatriots “Be not afraid.”
In the U.S. today, every religious person has the legally protected right to worship as she or he sees fit without the fear of persecution. Not a single Catholic or Protestant Christian — the primary targets of Romney’s ad — has been jailed, tortured or killed by the American government because of their religious beliefs. Americans also have the legally protected right to criticize their leaders. This includes those who do not agree with President Obama’s health care mandate. No one has been hunted down and interred by the administration for doing so.
Catholic hospitals treat one out of every six patients in the U.S. today. More than 220 Catholic colleges and universities educate young adults, deepening their appreciation of the Roman Catholic tradition. Most of these institutions receive substantial federal dollars. Catholic schools have been exemplary in providing quality education, especially in inner-cities where public schools often fail the poor and working class.
Moreover, the Obama administration allocated a great deal of federal stimulus money to faith-based charities. In 2010 Catholic Charities alone received about $2.9 billion from the federal government, 62 percent of its overall budget. Many other faith-based institutions rely heavily on government funds to keep their operations running. Does this look like the “war on religion” that the Romney ad ascribes to Barack Obama? On the other hand, the Ryan budget, endorsed by Romney, will in fact result in massive cuts to this funding of faith-based efforts to assist the poor in solidarity.
Poles should be outraged by Romney’s implicit comparison between the situation of religious believers in Poland under Communism and that of Americans today. Even if one does not agree with the Obama administration’s controversial decision to require health care plans to cover contraception, one need not liken it to religious persecution. Those who disagree should use rational arguments, not fear-mongering, to persuade the Obama administration that it has taken the wrong course.
If Romney truly embodied the spirit of solidarity, which “turns toward all and against no one” according to the of Solidarność chaplain Fr. Józef Tischner, he would not attack Obama. Rather, he would convince Americans that his social policies will be founded on solidarity if he becomes the next president. As Tischner stated in his book “Etyka solidarnośći,” Paul’s Letter to the Galatians expresses the ethic of solidarity in a nutshell: “carry one another’s burdens”
In a homily in Poland in 1999, John Paul II added that solidarity requires fulfilling the economic rights of the poor, which “cannot be put on hold until tomorrow.” The pontiff believed these rights cannot be fulfilled by market mechanisms alone. Government must play a key role in protecting the rights of the poor, he argued. Meanwhile, Romney and Ryan — a professed Catholic — espouse the libertarian “government is the problem” mantra, which conflicts with Catholic social teaching.
We invite Gov. Romney and vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan to be faithful to the real values of Solidarność. First among them is life in truth. And let’s not forget that Solidarność fought for unions and the rights of workers, not the right of the rich to pay lower taxes than the working class! As Pope John Paul II stated in his encylical on human labor, every Christian is obligated to defend workers’ rights, as a sign of “fidelity to Christ,” who “himself was a man of work, a craftsman like Joseph of Nazareth.”
Books by this author
This Blogger’s Books from
DUBUQUE, IOWA (Catholic Online) – Both candidates are canvassing Iowa by bus as they trade blows over Medicare benefits and what’s best for the country. Romney accuses Obama of proposing to loot Medicare to pay for Obamacare, with Obama counterpointing that Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposal would cut Medicare while denying Romney’s charges.
Romney has gone on air publicly to condemn the negative tone of the campaign, blaming Obama for taking an increasingly negative tone in attack ads. Some of the ads are being dismissed as outright unfair, such as a now infamous ad wherein Obama supporters all but allege that a woman died of cancer because of Mitt Romney’s financial endeavors.
The Romney camp has referred to the Obama campaign as “unhinged” and “running just to hang on to power.”
Romney is also promising, “I’m going to restore that $716 billion to the Medicare trust fund, so that current seniors can know that trust fund is not being raided.”
The Romney campaign is also launching a new ad to reach Latino voters, dubbed “No Podemos Mas” (We No Longer Can). Contrasting with Obama’s “Yes We Can” ad of 2008, the ad cites high unemployment among Latinos as a reason to ditch the President.
For his part, Obama is making relatively rare campaign appearances in Iowa with his wife Michelle. Obama has criticized Romney for refusing to support a relief bill for drought ravaged farmers, and opposition to alternative energy projects that already employ thousands across the state.
Yesterday, Romney criticized Obama harshly, and referred to controversial comments made by Vice President Biden at a rally in Virginia that alluded to slavery. Biden told the crowd, that Romney would “put y’all back in chains.”
Romney responded to that by saying, “This is what an angry and desperate presidency looks like. President Obama knows better, promised better, and America deserves better. His campaign strategy is to smash America apart and then try to cobble together 51 percent of the pieces. If an American president wins that way, we all lose.”
Romney added, “Mr. President, take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago and let us get about rebuilding and reuniting America.”
Obama has insisted that Biden’s comments were taken out of context and actually referred to comments by Romney about “unfettering” business.
The campaign shows no signs of easing up as America faces a close election in November. While the choice between the candidates appears more clear than ever, the rhetoric will likely become even more harsh as both sides struggle for what they believe are fundamental American values.
2012, Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) – According to the New York Times, Twitter followers can be purchased.
“The practice has become so widespread that StatusPeople, a social media management company in London, released a Web tool last month called the Fake Follower Check that it says can ascertain how many fake followers you and your friends have,” the Times reports.
“Fake accounts tend to follow a lot of people but have few followers,” Rob Waller, a founder of StatusPeople says. “We then combine that with a few other metrics to confirm the account is fake.”
If this accounting is accurate, the number of fake followers out there is alarmingly high. According to the StatusPeople tool, 71 percent of Lady Gaga’s nearly 29 million followers are “fake” or “inactive.” So are 70 percent of President Obama’s nearly 19 million followers.
On the other side of the coin, Republican opponent Mitt Romney has far fewer Twitter followers, not quite 900,000, but it’s reasonable to believe that some of them are fake as well. Both Romney and Obama campaigns have denied buying Twitter followers.
“Since our blog ‘Are you a Twitter Faker’ things have gone a bit nuclear!” the tool says on its Web site. “Over 30,000 people have signed up to our tool and they have run 50,000 checks.
“So where did this all start? We’ve known for a while that purchasing Twitter followers is possible. But this issue really exploded when tech publication The Kernel did a feature on Azeem Azhar (CEO of Social Media influence scoring company Peer Index). The article covered how his Twitter follower count had increased by almost 20,000 ‘people’!
“To give him his due, Azhar came back with a fairly robust response. We can only assume that his singular crime was to be quite nave in using his own Twitter account and not creating a fake one to purchase #FakeFollowers.
“Our second concern is that #FakeFollowers can be purchased for other people! Yes, that’s right. I can take any Twitter Anchor and purchase thousands of Twitter followers at the click of a button.
“So how easy is it to buy followers? It’s extremely easy. Learning from Azeem Azhar, I set up a fake account and purchased 1,000 followers from Social Media Corp for $10. Within 2 hours I had my 1,000 followers. But after a few days I had more than 3,000 followers! This is over 3,000 more followers than my personal Twitter account, which I’ve had over three 3 years! The hardest part was remembering my PayPal password to make the purchase!” the Web site says.
“So what’s the point of all this? Well, we want to make it clear that for businesses there really is no reason to purchase followers in the first place. Although there may be an initial feel good factor and the kudos of showing your MD how well you’re doing, the long term affect on more important KPIs — like influence and reach — will be negligible. It is these latter scores that will have an effect on web traffic, purchases and ultimately revenue. Not the number of inactive followers you have! We think your MD is going to be far more interested in the revenue number.”
2012, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.