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Obama on The Defensive

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Democrats have a genetic predisposition to hand-wringing. The memo from James Carville and Stan Greenberg criticizing President Obama’s re-election effort, and the commentary thereon, is par for the course: In 1992, there were plenty of criticisms of Carville, Greenberg and their man Bill Clinton as he entered the Democratic Convention in New York trailing both President George H.W. Bush and Third Party, First-Tier Crazy Ross Perot. Events, some of them unforeseeable, intervene, upsetting established narratives. Message discipline is important in a candidate and among his or her surrogates, but it is not always enough.

Gov. Rick Scott: Worst Governor in US

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Maybe the man just doesn't understand the root of the word "democracy," but Florida Gov. Rick Scott has announced he does not intend to abide by a cease and desist order from the Department of Justice regarding Scott's efforts to purge the voter rolls in his state. He says he is intent on making sure non-citizens do not vote, although as I pointed out last week, his "purge list" included many citizens, including a 91-year old veteran of World War II.

Gov. Scott, you may recall, has long had trouble with legal issues. Before he became governor, he ran a company that was accused of one of the largest Medicare frauds in history and they had to pay a $600 million fine for the fraudulent activities! Why would he let a little thing like the Voting Rights Act get in his way.

Gov. Scott earns my nomination as the worst governor in America, and that is an increasingly high hurdle.

Dancing on Carr's Grave?

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I especially liked the subtlety of the headline at "Angel Queen," when she linked to my post about the retirement of John Carr from the USCCB. Angel Queen declared, "John Carr, USCCB Official with Shady Connections, Leaving USCCB."

Not to be outdone, the insanely right wing website "Culture War Notes" announced Carr's retirement with this headline, "USCCB Pro-Abort Resigns."

Of course, I should like to say that I am proud to be one of Mr. Carr's shady connections. I am proud to stand with the late Cardinal Hickey, with Bishops Murphy and Blaire and others who have chaired John's committee, with Cardinal O'Malley who worked with John back when Cardinal O'Malley was a priest working in Washington, and with countless others who have worked with John over the years. Shady, all of us.

As the USCCB Gathers in Atlanta

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As the bishops of the United States gather for their summer meeting tomorrow, the on-going debate over religious liberty will dominate the proceedings. Better to say, the debate over how to proceed in vindicating religious liberty will dominate the proceedings. All the bishops are vitally concerned about the various encroachments on religious liberty that can be seen in our culture today. Only the editors of the New York Times and a few other fellow travelers of the Obama administration continue to insist this is a “phony” issue.

It seems to me that there are two central questions the bishops must address. First, regarding the HHS mandate for the inclusion of contraception in all preventive care plans, the bishops must decide if they will insist that all employers receive a religious exemption or only those employers that are in some meaningful sense religious institutions. Second, how will the bishops talk about the issue of religious liberty and will their speech try to guarantee that the issue is not misused to achieve partisan ends.

Paris, 1200

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John Baldwin’s “Paris, 1200” is a completely different type of history from that contained in the book I last reviewed, Brad Gregory’s “The Unintended Reformation.” Where Gregory engaged a broad sweep of history, tracking the interface of ideas and events over several centuries, Baldwin focuses on one city in one year. Nonetheless, this is an important work not only because the precise focus never leads to a narrative bogged down in minutia, but because so many of the issues considered are as perennial as the New England irises I weeded around this weekend.

Latinos Still Back Obama

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A new poll shows President Obama leading Mitt Romney among Latino voters by a whopping margin of 66% to 23%. Romney's woeful numbers are little changed over the past few months, indicating that Latinos are willing to overlook Obama's inability to pass immigration reform if the alternative is a man who has endorsed "self-deportation" and voiced support for anti-immigrant laws in Arizona and Alabama.

To put the new poll in perspective, in 2008, according to exit polls, Obama won Latinos by 67% to John McCain's 31%. So, if all those Latino voters who told pollsters in this most recent poll that they are undecided, if all of them break to Romney, Obama will still come close to his margins in 2008.

Words of Hope in Cleveland

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Tom Allio, who worked for the diocese of Cleveland for over 31 years and who retired as head of their Social Action Office in 2010, has a very moving article posted about the situation in Cleveland. He commends Bishop Richard Lennon for his recent comments about his own failures as a bishop and hopes that those comments reflect a genuine change of heart, a conversion if you will. Allio's words are words of hope, faint hope to be sure at this point, but hope nonetheless.

It is good for all Catholics, as we engage each other on contentious and important issues, when we are about to give up on those with whom we disagree or dismiss their concerns, when we are convinced, absolutely convinced that we are right and they are wrong, just then it is important to remember the virtue of hope. Allio's comments are not Suzy Sunshine, but they breath Christian hope. For me, as for Peguy, the four words with the greatest power to bring a human to tears are: "A man had two sons...."

Commonweal Symposium Part II

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Today, let’s continue looking at the Commonweal symposium on religious liberty.

M. Cathleen Kaveny puts her finger on one of the central difficulties in the USCCB’s document on religious liberty, namely, do the bishops want to preserve their own rights to run their organizations as they see fit or do they want to demand that everyone in the country abide by our Catholic rules. Of course, the two concerns are not mutually exclusive. Obviously as Catholics, we believe in the common good, and that all of us, Catholic and non-Catholic, should participate in articulating and achieving the common good. We also believe, at least in America we have long believed, that part of the common good of the nation is a government that does not interfere excessively in the rights of religious and other social groups.

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In This Issue

February 27- March 12, 2015

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