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Election 2012: Medicaid


Last week we looked at Medicare. This week, let’s turn our attention to Medicaid, the joint federal-state program that provides health care to the poor.

Medicaid has always suffered politically from the fact that it is a benefit for a portion of the population, not for everybody. It was Franklin Roosevelt’s genius to make Social Security available to all Americans, an entitlement that is, consequently, politically untouchable. In the best of all possible worlds, America would have long since adopted universal health insurance with some kind of single payer system, and health care would then be untouchable politically. But, things did not work out that way. Indeed, because a single payer system had zero chance of passing Congress, one of the ways the Obama health care reforms expand coverage to more Americans is by expanding the number of people eligible for Medicaid.

2 Must-Reads at WaPo


Michael Gerson is one of conservatism's more thoughtful commentators and today he recalls two speeches by then-candidates Bill Clinton and George W. Bush in which they challenged the orthodoxy of their own parties in ways we did not see in Tampa and Charlotte. His article is here.

Right next to Gerson's op-ed was an article by Robert Kagan on the situation in Egypt and why some of the rhetoric on the right is not only wrong but dangerous. Last night, watching Sean Hannity, I was hoping someone of Kagan's stature would take on this ridiculous anti-Islamic drumbeating, and I am delighted to see Kagan do the job. I should add that Mr. Hannity called in as his expert on these issues - Sarah Palin. Hmmmm. Maybe she can see Libya from her house too.

On Campus Diversity & Freedom


Greg Lukianoff of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has a fascinating, and I think compelling, article up over at RealClearReligion.

The article caught my eye, of course, because it concerns Liberty University, founded by Rev. Jerry Falwell. But, Lukianoff takes a very interesting approach to the issue, noting the subtle and not-so-subtle ways liberal universities like the Ivy's discriminate against certain types of speech, versus the approach of a school like Liberty, and, most interestingly, the conflicting demands on a school like Georgetown.

I do not know Lukianoff but this is good stuff for anyone who, like me, is tired of some liberals neglecting their own commitment to diversity the second that commitment is extended to more conservative voices.

Toleration & Respect


I had intended to write about the need for Americans – our government, our diplomats and the rest of us – to be quite unequivocal in both championing our right to free speech and in condemning the abuse of that right by those who denigrate the religion of others. I had intended to specifically frame this as an American issue, not just a Catholic issue. But, then I grabbed the morning paper and Melinda Henneberger beat me to the punch. She makes the case I wanted to make and made it better than I could have done.

Does Romney Think Before Speaking?


If this goes on much longer, I am going to start feeling sorry for Mitt Romney.

Romney’s campaign issued a blistering attack on President Obama for responding to the attacks on the U.S. embassies in Egypt and Libya by condemning the internet video that mocked the Prophet. “It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks,” said a statement released by the Romney campaign. The statement was embargoed until midnight, to keep the campaign’s already stated commitment not to go negative on 9/11.

WaPo Grand Slam


If you go to this morning's op-ed page of the Washington Post, you will find that they hit a grand slam today with four pieces that are worth the read.

Harold Meyerson looks at the teachers' strike in Chicago and, unlike so much commentary on the strike, explains that not all the fault lay on one side or the other.

Ruth Marcus wonders what a real debate would like if the moderators were willing to ask tough questions and wait for a real answer.

Dana Milbank notes that the House GOP has a problem remembering Mr. Romney's name and Mr. Romney appears not to have understood that by choosing Paul Ryan as his running mate, he had aligned himself with the highly unpopular GOP Congress.

And, Kathleen Parker asks why it is so important to us to like our political leaders.

On The Other Hand


Regular readers will know that I have been somewhat despairing about the West ever since reading Brad Gregory's magisterial "The Unintended Reformation." I do worry about secularization and the dictatorship of relativism. I do worry that switching from a substantive ethic of the good to a formal ethics of rights has robbed Western civilization of the intellectual framework to cope with a range of issues from abortion to global climate change.

BUT - the horrific news from Libya reminds us that the West has her achievements as well. In Libya, when someone speaks disrespectfully of the Prophet or of religious leaders, a murderous mob takes over. In the U.S., when someone disrespects religion, they get a press release from Bill Donohue. Two cheers for Western tolerance and the First Amendment.

Int'l Religious Liberty


Today, the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at Catholic University will be co-hosting a conference on International Religious Liberty with the USCCB and CRS. NCR’s own Jerry Filteau will be covering the event and will have a full report for our readers. As a visiting fellow at the Institute, charged with helping to organize these gatherings, I will be out in the parking lot directing traffic, and inside the hall making sure the microphones are working.

Here in the U.S., much of the Catholic community has been focused on the issue of religious liberty in ways we have not before. Certainly, after the Supreme Court’s decision in Employment Division v. Smith (authored by that flaming anti-Catholic Antonin Scalia!) there was some interest in the topic, but that interest was hardly controversial as the law designed to legislatively overturn that decision, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed both houses of Congress by wide margins. In the House, it was passed without objection on a voice vote. The law was signed by President Bill Clinton.

Bp Finn Must Go


NCR is based in Kansas City, so I have been content to let me colleagues cover the story of Bishop Robert Finn, who was convicted of failing to report suspected child abuse last week. I was genuinely surprised when I got up Saturday morning, went to the Vatican website, clicked on "Rinunce e Nomine" and did not see Finn's name. After all, Finn not only violated civil law, he violated canon law, which requires bishops to comply with all civil laws in cases regarding child sex abuse.

I wish to associate myself entirely with the editorial NCR published yesterday afternoon. What credibility the U.S. bishops have left on the issue of child sex abuse is diminished every day Finn stays on the job.


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October 9-22, 2015


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