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The Boiling Politics of the Mideast

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The political caldron that we call the Mideast is boiling harder than usual these days. For the past fifty years, the principal goal of U.S. foreign policy in the region has been stability, but that is a bit like hoping to lose weight while hanging out at Ben & Jerry’s every night. Seeking stability in the Mideast is a geo-strategic game of whack-a-mole, except it is not a game.

Bp DiMarzio Goes Off Reservation

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I don't know what - or if - anyone at the Brooklyn Tablet was thinking when they decided to publish an editorial that seems to support the kind of anti-tax ideology being peddled by the profoundly anti-Christian devotees of Ayn Rand et al. Paul Moses at Commonweal has the story.

To be clear, there is room for disagreement about how taxes and the economy intersect. There is room for debate about the way those tax dollars get spent. But, it is news to me and every other person even remotely influenced by Catholic Social Teaching to complain that the social safety net is the problem with America's tax structure.

The State of the GOP Race

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Two key facts emerged from the results in Michigan’s GOP primary. First, Mitt Romney only wins when he outspends his opponents by more than two-to-one, almost all of it going to negative advertising, and even then, and in the state he once called home, Romney barely crosses the finish line ahead of his rivals. Second, Santorum is a dreadful candidate.

To say that Romney is unloved by the Republican Party is, by now, to speak a truism. Even in Arizona, where he beat Santorum by twenty points, a majority of voters cast their ballots for someone other than Romney. Anecdotally, I had dinner the other night with a longtime Republican friend who could not tell me very much about why he was supporting Santorum, but repeated several times “He is not Romney.”

Note to Readers

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Dear Readers,
Friday at 6 a.m. I will board a flight for my annual pilgrimage to Puerto Rico where I celebrate my birthday each year with old family friends, the most beautiful beaches in the world, lots of mofongo, pernil, whole fried snapper, pio nonos, and enough rum punches and margaritas to challenge the strongest of livers! I shall be bringing my computer but have two books to read and review, a major lecture to write, and I hope not to be checking the news overly much. Put differently, the blog is going on vacation for a few days too. I will likely post on the results of the Arizona and Michigan primaries next Wednesday and, God willing, will arrive back in Washington that same evening and be back with my regular blogging schedule next Thursday, March 1.

And, if you think I am ambivalent about Obama's "accommodation," that is nothing compared to the ambivalence I feel about turning - gulp! - 50!

U.S.: Secular or Christian?

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Rosalind Helderman, in this morning's Post, looks at the battle over the role of faith in politics. The article focuses on some of the things Rick Santorum has said on the campaign trail that are sure to raise eyebrows, but have only come to light now that the spotlight has shown on him more closely. One thing is obvious, although no one in the GOP can bring themselves to admit it: It is true that American society and culture are more deeply religious than other Western democracies, but it is also true that our constitutional system is decidedly secular. And, Mr. Santorum is never going to acknowledge that these twin poles of religioisty and secularity have co-existed as well as they have only because in America, religion is viewed in a distinctly Protestant way, as an essentially private matter, between the individual and God.

Two From WaPo

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Yesterday, Ruth Marcus had a great op-ed about the political, and cultural, divergence between Democratic activists inside the Beltway and Democratic voters outside the Beltway. It is clearly part of this White House's calculation that they must side with the inside-the-Beltway crowd if only to guarantee strong fundraising numbers but that, at times, as in the recent controversy over religious liberty, that calculation hits a bump.

And, this morning, E.J. Dionne has a great op-ed on the continuing slander thrown at President Obama that he is somehow un-American. This abuse, sadly, often comes from religious leaders, most recently Rev. Franklin Graham. Even those religious leaders who oppose certain policies the president has proposed should be mindful of their rhetoric lest they feed this hatefulness that is itself quite un-American.

The GOP's \"B\" Team

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The way we Americans conduct our presidential campaigns leaves much to be desired. We sell candidates with TV ads the way we sell Doritos, except that the company that makes Doritos takes out ads proclaiming the deliciousness of its product, not attacking the Lays potato chips as cancer-causing, un-tasty snacks. We sit through debates that often focus on soundbites and stupidities. And, our mainstream media, needing to convey complex issues in “TV time” (in “TV time” five minutes is an eternity), abets the superficiality with which the contemporary candidates are forced to confront issues.

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