This week, some commentators, among them Sarah Palin, have characterized the GOP race at this stage as having a “flavor of the month” quality to it. The metaphor is not exact. It implies either that the whole campaign is essentially a marketing campaign and/or that the GOP primary electorate is so enormously fickle, that they cannot stay with any single candidate for more than a month and need to move on to someone else. But, that is not the real issue and so the metaphor does not enlighten so much as it beclouds.
Any survey undertaken by Robert P. Jones and Daniel Cox of the Public Religion Research Institute, and worked into a report with the assistance of E. J. Dionne and Bill Galston of the Brookings Institution, is going to make for some interesting reading. They are four of the brightest, and nicest, people in DC. And, the issues examined in this study are critical. At a time when the GOP presidential candidates are busy explaining what they think it means to be an American, the attitudes of actual Americans is worth considering.
The survey has good news - 88 percent of Americans believe that America is a place where all religions, even those that are not popular, should be respected and afforded full legal rights. Also, some bad news, to wit: "Approximately two-thirds of Republicans, Americans who identify with the Tea Party movement, and Americans who most trust Fox News agree that the values of Islam are at odds with American values. A majority of Democrats, Independents, and those who most trust CNN or public television disagree."
There is an assumption in certain political circles that if the HHS mandate regarding contraception and sterilization in all insurance plans does not include a broader conscience exemption, somehow Catholic institutions will learn to get along. But, in a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Father John Jenkins, CSC, President of Notre Dame, makes a very telling point. He writes, "This would compel Notre Dame to either pay for contraception and sterilization in violation of the church's moral teaching, or to discontinue our employee and student health care plans in violation of the church's social teaching. It is an impossible position."
Father Jenkins makes a point that had not previously occured to me - or to anyone else whose writings on this topic I have seen. It is just as morally objectionable to stop providing health care coverage as it is to provide coverage for procedures we find morally objectionable.
Next Wednesday, Catholic University is hosting an all day symposium on the priesthood to commemorate the publication of a new book by Msgr. Stephen Rossetti, Why Priests are Happy: A Study of the Psychological and Spiritual Health of Priests. Professor Joseph White will give an historical analysis of the priesthood., Archbishop Wilton Gregory will discuss the findings in the new book from the perspective of a diocesan bishop, and Msgr. Robert Panke will discuss the work’s implications for seminary discernment and formation. That is quite a line-up but it is appropriate because of the importance of the subject matter.
Yossi Klein Halevi is one of the most thoughtful analysts of Mideast politics. In a post up at TNR,he looks at how Obama rose to the occasion posed by the Palestinian Authority's bid for addmission to the United Nations while Bill Clinton failed to do so, as well as examining the performance of the other principals. Smart, smart, smart.
Dana Milbank seconds my opinion, expressed yesterday, that Herman Cain is better at sloganeering than anything else. But, Milbank warns, given the fact that few people vote in primaries, and those are usually the most ideologically motivated, sloganeering may be enough.
The other day, someone said they thought that Cain was "pithy." But, pith is made of stronger stuff than Cain's vapidities. Churchill, when asked about his drinking habits, said, "I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me." Now, that's pithy.
This is the final week in which the Department of Health and Human Services is accepting comments from the public on its proposed new rule regarding mandated coverage in insurance programs. The mandate would require insurance plans to include coverage for contraception, sterilization and some drugs that are considered abortifacients. As regular readers know, I have been making the case since the day the rule was announced that the conscience exemption it contained was far too narrow. I encourage everyone to make your voices heard this week as well.
An article in today's Washington Post bears the deadline, "Cain speaks his mind, no matter how impolitic." The article mentions some of Mr. Herman Cain's more unfortunate verbal gaffes over the past few months, as when he said he would not be comfortable having a Muslim in his Cabinet, a statement he has since walked back.
It is true that Mr. Cain's verbal miscues are problematic. No one cares what the CEO of Godfather's Pizza thinks about Muslims really, but people can die when government leaders make outrageous statements that understandably inflame passions abroad.
The New Republic has an article up this morning by Carol and Jordan Steiker arguing that the death penalty is on its last legs. Let us hope their analysis proves prescient.
At Spiritual Politics, Mark Silk takes on Justice Antonin Scalia's pronouncement that he would resign as a justice if he thought he was violating Church teaching by participating in our nation's current legal regime of judicially administered execution. Silk compares Scalia's stance with that of John F. Kennedy in his famous Houston Ministerial Association speech. Good stuff.