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Obama: Find Your Inner Hedgehog

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President Obama is not a hedgehog, he is a fox. The metaphor comes, via Isaiah Berlin’s essay on Tolstoy, from a fragment of Greek poetry that read: The fox knows many things, the hedgehog knows one big thing. But, tomorrow night, when he presents his jobs plan to a joint session of Congress, the President will need to find his inner hedgehog if it is there, and fake it if he isn’t.

The question people have been asking is whether or not the President will present a “big” plan, a bold new idea to solve the nation’s unemployment woes. In normal times, the remedy for an economic downturn is to propose large government spending programs that will put people to work, pumping money into the economy at a time when, for a variety of reasons, the private sector is unable or unwilling to do so. But, these are not normal times, these are Tea Party times and because Obama spent the previous several months playing on the Tea Party’s turf, finding ways to cut government spending, he will have a hard time changing direction now. This is why his proposals must be both big and simple. His proposals must have a hedgehog quality.

New Evangelization Watch: Bishop Hugh Gilbert, OSB

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Keeping an eye out for examples of what we mean by the "New Evangelization" a friend sent me these remarks by Bishop Hugh Gilbert, OSB, who was ordained as the bishop of Aberdeen last month. Once you get past the "thank you" section, Bishop Gilbert nails it, explaining in vivid imagery what is meant by the New Evangelization. Keep an eye on this guy, especially if he is preaching anywhere near you!

Tea Party v. Atlantic Charter

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In August 1941, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt met in Placentia Bay off the coast of Newfoundland and produced the Atlantic Charter. It could be called a statement of war aims except for the fact that the U.S. was not yet at war. The Charter stated that its authors "deem it right to make known certain common principles in the national policies of their respective countries on which they base their hopes for a better future for the world."

Among the principles listed was this: "Fifth, they desire to bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field, with the object of securing for all improved labor standards, economic advancement, and social security."

Would any of the current crop of GOP presidential hopefuls have signed this document? Or would they cravenly bow down to Tea Party orthodoxy? "Improved labor standards?" Not a chance. "Economic advancement?" Only for the rich. "Social Security?" Nah, let's turn Medicare into a voucher program instead and kill unemployment benefits while we are at it.

DeMint's SC Forum

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The GOP candidate forum sponsored by Sen. Jim DeMint in South Carolina yesterday was not your average debate. Instead of “gotcha” questions directed from media analysts to the candidates, and instead of the one or two minute replies, the candidates had twenty minutes on stage, standing before the questioners, looking a bit like students auditioning for a role. (Think “A Chorus Line” without the tights.) This format encouraged longer, more thoughtful answers, and, to a degree, it provoked them. All to the good.

Abortion & Prudential Judgment

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One of the more common talking points employed by Catholic neo-cons is that on issues of social justice, there is room for prudential judgment and so good Catholics can disagree, while on abortion, there is no room for prudential judgment. This is how they avoid the charge of being cafeteria Catholics.

But, it doesn't fly, as an article today at the New Republic shows. The article looks at the growing divide within the pro-life community as to how they should pursue their goals. Since Casey v. Planned Parenthood, most pro-life groups have focused on restricting abortion, but there is now a renewed effort to pass a "personhood" amendment, mounting a full, frontal attack on Roe. There are some who think that simply overturning Roe would actually benefit the pro-choice movement, filling the coffers at NARAL and electing a host of aggressively pro-choice legislators nationwide. All but a handful of states would likely enact some form of legal access to abortion if Roe were overturned. But, whether you agree with that strategy or not is a matter of prudential judgment.

Sementelli Calls Out Robbie George

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Also at Faith in Public Life, Nick Sementelli calls out Catholic neo-con activist Robbie George for his role as a board member of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation which has gotten into the ugly, and unChristian, business of funding anti-Muslim groups.

Now, all of us belong to groups that do things that make us hold our noses some times. And, I will never fault anyone for playing the inside game in politics, secular or ecclesiastical: For all we know, Professor George has been a moderating voice on that board and, if this is the case, more power to him for staying in the game and trying to bring the voice of reason to bear.

Gehring Calls Out Ohio Cath Conference

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John Gehring, writing at Faith in Public Life, points out the glaring failure of the Ohio Catholic Conference to take a forthright stance in defense of workers' rights by remaining neutral on that state's upcoming referendum on "Issue 2" - a vote on whether or not to repeal a GOP-backed law that strips unions of much of their collective bargaining rights.

As Gehring points out, the bishops in Wisconsin were much more forceful in defending workers' rights when that state's governor attacked them. And, Bishop Stephen Blaire, writing on behalf of the USCCB, gave a ringing endorsement of workers' rights in his Labor Day Statement. And, Popes since Leo XIII have put workers' right at the center of Catholic social teaching.

The GOP's Immigration Problem

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The front page of this morning’s Washington Post makes for some sober reading. An article by Philip Rucker and Amy Gardner details the way immigration keeps coming up at GOP presidential candidate forums, even though the candidates will have been more likely to have begun the forums discussing jobs and the economy. Yet, polls show the issue way down on the list of priorities for most voters, including most GOP primary voters.

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August 29-September 11, 2014

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