Sahil Kapur at the New Republic has a post about conservative attempts to derail Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. It is curious that it is not only social conservatives who are suspicious of Romney's conversion to a pro-life stance, but the laissez-faire dogmatists who are attacking Romney. This is the essential problem he faces: A GOP primary electorate that is all wigged up will have a hard time getting enthusiastic about a man whose entire demeanor, to say nothing of his record, bespeaks a more moderate, centrist approach to governance.
Many people deride Washington but it has its perks for those of us who live within the Beltway.
One of those perks is getting to use the Library of Congress. A few days ago, I needed to find a citation and went to the Adams building. This is far less famous than the Jefferson building with its fantastic Beaux Arts architecture, its low copper dome, the magnificent Main Reading Room and marbled grand foyer. The Adams building opened in 1939 and it is all Art Deco. In the fifth floor reading room, there is magnificent iron and brass work above the doors. The portals are lined in marble. There are stainless steel bookshelves with carefully crafted owls at either end. Mosaics adorn the walls.
Yesterday, 34 of 47 Republicans in the U.S. Senate voted to end tax subsidies for ethanol. Totally apart from the merits of the issue, the vote represented a welcome willingness to stand up to Grover Norquist, founder of the group Americans for Tax Reform. Norquist has demanded Republicans sign his pledge never to raise taxes, including the ending of tax subsidies and he has been largely successful in his effort. But, Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma not only demurred from Norquist's position, he convinced a majority of his fellow Republicans to do the same.
Solving the nation's fiscal challenges will take compromise, a word that is not in Mr. Norquist's vocabulary. Kudos to Coburn for challenging this faux-orthodoxy on taxes.
Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, spokesperson for the USCCB, has a post up at the Huffington Post about the so-called "Choice to Die." Walsh correctly notes the way the word "choice" serves as a trump card in contemporary American culture. In this case, of course, it seems especially mis-used. In regard to death, none of us have a real choice - we will all die.
Most importantly, Walsh cites her own experience with hospice work to show the difference between dying with dignity and dying with a misdirected sense of one's capacity for choice. Her words evidence precisely what Pope Paul VI meant when he said the Church is, because of her ministries, an "expert in humanity." There are, indeed, many choices, many life-affirming choices, that should be extended to those who are dying. The option of choosing to end choice itself should not be on the list.
President Obama’s visit to Puerto Rico yesterday was consequential not only for the politics of next year’s presidential race but also for the politics of the island. Perhaps more importantly, if yesterday’s visit proves to be seminal, leading to a greater understanding of and dialogue with Puerto Rican culture, the President may help his party – and his country – understand how the changing demographics stateside might look in the future. Puerto Ricans have spent the last century experimenting with issues of how a Latino culture born out of the mixing of the Catholic faith with indigenous culture intersects with U.S. culture. In short, their past may hold keys to the nation’s future.
Robert Royal has a thoughtful commentary on the role Hispanic Catholicism might play in shaping American culture. He notes that there is little abstract about Hispanic inculturations of the faith, which bespeaks a vitality often lacking north of the border. Royal also notes that such vitality is not always sufficient: He recalls visiting a rural church in Guatemala where pre-Christian rituals co-existed a little too easily with Catholic practice, an experience I encountered in Chiapas once, watching an older woman carefully set out an egg, a bottle of Coke and some candles before a statue of a saint as she began praying over a pregnant woman.
Royal's commentary is not lengthy and only touches the surface of some profound issues, but is well worth the read.
In this morning's Washington Post, Walter Reich explains that Yale University is shutting down what has been, heretofore, the best academic institute for the study of Anti-Semitism in the country. He suggests that the Institute come to a major D.C. university and mentions Catholic University among them.
The value of bringing such an Institute to CUA is obvious: Few hatreds have produced greater evil in Western civilization than the hatred of the Jews, so the need to study it is obvious for any university. But, because that hatred has a decidedly religious character, and has often, tragically, found a way to thrive within the Christian community, it would be especially helpful to locate such an institute at a religious university. After all, when you study anti-Semities, you are not studying Jews.
Mark Silk at Spiritual Politics writes about the changing, and more visible, role that white evangelicals play in today's GOP. He offers the prediction that at some point one of the GOP candidates will find a way to go after Mitt Romney because he is a Mormon. I fear Silk is right. Politics can get dirty. Remember the GOP primary in 2000, when the charge surfaced that John McCain had a "black child out of wedlock" during the South Carolina primary? McCain, of course, had an adopted daughter from Bangladesh.
No one will challenge Romney's faith on a debate stage, to be sure. But, Romney can expect flyers in South Carolina that assert he is not a Christian to be sure.
It is hard to discern a clear winner in last night’s GOP debate in New Hampshire. Michelle Bachmann did very well in her premiere performance, Newt Gingrich was able to appear as a very intelligent, thinking man’s candidate (which he is) instead of as a bumbling manager whose campaign is imploding (which he also is), and Mitt Romney looked presidential, whatever that means.
What was more obvious were the losers: Tm Pawlenty, Herman Cain, Catholic social teaching, the 14th Amendment, and non-voodoo economics.
Bill Donohue, of the Catholic League, has posted a response to my item below.
He claims that Father Sirico never suggested John Galt, the hero of Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" was a Christ-like figure. Maybe he should re-read Sirico's article, the whole point of which was to suggest that Rand had some subliminal need to paint Galt in Christ-like terms. Indeed, the title of Sirico's little essay "Who Really Was John Galt Anyway?" indicates that the burden of Sirico's essay is to prove that Galt was for Rand a Christ-like figure. (And such a burden!)In fact, I doubt Rand would have appreciated the comparison which is made by Sirico, not Rand. That is why I compared him to artist Andres Serrano.