Is it any wonder that Congress' approval ratings are in the tank? The kerfuffle over whether or not to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance exhibits, in spades, the kind of childish antics that drive people crazy. The Senate works out a bipartisan bill (yeah!) but the bill is only a band-aid, extending the tax cuts and benefits for two months. Then the Senators escape for vacation. The House refuses to oblige the Senate, even though a clean vote on the Senate bill likely would have passed, forcing Speaker Boehner into parliamentary contortions. The Speaker has a point when he says Congress should be able to do better than a band-aid, but the actual consequence of the House's vote is to just let the wound fester with no short-term band-aid nor long-term cure.
In my first post this morning, I lamented how few voices had been raised in opposition to the health care mandates on liberal grounds. And, not five minutes after posting that, I turned to Rocco Palmo to get any breaking Church news and, voila, he had a link to an editorial at Commonweal entitled "Illiberal Mandates" that makes the case.
Commonweal is not Fox. Catholics on the left who have been indifferent to this issue and have been unpersuaded by my arguments should carefully consult the central argument put forth by the editors at Commonweal: "except when life or limb is at stake, it is hard to see what is “liberal” in coercing religious individuals and institutions. There are other ways that contraception can be made available to employees of Catholic institutions, should they choose to use it. One does not need to oppose contraception to see that, in this case, it’s far less important than the principle, and practice, of religious freedom."
Some of the remarks in the combox, and conversations at holiday parties, have suggested that virtually no one is going to vote for or against President Obama based on his upcoming decision regarding conscience exemptions for Catholic and other religious organizations from certain mandates under the new health care reform law. This is only half true, and the half that is true is damning. The other half has to do with how our media culture frames issues and how issues and events feed a media narrative.
I am getting ready to jump into the car and drive to Connecticut so no postings this morning. If, after a seven hour drive with a border collie, a black lab, and a St. Bernard, I am not thoroughly - well, not sure how to spell the Yiddish word but here goes - fachadded, I shall post this afternoon.
In searching for the video of Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete's debate with Christopher Hitchens, I came across this short, and breahtaking, video of Albacete addressing the World Science Festival. Before anyone snickers at the "New Evangelization" this video shows the possibilities and, lest anyone forget, Albacete was one of the theologians at the early meetings out of which the idea of the New Evangelization was born.
Amy Sullilvan has a post up at Time's Swampland about why present day presidents can't really go to church. Certainly, it is the case that the modern presidency, and the need for security, would be horribly intrusive on other parishioners. It is also the case that any President is likely to find it difficult to pray when everyone is looking at him. The chapel at Camp David seems to be the best option, and it is an option that President Obama exercises most weekends.
A few years back, Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete had a public conversation with Christopher Hitchens. It was one of the few times that we witnessed Hitchens somewhat perplexed: Certainly Monsignor Albacete has a knack for presenting the faith in ways that are arresting and, in this instance, he completely knocked Hitch out of his standard points of reference regarding religion. And, the mention of the "Great Lizard" is worth the price of admission.
This morning’s newspaper carried news of two deaths: Vaclav Havel and Kim John Il. The two men stood at polar opposites of the long chain of political engagement, and stood there firmly. To note only one example, Havel endured prison for his commitment to freedom and Kim Jong Il was the great incarcerator. Kim Jong Il’s death makes one feel as if this morning’s news contained news of a cure for cancer, the sensation that a great scourge has been lifted. Havel’s death fills one with a sense of enormous and specific loss, for his contribution to the cause of human dignity has improved the lives of millions.
This morning's Washington Post looks at the various strategies available to President Obama's re-election team to get to the magic number of 270 electoral votes. Starting with the states John Kerry won as a baseline, and I am not sure Wisconsin and New Hampshire are sure fire bets, the Dems see five different paths to 270: Florida only; The Southwest (Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado and Iowa; The Rustbelt (Ohio and Iowa); The South (North Carolina and Virginia); and Expanding the field (Arizona). Options 1, 2 , 4 and 5 are all heavily dependent upon gaining huge margings and high turnout among Latinos. Option 3 requires performing better among white, working class ethnics, a group Obama has struggled with as far back as the primaries against Hillary Clinton. In all cases, Catholics, be they white working class ethnics or Latinos, will hold the balance of decision.
I confess, I fell asleep halfway through last night's GOP debate. But, what I saw convinced me that Gingrich was able to more or less parry the attacks against him. The man is a first class debater and no one landed a punch, at least not a crippling punch.
That said, it would be a fun time to be an ad man for Gov. Rick Perry or Cong. Michele Bachmann. The spots needn't be expensive nor require much in the way of production values. The candidate looks straight into the camera and says, "Newt assures us that he did not lobby for Freddie Mac. Okay. But, then, what exactly did he do to garner $1.6 million? If it wasn't lobbying, what was it?" Another spot would have the candidate saying, "The media wants you to believe this is a two person race between Gov. Romney and Speaker Gingrich. Do we Republicans really want to award our nomination to either of these two guys who both, at different times, supported an individual mandate in health care?"