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Ryan, Medicare & NY-26

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Paul Ryan’s budget proposal is not on the ballot in the special election today in New York’s 26th congressional district. But, it might as well be. This rock-ribbed Republican seat, once held by Cong. Jack Kemp, is in danger of going to the a Democratic candidate. If it does, the Ryan plan will be dead.

Kathy Hochul is the Democratic candidate in NY-26 and she is leading in the latest polls. I still doubt she can win the seat. If the GOP turns out its voters, and all the national attention could result in a higher than usual turnout, their candidate, Jane Corwin should be able to hold. After all, this is a district that voted for George W. Bush in 2004 and John McCain in 2008, even while the rest of the state of New York was handing large victories to John Kerry and Barack Obama. The third party candidate, Jack Davis, who ran previously as a Democrat but has now positioned himself as a Tea Partyer, complicates the scenario to be sure, but it is unclear what effect his candidacy will have.

Huntsman: Mormon or Not?

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Joelyn Singley, of Utah, was pleased to find that the question she sent into ABC actually made it into their interview of former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman: Is he a Mormon or not?
She wasn't as pleased with the response. "I feel he’s dancing around it. It’s not important to me if he’s a practicing Mormon or not. I just want a straight answer. He just sounds like every other politician out there who dances around hard questions. It’s really not a hard question," Singley said.
This is a classic case of a politician's in-bred caution gets the better of him. People can understand that when discussing complex policy issues, sometimes it is the better part of wisdom to hedge an answer. But, when asked about something this straightforward and personal, why the hesitation?

TNR's Cohn on Ryan-Dolan Exchange

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For a sense of how the letter exchange between Cong. Ryan and Archbishop Dolan is playing out in a non-Catholic world, Jonathan Cohn at the New Republic has an interesting take. Cohn has written admirably about how devoted Cong. Ryan is to Ayn Rand. My favorite video is this one in which he defends Rand's vision of the "morality of capitalism." And, in case you think, as Newt Gingrich does, that quoting someone's own words, taken in context, is somehow unfair, I will point out that Cong. Ryan not only made there remarks, he posted them on his own Facebook page.

Rome v. Ayn Rand

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A priest whom I admire greatly chastised me for my post about the why’s and wherefore’s of the letters exchanged between Archbishop Timothy Dolan, President of the USCCB, and Congressman Paul Ryan. My interlocutor was concerned that I had focused on the “politics” of the situation and had not sufficiently dealt with the ideas that animated the exchange.

Obama, Israel & the '67 Borders

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Last night, conservative talking heads lambasted President Obama for pointing out publicly what everyone has acknowledged privately for years: The final border between israel and a future Palestinian state will take the 1967 borders as their starting point with, as the President said, adjustments and land swaps. This is because many of the lands closest to the '67 line have become large Israeli settlements and they are not going anywhere. Along other stretches of the '67 line, the land on the Israeli side is largely unpopulated and can be given to a future Palestinian state in a swap.
But, many Christian conservatives do not see the West Bank as part of a future Palestinian state. They see it as Judea and Samaria, part of the land promised by God to Israel and, therefore, not on the table for negotiations. For them, the lens through which negotiations should be viewed is the lens of the end times. This is madness and it has nothing to do with the security of Israel.

Ecclesial Architecture Today

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Our friends at America magazine have an article about church architecture today, written by Roberto Chiotti and Richard Vasko. In addition the the many fine points they make about the need for church architecture to be environmentally friendly, they hihglight the wonderful renovation at the Cathedral of San Fernando in San Antonio, Texas. I had the pleasure of visiting that cathedral a couple of years ago and agree that the renovation was done masterfully and the result is one of the most beautiful churches in America.

Commonweal on Ryan-Dolan Letters

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Paul Moses, writing at Commonweal, makes the salient point about the exchange of letters between Cong. Paul Ryan and Archbishop Timothy Dolan: Despite the headlines, Dolan did not, in fact, endorse the Ryan budget but only commended Ryan's letter for its stated intent of considering Catholic social teaching in his work.
This further proves the point that Dolan was ill-served in the whole episode. Either Ryan used him for political cover, or someone in Dolan's circle ill-served by failing to point out how the story would play.

Ryan & Dolan: The Letters

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News broke yesterday that New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, the head of the U.S. Bishops' conference, had exchanged letters with Congressman Paul Ryan, the author of the controversial House budget plan that has been criticized for its cuts to social programs for the nation's poorest. Dolan has been very ill-served by whomever suggested he write such a letter. Providing political cover for politicians should not be part of the USCCB President’s brief, especially when it means cutting off USCCB Committee chairs at the knees.

Obama's Mideast Speech

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President Obama did not break much in the way of new ground in his speech, delivered just now, on the Mideast. But, foreign policy is not a good place to exhibit novelty. He touched all the necessary notes, linking our values and our interests in ways he has before but also in ways that we can't do often enough, especially after two months of Donald Trump running around saying we should have made the Iraqis pay for our invasion of their country. Obama spoke about the need to guarantee religious freedom in the region, specifically mentioning the rights of Coptic Christians in Egypt and, a bit more surprisingly, the rights of Shia in Bahrain. In fact, if there was anything a bit surprising in the speech it was the fact that he mentioned Bahrain explicitly and did not let that country's leaders off the hook for their repressions. That was a pleasant surprise.

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