Senator Mike Lee from Utah, the Tea Party favorite who won his Senate seat last year by defeating a very conservative but not conservative enough Sen. Robert Bennett, was on the talk shows last night. In an appearance on Hannity, Sen. Lee referred to President Obama as "His Imperial Majesty." Lee is a young man, only forty years old, and watching him I realized that he is precisely the kind of obnoxious campaign operative that both parties produce. They say things like that in private, demeaning their opponents, evidencing a "win at all costs" approach to politics that is juvenile, as if they weren't good enough to make the football team so they put all their testosterone into political fights. I have encountered many such nasty operatives in Democratic circles, but it is really shocking to see someone on national television talking this way. Say what you want about Obama but there has been nothing imperial about his presidency and the man clearly has no pretensions to majesty.
You usually can count on Fox News to give a somewhat unbalanced and unfair presentation of the news of the day. But, the straightest shooter among their network hosts is Greta van Susteren. Last night, she made a very salient point when discussing the debt ceiling crisis and the danger that Standard and Poor's would downgrade the nation's AAA rating. The video is, as far as I can tell, not on her website, but essentially she asked, "Why should anyone pay any attention to Standard and Poor's? Aren't they the clowns who caused the economic recession in the first place by telling investors that the derivatives and junk bonds were good investments?" Spot on.
I am not sure why President Obama chose to address the nation last night. He certainly did not announce a deal to raise the debt ceiling. He did not announce that he was prepared to invoke the 14th Amendment option and unilaterally raise the debt ceiling. It was unclear to me that he added anything to the discussion and, at this later date, the time has passed to give the kind of “framing the issue” speech he delivered last night. President Obama’s political skills seem to have abandoned him precisely when he most needs them.
Nicholas Hahn III has a post up at Real Clear Religion entitled "Catholic U's Garvey Gets It Wrong." The article attacks the recent decision by Catholic University President John Garvey to institute single-sex dorms on campus. In the event, it is Hahn, not Garvey, who gets it wrong.
Hahn attributes a variety of motives to Garvey that are, putting it mildly, preposterous. Hahn writes, "Garvey's is a patronizing decision, as if to protect students from the sins they will surely encounter once they leave the Ivory Tower -- it is another attempt by university administrators to create an alternate universe that is a college campus. Garvey's response to dormitory debauchery is to say that the ideas of sexual purity and responsible behavior hold no water in the cultural battle. Garvey effectively has decided sin is more powerful than virtue."
TNR is having a banner day. In addition to Jonathan Chait's article noted below, Mark Schmitt has a really smart article on tax reform and how the tax code is part of the reason for the growing income inequality that is one of America's most serious long-term threats to social stability. Really smart.
The New Republic's Jonathan Chait has an incisive analysis of why John Boehner is in a box regarding the debt ceiling. He is absolutely right that Boehner does not have the votes for the kind of "grand compromise" that the President desires. Boehner also was unfair yesterday in arguing that the President only wants a long-term extension to avoid dealing with the issue in an election year. Obama wants a long-term extension because anything less than that will continue the sense of economic uncertainty that is the true source of anemia in the economy.
Bishop Richard Malone of Portland, Maine, has endorsed his state's version of, and association with, Texas Governor Rick Perry's "The Response USA" which, according to the website, aims to pray for an "historic breakthrough for our country and a renewed sense of moral purpose."
I wonder if the good bishop looked around that Web site a bit more thoroughly. This event is being co-sponsored by the Family Research Council, the rightwing evangelical outfit based in Colorado Springs that is led currently by Tony Perkins, an alumnus of Jerry Falwell's Liberty University and the most effective advocate of religious-political fusion since Falwell.
Another one the "endorsers" listed on the Web site is the Rev. John Hagee, whose bitter anti-Catholic sentiments forced that notorious leftie John McCain to refuse Hagee's endorsement in 2008. And, there, too, is retired Bishop Rene Gracida, who has made a habit of attacking Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley for presiding at the funeral of Sen. Edward Kennedy and, most recently, for permitting a Mass designed to reach out to gay and lesbian Catholics.
I recall a Frontline documentary about 9/11. It began, of course, with the iconic images of the planes hitting the towers, but then it turned to Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete who said to the interviewer, “I recognized that morning, in those horrific images, a familiar face, the face of religion.”
My colleague Zoe Ryan already has a post up about the meeting between President Obama and a group of faith leaders on Wednesday. The religious leaders pleaded with the President to remember the needs of the poor as he negotiates a budget agreement. I was on the press call with the religious leaders after their meeting as well.
A couple of things struck me.
Rocco is reporting that Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the Vatican Nuncio to the United States, is gravely ill having undergone surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. His family has been called from Italy to his bedside.
Sambi has been a great nuncio as reflected in the many appointments of sane, pastoral bishops during his tenure. His influence lessens with the prominence of the diocese to be filled, as is the case with all nuncios, so it is important to look at some of the appointments to smaller dioceses. I am partial to the appointments of Bishop John Barres to Allentown and Bishop Joe Tyson to Yakima, not least because they were classmates. Sambi helped ease Bishop Joseph Martino out of Scranton, a difficult and painful, but necessary, decision.