Well, no one will mistake President Obama’s speech last night at the National Defense University with President John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address. You will recall that Kennedy pledged America to “bear any burden, pay any price” to promote freedom. President Obama, last night, spent a good deal of time discussing cost-sharing and burden-sharing. He spoke about limits as much as about possibilities.
Robert Samuelson, in this morning's Washington Post, argues that the Wall Street bailout worked despite the fact that it remains highly unpopular. I agree that it worked - after all, we did not slide into another Great Depression. And, it showed, although everyone seems to have forgotten this, that in the face of an economic collapse brought on my the misdeeds of our financial barons, the government can step in, indeed must step in, to prevent further human misery.
Samuelson notes one fact that, I suspect, will be useful in future debates. The original TARP legislation authorized $700 billion in new federal spending. In fact, only $410 billion was spent. You say, "Only $410 billion" and it is a fair question. But, according to the most recent statistics, most of that money has been paid back and so the total cost of the measure is now estimated to be $19 billion.
Is the White House finally listening? For months, many of us have been asking them to put a human face on health care reform, to find the child who had been denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition and who has it today because of the new law, and let that child do for health care reform what Ryan White did for the debate on AIDS funding. The DNC has released a new video that I hope they will turn into a series of 60 second spots to run nationwide.
The reason to put a human face on this issue is obvious. The policies contained in the new law are difficult to understand, to be sure. But, everyone understands a human story, no one more so than Catholic swing voters. We Catholics put human faces on everything. Have a lost cause? Pray to St. Jude. Are you Irish? Pray to St. Patrick. Facing a terminal illness in your family? Pray to St. Joseph, the patron of a happy death. For us Catholics, this way of viewing the world is rooted, ultimately, in our dogmatic belief about the Incarnation and its import. This way of viewing the world is for the Catholic imagination like breathing is for our lungs. We don't even know we are doing it.
All season long, I have been saying that the really great thing about college basketball is that, on any given night, any of the top 50 teams in the country is capable of beating any other team. And so, how fitting that all of the four top seeds in the NCAA tournament are not going to the Final Four. VCU, Butler, Kentucky and UConn were not on many people's brackets for the Final Four.
At this stage of the game, winning is not about who you recruited, or the difficulty of your schedule. It is about who wants it more. Which team brings greater poise, the ability to see its opponent mount a run and not give up, the willingness to shoot an airball and come back on the next possession and swish through a 3-pointer.
Needless to say, I am cheering for UConn, but the entire sport has already won. There could not be imagined a more exciting tournament, a higher level of play, more courageous kids, or better coaching than what we are witnessing.
The new census numbers are jaw-dropping. Almost one-quarter of all American children under the age of 17 are Latino. The four states with the largest Hispanic populations are California, Texas, Florida and New York which, together, account for more than half of the electoral votes needed to win the presidency. If no Latinos had voted in the state of North Carolina in 2008, Barack Obama would have lost that state. Instead, he won it narrowly. When Republicans lose North Carolina, they can forget about winning the White House.
The Cardinal-Archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Schonborn, has again caused a bit of a stir by calling for the Church to engage in a debate on celibacy.
Schonborn got spanked last year after he criticized Cardinal Sodano for the latter's mishandling of the sex abuse crisis when he served as Secretary of State under Pope John Paul II. Schonborn was right to raise questions then and he is right to ask questions now.
Will it make a difference? The Church moves slowly, and fifty years ago, the idea that a cardinal would raise such thorny issues and criticize a former high Vatican official would have been unthinkable. Still, no one should expect any change in the rules on celibacy anytime soon. Last year, after Schonborn criticized Sodano, a high-ranking Vatican official told me the question in the curia was whether or not Schonborn had gone off his meds? That dismissive attitude to the cardinal's questions does not suggest that the curia is prepared to face reality any time soon.
Okay, okay. I know today is the Feast of the Annunciation, not the Feast of the Assumption. But, I was suffering especially today from the fog of morning which, unlike the fog of war, is not always avoidable, at least not before my sixth cup of coffee.
Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
The historiographic point I was trying to make has been on my mind because of a book review I am currently working on for the New Republic. And, it still holds, although we will have to wait until August 15th for me to link that point to the first cathedral in Baltimore.
Politico is reporting that President Obama has declined to give a major address about our military involvement in Libya because he does not want to invite comparisons with our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This misunderstands the nature of presidential leadership. If he does not want people to compare Libya with Iraq, he should explain how they are different. What he cannot do is fail to explain to the American people why he is putting the men and women of our Armed Forces in harm's way.
Being President entails many tough calls. The decision to get involved in Libya was one such tough call. Explaining to the American people what we are doing and why is not a tough call. It is his job.
Today is the feast of the Assumption. [Update: No, it isn't, as several readers have pointed out. My bad. My apology is here. The rest of the article still rings true.]
The first metropolitcan cathedral to be built in America, in Baltimore, was dedicated to the Blessed Mother under this title. It remains, arguably, the most beautiful church in America, so distinctly Federalist in its architecture while creating a truly exquisite space for the celebration of the Mass, the building stands as a rebuke to those who believe nothing good comes from dialogue with the ambient culture.
Earlier this week, I reported on a new survey of polling data about Catholic attitudes towards gay and lesbian issues conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute. The key finding of that survey was that Catholics are more supportive of gay rights than other Christians, although there remains some ambivalence about the specific issue of gay marriage.