National Catholic Reporter

The Independent News Source

Distinctly Catholic

The State of the Union: What Obama Must Say


The early prognostications indicate that President Obama will forego the traditional laundry list approach to the State of the Union tonight, which makes sense. The center of the electorate worries that Obama is trying to have government do too much already, and reciting a laundry list of new things for Congress to enact would only add fuel to that fire. But, if not a laundry list, then what?

It is critical that Obama deliver a morally coherent defense of where he would like to lead the nation. During the election of 2008, the dissatisfaction with George W. Bush was so great, it was enough for candidate Obama to invoke contentless nouns, like “change” and “hope,” that are ingrained in our national character. Tonight, he must add some content when he sketches his vision and he must explain and defend that content in explicitly moral terms. And, unlike his wonderful speech in Tucson, when it was appropriate to avoid politics, a State of the Union address is inherently political: He cannot try to “rise above the political fray” tonight, he must define and dominate that fray.

Dems for Life at March


Huddled at a large table in the back of a hotal restaurant near Capitol Hill, the Democrats for Life met before the March for Life, scarfing down some hot coffee and breakfast before heading out into the cold Washington streets. Kristen Day, the head of Democrats for Life leads an impromptu strategy session. The group includes a young man from Connecticut, a couple of students from Catholic University, an older couple who head out early to meet with another group, and Stephen Schneck, a professor of politics at Catholic University and a board member of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. In previous years they were jeered and they expect more of the same.
But, as they emerge from the hotel, and assemble a tall sign with the group's logo, a woman from Westfield New Jersey asks to take their picture, saying "There's hope." Closer to the stage for the rally, four people ar unpacking "Randall Terry for President" signs from their van.

Mitch Daniels' Hurdle


Politico has an article about former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, whose impressive resume should make him a top tier candidate for the presidency next year. But, the fact that Daniels is the establishment "heartthrob" as the Politico headline has it, probably is more curse than blessing in this election cycle. The endorsement of the "establishment" is not the kind of endorsement that makes the GOP base swoon, and already the knives are out to bring him down.

Tea Party Triumphs


New Hampshire hosts the nation’s first presidential primary, but this year it also hosted the first test of the Tea Party’s strength at the local level of the Republican Party. The verdict rendered by the meeting of the N.H. Republican State Party was mixed. Mitt Romney won the straw poll among presidential hopefuls, but the Tea Party-backed candidate for chairman of the state party defeated an establishment politician.

The Romney victory was unsurprising. Romney invested a great deal in the state during his 2008 presidential run and, additionally, he was Governor of neighboring Massachusetts for many years. The most populous towns in New Hampshire are all located along the Massachusetts border, and many voters there turn to Boston television stations for their news, so Romney is virtually a hometown favorite in the Granite State.

Why We March


Today, thousands of Americans will participate in the March for Life, protesting the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that obliterated virtually any and all legal protection for the unborn. The March testifies to a simple fact: Those of us who care about the unborn are not going away, our concern to see our laws reflect our values is undiminished, and we shall never acquiesce in the legal abandonment of the unborn.

Nazis, Race and Political Speech


Two very different politicians got into some hot water this week for being the first two, post-Tucson, to say something that strikes others as outrageous.
Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee said that the Republican lies about the health care law followed the same pattern of propaganda used by Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister.
Then, former Senator and likely president candidate Rick Santorum said that he was surprised President Obama was pro-choice because, as a black man, he should be able to understand that if the Constitution or the courts interpreting the Constitution deny personhood to persons, the Constitution is wrong or the courts are wrong.
Cohen - and all politicians - should know by now to cut with the Nazi analogies. The evil of the Nazi regime was so grotesque, its lies so intertwined with the evil produced by the regime, that comparisons are always wrong-headed and offensive. When you bring up the Nazis, you have just lost your argument. Except, of course, when talking about neo-Nazis, and there are some of those.

Weep Not for Borders


The Washington Post has a front page article this morning about the financial difficulties faced by the megabookstore chain Borders. They have evidently been unable to keep up with Kindles and Amazon.

The one tear to be shed is for the fact that Borders' impending doom will further constrict the market. Of course, this invites the old adage, what goes around, comes around. Borders and Barnes & Noble put hundreds of small, independent bookstores out of business in the past 20 years. In the process, they also radically distorted the publishing industry. The practice of highlighting certain books and leaving the rest as window dressing has resulted in the fact that publishers must hoard their cash to give the likes of Sarah Palin and Bill Clinton, Snooki and Donald Trump huge advances while people who write serious books are reduced to coolie wages.

A Victory Against Bigotry & For Women


Yesterday, the Maryland Health Care Commission voted unanimously to approve a plan for Holy Cross Hospital to build a new facility in upper Montgomery County. As mentioned yesterday, several groups such as the National organization for Women opposed the Holy Cross proposal because Catholic hospitals do not perform abortions and other services that do not fit within the directives of the Catholic Church for hospitals that operate in its name.
A spokeswoman for Holy Cross pointed out that the largest access issue for women in the county is not abortion, but prenatal and primary care services for women and that Holy Cross is already the largest provider of such services in the county. So, NOW was more concerned about the few women who might want an abortion than they were about the many women who need good prenatal services. That kind of thinking is skewed.

Remembering Reagan


Yesterday marked not only the 50th anniversary of the inauguration of John Fitzgerald Kennedy but the 30th anniversary of the inauguration of Ronald Reagan. And, because this year marks Reagan’s centenary, I suspect focus on the Gipper’s presidency will continue for some time. You would think this would be good news for the GOP, reminding Americans of a happier time when Reagan was in charge, the way Democrats played FDR’s theme song, “Happy Days Are Here Again” at every convention, recalling the heady days of their hero.

Actually, the Reagan centenary is not a good thing for today’s GOP because Reagan could not be more different from the temper and tone of today’s Tea Party-led GOP. Reagan, like Kennedy, oozed optimism and enthusiasm and confidence. Today’s Tea Party seems built more on resentment and anti-elitist tropes of the kind we associate with Dayton, Tennessee or Father Coughlin or the John Birch Society. Reagan said, “It’s morning in America.” Glenn Beck wants to “take America back,” a claim that assumes it has been improperly taken.


Subscribe to Distinctly Catholic


NCR Email Alerts


In This Issue

November 20-December 3, 2015


Some articles are only available in the print newspaper and Kindle edition.