Politico.com has become the most essential must-read website for the nation’s political class. But, every once in awhile, an article gets over the transom that shows the danger of too much inside-baseball.
This week at Q & A, we will be looking at the controversy surrounding the video, firing, and apologies directed at Shirley Sherrod, the Agriculture Department employee who spoke so movingly about the need to move beyond race, only to have her words distorted by a rightwing blogger. Our first interviewee is National Public Radio's Michel Martin, how of the show "Tell Me More."
The question: What does the Shirley Sherrod episode tell us about race and politics in America in the age of Obama?
Over at the Washington Post’s “On Faith” column, they have an article entitled “U.S. Catholic Latinos: liberal on gay marriage?” by Joseph M. Palacios. I am guessing that Professor Palacios did not write that headline because it is exceedingly misleading and gets to one of the perennial problems of nomenclature in press coverage of religion.
There is great controversy surrounding the placement of a bust of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia. Those who oppose the tribute note Stalin’s atrocities while those who defend it note the critical role the Soviet Union played in the war and, indeed, in the success of D-Day.
Had there been no Eastern Front, the prospects for a successful D-Day invasion would have been grim indeed. Of course, Stalin did not choose to have an Eastern Front – Hitler did! Still, once the Soviets were in the war, there was no question in the minds of either Winston Churchill or Franklin Roosevelt that the Western democracies must aid the Soviet effort to the hilt. There should be a way to honor the Soviet contribution to the war effort without memorializing one of the last century’s great mass murderers.
It is to be expected that the Obama administration would be upset about the disclosure of thousands of documents pertaining to the war in Afghanistan on the website Wikileaks, which is dedicated to combating excessive government secrecy. Governments like to control access to sensitive information, especially in a war where information is not just power as it always it, but the ability to manage information can sometimes permit one the element of surprise. “In wartime, truth is so precious she must always be attended by a bodyguard of lies,” said Churchill in explaining the efforts to deceive the Germans about where the blow of D-Day would fall.
This week, I overheard someone on MSNBC – I couldn’t be sure who as I was in the other room cooking, but it was a liberal, maybe someone from the Nation – question whether or not Obama’s was a “failed presidency.” Eric Alterman, who has made a career out of questioning the liberal credentials of those who do not share all of his views, has been mouthing off similar nonsense. This, mind you, in the same week that the President signed a sweeping financial reform bill to serve as a bookend with his health care overhaul. The other day, a commenter heaped scorn on my reference to the Upper West Side ethos, but it exists and, yes, Alterman lives there and is one of its principle advocates. This phenomenon of liberal disappointment with Obama recalled a passage in Joanthan Alter’s “The Promise” in which Rahm Emanuel displays his disgust for those liberals who do not understand that some of their moderate colleagues do not share their views.
All this week we have been discussing immigration reform here at Q & A. Our final interviewee is Father Clete Kiley, Director of Immigration Policy at UNITE HERE, and recently president of the Faith & Politics Institute.
The question: What will it take to get immigration reform passed and what are the prospects for passage.
Tomorrow, there will be a Mass of Christian Burial for my Uncle Frank. I do not wish to write about him: You did not know him and I always find it a strange thing when a writer introduces his readership to someone whose life was private. But, I do wish to write about the funeral.
A priest once told me something very wise. He said, “The Church is really her best at a funeral.” It is not only that the Church has inspiring and comforting readings and prayers to help the grieving, although that is part of it. It is not only that the funeral service gives friends and family a chance to come together and support one another, to share memories of the beloved who has died, to reflect on the many ways the departed’s life has influenced the lives of the mourners. These things are all well and good, but they are not distinctly Catholic.
After news broke that a full panel of the House Ethics Committee was going to proceed with an investigation into charges against him, Congressman Charlie Rangel of New York was interviewed by the press in a corridor of the Capitol Building. One of the reporters, Luke Russert, son of the late, beloved Tim Russert, asked Rangel if he feared losing his job. Rangel asked what news outfit the reporter represented and then waved the question away as “dumb.”
The Republican Party’s obstructionism on unemployment benefits, which ultimately failed, and on climate change legislation, which ultimately succeeded, brought to mind a funny passage from Adlai Stevenson’s address to the 1952 Democratic National Convention, welcoming the delegates to Chicago, an address that launched him into the nomination by the end of the week. He began by recalling the Republican convention which had been held in the same hall a few weeks prior.
“For almost a week, pompous phrases marched over this landscape in search of an idea, and the only idea they found was that the two great decades of progress in peace, and of victory in war, and of bold leadership in this anxious hour, were the misbegotten spawn of bungling, of corruption, of socialism, of mismanagement, of waste and of worse….After listening to this everlasting procession of epithets about our misdeeds I was even surprised the next morning when the mail was delivered on time. I guess our Republican friends were out of patience, out of sorts, and need I add, out of office.”