Georgetown's Michael Kazin has a snappy, incisive essay up at the New Republic about why businessmen do not usually make good politicians. Amidst all the fevered speculation about when Romney left Bain, and what is in those tax returns, Kazin's lesson is more accessible and more important: The skill set needed to be successful in business is vastly different from the skill set needed to win an election and to govern afterwards. It is worth remembering that this is Mr. Romney's fourth campaign, and in the three previous ones, he only won once.
For many people, the decision by the Boy Scouts of America to continue its ban on gays is an easy call. In one sense, I think this judgment is correct. The Boy Scouts made a bad decision. But, the more important issue is whether or not the Boy Scouts of America have a right to make bad decisions. They do.
Michele Bachmann released the text of a letter she sent to Cong. Keith Ellison yesterday, explaining why she is calling for an investigation into the possibility of infiltration by the Muslim Brotherhood in the u.S. government. The letter repeats earlier charges by Bachmann hurled at Huma Abedin, a longtime aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and wife of former Congressman Anthony Weiner.
Hard to judge whether this is more vile than crazy or more crazy than vile. But, it is a measure of where today's GOP is on the zaniness spectrum. Look for Bachmann to get a rousing ovation when she addresses the GOP convention next month. She is not that far out-of-the-mainstream of today's GOP. Sadly. Very sadly.
At his Religion News Service blog, Mark Silk skewers Douthat's essay about the Episcopalians, with a different argument from the one I made yesterday.
Thde difference between Silk and Douthat is an obvious one: Silk is a scholar.
It is unsurprising that Leon Wieseltier took a couple of weeks before giving us his thoughts on the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act. It was worth the wait. You can read his short essay here.
Mitt Romney had one of his better moments yesterday, better because his words sounded recognizably human. At a fundraiser in Jackson, Mississippi, Romney said:
There is a quality to Ross Douthat's writings that is remarkably consistent: He is almost always half-right. His most recent essay at the New York Times details the decline of the Episcopal Church and asks if liberal Christianity is dying. He also points out that many of the more robust forms of conservative Christianity "have often been politically conservative but theologically shallow, preaching a gospel of health and wealth and not the full New Testament message."
This is better than the usual conservative Christian commentariat has to offer but even here, you can discern the mistake in Douthat's worldview. The gospel does not proclaim a message but a person. The left and the right may argue about the means and methods for engaging the world, but Christianity is not, foremost, about engaging the world. Douthat may be more nuanced than certain neo-con Christians, but he misses the ways that he, too, participates in the reduction of religion to ethics and utility. In this essay, for example, he writes:
Peter Steinfels has penned a brilliant takedown of George Weigel's effort to takedown the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. Weigel's analysis is, as Steinfels shows, not just wrong, but pernicious.
In case you missed it on NCR's homepage, you can read my analysis of the political fallout from the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act by clicking here.
Professor M. Cathleen Kaveny’s article at Commonweal, “Catholic Kosher,” reflects on the way Catholic attitudes towards artificial contraception may be changing from a traditional moral norm which, we believe, is part of the natural moral law and therefore binding on all, into a kind of cultic talisman, akin to kashrut, which binds only Jews. After all, Jewish deli owners can sell ham, they just can’t eat it. As always, Kaveny’s writing reflects not only her intellectual seriousness, but her deeply learned ability to distinguish what is today held forth by some as “traditional” from the actual tradition. As she notes, Thomas Aquinas would certainly not compare the HHS mandate on contraception to Jewish dietary laws.