Greetings from Amtrak's Acela. I am en route to New York City for an interview on WNYC's "Leonard Lopate" show at noon. Tune in.
E.J. Dionne points out the main difficulty facing the GOP as it approaches Super Tuesday tomorrow. In a key state like Ohio, the primary should be a chance for the candidates to introduce themselves to the voters with a view toward not only winning the primary but laying the groundwork for the general election. Even someone relatively well known in Washington, someone like Sen. John Kerry for example, was not well known outside the Beltway and outside Massachusetts. When the swift-boaters descended, he found himself defined by his opponents. Conversely, in 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama used the primary season to introduce himself to voters on his own terms and without having to pander to the ideological extremes on the left.
Conservative Catholic intellectuals have spent the last few weeks harshly accusing liberal Catholics for being so eager to curry favor with the Obama administration, that they have betrayed the Church, accepting a compromise on the issue of HHS mandates that is inadequate at best. But, I would submit, that conservative Catholics are just as responsible for the failure to find a resolution to this issue and have been frankly surprised at how weak their arguments have been. Indeed, it is not going too far to say that they have been as eager to turn over the precious concern for religious liberty into the partisan hands of their Republican friends as some liberals have been eager to get back into the good graces of the Obama White House.
Many Americans are worried about the fallout of an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. But, in a post at TNR, Yossi Klein Halevi, who is no warmonger, explains that Israelis ask themselves if they can trust the U.S. to honor its commitments to Israeli security and he cites a particular relevant historical precedent from May 1967.
Look for the GOP to try and demagogue the meeting between Netanyahu and Obama next Monday. But, we don't need demagoguery when such portentious and complicated issues are at stake. The worry for Israel is not that Obama may not care enough about their security, anymore than they worried about President Johnson's commitment to Israel. The worry is that the American people are so war weary, no President would feel able to come to the defense of Israel. Remember that the next time tells you about how pro-Israel George W. Bush was. Even is he was, he may have ruined the chance that any predecessor could act on Israel's behalf.
Matt Bowman has a post up at CatholicVote.org in which he chastises me for backing away from my earlier assertion that only a "fool" would accept a compromise on the HHS mandates that was promised to be reach after the election. Of course, when I made that remark originally, it was before the President announced his accommodation, so the political calculus is a bit different. The President has been spanked on the issue and, so long as certain conservative politicians and bishops do not over-reach, I think we can find a way through this to a solution that is satisfactory. But, I wish to re-assure Mr. Bowman that I have not wavered in my conviction that we should expect this to be resolved before, not after, the election.
N.B. I should add that I may be somewhat responsible for the mix-up. In posting yesterday, I mangled one sentence, and went back and changed it, but if anyone has me on an RSS feed, they got the original in which I suggested that the current proposal on the table requires the White House to fix this in the summer of 2012. In fact, the administration gave itself until 2013 to work this out.
The political caldron that we call the Mideast is boiling harder than usual these days. For the past fifty years, the principal goal of U.S. foreign policy in the region has been stability, but that is a bit like hoping to lose weight while hanging out at Ben & Jerry’s every night. Seeking stability in the Mideast is a geo-strategic game of whack-a-mole, except it is not a game.
In my election analysis article in the current print edition, also available online by clicking here, I looked at the President's proposed "accommodation" and the response from the USCCB.
In the comment section, Mr. Richard Doerflinger of the USCCB has responded and you can read his comment here.
I don't know what - or if - anyone at the Brooklyn Tablet was thinking when they decided to publish an editorial that seems to support the kind of anti-tax ideology being peddled by the profoundly anti-Christian devotees of Ayn Rand et al. Paul Moses at Commonweal has the story.
To be clear, there is room for disagreement about how taxes and the economy intersect. There is room for debate about the way those tax dollars get spent. But, it is news to me and every other person even remotely influenced by Catholic Social Teaching to complain that the social safety net is the problem with America's tax structure.
Two key facts emerged from the results in Michigan’s GOP primary. First, Mitt Romney only wins when he outspends his opponents by more than two-to-one, almost all of it going to negative advertising, and even then, and in the state he once called home, Romney barely crosses the finish line ahead of his rivals. Second, Santorum is a dreadful candidate.
To say that Romney is unloved by the Republican Party is, by now, to speak a truism. Even in Arizona, where he beat Santorum by twenty points, a majority of voters cast their ballots for someone other than Romney. Anecdotally, I had dinner the other night with a longtime Republican friend who could not tell me very much about why he was supporting Santorum, but repeated several times “He is not Romney.”
Friday at 6 a.m. I will board a flight for my annual pilgrimage to Puerto Rico where I celebrate my birthday each year with old family friends, the most beautiful beaches in the world, lots of mofongo, pernil, whole fried snapper, pio nonos, and enough rum punches and margaritas to challenge the strongest of livers! I shall be bringing my computer but have two books to read and review, a major lecture to write, and I hope not to be checking the news overly much. Put differently, the blog is going on vacation for a few days too. I will likely post on the results of the Arizona and Michigan primaries next Wednesday and, God willing, will arrive back in Washington that same evening and be back with my regular blogging schedule next Thursday, March 1.
And, if you think I am ambivalent about Obama's "accommodation," that is nothing compared to the ambivalence I feel about turning - gulp! - 50!