36 Responses to Analyzing Catholic Endorsements

  • MJAndrew says:

    Michael,

    This is a great post, and I agree with almost everything you say, especially:

    I have a very hard time believing Angle ought to get an endorsement over Cao under Catholic principles.

    Thomas N. Peters strikes me as very dogmatic when it comes to his conservativism (one need only peruse his posts at The American Priciples Project), which has had led to some very senseless justifications for his political and policy positions on Catholic grounds. Hence, Cao, who is, I would think, exactly the sort of candidate Peters and Catholic Vote would embrace and endorse, is not trumpeted. This, however, is par for the course for Peters. And there’s the rub: Cao voted for a bill that is contrary to Peters’ dogmatic views of the “proper role of government,” despite Cao campaigning and voting in accord with the chief tenets of Catholic morality.

    I don’t think it is a problem to be a Catholic and subscribe to many of the positions that typify American conservativism and that are not explicit directives of Catholic morality and social teaching (e.g., gun rights, certain conomic policies), though I do think a lot of these positions are untenable on philosophical and sociological grounds (but that’s for another time). The problem is when it is thought that those positions are deduced/derived from Catholic teaching, and that’s the problem with nearly all of Peters’ political commentary.

  • As you seem to indicate, it’s certainly appropriate for Catholics to endorse candidates who support Catholic teaching on non-negotiable issues of life and marriage.

    But I find it bizarre that anyone would call it “abusive” for Catholics to support political candidates that they think will help advance the public good on issues like health care, the economy, and immigration. We never said they were more important.

    As our website states, these issues are important. But they are not more important than life and family. However… they are not irrelevant either.

    Catholics should talk about what a just tax system and a just health care system would look like. If there are candidates out there that support this, why should we not support them?

    As for Rep. Joseph Cao, his campaign did not return our candidate questionnaire, which is required for our endorsement. Have them call us.

    We did however endorse Rep. Dan Lipinski, which I’m surprised you did not mention. Lipinski, like Cao, supported the health care bill with the original pro-life Stupak language. And like Cao, Lipinski refused to support the final bill which didn’t have the pro-life protections in it.

    While CatholicVote.org opposed the entire health care bill and not just the pro-abortion language, we still support Lipinski for standing true on his principles. We need to support pro-life Catholics like Lipinski or else the entire Democratic Party will be in the wilderness.

  • MJ:

    On twitter, Peters said Cao didn’t get an endorsement b/c Cao didn’t respond to some questions. Taking him at his word, it’s not as bad of an oversight.

    However, I think considering Cao is in a hotly contested seat, CV probably ought to do some following up with the Cao campaign, as Cao can use some help.

  • jonathanjones02 says:

    Yes, it is quite true that there is a problem when it is thought that positions are derived from Catholic teaching.

    Catholics have much to dislike of the right-liberalism (freedom! liberty!) that swims so strongly inside the American conservative movement (and in Britain and Australia, the parties and coalitions of the Right wear the proper labels).

    However, the cheerleading for leftist figures and policies that is justified in the name of Catholicism, as we see in the linked post as elsewhere, can truly be toxic to our discourse. First, if that ad is “racist,” well, then, what can you say? It’s a small but thuggish tactic to shut down an opponent. Have a good faith conversation about the meaning of the word? About why illegal immigration is such a big deal in border states? About how wages are impacted by the massive influx of low skilled labor in recent decades (Cesar Chavez was right about that, by the way)? NO! Bad racist so-called Catholics. Second, if that ad is noteworthy as overly heated, then the person noting that supposed fact is rather uninformed about elections – heck, there are about 10 that are “worse” (look at Grayson’s latest) just in this cycle, not to mention the very rough and tumble 19th Century, which puts even Lyndon Johnson and his daises to shame.

  • MJAndrew says:

    Catholics should talk about what a just tax system and a just health care system would look like. If there are candidates out there that support this, why should we not support them?

    Not going to let this slip, since you appear to be begging the question against Michael. What exactly does a “just tax system and a just health care system” look like? Can you give an example of an “unjust tax system” or an “unjust health care system” such that if an American politician were to endorse one or the other you would refuse to endorse him/her on Catholic grounds?

    As for Rep. Joseph Cao, his campaign did not return our candidate questionnaire, which is required for our endorsement. Have them call us.

    If returning your questionnaire is a necessary condition for endorsement, and assuming few candidates actually do so, then how exactly do Catholics (like me) benefit from a CV endorsement? It seems likely that you will end up providing little to no guidance to Catholics in most political contests. Further, there is obviously some asymmetry with respect to your endorsements and oppositions; it does not appear that returning a questionnaire is a necessary condition for being condemned by CatholicVote.

    While CatholicVote.org opposed the entire health care bill and not just the pro-abortion language

    This seems disingenuous, then. The health care bill that included the pro-life protections was not contrary to any Catholic moral or social principles, so your opposition to it could only be justified (if it even could have been justified in the first place) on grounds quite apart from expressed Catholic teaching. Calling yourselves “CatholicVote” while opposing policies that are not themselves in conflict with Catholic moral and social teaching is misleading and, it seems to me, partisan.

  • it’s certainly appropriate for Catholics to endorse candidates who support Catholic teaching on non-negotiable issues of life and marriage.

    No, that is not what I indicated. For a Catholic to endorse a candidate requires more than token acceptance of pro-life views on abortion and marriage, but rather a wholistic embrace of Catholic social teaching-an embrace rarely found in either party.

    For example, there’s not a word on the site about torture. How do you claim a candidate is Catholic without examining this issue?

  • MJAndrew says:

    Michael,

    As you point out, CV’s emaciation of Catholic social teaching and its vague reference to the “proper role of government” seems to be arbitrary.

  • Michael, you make good points (especially about that humorless crusader called Minion!). And I also respect Anh Cao a lot – my wife has donated to him, and I’ve been to fundraisers. Let’s say he’s one Republican I hope wins this year (even if I think he made the wrong prudential call on the final healthcare bill).

    You have flagged the core problem here. It is one thing to claim that some issues are more important than others, or to support somebody while holding your nose over certain issues. But the Peters brigade goes much further. While calling themselves “Catholic Vote”, they actually seize a principle about the role of government which is quite at odds with a Catholic understanding and a Catholic sensibility. While we can certainly have debates over the appropriate role of government, I think certain positions can be ruled out of bounds, and Angle’s ultra-liberalism is one of them.

    It is rooted in a philosopical principle that the Church has long condemned. To give just one of many examples, Pope Paul VI in Octogesima Adveniens warns about the attraction of liberalism as a counterweight to totalitarianism: “the very root of philosophical liberalism is an erroneous affirmation of the autonomy of the individual in his activity, his motivation and the exercise of his liberty”.

    In essence, it forsakes all notions of solidarity. In healthcare in particular, this “evil individualistic spirit” sees health as personal responsibility and opposes all notions that the fortunate must be compelled to subsidize the unfortunate. This was really at the essence of the healthcare debate. During the debate, the Peters brigade used abortion as a smokescreen to mask their true liberal position. This explains why not a single one of these people supported the House bill, which had the language on abortion approved by the USCCB. Only Cao…

  • c matt says:

    I agree with what you say here, and MM did point out some rather questionable issues with some of Angle’s views, but I do have a hard time considering Reid pro-life. He may not be as rabid a pro-abort as some other Dems, but a Cao he is not. Yet some on VN are painting the Reid v Angle as a pro-life Dem v. pro-life Rep contest, as though there is no difference between the two on that issue.

  • but I do have a hard time considering Reid pro-life. He may not be as rabid a pro-abort as some other Dems, but a Cao he is not.

    I thought the votes MM quoted showed me enough to not trust Reid on abortion; whether Angle is more trustworthy I cannot say, as I am not from Nevada and have no real interest in the race.

    Michael, you make good points (especially about that humorless crusader called Minion!

    You know what? You want me to call you by the full name, you gotta have a shorter name. I come from a generation where if you have a name that gets more than three letters in text-speak, you’re doing pretty good ;)

    MJ & MM

    I have a hard time accepting that either party has an understanding the proper role of government. While subsidiarity does call for smaller government, it does allow for larger ones to step if there’s a problem that either can’t or isn’t being addressed by the smaller. Healthcare seems to fit that bill. However, the Dems didn’t seem really interested in constructing a system that was geared towards returning the system to more local control (local, not state). To be fair, they had a hard time constructing much of anything with the lobbyists and such, but it seems to me that both parties didn’t really represent solidiarity in that debate. Which approach did more violence to the principle is hard to tell and up for discussion-which is precisely why it’s so hard to say “x candidate is good on the issues” in this partisan environment. Both sides have some elements of social teaching in them, but neither has nearly enough to be called Catholic.

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    My position is that there are a few issues, abortion and euthanasia being among them, where there is a clear Catholic position. On most other issues the Church leaves her sons and daughters free to execise their wits and determine their own positions.

    This letter from then Cardinal Ratzinger to Cardinal McCarrick in 2004 has helped shape my thinking in this area:

    Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion. General Principles

    by Joseph Ratzinger

    1. Presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion should be a conscious decision, based on a reasoned judgement regarding one’s worthiness to do so, according to the Church’s objective criteria, asking such questions as: “Am I in full communion with the Catholic Church? Am I guilty of grave sin? Have I incurred a penalty (e.g. excommunication, interdict) that forbids me to receive Holy Communion? Have I prepared myself by fasting for at least an hour?” The practice of indiscriminately presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion, merely as a consequence of being present at Mass, is an abuse that must be corrected (cf. Instruction “Redemptionis Sacramentum,” nos. 81, 83).

    2. The Church teaches that abortion or euthanasia is a grave sin. The Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, with reference to judicial decisions or civil laws that authorise or promote abortion or euthanasia, states that there is a “grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection. [...] In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to ‘take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law or vote for it’” (no. 73). Christians have a “grave obligation of conscience not to cooperate formally in practices which, even if permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to God’s law. Indeed, from the moral standpoint, it is never licit to cooperate formally in evil. [...] This cooperation can never be justified either by invoking respect for the freedom of others or by appealing to the fact that civil law permits it or requires it” (no. 74).

    3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.

    4. Apart from an individuals’s judgement about his worthiness to present himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, the minister of Holy Communion may find himself in the situation where he must refuse to distribute Holy Communion to someone, such as in cases of a declared excommunication, a declared interdict, or an obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin (cf. can. 915).

    5. Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.

    6. When “these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible,” and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, “the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it” (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts Declaration “Holy Communion and Divorced, Civilly Remarried Catholics” [2002], nos. 3-4). This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy Communion passing judgement on the person’s subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the person’s public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin.

    [N.B. A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favour of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.]

  • Hank says:

    I posted the folloing in the comments sectio9n of MM’s post.

    Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. Justice toward God is called the “virtue of religion.” Justice toward men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good. The just man, often mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures, is distinguished by habitual right thinking and the uprightness of his conduct toward his neighbor. “You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.”(Lev 19:15) “Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.(Col 4:1) Emphsis mine.

    Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1807

    I think the discussion would be better made if took are catagoris from the Church’s teaching rather than secular political talking points.

    Questions

    What is the proper due to of a government to it’s citizens?
    What is the proper due to of a government to non-citizens it has allowed to reside there.
    What is the proper due to of a government to non-citizens who have moved there in violation of it’s own laws?

    That is probably not exhaustive but to have just policy all of them must be answered in a way supports giving each his popper due.

    Without the hype Ms Angle’s add is accusing Senator Reid of wanting the Government to take from what is due citizens and lawful resident non-citizens and to give unlawfully present non-citizens more than their due.

    I do not know all the facts of the situation, and would most likely dislike them both if I did, but there is nothing inherently racist in the video. If you want to disagree with Ms Angle go ahead send some money to Senator Reid’s campaign, but the accusation of racism is over the top and not really conductive to charity.

  • Donna V says:

    We need to support pro-life Catholics like Lipinski or else the entire Democratic Party will be in the wilderness

    A fellow named Stupak showed us all not too long ago that the promises of “pro-life” Democrats are worth less than a warm bucket of spit. I’ll not let myself be suckered again.

  • Brian Burch says:

    Thanks Michael for your post, though I am compelled to respond and disagree with much of what you and others have written. I do believe that the questions you raise are highly relevant to the conversation occurring within the Church today about the proper role of the laity in public life, and especially American politics. I should also note for those that don’t know, Michael has been, and continues to be, a guest blogger on CatholicVote.org and we continue to welcome his contributions (and disagreements) on our site should he choose to cross post there.

    CatholicVote.org was founded specifically to champion the cause of faithful citizenship from a distinctly lay perspective. As such, we seek to serve the Church by assisting the laity with material, catechetical resources, news and commentary, and tools for evangelization (videos, ads, etc) that incorporate an authentic Catholic worldview as applied to our civic life, in pursuit of the common good. To be sure, the issues that involve intrinsic evils, or questions that involve the “non-negotiable” issues are always treated as foundational, and not open to compromise or debate for Catholics. Our programming has almost exclusively been focused on the life issue, for example.

    However, it should come as no surprise that Catholic voters are confronted with a host of public policy questions where an authentic Catholic approach to a particular public policy solution is not as easily discernible. Your beef seems to focus on our use of prudence in reading Church teaching, particularly on the issue of subsidiarity, in evaluating and scoring candidates for public office. This is precisely the debate we hoped to spawn, namely, one that involves questions of prudence in the application of this foundational principle of Catholic social teaching to the questions of economic justice, taxes, immigration, health care, and other issues where Catholics in good conscience are permitted to disagree. To your credit, you acknowledge that our scoring analysis makes clear that we make no claim that Church teaching binds Catholics to vote and follow particular policy approaches on these prudential matters. That does not mean, however, that the principles and guidance of the Church should be ignored, or as some here suggest, be kept out of the public square by Catholic groups in the context of specific candidates seeking elected office.

    This is precisely where we hope to provide the laity some needed counterweight to the default socialist oriented, government-first, policy prejudices often assumed to be the more authentically “Catholic” position on many issues. We openly acknowledge our reading of Catholic social doctrine to incorporate the principle of subsidiarity in the development of policy prescriptions that seek to bring about the conditions most conducive to the common good. This reading of Church teaching, not altogether novel incidentally, leads us to advocate in many instances a more limited role for the federal government in the governance and control of policies that impact our economy, health care and so forth.

    I think it is perfectly defensible to suggest that the Church, particularly since Vatican II, and more recently the public statements from the Holy Father, urge the laity to assume a more active role in this area. Quite frankly, I continue to be disappointed in the reluctance on the part of highly competent Catholics (including many of your readers) to engage these questions head on. This is precisely the function of the laity, whom in many cases possess a level of competence or expertise in various areas (economic policy or health care delivery for example) that may exceed even that of our priests or bishops or, most certainly, the staff of the USCCB. This is in no way intended to slight our bishops, whom we serve and obey without qualification on questions of faith and morals. But it does seem to me of utmost importance that the laity assert their role, apply their insights and expertise in light of the guidance provided by the Church, and most importantly, not be afraid to say that their judgments are informed by Catholic social doctrine and tradtion. Catholic voters in return can more responsibly rely on lay groups such as mine as a place to help formulate and articulate political positions that are shaped and guided by the insights of the Church.

    Whether Sharon Angle for example should be supported by Catholics is a highly relevant question, which we unabashedly try to answer. There are some Catholics who may disagree with our judgment, but I find it odd, if not irresponsible, to suggest that Catholic laity (or groups using the word Catholic in their name) should shun such judgments.

    Finally, I think it important to propose that Catholics begin to work to overcome the “single-issue voter” critique, as if the Catholics who follow the Church’s teaching on the life issue have nothing further to contribute to the our national political conversation. We have much we can offer, and indeed must learn to articulate the ways in which the life issue is indeed foundational, by and through, our articulation of a Catholic approach to other issues. Socialist Catholic organizations have understood this for years, and have harmed the Church because, unlike you and me, they don’t truly take seriously the non-negotiable issues to begin with.

    I have written far to much for a comment box, and I could go on much further, but perhaps I should stop now and allow the discussion to continue. Your post, and the comments by your readers are indeed helpful and thought provoking. Like most here, I hope this conversation, and any success we achieve, contributes in some small way, to the New Evangelization, of which we are all a part. Any grammatical mistakes, spelling errors, or lapses in logic can be blamed on my lack of sleep from Monday night, having attended that glorious upset of the Packers at Soldier Field. Go Bears.

    But wait, a few final remarks -

    - our questionnaire that must be completed prior to any endorsement is the most extensive questionnaire that I know of. It is not multiple choice, and requires candidates to submit lengthy answers, including an explicit question asking about their opposition to torture;

    - those that read into the placement of issues on our website as indicative of the priority we place on these issues are simply looking to cause trouble; if the work we have done, and the commentary provided by Thomas and others on our site has not made plain that we believe the issues of life, marriage, and religious liberty to be foundational, then they I can’t help them.

    - Finally, the endorsements on our site do not constitute a comprehensive list of all candidates worthy of an endorsement or Catholic attention; because this is our first public foray with our PAC, we have chosen to keep our “slate” to a limited number of candidates who qualify for our endorsement, and whose races we believe to be significant

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    “A fellow named Stupak showed us all not too long ago that the promises of “pro-life” Democrats are worth less than a warm bucket of spit. I’ll not let myself be suckered again.”

    Words to live by Donna.

  • MJAndrew says:

    A fellow named Stupak showed us all not too long ago that the promises of “pro-life” Democrats are worth less than a warm bucket of spit. I’ll not let myself be suckered again.

    I know this debate dragged on for quite some time, and I do not wish to rehash it, but it is not at all apparent to me that Stupak betrayed any pro-life principles. Stupak remains a hero of mine and many other pro-life Catholics.

  • c matt says:

    Well, IIRC, Stupak proposed an amendment that would have provided some pro-life protection in the health care bill, and voted for the package including the amendment (as did Cao). The Senate dumped the amendment, and when it came back to the house, Stupak voted for it w/o his amendment (Cao voted against after the amendment was dropped). So, who did his Father’s will?

  • Jay Anderson says:

    For months Stupak, along with the Bishops and the vast majority of pro-life advocates, argued that the bill provided federal funding for abortion. He stated that he couldn’t support the bill unless it included language specifically excluding abortion. He said that, without such language, the bill was “unacceptable”.

    Then, when push came to shove, he voted for the very bill that he had previously said was “unacceptable” because it funded abortion. He chose voting with Pelosi over voting with the Bishops. Then, in defense of himself, and in speaking against Republican efforts to reintroduce HIS OWN Stupak Amendment, he smeared the very pro-lifers who had stood with him for months as not caring about health care for mothers and only caring about babies up until the time they are born:

    http://proecclesia.blogspot.com/2010/03/smear.html

    As if that weren’t enough, he then attacked the Bishops and other pro-lifers as “hypocrites”:

    http://proecclesia.blogspot.com/2010/03/smear-part-2-stupak-attacks-catholic.html

    I’d say that’s a fairly serious compromise of one’s pro-life principles.

    It’s funny because Rick Santorum is still raked over the coals (and rightfully so) for his far less egregious sell out of the pro-life cause in his support of Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey. It almost seems that every misstep by pro-life Republicans is magnified as a sell-out of epic proportion (and I happily join in on piling on the GOP when that happens). So why would we give more deference to a pro-life Democrat whose actions arguably will, if the Bishops prove to be correct, actually lead to more abortions via federal funding?

    I was one of Stupak’s biggest cheerleaders during the healthcare debate, and often referred to him as a “hero” myself. The fact that he is a Democrat made him even more of a hero in my book. I was even willing to support the final bill (a bill I otherwise opposed) had the Stupak language been inserted, and to encourage others to do so, just as a show of good faith that a Democrat who had up until then stood up for pro-life principles against the pro-abort Dem leadership would be rewarded for his actions.

    So I understand the desperate need to find true pro-life Democrat heros. But not at the expense of calling Stupak’s sell out exactly what it was – a betrayal of pro-life principles far more egregious and far-reaching in its consequences than most pro-life sell-outs.

  • Jay, Very true. Many pro-life activists were very excited about Bart Stupak for standing true to his principles. In fact, we at CatholicVote launched a video comparing him to Braveheart and encouraged people to Stand With Stupak (www.standwithstupak.com). The hope was that he would begin a strong and bold pro-life movement within the Democratic Party.

    Conservatives said that this was wishful thinking — that Stupak would betray the pro-life cause.

    And he did betray us. Like Jay said, he also attacked those who stood with him.

  • Nate Wildermuth says:

    Nice article, Michael. To stir the pot a little, the focus on abortion and family as the greatest political issue may come into conflict with what John Paul II taught: “the one issue which most challenges our human and Christian consciences is the poverty of countless millions of men and women.”

  • “most challenges” can mean a lot of things, nate, not necessarily “this is the most important issue.” I do think the poverty around us-spiritual and material-is what spurs us into politics. What issues we address in order to cure that poverty is the question. Indeed, part of the difficulty is that in America we have artificially divided things into separate issues whereas in Catholic social teaching, as Benedict makes clear in Caritas in Veritate, all issues are part of a whole.

    This wholeness, in turn, makes voting difficult and endorsing almost impossible for Catholics in America.

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    “I was one of Stupak’s biggest cheerleaders during the healthcare debate, and often referred to him as a “hero” myself.”

    I reacted the same way Jay, a mistake I am going to do my best not to repeat.

  • MJAndrew says:

    Jay,

    From this:

    He stated that he couldn’t support the bill unless it included language specifically excluding abortion. He said that, without such language, the bill was “unacceptable”.

    Then, when push came to shove, he voted for the very bill that he had previously said was “unacceptable” because it funded abortion.

    you make the following inference:

    I’d say that’s a fairly serious compromise of one’s pro-life principles.

    The inference simply does not follow. You can (rightly, I think) charge Stupak with inconsistency on the substance of the healthcare bill. But it does not follow from his inconsistency that he compromised his pro-life principles. He stated that he voted for the bill because of the Presidential Executive Order, whose content he deemed sufficient to block that content of the bill over which he objected. Now, we can debate over the efficacy and content of the PEO or whether Stupak misunderstood it, but either option would be a matter separate from the question over whether Stupak compromised his pro-life principles.

  • John Henry says:

    He stated that he voted for the bill because of the Presidential Executive Order, whose content he deemed sufficient to block that content of the bill over which he objected.

    But the statement that the executive order changed Stupak’s opinion is an obvious lie. The executive order has no effect whatsoever on the legislation; the executive order did not and could not trump the congressional legislation (as its text makes clear). I think Stupak has received more criticism than he probably deserves; I am certain his efforts did result in some marginal improvements in the ultimate shape of the legislation.

    But his performance at the end was simply a disgrace – first he bashed pro-lifers, then he lied about the significance of the executive order. There was no need for him to do this – he could have simply said – ‘look, I was bluffing to get the best pro-life deal I could in the legislation, and in the end they called my bluff’. Instead he tried to play pro-lifers for fools by claiming the executive order was significant (it wasn’t), and then kicked sand in their eyes with antagonistic comments. Certainly, he was under a lot of pressure, but let’s not pretend he behaved in an honest or praiseworthy manner. I’m discounting as unworthy of serious consideration the idea that Stupak was unaware that the executive order was meaningless – it’s possible he’s an ignoramus on matters relating to the most basic facets of his job, but I’m assuming (perhaps erroneously) that he is not.

    Lest you think I am mis-stating the significance of the order, here’s Slate and the Volokh Conspiracy puzzling over Stupak’s bizarre behavior in light of the legal effect of the order.

    http://www.slate.com/id/2248490/
    “Why did Bart Stupak hold out for a meaningless executive order?”

    http://volokh.com/2010/03/22/the-stupak-conundrum-why-did-the-stupak-nine-change-their-positions-on-the-health-care-bill-in-exchange-for-a-meaningless-executive-order/

  • I think there are two interpretations of what Stupak did.

    1) Stupak sold out. He was grandstanding to make a name for himself and to get more favor for his vote that he could trade for earmarks for his Michigan. The pro-life schtick was a sham.

    2) Stupak realized at the 11th hour that he had failed and that Obamacare would fund abortion. Hoping to at least bind the Obama administration as much as possible, he traded his vote, which he now knew was meaningless, for the EO in order to at least slow down the flow of abortion funds into the coffers until the GOP could come back and fix it.

    #1 doesn’t make much sense, because it seems to have been a gross miscalculation as everyone dislikes him now. #2 doesn’t square away with the comments he directed towards the pro-lifers who had faithfully backed him. The whole thing doesn’t quite make sense, and Stupak is still trying to argue the EO means something (he & pro-healthcare Catholics seem to be the few who think this). Until he comes clean, we can argue about it. But I think it’s possible that Stupak made a prudential error in voting for the bill in order to get the best pro-life protection he could get-which wasn’t much, if anything.

  • John Henry says:

    I just think he was sincerely pro-life and pro-health care and pro-his career. He was under a lot of pressure and made some poor choices (and voting for the bill wasn’t necessarily one of them). There is no legal basis for claiming the executive order accomplished anything. None. It’s impossible for me to believe that Stupak doesn’t know this, given that he was (theoretically) holding hostage Obama’s signature initiative for this reason. My problem is less with his actions re: voting, than how he went about it, which reflected some combination of foolishness and dishonesty, although we can disagree about how much there was of each. It’s one thing to vote for the bill. Quite another to make obviously false statements about the rationale for said vote, and attack pro-lifers in the process.

  • MJAndrew says:

    This:

    the statement that the executive order changed Stupak’s opinion is an obvious lie.

    Does not follow from this:

    The executive order has no effect whatsoever on the legislation; the executive order did not and could not trump the congressional legislation (as its text makes clear).

    This problematic way of drawing inferences is what I pointed out about Jay’s commment.

    There seems to me to be no grounds for the following three claims:

    1. Stupak compromised his pro-life principles (made by Jay)
    2. Stupak betrayed the pro-life cause (made by Joshua)
    3. Stupak lied (made by John)

    None of these three claims follows from the facts of the matter. Instead, each claim depends by and large on speculation about Stupak’s intentions and understanding with respect to the bill and the PEO. It may be the case that Stupak made an error of judgment about the nature and content of the PEO and its precise relation to the bill, and we could criticize him for this mistake (if he made one) and express our disappointment that he made it. But to attribute ill-will to Stupak (e.g., “he lied,” “he betrayed us”) or to claim he compromised his faith and principles is to not only go well beyond the facts we have available to us, it is to give no benefit whatsoever of the doubt to him. In that case, I question the motives behind portraying Stupak in the worst possible light (it’s hard to imagine saying anything worse about his legislative actions than that he deliberately compromised key Catholic moral principles or willingly deceived pro-lifers).

    A more charitable take on the Stupak case is that he misjudged or misunderstood what was at stake with respect to the PEO. This seems to me to be more plausible than the speculation offered in this thread.

  • A more charitable take on the Stupak case is that he misjudged or misunderstood what was at stake with respect to the PEO

    It is possible for a third way-that he understood that it was weak, but took the deal because it’s better than nothing. That doesn’t mean he betrayed his pro-life principles, but rather did what he thought best to secure the best pro-life bill he could.

    But to attribute ill-will to Stupak (e.g., “he lied,” “he betrayed us”) or to claim he compromised his faith and principles is to not only go well beyond the facts we have available to us, it is to give no benefit whatsoever of the doubt to him.

    I think his comments from the House floor really hurt a lot of his former supporters. While they could be more charitable, Stupak did also stir the fire against him and made a lot of mistakes in handling how he switched his vote so that mistrust is understandable even if not ultimately justified.

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    Stupak decided to fight the good fight, until the going got rough and then he capitulated unconditionally. Obama gave him the executive order as a figleaf, nothing more. More’s the pity if Stupak has managed to convince himself that what he did accomplished anything for the pro-life cause.

  • Jay Anderson says:

    MJ,

    I would be willing to buy your take and to have given Stupak the benefit of the doubt had he not, after all was said and done, attacked the pro-lifers who had stood with him. Had he not called the Bishops and other pro-lifers “hypocrites” for their pointing out the worthlessness of the Executive Order.

    The evidence of Stupak’s bad faith lies not in conjecture on my part, but in his words and deeds since he switched his vote.

  • Jay Anderson says:

    John Henry and I haven’t always agreed on everything (usually differences over form rather than substance), but I know him to be one of the more thoughtful and measured contributors here. He is not prone to harsh words about anyone, and in those very few instances where his commentary does take on an edge, it is almost never without justification.

    I also know John Henry to have once held Bart Stupak in the highest esteem.

    So, the fact that John Henry now takes this tack with regard to Stupak’s actions gives me confidence that Stupak’s critics here are not acting uncharitably or in bad faith in forming their assessments of him.

  • John Henry says:

    None of these three claims follows from the facts of the matter. Instead, each claim depends by and large on speculation about Stupak’s intentions and understanding with respect to the bill and the PEO. It may be the case that Stupak made an error of judgment about the nature and content of the PEO and its precise relation to the bill, and we could criticize him for this mistake (if he made one) and express our disappointment that he made it

    Respectfully, MJ, you seem to be ignoring the main issue and injecting doubt into the discussion about the executive order where none exists. Everyone from Ezra Klein to Slate to the conservative law profs at Volokh agree that the Executive Order carried no legal force; it did nothing to modify the law and said as much in the plain text of the Order. Stupak’s claim on that score is simply false, and your comments haven’t acknowledged that. Once we understand that his statements were clearly false, we are left with two (unflattering) conclusions:

    1) Stupak knew they were false, and was trying to save face by claiming the Executive Order had some legal force.

    2) Stupak made a deal completely misunderstanding its contents.

    As I said, I find the second explanation implausible; Stupak was holding the entire health care reform bill hostage over this issue. Either he knew or he should have known that the deal he made was meaningless. I don’t even see why 2 is really all that much more flattering than 1; is it really more flattering to portray him as an ignorant dupe than a politician caught in a tight spot who decided to lie to cover up for his reversal? Your comments suggest you think it is, but you haven’t explained why. There is no ambiguity here legally; pretending there is simply wishful thinking. As I said, Stupak has received more criticism than he deserves; that does not mean the criticisms are wholly unfounded – your comments here have been rather obtuse.

  • John Henry says:

    He is not prone to harsh words about anyone, and in those very few instances where his commentary does take on an edge, it is almost never without justification.

    I don’t really agree with this – I have wished I were more charitable towards people in comment threads (including you, as you know) many, many times – but thank you for saying it. As for Stupak, I think it was fine for him to make a prudential judgment about the health care reform bill; I just think he should have been more upfront about his reasons for doing so (or if he was being honest, he shouldn’t have agreed to a deal that he clearly didn’t understand).

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