The gap between the right of the Republican party, which is providing the angriest critics of the reforms, and the left of the Democratic party, which thinks the proposals too timid, is unbridgeable. These groups do not merely disagree. They despise each other. Their differences are only secondarily about policy. They hold each other’s values in contempt.
These snarling extremes are nonetheless somewhat alike. They have an equal and opposite penchant for conspiracy theories. Almost a third of Republicans, according to a recent poll, believe the unsupported story that Mr Obama was not born in the US (in which case he would be disqualified from serving as president). But remember that more than a third of Democrats subscribe to the even more outlandish theory that the Bush administration knew about the attacks of September 2001 in advance.
One of the annoying qualities of national debate over the last several months (which seems to increase as Democrats become more desperate about their flagship legislation) is the attempt to find the very looniest possible elements of the right and portray them as being mainstream. Continue reading
It has become an oft repeated trope of Catholics who are on the left or the self-consciously-unclassifiable portions of the American political spectrum that the pro-life movement has suffered a catastrophic loss of credibility because of its association with the Republican Party, and thence with the Iraq War and the use of torture on Al Qaeda detainees. Until the pro-life movement distances itself from the Republican Party and all of the pro-life leadership who have defended the Iraq War and/or the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” on detainees, the argument goes, the pro-life movement will have no moral authority and will be the laughing stock of enlightened Catholics everywhere.
Regardless of what one thinks about the Iraq War and torture (myself, I continue to support the former but oppose the latter) I’m not sure that this claim works very well. Further, I think that those who make it often fail to recognize the extent to which it cuts both ways.
Doug Kmiec has a rather bizarre article up at America entitled The Case For Empathy: Why a Much-Maligned Value Is a Crucial Qualification for the Supreme Court. If the article is any indication, I suppose we should be thankful Obama didn’t make any off-hand remarks suggesting ‘creativity’ or ‘imagination’ were traits he would look for in a potential Supreme Court justice, if only because it might have lead to more essays like this one. After some preliminary gushing about, you guessed it, empathy, Kmiec explains what an empathetic justice would accomplish:
To do this, it is possible that [Obama] will mine for legal talent in unusual places, but it is more likely he will attempt to find a nominee with appellate court experience whose skill set also shows the capability of challenging methods of interpretation that otherwise wouldn’t give empathy the time of day. If Obama succeeds even with this more limited challenge,he will have exploded the notion that swapping out a Souter for a new, most likely younger and intellectually energetic, justice is without effect.
With the announced retirement of Supreme Court Justice David Souter President Obama wasted no time in addressing the issue of what he’s looking for to fill this vacancy. In so many words he clearly stated his desire for an activist judge with an eye towards reengineering America [emphasis and comments mine].
“It is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people’s lives [meaning he wants a Justice who holds fast to the Living Constitution Theory,ie, an activist judge finding invisible law where none existed], whether they can make a living and care for their families, whether they feel safe in their homes and welcome in their own nation.”
The following excerpt clearly reveals President Obama’s contempt for legislative history in effect eliminating a potential nominee that adheres to the theory of original intent.
“I will seek someone who understands that justice is not about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a casebook.”
One thing is for sure, it will be an extremist liberal and pro-abortion nominee.
The Pandora’s box that President Obama has opened with the release of the torture memo’s has caused quite a stir in the Catholic blogosphere. Nonetheless the stealth Catholic, comedian Stephen Colbert, has geniusely made a humorous rendition of the logic floating around Washington on the torture controversy. Biretta tip to Mark Shea.
President Obama gave a speech today on the economy and the agenda of his Administration and Congress, thus far into his presidency. I personally watched the speech. I have yet to go back and read it. I thought it might generate some good discussion, in collective analysis of the text. In the spirit of Easter, please engage with criticisms of his positions, not of his person or broad generalizations that are not necessary or charitable.
It has now been twelve weeks since my administration began. And I think even our critics would agree that at the very least, we’ve been busy. In just under three months, we have responded to an extraordinary set of economic challenges with extraordinary action – action that has been unprecedented in both its scale and its speed.
I know that some have accused us of taking on too much at once. Others believe we haven’t done enough. And many Americans are simply wondering how all of our different programs and policies fit together in a single, overarching strategy that will move this economy from recession to recovery and ultimately to prosperity.
So today, I want to step back for a moment and explain our strategy as clearly as I can. I want to talk about what we’ve done, why we’ve done it, and what we have left to do. I want to update you on the progress we’ve made, and be honest about the pitfalls that may lie ahead.
Symbols mean things, but they do not necessarily accomplish things in concrete fashion, so they often seem to be a prime source of argument and misunderstanding in the political arena.
Last week, environmental activists throughout the US participated in a “green hour” in which they all committed to turn off all electricity-using appliances in their possession for one hour (from 8-9pm, as I recall). This was supposed to express to the leaders of the G-20 nations the importance of moving to implement regulations to reduce the burning of fossil fuels.
Not being a major devotee of the global warming cause (I don’t think the kind of restrictions that could realistically be passed would do much good if global warming is in fact a man-made phenomenon, so I would be more interested in putting resources into mitigation than regulating power production) this gesture strikes me as a bit silly. If you really thought that reducing power consumption was important, it seems to me you should reduce your power consumption. Permanently, that is, not just for one hour and then go back to normal.
In the same sense, I suspect that the continuing controversy over Notre Dame University honoring President Obama looks silly to outsiders.
Over the last week the news cycle has been enjoying a Five Minutes of Hate over the bonuses being given out to a number of individuals in the AIG Financial Product division, with some going to so far as to say that at a minimum they should all get jail time, and since that’s not possible they should see all their earnings taxed away. Given the, “our problems are all the result of Wall Street greed” narrative which many have applied to our current financial crisis, and that as fallen human beings we are all prone to envy, this can hardly be surprising.
For those wanting to know about the reality behind the fracas, this editorial in yesterday’s New York Times is illuminating. It is an open resignation letter from Jake DeSantis, an executive vice president of the American International Group’s financial products unit (and a recipient of one of the infamous bonuses), to AIG’s CEO.
So there’s a new You-Tube video spreading around meant to be the final word in exposing the hypocrisy of anti-abortion advocates. In what many seem to believe is highly telling, an interviewer asks a group of demonstrating pro-lifers that, should abortion be declared illegal, if they would punish women who had abortions. Apparently the confused looks, murmured “I don’t know, I don’t think they should be punished,” and the otherwise general indication that they hadn’t thought much on the issue, somehow shows that pro-lifers do not believe that abortion is murder, or even the taking of human life. There is a huge amount of self-congratulatory straining of shoulders, clapping themselves on the back for having discovered this one-shot knockdown argument.
Shazam, as Gomer Pyle used to say in the Sixties! The Iraqi government claims that Senator Obama has reassured them that he will not precipitously withdraw troops from Iraq, and it appears that the end of 2011 might be a target date. To my anti-war friends on the Left I suggest that if I were in your shoes I would not hold my breath about US troops being removed from Iraq even before the 2012 election. You were useful to Obama to win this election, but you will be of little use to him now that he is President.
I’m sure everyone’s response to the title of this post is a variation, more or less, of “well, duh!”. But remember who it’s coming from: the guy who is always insisting on the importance of moderate rhetoric, reasonable discourse, etc.
I just want to be clear that I recognize that sometimes, it’s all for nought.
A good part of what I was trying to say in my Socialist post the other day concerned the relationship between precision in political rhetoric and its ability to persuade; in short, I think that “toned-down” rhetoric is more likely to convince an interlocutor (let alone an observer) of at least the plausibilty of one’s position than is the “speaking truth to power” approach.