Saturday, September 22, 2012

Shoot First, Don't Ask Questions Later

"And I -- you know, Governor Romney seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later. And as president, one of the things I've learned is you can't do that. That, you know, it's important for you to make sure that the statements that you make are backed up by the facts. And that you've thought through the ramifications before you make 'em."
                                                                                               --President Obama

Well, well. President Obama was quick to join with his partisans in the media and the establishment
hand-wringers 10 days ago to decry a statement from Mitt Romney in which the governor dared to suggest that the Obama Administration was disastrously and pathetically apologizing for America in the face of terrorist murders.

With his common pomposity, Obama informed us that Romney didn't speak with all the "facts", where as he, foreign policy wise man and steady-handed president, would be far more judicious. Now it was never clear exactly how Romney's statement constituted a gaffe, other than that it was one of the first statements to truthfully describe the Administration's response to the Middle East riots. Of course, for the media, whatever Romney says or does is some form of a "gaffe."

But, oh, the irony. For the man who wanted "to make sure that the statements" given "are backed up by the facts" has spent these last days with his Administration spewing wild and absurd falsehoods about the nature of the attacks on our embassies and our citizens.

Whoops! It seems that the attacks were not the spontaneous combustion of a few deranged nuts, as the Obama Administration prolifically claimed, but planned terrorist acts of war that resulted in two separate battles in Libya, the first destroying our embassy and the second a firefight at a compromised "safe house" in Benghazi. Four Americans, including our heroic ambassador, are dead.

Yet, by the lights of Jay Carney, Susan Rice & company, for more than a week, the "facts" showed that these were the unplanned actions of a small mob, inflamed by a video, that got carried away. Then the "facts" changed--radically. According to the White House spokesman, the "facts" became "self-evident", like the truths of the Declaration of Independence. Suddenly,it was obvious that the murders were the result of planned terrorism.

But can you believe Mitt Romney! Shoot from the hip! Not ready for "prime time"!

Funny how certain "facts" about terrorism have never been of much interest to the president. As Steve Hayes aptly points out in the Weekly Standard, the denial of Islamic terrorism is a running theme of the Obama Administration. The president "shot first and aimed later" when he told the American people that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas "Underwear Bomber", was a lone wolf. Not so--he was an agent of Al Quada and an Islamic terrorist.

The Administration said the same of the man who tried to blow-up a car in Times Square in 2010, only to once more later admit that the would-be bomber was agent of the Taliban. They moved heaven and earth to cast doubt upon the motives of Major Hassan, the Allah-praising, Al-Quada-corresponding man who murdered 13 soldiers at Ft. Hood.

So, the truth is that Obama doesn't like the "facts" about Islamic terrorism and has routinely  and dangerously ignored them. The president and his acolytes, including Hillary Clinton, live in a bubble reality of preening moral vanity. For them, it is critical to appear at all times tolerant and open towards groups whom they imagine suffer some form of discrimination at the hands of their moral inferiors. This is the foundation of the morality of the Left--to show how good one is by fighting on the side of a group that prejudiced society loathes. In this bazaar world of moral equivalency, the murders of American citizens and officials should be condemned in the same breath and with the same force as insults to Islam.

Obama is a disastrous foreign policy president. It is apparent that he believed that the death of Osama Bin Laden would inoculate him against any criticism in this regard. He sadly and typically took perhaps the one substantive achievement of his tenure and reduced it to an arrow in the quiver of his relentless propagandists. He has used it as a smoke-screen to obscure his actual foreign "policy"--that is if one can divine a "policy" other than apology, retreat, rear-end kissing and sundry windbag empty denunciations of Russia or Syria. Consider that Obama is first man in history to announce the date for the end of a war in the midst of that war, a war to which he committed men to fight and die for a purpose in which he purports to believe.

Maybe next time Obama gives us a lecture on the facts, someone will bother to check the facts. But with Obama and the media, it's likely to be "Shoot first, don't ask questions later."

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Where is the President?

As the Middle East burns, President Obama has only briefly interrupted his campaign and fundraising schedule to make perfunctory remarks regarding the crisis. Where is the president? Will we hear an address like this?

Good evening. I address you tonight during a period of tremendous unrest and violence across the Middle East. As you know, American embassies in a dozen countries have come under continuous assault. In Libya, a mob of Islamic extremists killed our ambassador, Navy SEALS and an American civilian. In Tunis, the mob ripped down our flag and replaced it with the black flag of Al Queda. In Cairo, words in praise of Osama Bin Laden were spray-painted onto our embassy.

Tonight, I speak both to you, my fellow citizens, and to those in the Middle East who would attack sovereign American property and threaten American lives.

As I speak, special teams of United States Marines are on their way to defend our installations in nations across the Middle East. I wish to make clear that the United States will not brook further violence to its property or its citizens. Those who would cause such harm should now know that they will not only reckon with the security forces of their own country, but with the Unites States Marines.

I have authorized the Marines to take whatever steps are necessary to protect and defend American territory and lives.

The Unites States has no wish to restrict the ability of any person to voice his opinion in protest of an offense to his religious beliefs, real or perceived. However, we will not tolerate rampaging mobs attacking our property and our citizens. In short, we do not care where, what or how you protest, so long as you do so in a way that does not threaten American territory or the lives of American citizens.

In addition, I wish to firmly state to the world that the United States will not permit the Iranian government to acquire even the capability to make a nuclear weapon. This country and its allies have been exceedingly patient with the regime in Tehran. Yet the regime has thwarted any and all good faith efforts to compromise on this grave matter.

As such, negotiations are at an impasse and they are finished. The United States will take whatever steps it deems necessary, at the time of its choosing, to protect its interests against a nuclear Iran. And this nation will stand with, and defend, its ally Israel against any Iranian aggression.

The people of the United States do not desire conflict with any nation. Rather, we wish to live in peace and to accord to the peoples of other nations the same precious God-given rights that we here enjoy--including the rights to free speech, public assembly and religious freedom. We do not wish to take any human life, and we respect the dignity of all persons created in the image and likeness of God. In the words so many Americans hold sacred, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God."

Yet, it is also written "Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword." Those who wish to live by the sword should not mistake our desire for peace as a refusal to act in defense of our interests, our sovereign property and lives of our citizens. We will discharge our duty to our people and our allies without hesitation.

So let us stand united and resolved tonight, praying for peace, but warning those who would do us harm that they will suffer a grievous consequence for acts of violence.

God Bless you and our country.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Romney Responsible for U.S. Olympic Team's Chinese-Made Uniforms

Washington--President Obama's re-election team today questioned whether Mitt Romney is responsible for the fact that the uniforms of the U.S Olympic athletes for the upcoming London games were manufactured in China.

"Mitt Romney ran an Olympics and he's touted his experience at the Olympics as a reason he's qualified to be president. He was also involved in a business that may have invested in companies that make clothing. So it fair to ask if Gov. Romney had anything to do with outsourcing the U.S. team uniforms to China," said Obama advisor David Axelrod. "How do the American people know that he wasn't involved?"

Romney denied the allegations and there is no evidence to suggest his involvement in the decision to manufacture the uniforms in China. However, because the charge comes from the Obama campaign, it is ipso facto a serious matter that many wish to see investigated to the fullest extent possible.

Despite the longest period since the Great Depression of sustained 8-plus percent unemployment, record budget deficits, record government debt and near-flat economic growth, the presidential campaign has been dominated by key issues of Romney's character, leaving him on the defensive, unnamed experts say.

Press accounts have focused on whether Gov. Romney once picked on a classmate in high school, his wife's hobby of horseback riding and the precise date on which he resigned from his firm, Bain Capital.

Now comes the charge that Romney outsourced the Olympic uniforms. "This is an issue that could really hurt Romney," said one analyst who asked that his name be withheld because he loves Obama. "People just hear Romney and outsourcing. It really doesn't matter if its true. He's on the defensive." The source went on to add, "As I said, Romney is on the defensive. Please make sure to use that term in the story."

In related news, the president announced Friday that he was illegally gutting welfare reform, before flying off at taxpayer expense to give a major speech on the Olympic uniforms at a factory in Ohio.

Monday, May 28, 2012

All the Illogic That's Fit to Print

Let's try this one more time for the logicians at the New York Times editorial page:

On Sunday, the Times attacked Catholic dioceses and organizations for commencing lawsuits to the challenge the unconstitutional restriction on religious liberty embodied in the Obamacare contraception/abortafacient insurance coverage mandate.

The Times describes the legal action as "a pure partisan play. The real threat to religious liberty comes from the effort to impose one church's doctrine on everyone" (My emphasis).

Now let us attempt to look at this statement as a matter of logic and language as it might be explained to a fifth grade class.

The Catholic Church runs an organization--say a hospital. It employs people to work at the hospital in all sorts of jobs. The hospital offers the jobs, each with a certain description and level of responsibility. The hospital also sets the pay level for the jobs it offers, as well as the benefits provided to those who fill those positions.

Perhaps the hospital pays certain people more than others based upon seniority or job responsibility level. It may offer a health plan that provides insurance coverage for some services, but not others. Perhaps the plan offers dental insurance, but not coverage for eyeglasses. Perhaps there are co-payments for some kinds of doctor visits, but not others.

The hospital, of course, makes these decisions based upon the labor market for particular jobs, its economic interests and financial abilities, as well as a host of other concerns the institution may have from time to time.

A person who wishes to work for the hospital will accept the pay and benefits package, or perhaps try to negotiate better terms. If the hospital and the prospective employee cannot agree on terms of responsibility, hours, pay and benefits, the prospective employee will not take the job--he will try to work elsewhere.

This is the way in which things called private businesses and private labor markets generally function. As a rule, not every citizen in the country works for the same private business, so, as a rule, pay and benefit packages vary based upon the employer for whom one works and the kind of job one holds.

Now these circumstances were considered pedestrian--the basic way in which a market economy functions--until a few months ago when Mr. Government Official discovered that certain forms of insurance were deeply unjust.

Government Official, who knows what is fair and right for the entire society, meets the private business that is the Catholic hospital. Government Official doesn't like the hospital's health plan--you see, Government Official says that the people working for the hospital, through their own free will, must have a different health plan--one that Government Official says is superior.

But, protests the hospital, we don't cover eyeglasses because it's too expensive. "Too bad!" commands Government Official. "I know what's best for all of society. And the right to eyeglass insurance coverage is a basic right. Stop trying to impose your anti-eyeglass prejudice on everyone else."

But, protests the hospital, we don't cover contraception or drugs that cause abortions because we morally object to such products. "Stop imposing your morality on everyone else," says Government Official, echoed by his enablers at the Times. "We told you everyone has to have the same plan according to our command. If you refuse us, you are imposing your morality on society because you will not allow us to impose our morality on you! Get it?"

So there you have it. By objecting to a blanket fiat of the government, imposed upon all employers, the Catholic hospital is imposing its "doctrine" on others, including those person who freely work from the hospital in return for agreed-upon compensation. 

This opinion is truly pitiable, born of such completely corrupted logic, Orwellian language abuse and barely-latent distaste for Catholicism that, in truth, it makes basic dialogue with the Times and its fellow Leftists nearly impossible. One can merely observe that this intellectual bankruptcy is the inevitable result of an investment in the defense of the indefensible.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Georgetown, You Broke my Heart

Of all the controversial invitations from Catholic universities to speakers and honorees in recent years, none has ever been more outrageous, upsetting and mired in rank hypocrisy than Georgetown's invitation to Kathleen Sebelius to participate in part of its commencement exercises this coming Friday.

At the moment, the bishops of the Church in America are engaged in their most significant public political battle in memory. The episcopacy has rightly refused to accept the intrusion into the prerogatives of the Church and the attack on general religious liberty embodied in the Obamacare-based mandate that requires Catholic institutions to provide to their employees health insurance covering birth control and abortion-inducing drugs, free of charge, in contravention of the Church's teachings and moral precepts.

The author of the mandate is, of course, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Now, as the leadership of the Church girds for an unprecedented legal and political fight, the nation's oldest Catholic university gives a place of honor to the very person who is legally responsible for the policy to which the Church's authentic teachers of faith and morals have so vociferously objected.

This is not to say that everyone who works or studies at Georgetown is compelled to accept the bishops' position or to oppose Obamacare. It is to say, however, that, as a Catholic institution, Georgetown is morally bound to show a modicum of solidarity with the episcopal leadership, morally bound to show some minimal deference to the position of the Church's leaders on an issue so critical to them. In order to show such solidarity and deference, Georgetown needed only avoid making  an egregious frontal assault--is it so hard simply not to invite Kathleen Sebelius to campus?

The invitation to Sebelius was a deliberate provocation. It manifests a deep lack of respect for the Church and a sensational lack of humility.

Moreover, there are few persons in this country less worthy of celebration by a Catholic institution than Kathleen Sebelius. The cornerstone of her public life has been the promotion of abortion on demand, an act that the Church teaches is evil, a mortal sin. As governor of Kansas, she was a patron and protector of the notorious Dr. George Tiller, a man committed to the barbaric practice of late-term abortion. No one is closer or more committed to the agenda of Planned Parenthood and the abortion lobby than Sebelius. "Abortion rights" is the issue that defines her.

And here is where the hypocrisy of Georgetown becomes so appalling. When Congressman Paul Ryan visited the campus several weeks ago to speak about his proposed federal budget, there was bedlam. Students protested his mere appearance (he was not honored). Ninety faculty members condemned Ryan's budget as an affront to Catholic social teaching because of the supposedly draconian cuts to the welfare state Ryan allegedly proposes. Father Thomas Reese, SJ decried Ryan's plan as contrary to the Gospel itself.

Last I checked, the right to be born forms a critical component of Catholic social teaching. Yet now, according to reports, only nine of Georgetown's 1,500 faculty members, and only three of the 55 Jesuits on campus, have uttered a peep in protest of the Sebelius invitation. Apparently, Fr. Reese believes Medicaid block grants are a sin; late-term abortion seems less of a concern.

Outside of my family, perhaps no group has influenced my life more than the Society of Jesus. My encounter with the Society in high school literally changed my life; through the Grace of God, the Jesuits gave me my faith. I've always had disagreements with members of the Society, but I have always loved it, too, for its history, mission and its affect on my personal life. My oldest child's middle name is Ignatius in homage to the Society and its founder.

And so it breaks my heart to see the Society of Jesus standby by while one of its most ancient American foundations commits this grave error. Tonight, as we prepare to celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord and then Pentecost, I pray for the Society of Jesus and its sons.

"Lord, send down your Spirit and renew the face of the Earth!"

Sunday, May 6, 2012

We Should Summarily Execute KSM

Nearly 11 years after the September 11th attacks, the man who planned and oversaw the murder of 3,000 people on American soil has come to trial. The first day of the proceedings, the arraignment of Kahlid Sheikh Mohammed and his co-terrorists, ran from 9:23 am well into the night and was marred by the antics of the terrorists and their attorneys, one of whom appeared in a burka and demanded that the other women in the courtroom dress in similar fashion in deference to the religious sensibilities of the murders.

And so more than a decade after the 9/11 attacks, we continue to allow these evil men to inflict pain on the families of the victims and the nation at large--to mock the very system of justice that we extend to them.

To what end? In a usual criminal matter, the accused has the option to enter a plea of not guilty and demand a trial or enter a guilt plea and face sentence. In June 2008, KSM admitted his guilt and asked to enter a plea accordingly. He wanted to be "martyred." Again in December 2008, KSM asked for a hearing so that he could announce his glorious guilt to the world.

So KSM is a confessed terrorists and war criminal who wished to plead guilt. Ergo, justice does not demand that we treat him to any further form of "due process". He has no regard for, or interest in, our justice process, nor are there any material issues in dispute that require a trial to resolve.

"The Court hereby deems your earlier plea as accepted and shall now pass sentence. The sentence of the court is that you be taken hence to the gallows and hanged from the neck until dead. May God have mercy on your soul. Next case." 

One of the great disgraces of the present era has been the political madness that infected the way in which we handle intelligence gathering and the administration of justice in the War on Terror. It is ironic that the KSM trial commences immediately following President Obama's obscene self-congratulatory victory tour on the anniversary of the death of Osama Bin Laden.

After all, the president is a man who, in large measure, built his political career by denouncing Guantanamo Bay as evil and accusing his own country of "torturing" terror suspects. As president, his very first act was to announce the closure of Gitmo, followed on by his plan to try KSM in federal court in Manhattan and his proclamation that American does not "torture" on his watch. When he couldn't pull off the civilian trial, he needlessly delayed the military commission action against KSM. 

Obama also permitted the Justice Department to conduct a witch-hunt against government lawyers and CIA operatives who had allegedly sanctioned and participated in torture--even after earlier investigations had cleared all suspects. And on and on.

It turns out that only three men were ever waterboarded, and then only briefly under highly controlled circumstances. It turns out that the intelligence gathered from these men, and others subjected to the enhanced interrogation techniques, contributed mightily to our finding Bin Laden so that Obama could give the order to kill him and then parade his head on a pike.

But now we must endure the final insult of KSM and his fellow madmen abusing and twisting "due process", mocking the Court, the victims' families and the nation. This charade could drag on, literally, for years.

In mid-June 1942, eight Nazi spies entered the United States by sneaking ashore on Long Island and in Florida. By June 27th, all eight had been arrest. They were tried before a military commission appointed by President Roosevelt between July 8 and August 4, 1942; all were condemned to death. The president commuted the sentences of two men; the other six were executed on August 8th, four days after their convictions.

President Obama fancies himself a new FDR; as such, he ought to follow his predeccesor's penchant for the swift administration of justice to war criminals and murders.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sally Quinn: Know-Nothing

It must be a difficult task to write about an institution when one knows nothing of the institution's history, culture or development. But the challenge has not stopped the Washington Post's Sally Quinn from opining about the Catholic Church.

Here is the link to her latest offering:

As I predicted in my previous post, it didn't take long for a non-Catholic limousine liberal like Quinn to have a meltdown over the Vatican's decision to investigate and oversee the Leadership Conference of Religious Women ("LCRW"), a coalition of Catholic women's religious orders given to all manner of liberal activism.

Yes, the "hierarchical", male-dominated Church strikes again! In an audacious move, the authorities of a particular religious organization decided to take steps to govern their own institution in keeping with their own tenets and understanding of their own faith. How dare they! Sally Quinn does not approve.

Of course, the "celibate men" of the Catholic Church hate women and have set out to "humiliate" nuns--because nuns are women. Can you believe that someone Sally Quinn knows wanted to "return to the church and go on Easter Sunday", but decided not to go because she didn't want to condone the Church's opposition to "abortion rights"?

Call Vatican III immediately! One of Sally Quinn's fellow-travelers has not "returned" to the Church!

The whole column would be laughable if it were not so offensive. It has long been observed that it is easy to hate and malign a person or thing about which one knows nothing. Sally Quinn and the dinner party moralists she represents view the Church as they would a specimen in a zoo--a bazaar curiosity that gives them a sense of moral superiority when they gaze upon it in all of its shocking backwardness.

If the Washington Post wants to run a column or blog on religion, it might consider employing writers who actually practice a religion or, at least, have a modicum of understanding of the institutions they purported to cover and on which they feel entitled to comment.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Sisters: The Last Piece of the New Evangelization

Last week, the Vatican announced that it had commissioned several American bishops to investigate and oversee an organization known as the Leadership Conference of Women Religious ("LCRW"), a kind of umbrella "trade group" that represents numerous orders of nuns in the United States. The LCRW said it was "stunned" at the Vatican's move. But anyone who has been watching the life of the Roman Catholic Church in recent years would see the action as no surprise.

For the sake of blog-demanded brevity, let us say that life of the Church since circa 1965 has been tumultuous. In the wake of the Second Vatican Council and the changes in the secular culture that flowered in the late 1960s and 1970s, the Church experienced major crises and rampant confusion in doctrine, liturgical norms, sacramental practices and the understanding of vowed religious life.

While the troubles in the life of the modern Church are not over, there has been, in more recent times, a sort of informal agreement on the need for a "reform of the reform." Through the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, the Church as begun to live out the "New Evangelization". In short, the New Evangelization is a call for the Faithful to renew their personal commitment to discipleship--to following Jesus Christ and His Gospel--through a renewed embrace of the Church's sacramental and prayer life. There is no question that the present pope, like his predecessor, sees the New Evangelization as, at long last, bringing to fruition the true and proper aims and ends of the Second Vatican Council.

The New Evangelization has taken many forms. It has re-emphasized a devotion to our Blessed Mother and encouraged the prayer of the Rosary. It has returned the practice of Eucharistic Adoration to a commonplace in parishes. It has priests again donning traditional religious garb, such as the cassock. It is responsible for the new edition of the Catechism and the renewed focus on formation. Perhaps most importantly, the New Evangelization is behind the renewal of the Mass, most evident in the new translation into English of the Latin.

Therefore, I believe, the crisis in the life of the Church that followed the Council is over and a new spirit, grounded in tradition, yet enthused with fresh zeal for the Gospel, has taken hold. Yet this project of the "reform of the reform" cannot be completed without the renewal of women's religious life.

The history of women religious, particularly in the United States, is nothing less than awe-inspiring. The achievements of Roman Catholic sisters can hardly be overstated, from the historic founding of countless schools and hospitals to the unrivaled (and vastly under-appreciated) education of tens of thousands of students.

That history, for all practical purposes, ended in the years following the Council. Perhaps no institution in the Church was more damaged and diminished by the mistakes, confusion and foolishness that ran amok in the bad old days. Now, at long last, the Vatican itself has apparently tired of the transformation of women's religious orders from actual religious orders that follow a "rule" and are given over to a particular charism, or mission within the service of the Church, into organizations based around liberal fads and nebulous conceptions of secular "social justice." A quick glance at the website of the LCRW reveals a group with concerns that mirror the hobbyhorses of the Democratic Party, from environmentalism to the wonders of Obamacare.

However noble their intentions, it is indisputable that many of the members of the LCRW no longer participate in what can fairly be characterized as Roman Catholic religious life, nor is it an overstatement to say that discipleship with Jesus Christ no longer forms the central purpose of a number of these communities. Instead, a politicized Gospel has turned these orders into, essentially, groups of liberal activists.

And their absence from the life of the Church has left a gaping hole in the ability of the Church to build the Kingdom on Earth. Contrary to the leftist polemics about the Church's debasement and marginalization of women, the fact is that women have always been integral to the mission of the Church, from at least the moment that Mary Magdalene encountered the Risen Lord in the garden outside the tomb on the first Easter.

When He spoke her name, she knew Him and knew He was alive! This, not political or social causes of various stripes, is the foundation of religious life and the call of the Gospel.

The Spirit is once more at work in the Church and, through the New Evangelization, the Spirit is renewing the Church in this age, just as it has over and over for the past two thousand years. The Church cannot be whole without vibrant religious life, just as it cannot be whole without a vibrant and active laity. Some will grouse about the heavy-handed Vatican bossing around poor little nuns; in truth, the Church is working to reform and renew women's religious life, to heal it, save it and restore it to its proper and glorious place within the Body of Christ.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Liberal Shock and Awe at the Supreme Court

Much has been written this past week about liberals' surprise at, and sometimes panic over, the serious way in which a majority of the Supreme Court justices approached the constitutional arguments of the parties challenging Obamacare.

For the most part, conservative commentators have explained the liberal shock and awe by noting the fact that liberals often live in an intellectual bubble in which their own ideas are constantly re-enforced and never questioned. Inside this bubble, the shallow prejudice that holds conservatives are greedy, mean-spirited, bigoted and backward idiots is considered a self-evident truth. Ergo, the conservative legal position must be absurd.

And this is all true. But there is another important legal and political reason that liberals initially and consistently dismissed the constitutional attack on Obamacare. In general, liberals conceive of the Constitution not as a concrete legal document, but as an abstraction. Liberals have developed all manner "theories" of the Constitution--the "partial Constitution", the "invisible Constitution", the "living Constitution"--cooked-up by law professors and other so-called "experts."
In short, these "theories" approach the Constitution not as one would ordinarily approach a legal statute, but instead purport to divine the spirit of the document. The liberals have come to see the Constitution not as a legal document to be treated by courts as they would treat any other statute, but as an aspirational document whose "values" are supposed to guide our government in general manner. Their theories deride the those who actually rely on the Constitution's words and historical development as "textualist" or "originalists"--implying that there are competing theoretical conceptions of the Constitution akin to the tension in philosophical schools, like the tensions between Platonic and Aristotelian thought.

This view of the Constitution--that it is a complex, quasi-philosophical document not susceptible to ordinary principles of statutory interpretation--leads to the liberal bewilderment witnessed this past week. For the opponents of Obamacare argued their case not based upon some abstract notion allegedly underpinning the Constitution, but on the actual words in the document and the indisputable historical context in which those words were put to parchment.

And, lo, the justices actually engaged with these arguments--arguments that asked the Court to perform the kinds of statutory interpretation that lower state and federal courts perform as routine business.

The Constitution empowers Congress to "regulate Commerce...among the several States." Is requiring an individual to purchase a product and enter into a contract with a private entity the regulation of commerce?

The Constitution was intended to give specific, enumerated powers to the federal government. Would upholding the individual mandate effectively grant Congress a general police power and destroy the constitutional scheme of a limited federal government?

To anyone who actually reads the words of the Constitution and who has taken an eighth grade American history course, these questions would appear as obvious and legitimate issues for judicial concern. But not so to liberals. Immersed in their theories and the flimsy court decisions of their fellow-travelers from the last century, liberals do not take seriously the plain words of the Constitution or the notion of a limited federal government.

In their view, government is meant to be a problem solver and, as such, the government is inherently empowered to do whatever is necessary to address problems, especially if the power exercised relates to a seemingly well-intentioned program to combat real or perceived economic inequalities.

Whatever the merits of this conception of government, it is not the one for which the Constitution provides. Only those who do not take the words of the Constitution seriously could possibly be shocked by the fact that the justices of the court charged with interpreting those words and their intended meaning actually did so this past week.  

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Obamacare and the "Healthcare Market"

As the Supreme Court arguments on Obamacare unfold, it is becoming clear that the government's principal justification for the law's constitutionality rests on its characterization of the nature of the healthcare market.

According to the government, the "market" is unique because, at some point in the life of nearly every person, he will need to participate in this "market" in order to procure healthcare services for himself. As such, the government contends, by requiring an individual to purchase health insurance, the government is effectively regulating the "market" in which, sooner or later, the individual will necessarily participate.

There are manifold flaws in this logic, but the core problem lies in the assumption the government makes about the ill-defined "market" it purports to regulate. Because most people pay for medical services via insurance, the government pre-supposes that the insurance-based model is an essential element of the "market"; that is, as a result of the very nature of this "market", one must pay for health services via a third-party insurance company or a fund of some kind.

This, of course, is not true. The present predominant means by which people pay for healthcare is the result, in the main, of longstanding government policies, including the favorable tax treatment accorded employer-provided coverage and the creation of quasi-insurance programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

Employer-based health insurance is an accident of War World II wage controls under which the government prohibited employers from openly competing for scare labor by offering higher pay, but allowed employers to attract labor with the unrestricted ability to provide health insurance and other "fringe benefits."

The government-caused market distortion persisted after the war, leading to the modern system whereby people expect the insurance companies basically to pay their medical bills. By and large, people began to assume that health insurance was inextricably tied to employment and that coverage could only be obtained through their employers. Always eager to help, state governments across the country made it harder for individuals to purchase policies on their own by requiring that all health insurance policies cover an ever-expanding array of services, driving costs sky-high.

But the present system is not the only possible system, and certainly not the most efficient. We could, for example, pay for medical services the same way we generally pay for food, shelter and clothing--out-of-pocket, from our own funds. People could shop around for a doctor's services, just as they tend to ask a lawyer his fees before retaining his representation. If the law permitted individuals and insurance companies to freely negotiate their insurance contracts, individuals could craft policies to suit their needs and economic circumstances.

In short, the "market" is unique only in so far as the government has regulated it into uniqueness. If we tended to pay for our medical services as we tend to pay for most other services, it would seem absurd to assume that an individual must have insurance in order to partake in the market. The Obamacare mandate would seem insane, just as it would appear insane to mandate that all person purchase "food insurance" because, at some point, we will all purchase food.

The fact that the government has already regulated the "market" into an inefficient one dominated by third-party payers does not provide a constitutional basis on which to force a person to enter into a private contract.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Obama is No Rutherford B. Hayes

President Obama's gas price/energy policy panic continued apace this week, with president's noted remarks depicting Republican proponents of domestic oil production as backward-looking Luddites.

The president's penchant for arrogant and ill-informed sarcasm was on full display, as he declared that oil drilling advocates are the modern equivalent of "flat earth society" members. With haughty disdain, Obama compared those who favor more energy production to his oh-so-pathetic predecessor Rutherford B. Hayes, whom Obama slandered as an anti-technologist who thought that the telephone was a useless invention. "That's why he's not on Mount Rushmore!" Hilarious!

As is so typical of Obama's endless three years of blather, this latest speech is shallow, narcissistic and intellectually false. For starters, press reports immediately debunked his cheap shots at a long-dead president about whom most people know very little. In fact, Hayes enthusiastically installed a telephone at the White House (assigned telephone number "1") and was a friend of Thomas Edison and a supporter of Edison's work. Hayes never questioned the telephone's utility. Obama, rhetorical heir to Cicero, blithely attributed words to Hayes that he never spoke.

And what gall. This from a man who has, more than once, explained our economic troubles by citing the invention of ATMs and airport kiosks--technological advances that put people out of work. One wonders if Obama would have been a fan of Edison, like Hayes, when the light bulb was forcing lay-offs in the lamplighter industry. Certainly not if the lamplighters had a union.

Moreover, the president's general vision for the country is utterly backward looking. He bemoans advances and globalization. He speaks longingly for the days of the unionized, industrial economy of the early and mid-20th century when sons could aspire to have the same assembly-line or steel mill jobs as their fathers held. Dare to dream!

All in all, Obama believes in a 1930s, big government, managed economy--a model that has slowly been abandoned around the world and now, where it exists, is collapsing under its own weight.

Ah, but regardless, the president sees himself as a man of the future. He doesn't favor more production of the substances that actually power homes and automobiles (though, while disparaging production, he simultaneously tells us he has increased it to record levels. So is that good or bad?). He not only favors "green energy", but he insists that the government subsidize and manage its production.

The president seems not to notice or care that his "investments" in solar and wind and algae have flopped. He still maintains that if you oppose larding tax dollars on to unproven companies that frequently go bankrupt, you are a fool and a Luddite. Indeed, why not "invest" in a flying car company or one that is working on a Star Trek-type transporter. We could "beam" millions to work! We wouldn't even need cars--and the government could still keep GM going just for the helluva it! It's iconic! I'm sure Newt Gingrich's moon colony could use a few taxpayer backed loans.

No one is supposed to question Obama's incredible intellect. But the more he speaks, one certainly has to question whether the president has really thought through his positions on various issues. It is increasingly apparent that Obama is blinded by his assumptions and prone to arrogantly dismiss any dissenting view. This narcissism leads him to intellectually confused and ultimately ridiculous positions that, I believe, ultimately will cause the end his presidency this fall.

If only Obama would emulate, rather than mock, Rutherford B. Hayes. After all, Hayes kept his promise not to seek a second term.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Take Pride in the Bailouts, Comrades!

The wisdom and propriety of the Obama Administration's bailout of General Motors and Chrysler is sure to be a significant issue in the fall campaign. As such, the speech that the president gave about two weeks ago in front of  the UAW convention in Washington has been on my mind because, I think, it illustrates just how much is a stake in the November election.

This post is not intended as a comment on the merits of the bailouts themselves, though I oppose them, whether initiated by President Obama or his predecessor. Rather, I wish to direct attention to the way in which Obama touts the bailouts as a proud achievement, a central piece of the policy that helped bring about our economic recovery.

Long ago and far away, say three years ago, there seemed to be a consensus across the political spectrum that bailouts are undesirable. Some believed, however, that, during an extraordinary emergency, such as the financial crisis and its immediate aftermath, bailouts of certain industries were a necessary evil to prevent economic calamity. Nonetheless, all agreed that bailouts are unfair and, basically, un-American. Everyone, including President Obama, pledged to end bailouts forever as we emerged from the crisis of 2008-09.

In other words, at best, having the government save, subsidize and quasi-control private industry was regarded as a highly undesirable policy that should be implemented only in a temporary and dire emergency, if at all.

But Obama has since discarded this cramped view of bailouts. Indeed, he is making the quasi-nationalization of GM and Chrysler a centerpiece of his bid for re-election. Now he damns bailout opponents as cowards who simply wanted to let the domestic auto industry fail (never mind that Toyota, BMW and others also make cars here and never sought a dime from the federal government).

Speaking in the first person, in order to take maximum credit, to the union to which he partially sold these GM and Chrysler, he praised the bailouts as a positive good and a sign of his personal commitment to the domestic auto industry, as if he is a (gasp!) Romney-like private investor who staked his personal fortune on turning around two failing giants.

This attitude is deeply troubling--and it ought to disturb observers across the ideological band. It is not exactly in the American tradition to have a president essentially nationalize favored firms and then campaign in front of the very workers who directly benefited from his use of the public fisc on their behalf. This is the stuff of banana republics; there is no question that Obama's words and manner before the UAW would fit in nicely at a sanctioned gathering in Havana or Caracas.

Conservatives, of course, loath bailouts as unwarranted, even illegal, expansions of federal power. But the left, too, objects. Liberals disdain bailouts as examples of the unholy conjunction of evil corporate American with big government. Witness Occupy Wall Street and the Naderite tradition in the Democrat Party. Why, then, is anyone, liberal or conservative, comfortable with a president who is so comfortable with the bailouts of large private firms?

The truth is Obama likes bailouts--they aggrandize federal power, give him a fair amount of control over large portions of the economy (build move Volts!) and virtually guarantee a political pay-off from the persons and groups that reap the benefits of federal intervention. Obama is unconstrained by such details and niceties as the Constitution, the division between public and private sectors and a general presumption in favor of a market economy with its implicit right to succeed or fail on one's own merit.

Accordingly, he depicts the bailouts not as the regrettable residue of an extraordinarily difficult moment, but as a hallmark of the brilliance of his centrally-planned economy. Too bad he wasn't president during the last days of the Dumont, Packard, Gimbal's or Pan Am. Then we might have up to four television networks! We'd have cars on the road and even department stores and airlines--all industries that no longer exist due to federal inaction.

So the next time Obama praises himself on the bailouts, hear his words with these thoughts in mind. Does anyone, left or right, really want a president who so proudly proclaims himself as industry savior, who so blithely ignores the lines between public and private, the market and the government? It is this mentality that not only makes Barack Obama a bad president, but a dangerous one.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Understanding Obama on Israel and Iran

After his press conference today, many are left scratching their heads over President Obama's policy on Israel and Iran. In the days leading up to his recent meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Obama made a series of statements in which he appeared to rattle the sabre at Iran and give strong backing to Israel.

"Don't call my bluff," he Bushianly blustered to the Mullahs. He expressed his support for Israel, using the now much-quoted unpresidential and childish colloquialism that the U.S. has Israel's "back."

He went to the AIPAC convention and, once more, brazenly proclaimed himself the most pro-Israeli president in history.

But earlier today, the president seemed to "walk back" these statements. He described his "got your back" proclamation as merely a description of the United States' long-standing, historical support for Israel. He insisted there is still time to make a decision about how best to handle Iran and bemoaned the repercussions of a "premature" attack.

So here is how best to understand the sum of Obama's words: they mean nothing.

As on countless matters over the past three years, the president feints towards a certain policy or a potential compromise for political reasons, only to subsequently, and on a dime, disavow his former statements either in word or deed.

To wit:

Feint: We should have a summit with Republicans so I can hear their ideas on healthcare reform and try to incorporate some of them into my final bill.
Outcome: All of the Republican ideas are ridiculous; we'll do it my way.

Feint: I am for an "all of the above" energy policy.
Outcome: Advocacy for more oil drilling is merely a political bumper sticker that will not help us produce more oil.

Feint: Come, Catholic bishops, let's discuss how we can resolve the contraception mandate problem.
Outcome: Sorry, we are mandating you provide free birth control and abortion drugs for your employees. What else did you want to discuss?

The obvious end driving Obama's "policy" is his desire to contain Israel, not Iran, because he is afraid of the political consequences of an Israeli attack.

Now, no one wants a war in the Middle East. However, many of us understand the dire effects of permitting the Iranians to obtain a nuclear bomb. For those who see national security, and Israel's survival, as the paramount concerns, the costs of military action are likely outweighed by the benefit of preventing a nuclear Iran.

But these are not Obama's principal concerns; his re-election is his primary concern. In short, he fears the complexities and consequences, including high gas prices, that would flow from an Israeli strike. He does not wish to be pulled into a serious military conflict that might impede his ability to continue his vast expansion of federal power and his "fundamental transformation" of American society.

Obama has cut, and plans to cut, nothing from the federal budget, save for his gutting of the military. He wants to reduce American power and influence around the globe because, essentially, he wants to spend more money on a giant welfare state and has leftist moral qualms about the use and projection of American power. Just review the opening year of his Administration when he was more frank about his views during his magical healing tour of the world. His plans and outlook cannot withstanding a war with Iran.

Obama wants to campaign on ending wars, not starting them: Look I ended the war in Iraq! Who cares about the consequences? I just declared victory and left. And we're fleeing Afghanistan, have no fear! A few more apologies and we're gone! I surged troops, it worked, we're leaving, understand? I'm great.

Moreover, the president does not care for Israel and clearly loathes its prime minister. As a standard-issue leftist, Obama was always sympathetic to the Palestinians and hostile to Israel. The fact that he indignantly casts himself as Israel's greatest champion is laughable, almost satiric. Again, just review his record. Recall Netanyahu's previous White House visit: Bibi, could you throw this paper in the Dumpster you'll pass on your exit from the White House? You'll be going through the way we take out the garbage. I'll be at dinner; call me when you've agreed upon world peace so I can take credit. I'm great.

In Netanyahu, Obama confronts a serious man, an experienced, conservative, independent figure who will not fawn over Obama's brilliance or simply reinforce the president's jaundiced and naive worldview. Netanyhu is committed, no matter the priorities of the White House, to protecting his nation against a nuclear attack by Islamic fascists. This attitude is not becoming a client in Caesar's presence.

And so it is, as always, best to discount Obama's rhetoric and look to his actions and his record. The president will say what he feels he must for political cover--he stands squarely with Israel. But, when he can, he'll back away, refuse to offer specifics and continue to leave himself off-ramps; then he'll become annoyed when anyone dares to suggest his statements are contradictory. His surrogates will continue to argue that sanctions can and will work, that we have time, that we don't even really know for sure Iran's intentions and on and on. If only this could all wait until after the election!

But we have Israel's "back", of course. Obama can clearly see its back, because he is aggressively leading from behind once more.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

How Can A Just Society Ask its Law Students to Pay for Birth Control?

It is a satire of itself, and a truly sad commentary on the current state of affairs in this country, to say nothing of off-the-deep-end status of the Democrat Party.

This actually happened this week in our nation's capital, folks. Nancy Pelosi convenes a congressional committee to take testimony in support of the Obama birth control mandates.

The star witness is a prim young woman, a law student from Georgetown University, a hot bed of right wing oppression and Catholic orthodoxy.

The witness' principal contention is as follows: Law students like herself--quasi-adult high achievers whiling away three years in fancy law schools--cannot be burdened with the cost of paying for their own contraceptives. It's too expensive. Yes, it can cost up to $3,000 over the course of a law school career. 

How can we possibly expect people like the star witness, attending Georgetown on a "public interest scholarship", to purchaser their own condoms? 

Once, our grandparents rejoiced to get an orange for Christmas during the Great Depression. Today, some fat cats want law school dilettantes to go all the way to a CVS and actually pay for their own birth control. We simply can't get justice in America.

But the dream shall never die. Indeed, these public-spirited geniuses ought to be sheltered from all manner of life's burdens. And why stop at birth control pills? I'm sure eating is an expensive habit on a "public interest scholarship." We ought not allow these students to be gouged by the heartless Big Food industry. To the barricades, comrades!

One might ask how Nancy Pelosi can listen to this stuff with a straight face. Suffice it to say there are undoubtedly treatments covered by the congressional health plan that provide the answer.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Santorum and the Truth About Kennedy's Religion Speech

There has been much ado in the past few days about Rick Santorum's comment on JFK's famous 1960 speech on religion in public life. When asked about his thoughts on the speech, Santorum told ABC News that the speech made him want "to throw up."

Now I respect Rick Santorum and I agree with him most of the time. I admire his earnestness and his willingness to engage in dialogue on complex and controversial topics. His manner when addressing religious and social issues, however, can come across as sanctimonious and pompous. He also tends to treat any question, no matter the subject, as an opportunity to provide a seminar on the given issue and correct foolish conventional wisdom.

And so it was with his crude and politically unwise description of his feelings about the JFK speech. The media, of course, was scandalized by Santorum's reaction. After all, the JFK speech is regarded as a thoughtful exposition on church-state relations and a politically-savvy move to put to rest fears about the influence that the Roman Catholic Church might have upon the Catholic Kennedy.

While it may not have been in Santorum's interest to delve into the matter, in truth, the Kennedy speech was a sad political pander. Worried about anti-Catholic prejudice, Kennedy basically disavowed the Church by insisting that his faith was wholly irrelevant to his political life and would have nothing whatever to do with his conduct as president.

"I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him."

The point was to convince southern Protestants that he was no papist. His faith and its Roman masters would have no role in his governance, rest assured. He certainly was not going to aid those subversive Catholic schools!

What is great about this? Kennedy wanted the votes of the people in his audience and their followers, so he told them what they wanted to hear. The speech was supposedly politically necessary due to anti-Catholic bias and so it is celebrated for smartly allaying prejudicial fears. But would we similarly celebrate a 50 year-old speech of a black candidate to a white audience in which the candidate distanced himself from the civil rights movement in order to secure election? Or the speech of a Jewish candidate in which he felt compelled to promise that the Israeli government would not set U.S. policy?

The answers are clear. The Kennedy speech should not be viewed as a serious analysis of the role of religion in public life or the place of "faith" in political decision-making. It was a calculated attempted to remove an perceived obstacle to election--anti-Catholicism. Fifty years on, we ought to see the speech as a sad example of the prejudice that a Catholic once had to endure in order to win the presidency, and not as a sharp political maneuver and brilliant rumination on religion in the public square.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Religion and Apologies: Through the Looking Glass

Did you miss this story in your local paper?

AP--Washington: President Obama announced today that he will rescind his administration's policy of forcing Catholic institutions to cover birth control and abortafacient drugs for their employees.

The president's move came after days of rioting by Catholics that followed a speech by newly-minted Cardinal Timothy Dolan. In the speech, Dolan called on Catholics throughout the country to launch a "new Crusade" against the Obama policy. In response to Dolan's call, Catholics across the nation took to the streets, blocking traffic, harassing government workers and throwing bricks and stones through the windows of federal offices in major cities.

"I deeply apologize to the Roman Catholic Church and to faithful Catholics everywhere," President Obama wrote in a prepared statement. "The policy that my administration announced last month contradicted our most important values. I fully respect the right of Catholic institutions to refrain from providing or paying for birth control and abortion-inducing drugs as part of their health insurance plans. I am sorry and I have cancelled the policy."

Obama planned an investigation into the formulation of the offensive policy. "We will hold responsible those who committed this terrible error and I will not rest until this administration respects the right of all Americans to practice their faith without intrusion by the government."

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Maureen Dowd and the Greatly Exaggerated Death of Conservatism

This Sunday, a friend of mine brought to my attention Maureen Dowd's latest offering in the New York Times. Had it not been for my friend's interest in my thoughts on Miss Dowd's piece, I am sure I wouldn't have read it. The column is a warmed-over, hearty liberal chestnut that has been circulated in some version or other since at least heyday of Barry Goldwater. To wit, the Republican party is represented by puritanical nuts, competing in "the Hester Pyrnne primaries", to see who can be the most extreme and who is able to put across the most out-dated ideas.

Suffice it to say that the evidence for her conclusions is barley presented and consists mostly of standard-issue mockery of Rick Santorum as a religious zealot. The column is a recycled yawn, but it does provide a useful lens through which to view the contradictions and intellectual poverty of modern liberalism.

First, let us consider the manner in which liberals like Dowd apparently perceive Republicans-conservatives. In concluding her piece, Dowd writes: "The Republicans, with their crazed Reagan fixation, are a last-gasp party, living posthumously, fighting battles on sex, race, immigration and public education long ago won by the other side. They’re trying to roll back the clock, but time is passing them by. "

As is typical of liberals, Dowd sees herself as an enlightened "progressive", while conservatives are backward bigots. However, one might ask, what battles are Republicans fighting against "sex" or "race"? I am not aware of the Romney plan to re-institute Jim Crow and perhaps I missed Gingrich's speech on the innate inferiority of blacks. As for sex, is there a war on procreation? If there is, it is obviously waged by liberals and their minions at Planned Parenthood. But, rest assured, liberals like Dowd will continue to trot out these silly conclusory statements over and over, just as they have for at least 50 years.

And exactly what is the settled consensus on immigration that we troglodytes resist? Was it not President George W. Bush and Republican presidential nominee John McCain who pushed for "comprehensive" immigration reform? There is a debate among the present GOP contenders over how to best handle illegal immigrants and the leaders of both parties have spoken in favor of a "secure border". I've heard Barack Obama tout his record as a vigorous deporter of illegals.

Most ludicrously, Dowd poses the Republicans as fighting a pointless battle on "public education." In fact, to the extent that there is a consensus on education issues, it holds that the present education system is woefully inadequate. To their great credit, conservatives have fought to break the teachers unions'  strangle-hold over the government-monopoly education complex. Conservatives have pushed for choice and competition, for charter schools, vouchers and accountability standards. Liberals like Michael Bloomberg and, yes, Barack Obama, have adopted portions of the conservative agenda and certainly used conservative language in describing their reformist policies. But perhaps Miss Dowd would have preferred that House Republicans abandoned this insane "battle" against history's march and permitted her fellow liberals to kill the Opportunity Scholarship Program in Washington, D.C., thereby sentencing scores of  minority children to failing and violent public schools.    

The point here is not merely to dispatch a Maureen Dowd column, but to make a larger statement about conservatism, liberalism and the future. In spite of Miss Dowd's self-regard, the truth is that modern liberalism has strikingly little to offer in terms of a vision of America in the 21st century. In spite of their application to themselves of the term "progressives", liberals oppose progress and reform. While liberals imagine that conservatives are waging war on "sex", they apparently cannot wrap their minds around the actual problems we face as a society or answer the conservative position on critical issues.

Consider perhaps the most obvious present example of liberalism's backwardness: We are a nation with a mounting debt crisis. Our 20th century social programs, social security, Medicare and Medicaid are consuming ever more of our national budget and cannot be sustained in their present forms. Republican-conservatives have offer reform solutions, as have various bi-partisan commissions and groups. But Obama-liberals ignore the problem at best and, at worst, deny its existence. As such, programs created in the 1930s and 1960s must maintain their original forms, no matter the vast changes in society that have occurred since their creation, period. 

Much more can, and will, be said on this subject, as I believe that the disparity in vision is the defining difference in our current the political divide. Conservatives may be tempted to dismiss the Dowd rhetoric as nonsensical, but the Dowd narrative does pose a challenge. We conservatives must frame our policies as forward-looking and reform-minded, formulated through an understanding of the lessons of history.

We ought to make clear that history didn't stop in 1968. The causes of America's problems and failings in the mid-20th century are not the same as those we face today. The political party and ideology that can squarely address our actual challenges and their causes and that can craft a message to bring the country along into this new era, with all its demands and possibilities, will be triumphant.

Conservatism has the intellectual basis to do so--now it needs the right messengers to convey its ideas and principals. If we can develop the message and the messengers, Maureen Dowd's obituary for Republican-conservatism will appear even more laughable in the future than it does today.  

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Idiocy of Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney is a political idiot, and his incompetence is placing in jeopardy the ability of our side to defeat President Obama.

I don't know whether Romney is the only candidate in the current GOP field who can beat Obama. In my view, it is possible that any of the entries could defeat the president. It is also possible that none can. No one knows whether any of the current contenders is "unelectable".

But Romney in particular seemed to have great potential as a candidate, despite his past sins against conservatism. He was the long-heralded front-runner, the man with the resume, top flight political and business acumen, looks, organization and money. It is not good for the cause to see the Romney campaign careen towards disaster, with the prospect that Rick Santorum, once dismissed as a marginal joke, could defeat Romney in his native Michigan. A weak and embarrassed Romney, still very much a possible nominee, will not serve us well come the fall.

Everyone knows Romney needs to "connect" with conservatives. It's plain as day--so why can't he just do it? Even if Romney is a principle-free shape-shifter, winning conservative support under the present circumstances should have been a breeze. Read the Wall Street Journal editorial page. Listen to Larry Kudlow's radio show. Take a glance at a Krauthammer column. Lift some ideas, add some flowery rhetoric, bake for 15 minutes and, wa-la, you've got a conservative message.

Instead, in addressing the conservative issue, Romney talks incessantly about two things: himself and his past. In the first place, conservatives are not interested exclusively, or even substantially, in one's resume. Yet Romney speaks about his background constantly and with emphasis. Romney has an impressive resume. Great. Unlike liberals, we admire people who have earned success.

But there are thousands successful businessmen whom conservatives would never support for political office, such as, for example, Warren Buffet. There are plenty of rich liberals who are good managers in their respective industries. In the end, Romney's resume has nothing to do with conservatism. His resume is not a principal or an idea.

Romney also tries to make the case for himself as a conservative by rehashing his record as Massachusetts governor. This tactic is simply ridiculous. No one believes that Romney was a conservative governor. At best he was a moderate, resisting the most frivolous excesses of the Massachusetts liberals. But every time he recites his talking points--how many bills he vetoed and so forth--conservatives shake their heads or ruefully chuckle. When Romney evokes the past, we think mainly of his remarks describing himself as a "progressive", disowning Reagan, lauding Ted Kennedy and, of course, we remember his signature achievement as governor, Romney-care.

So it's not all together wise for Romney to forever drudge up the past, as if he is endlessly seeking to validate the record of which he says he is so proud. Moreover, we conservatives don't really care about the past at this point. We are looking for a leader to challenge the president on the issues of TODAY and defeat him NOW.

As such, Mitt Romney needs, more than anything else, a conservative theme. Many have offered him ideas, but the best was sketched out by Gov. Mitch Daniels in his brief rejoinder to the president's Castro-like State of the Union.

The theme might be titled "Progressive Conservatism." Conservatism is the path on which the nation will fully and finally embrace the 21st century. Conservatism will make us a competitive leader in the modern world economy. It will overhaul the long out-dated programs of the welfare state to save them from bankruptcy and will bring to bear upon them the lessons of the eight decades of history that have elapsed since the dawn of the New Deal.  It will strengthen the Pax Americana, not destroy it. It looks forward with optimism, with faith in free individuals.

The liberalism of Barack Obama stands athwart history. It is dour and pessimistic, looking to a mythic, vanished past. It seeks some way, any way to preserve in stone the ideas and programs of the mid-twentieth century, ignoring the reality of the society in which we now live and the nature of the problems we now confront. It wrings its hands and bemoans the world's unfairness. It is hopeless--at least without an all-powerful state to save us from ourselves.

To combine two famous political remarks: It's the vision thing, stupid. Bizarrely, Mitt Romney has taken to saying that he didn't learn conservatism from readings great conservative thinkers. He might want to take up a book or two, or perhaps peruse the offerings on Real Clear Politics one morning, and then consider why it is, exactly, that conservatism is superior to Obama's statism.

More on Conservatives as Progressives in the Next Entry....

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Gaudeamus! And Welcome to the Fight, Your Eminence

Today the whole Church, especially the Church in the United States, rejoices as Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, has been named a cardinal.

Among the Mass-attending Catholics to whom I spoke at my parish outside of New York City this week, expectations for Dolan's tenure as cardinal-archbishop, and de facto leader of the American Church, could not have been higher. Upon his return to New York, Dolan must take up a heavy and challenging burden. Most obviously, he must face down a president determined to marginalize the Church and tame it under the whip of the state.

The most immediate issue before Cardinal Dolan, of course, is the Obama health insurance mandates for contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs. Much has been said about the need to argue against the mandates on the basis of the religious liberty guaranteed by the First Amendment, and rightly so. But for the man to whom many will look to make the case against the mandates, it is essential that Dolan craft a broader message.

Although Dolan's principal concern is obviously the prerogatives of the Church, the challenge to the mandates cannot appear simply to be an effort of Catholics to secure a special privilege, granted at the discretion of the state, for the Church's institutions to avoid a policy that is objectionable only in so far as it offends religious idiosyncrasy.

Rather, Dolan ought not concede the legitimacy of the policy in any regard. Of course, he should push for "conscience protections" for religious organizations, but he must bear in mind that religious liberty itself is merely a form of individual liberty, ordained by natural law and promised in human law by the Constitution.

The Church has long been the guardian of the natural law and the freedom and dignity of the individual human being. As such, in the face of the aggressive statism of Obama, the Church cannot acquiesce in the general infringement on the right of individuals to craft employment and contractual arrangements as suit their needs. It is not enough that Catholic institutions are, in general, left alone.

The Obama Administration should remind Dolan, and all of us, that "limited government" is not simply a theoretical good, but a practical virtue. Allowing the government to disregard the dictates of natural law and the strictures of the Constitution threatens the liberty of the entire society, even if, for a little while, the state suffers the institutions of the Church a beneficent reprieve from its control.

Through the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, and the Holy Apostles, to whom he is successor, may God grant Timothy Cardinal Dolan the grace, zeal and wisdom to lead the Church in America.

Gaudeamus et Deo Gratias!

Coming Next: The Incredible Political Idiocy of Mitt Romney

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Obama Logic: The Healthcare Mandates

The president is good at very little, but he is a master of demogagory and deception. It is useful, therefore, to look carefully at the logic proffered by the president and his allies in support of his various policy prescriptions, beginning now with the health care mandates.

Much has been said these last weeks about Obamacare's infringement on religious liberty. And indeed the religious liberty issue is an important one. However, the insurance mandates do far more than trample on the right of Catholic institutions to decline to carry certain kinds of insurance plans for their employees.

Obamacare's governmental control of the healthcare market is easily the grandest intrusion of the state into the private sector in American history. These mandates curtail the right of private parties to enter into contracts that suit their particular needs and permit the government to dictate to private business the cost and nature of the product it must offer--a product that it then, in turn, orders the public to purchase.

Specifically, on the contraception mandate, the Obama/Left argues that the mandate is necessary to secure access for women to birth control. In short, women need, and should have access to, these kinds of products; ergo, it is wrong for some employers to deny it to them.

Now consider the implications of this argument and its logical underpinnings. Commonly, when one discusses "access" to a good or service, one means the ability of an individual to obtain such good or service for himself. That is distinguished from ordering another party to provide such good or service to the individual who desires it.

In other words, an individual can obtain contraception if she wishes through her doctor, over-the- counter at a drug store or by purchasing an insurance policy that covers these types of products. But, when seeking or accepting employment, does that person have a right to demand that the prospective employer provide her with this insurance coverage for birth control pills?

If so, does a man have a right to demand that his employer provide coverage for anti-baldness treatment? Is there a fundamental right to a dental plan? After all, everyone has teeth and if we let them rot, we will have to spend untold billions caring for them later. Better to require a dental plan now.

And why not mandate other forms of employee benefits as matters of right--paid vacation or, perhaps, even require that nurses be paid as much as surgeons? Pay disparities are awfully unfair and if a nurse earned as much as a surgeon, she would have more money to spend and would enjoy an easier time supporting her family. Presto! It'd be great for the economy!

The entire line of argument is absurd. When an employer makes a job offer, the employer informs the prospective hire of the proposed salary, the types of benefits it offers and lays down the terms and conditions of employment. The prospective employee then decides, based upon the offer, whether to accept it, reject it or attempt to negotiate it. These are basic and essential private interactions where individuals and organizations freely decide whether to associate with one another and on what terms.

In considering the Obamacare justifications, it is helpful to remember that no one forces an individual to work for a Catholic school or hospital. If Miss X. wants her abortofacients covered by employer-sponsored health insurance, she is free to seek employment from an organization that offers such a plan.

Women can obtain birth control should they wish to do so; in fact, thanks to the Obama/Left, we live in a society where women have a constitutional right to terminate their pregnancies if they so desire. But there is no "right" to a particular health care plan from your boss. There is no "right" to insist that your employer give you things that it cannot afford or does not wish to purchase, for whatever reason. If you don't like your pay or benefits, change jobs. In the real world, this has been known to occur without government intervention. Once, we called it a "free marketplace".

The liberals invented the constitutional "right to be left alone", yet they leave us alone only for those moments when we destroy innocent human life in the womb. Once we step outside the Planned Parenthood clinic, Obama and his progeny are our constant companions. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Christianity by State Command and the Social Teaching of the Church


President Obama’s somewhat overlooked remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast last week offer a revealing glimpse of his actual governing philosophy. In those remarks, Obama explained that his core policies—Obamacare, financial and consumer regulations, higher tax rates and various and sundry government programs and subsidies—are an expression of his Christian virtue and the means by which he lives the Gospel. For example, in speaking of taxes, the president said, “And I think to myself, if I'm willing to give something up as somebody who's been extraordinarily blessed, and give up some of the tax breaks that I enjoy, I actually think that's going to make economic sense. But for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus's teaching that ‘for unto whom much is given, much shall be required.’”

If one is able to cut through the grammatical incoherence and understand the intended meaning of the president’s remark, one should be rather stunned at both the underlying logic and the application of Christ’s teaching. The president wants to raise taxes. He claims that his planned tax increases “make economic sense.” But, in addition, because the tax increases, commanded by force of law, would affect him, he conceives of himself as selflessly sacrificing out of his bounty for the common good. As such, Obama lives the Gospel through the mediation of the state.

Similarly, Obama actually justifies Obamacare and his financial regulatory actions—contained in the 1,000 page Dodd-Frank bill—according to second Great Commandment. He insists that these humongous expansions of the administrative state are merely ways to implement the exhortation “love thy neighbor as thy self.”

Much could be said of the president’s logic and theology, but perhaps the most salient point to come out of these statements concerns Obama’s determined statism. For Obama, the state mediates even the way we live the Gospel. That is, we build the Kingdom of God primarily through a powerful, redistributive, highly regulatory administrative state. And so when we stand before the Lord at His Judgment, we may answer that, although we did not feed the hungry or cloth the naked personally, we did support insurance mandates and price fixing for credit card interest rate charges. “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

To be fair, later in his remarks, as he typically does, the president offers some pablum to mildly offset his vigorous statism. So after describing his policies as manifestations of the teachings of Christ, he admonishes against politicians claiming their policy preferences are “biblical.” Additionally, noting that government is important, but not all-important, he praises the small acts of daily kindness by individuals that “will somehow sustain us in these challenging times.” Yes, “somehow”, undirected by central authority, countless individuals, cooperating with Grace to live their faith, can improve the world. To Obama, this seems as mysterious a reality as the relations of the Trinity.

Yet there is no doubt that, for Obama, the state is the prime mover for the betterment of the world. So the Gospel itself is subordinated to the state. The state lives the Gospel for us through its fine-tuning of human activity; its subjugation or vilification of those person and institutions deemed harmful or malevolent; its favor and subsidies for the persons and institutions it wishes to promote for the good of all; and its provision of benefits to select members of the citizenry. The minders who set the values of the state, of course, insist that state’s values are coordinate with those of the Gospel.    

Contrast the Obama approach to the Gospel and the state with that suggested by Pope Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum, the papal encyclical that forms the foundation of Catholic social teaching. For decades, the social teachings of the Church, flowing down from Rerum Novarum, have provided liberal Catholics with a purported justification for favoring a big government welfare state; that is, in some respect, liberals have read the social tradition, with its concern for the poor and the weak, as grounds to endorse an Obama-statist approach to the Gospel, the Gospel implemented by a big government of good intentions. However, Rerum Novarum, the “Magna Charta” of Catholic social thought, hardly encourages such a vision of the relations between the Gospel, the state and the just society.

Instead, Rerum Novarum proceeds from the Church’s natural law tradition that, first and foremost, recognizes the inalienable God-given rights the individual and the family. Before Pope Leo reached any other issue, he firmly established the right of the individual to own private property and flatly rejected socialism as contrary to man's nature. He proffers the family as the primary and inviolable social institution, "anterior to the state." 

"Hence, it is clear that the main tenet of socialism, community of goods, must be utterly rejected, since it only injures those whom it would seem meant to benefit, is directly contrary to the natural rights of mankind, and would introduce confusion and disorder into the commonweal. The first and most fundamental principle, therefore, if one would undertake to alleviate the condition of the masses, must be the inviolability of private property."

It is not Leo's position that the state has no role in securing a just society that conforms to the values of the Gospel. But the state’s role is limited to directly addressing only those matters that individuals, families and private associations cannot effectively address themselves and is restricted by the natural rights of ownership and free association.
The exhortation of Rerum Novarum is not to the government, but to individuals and to the Church. The remedy to the social ills that Leo wished to cure—exploitation of workingmen, “wage slavery” and poor working conditions—is principally achieved by the Christian conduct of both business owners and workers. He calls upon members of each “class” to conduct their affairs according to the Gospel. He does not demand that the state take and redistribute the wealth of the “those whom fortune favors”, but instead urges those of means to give generously out of their duty of Christian charity. Such giving is not commanded by “human law” but by the individual’s fidelity to the Gospel.

Nor is the justice of Rerum Novarum seduced by the cheap appeals to Obama-style “fairness”, as determined, of course, by the minders of the statist Gospel. To the contrary, Leo accepts the reality of the human condition, acknowledging that there will be degrees of inequality as a result of the differences in the luck, talent and effort of men. The idea for Leo is not the illusion of perfection guaranteed by various systems of the all-beneficent big government, but a society oriented towards the common good that allows the poor to live in dignity and, by dint of hard work and thrift, improve their station in life.

And the role of the Church is paramount. The prerogatives of the Church are those of the Gospel. It is the duty and the desire of the Church, through its members, the Body of Christ, to build up the Kingdom of God, bringing the message of the Gospel to rich and poor alike and relieving suffering wherever it is found. “At the present day many there are who, like the heathen of old, seek to blame and condemn the Church for such eminent charity. They would substitute in its stead a system of relief organized by the State. But no human expedients will ever make up for the devotedness and self sacrifice of Christian charity. Charity, as a virtue, pertains to the Church; for virtue it is not, unless it be drawn from the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ; and whosoever turns his back on the Church cannot be near to Christ.”

The difference in the vantage of the Obama-statist approach and that of Rerum Novarum is no mere matter of theory. At present, the implications of the Obama outlook are forcing a serious conflict in relations between the Church and the state. The Obama administration’s determination to require, by force of law, the institutions of the Church—schools, hospitals and charities—to provide their employees with health insurance coverage for birth control and drugs that induce abortions demonstrates the ultimate and inevitable perversion of the statist Gospel.

In the name of “rights” and of the common good, the state massively intrudes upon not only the religious expression of the Church in its various ministries, but also imprudently interferes with the right of free association between employers and employees. The perverse state Gospel creates a “right” to these sorts of “treatments” and imposes an artificial duty upon employers to satisfy this “right” on behalf of those who voluntarily agree to work for those employers.

Up until now, liberals in the Church were sympathetic towards, or even openly supportive of Obamacare, with its mandates, taxes and quasi-nationalization of health insurance. For the liberals, including some bishops, the alleged ends of Obamacare—quality health care for all—obscured the obvious dangers that accompany such tremendous bureaucratic intervention into the private sphere. Obamacare is the perfect example of the statist Gospel in action, trammeling natural law rights and disregarding prudence and restraint in a vein search for system of total equality managed by the mediators of the statist Gospel. 

But now the whole American Church is alert to the excesses of the Gospel of Obama. The Church must not only unite in its opposition to this particular policy, but it must also re-examination the commonly-held understanding of the social teaching. As a Church, we need to return to the first principles annunciated in Rerum Novarum. A just society cannot arise from unjust acts that are contrary to man’s natural rights. While Church and state may share a noble goal, the Church must remind the state that, in reaching the desired end, the state must respect the God-given prerogatives of the individual and the family. It must follow the principal of subsidiarity and allow the private associations of the civil society to flourish and to cooperate freely with each other and with the government in reaching the goal.

And, like Pope Leo, the Church must warn against the folly and harm of utopianism, recognizing both man’s imperfection and his indomitable independence. The judgments we make must be truly prudential; that is, made upon due consideration of the man’s true nature and of the world as it actually operates, flaws and all, in a spirit of restraint and humility.  

Finally, the Church must make clear that the state is not equivalent to the society as a whole. The government is a component of the society and is the servant, not the master, of individuals and families. As we seek after a just society, we must remember that justice is achieved not only by human law and government programs, but by a virtuous and charitable populous infused with religious and moral values. For too long, the Church herself gave too much deference to the state’s efforts to form the just society. Yet in every age, it is the Church, through its teaching and its ministry, through its vowed religious and holy laypeople, that builds up the Kingdom of God. Long before the age of the welfare state, it was the Church that looked after the poor, the orphan, student, the aged and the sick. The Church continues these missions today and it need not subordinate itself to the state in order to further “social justice.” In fact, the Church should excel the state in this regard. In the end, the social teaching is a call to each individual to live the Gospel in his daily life and a restatement of the very purpose of the Church Militant.

The challenges of creating a just society today are different in character from those that faced the Church of Leo’s pontificate. But the principals that Leo set forth for the way in which the Church should engage the world endure and are, in fact, all the more critical for addressing the present situation. All Catholics should unite around these principals, infused with personal zeal for the Gospel and dedicated to the protection of the natural rights of free individuals, created in the image of God.