Archive for February 2012
During his campaign in 1960, John F. Kennedy gave an important speech on the separation of church and state. At the time, Kennedy was the first ever Roman Catholic presidential candidate. Many people were concerned that his faith would interfere with his ability to make decisions independent of the Catholic church. Recently, Rick Santorum, who has difficulty with this separation concept, said that when he read Kennedy’s speech it “made him want to throw up.” The following paragraphs are excerpts from that speech:
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.
I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for president, who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me.
I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials; and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.
But let me stress again that these are my views. For contrary to common newspaper usage, I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for president, who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me.
Whatever issue may come before me as president — on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject — I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.
But if the time should ever come — and I do not concede any conflict to be even remotely possible — when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do the same.
Ron Paul, the sometimes Libertarian and sometimes Republican senator from Texas, is probably the only presidential candidate who can legitimately lay claim to the title of fiscal conservative. The fact that his ideas are panned by both sides of the political spectrum is testament to the threat that they represent to the status quo. While many mainstream Republicans routinely tout their desire for a smaller less invasive government, Ron Paul seems to be the only one who is prepared to make the substantive fiscal and foreign policy changes necessary to realize this goal.
The debates that were held in Arizona last week illustrate the tendency of Republican candidates to throw fiscal responsibility to the wind, when foreign military intervention enters the equation. During the discussion on Iran and Syria, Gingrich, Santorum and Romney, all proudly proclaimed their readiness to re-engage this country in a potentially explosive and ultimately costly confrontation in the Middle East. Santorum even tried to embellish his record by claiming responsibility for authorizing $100 million in aid for pro-democracy movements in Iran. All of the the candidates, critical of the impeding cuts to the Department of Defense budget, also pledged to increase military spending, despite the fact that in real terms we are spending more today on defense than we did during the Vietnam War; and despite the fact that our national debt has reached over $15 trillion.
Ron Paul, the sole voice of wisdom and reason, decried this adventurism that has repeatedly led this country down the path to undeclared wars and economic disaster. He believes that our foreign policy should be guided by a strict interpretation of the Constitution. The federal government’s primary concern should be the defense of our nation; nation-building and offensive military action are beyond the scope of those powers envisioned by our Founding Fathers. Though many would consider these ideas a throwback to isolationism, if the Republicans are truly interested in shrinking the federal government and promoting fiscal responsibility, reconsidering our international priorities might not be a bad place to start.
Over the past couple of weeks my attention has been captured by the “Iranian Problem” that has become a primary focus of a wide array of international governing bodies. Iran is according to many, including the International Atomic Energy Agency, rapidly achieving those milestones necessary to join the increasingly non-exclusive membership of nations that have the capability to enrich weapons grade uranium. While Iran claims that its nuclear ambitions are entirely for peaceful purposes alone, its failure to adhere to those guidelines that promote transparency have set in motion a chain of events that could ultimately lead to another full scale war in the Middle East.
With the exception of Ron Paul, the Republican candidates, more or less, seem to have adopted hardline positions that mirror the tenets of the Bush Doctrine. The current frontrunner, Rick Santorum, has made a number of inflammatory comments that are very inconsistent with his pro-life assertions. Santorum has repeatedly classified Iran as an “existential threat” to Israel that should be given an ultimatum to dismantle its nuclear program; in his words, non-compliance by the Iranian government should be met with a “degradation of those facilities through airstrikes.” To stir up the electorate, both Santorum and Newt Gingrich have engaged in fear mongering across the country at political rallies by implying that the US would eventually be at risk for an EMP attack by the Iranians if we are not proactive in handling this threat. Santorum has even voiced his support for covert activities that target nuclear scientists for assassination, calling their death “a good thing.” Given the fragile condition of the world economy and Iran’s position as the world’s third largest oil producer, embracing an aggressive foreign policy that promotes regime change and or preemptive strikes seems to defy reason and invite economic disaster on a grand scale.
President Obama’s policy towards Iran has been characterized by the namesake doctrine that has come to define his presidency. Though severely criticized for his lack of foreign policy experience at the beginning of his presidency, Obama has continued to mold and pursue his own brand of foreign policy that has its foundations in multilateralism and collaboration among nations. During the crisis in Libya last year, the President said that “real leadership creates the conditions and coalitions for others to step up as well.” The fact is that the United States cannot afford to be the policeman of the world anymore. We have and should continue to build consensus within organizations like NATO and the United Nations prior to any military intervention.
The sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union, individually and through the United Nations, are having an extraordinary impact on the Iranian economy. The currency has plummeted and some think the real inflation rate could be up to 50%. Trade will even become more difficult for Iran when its banks are banned from Swift, the clearing system for international banking. Given the worsening conditions, I believe that the Iranian people will either revolt against the government or the regime will be forced back to the bargaining table. We certainly do not need to take actions that will result in another trillion dollar war.
Rick Santorum has made some rather colorful statements in past interviews, his book on family values and on the campaign trail. I thought it would be interesting and enlightening, for people who are not familiar with this candidate and his beliefs, to list some of those comments that I believe capture this candidate’s unusual positions in a humorous way.
- In an interview back in October 2011 with CaffeinatedThoughts.com, Santorum said, “One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think, the dangers of contraception in this country. It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”
- During the Iowa caucuses, Santorum said, ” I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody’s else’s money; I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn money.”
- Last month, in a CNS New interview, Santorum said, “The question is —and this is what Barack Obama didn’t want to answer—that human life a person under the Constitution? And Barack Obama says no. Well if that person—human life is not a person then—I find it most remarkable for a black man to say,” We’re going to decide who are people and who are not people.”
- Santorum, notorious for his opposition to gay marriage, in an Iquirer interview in 2008, said,”Is anyone saying same-sex couples can’t love each other? I love my children. I love my friends, my brother. Heck, I even love my mother-in-law. Should we call these relationships a marriage too?”
- Santorum wrote in his book, It Takes a Family, that “the notion that a college education is a cost-effective way to help poor low-skill unmarried mothers with high school diplomas or GED’s move up the economic ladder is just wrong.”
When I first started posting to this blog, I had no intention of over mentioning Rick Santorum. His views are so bizarre and out of sync with vast majority of progressive thinking Americans, that I was thoroughly confident that his campaign would surely meet the same fate of Michelle Bachmann’s. Unfortunately last week, he gained an overwhelming majority of the votes in the primaries of Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri, thrashing both Romney and Gingrich in the process. While he did not add any delegates to his count, he did gain national attention and , alas, an uptick in campaign funds that will enable him to continue promulgating his platform of intolerance.
Many political pundits have voiced the opinion that Mitt Romney’s uninspiring campaign is the result of his inconsistent support of the ultra conservative views that are held by the hardcore Republican base. For the Republicans to have any chance of victory in November, this base has to be energized and impassioned by a candidate who embodies their ideology. While Newt Gingrich came close to filling the bill, his personal inconsistencies are making him an unlikely choice. Enter Rick Santorum, former Pennsylvania senator, father of seven and a man in whom the best of both Gingrich and Romney seem to collide.
There is an old saying that “too much of a good thing can be wonderful.” In the case of Rick Santorum that is patently not so. While I believe that Santorum is an honorable and decent man, his vision for the future of this country achieves too much of its focus through a seemingly narrow religious perspective. Representing the diverse populations of the United States requires public positions that reflect inclusiveness, not divisiveness. You cannot alienate a majority of the electorate and still be an effective leader.
Any political party or candidate that promotes the idea of a smaller and less intrusive government, should especially embrace the concepts of the right to privacy and the separation of church and state. Rick Santorum, by being the voice for and actively supporting groups that seek to deny and or restrict the rights of individuals who do not conform to his religious ideals, demonstrates the hypocrisy of his platform and his unfitness for higher office.
The Chrysler commerical, starring Clint Eastwood, that aired during the Super Bowl on Sunday night, ignited not a little controversy. Many Republicans saw it as a defacto political ad for President Obama’s re-election. President Obama, of course, was responsible for providing a majority of the $80 billion in funding that saw GM and Chrysler through bankruptcy and restructuring. Many conservatives, at the time, were vehemently opposed to the bailout of the auto industry. Mitt Romney was a vociferous opponent, going so far as to write an op-ed in the The New York Times that basically said “you can kiss the American auto industry goodbye” if the government gave the automakers what they wanted.
Three years later, however, the Big 3, seem to be on the road to an amazing recovery. In fact, their progress to date, represents one of the few bright lights in this still unbelievably shaky economy. GM has retaken the No. 1 bestselling automaker title from Toyota. All three companies have increased their maket share for 2011 and are reporting strong net profits. The most encouraging byproduct of this recovery is the number of manufacturing jobs that have been added since 2009;. according to the White House, that figure is 170,000, to date. With both Republican and Democratic campaigns focussed on jobs and the economy, this can’t but be a source of pride for Obama and an absolute thorn in Romney’s side.
One of the most amusing stories this week started with a Gingrich web ad that made mention of a bizarre story about Mitt Romney’s dog, Seamus. Apparently 25 years ago, Mitt and his family were traveling on vacation to Ontario in their station wagon; throughout the entire trip, Mitt’s dog Seamus was strapped to the top of the car in a dog kennel. During the 12 hour trip, the dog had a bout with diarrhea and it dripped down all of the car windows. Mitt promptly hosed down the car and continued on his journey.
When this story first appeared in 2008, animal rights activists were outraged at his treatment of the family pet. To keep the controversy alive and poke a little fun at Romney, David Axelrod, Obama’s 2012 campaign strategist, responded with the following hilarious tweet:
Mitt Romney finally found his voice in the Florida primary race. That voice, forged in the crushing defeat in South Carolina, became strong, powerful, confident and, at times, defiant and aggressive during one of the most bitter election battles in recent history. It propelled him to the decisive defeat of Newt Gingrich; a defeat all the more important because of its diverse composition. The 46.5% of the vote that Romney captured drew majorities from every conceivable demographic: women, hispanics, Tea Party activists, conservatives and moderates. Florida was a must win for Romney. Gingrich’s performance in South Carolina pushed his approval rating to within 3% of Romney nationally; in polling terms that is, in effect, a dead heat. In the words of Romney, he needed to “not keep letting charges go unanswered.”
Romney engaged in an all out go for broke assault on Gingrich. He saturated Florida with negative TV ads, outspending the Gingrich campaign 4 to 1. The 12,768 commercials, aired prior to the vote, systematically drove home all those issues that make the prospect of a Gingrich nomination an anathema to the Republican Party. Believing that a Gingrich nomination would mean an Obama win in November, many prominent Republicans also came out in support of Romney, making the rounds on national news programs and actively campaigning for him. Chris Christie of New Jersey said that Gingrich was “an embarrassment ” to the Republican Party. John McCain offered up the idea that we “should send Newt Gingrich to the moon and Mitt Romney to the White House.” While Gingrich still has a sizable following, both of these channels of attack highlighted one of the most important issues to voters, electability.
The most powerful and ultimately most lethal blow to Gingrich came from Mitt Romney himself. With one of the most successful debating coaches, Brett O’Donnell, on board, Romney has been able to beat Gingrich at his own game. Now instead of cringing under Gingrich’s attacks against his wealth, Romney is embracing his own success as an example of what can be achieved in an open economy and as an example of why he is the most qualified candidate to lead us out from under the economic cloud that continues to shroud this country.