As The Smoke (And Mirrors) Clear
With every passing day, President Obama’s true priorities -- as opposed to those he expressed during the campaign -- come more clearly into focus. As far as “change” is concerned, a lot of things haven’t changed that much at all. In foreign policy, U.S. combat forces will remain in Iraq until all areas there are “secure”; U.S. troop numbers in Afghanistan will continue to increase; Latin America moves ever further left, ignored as usual by administrations of both parties; Mexico continues to collapse, with barely a shrug from the U.S. Economically, Obama’s “big government socialism” just puts George Bush’s careening “big government conservatism” into high gear, with a sharp jerk to the left: more of everything -- welfare, government, deficits, taxes, and corruption. The endless bailouts feature the same cast of politicians and corporate leaders, still fighting over how they will spend more of our money, while the budget deficits and the national debt continue to rise, just like before.
There is, however, one critical area of government policy that has changed plenty – and for the worse: The Obama Administration has declared an all-out war on the Culture of Life, and the pace of his offensive is simply breathtaking. Not only has Obama rushed to reverse by executive order every pro-life policy within reach; he has also made sure that every single appointment in his administration goes to seasoned, cunning, and committed veterans of the Culture of Death. Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and Kathleen Sebelius are only the most prominent diehard pro-aborts on the Obama team. The president is making sure that every appointee throughout the administration and the federal courts toes the line when it comes to denying life at every possible stage. This is a major league litmus test, and everybody has to pass it.
But doesn’t every administration do the same thing ? Didn’t Ronald Reagan appoint only conservatives? Well, in the vaunted language of indignant politicians, “nothing could be further from the truth.” Sure, Ronald Reagan was a conservative. But when he chose Bush the elder as his vice-president, the sharp elbows began their work. And once Bush’s former campaign manager, James Baker, became Reagan’s White House Chief of Staff, the gloves came off.
A president can name some three thousand appointees to the executive branch. There they manage a couple of million entrenched bureaucrats. Unfortunately, those couple of million folks are usually inclined to be liberals (witness the agendas of their unions, which are among the most left-wing – and powerful -- in the country). So when a Democrat is in the White House, his appointees will only be making sure that the bureaucracy is doing what comes naturally – that is, acting liberal. But when the president is a Republican, then every presidential appointee is facing a hostile work environment from day one – and the primary source of that hostility is the bureaucrats who are supposed to be working for him.
From Ronald Reagan’s White House, Jim Baker did everything he could to undermine the president’s conservative instincts. “Personnel is policy” was the mantra of the true believers who pursued conservative principles in those days. Well, Jim Baker made sure that he controlled the personnel. Yes, Ed Meese, Judge Bill Clark, and other stalwarts had their say, but Baker was the master manipulator, unencumbered by the principles that occupied most of the attention of the good guys. Baker proved his point with a vengeance when Vice President Bush finally succeeded Reagan in the White House. Baker’s first order of business was to cleanse the entire executive branch of any “Reaganaut” holdovers – and he was as thorough as Bill Clinton was when he fired all the U.S. attorneys in the country (except Michael Chertoff) on his first day in office.
That pitched battle goes a long way to explain how the record of the Reagan Administration was not so conservative as Reagan was. No such problem will plague the Obama team. These guys are all singing from the same hymn book, and the worst is yet to come.
The Poison Peanut Gallery Chimes In
The New York Times might be shrinking rapidly, but when it comes to bashing pro-lifers, it’s never been a shrinking violet. Its premier Sunday columnist Frank Rich often flaunts his contempt for religion and the right, but now he’s written our obituary. “The family-values dinosaurs that once stalked the earth — Falwell, Robertson, Dobson and Reed — are now either dead, retired or disgraced,” he chortles. In these hard times, “Culture wars are a luxury the country — the G.O.P. included — can no longer afford.”
So the war is over, and the Times won. Well, that was easy. For proof, Rich gloats that even “the two antiabortion Kansas Republicans in the Senate, Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts, both endorsed [Governor Kathleen] Sebelius” to be Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human Services. But Rich ignores Sebelius’s Archbishop, Joseph, Naumann, who has publicly barred her from the Eucharist over her support for abortion. And Rich also ignores that most heinous of “family-values dinosaurs,” the Catholic Church, which (tremble) is vastly more popular even than the New York Times.
Will the “religious right” ever have a comeback? Well, “history is cyclical,” writes Rich – but there his predictive powers fail him. As Catholics know, history is headed only in one direction, and at its end lie only the Four Last Things. And the Times, alas, will not be one of them.
NYT Or CNS – Which is Worse?
When Archbishop Raymond Burke recently criticized the Catholic News Service (Rubble, February 19, 2009), he was on to something. A recent CNS article on Pope Benedict’s lifting of the excommunications of four SSPX bishops is a case in point. CNS cites “miscues at the Vatican” that prompted an “overwhelmingly negative reaction.” Whence came that thunderous outcry? The CNS author is silent. We must look to the New York Times to fill in the blank. There, Times Rome Bureau Chief Rachel Donadio identifies the source of the “overwhelmingly negative reaction.” Not surprisingly, it came from “Jewish groups and liberal Catholics.” Are you chagrined? Ms. Donadio pretends to be: “the pope is increasingly focused on internal doctrinal issues and seemingly unaware of how they might resonate in the larger world,” she frets.
While the Times trumps CNS on this story, it does not come off clean. Ms. Donadio calls the SSPX the “ultra-conservative Society of St. Pius X.” Well, a search of the Times archives reveals that its stories employ the term “ultra-conservative” approximately three times as often as the term “ultra-liberal.” Moreover, while “ultra-liberal” usually appears in a quote from a conservative who is complaining about a liberal personality or policy, “ultra-conservative” is routinely used by the Times writers themselves to describe anything or anyone they disagree with.
Now He Tells Us
Constitutional Law Professor Doug Kmiec played a prominent role in Obama’s campaign, and helped deliver a majority of the Catholic vote to the Democrat. On Saint Patrick’s Day, Kmiec who has Parkinson’s Disease, wrote to oppose Obama’s reversal of President Bush’s policy regarding embryonic stem-cell research. “To avoid cooperating with an intrinsic evil,” he declared, “this trembling hand is not to take hold of any medicine or participate in any medical treatment advanced by research involving the destruction of a human embryo.”
When I shared Kmiec’s article with a prominent pro-life leader, he replied simply: “Sanctimonious bull. He should have thought of this before he endorsed Obama.” I concur.
Write Christopher Manion and discuss (or criticize) his Wanderer articles at the Catholic Guys Internet blog (http://thecatholicguys.blogspot.com).