Monday, April 27, 2009

The Old School And The New One

A Dying Breed?

Senator Claiborne Pell, who represented Rhode Island forever, it seems, died at the age of ninety on New Year’s Day. He was an old-fashioned liberal and an old-fashioned gentleman, two dying breeds on Capitol Hill. One of the richest men in the Senate of his day, he is famous for having authored legislation for taxpayer subsidies of students paying college tuition – which rose even faster than the rate of inflation, thanks to endless spending sponsored by – Senator Pell. Of course, like the government grants named after Senator Fulbright, not a penny of those billions ever came out of the private pockets of the senators. So goeth government “charity.”
One facet of Senator Pell’s senatorial demeanor is instructive: I worked with him often, and his staff hated the fact that their boss refused to make me work through them (they were, shall we say, not gentlemen). Senator Pell was always receptive. They were always belligerent. (Of course, I told them that they were welcome to work directly with Senator Helms any time they pleased. None took the dare.)
Fast forward to (you knew it was coming) our beloved bishops. During the Reagan years, a variety of “Catholics” in the U.S. (think “Catholics for Obama”) supported the communist movements that were ravaging various Latin American countries. Left-wing nuns came to see me all the time (and left as soon as I started asking about the founding principles of their orders: they sought ignorant ears). To balance the ledger, the American Foreign Policy Council (AFPC) started bringing to the United States bishops from Latin America to offer a different view: most USCC (later USCCB) staffers supported the revolutionaries. Most Latin American bishops did not.
One day, AFPC brought a Salvadoran bishop to see Archbishop William Borders of Baltimore (over his staff’s objections, of course). The archbishop was visibly moved to hear the views of his brother bishop, and kept extending the conversation. “My staff hasn’t told me any of this,” he said. But eventually the visiting bishop had a plane to catch. “Let me drive you to the airport myself,” said Archbishop Borders. “I want to hear as much as I can from you.”
Hardly an isolated incident. Once a Catholic staffer from the Reagan White House was visiting Archbishop Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo in Managua when the Sandinistas were in power. He asked the Cardinal why his brother bishops in the United States did not seem to be aware of the persecution of the Church in Nicaragua and why they were not speaking out. “They must not be reading their mail,” the Cardinal drily responded.
American bishops are very busy men (just try to see one). They rely on their staffs for information, which their staffs happily supply. That helps to explain why so many people in the pews are bewildered when the USCCB embraces so much of the Clinton-Obama agenda. In fact, even mustering opposition to the “Freedom Of Choice Act” seems to make many bishops uncomfortable. Well, a stroll through the USCCB parking lot of 2000 and 2004 would explain the problem: Gore and Kerry for President bumper stickers abounded (in 2008, the bishops themselves gushed with praise for Obama– most notably former USCCB president Wilton Gregory, now Archbishop of Atlanta.)
Let’s face it – especially since the scandals erupted, many bishops are gun-shy about the laity. After all, that’s where all the abuse victims and their families were, and a lot of them were pretty mad. Many bishops appear to trust their lawyers more than they do the laity. That has made reconciliation very difficult. Too many chanceries have retreated behind “policies and procedures” which are, alas, useless. Their silly “child protection” courses refuse even to call abortion child abuse! Nonetheless, when you get by their staffs, there are undoubtedly bishops, successors to the apostles, many of whom are like Claiborne Pell – true gentlemen. Let’s hope that, in the case of Holy Mother Church, at least, they are not a dying breed.
Competing Histories
Since Christmas, President Bush and many of his supporters have given interviews designed to defend his “legacy,” with the common theme that “history will vindicate” the president, even though he is unpopular now. Most of the defenders focus on the Iraq War, not on the economy or on social issues. In fact, that latter topic always seems to come in last. One of the most troubling observations came from David Kuo, who was deputy director of Bush’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives:
“The reality in the White House is—if you look at the most senior staff—you’re seeing people who aren’t personally religious and have no particular affection for people who are religious-right leaders…. in the political-affairs shop in particular, you saw a lot of people who just rolled their eyes at … basically every religious-right leader that was out there, because they just found them annoying and insufferable.”
Once more, pro-life voters have been taken for a ride by powerful cliques with private agendas (mostly money, influence, and power). As the last few months demonstrate, those people still run the GOP, and will, long after Bush leaves office. Don’t expect them to lift a finger to help us save one life from Obamanation’s Culture of Death.

The $100,000 Question

The bailout has cost eight trillion dollars already, we are told, and the “stimulus” will cost another trillion. Now Obama says that “trillion-dollar deficits may last for years.” Of course, this violates the Seventh Commandment, big-time. But, putting that aside, a question: why let the government spend all that money?
Here’s an idea. The Census Bureau says that there are 116 million households in America. Why doesn’t Obama merely give each head-of-household $100,000 and let them spend it any way they want? Total cost, $11.6 trillion – less than what Bush and Obama are spending right now. Just one problem: that lets the people, not government bigwigs, decide where the money will go. The beleaguered banks, insurance companies, mortgage lenders, and automakers are still going to get the money -- but they’ll get it from the people, not the government. Folks will pay off credit cards, mortgage balances, auto loans, insurance premiums, new cars – even (gasp!) open savings accounts! No Beltway lobbyists will be needed.
Right now, Mr. Paulson and the Federal Reserve are giving trillions secretly to their chosen cronies. The 116 million American households, still mired in hard times, aren’t getting a cent. After all that money is handed out, foreclosures and bankruptcies and collapses will continue unabated. The special interests will get trillions in taxpayer dollars and still be able to collect on all those additional trillions of consumer debt. Maybe, just maybe, that’s the way bankers like Paulson and politicians like Obama want it: they want everybody – the special interests and the beleaguered masses -- to depend on the government. Once again, freedom comes in last.

Love, Obama Style

My mailbox has been overflowing with invitations to purchase the “Obama Commemorative Dollar -- Washed with Gold and an Instant Collector’s Item!” As “Change” turns history upside down, I am tempted to take my precious coin of great price to Obama’s Sermon on the Hill on Inauguration Day. Perhaps, if I stand on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and hold it high, Obama will bless it for me from the Banks of the Reflecting Pool. After all, as our Latinist daughter observes, “Obama” spelled backwards means “I Will Love.”

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