Article VI Blog

"Religion, Politics, the Presidency: Commentary by a Mormon, an Evangelical, and an Orthodox Christian"

United States Constitution — Article VI:

"No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

  • Classlessness – Leaving the Portfolio

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:59 am, June 27th 2010     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Somethings require that one stretch beyond self-imposed limits.  This blog is not really about politics in general, but I just have to comment on Joe Biden yesterday.  If you have not heard, he wandered into a frozen custard shop in Wisconsin, asked for “ice cream,” was corrected and when he asked the owner how much he owed, the owner responded with “It’s on the house – just lower our taxes.”  Moments later, Biden’s “retort” (it hardly deserves that name) was “Why don’t you say something nice, instead of being a smart ass all the time.”  See the video here.

    Most of the MSM reporting is trying to make this out as funny ha-ha, but its not, it reveals deeply the major flaws of this administration:

    • a tendency to demand, rather than earn, respect
    • an inability to listen to the voice of the people
    • complete classlessness – a lot of trash talk

    This nation simply deserves better.  When it comes to policy details, there is often little the POTUS can do – but one thing the person holding the job, and the VPOTUS should join him in, is set a national tone/mood – that is real leadership.  Often what makes people better in this world is not their circumstances, but themselves.  We cannot always control circumstances, but we can control our reactions to them.

    If a nation reacts to circumstances with complaints. moans, self-absorption, and ill-temper little good can ever happen.  But, if the nation responds with humility, good humor and hard work, amazing things will happen.  History proves this out time and again.

    And this, frankly, is where religion matters in politics.  Deep abiding faith, regardless of theological specifics, helps make people of humility, good-humor and industry.  These are character traits that it is very hard to develop without faith in a higher power.  What is truly sad to me is that when we get belligerent, nasty and discriminatory in politics over our theological differences, we are missing these essential character developing lessons of faith.

    OK – enough preaching, sometimes it is just really hard to watch this administration treat people this way.  We deserve better.  Have a blessed Lord’s Day.

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    Lessons Learned, Haley Wins, a Huckabee “boomlet” and more…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:41 am, June 24th 2010     &mdash      3 Comments »

    The events of the last several days reveal two important lessons about American and our electoral politics.  One is the victory of Nikki Haley in South Carolina and the other is the continued anger of our current President.  The lessons are summed up, in a sense by Roger Simon blogging on incivility in politics.

    As we are acutely aware here, Nikki Haley had to survive an ugly, and typically South Carolinian, “whisper campaign” concerning her religion,  but as Ed Morrisey points out, such campaigns are not working anymore.  Lesson One – people are tired of this garbage, they want their campaigns straight up and straightforward.  They want to hear about things that matter, not things that don’t.  Character does matter, and religion and fidelity contribute to character, but people want evidence, not innuendo – data, not rumors.

    We are also seeing an increasingly angry Barack Obama.  From the BP escrow extraction to accepting Stanley McCrystal’s resignation, this president is unhappy and upset and irritated and angry.  But he has not got a thing to offer to make the situation any better – and the American people know it.  He was elected because the press was more in the tank with him than any candidate in history, and because people thought he understood their dissatisfaction.  Apparently he understands, even trumps, that dissatisfaction, but his promised hope and change seems to be about cementing that dissatisfaction in the White House, not doing anything to solve the problems.  Lesson Two – People want a president that can do something, not just empathize with their plight.

    Periodically, Americans forget these two very important lessons, but it does not take long for them to remember, and when they do, if there is someone in office that violates them, they get politically embarrassed.  Barack Obama has a couple of years to step up his game or he is going to find himself in the angry former president’s home that Jimmy Carter currently occupies.  Not a nice place to be.

    All which sets the stage nicely for discussing future presidential possibilities…

    Who “Won” with Haley?

    Chris Cilizza is pretty adamant that it was Romney – here and here.  Have to agree, and in this case it is more than just the typical “he endorsed, she won” thing.  By overcoming the whisper campaigns handily, and especially the religious ones, a clear signal is sent that Romney’s competence will far outweigh his faith in the public’s mind next time.   Bill O’Reilly has gone so far as to say Romney’s nomination is more or less a done deal.

    One person that had no play in South Carolina at all (this time) was Mike Huckabee….

    The Huckabee Press Push…

    OK – A profile in The New Yorker is typically a big deal.  But I see no traction developing out of it.  The Atlantic was squawking about it, so that’s two left wing outlets touting a Republican contender.  Could it be that they want Republicans to nominate the weaker candidate?  Just asking.  Laura Curtis at Hot Air was deeply unimpressed.

    What has always repelled me most about Mike Huckabee is his dishonesty, especially given how the man who made Judicial Watch’s 2007 “Ten Most Wanted Corrupt Politicians” list puts himself forward as the Christian candidate.

    But my favorite is Mike Allen’s Monday Headline:

    HEFTY HUCKABEE MOVES TO FLORIDA — Warns of ‘ick factor’ with gays — Steve Schmidt on how he could win

    Laughingstock here we come.  Mark Silk seems to think he has a shot with the Jewish vote.  While I am deeply heartened to see more and more of my Jewish cousins joining the ranks of the Republican party, they have a way to go before they will be able to carry a nomination, which is what matters at the moment.

    The Others…

    Thune will run…. (subscription link)  He is playing things very cool until after November, but he will run.  However, given how things are going for Romney, Thune is likely to be rehearsing for another year or running for VP.

    Jeb Bush has been under a lot of discussion his week, most because he took a well-deserved swipe at Obama.  But Jeb in 2016 is a fantasy.  For one thing it is better than even money we will have a Republican incumbent in 2016, and for another, that incumbent is increasingly likely to be Mitt Romney.  Romney and Jeb Bush are deep political allies – I doubt seriously they would challenge each other.

    General Religious Headlines…

    Warning – we have not had time to go through this material in detail, but it looks like it would be of interest so we are passing it on.

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    Nikki Haley: Required to Prove She’s An American and A Christian?

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 11:17 pm, June 21st 2010     &mdash      1 Comment »

    This news report-video from the Wall Street Journal is eye-opening and more than a little disturbing:

    More on this story here. I am a proud conservative Republican and have been all my life, but sometimes my partisan brethren flat-out embarrass me.

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    Palin’s Big Week, Religious Attacks “Broaden,” and more…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:05 am, June 21st 2010     &mdash      3 Comments »

    The Canadians Think …

    the time is ripe.  And so, we should dive right in to the possibles.

    Palin Ascendant?

    Well, she did get herself a Newsweek cover.  GetReligion did not think much of the piece.  I have to agree, it was one of those MSM pieces that looks at religious people kind of like they are lined up at the sideshow on the midway at a state fair, you know – freaks.  But there are three things apparent from the coverage.

    For one, the sharp knives are out when it comes to evangelicals in general.  Frankly, the Newsweek piece is tame by comparison.  But there is a reason the knives are out.  Palin is an effective leader of a certain segment of people.  Identifying too closely with  that bunch pretty well concedes an actually POTUS candidacy, but it does make her an important political force, and ally.  Which is the second point.  Palin is simply not playing the game to run – but she may become the de facto voice of the religious right, which will prove very interesting as misogynist tendencies of our most fundamentalist religious relatives will become all too apparent.  I would not be at all surprised to see the Huckster play the gender card.  (BTW, the Huckster’s follower’s seem to have moved themselves into a very strange place.  Huckabee as fiscal conservative? I don’t think so.)  Since Huckabee seems to covet the that spokesperson role, and has shown a tendency to get nasty when things get tough, it would not surprise me.

    But the final point supports the second.  All POTUS roads on the Republican side keep leading to Romney.  The extensive comment stream on this Allahpundit post on Palin’s stance on legalization of pot leads to a discussion of Mormonism and, or course, Romney.  Amazing, but let’s follow the lead.

    Romney and His Faith

    I find it fascinating that as Romney works very hard for Nikki Haley in South Carolina, she is getting attacked on religion, not unlike he did last time around.  What’s fascinating is that Haley is conventionally Christian – but ethnically of Hindu extraction, which is what is cited when the rumors fly.  This makes it clear.  In South Carolina at least, you can save the arguments about genuine religious differences and worldviews and all the rest.  It’s just old fashioned bigotry.

    Here’s what I don’t get:  Why, if you are trying to say good things about Romney do you have to bring up ‘Twilight’ and Mormons?  Of course, sarcasm is a distinct possibility in this piece, but if it really is designed to be supportive, then it is like handing ammo to the enemy.  Romney’s credentials speak for themselves – LOUDLY.  He does not need comparisons to superhero romantic vampires, loosely based on Mormon community, to make the point.  Give it a rest.

    Apparently the CJCLDS’ Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR) is playing the role of the Mormon anti-defamation league.  They are, in my opinion, a great information source and their work to dispel misconception and misunderstanding is excellent – but politics is a bare-knuckle game.  Their effort is perfect for a church based effort.  But there needs to be something extra-ecclesiastical that can play hardball.

    The Others

    Pawlenty keeps working hard, but just is not attracting attention save from the political geek crowd.

    The Daniels boomlet continues here and here, while dying here.  Like we said last week – he has blown the audition.

    I do not know whether to laugh or be outraged.

    Religious/Political Philosophy

    Noted Godblogger Scot McKnight notes that the average Evangelical is not as political as the press would have us think.  I disagree, the average Evangelical is politically fickle, but they are engaged.  They are chasing after something unattainable.  Which is what makes this Ross Douthat piece on “political romanticism” really interesting.  Douthat is using the term “political romantic,” the definition of which he borrows from David Runciman:

    What he most resembles, to an almost uncanny degree, is a particular kind of political romantic, as described by Carl Schmitt in his 1919 book Political Romanticism.

    For Schmitt, political romantics are driven not by the quest for pseudo-religious certainty, but by the search for excitement, for the romance of what he calls ‘the occasion’. They want something, anything, to happen, so that they can feel themselves to be at the heart of things. As a result, political romantics often lead complicated double lives, moving between different versions of themselves, experimenting with alternative personae. ‘Reversing one’s position between several realities and playing them off against one another belongs to the nature of the romantic situation,’ Schmitt writes. Political romantics are ostensibly self-sufficient yet also have a desperate need for human comradeship…

    They are both using this term to describe and argue with Christopher Hitchens and the ardent atheist crowd, but I have to tell you, when I read it so many Evangelicals came to my mind.  They are, after all, tearing Iowa apart.  Based largely on idealistic romanticism, not political practicality.  Look for the 2012 effects of the religious battles in Iowa to be that serious contenders sit it out.  Iowa is proving once again to be an outlier, not a trendsetter.

    Which is why, in part, the standard “attack the religious person” formula David Brody as delineated, is effective even inside Evangelicalism.  Being serious about things, including politics, matters.  Its not a search for the next romantic high.  Fortunately, even a leftie like Marc Ambinder wonders if we are not turning more rational.

    General Religious/Political Headlines

    Lowell adds . . .

    Describing Twilight as loosely based on Mormon community is a new one to me. And I am qualified to comment: I’m a Mormon and the father of a 13 year-old girl who has seen all the movies and read all the books. (I’ve only done so once; she’s read and seen them multiple times.) Folks, there is nothing in those stories that is even distantly reminiscent of Mormonism, except for the young couple’s sexual abstinence (something that the reviewers regularly mock). Mr. Quigley’s admitted speculation in that regard is just laughable.

    John, I think you should laugh about this one. Mr. Karger’s effort is simply offbeat (but brilliant) marketing. After this is all over the only difference he will have made is in the size of his client roster.

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    Things Heating Up…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 11:43 pm, June 14th 2010     &mdash      6 Comments »

    …When it comes to POTUS 2012.

    Between last week’s “Super Tuesday” of off-year primaries and a couple of rumored 2012 hopefuls making a play, there was far more political news than one might normally expect.  The analysis of how the major players came out in terms of endorsements, etc. was expected, but what was not was that Indiana governor Mitch Daniels tested the waters with the press – in the form of a Weekly Standard cover story, and a WSJ Op-Ed.  I have found this a bit surprising.  I grew up in Indiana and it is a bit of a place apart.  What plays there just usually does not work in the rest of the nation – and I think the commentary from the rest of the week bears me out.

    Ed Morrisey was a bit impressed:

    In 2012, it will be all about executive competence, not charisma or soaring rhetoric in service to silly platitudes.

    Yeah, but there are others in the hunt that fit that much better and are much better known.  Ross Douthat tried to make Daniels and his wife look like the anti-Gores.  At “the Atlantic,” Chris Good thought he might be more wet blanket than contender.

    But the Weekly Standard piece reveals that Daniels may have missed the essential lesson of the 2008 primary season.  While social conservatives, Evangelicals – whatever descriptor you want to use - may not be able to get who they want elected, they sure as heck can stop someone from getting the job.  Daniels seems to have great evangelical cred (from the Weekly Standard piece):

    Daniels is pro-life himself, and he gets high marks from conservative religious groups in his state. He serves as an elder at the Tabernacle Presbyterian Church, in inner-city Indianapolis, which he’s attended for 50 years. In 1998, with a few other couples from Tabernacle and a nearby Baptist congregation, he and his wife founded a “Christ-centered” school, The Oaks Academy, in a downtown neighborhood the local cops called “Dodge City.” It’s flourishing now with 315 mostly poor kids who pursue a classical education: Latin from third grade on, logic in middle school, rhetoric in eighth grade, an emphasis throughout on the treasures of Western Civilization. “It’s the most important thing I’ve ever been involved in,” he told me. His social-conservative credentials are solid.

    In fact, I happen to think those are marvelous evangelical credentials if for no other reason than during the adult portion of my life in Indianapolis I was also a member of Tabernacle Presbyterian Church, or “Tab” as we liked to call it, and yes, I know Gov. Daniels.  But where he blew things was this one:

    And then, he says, the next president, whoever he is, “would have to call a truce on the so-called social issues. We’re going to just have to agree to get along for a little while,” until the economic issues are resolved.

    Charles Mitchell at EFM said:

    But if you’ve watched any of our cultural battles in recent years, you will know this: Even if our side calls a truce, the other side won’t.

    Ramesh Ponnuru said:

    The condition of the country seemed more parlous in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Many people worried that the country was ungovernable. (The fact that we hadn’t had a full two-term presidency in 20 years contributed to this sense.) We seemed to be slipping behind the Soviets both in territory and even morale. We were bewildered about stagflation and going through a deeper recession than the one we have now.

    Under the circumstances, it made perfect sense for Ronald Reagan not to make the social issues his top priority. But he neither softened his positions on them nor declared a truce.

    The American Conservative was unimpressed.  Allahpundit points out that Daniels was hammered by both Tony Perkins and, unsurprisingly actually, Mike Huckabee.  (Huckabee, by the way, wants to make sure he does not slip into total anonymity by pointing out he still might run again.)  The American Spectator agreed with Ramesh.  And David Brody says:

    But if Daniels decides to run, some comments he made recently about social issues may come back to haunt him.

    Daniels has a lot to offer the nation.  Up until this point, I saw him as a very possible Veep candidate, but he just blew that.  Given Romney’s problems with the social conservative/Evangelical crowd, he cannot afford to be associated with something like this.  This really amounts to little more than a poor choice of words on Daniels part, but it was a very poor choice at precisely the wrong time and on precisely the wrong subject.  Daniels put that in a very Hoosier way, and like I said what plays in Indiana often does not play elsewhere.  Daniels may yet run, but I have never known a Hoosier that could two-step well enough to get out of a mess like this.

    All this, while the other charisma-challenged name, Tim Pawlenty, keeps stroking.

    And yes, in that earlier paragraph, I presumptuously assumed Romney as the front runner.  That’s because…

    …Things Are Looking Up for Romney

    Nancy French at EFM has a wonderful anecdote. (Congrats to the Frenches on that new baby!)

    Romney himself went to work on Obama in a USAToday op-ed:

    Has it come to this again? The president is meeting with his oil spill experts, he crudely tells us, so that he knows “whose ass to kick.” We have become accustomed to his management style — target a scapegoat, assign blame and go on the attack. To win health care legislation, he vilified insurance executives; to escape bankruptcy law for General Motors, he demonized senior lenders; to take the focus from the excesses of government, he castigated business meetings in Las Vegas; and to deflect responsibility for the deepening and lengthening downturn, he blames Wall Street and George W. Bush. But what may make good politics does not make good leadership. And when a crisis is upon us, America wants a leader, not a politician.

    That piece garnered him some great coverage.  He also won the most recent polling in Iowa.  But some people at the paper that ran the poll think the results are “hinky.”  There is some interesting analysis of the poll in that, but the absence of Huckabee’s name from the poll does not render the results invalid, it just says a lot about Huckabee – despite his protests registered earlier.

    Meanwhile in general religion and politics news…

    It seems that once again, the Mormons and the Baptists find they have a lot in common.  In this case, both churches find themselves heavily internally divided on the issue of illegal immigration.  You know how we talk about the fact that the Founding Fathers left religion on the governmental sidelines so we could unite as a nation.  Sometimes a church needs to handle a political issue in the same way.  I am wondering if this is not one of those cases.

    USAToday ran a brief and relatively uninformative piece of a clash of religious and medical ethics.  The piece raises an issue that I think will be one of the most important political/religious issues for the next administration and Congress.  There is little doubt that Obamacare will have to be significantly revamped – repeal is a near legislative impossibility, but it will HAVE to be reworked to avoid national insolvency.   And while the the fiscal issues associated with that program are horrifying, equally horrifying is the social engineering it enables.  The clash of ethics (putting it mildly) and restriction of freedom that will result from a single third party payer system could easily tear the country apart.  Watch that space.

    Finally, one of my Presbyterian brethren points out how uncivil discourse from the religious Left can be – all in the name of civility.

    Lowell adds . . .

    We saw an interesting news media development over the weekend, one that raises questions about both MSM bias and the MSM’s double standard when covering itself.  Here’s the item, from Mike Allen’s Playbook for last Sunday (all emphasis is in the original):

    EDWIN CHEN, Bloomberg White House correspondent and outgoing White House Correspondents’ Association president, announced his resignation from Bloomberg News on Friday, a day after presiding over his final WHCA board meeting. Ed e-mails: “My regret over leaving one of the world’s largest — and certainly the most ambitious — news organizations is offset by a sense of urgency in resuming doing the Lord’s work, particularly after the BP oil spill. That debacle was a divine signal to redouble my efforts to help clean up the environment, help America kick its petroleum addiction, and help public officials find the wisdom and courage to do the right thing to combat climate change before it’s too late. So, I’m returning to the Natural Resources Defense Council (in Washington), soon to be reachable at: EChen(at)nrdc.org.” Ed, an L.A. Times alumnus, starts at NRDC on June 21. His title will be the same as during his previous stint there — “federal communications director” (“media strategery,” he quips). After covering President Bush, Ed went to NRDC from March 2006 to January 2007. “This time is forever,” he vows.

    Wow.  Where to begin?  Mike Allen loves to talk about MSM insiders, of course – read him any day of the week and you’ll see references to birthdays, weddings and new babies for people you’ve never heard of, but who are Allen’s friends.  Here we have an uncritical, chirpy report about a guy (Ed Chen) who apparently came straight from the hard-core environmentalist group NRDC to be Bloomberg’s White House correspondent.  Now, having passed through the revolving door, he’s back at NRDC.

    Doesn’t this job history cause you to raise at least one eyebrow, even slightly?  But Mike Allen, a left-of-center journalist himself, seems to think it is just great.  This is interesting, but not surprising; listen to Allen when he’s on the Hugh Hewitt show and you will see his political views pretty clearly.

    But for this blog’s purposes, I found Chen’s unabashed reference to NRDC as “the Lord’s work” fascinating.  Even more interesting is his apparent sincerity:  He sees the BP oil spill as “a divine signal to redouble [his] efforts to help clean up the environment.”  What if a Fox News reporter had said something similar about returning to his old gig as a PR flack for the National Rifle Association?  Do you have any doubt about how that job change would have been portrayed?

    A revolving door to liberal causes, and a blind, insight-free double standard for faith talk and expressed religious motivations.  An unassisted double play for Mike Allen.  Knowing that about Allen, you won’t be surprised about the juxtaposition of these two paragraphs in the June 14 Playbook:

    ROMNEY ATTACKS — The Columbian of Vancouver, Wash., via Morning Score: “Delivering the keynote address at the [Washington state GOP] convention, Romney accused Obama of a grievous failure of leadership in dealing with the devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. ‘He is totally out of his depth in dealing with a crisis,’ Romney said. Instead of calling on experts from oil companies and academia around the world to help control the spill, he said, Obama ‘hasn’t even met with the president of BP. Instead, he’s trying to figure out who to blame.’”

    –“Morning” Joe Scarborough: “No one’s going to be able to play this. … Republicans who blame Obama look genuinely stupid.

    Allen seems like a decent, sincere reporter, but I doubt he even notices his own biases.

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    Adding To The Target List

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:42 am, June 11th 2010     &mdash      2 Comments »

    In our continuing effort at Online Activism – monitoring and complaining about comments on web sites – we want to add a couple of problems sites to the list.  We have previously targeted Politico and specifically Ben Smith’s blog.  Something must be working because they have not hit the radar in a while, but we need to continue to keep an eye on them.

    We have; however, been getting repeated pop-ups from CBSNews and something called FitsNews.com.  CBS has the typical “report problem” device – please feel free to wear it out.

    “FitsNews.com is a South Carolina political consultant’s personal brainchild and does not pretend to be “news” in even the warped traditional sense of American journalism.  The locale makes the Mormon slamming seem par-for-the-course, but it seems to have a large readership, and it hits are radar with regularity.  There is no “bad comment” button.  You’ll just have to use the “Contact” tab and have at them.

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