At their annual November meeting, the U.S. bishops failed to approve a pastoral message on the economy. “The Hope of the Gospel in Difficult Economic Times” was approved by a clear majority of the bishops voting, but objections raised in large part by retired bishops were sufficient to deny the document the supermajority it needed.
All of which strikes me as a lost opportunity.
American political campaigns have never been for the squeamish. With the sole exceptions of George Washington's two uncontested elections, every presidential campaign has seen its share of vulgarity, skullduggery, and personal disparagement. Those who imagine that “going negative” is the invention of today's polls and focus-groups haven't read very much about the rhetorical character of the senior Adams-Jefferson battle of 1800, the younger Adams-Jackson contest of 1824, or the Blaine-Cleveland fight of 1884, not to mention the dubious goings-on in Illinois and Texas in 1960, or in Florida in 2000. American presidential politics is a contact sport and while we may wish it were not so--while we may wish that JFK and Barry Goldwater had set a new pattern by their plan, aborted by the Kennedy assassination, to rent a plane together and fly around the country, holding something akin to the Lincoln-Douglas debates--what we've experienced these past months is likely what we'll have for the foreseeable future.
CAMPAIGN 2012--What kind of country do you want?By George Weigel In his speech to the Democratic National Convention, nominating President Obama for a second term, former president Bill Clinton said that the choice before America was a stark one: What kind of country do you want to live in? That's exactly right.
Do you want to live in an America with a robust array of legally-protected civil society institutions, supported by volunteerism and charitable giving? Or do you want to live in an America in which the government occupies more and more of the public square, squeezing to the margins of our common life the voluntary associations that have long enriched our democracy?
In his 1958 book, Reflections on America, the great French Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain (who took refuge in the United States during World War II) claimed that Americans, for all their commercial endeavors, "are the least materialist among the modern peoples which have attained the industrial stage." Well, that was then, this is now, and it isn’t Jacques Maritain’s America anymore. Still, there remains a link between money-making and idealism in these United States that is distinctive, and perhaps even unique.
About which, 21st-century Americans can learn a useful lesson from President Calvin Coolidge, famously known (and pilloried) for the phrase"the business of Americais business."
Except that's not what Coolidge said, according to historian Geoffrey Norman.
The foreign policy debate in the United States has often been peculiar, in that it’s not infrequently about the United States rather than the world. Throughout history, other great powers have thought about world politics in terms of national interest. Americans typically think about the world through the prism of their image of America. Thus in the 1920s and 1930s, American isolationists worried that American involvement in Europe’s bloody affairs would corrupt the United States. Two generations later, Vietnam-era neo-isolationists argued precisely the opposite: a racist, imperialist, militarist America (often spelled “Amerika”) was bad for the world. Good America, bad America: how Americans think about our own country has a profound effect on how we imagine U.S. foreign policy.
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I'll always remember a group of forward deployed young men and women in a Gulf War mission. They had been without cold water and supplies already for days, and still they asked me what they could sacrifice for Lent. That spirit is what makes our military a 'culture of generosity.'
--Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien
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