The National Catholic Review
John F. Kavanaugh
Twenty-eight year of two families in the White House?
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What kind of moral stance, what course of action can you take, when you seem to face a dreaded in-evitability? I have encountered this quandary with respect to individuals heading off an ethical cliff. I see it in the absolute refusal to acknowledge that Americans might have to cut back on consumption, especially of nonrenewable resources. I have felt it sometimes when church leaders seem bent on an inexorable course of action that wounds the church itself. Presently, the context is political.

I do not expect that all or even most readers of this column will share my apprehension about two looming events that are beginning to seem inevitable to me: the election of President Hillary Clinton and the bombing of Iran. But here goes.

I find it rather hard to imagine that this country will see fit to bestow the presidency of the United States on two families for 28 years. But if Hillary Clinton is elected next year and then re-elected, which is likely, that is exactly what will have happened: 28 years of a father and his son, a husband and his wife. Do we really believe a deliberative democracy could produce this result?

Just as the emergence of George W. Bush in 1998 had the feel of some relentless, unavoidable undertow, so now Hillary Clinton has suddenly become the presumed Democratic nominee, as if it is her turn. Shes everywhere. Despite the mountain of money she has raised, almost an entire issue of Newsweek has been donated to Hillary-reality. As soon as I saw the cover, Women & Power: Do Women Really Lead Differently Than Men? I suspected it was all about her. Even though she is mentioned only once in a 23-page treatment of women in leadership, lo and behold, the big, four-color lead page for the feature article had images of Queen Elizabeth I, Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi, Cleopatra, Catherine the Great and, wonder of wonders, Hillary Clinton.

When you read The Editors Desk column on the flip side of the contents page, you find out it really is all about Hillary. The editor, Jon Meacham, writes: Would she, because of her gender, rule differently? Are women really more nurturing, or better consensus-builders? Or do they have to be tougher than they might otherwise be to show they can play the game the way men do? Perhaps Thatcher, Elizabeth I and the once Queen of Russia suggest an answer: They were warmakers, like men.

Our sitting president will himself be known as a warmaker. It is hard to imagine that he will be remembered for little else than the Iraq war, whether we win it or lose itwhatever those terms may mean.

In order to win this war, however, he may yet start another one. Almost all of the rhetoric used to justify the invasion of Iraq is now being employed with respect to Iran.

In late August at an American Legion Convention in Nevada, President Bush invoked the familiar shadow of a nuclear holocaust rising because of Irans murderous influence in Iraq, this despite the judgment of the International Atomic Energy Agencys Mohamed ElBaradei (the same man we ignored before invading Iraq) that Irans nuclear program is confined to domestic energy production. The president went on to claim that Iran is the worlds leading state sponsor of terrorism, the very face of evil seeking to enslave the Middle East, and said, I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehrans murderous activities. My! What next?

Next was Gen. David Petraeus reporting to Congress. A decent and intelligent man subjected to the bloviation of politicians right and left (as well as overt disrespect from some on the left), Petraeus was nonetheless alarming in his portrayal of Iran, which, through the use of the Quds Force, seeks to turn the Iraqi Special Groups into a Hezbollah-like force tofight a proxy war against the Iraqi state and coalition forces in Iraq. In other words, they are attacking us. Is this, once again, a march to inevitable war?

One might have expected that Democrats who have been posturing as opponents to the presidents war policy would resist the tug of inevitable conflict with Iran. On the contrary: in the spring of 07 the candidates Clinton, Obama and Dodd voted to ask the State Department to term the Iranian Army a terrorist organization. In late September, the war hawks wanted more. They themselves voted 76 to 22 to brand Irans Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. Biden, Dodd and Obama were not numbered among the 29 Democrats who voted a free pass for another bombing escapade. The in-evitable Senator Clinton was. Although resenting anyone who might question her consistency or motivation (as Randall Rolph, an ordinary citizen, found out during a frosty exchange with Clinton in Iowa), she has indeed shown she has what it takes to wage pre-emptive war.

And so the two inevitabilities meet. Clinton again and war again.

A redemptive thought is this. If Hillary Clinton is inevitable as the Democratic nominee, and if she is opposed by the pro-choice Republican Rudy Giuliani (whose foreign policy advisor is Norman Podhoretz, author of The Case for Bombing Iran: I hope and pray that President Bush will do it [The Wall Street Journal, 5/30]), perhaps conscientious Catholics will be told they can vote for neither under pain of sin.

Or perhaps, since presidents can do little to stop abortion, Catholics will be advised to vote for someone who supports life in matters of elective wars, medical care for the poor, decent treatment of immigrants, education reform and sharing our material gifts with the worlds desperate and dying.

John F. Kavanaugh, S.J., is a professor of philosophy at St. Louis University in St. Louis, Mo.

Comments

N & T CHISHOLM | 10/26/2007 - 12:25pm
I agree with your essay. However, few people I speak with have much respect for Mrs. Clinton or the Clintons. The sheer monotony of this eternal campaign may turn everyone off. We must either impeach, convict or commit Bush and Cheney to the nut ward if we are to protect the world from the final Halloween. However, it is Israel and the Podhoretz lobby that worries me the most; their wall, the persistent pushing of Palestinians into the sea until ethic cleansing is complete and their previous unilateral bombing in 1981. Did we ever have "leverage" over Israel except by blessing it in 1948? Neither prayer or Congress seem to be responding to our supplications. Another oil embargo by OPEC may restore common sense.

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