The National Catholic Review
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An Acting President?

The media’s obsession over whether President Obama has “emoted” sufficiently over the catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico is second only to its focus on the actual oil spill. When the president touches a tar ball on the Louisiana shores, what is his expression? Furious, fed up or just frustrated? In modern times, the president has increasingly been looked to as the one who should express the emotions of the American public. When Ronald Reagan, on the 40th anniversary of D-Day, spoke movingly about the brave soldiers who landed at Normandy, many Americans teared up, even though Reagan, an actor, never saw military service. They were pleased that Reagan served as a proxy to express what they felt.

But is it right to expect “No Drama Obama,” whose preternatural cool has helped him weather both personal and political crises, to suddenly become Al Pacino? For most of our history, Americans prized a sense of reserve in the chief executive. Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had seen war up close, felt no need to prove himself with histrionics. Nor was he much given to worrying. In 1955, on the day when Eisenhower was being honored by Pennsylvania State University, where his brother Milton was president, the weather turned nasty. Milton fretted. Ike said calmly, “Milton, I haven’t worried about the weather since June 6, 1944.” On the other hand, George Washington wept when he bade farewell to his officers at Fraunces Tavern in New York in 1783 after the Revolutionary War. When it comes to ending and fixing the environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, however, most Americans would probably opt for action over acting.

Money, Feel Free to Speak

In the middle of the election season, the U.S. Supreme Court landed a body blow to American democracy with a peremptory order ending Arizona’s “clean” campaign financing system, known as Azcam. Established by the voters 12 years ago after a series of corruption scandals, Azcam was a mechanism for public funding of elections of candidates who agreed to accept only small private donations in support of their campaigns. The court order is potentially a massive attack on efforts to create a level playing field between deep-pocket candidates and impecunious challengers. Following the precedent set in Buckley v. Valeo (1976), the court identifies money with free speech.

Repeatedly the court has ruled in favor of the plutocrats. In 2008 it found against the so-called Millionaires’ Amendment, which allowed publicly financed Congressional candidates to raise more money when they faced wealthy opponents; and in January it ruled against limits on corporate spending in elections. Its jurisprudence seems locked in a fundamental metaphysical confusion that equates the rights of the fictive persons called corporations with the rights of flesh-and-blood human beings.

American jurisprudence, moreover, seems to have whittled down the equal protection of the 14th Amendment into a series of specific nondiscrimination rules (for blacks, women, native Americans, 18-year-olds) and lost any moral vision of what it might be like for citizens to exercise equal voice in their government. Congress is looking to make some small, short-term fixes to this electoral absurdity. Ultimately, a constitutional amendment will be needed to provide a remedy. In the meantime, the United States risks becoming a corporate state like Hong Kong, where businesses are guaranteed seats in the legislature.

Dream Daddies

An adult Barbary macaque takes his infant for a ride on his thick brown back, as the tiny monkey clings to his shoulders and clutches his fur. What makes this worthy of a lead story in The New York Times (6/14) is that primatologists have just explained such behavior in a new report. Carrying an infant, they say, gives adult male macaques social status and helps them bond with other males. Infant cuddling is a nonthreatening way for male adults to interact in groups; it enhances social networking. Among animals, though, it is rare for males to engage with infants. Only 10 percent of all mammals—the primates—even so much as acknowledge paternity. So to find a species whose males protect their young not only marks evolutionary progress; it also makes news.

The same front page showed a photo of a Swedish game warden, with a rifle slung over one shoulder and a husky dog at his side, toting his 2-month-old son across a field. This father is on baby leave, bonding with his infant for two months, the minimum time period subsidized by the government. In Sweden paternity leave is a piece of social engineering that started in 1974 and has gradually taken hold. Eighty-five percent of Swedish dads now take advantage of this time off. Baby leave fosters bonding and allows dads to interact with one another in groups, but best of all it helps balance work and family life. It may also strengthen marriage. Since 1995 divorce and separation rates in Sweden have dropped, and joint custody of children has risen among divorcing couples. The Swedish system marks social progress. Too bad it is still so rare that it also makes news.

Comments

Norman Costa | 7/16/2010 - 3:12am
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Of Barbary apes, Swede parents, sex, and suicide:
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As a parochial school attendee in the 1950s and 1960s, I and my classmates were aware that sexual norms were freer and more liberal in Sweden than in the United States. The usual admonishing counsel for our developing minds and bodies, was that Sweden's suicide rate, which we were told was the highest in the world, was a direct result of access to dirty pictures, and having sex without benefit of clergy.
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It was a clear lesson that Sweden was not a good example of how people were to live one's life. Don't do what they do, or you will end up commiting suicide and suffer eternal hell fire.
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So I'm astonished to find that the Swedes could be sufficiently advanced, from a moral point of view, to do things that promoted the development of stronger families, longer lasting marriages, and men with an easy feminine side.
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Does anyone know the current rate of suicide in Sweden?
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Does anyone know the current rate of suicide for Barbary maquacs?
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Does anyone find it disturbing, or enlightening, that it is becoming much more difficult to complelte the following statement so that it will always be true?
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Among all of the animal kingdom, Man is the only animal that [FILL IN THE BLANK].
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C Walter Mattingly | 7/7/2010 - 8:06am
On Seosauh's comment about Catholics on the court, I'm not totally certain to whom he is referring when he laments these judges not supporting the powerless. My impression is that prior to President Obama, most judges of Catholic background, including one minority member who was himself one of the "marginalized" and "disenfranchised,"  have seemed supportive of the first and most fundamental right for the powerless innocents, the right to not be exterminated in utero, surely the greatest social justice concern in America whether by severity of injustice against the innocent or the sheer million plus numbers involved annually. What could be a greater afront to social justice, to being "disenfranchised in the dust" than an innocent being killed and discarded, returned  into the dust by the willing consent of a complicit citizenry?  President Obama, committed to a continuation and, arguably, an expansion of abortions, is sly to appoint to the bench a Catholic who, against the conviction of her faith, likely supports her president on this issue. That way he can undercut the troublesome interference of the church in the progress of the abortion-on-demand industry, which to his chagrin is slowly losing support in the country.
As far as the comment on Ronald Reagan's military service, a reasonable person might expect that the armed services would attempt to make the best use of the talents of one of the most successful actors in the country by utlilizing those talents rather than give him a rifle and put him on the front, especially if he has an astigmatism, just as they would be prudent to place a surgeon in a hospital rather than giving him/her a rifle to carry.
C Walter Mattingly | 7/7/2010 - 8:05am
On Seosauh's comment about Catholics on the court, I'm not totally certain to whom he is referring when he laments these judges not supporting the powerless. My impression is that prior to President Obama, most judges of Catholic background, including one minority member who was himself one of the "marginalized" and "disenfranchised,"  have seemed supportive of the first and most fundamental right for the powerless innocents, the right to not be exterminated in utero, surely the greatest social justice concern in America whether by severity of injustice against the innocent or the sheer million plus numbers involved annually. What could be a greater afront to social justice, to being "disenfranchised in the dust" than an innocent being killed and discarded, returned  into the dust by the willing consent of a complicit citizenry?  President Obama, committed to a continuation and, arguably, an expansion of abortions, is sly to appoint to the bench a Catholic who, against the conviction of her faith, likely supports her president on this issue. That way he can undercut the troublesome interference of the church in the progress of the abortion-on-demand industry, which to his chagrin is slowly losing support in the country.
As far as the comment on Ronald Reagan's military service, a reasonable person might expect that the armed services would attempt to make the best use of the talents of one of the most successful actors in the country by utlilizing those talents rather than give him a rifle and put him on the front, especially if he has an astigmatism, just as they would be prudent to place a surgeon in a hospital rather than giving him/her a rifle to carry.
JOSEPH MCOSCAR | 7/6/2010 - 6:14pm
As each new dictate comes from presernt Supreme Court, I feel more and more ashamed that the Catholics on the Court seem to have left the Catholic tradition on peace, on justice, on the preferential options for the marginalized, the disenfranchised in the dust.
Roberts et al are certainly more activist in favor of the monied interests than any Warren court ever was.
And regarding Ronnie Reagan - yes he was in the Army during WW II. However his service involved making movies for the military in Hollywood.
P Phaedrus | 7/2/2010 - 12:32pm
"When Ronald Reagan, on the 40th anniversary of D-Day, spoke movingly about the brave soldiers who landed at Normandy, many Americans teared up, even though Reagan, an actor, never saw military service. They were pleased that Reagan served as a proxy to express what they felt."
 
Too bad the Editor can't get his facts right.  Mr. Ronald Reagan served his country before and during WWII in the United States Army.  Before pontificate, please check your facts.  Try reading the U.S. Constitution sometime.
6466379 | 7/2/2010 - 10:02am
"An Acting Not just the media, but a growing number of Americans too, want to see, "no drama Obama" be more emotional dealing with human pain, like what's happening in the Gulf of Mexico with the catastrophic oil spill. Many want to see a teary eyed President, but being culturally Islamic I believe it's hard for the President to do so.

Radiz Islam comes across as a stiff upper-lip ideology, willing to chop off heads and hands, poke out eyes and sever tongues honoring a vengeful Allah, doing so dry eyed and unemotionally. Quite honestly I know less than nothing about Islam, limited only to what I see happening today in the world and also from reading about the brutality of Christians against Moslems, and Moselms against Christians, in the Crusades, for which Islam has not forgiven Christianity, but for which Christianity has forgiven Islam. Root Islam seems to be a non-cardial ideology, driven by a cranially-rooted religious rigor best manifested in its rage against the "Great Satan" of the West, infidels all!

In early youth President Obama was indoctrinated in some way into the rigors of Islam becoming unavoidably in later years subliminally true to earlier Islamic exposure. The axiom, "As the tree is bent, so will it grow" may find some application. He is the first culturally Islamic President of the United States and hang-on mannerism such as deep bowing to world leaders and being tearless in the face of suffering, grate Americans the wrong way. But have no doubts about it, President Obama is also truly American, conflicted at times, perhaps, between Americanism and Islamism, but unquestionably first and foremost, truly American!

He's like the rest of humanity, sometimes conflicted between two loves, in his case between what his Father taught him and what Lady Liberty has taught him. He is no "acting President!" He is very much who he is, a true American of Islamic heritage. It wouldn't surprise me one bit if somewhere down the pike he ends ups on Mt. Rushmore in the company of you know who - America at its best!

Certainly I do not agree with all his policies, but at least let's hope and pray that, as the first American President of Islamic heritage, he will do much to stem the tide of a cruel radix Islam that seeks to dominate the globe, in a tidal wave far worse than the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico!
Tom Maher | 6/29/2010 - 12:56am
RE: Money, Feel Free to Speak

Catholic commentators just don't understand the central importance of the first amendment free speech rights.
Catholics are not well taught that the first amenedment forbids the government from being involved in monitoring, regulating or censoring free speech. Catholics just can't seem to help themselves in staying away from wanting the state to monitor, regulate or supress free speech for one reason or another.

But the the very first rule of the consittuiton is to forbid the state from being involved with free speech, press or religion. This is a basic American value from the Revolutionary War era. It is a fundemental axiom of American government that citizens have the right to free speech without goverenment approval or limitation.

The first amendment came out of the Revolutionary War experience where speech, especially political speech, could be declared as treason by the state (king). The colonist were not able to make known their grievances without the risk that their speech might be considered treasonous. The U.S. Consitutiton is a human advance in establishing a right of individual free speech that can not be denied by the state for any reason.

Any attempt to ignore the first amendment is very unwelcomed. Limiting free speech under any pretext is not allowed under the U.S. Constitution. How much money you have or what your religion or any other criteria are irrelavent to the right of individual free speech. This is just fundemental yet Catholics never learn that free speech must not be abridged by the state for any reason.

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