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When will Sam Brownback end up on short lists for McCain’s VP?

It seems like everyone is putting together a list of Vice-Preside ntial candidates that John McCain could pick. Everyone. No, really, everyone. I mean it, everyone. This guy. That guy. Everyone.

So the speculation is out there. Tim Pawlenty from Minnesota? Mark Sanford from South Carolina? Tom Ridge from Pennsylvania  ? Rob Portman from Ohio? (Really, Rob Portman?! The budget director at the White House? That’s like the equivalent of someone picking the captain of the Titanic, just as the band members start plummeting to their death.)

I’d suggest a bit more stealth thinking. There’s one guy, an informal advisor to McCain’s campaign, that’s in the trenches right now. No, not Karl Rove, even though McCain has brought him on board. No, not Ken “Diarrhea of the Mouth” Mehlman, even though McCain’s brought him on, too.

But what about the guy who is in charge of the McCain campaign’s Catholic voter outreach – Sen. Sam Brownback?

Why Brownback?

  1. Brownback is conservative Christian with a capital CHRIST. But he’s also received some plaudits from liberal groups for having compassion, especially on issues like Darfur and human trafficking.   He’s like one part Bill Richardson, combined with nine parts Rick Santorum. In other words, he’s the type of Christian conservative that can spin the compassionat e yarn, while still rallying the “God’s warrior” crowd – a base that McCain is sorely thin with. Rolling Stone even dubbed Brownback “God’s Senator.”
  2. Brownback ran for President up until October 2007. After his pummeling by Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee in a pre-caucus Iowa straw poll, Brownback dropped out. Who did he subsequently endorse? John McCain. And at the time, McCain’s campaign was in tatters, near bankrupt, and his support in polls was dropping faster than Britney’s.
  3. Brownback is influential within the institutiona l Catholic Church. He was even baptized in a private chapel tucked between lobbyist’s offices, and owned by Opus Dei. There’s a great deal of difference between the institutiona l Catholic Church, and the prophetic, authentic Catholic Church. That said, ain’t no megaphone like a bunch of hell-bent bishops. Take Hillary Clinton’s recent appearance at a Catholic college in Texas, which drew the rebuke on San Antonio’s Archbishop, Jose Gomez, who said that Clinton’s pro-choice views were not welcome on a Catholic campus. With Brownback on the ticket, McCain could ensure that pews across America are filled with GOP talking points.
  4. Brownback refused to sign the Contract of America in 1994…becau se he thought it was too tame. Like Ron Paul, he once said that he wanted to eliminate the departments on energy, education and commerce. That’s sure to please not only the Libertarian, money bomb crowd, but also the “drown your government in a bathtub” fanatics, like Grover Norquist.
  5. Brownback sat on the Senate Judiciary Committee back before the 2006 mid-term elections, and as such is to blame for the death nail in Harriet Miers’ nomination, and the confirmation of Justice Samuel Alito. Brownback was apparently so influential in throwing Miers overboard that none other than John McCain held Brownback’ s hand up at a press conference after Miers withdrew her name, to boast, “Here’s the man who did it!”
  6. Brownback is only 51 years old…more than two decades younger than McCain, which would quiet any concerns about McCain being too senior. At 51, Brownback is barely older than Obama, and nine years younger than Hillary Clinton.

Brownback is all of this, and a bag of v-chips. In his time in the Senate, he’s shepherded the creation of the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act (in the wake of the cultural phenomenon known as Janet Jackson’s nipple); he spear-headed the Silk Road Strategy Act, which sought to smother the growth of Islam in Central Asia by bribing countries and communities with sweet trade deals; and he supports the Houses of Worship Act, which would allow churches to endorse candidates in elections.

Are there problems with the thought of McCain picking Brownback? Hells yes. He’s not well known, he’s a little uber-religio us for a large swath of the country (Opus Dei? Really?), he’s not particularly charismatic  (this site says he looks like Flattop from Dick Tracy), he thinks gay people are inherently immoral but compared Sen. Larry Craig to Thomas Jefferson in the wake of Craig’s “wide stance” scandal….yea h, there are issues.

But Brownback is certainly worthy of being on the short-list. I suggest watching out for him, especially if McCain keeps being dogged by a chasm in the GOP base.

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Don’t Be A Dick…Call Me Muhammadonna

The case of British educator, Gillian Gibbons…the teddy bear teacher…has drawn attention to the extremity of Sharia Law…and well it should. While I lack first hand knowledge of the issues surrounding the case, it appears that Gibbons is guilty of little more than being committed to teaching her students.

Apparently, her students were asked to name a teddy bear as part of an assignment…a nd they chose the name “Muhammad”. Attaching this name to an object is forbidden under Sharia Law as a form of idolatry…and an insult to the prophet Muhammad and the Islamic faith.

Gibbons actions subjected her to the possibility of forty lashes and six months in jail. In what some are calling an attempt at compromise, she was convicted of the offense and sentenced to fifteen days in prison and deportation. Since her conviction, a vocal segment of the Sudanese population has taken to the streets calling for Gibbons to be executed.

Hundreds of demonstrator s in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, poured into the streets on Friday demanding the execution of a British teacher who was convicted of insulting Islam because her class of 7-year-olds named a teddy bear Muhammad.

Despite the display of outrage, witnesses said that many of the protesters were government employees ordered to demonstrate, and that aside from a large gathering outside the presidential palace, most of Khartoum was quiet. Imams across the city brought up the case in sermons after Friday Prayer, but few of them urged violence.

It seems that Ms. Gibbons and the teddy bear became enmeshed in the larger struggle between the Sudanese government, which routinely accuses its Western critics of being anti-Islamic  , and European and American officials pressing for an end to the crisis in Darfur.

In early November, Sudanese officials said that peacekeepers from Scandinavia could not serve in Darfur, the troubled region of western Sudan, because of a dispute two years ago, when several Scandinavian newspapers published caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

United Nations officials have said that the Sudanese government was simply looking for ways to block or delay the deployment of an expanded peacekeeping force. This week, United Nations officials said that unless the Sudanese government started cooperating, the expanded mission might not be possible.

Now I have no objection to people practicing the faith of their choice…and while I’m troubled by the fact that many people of faith do not practice reciprocity in that regard, this event points to the extreme methods by which some faiths seek to indoctrinate and control the lives of their followers. By erecting strict prohibitions  , they establish what I would view to be a modern day, self-enforce d, thought police…one which requires full conformity and exacts severe punishment upon those who deviate from the doctrine in the slightest.

Further, given the virtual genocide taking place in Darfur, one must wonder if religion is once again being utilized to further the prejudices of those who cloak themselves in their faith in order to obtain power and wealth. Sadly, history seems to reinforce the conclusion that nothing serves such purposes better than the instillation of an extreme belief system which can be manipulated to pit one set of values against all others in what is effectively characterize d as a battle of good versus evil. This fomentation of conflict isn’t limited to religious beliefs, though it could be argued that the practice is predicated upon a predictable formula that emulates religious fervor.

In the end, whatever the reasons, those who invoke this type of behavior, are all guilty of manipulation . Knowing as much, it is essential for others to speak out and defy that which is portrayed as convention. Doing so can be dangerous…bu t it is also necessary if one seeks to break the often deadly cycle and shed some much needed light upon the calculations and motivations of the perpetrators in order to unseat them from their hold on power.

Despite the furor created by the Muhammad cartoons, I’m of the belief that humor is an effective place to begin combating the extreme mind sets which so often accompany these fanatical faith based fabrications . Deification is a slippery slope…and one which ought to be challenged in the same manner one might confront a scientific hypothesis. Most importantly, those on opposite sides of the argument must be willing to accept and allow the other to reasonably and thoughtfully explore the subject at hand. Nothing less than freedom is at stake.

As I thought about this recent event in Sudan, I couldn’t help but think of Madonna and the controversy surrounding so many of her songs, her music videos, and her concerts. The following graphic, provocative though it may be, is offered with that in mind.


Cross-posted at Thought Theater

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