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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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Culture War: Teach Your Children Well?

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Drawing the appropriate line between parental rights and the states interest in the welfare of children can be a complex consideratio n. The emergence and prevalence of homeschoolin g has further complicated the equation. A ruling by a California appeals court will likely catapult the topic into the mainstream and it will undoubtedly become the latest flash point in the culture wars.

A California appeals court ruling clamping down on homeschoolin g by parents without teaching credentials sent shock waves across the state this week, leaving an estimated 166,000 children as possible truants and their parents at risk of prosecution.

The ruling arose from a child welfare dispute between the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services and Philip and Mary Long of Lynwood, who have been homeschoolin g their eight children. Mary Long is their teacher, but holds no teaching credential.

The parents said they also enrolled their children in Sunland Christian School, a private religious academy in Sylmar (Los Angeles County), which considers the Long children part of its independent study program and visits the home about four times a year.

The Second District Court of Appeal ruled that California law requires parents to send their children to full-time public or private schools or have them taught by credentialed tutors at home.

The appeals court said state law has been clear since at least 1953, when another appellate court rejected a challenge by homeschoolin g parents to California’s compulsory education statutes. Those statutes require children ages 6 to 18 to attend a full-time day school, either public or private, or to be instructed by a tutor who holds a state credential for the child’s grade level.

The appeals court told the juvenile court judge to require the parents to comply with the law by enrolling their children in a school, but excluded the Sunland Christian School from enrolling the children because that institution “was willing to participate in the deprivation of the children’s right to a legal education.”

I suspect that the issue will soon devolve into a question of religious freedom…pitt ing the rights of parents against the states compelling interest to insure a curriculum consistent with sound science. Anyone who has watched documentarie s like Jesus Camp or Baby Bible Bashers should have an understandin g of the underlying issues.

Adding to the complexity are cases like that of Matthew Murray, the young man who was homeschooled and subsequently murdered two individuals at a Youth With A Mission location in Arvada, Colorado and two others at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs before killing himself.

Let me be clear, I don’t believe that parents should be precluded from teaching their religious beliefs to their children or that Matthew Murray’s situation is an indisputable indictment of homeschoolin g. On the other hand, the push for a Biblical interpretati on of science and the argument that God’s laws take precedent over the laws of the state are troubling developments that must be addressed.

Ironically, one can look to the words of the ancient playwright Terence for a measure of guidance. Not only is Terence known for his quotation, “Moderation in all things”, he also is said to have stated, “Children should be led into the right paths, not by severity, but by persuasion.”

All too often, those inclined to homeschool do so in order to instill their brand of extreme ideology…eve n if it lacks substantiati on and conflicts with far more factual theories. Unfortunatel y, the dogmatic nature of many religions posits that the only relevant truth is the truth they espouse. Hence, many of those parents who embrace this doctrine are not only unwilling to expose their children to alternate views; they see the views of the state as inferior and irrelevant.

Even worse, some parents seek to portray the state and the society as evil which can effectively isolate and alienate their children. In extreme instances, it may well set in motion the process by which the Matthew Murray’s of the world unleash their misguided malice on others.

Unfair as this may be, the fact that the California ruling outraged James Dobson of Focus on the Family leads me to believe that the appellate court may have ruled correctly in requiring that homeschoolin g must be conducted by instructors with state mandated credentials. Sadly, men like Dobson have made a career of vilifying others in order to solidify their hold on their followers and thus insure his financial success and his penchant for power.

The following is from the Focus on the Family website:

Dr. James Dobson used today’s Focus on the Family radio broadcast to tell his listeners about an “egregious decision” handed down by a California appellate court recently.

The 2nd District Court of Appeals ruled that California parents without teaching credentials do not have a right to home-school their children.

“The court has assaulted parental rights again, and this time with a sledgehammer  ,” Dr. Dobson said. “Listeners in all 50 states should take notice.”

Dr. Mike Farris, co-founder and chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association, said the ruling “effectively is slamming the door on home schooling for everyone.”

“I [Dobson] just pray that you all will be on your knees before the Lord, symbolically or otherwise,” he said, “and ask Him to protect those children in California and all over the country.”

Note how the final quote from Dobson seeks to suggest that parents must “protect” their children from the state. Look, I realize that public education isn’t perfect. At the same time, the ruling isn’t prohibiting homeschoolin g; it is simply requiring that it be taught under the guidelines of prior rulings. Dobson neglects to mention this in his statements.

It doesn’t surprise me that he prefers to portray the ruling as an assault upon religion…an emerging tactic employed by many evangelical leaders. Identifying an enemy and establishing themselves and their followers as victims of persecution only strengthens the hold men like Dobson seek to insure.

Frankly, I see the strategy of men like Dobson much the same as I view the actions of Karl Rove and George Bush. Nothing serves their purposes better than to identify an enemy, argue that the enemy seeks to destroy one’s way of life, and them utilize the fear they create to manipulate the masses.

I don’t begrudge anyone’s right to their religious beliefs. At the same time, when those beliefs are pitted against the interest of the state in order to usurp the state’s authority, then the lines drawn by our forefathers to separate church and state are being violated.

In the end, men like Dobson burn the candle at both ends. They favor democracy when it serves their purposes, they play the victim when democracy doesn’t comport with their wishes, and they yearn for the day when have the wherewithal to dictate their doctrines without regard for the democratic process.

The Dobson’s of the world champion dissent…but only if it is their own. Those dissenters with whom they disagree are cast as villains who threaten to usurp God’s authority. Unfortunatel y, countless religions are convinced they are the sole purveyors of God’s truth. As such, they have no reservation to meet out condemnation s and call for prohibitions against, and punishments for, those they oppose.

The logic employed by our forefathers well over 200 years prior suggests they understood that religions would likely remain “at loggerheads” in perpetuity. Wisely, they sought to establish a system that was intended to insure that no one faith should or could abridge the rights of others.

In this day and age, it’s troubling to realize that men like Dobson in this country…and Islamic extremists in other nations…are all too happy to seek to subvert the role of the state while sharing in their disregard for the principle of reciprocity.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater


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