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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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Rick Majerus & The Long Arm Of The Archbishop

Rick Majerus has been a college basketball coach for many years and he currently works for St. Louis University, a Catholic University under the auspices of the Jesuits. Majerus has always been a colorful figure but one wouldn’t expect his off the cuff comments to a news reporter at a Hillary Clinton rally to be the reason the coach finds himself in hot water.

Enter Archbishop Raymond Burke and the typically heavy hand of the Catholic Church. Majerus is being assailed by Burke for voicing his support for a woman’s right to choose as well as favoring embryonic stem cell research. You can see video of his comments here.

Clearly, Majerus wasn’t at the rally representing the University and it’s obvious he didn’t seek out a reporter to voice his opinions. Regardless, the Archbishop believes Majerus should be disciplined for his breech of Catholic doctrine. Burke is no stranger to asserting his reach. During the 2004 election, he took it upon himself to state that he would deny John Kerry Holy Communion.

From Catholic News Agency:

Archbishop of St. Louis Raymond Burke, speaking to the St. Louis Post-Dispatc h newspaper before the March for Life in Washington, D.C. strongly criticized the coach’s statements.

“It’s not possible to be a Catholic and hold those positions,” Burke said. “When you take a position in a Catholic university, you don’t have to embrace everything the Catholic Church teaches. But you can’t make statements which call into question the identity and mission of the Catholic Church.”

Archbishop Burke said the coach should be disciplined, saying, “I’m confident [the university] will deal with the question of a public representati ve making declarations that are inconsistent with the Catholic faith,” Burke said. “When you take a position in a Catholic university, you don’t have to embrace everything the Catholic Church teaches. But you can’t make statements which call into question that identity and mission of the Catholic Church.”

The archbishop was concerned the coach’s statements would cause scandal, defined in the Catholic catechism as “an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil.”

Some St. Louis University faculty members were not happy with the archbishop’s remarks.

“If SLU wants to have a policy of, ‘you have to be Catholic and believe the Catholic way,’ SLU wouldn’t exist,” Laura Willingham, research assistant in SLU’s School of Medicine, said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatc h. “Should [Majerus] have said it publicly? There’s freedom of speech.”

Jeff Fowler, a spokesman for the university, emphasized the coach was speaking in a private capacity.

“Rick’s comments were his own personal view,” he said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatc h. “They were made at an event he did not attend as a university representati ve. It was his own personal visit to the rally.”

Archbishop Burke has no direct control over St. Louis University. The Jesuit-found ed university itself is nominally Catholic, but a 2007 Supreme Court decision ruled that the school “is not controlled by a religious creed,” making the school’s new arena eligible for $80 million in public funding. In the Supreme Court brief, the school’s lawyers said the university is not controlled or owned by the Society of Jesus and does not require employees or students “to aspire to Jesuit ideals, to be Catholic or to otherwise have any specific religious affiliation. ”

Less than 35 of the 1,275 St. Louis University faculty and staff are Jesuits, and fewer than half of the students are Catholic.

So in reality, the Archbishop decided to inject himself into the situation despite the fact that he has no actual authority over the school. Note the Archbishop’s definition of “scandal”. Apparently the Catholic Church believes that it is more important to focus on the personal opinions and statements of an employee (because it might lead others to do evil) than to acknowledge and atone for decades of sexual abuse upon innocent children by members of their own clergy.

Nothing like a super-sized serving of hypocrisy. Perhaps I simply don’t understand the meaning of evil? Then again, the storied history of the Catholic Church is littered with similar inconsistenc ies. The one prevailing constant has been their insistence that the focus of their moral compass always point outward. In my many years of contact with Catholic clergy, I’ve always been taken aback by their belief that simply being part of the clergy connotes absolute authority and moral supremacy. Unfortunatel y, that is a fully flawed construct given their own immoral legacy.

Granted, I respect their right to their beliefs and their right to freely express them. However, their long-establi shed efforts to stifle the same in others simply demonstrates their propensity to trample the rights of those who disagree. I’m even content to accept their right to condemn others (declare them to be sinners) who do not uphold Church doctrine…so long as those condemnation s don’t abridge the rights granted to those individuals by the government.

Sadly, zealots are rarely satisfied to be the masters of their own domain; instead they seek to enslave all of humanity within the confines of their dominion. Irreverent as this may be, I think the Catholic Church would do well to respect the personal space of others and keep their meandering mittens to themselves. God knows the millions of dollars (and they do like money) they would have saved had they only demonstrated the decency to do so in the past.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater


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