Dark Sunday

Sometimes there’s just not much to say. You just watch. Things are what they are. The most recent Gallup national tracking poll shows Rick Santorum has opened up a six-point lead over Mitt Romney and on Sunday, February 19, Reuters (and all the wire services) were reporting this:

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum challenged President Barack Obama’s Christian beliefs on Saturday, saying White House policies were motivated by a “different theology.”

A devout Roman Catholic who has risen to the top of Republican polls in recent days, Santorum said the Obama administration had failed to prevent gas prices rising and was using “political science” in the debate about climate change.

Obama’s agenda is “not about you. It’s not about your quality of life. It’s not about your jobs. It’s about some phony ideal – some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology,” Santorum told supporters of the conservative Tea Party movement at a Columbus hotel.

Yes, the new idea here is that the president prefers the practical and the pragmatic stuff, and existing law, to the Bible – and Americans should not allow this to continue. This might be a bit radical, in some circles – those who like that practical and pragmatic stuff and find the Bible inadequate on matters of say, gas prices. But the key element here is Santorum saying Obama is not really a Christian, although Santorum might have sensed that saying that was perhaps unwise:

When asked about the statement at a news conference later, Santorum said, “If the president says he’s a Christian, he’s a Christian.” But Santorum did not back down from the assertion that Obama’s values run against those of Christianity. “He is imposing his values on the Christian church. He can categorize those values anyway he wants. I’m not going to,” Santorum told reporters.

And of course there was the counter from the Obama crew:

“This is just the latest low in a Republican primary campaign that has been fueled by distortions, ugliness, and searing pessimism and negativity – a stark contrast with the President who is focused everyday on creating jobs and restoring economic security for the middle class,” said Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt.

Well yes, Santorum has little to say about creating jobs and restoring economic security. He has other fish to fry, or loaves and fishes to discuss – and his calculation must be that this will propel him to the White House. It’s a bet on the nature of the nation, the real concerns of the electorate. And of course Reuters added this reminder:

At a campaign appearance in Florida last month, Santorum declined to correct a voter who called Obama, a Christian, an “avowed Muslim.”

Santorum told CNN after that incident, “I don’t feel it’s my obligation every time someone says something I don’t agree with to contradict them, and the president’s a big boy, he can defend himself.”

And one presumes that he then winked and smiled slyly.

Nicole Belle comments on this strategy:

The conventional wisdom of the Republican primary horse race is that while Mitt Romney is the presumptive nominee, he can’t quite break that 40 percent bar. Romney can’t get the social conservatives, because they think he really isn’t a conservative. He’s having difficulties with the leaning Republican independents, because they view him as a flip-flopper. He can’t get the evangelical vote, because he’s a Mormon.

And it’s that last one that Santorum hoped would allow him to slide past Romney into the nomination. Santorum has packaged himself as the guy that the religious right can get behind.

He talks the talk and walks the walk that the evangelicals want to hear: so pro-life he doesn’t want contraceptives, home-schools his kids to prevent worldly secular influence, questions evolution, thinks global warming is a hoax and said he would annul all existing same sex marriages.

But she points out that there is much more going on:

Back in 2008, Rick Santorum traveled to Ave Maria University in Florida to deliver an address to students attending the Catholic university founded by Domino’s Pizza founder Tom Monaghan which he moved from Michigan as part of his effort to build his own personal theocracy in Naples.

Santorum told the students at Ave Maria how lucky they were to be living in a time when God’s Army is more needed than ever because all of the major institutions in society were under attack by Satan.

The audio of Santorum’s remarks is still posted on the Ave Maria website and the bulk of his speech was dedicated to explaining how God had used him, his political career, and even the death of his son Gabriel in the fight to outlaw abortion in America.

But Santorum began his remarks by explaining to the students in attendance how every institution in America has been destroyed by Satan; from academia to politics with even the church having fallen under His sway – not the Catholic Church, of course, but “mainline Protestantism” which is in such “shambles” that it is not even Christian any longer:

And see this assessment:

In a 2008 speech at Ave Maria University, Rick Santorum, a devout Catholic, warned about the dangers of “the NBA” and “rock concerts” – but also said that while Protestants founded America, mainline Protestantism is in such “shambles” that “it is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it.”

Mainline Protestantism is one of the oldest and most common religious families in America. Generally considered to be non-evangelical, non-Catholic Christians, including Congregationalists, Episcopalians, Methodists, northern Baptists, most Lutherans, Presbyterians, and other denominations, they represent about 45 million Americans. Making up about 16 percent of the electorate, they’re pretty evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats.

But in his speech, first flagged by Right Wing Watch, Santorum basically says these millions of Christian-Americans are not real Christians. At a time when Santorum and his party are grasping at straws to claim the Obama administration is waging war on Christianity, it seems that it was the candidate himself who declared war on one of the biggest groups of American Christians four years ago.

Belle:

This isn’t some eleventy-dimensional chess move; it’s flat out stupid. Fifty years ago, JFK had to sway a large number of voters to trust that he wouldn’t be under papal control in the White House. Every president before and since, has been a Protestant. So now Santorum, a devout Roman Catholic, wants to make this distinction and alienate such a huge percentage of his voting bloc?

What the hell is Santorum thinking?

And CBS flags another line in the sand that Santorum has drawn:

He lambasted the president’s health care law requiring insurance policies to include free prenatal testing, “because free prenatal testing ends up in more abortions and therefore less care that has to be done because we cull the ranks of the disabled in our society.”

“That, too, is part of Obamacare, another hidden message as to what President Obama thinks of those who are less able than the elites who want to govern our country,” Santorum said.

Prenatal tests are a standard part of modern medical care. The Department of Health and Human Services says such tests “help keep you and your baby healthy during pregnancy. It also involves education and counseling about how to handle different aspects of your pregnancy.”

But Santorum will have none of that, as in some cases you might find out things you shouldn’t know – that might lead, in some cases where the life of the mother or the child is at grave risk, to seek ways to mitigate that risk, thwarting God’s will or something. And that seems to be his point, and sometimes there’s just not much to say. You just watch the man say what he says.

And he will not back down:

Santorum’s high-profile role on such issues ensures that questions about his social positions will follow him across the country and through a general election campaign, should he win the nomination. Despite the firestorm they ignite at times – and the fact that it can produce lower poll numbers among women voters – the former Pennsylvania senator said he doesn’t intend to let up.

“You ask a lot of questions about the social issues,” he accused a reporter who asked if he would speak out on those issues during a general election race. “I’m going to talk about the things that I think are important to this country. I’ve done so throughout the course of this campaign, and I’ll continue to do so.”

So he loses woman voters, and the votes of the Spawn of Satan, Protestants of all denominations, and the votes of those more concerned with job creation and economic recovery than Biblical National Policy – although he has not yet used that term. And Adele Stan finds this seemingly winning bet, for now, about what people want, rather amazing:

Here’s the state of our national politics: The frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination says that that President Barack Obama embraces a “phony theology”; that large-scale public education is an outdated idea, and that contraception is “not okay.” And let’s not forget his statement last month that he didn’t want to “make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.”

Yes, you heard all that right. If current polls hold up, Rick Santorum, the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania could be the presidential nominee of one of the nation’s two major parties.

And she is amazed at Obama’s science-based pragmatic “theology” being called something that’s not in the Bible:

Not a theology based on the Bible. Funny, I’ve been thumbing through my Bible, trying to find Jesus’ injunction against birth control (not there), abortion (yes, it existed in his day) and public education (bupkis). Well, okay, I concede that Jesus was probably home-schooled.

And I haven’t heard Santorum bleating that great quip from Jesus about how much easier it is for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into Heaven.

But never mind.

But of course science, not the Bible, is vastly overrated, which leads to stories like this one in the Guardian:

Most scientists, on achieving high office, keep their public remarks to the bland and reassuring. Last week Nina Fedoroff, the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), broke ranks in a spectacular manner.

She confessed that she was now “scared to death” by the anti-science movement that was spreading, uncontrolled, across the US and the rest of the western world.

“We are sliding back into a dark era,” she said. “And there seems little we can do about it. I am profoundly depressed at just how difficult it has become merely to get a realistic conversation started on issues such as climate change or genetically modified organisms.”

The remarks of Fedoroff, one of the world’s most distinguished agricultural scientists, are all the more remarkable given their setting.

She made them at the AAAS annual meeting, an event at which scientists normally revel in their latest accomplishments: new insights into marine biology or first results from a recently launched satellite, for example.

But everyone knows what’s happening:

As Fedoroff pointed out, university and government researchers are hounded for arguing that rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are changing the climate. Their emails are hacked while Facebook campaigns call for their dismissal from their posts, calls that are often backed by rightwing politicians. At the last Republican Party debate in Florida, Rick Santorum insisted he should be the presidential nominee simply because he had cottoned on earlier than his rivals Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney to the “hoax” of global warming.

“Those of us who grew up in the sixties, when we put men on the Moon, now have to watch as every Republican candidate for this year’s presidential election denies the science behind climate change and evolution. That is a staggering state of affairs and it is very worrying,” said Professor Naomi Oreskes, of the University of California, San Diego.

And those who think science is crap influence specific legislation:

In each case, legislation was delayed by years, sometimes decades, thanks to the activities of a variety of foundations – such as the Heartland Institute – which are backed by energy companies such as Exxon and billionaires like Charles Koch.

These institutions, acting as covers for major energy corporations, are responsible for the onslaught that has deeply lowered the reputation of science in many people’s minds in America. This has come in the form of personal attacks on the reputations of scientists and television adverts that undermine environment laws. The Environmental Protection Agency, which is responsible for blocking mining and drilling proposals that might harm threatened species or habitats, has become a favorite target.

“Our present crisis over the rise of anti-science has been coming for a long time and we should have seen it coming,” adds Oreskes.

And a pro-Bible anti-science candidate like Rick Santorum helps, along with his fans and enablers:

Most scientists acknowledge that President Barack Obama is sympathetic to science. “The trouble is that he still hasn’t been able to do anything to help. He is continually blocked by Congress, and that only adds to our worries and sense of desperation,” said Fedoroff. “If the current president is for us, but still cannot do anything to help us, then what will happen if a Republican gets into the White House this year?”

So we’re talking about a lot of unhappy (perhaps ungodly) scientists:

“It has taken the scientific community a long time to realize what it is up against,” says Oreskes. “In the past, it thought the problem was just a matter of education. All its practitioners had to do was make an effort to reach out and talk to teachers, the public and business leaders. Then these people would see the issues and understand the need for action.

“But now they are beginning to realize what they are really up against: massive organized attempts to undermine scientific data by people for whom that data represents a threat to their status quo. Given the power of these people, scientists will have their work cut out dealing with them.”

Good luck with that. Sometimes there’s just not much to say. You just watch. Things are what they are.

But there’s Ron Hill with his blog republicans4freedom who says this:

My hope is that rational conservatives will then work to help bring the GOP back to the common-sense middle. The truth is that our party has gone off the deep end. It’s as if we’re watching the slow, painful death of a major political party.

And here’s his assessment of his party:

First it was Sarah Palin who couldn’t name one major newspaper she read, much less string together two logical sentences. Then came Christine O’Donnell, who spoke out against masturbation and dabbled in witchcraft. About the same time we had Sharon Angle who suggested that armed insurrection was a possibility in opposing the policies of elected democrats. Then we had Michele Bachmann, whose only redeeming quality was making Sarah Palin look informed and thoughtful by way of comparison. Ms. Bachmann brought along her not-at-all gay husband, an unlicensed psychologist with a degree from an unaccredited on-line school. Their family business was found to be practicing the widely discredited and scientifically unsound “ex-gay” therapy. Both Bachmanns apparently believe Jesus is too busy not curing the gays to bother with minor matters like ending war, African famine, Asian epidemics, or Americans murdering one another in large numbers. Most recently, we were treated to Newt Gingrich, the thrice-divorced serial adulterer who – ironically – was the darling of the “family values” crowd. Among other extreme views, Mr. Gingrich seemed to imply that America should bring back child labor.

The GOP race just keeps getting more and more bizarre.

I expected some nutty statements from Rick Santorum, but his recent attack on Obama for not sharing true “biblical values” went beyond the scope of decency; it was appalling. As they would say in the South – where we reserve the “t-word” for only the most serious of offenses – it was Tacky.

And Hill makes an assessment Santorum would never make:

There are Republicans (and Christians) who support science-based comprehensive sex education – programs that encourage abstinence until marriage but also include information on reducing unwanted pregnancies and how to reduce the risk of STD’s. There are Republicans who support a reasonable safety net for the poorest among us and the chronically mentally ill. There are Republicans who support government and faith-based efforts to reduce the rate of violence in our society and who support teaching non-violence in every level of schooling and in every lesson – not just as a Christian principle, but also as a principle of enlightened societies.

We had 300 murders in my city [New Orleans] last year – but Mr. Santorum sees his Christian duty not to work to teach and promote non-violence, but to oppose loving, peaceful American couples who simply want the same legal rights as other Americans.

So here is his plea:

It’s dangerous for any one party or politician to believe their values are those of God. Doing so suggests a dangerous arrogance and promotes an “us against them” mentality that divides Americans and pits one group of citizens against another. This is no way to lead a pluralistic society.

The GOP can do better, and America requires better. I’ve been a conservative all my life, but would have no choice but to vote for President Obama if Rick Santorum is the GOP nominee. Privately, many Republicans tell me the same thing.

They do? Santorum seems to think that the role of government is to protect God from attack. But Robert Ingersoll once put it nicely – “An infinite God ought to be able to protect Himself, without going in partnership with State Legislatures.”

But Santorum is the leading Republican now, protecting God, from Obama. And it’s hard to know what to say about that. It’s just where we are now, on a dark Sunday.

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About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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