Archive for August, 2005

The Power to Decide

Sunday, August 28th, 2005

There are many important and controversial issues — complex legal, medical, ethical, moral, and religious — surrounding abortion. There are strong, well-founded positions on both sides that arise from considerable deliberation and debate. However, with respect to a girl who has not yet reached the age of majority, it is the opinion of many Liberals and certainly of the Left-wing of the Democratic Party, that she is capable of reaching a considered decision with respect to obtaining an abortion without the involvement of her parents. The Left believes that a girl with an inconvenient pregnancy can reach a measured decision about an abortion without her parents consent and without even their notification.

Now there are extremely abusive situations, for example, where a pregnancy may be the result of incest, when notification might lead to further abuse. There might be emergency medical situations where parental notification would be impractical. Laws attempting to institute a protocol for parental notification, invariably include exceptions for such extreme situations.

No, the Liberal embrace of abortion is so fierce they are willing to allow young girls to make difficult decisions with out the aid and comfort of their families. After all, they might reach a decision the Left would not prefer. Do you think the Left would be concerned about parental notification, if parents inevitably encouraged reluctant underage girls to have abortions? In such cases, they would make notification mandatory.

Now compare this situation with the rhetoric of the Left concerning the Iraq War. Actor Richard Dreyfuss recently commented that, “No one should come for my son and tell my son to go and kill someone or put himself in harm’s way unless I understand and agree to the need.”

Part of the incongruity of this statement is associated with the fact that many members of the feeble and aging Left seemed trapped in a time warp. Within the confines of this temporal hiccup, people re-live 1968 over and over again in an endless loop, when young men were drafted for war. We are now protected by an army of highly-motivated volunteers and the Left just has not been able to understand it. They reflexively act as if there were a draft.

How can the Left on one hand argue that underage girls can make momentous decisions with regard to abortion without their parents’ consent or even knowledge, while at the same time asserting that young men and woman over 18 do not make reasoned decisions with regard to military service? Cindy Sheehan’s son, who has attracted so much controversy re-enlisted at age 24 in October 2003, when weapons of mass destruction had not been found and the reconstruction of Iraq was clearly going to be bloody. Cindy Sheehan herself did not trust her son’s judgment. According to Cindy Sheehan, Casey “felt that he had to go to protect his buddies, to be there for his buddies, to be support, and they are brainwashed into thinking that even if they don’t agree with the mission, they’re brainwashed into just blindly following it.”

Who understands the workings of Cindy Sheehan’s mind? I prefer to believe she is confused by grief. I also prefer to believe that her son, the 24-year old Casey Sheehan, was capable of making heroic decision to “protect his buddies” out of uncommon love, not brainwashing. Does it do Casey Sheehan more personal honor to suggest that he acted out of valor or because he was brainwashed?

Perhaps the Left can learn to trust the independence and judgment of young men and women older than 18 and sometimes many years older as much as they trust the judgment of frightened 14-year old girls.

Disservice to a Son

Sunday, August 21st, 2005

There is a broad consensus about Army Specialist Casey Sheehan. He enlisted in the Army in 2000 as a twenty-year old. When he completed his initial enlistment and during the run up to the Iraq War, he felt a duty to re-enlist in August 2003. He anticipated that he might be sent to Iraq and his expectations were realized when he was deployed in 2004. The young Humvee mechanic was attached to the First US Cavalry.

Casey Sheehan died a hero when his convoy was attacked in Sadr City. Sheehan did not have to be part of the convoy. His sergeant told him that because he was a mechanic, Casey did not have to go into combat. Casey chose to share the fate of his comrades.

Of course, Casey Sheehan’s family, like the families of all fallen soldiers was devastated. President George W. Bush has met with the families of hundreds of fallen soldiers. The Sheehan family was among a group of families that met with Bush months ago. At the time, Casey’s mother Cindy Sheehan apparently appreciated the consolation the president provided.

According to The Reporter, a Vacaville California paper in June 2004, the meeting of the families of parents of fallen service people with the president allowed the families to celebrate the lives of their loved ones and remember the good times they shared. According to Cindy Sheehan, “[t]hat was the gift the president gave us, the gift of happiness, of being together.” The WorldNet Daily has even uncovered photographs of President Bush giving Cindy Sheehan a friendly kiss during their meeting.

Over several months, Cindy has been transformed from a grieving mother, consoled by a president to a bitter person hating not only the president but her country as well. She has begun identifying with the vilest of the Left. Sheehen now favorably compares Lynne Stewart, a radical Left-wing lawyer convicted of providing material support to terrorists groups, with Atticus Finch, the fictional lawyer in To Kill a Mockingbird that defended an innocent black man accused of rape. The same radical Islamofacism that Stewart was convicted of helping, killed Sheehan’s son. Frontpage Magazine quotes Sheehan as claiming “The biggest terrorist is George W. Bush,” and that our government is a “morally repugnant system.” Cindy Sheehan is now staging an angry protest in front of George Bush’s ranch.

One wishes not to be too hard on Cindy Sheehan since she has suffered a great loss. Unfortunately, her anger is not redemptive, but self-consuming. Has she been exploited by the Left, or is does she really believe the anti-American rhetoric she is using? It is not possible to tell from a distance.

Clearly, the entire situation has divided her family. Cindy’s husband of 28 years, Patrick, has filed for divorce. Casey Sheehan’s paternal grandparents are upset with Cindy writing that “We do not agree with the political motivations and publicity tactics of Cindy Sheehan. She now appears to be promoting her own personal agenda and notoriety at the expense of her son’s good name and reputation… The Sheehan family lost our beloved Casey in the Iraq War and we have been silently, respectfully grieving. The rest of the Sheehan family supports the troops, our country and our president, silently, with prayer and respect.”

According to a recent Rasmussen poll, a plurality of people with family members in Iraq, people who might empathize with Cindy Sheehan, view her unfavorably. The family of Marine Corporal Matthew Matula was so angry that Cindy Sheehan used the fallen Marine’s name on a protest cross that they traveled to Texas to insist that his name be removed. The more Sheehen speaks, the faster popular sympathy dissipates.

Whatever Cindy Sheehan’s real thinking, it is clear that her personal tragedy is being politically exploited by the Left. This is the same “politics is everything” approach to emotional exploitation on the Left that turned the solemn memorial service for Liberal Senator Paul Wellstone, who tragically died in an airplane crash, into a boisterous political rally.

The real political danger of Cindy Sheehan is not to President Bush, but to the Left and Democrats. The exploitation of Sheehan will be viewed by many as unseemly. It will hurt Democrats politically much in the same way that the callous reaction to the Paul Wellstone funeral helped defeat Democrat Walter Mondale who filled Wellstone’s vacant candidacy for senator from Minnesota.

Moreover, if the Left and Democrats embrace the heated and angry anti-American rhetoric of Sheehan that Bush is a terrorist and that we are as a country, “morally repugnant,” they will suffer politically. Americans can be appealed to by the loyal opposition — people who love America and its institutions, but who want it to move in a different direction. Cindy Sheehan’s voice does not sound like the loyal opposition. For their own political survival and to reduce the viciousness of political rhetoric, Democrats should not allow her voice to become their voice.

Religious Test for the Supreme Court

Sunday, August 7th, 2005

“The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” — Article VI, Clause 3 of the US Constitution.

“I, [NAME], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as [Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court] under the Constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God.” — Oath of Office for a Supreme Court Justice.

Even though there is no formal religious test for office, some on the Left have questioned the suitability of Justice John Roberts, Jr. for the Supreme Court because he takes his Catholic faith seriously. The implicit assumption is that a Catholic can not render a judicial decision with respect to abortion consistent with the law since the Catholic Church has a strong position against abortion. Make no mistake. The question is primarily about abortion.

Questions about Roberts’ religion on the Left, from the likes of Christopher Hitchens and E. J. Dionne are only being broached because of abortion. The Catholic Church is also strongly (though not as strongly) against capital punishment. However, the legal status of capital punishment under a Catholic judge is not the issue that worries Dionne or Hitchens. Moreover, if a Conservative Protestant where to question the qualifications of a Catholic judge because of the Church’s stand against capital punishment, he or she would be loudly and properly chastised for religious intolerance. However, in the service of abortion, the Left and the media that support the Left, have difficulty in recognizing any limits of probity.

Hitchens’ motivation is transparent. He is fundamentally anti-religious and doesn’t trust anyone of deep religious conviction, be it Mother Theresa or Judge Roberts. That is why Hitchens is one of the few on the Left that is so eloquently persuasive about the necessity of fighting Islamofascism in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. With others on the Left, Hitchens stands against fascism, but he reserves special opprobrium for religiously-motivated fascists.

By contrast, Dionne’s questions about the relationship of faith and the state are far more serious and subtle. Dionne and Conservatives share a common belief that religious faith informs our values and who we are as a people, a community, and as a country. Religious and ethical beliefs affect the way we help others and the role we expect of the government acting on our behalf to act. The religious culture of a country defines who we are and how we govern. Hence, religion ought not to be relegated solely to private spirituality, but should have an important voice in the public square.

When then are the general ethical and religious perspectives of a leader important? How should such questions appropriately enter the public discourse? While there are no particular religious doctrinal tests to apply, surely we have to appreciate the values of our leaders and those values are many times informed by religious belief. For example, if a potential leader were an avowed pacifist, whether by religious or ethical conviction, it would be an important factor in assessing the suitability of someone who might be our Commander-and-Chief or someone who might vote on military appropriation bills.

It is reasonable for a citizen to weigh the full character, including the intelligence and religious and ethical underpinnings of our leaders — at least the ones we vote for. Those leaders are the ones we choose to act on our behalf. The law and Constitution allow no restrictions on religious affiliation for officials. Though we as voters ought not to vote on narrow sectarian grounds, is it not responsible to weigh the entire set of human qualities and beliefs in voting for our leaders?

First, though we as voters can consider a broad range of judgment criteria, our representatives cannot use religious litmus tests in their capacity as government officials. This would tie state decisions too directly to religious affiliation. A Senator of one particular religion questioning potential judges of a different religious belief at a public hearing would give the unseemly appearance of an inquisition.

Moreover, judges are not political leaders. They are ideally neutral arbitrators of existing law. Dionne writes, “President Bush has spoken about the political implications of his faith. His nominee should not be afraid to do the same.” Dionne skirts by the key point, but leaves it unexamined blinded by the Left’s misunderstanding of the role of judges. Bush is a political leader and can be judged as a politician. Judges, contrary to the Liberal intuition, ought not to be political and as such should be evaluated under a narrower range of criteria.

Of a judge, we may query about judicial intelligence, temperament, and philosophy. Of his other convictions, we only need to know his or her fidelity to the oath to “…faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as [Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court] under the Constitution and laws of the United States.” If a potential judge can take that oath with integrity, then examination of his or her religious convictions descends more into religious bigotry.

The notion that Judge Roberts’s Catholicism makes him an inappropriate selection for the Supreme Court says more about the intolerance of a troubling undercurrent in modern Liberalism than it does about Judge Roberts. It reflects more of the sacrifice of all Liberal jurisprudence at the altar of unrestricted abortion rights. Protests around abortion clinics, limiting the First Amendment right to peaceably assemble, were prohibited in service of abortion. Now traditional Liberal religious tolerance is being lost in service of abortion.