Hip-Gnosis: October 2006: Archives

October 30, 2006

South Dakota Abortion Ban May Backfire genre: Hip-Gnosis

The abortion debate

Many anti-abortion groups saw the near all-inclusive ban on abortions signed into law earlier this year in South Dakota as the vehicle by which they could eventually challenge the validity of Roe v. Wade before the United States Supreme Court. The ban provides an exception to save the life of the mother but it doesn't provide any exception for rape or incest. A new poll seems to indicate that the measure is unlikely to succeed...an outcome that would be a blow to the many supporters who had embraced the ban.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A scientific poll done last week for the Argus Leader of Sioux Falls showed that South Dakotans are leaning against a proposed ban on nearly all abortions in the state.

And the percentage of those who plan to vote no on the ballot measure has increased since the last such survey in July.

The poll of 800 registered voters found that 52 percent opposed the measure that overwhelmingly passed the 2006 Legislature. Forty-two percent favored the proposed ban on abortions, and just 6 percent were undecided.

The poll also found that the proposed ban on abortions would have more support if it allowed abortions in cases of rape and incest.

When the bill was proposed and signed, many felt the lack of exceptions would hurt the chances of voter approval but those in favor chose to take the risk, hoping that anti-abortion sentiment would be sufficient for voters to overlook the lack of exceptions. The poll supports the argument that voters do pay attention and while they may favor some limitations on abortions, they would prefer to do so with reasonable exceptions and they are prepared to reject measures that are perceived to be an overreach.

In the July poll, 59 percent of those against the ban or undecided said they would vote for it with a rape and incest exception, while 29 percent said no and, 12 percent were undecided.

The July to October poll probably helped spur the education and get-out-the-vote campaigns conducted by those on both sides of the issue, said Don Dahlin, associate professor of political science at the University of South Dakota.

Dahlin said the new poll indicates the two sides have split the difference in undecided voters.

"When you get over 52 percent, with as few undecideds and getting as close as we are (to the election), it does look like that the voters' opinion is against this bill," he said. "It is going to be a question of who's going to get their folks out to actually vote."

I would argue that should this measure fail, it will in the future be seen as a strategic error on the part of the pro-life movement. Should the midterm election signal a shift in the electorate towards a more moderate government as evidenced by voting the Democratic Party into power, it will be increasingly difficult for the pro-life movement to pass measures that seek to ban abortions...especially to the extent that might have been possible in South Dakota.

In my opinion, both sides of the abortion debate are locked into absolute positions that make it increasingly difficult to conduct a reasoned debate about any prudent limitations that give women ample choice but also compel them to make decisions about terminating a pregnancy sooner than later. Additionally, a civil dialogue could potentially lead to other less ideologically biased measures that might serve to limit abortions through education or expanded adoption programs. Unfortunately, the lack of trust and respect coming from both sides leaves little room for negotiation.

Daniel DiRito | October 30, 2006 | 2:44 PM | link | Comments (0)
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October 17, 2006

Op-Ed Melange: Cohen, Thomas, And Dionne genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Everybody has an opinion

Sometimes a pending reality check leads people to let down their guard and expose a little more of the core person that underlies the public persona...and then again sometimes a pending reality check forces people to moderate the rhetoric of their otherwise partisan agenda. I've been reading a number of op-ed pieces in the last few days as I've always found them to be most interesting as an election approaches. This midterm has produced an unusually large number of them.

The first is from Richard Cohen in the Washington Post in which he discusses how the Foley scandal has brought clarity to the GOP's position on gays and how it so aptly exposes the hypocrisy and inconsistency that has been fully illuminated by this election eve revelation.

"On the nose" is a Hollywood expression. It refers to an idea or a scene or even a piece of dialogue that is too obvious or too good to be true. Hollywood would have said the whole Mark Foley sex scandal is on the nose. Let's just start with the fact that this confessed gay stalker of teenage congressional pages was co-chairman of the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus. All over Hollywood, fingers would go to the tip of the nose: Can't we make it Armed Services?

No, we cannot. To change anything at all about the Foley matter would be to trifle with its essential vacuity, its reliance on bigotry and ignorance, its resplendent Beaver Cleaver qualities (congressional pages, for crying out loud!) and, not least, the fact that so far this is the ultimate Washington sex scandal: There is no sex.

That this happened to the GOP is too, too much. It is no longer the party of Lincoln but the party of gay-bashing. Its base, its vaunted base, is among those who embrace ignorance of homosexuality and, while they are at it, ignorance of sexual matters in general.

Put the finger back on the nose. It was the GOP that stood for family values. It was the GOP that cozied up to churches and preachers who likened homosexuals to the vilest people of all time and called on them to cease their wicked ways, go from homosexual to heterosexual, which everyone knows they can do but will not because, apparently, it is easier to be gay and reviled than it is to be straight and comfy about it.

With regard to this sort of haranguing demagoguery, the leaders of the GOP have not just looked away, they have encouraged it. They have set themselves up as the little Dutch boys of American politics, their fingers in the dike, holding back such unspeakable X-rated evil that it is a miracle any child in this great country can grow up to be heterosexual or devout or an accountant.

The abuse of trust is no laughing matter, and the corruption of children is in a class by itself. But a sex scandal-turned-political panic involving just one person lacks a certain something. That it has attained such critical mass, that it threatens the speaker of the House and the GOP majority, says little about the repellent Foley but a lot about how the GOP has been hoisted by its own petard. It's on the nose all right, but sometimes so is life itself.

Cohen's piece reminded me of an incident that took place during my days in grade school. I had a classmate that was prone to sticking his tongue out at anyone that met with his disfavor and it eventually became a playground issue. I can't even recall all of the details but for some reason I decided to intervene in order to halt the escalation and while suggesting to him that he shouldn’t stick his tongue out at everyone, he stuck his tongue out at me. I'm not even sure why I remember my response but sometimes circumstances unfold such that, as Cohen says, they are "on the nose". Anyway, in my "on the nose" moment, I told my classmate that if he kept sticking his tongue out that he would eventually bite it. As I read Cohen's thoughts on the Foley scandal, it seems to me that the GOP has finally bit its own tongue...and that seems as it should be.

The next op-ed piece is from E.J. Dionne and it is also from the Washington Post. Dionne is apparently acquainted with David Kuo, the former Bush administration operative who resigned and wrote the book, Tempting Faith, in which he suggests that the GOP sought to use their faith based initiative to lure evangelical voters...while many within the White House made disparaging remarks about evangelicals and their leaders.

Dionne raises a number of thoughtful points that evangelicals and people of faith might want to consider before casting their lot with a political party. I think Dionne's goal is to propose that people of faith might better serve their beliefs by focusing less on the political paradigm and by seeking out alternate avenues to express and enact their values. As I've said time and again, no one group or party holds a monopoly on morality and its time to dismantle the facade that has promoted that notion.

His argument -- Kuo went on the record with it long before this book appeared -- is that the White House never put much money or muscle behind Bush's "compassionate conservatism." It used the faith-based agenda for political purposes and always made tax cuts for the wealthy a much higher priority than any assistance to those "armies of compassion" that Bush evoked so eloquently.

Exposés of hypocrisy are the mother's milk of Washington journalism. Yet the most useful thing that could flow from Kuo's revelations would not be a splashy exchange of charges and countercharges but rather a quiet reappraisal by rank-and-file evangelicals of their approach to politics.

I hope Kuo's book promotes serious discussions in religious study groups around the country about whether the evangelicals' alliance with political conservatism has actually made the world, well, more godly from their own point of view. What are evangelicals actually getting out of this partnership? Are they mostly being used by a coalition that, when the deals are cut, cares far more about protecting the interests of its wealthy and corporate supporters than its churchgoing foot soldiers?

Kuo is being cut up by some administration loyalists. That's not surprising, but it's painful for me. I met Kuo in the 1990s through a conservative friend and was impressed by the power of his religious faith and his passion for developing a conservative approach to helping the poor that would be as serious as liberal efforts but, in his view, more effective.

All of which is to say that I once hoped -- and, for the future, still hope -- that left and right might meet in some compassionate center to offer support for expanded government help to the needy while also fostering the indispensable work of religious and community groups.

Kuo's book comes on the eve of an election in which the odds suggest that voters will administer a strong rebuke to Republicans and the administration. It will thus be read as another argument for why such a reproach is merited.

When Kuo says there's something wrong with "taking Jesus and reducing him to some precinct captain, to some get-out-the-vote guy," he sounds a trumpet that makes you want to follow him into the battle.

It should actually come as no surprise that compassion and the pursuit of power are not all that compatible. Further, history is littered with examples whereby the pursuit of power (politics) has hidden behind the platitudes of compassion or some other higher purpose. Frankly, the objectives and the rewards that compassionate people seek aren't likely a byproduct of politics or even government. The notion that politics or governance is public service has been long corrupted and the recently exposed hypocrisy ought to be a potent wake-up call. Compassion is learned; not legislated. In fact I would argue that the majority of those who can be identified as evangelical leaders have the same objective as most politicians...and the populous serves as the vehicle by which that goal...power...can be achieved.

As my dad has so often stated..."people like to talk about compassion, but they can't make a marriage work and they would rather gossip about the neighbor than lend a hand. They prefer to be a church leader or some other authority figure because they aren't actually interested in giving...they prefer to take under the guise of goodness". While self-reported polling suggests that America is a religious nation, I would actually suggest that these numbers more closely define our words than our deeds.

The final op-ed piece is an article by Cal Thomas from Real Clear Politics. I've long viewed Thomas as a partisan hack and though I include his thoughts in this posting, I find his words to be the most disingenuous and indicative of what I initially described as a moderation of partisan rhetoric facilitated by a new reality...which in this case appears to be the likelihood that the GOP will not retain their stranglehold on power.

Thomas suggests that the GOP has succumbed to the spoils of power in just 12 years...while he also states that the Democrats previously took 40 years to do the same. He doesn't explain the large difference in timing which is why I give less credence to the bulk of his observations. I'll offer my own explanation after some excerpts from his article.

It's not just the war, or the travails of former Congressman Mark Foley, or any number of other things that political experts and pollsters tell us has jeopardized Republican control of Congress in the coming election. More than anything else, it is the perception that Republicans stand for little more than maintaining power for its own sake.

The problem is Democrats have fewer ideas than Republicans. They, too, crave power for its own sake and would return to their failed class warfare of the past, the only warfare they support. They will grow government even more than Republicans have and they will raise taxes and retreat from engaging America's enemies, thus encouraging those enemies to come after us with renewed zeal and an assurance that God is on their side.

Thomas suffers the very affliction that allowed the GOP to lose favor in only 12 years. He cannot and, more importantly, will not concede that all that is prudent and practical does not reside in his party. Further, his misrepresentation of recent political history underscores his inability to face the realities that have led to his party's disfavor. Perhaps the last two presidencies will prove to be aberrations but if one were able to remove partisanship from the equation and simply apply labels to the policies of George Bush and Bill Clinton, then the GOP is the party of big government and the Democrats are the party of fiscal responsibility. With that said, his accusation cannot be sustained.

So why does it appear that the GOP's reign might end in only 12 years? Here's the explanation. George Bush and his administration suffer from the ideology of absolutism. Their ideas are not constrained by labels such as conservative or liberal; they are defined in terms of right and wrong and that makes them all to quick to discount anything that fails to conform. The GOP has failed in 12 years because it has placed its own ideology above the will of the people. They saw their ascension to power as a mandate to dictate when it was simply a decision by the electorate to give them an opportunity to lead. This midterm election may serve to make that clear distinction.

Thomas can't let go of the need to win and the need to be right. The solutions he offers are reserved for his Republican cronies and that only serves to demonstrate the problem with his own absolutist ideology.

If Democrats win one or both houses, they will face the same choices Republicans had in 1994. They can return fire, like some Middle East revenge-seeker, perpetuating a cycle that never stops, or they can announce that America's problems and challenges are too large for one party and work with Republicans toward common objectives. My guess is Democrats will crow like the Republicans did and begin to position themselves to grab the White House in 2008, giving immediate problems a lower priority.

If that is their choice, Republicans may want to try something radically different, which might not only produce policy successes that benefit the country, but incidentally pay them political dividends.

Republicans should assemble a bipartisan group of former members of Congress, such as Georgia Democrat Sam Nunn and Missouri Republican John Danforth. They would be commissioned to draft a bipartisan team to find solutions to common problems and challenges, such as a general framework for when American forces would be committed abroad and for what purposes. The team could also attack poverty in ways politicians have not, largely because each side is beholden to its "base," which won't let them stray far from past practices.

I'm astonished by the Thomas understanding that revenge and retaliation may not serve our interests. Has he lost sight of the fundamental construct behind the Bush administration foreign policy? Has he forgotten that any and all Democratic calls for an honest and candid debate about the war in Iraq and with regards to the war on terror have been met with accusations that those who disagree with the status quo are unpatriotic? Aren't the problems the GOP has faced in the last 6 years the same ones he suggests would be too large for one party to confront should the Democrats assume a position of power? Why wasn't that true during the last 6 years and why will it suddenly become true if the Democrats prevail?

If you need evidence of Thomas's insincerity, look no further than his call for "something radically different" and note that it is immediately followed with the all consuming ulterior objective that those measures might "pay them political dividends". Thomas is simply seeking the tools that have the potential to restore the GOP to power. Take note that he is proposing that a bipartisan group of "former members of Congress" carry out his olive branch strategy. His fear that the Democrats will retaliate is nothing more than his admission that they would have grounds upon which to do so. Don't kid yourself...Thomas and his ilk signed on to Karl Rove's vision that the GOP was poised to establish a dynasty that would dominate and dictate the political terrain...and compromise wasn't part of the equation. They sought to impose capitulation.

Republicans need to try something dramatic that will demonstrate success and communicate to the public whose interests they actually serve. If they do lose their majority next month, but learn the greater lesson that power should be a means to success, not an end in itself, they will not be the first party or person to learn more from failure than from success.

I don't disagree with Thomas when he suggests that politicians should promote the interests of the public they serve. Unfortunately, my cynical side leads me to suspect that the Thomas suggestions are simply an acknowledgment that the GOP will have to recalibrate their weaponry if they want to succeed in putting an end to the opposition. Nonetheless, if I take Thomas at his word, I shouldn't have to worry about any of this for at least another 40 years. I'm glad he pointed that out. Thanks Cal...I'm feeling better already.

Daniel DiRito | October 17, 2006 | 11:23 AM | link | Comments (0)
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October 16, 2006

Former FDA Chief Lester Crawford To Plead Guilty genre: Hip-Gnosis & Little Red Ribbon-Hood & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Lester Crawford

Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner, Lester Crawford, has been charged with making false statements and with conflicts-of-interest with regard to stocks he held in companies that were regulated by the administration. Reuters has details of the charges and Fox News is reporting that he will plead guilty on Tuesday.

Thought Theater previously reported on the controversial head of the FDA here and here. Crawford was roundly criticized and his confirmation was blocked due to his extended delays to approve the Plan B contraceptive as well as other accusations of inappropriate behavior while in the position. Many felt that the delays in the approval were politically motivated based upon the Bush administrations opposition to the contraceptive method.

From Reuters:

Crawford held a number of senior posts at the agency, which regulates much of the food supply, medical devices, drugs, vaccines, cosmetics, animal feed and drugs. It is part of the Department of Health and Human Services.

In 2003, Crawford headed an FDA obesity study group, which issued recommendations early in 2004 encouraging soda makers to relabel serving sizes of sugary carbonated drinks.

From August 2003 through June 2004, Crawford and his wife owned 1,400 shares of beverage maker PepsiCo Inc. stock worth at least $62,000 and 2,500 shares of food distributor Sysco Corp. stock, worth at least $78,000, according to court documents.

Both companies "had a financial interest" in the obesity group's conclusions and recommendations, prosecutors said.

While at the agency, Crawford also retained stock options in Embrex Inc., an agriculture biotechnology company regulated by the FDA, prosecutors said. Before joining the FDA, Crawford served on the company's board of directors.

In 2003, Crawford exercised an option to buy 2,000 shares of Embrex stock, earning $8,150, prosecutors said. In 2004, he purchased 3,000 shares, earning $20,627.

Crawford joins a long list of disgraced Bush appointees and he is one further reminder to voters of the hypocrisy within the GOP...the party that has used morality and values to garner the support of a large block of evangelical voters. It has become increasingly obvious that many of these discredited appointees and politicians were simply motivated by power and profit far more than by their religious values.

From Fox News:

WASHINGTON — Former FDA chief Lester Crawford will plead guilty for failing to disclose a financial interest in companies his agency regulated, his lawyer said Monday.

Crawford "is going to plead guilty to two misdemeanors tomorrow afternoon and he is going to admit his financial disclosures had errors and omissions, mostly with his wife's continued ownership of stocks," said Crawford's lawyer, Barbara Van Gelder.

"At the end of the day, he owned these stocks and he will admit he owned them while he was at the FDA and he will take responsibility for that," said Van Gelder.

Accused of making a false writing and conflict of interest, Crawford was scheduled to appear before a federal magistrate Tuesday afternoon. Each carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison.

As we near the November election, I can only hope that voters take the time to evaluate the divide between the actions of the GOP and the rhetoric they have used so effectively for the last decade. Further, when history records the events since the launch of the "Contract with America", one would likely expect that it will be concluded that the Republican Party abused the trust of their constituents and reneged on much of that contract.

Daniel DiRito | October 16, 2006 | 5:16 PM | link | Comments (1)
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Relativism: P. J. O'Rourke's GOP Endorsement genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Rose colored glasses

The Weekly Standard's P.J. O'Rourke, in a new article titled What's the Smell?, does his best to apply relativism in order to endorse the continuation of GOP control. The problem with his argument, as I see it, is that the GOP transgressions he elucidates are real, recent, and relevant...while his condemnation of the Democratic Party is primarily a flawed attempt to invoke fear from fabrication. Nonetheless, his efforts are fully consistent with my prior suggestion that the GOP has made a calculated shift in their strategy which seeks to push voters to consider the idiom of "Better the devil you know than the devil you don't".

LIKE OTHER DEEP-THINKING people, I'm full of principled, idealistic, high-minded indignation at the GOP. What a stampede of sleaze. Jack Abramoff is the world's best lobbyist--for the Federal Penitentiary System. Bob Ney was deep in the ethical rough at St. Andrew's. Randy "Duke" Cunningham's favorite weapons system turned out to be the political suicide bomb. Tom DeLay may or may not have broken campaign finance laws, but he did his best to look like he was breaking them. He might as well have tied quail feathers to the GOP majority in Congress and sent it hunting with Dick Cheney.

Actually, the Republicans should be grateful for their lying, thieving scum. It distracts the public from the things the Republicans have done that are honestly bad. Our postwar policy is creating Weimar Iraq. And when the Islamofascist Beer Hall Putsch comes there won't even be beer.

So O'Rourke's first objective is to suggest that the list of offenses that have led to voter dissatisfaction with the GOP...like Foleygate, the Abramoff lobbyist scandal, and many more...aren't actually that bad. In a reversal of fortune, I might suggest he give consideration to the possibility that he and his elitist Republican cohorts views are not consistent with mainstream American values...an accusation the GOP leveled against Democrats for at least a decade.

He then argues that the policy issues that the GOP has botched...like Social Security, Immigration, and government spending...aren't getting the attention they deserve in an attempt to push voters into what I would call the "I don't want to appear stupid" corner. In other words, an intelligent voter would see past the inconsequential media driven trivialities to the substantive issues confronting the nation. Now that he has his readers attention and has them sufficiently fretting their political prowess, he seeks to finish the shaming process by telling voters just how preposterous it would be to give the Democrats the reigns.

I am so moved by principle and idealism, so indignantly high-minded, that I'm changing sides. At least the Democrats aren't hypocritical about being scum. After Gerry Studds was censured for molesting an underaged congressional page, he was reelected six times. Therefore, in the mid term elections, I'm working to get Democrats into office.

And work it is. There's the problem of putative speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, whose very name summons images of children coming home from day care madly scratching their scalps. Then, when you see Pelosi speak, it's impossible not to think of Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown. I hope her campaign slogan isn't "A New Kick-Off for America."

There is also the problem of issues for the Democrats to run on. You're going to elect Democrats to control government spending? And you're going to marry Angelina Jolie for her brains. The privacy issue--government spying on U.S. citizens--isn't going to work. True, NSA has been collecting all our telephone information, but anyone who's answered the phone during dinner knows that every telemarketer on earth has that information already. Illegal immigration? When the Democrats were in charge, the illegal immigrants were from al Qaeda. And as for Iraq, the best the Democrats have been able to do is make the high school sex promise: "I'll pull out in time, honest."

Maybe I won't work for the Democrats. It's too much of a job. And jobs are not something the Democratic base is famous for having. Maybe I'll just act like a Democrat and stay away from the polls on November 7 and hang around the house drinking beer. In fact, I think I'll start practicing that now, so I'll be ready on Election Day.

Aside from the numerous ad hominem attacks, do I smell a hint of good old boy misogyny? I contend that the GOP has a long history of vilifying women in positions of power within the Democratic Party (the she's a bitch attack) while at the same time seeking to portray their own women as inspirational principled citizens who bootstrapped their way to positions of influence the right way (the Pat Nixon & Nancy Reagan canonization approach). Add to that the Promise Keepers doctrine that the man leads and makes decisions while the woman follows obediently...because apparently "god" prefers men (hmmmm...but that's a completely different issue)...and you apparently have the bulk of O'Rourke's self-serving world order.

Let me posit that this diatribe serves two purposes...it reassures a number of men who need authority that the GOP understands and embraces their need and it is also a shot across the bow of those women who might act too independently in determining their own choices (the uppity feminist label). This type of argument is a testimony to the GOP's embrace of religion and values and the attempt to merge the two in order to amplify their hold on power through the invocation of absolutist rhetoric.

No price is too high to pay for principled idealism. And as soon as high-minded indignation has defeated the Republicans, there will be the impoverishment from protectionism, the horror of nuke-wielding petty dictators, and the increased killings by terrorists to prove it. Deep-thinking people will be relieved that Dennis Hastert can no longer cover up misbehavior in the congressional page program.

Ahh yes...make sure to toss in the final jab that the Democrats will bring the wrath of rogue dictators and anti-American terrorists to the front door of each citizen...because "high-minded" people are too focused upon the fact that Dennis Hastert didn't do enough to protect underage pages from a predator...huh? I'll hand it to O'Rourke...he's a good student of history. As with the Catholic Church, when the GOP faced allegations that they sought to protect their own by sweeping numerous scandal under the rug, they did the noble thing...they chose obfuscation and scapegoating while holding steadfast to their superior ideals. I guess O'Rourke prefers the priests pledge to the high school sex promise he mentions above...you know...the one that says we'll put it to you whenever we damn well feel like it because we hold a monopoly on morality.

Daniel DiRito | October 16, 2006 | 2:16 PM | link | Comments (0)
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David Kuo: "Tempting Faith" Author On 60 Minutes genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Video-Philes

Find this video and thousands of others at vSocial!

Daniel DiRito | October 16, 2006 | 1:37 PM | link | Comments (0)
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October 15, 2006

The Devil's Disguise genre: Hip-Gnosis & Rhyme-N-Reason

I wrote the following poem, The Devil's Disguise, while thinking about politics and religion and how those that embrace one or both are often consumed by the power that each can provide. In recent years, the two have become more and more intertwined in our American culture. All too often men and women are called upon by those in positions of authority within politics or religion to make sacrifices that cannot be justified.

In the end, the simple concept of love is far more instructive than either of these human constructs and yet one is often left to wonder if love will prevail. I've often questioned if we humans are more willing to fight for the concept of love or succumb to our propensity to hate. Were politics and religion created to promote love or are they the means by which we seek to legitimize the hatred we harbor? Lastly, if one embraces love above all else, then what actions can be justified in the name of love and at what point do our actions to uphold love corrupt it?

St. Mary's Cathedral in Sydney - 2005

The Devil's Disguise

Half alive and half way dead
I see this life inside my head
But hearts the only path that’s left

Colors on a canvas, the shadow’s relief
Pieces put together, glued with grief
The spirit pushes forward from beneath

Holy men, politicos
Devils in disciple’s clothes
The fire’s wrath begins to grow
Draw the sword, the blood must flow

Love prevails when hate is slain
The weapons used are not the same
The heart is there to fix the brain

Medicinal maggots, corporate magnates
The poisons captured by the dragnets
When loves alive the virus stagnates

Holy men, politicos
Laws are made, imposed
The spirit stirs from its repose
The war is fought, the blood must flow

Twisted words, the tide will turn
Temples fall, the bricks will burn
Another language, its time we learn

The army grows by word of mouth
The devil’s drones begin to shout
A song of love must drown them out

Holy men, politicos
Evil falls like dominos
The spirit speaks the truth it knows
The heart sustains, the blood must flow

Daniel DiRito | October 15, 2006 | 1:18 PM | link | Comments (0)
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October 12, 2006

Poll Shows Voter Moral Compass Shifting To Dems genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation & Uncivil Unions

Bridging the gap

Logic should tell us that no one group has a lock on morality...but don't look at the last decade to discern that conclusion. Nonetheless, the GOP stranglehold on values voters seems to be on the wane as evidenced by Frank Newport's analysis at the Gallup News Service which reviewed recent polling trends. I'm reminded of the well know adage of, "It is true that you may fool all of the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all of the time; but you can't fool all of the people all of the time". If this new Gallup analysis is accurate, then this insightful quote from Abe Lincoln may well be the undoing of the Republican Party's efforts to rewrite the equation. Perhaps an exaggeration on my part but one intended to emphasize the GOP's years of successfully pushing the envelope.

PRINCETON, NJ -- An analysis of USA Today/Gallup poll trend data indicates that while Democrats have made gains across the board on the generic Congressional ballot in the latest Oct. 6-8 survey, the change has been greater among religious whites than among less religious whites and among non whites. At this point, religious whites are equally as likely to say they will vote Democratic as Republican, a marked change from their strong tilt towards the Republicans in surveys conducted June through September.

The Democrats made gains across all groups in the October poll compared to the averages in previous months. But the Democratic gain (or Republican loss depending on how one looks at it) is more significant among religious whites than among the other two groups. Religious whites went from an average Democratic disadvantage of 23 points across the June through September months, to dead even in October. Less religious whites shifted only seven points across these two time periods, while the group of "all others" shifted 9 points.

A comparison of the September average to October shows a 22-point gain for the Democrats among white frequent churchgoers, a six-point gain among white less frequent churchgoers, and a 14-point gain among all others.

The fact that the largest percentage shift towards the Democrats seems to come from the most religiously defined group harkens another well known adage, "Fool me once shame on you; fool me twice shame on me". As a good friend once told me, the best way to change someone's mind or their behavior is to put them in a situation where retaining their opinions or their actions might make them appear to be stupid. Before anyone is offended, I am not suggesting anyone is stupid...but I am arguing that many values voters were manipulated by a Republican Party that has mastered the art of lip service.

One plausible explanation for the broad drop in Republican support in the most recent poll is the Mark Foley scandal in Congress. Since this situation involved issues of morality on the part of Foley, and allegations of a cover-up on the part of Republican leadership, it appears plausible that religious whites may have become disproportionately disillusioned with the Republicans and as a result lost more of their fervor for voting Republican than others in the population.

I realize that values voters on the far right and those secular voters on the far left are unlikely to narrow their divide in order to reach many points of agreement...but that is why they call it a bell curve. Fortunately the vast majority of people fall somewhere in the middle because they are reasonable and thoughtful and they understand that our social contract can only succeed if we demonstrate a healthy measure of tolerance for opposing views. In return, the same social contract provides each of us the opportunity to equitably hold the views we choose so long as they conform to law. That's an amazingly practical and efficient construct based upon an appreciation of human nature.

At the same time, it acknowledges that the notion of values is much broader than two or three volatile issues like abortion rights or same-sex marriage. Finding oneself in agreement with another on two critical issues doesn't necessarily mean that both parties share the same values. Even the very cornerstone of many American voters’ beliefs, the Bible, offers numerous examples to support that observation. I don't know if we're on the verge of enlightenment or if someone has found a new way to fool more of us...but I do know that all that is required to maintain a rational balance is a willingness to take the time to learn enough about others such that an accurate and honest evaluation can prevail when confronted by the all too frequent rhetoric of partisan political absolutism. I think a wise man from our distant past had it about right when he coined another famous adage, "Moderation is the key".

Daniel DiRito | October 12, 2006 | 1:59 PM | link | Comments (0)
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October 11, 2006

GOP Seeks To Make Foleygate Gay Inquisition genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Smoke and mirrors strategy

Never underestimate the ability of the GOP to transform scandal into spin aimed to obfuscate fact and shift blame. The latest effort involves the revelations that Republican Congressman Mark Foley sent solicitous emails and instant messages to underage male pages. In the course of the near two week old scandal, the GOP has crafted a message designed to infer that a group of gay staffers may have been responsible for shielding Mr. Foley's actions from the scrutiny of those who could punish his actions. The Chicago Tribune elaborates on this GOP spin in a new article.

More signs of discontent among the GOP's core social conservative supporters also emerged, with a prominent conservative activist questioning in an article whether gay Republican staffers and members of Congress were working behind the scenes to undercut the political agenda of religious conservatives.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, wrote in a Web newsletter that the scandal "raises another plausible question for values voters: has the social agenda of the GOP been stalled by homosexual members and/or staffers?"

Several key figures involved in the scandal and its handling are gay or linked to gay causes. Foley has acknowledged he is gay. Kolbe is gay. Trandahl, 42, is a board member for the gay-rights group Human Rights Campaign.

Noting that, Perkins continued, "The GOP will have to decide whether it wants to be the party that defends the traditional moral and family values that our nation was built upon and directed by for two centuries. Put another way, does the party want to represent values voters, or Mark Foley and friends?"

I've previously suggested that the leaders of the evangelical voting block and GOP strategists, under the direction of Karl Rove, work in concert to achieve their individual and mutually beneficial goals. I believe the remarks of Perkins are offered with the approval of the hierarchy of the GOP and are intended to achieve two goals. One, to absolve high level members of the Republican Party from fault (particularly Dennis Hastert) and two, to reframe the issue into advantageous campaign rhetoric designed to motivate their all important conservative religious base.

Perkins comments are specifically designed to infer that the real problem is the gay lifestyle and that the only fault that rests with the GOP leadership has been their overly compassionate approach that has included employing a number of gay staffers. The exposure of Foley as gay along with the revelation that numerous staffers are also gay has the potential to damage the GOP's relationship with evangelicals and now that their disingenuous rhetoric has exposed their underlying hypocrisy, they are prepared to toss these gay staffers under the bus to retain their all too important voting block.

Patrick Sammon, executive vice president of Log Cabin Republicans, a gay Republican organization, said the connection was spurious.

"The anti-gay groups are trying to spin this into some kind of gay cover-up," Sammon said. "But I don't think any of this had anything to do with sexual orientation."

I would caution Democrats to temper their optimism that this issue will continue to provide an advantage for the Party as we approach the November election. I view the reported bipartisan effort on the part of the ethics committee that included a somewhat unprecedented news conference may be part and parcel of a GOP strategy. Note that Hastert and the vast majority of Republican operatives are now touting the investigation and supporting its efforts to provide a rapid response to the scandal. I suspect that the plan is to shift blame to a number of GOP gay staffers in order to absolve elected Republicans and to reframe the scandal as an advantageous campaign talking point...one that reunites the evangelicals with the GOP in a belief that they must oppose the gay agenda.

The bottom line is that the GOP isn't going to stand by and watch their constituent base fall apart. With that in mind, look forward to the GOP doing whatever it takes to turn this scandal into an opportunity to reassure these voters that they are united in their committment to a values agenda.

Daniel DiRito | October 11, 2006 | 9:24 AM | link | Comments (1)
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The Daily Show: Dems & Gays Behind Foleygate genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

The GOP is on the offensive in an attempt to blame the Democrats and a "network of gay staffers" for leaking the details about Congressman Mark Foley as well as sitting on the information until it would provide them maximum partisan advantage. Stewart skewers the argument in this video clip courtesy of John at AMERICAblog. Samantha Bee also spoofs the issue by comparing the war on congressional child predators to fighting the war on terror.

Daniel DiRito | October 11, 2006 | 8:51 AM | link | Comments (0)
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October 9, 2006

GOP Strategy: Blame The Gays, Not The GOP genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation & Uncivil Unions

Blame the gays

In the wake of the Mark Foley scandal, the GOP has struggled to offer a plausible defense for what appears to have been an effort to cover up the congressman's outrageous communications with underage male pages. While the situation is certainly not what the Party would have wanted to happen with barely a month until the midterm elections, I have my reservations as to the impact the scandal will have on the evangelical vote.

Two new articles offer some insight into how the GOP will attempt to spin the scandal and into the mindset of the evangelical when confronted by such a scandal. The New York Times headline reads, "Evangelicals Blame Foley, Not Republican Party", while the Washington Times article closes with a quotation from a senior Republican campaign official, "The only anger we're hearing from our grass roots is anger aimed at one man -- Mark Foley."

In mulling over both articles as well as reading and listening to the many Republican operatives who have been discussing the issue, a clear GOP strategy appears to be emerging. More importantly for the Democratic Party, this scandal should once and for all provide them with insight into the way evangelicals think as well as just how successful the GOP has become in tuning into that mindset in order to retain their support. At the core of that understanding is the adoption of what I would call the politically correct notion of hate the sin, not the sinner.

From The New York Times:

“This is Foley’s lifestyle," said Ron Gwaltney, a home builder, as he waited with his family outside a Christian rock concert last Thursday in Norfolk. “He tried to keep it quiet from his family and his voters. He is responsible for what he did. He is paying a price for what he did. I am not sure how much farther it needs to go."

The Democratic Party is “the party that is tolerant of, maybe more so than Republicans, that lifestyle," Mr. Gwaltney said, referring to homosexuality.

Most of the evangelical Christians interviewed said that so far they saw Mr. Foley’s behavior as a matter of personal morality, not institutional dysfunction.

But as far as culpability in the Foley case, Mr. Dunn said, House Republicans may benefit from the evangelical conception of sin. Where liberals tend to think of collective responsibility, conservative Christians focus on personal morality. “The conservative Christian audience or base has this acute moral lens through which they look at this, and it is very personal," Mr. Dunn said. “This is Foley’s personal sin."

The concept of morality from the religious perspective is a powerful force that is derived from a more or less literal interpretation of Biblical teachings. In the last thirty years, as the religious right has sought to become a political force, they have honed their message into a salable partisan strategy. Specifically, the strategy is to satisfy the desire of religious voters to maintain the appearance of Christian compassion coupled with the larger goal of opposing and extinguishing those behaviors they reject through the imposition of laws designed to achieve that outcome.

The key to the successes achieved by this powerful movement rests in the alliance of influential religious leaders like James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Tony Perkins, and countless others with a Republican Party looking for a winning voter coalition. This symbiotic merger provides both groups what they seek. For Dobson and his ilk it allows them to raise huge sums of money and expand their influence as the voice of the devout and a broker for achieving their political objectives. For the Republican Party, in exchange for the occasional legislation and the all too frequent pledge to make values a fundamental political objective, they gain the perpetual support of this significant and stable voting block.

The instinctive reaction to the Foley scandal is to presume that these religious voters will conclude that the GOP has failed to uphold its end of the bargain. Supporting that assumption are the measured remarks of disappointment from a number of these powerful religious power brokers as well as the typical one dimensional media analysis that sees these issues in terms of their utility during the next 24 hour news cycle. Unfortunately, this simplistic analysis suffers from an abundance of shortsightedness.

Let me offer an alternative perspective. Despite the risk of angering religious and political insiders, the leadership within both camps is staffed with opportunists. Further, they also realize that they can best exploit opportunity if they act in concert. I would equate the handling of the Foley scandal with the adage that states, "if life gives you lemons, make lemonade". Here's the equation. The Republican Party, seemingly caught with their pants down, immediately pivots to make comparisons to the Democrats handling of a similar scandal in 1983...an effort to demonstrate two things.

One, Democrats tolerated the outrageous behavior of one of their own because they politically support the homosexual lifestyle and they didn't want to alienate their constituents. In other words they failed to sufficiently punish the sin because they embrace the underlying lifestyle. Let me be clear. I am not suggesting that Democrats embrace pedophilia. What I am suggesting is that the religious argument being used against Democrats seeks to show that supporting the gay lifestyle already accepts sin...which makes it possible to assert that the current Democratic outrage is primarily a partisan strategy.

Two, Republicans can argue that, in an effort to not hate the sinner, they probably used bad judgment in not addressing the Foley scandal more aggressively. They can suggest that they used caution to avoid being seen as lacking compassion...even though they view the homosexual lifestyle as sinful. In other words, they tried to avoid jumping to conclude that Mark Foley had committed a sin beyond the fundamental sin of his lifestyle. They can argue that his behaviors...limited to those they contend they were aware of...were objectionable such that he was confronted and asked to cease his actions...but not so outrageous that they would warrant unduly punishing Mark Foley, the sinner.

They can contend that if they had been given any reason to believe that Foley had intended to act (as the "newly" revealed instant messages now seem to suggest) or had actually acted upon his lifestyle and committed a crime, then it would have been a far different situation and resulted in a far different reaction. In fact, they have argued that once they knew the scope of the behavior, they did act swiftly and far more aggressively than their Democratic counterparts.

From The Washington Times:

But before the House page scandal broke, igniting a finger-pointing fight among conservatives over who was to blame, polls had shown the political environment slowly improving and the election tightening in the House and Senate races.

Republican campaign officials talked of "turning the corner" in their campaigns and a change in the nation's political mood. Elections forecaster Stuart Rothenberg reported at the end of last month that "GOP polling has shown dramatically improved prospects for the party in a number of districts."

After House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert's press conference last week, Republican officials now think their party has regained the offensive on the page scandal after beginning a two-pronged investigation by the House ethics committee and the FBI.

At the same time, I have no doubt as to how the incident is going to be characterized in churches around the country prior to the election. It will go something like this. Yes, our Republican leaders have been far too tolerant and they likely failed to pursue the issue with sufficient tenacity...but they didn't do so because they embrace the gay lifestyle. In their efforts to love the sinner, they may have afforded too much compassion to Mr. Foley in order to be abundantly fair as well as to honor their prevailing Christian religious beliefs. In other words, there was a risk of personally hurting Mr. Foley by unnecessarily exposing his chosen sinful lifestyle.

I wouldn't be surprised to hear ministers attempt to minimize the less than satisfactory reactions to the revelation of the initial emails and to draw comparisons to minimize the offense committed in those documents. The best one I can offer would be for a minister to ask the congregation to consider how fellow congressman might react to an accusation that a member made a comment to a female page, while in his office, that she looked especially lovely today in her new outfit. Inappropriate? Probably so..and it would likely warrant a word of caution to that member...and the public exposure of such behavior might draw frowns and criticism from many as an instance of bad judgment...but in comparison to the possible very negative reaction to the outing of a closeted gay congressman (Congressman Foley), there is a difference that should be considered.

The minister, in offering this example, can contend that good intentions may have led to a poorly handled situation...but it should in no way be viewed to impugn the values of the Republican Party. On the contrary, the minister can argue that the GOP may have, in attempting to live their Christian beliefs, simply been too compassionate in wanting to avoid personally hurting Foley by exposing the fact that he is gay.

At that point, the minister could pivot to a discussion of the need to prevent the institutionalization of the homosexual lifestyle and its agenda. He or she could suggest that we have to be compassionate towards the sinner but we need not embrace the sins he or she may be inclined to commit. In other words, the gay lifestyle is wrong and we Christians must redouble our efforts to reject it...and that can best be achieved by supporting politicians that are opposed to gay marriage, that want to put an end to judicial activism, that want conservative Supreme Court justices, and that hold sound Christian values that honor the teachings of the Bible and seek to write our laws accordingly.

In my hypothetical sermon, the conclusion would suggest that this incident is a wake up call to the complacency that can result from failing to clearly interpret right from wrong in our attempts to be compassionate. Those who support the gay lifestyle have been effective in shifting blame to Christians and that must be resisted and basic values must be preserved...which can only be achieved by Christian leaders who are committed to enacting laws that honor these fundamental beliefs.

While I am opposed to conspiracy theories, it wouldn't be difficult to conclude that, in the waning effectiveness of using opposition to gays as a wedge issue, the GOP has once again found a means to elevate the topic in order to motivate their fundamentalist evangelical base. By bringing voters to witness how complacency in reaction to the onslaught of the homosexual agenda may have led to this troubling incident, the GOP may have stumbled upon the next best thing to constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage. In my cynical scenario, it all comes down to those sinful gay people who, rather than repent and seek redemption, continue to push a militant agenda determined to force the full acceptance of the gay lifestyle upon a nation and a world already struggling to maintain its moral compass.

From The New York Times:

To a person, those interviewed said that Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois should resign if he knew of the most serious claims against Mr. Foley and failed to stop him. They said the degree of Mr. Hastert’s responsibility remained to be seen. Many said the issue had not changed their view of Congress because, in their opinion, it could not sink any lower.

But all also noted that the swift Democratic efforts to broaden the scandal to Mr. Hastert and other Republicans had added more than a whiff of partisanship to the stink of the scandal.

Still, many conservative churchgoers said that what stood out for them was not the politics but the individual sin. “It is not going to affect my vote because I don’t live in Florida," said Scott O’Connell, a mechanical engineer who described himself as a fundamentalist. “But there is a bigger moral issue which I would say is the prism I view this through: I do not believe in homosexuality."

David Thomas, a father taking his family to the concert, said that he, too, was leaning toward voting Republican and that the scandal only reinforced his conservative Christian convictions. “That is the problem we have in society," Mr. Thomas said. “Nobody polices anybody. Everybody has a ‘right’ to do whatever."

In an interview on Friday, Pastor Anne Gimenez of the 15,000-member Rock Church here said the scandal “doesn’t change the issues we are voting on," like abortion, public expression of religion and same-sex marriage.

Many have called the Foley scandal the October surprise...and while that may be an accurate assessment...if my fears are confirmed, it may turn out to be the Democrat's October surprise that suddenly became the GOP's Election Day surprise. I certainly hope I'm wrong.

Daniel DiRito | October 9, 2006 | 8:07 AM | link | Comments (1)
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October 4, 2006

Foley Fallout: Evangelicals Will Turnout...Will Dems? genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Two minute warning

In light of the recent GOP meltdown that is being driven by the Mark Foley scandal, many Democrats are salivating at the possibility that this "values" scandal will suppress the turnout of Republican conservatives and evangelicals. Initially, it seemed quite plausible and it may well come to pass, but I'm beginning to think that the outcome may be just the opposite. I realize this is simply speculation but I think it warrants exploring. My first concerns emerged yesterday as numerous GOP operatives began spinning the scandal and it continued today as I read an article in the conservative newspaper, The Washington Times.

Republican campaign strategists and conservatives fear former Rep. Mark Foley's sex scandal will depress turnout among the party's "value voter" base in November, further complicating Republican efforts to keep control of Congress.

"A social conservative may think, 'Well, Democrats aren't going to represent the legislation I want to see passed, but the Republicans aren't representing me,' " said Tom McClusky, vice president of government affairs at the Family Research Council.

"They may just decide to stay home," according to Mr. McClusky, who said many conservative voters are rightly "disgusted."

A survey of Republican state chairmen nationwide revealed little discontent about how their party's House leadership has handled the scandal, calling the affair a case "of one sick individual" who has since resigned from Congress.

Phyllis Schlafly, among the conservative movement's icons, said religious voters should follow the advice former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher gave to the first President George Bush when he was considering what to do about Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait: "This is no time to go wobbly, George."

"There is too much at stake, starting with the importance of judicial nominations," said the Eagle Forum president and a conservative not averse to public criticism of fellow Republicans.

The Rev. Wiley Drake, conservative activist and one of the vice presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention, predicted the disgust among conservative voters over the Foley situation will actually propel them to the polls next month.

Yesterday, Rush Limbaugh was exhorting his listeners to keep the faith; arguing that the conservative mission, though damaged by such events and struggling to overcome a general negative sentiment among the electorate, is still on the precipice of finishing its essential mission...changing the Supreme Court for the next generation. In that regard, I think the Democrats may be relying on a fundamental belief that is a mainstay of football jargon, "The best offense is a good defense". I think there is a belief amongst Democratic leaders that, given the mood of the country, they simply need to hold off the last drive of a team that is intent on reshaping the judicial terrain in order to institute a rigidly defined set of values.

Continuing with the football analogy, I view the GOP as having started out far behind a number of years ago...but they have scored the last couple touchdowns. They're also playing this game on their home field...they hold a majority in the House and the Senate and they have a Republican president...all of which allows them to play offense and set the agenda. They also have a devout fan base that has been loyal for years and they have held fast to a dream of the ultimate victory for years...the Super Bowl championship...if you will.

Finally, there is little doubt that these fans view this midterm election as the timeframe for a game winning drive in the waning minutes of a hard fought battle. Consequently, the fact that they have had too bench a player for misconduct is distracting and disturbing, but not such that it will cause them to blink and let this final victory slip away. In fact, I would argue that this misstep actually steels the will of the supporters to redouble their efforts to root the team onto victory.

The equation for the Democrats is much the opposite. They enter the final minutes of the battle in the lead, seen to be a heavy favorite by most of those in the know, and now they are also the beneficiary of the benching of an opposing starter. Conventional wisdom says that their fans are confident...everything they encounter reinforces their belief that a win is at hand and they now believe the opponent has faltered and may not be able to bring the final push. They merely have to keep the Republicans out of the end zone until the clock expires. In fact, some of their fans may feel comfortable enough to head for the parking lot in order to beat the traffic...and therein lay the unthinkable risk.

Given the GOP's superior get out the vote machine and their cash advantage, the Foley scandal may actually prove to be the ultimate counter intuitive catalyst needed to push the GOP and their loyal following to make that all important final effort. It may also serve to anesthetize a number of Democrats which could mean that some of them...convinced that victory has now been assured...may choose to stay at home. I've got to state that I have never been a fan of a prevent defense in football and I feel no differently in politics. I can only hope that my analogy proves to be wrong.

Daniel DiRito | October 4, 2006 | 3:03 PM | link | Comments (0)
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October 3, 2006

Is The Foley Scandal A Wedge Buster? genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Driving a wedge

The dust has yet to settle on the scandal surrounding the resignation of Florida Congressman Mark Foley after the exposure of solicitous emails to an underage male page. Foley's actions are especially damaging to the GOP given his position on the Congressional committee intended to protect children from exploitation. The fact that the Republican congressional leadership seemingly ignored some of the troubling emails despite being alerted to their existence may offer the Democrats a much needed wedge buster. The Washington Post discusses the ramifications in a new article published today.

From The Washington Post:

As House GOP leaders defended their role in handling revelations that forced Foley on Friday to give up his House seat, party strategists said the scandal threatens to depress turnout among Christian conservatives and could hamper efforts to convince undecided and swing voters that Republicans deserve to remain in the majority.

There was intense anger among social conservative activists in Washington yesterday, and some called for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) to resign.

Others warned that the impact could be much greater. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and an important social conservative leader, said "there's a real chance" that the episode could dethrone the Republican majority. "I think the next 48 hours are critical in how this is handled," he said, adding that "when a party holds itself out as the guardian of values, this is not helpful."

By yesterday, a number of GOP strategists reported widespread gloom about the party's prospects, combined with intense anger at the House leadership.

In a further sign of the outrage, The Washington Times, a notably conservative newspaper, also called for the resignation of House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

From The Washington Times:

House Speaker Dennis Hastert must do the only right thing, and resign his speakership at once. Either he was grossly negligent for not taking the red flags fully into account and ordering a swift investigation, for not even remembering the order of events leading up to last week's revelations -- or he deliberately looked the other way in hopes that a brewing scandal would simply blow away. He gave phony answers Friday to the old and ever-relevant questions of what did he know and when did he know it? Mr. Hastert has forfeited the confidence of the public and his party, and he cannot preside over the necessary coming investigation, an investigation that must examine his own inept performance.

In my opinion, these recent events provide the Democratic Party with an opportunity to begin the process of dismantling the values wedge that has been created by the Republican Party. Time and again, the GOP has attempted to characterize the Democratic Party's position on issues of morality as inferior and designed to undermine religious beliefs. Don't get me wrong...I'm not suggesting that conservative Republicans are going to immediately change their political affiliations and begin voting Democratic. Nonetheless, I think this situation provides the Democrats an opportunity to draw some important distinctions.

The GOP has been able to characterize Democratic support for a woman's right to choose, support for gay rights issues, and support for a number of other values topics as positions of insufficient moral standing. I believe the Democrats can pivot from the Foley situation to redefine themselves to values voters. Democrats need to make clear to religious voters that they are not opposed to religion and that they have been unfairly accused in that regard by a Republican Party that has sought to exploit the beliefs of this important voting block.

Here's how I would frame the message if I were a Democratic strategist. It begins with a clear explanation that the duty of elected officials is to uphold our constitution...the social contract that we American's embrace and that was designed to provide equal rights and equal opportunity to all Americans without the imposition of any particular religious doctrine. Therefore the document is first and foremost about fairness and tolerance. In that regard, the actions of elected Democrats...in carrying out their constitutional responsibilities may not always comport with specific religious beliefs...but they will always honor the intent of the constitution.

Further, that consistency is not intended to invalidate the religious beliefs that voters may hold...but it is also necessary to avoid the imposition of one belief system over another. At the same time, in observing the constitution, elected officials may not require a citizen or a group of citizens to embrace or act in any way that may well be contrary to the religious convictions of the individual or the group. In other words, the constitution provides equitable reciprocity.

I would then compare and contrast that with the actions of the GOP and suggest that while the Republican Party may, from time to time, be willing to endorse particular religious beliefs and occasionally seek to legislate those beliefs...those actions may not be based upon the same religious convictions and may well be a calculation intended to give the appearance of endorsing those beliefs in order to obtain the votes they seek to maintain power. I would ask that voters consider the numerous Republican scandals as well as examine the apparent disconnect between their words and their actions.

I would conclude by asking values voters to consider the possibility that the Republican Party has sought to deceive the many religious voters they have courted and while the Democrats may not endorse some or all of the measures values voters support, they have not engaged in manipulation for political gain. Finally, I would ask voters whether the honesty and integrity demonstrated by many Democrats in opposing the imposition of religious beliefs...based upon upholding our constitution...may well be favorable to the repeated revelations that the GOP gives lip service to values in order to amass power. In essence, isn't honesty also a question of values?

In the end, the Democrat's goal need not be to promise values voters that they will endorse legislation they believe is contrary to the constitution just to appease them...they merely need to point out that the Republican Party isn't the Party of values they purport to be. Doing so may not immediately change votes, but it removes an advantage that has tilted the playing field for far too long. If values voters can be convinced that their voting decisions aren't actually black and white, they may well take the time to listen to the arguments made by Democrats that have been so successfully characterized by their Republican counterparts as the ranting of anti-religious extremists. From my own perspective, I would trust an honest and candid opponent with my well being far more than someone who is willing to deceive me in order to win my allegiance.

This may be the opening Democrats have long sought to dispel the presumption that the depth and breadth of values can be encompassed in the Republican rhetoric of gays, guns, and God. The absence of honesty and integrity being witnessed in this scandal and numerous others finally exposes the degree to which Karl Rove and his operatives have blatantly manipulated this particular voter constituency. Perhaps this incident can finally be the catalyst to begin the difficult task of uniting, not dividing.

Daniel DiRito | October 3, 2006 | 9:13 AM | link | Comments (0)
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