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On Not Slamming the Door

Running an errand in the car with my eight-year-old daughter last night, I subjected her to NPR coverage of the Democratic National Convention, just in time to hear host Brian Lehrer taking calls from listeners on what event or experience had turned them into Democrats (he did the same for Republican callers during last weeks RNC). There were the expected, generally unsurprising anecdotes (though moving and heartfelt nonetheless)stories from working- and middle-class citizens whod been able to secure educational aid or had suddenly and unexpectedly faced the temporary need for food stamps, as well one from a woman whod been physically assaulted by an older man outside a medical clinic shed visited to discuss with a doctor the possibility of terminating a pregnancy.Then came the caller who said that, growing up Catholic, hed learned the importance of doing unto others. Like the hymn we used to have to sing, he explained. Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me. And I never hear that from the other side. By which he meant, as Lehrer teased out of him, the Republican party.My daughter likes hearing stories of my own childhood, so I told her the hymn the caller mentioned was one my brothersand I used to sing in the car on the way home from mass (I didnt completely admit that it was only to mimic the baritone of our parishs theatrically earnest cantor, and not for any extra sustenance). She responded by asking if we could put the Who back on, and I forgot about the whole thing until later, when watching Michelle Obama address the convention.Almost everyone has weighed in with raves for her speech, so no additional are needed. But among the many moments worth singling out is this: [W]hen youve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity you do not slam it shut behind you you reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.You can write it off as rhetoric, and like many other lines it functioned as a stiletto slipped between the ribs of the opposing ticket (as has been widely noted, there was not one overt mention of Mitt Romney). But its inclusion in the featured event of the night gets precisely to what that caller was talking about. Last week, from Tampa, we learned that knowing how to handle a .357 Magnum should count among your credentials for running a state. We also learned that making do with tuna and pasta in the first lean years of a marriage will steel you for success; were informed that we are paralyzed by a desire to be loved and need to hear the word no a lot more often; and were hectored into admitting just who built it, and why that matters far more than how, with what kind of help, or for what greater purpose.Words serve a tactical need but they also, to borrow another phrase from last night, reveal character, of a group or a party or an individual. With one side, we can hear do unto others running through the language employed. But with the other, its the slamming door. When moral arguments are being marshaled for preferred methods of governance, its fair to note this difference.The radio caller got this, and I think its something a lot of other voters might also. I may have laughed at the rendering of the hymn (a youthful indiscretion), but the words still made their point. Otherwise, I might have been receptive to a whole other set of appeals.


Commenting Guidelines

But I wonder if all the newly unemployed in the last 4 years don't consider that a door has been slammed shut on them, however unintentionally. Talk is cheap.

I became a democrat because of my grandfather's example. We weren't Catholic but spending time with my grandfather taught me that the best governments are those that refuse to leave anyone behind. The democratic party, despite its flaws, has always been in my eyes the idealistic party that cares about and helps those less fortunate.

Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.Is there anyone more "least" than the innocent human life which is butchered by dismemberment or vacuum aspiration while in the womb, not to mention being dehumanized by referring to the slaughter as merely "terminating a pregnancy"?

We definitely need more and better pro-life hymnody. When in a coma or unborn or old.Though I was helpless you helped me to live.Now enter into the home of my Father.****What troubles me about this "Party of Compassion" business, besides the obvious human destruction, is how demeaning it is towards sheltered groups (that is, the groups it wants blocs of votes from). Planned Parenthood just told us that the things women care about are access to birth control and abortion. That's it. We want our own things to make our own lives work out exactly the way we want them to. Rather a craven view of womanhood.

Whatsoever You Do was written by Willard Jabusch, a priest of the Chicago Archdiocese. He also wrote "The King Of Glory (comes, the nation rejoices ...)". He has had articles published in Commonweal.

The elderly, the poor, minorities, women, prisoners, the disabled, the ill, children, etc. - all are better off under democrats.

"Is there anyone more least than the innocent human life which is butchered by dismemberment or vacuum aspiration while in the womb, not to mention being dehumanized by referring to the slaughter as merely terminating a pregnancy?"Late-term abortions, which you describe here, are very often decisions made in a panic. once wishful thinking, or more sound options, including better finances, seem to be exhausted. They are also relatively rare, and the methods you detail minimize injury to the mother, which was a major concern of the AMA when they lobbied Republicans to decriminalize abortion in the 60's. Though with obvious consequences for the unborn.Make no mistake: most Republicans have little interest in reducing abortions or creating a climate in which people choose not to have them. They use the issue to maximize their votes among pro-life citizens. They use the unborn as a red flag.Dem pandering to PP and NARAL is disgusting, and their treatment of pro-lifers within their party is self-defeating, but the GOP is the party of the wealthy and the callous. I'm not a Democrat--most are far too conservative for my taste these days, but rare is the Republican above the local level I can bring myself to vote for, especially in the current climate.

Clinton asked the right question tonight. "Why does the right wing of the GOP hate Obama' ... dislike of his policies sure.. it can be understood; but why and where does the hate come from? I'm known by acquaintances as a liberal but I have received those hateful emails... and it's hard to comprehend why there is the hate.

I became a more cemented Democrat because of my work in affordable housing, which was mostly with poor people and with special needs households. I think you do feel a very tangible impact on the ground from government actions and policy decisions, though I always felt the impact a lot more strongly at the local government level.What is making me thinking of leaving the Democratic Party is that I'm seeing less and less of a distinction between it and the GOP anymore as far as either party's concern for people on the less prosperous end of the spectrum. And the continued existence of Guantanamo infuriates me, but I'm not sure I should hold the entire Democratic Party responsible for this huge moral failure of our President.But if I quit being a Democrat, where do I go? Green Party?

And it's nice that your daughter likes the Who. My 8 year has become very find of Freddie Mercury. We all get to sing "Fat Bottomed Girls" in the car together.

Kathy, that is pretty funny. :-). It looks like he's in an empty school room. I wonder if he was clowning it up for one of his children's classes?

Linda Greenhouse in the NYTimes online has an interesting piece today on abortion as a political issue. We hear all the rehetoric, which has become cast in stone, on both sides. Abortion debate has receeded from the realm of moral debate, and is now a political "dog whistle." Returning to the days of illegal abortions will not solve the problem. As those of us who were alive before Roe v. Wade know, abortions were common, though illegal ----just not safe. If we want to reduce the number of abortions, both sides of the debate need to sit at the table and find common ground. Common ground cannot be found with those who use abortion as a political weapon. Their interest is not in reducing the number of abortions, but in making a political point.

The clip of Colbert singing "The King of Glory" is an outtake from a Comedy Central series called Strangers with Candy on which he played a high-school teacher.

FWIW: based on what I have seen so far - essentially, Michele Obama's speech and large portions of Bill Clinton's speech - the Democrats have succeeded in putting on a cheerful, confident, even joyful event. It's been a feel-good experience, and I think that makes a powerful contrast with the Republican convention, which felt to me much more along the lines of, 'Let's get down to business.'Republicans have declared that they relish the opportunity to have a Medicare debate. It seems to me that they are countering feelings with facts. I'm somewhat skeptical that this will be a successful approach.

Thanks for the info, Mollie. I had wondered whether it might have been improv'd in the Sunday school classroom where he taught.Jim, what do you make of this?

The universal health care in Massachusetts has shown a high correlation to the reduced abortions in that state. . More studies will hopefully show/prove health ins. access reduces abortions and then we might also see less of the dog whistle posts on Commonweal.more good news? In San Francisco last year there was only one permit for the use of a high rise building crane. This week there are 24 building cranes in use, about a third for apartment buildings. Texas is short of construction workers. Will the party of NO keep up their complaints, whines and false charges and for how long into the recovery? O yeah.. DOW up 233 today.. Yes we are better off than 4 years ago when the GOP light weights was huddled in the WH talking about how to handle the next depression as the banks were about to ALL fail. And Catholic Sister Campbell kicks butt in Charlotte NC podium. .

Crystal: How about unborn infants? Are they better off under the Democrat party?

Kathy - I think it is a *great* line!

How about unborn infants? Are they better off under the Democrat party?Yes: see the beginning of Ed's comment immediately above yours.

On a much earlier thread, I was skeptical about my friend Jim Pauwel's fear that if nuns got uppity and left the Church, people would follow them. Then I saw Sr. Simone Campbell, and I was ready to get on the bus, even without the Kool-Aid this time. In my view, offering witness to the suffering of low-income Americans, particularly Margaret, who died after she lost her health care insurance, is as important as the witness offered during the civil rights movement. It's lucky for Republican Catholics that the Democrats have taken such a hard-line, pro-choice stance, though. That allows GOP Catholics to view any expression of compassion for anyone as utter pretense. I liked Bill's speech. Couldn't help contrasting how he had that crowd cranked up for a whole 50 minutes with his 1988 (?) convention speech that had delegates groaning and during which the biggest cheer line was "and in conclusion ..."I'm not sure the emerging tradition of having wives, however articulate, tell what great guys their husbands are resonates with me. I guess the idea is to show what a stable family man the candidate is (and, more subtly, how he won't be sharing pizza tete a tete with pretty interns of either gender). It strains credulity that any woman admires a man she's been married to for more than a few months can speak with the fawning devotion shown by Mrs. Obama or Mrs. Romney. I found both speeches embarrassing.Why not just play "Stand By Your Man" and have done with it?

Yes I also thought Bill Clinton gave a good speech. Also, I was glad that Democrats (albeit somewhat begrudgingly) re-inserted references to God and Israel in the party platform.

Bob, I do believe that the democrats, with their emphasis on contraception and sex ed and affordable health care and financial help for the poor, will do more to reduce abortion than would the reublicans outlawing aboetion ... a recent study shows that countries that have outlawed abortion actually have a higher rate of same, and they're unsafe, and that difficulty in getting contraception leads to more abortions ...

I think Susanne Hayes is making sense about the abortion issue. Pro-life Democrats DID try to find some common ground, only to have their effort slapped down without discussion. But I think it's important to keep trying. FWIW, the DNC usually has links on its site before the platform is adopted where you can register your concerns about the language.But if folks are holding out for "no abortions ever for any reason" language from the Dems, they're going to be sorely disappointed. Paul Ryan, a faithful Catholic, seems content with Romney's caveats about rape, incest, and life of the mother.

And here's's take on Clinton's speech. I guess he pretty much does know that two plus two equals four:

Jean -- the usual liberal bias from the facts? And now arithmetic is moving left as well.

FWIW - here is Glenn Kessler's fact-check take on Clinton's speech. here is what strikes me as a kind of bizarrely tendentious fact check by, of all places, the Associated Press.

I was also glad Clinton said something good about Dubya. He didn't get much good done, but he tried.

Bob and Bender: I continue to vote Democratic for the same reasons cited by Ed and Crystal. Last time I heard the word "abortion" from the altar, the congregation audibly groaned. Was there ever a more literal example of preaching to the choir than an anti-abortion sermon in a Catholic church?How long have we Americans been having this debate, and what has changed? You can talk until you give yourself laryngitis, but a majority of Americans, many of whom are NOT evil people, will continue to believe, sincerely and fervently, that the rights of a fetus do not outweigh its mother's, and that abortion needs to remain legal. I don't believe this is ever going to change. Spare me, please, the comparisons to slavery. It was comparatively easy [she said sardonically] to outlaw slavery because there was a Mason-Dixon line separating slave states from free. "All" the Union had to do was wage war until the slave states could fight no more. Abortion is still legal in all 50 states and where it was legal before Roe, it will be legal again if Roe is ever overturned. Only fanatics like Scott Roeder and Eric Rudolph actually want to wage a war over abortion rights.As Dr. Phil, Dear Abby, Carolyn Hax and the other professional advice-givers say, in the end the only behavior you can control is your own. I carried my own pregnancies to term and never chose abortion even when it was oh so tempting. If asked, I'd tell a pregnant rape victim what I THINK I'd do in her situation, but I'd never tell her what she MUST do.

"I dont believe this is ever going to change."AngelaI agree with you that abortion will never be non-existent. However, as a disenchanted Democrat with no interest in becoming a Republican, I dont think either party can lay claim to having the moral high ground, especially with regard to abortion and the other bioethical issues. While being interviewed on television last night, Gov. Deval Patrick spoke at some length about the unwieldy but (small d) democratic nature of the shaping of the Democratic Partys platform. He praised the partys willingness to include diverse views in the wording of the platform. He apparently had not gotten the word that pro-life voices in the DP had been intentionally squelched during the drafting of the document that sets forth the DPs credo for the upcoming election cycle. And while pro-life is a phrase that we likely wont hear from President Obama any time soon, the RP is IMO also woefully deficient in its understanding of what pro-life means. Meanwhile, the intentional loss of nascent human life marches on. The Guttmacher Institute, the research/policy arm of Planned Parenthood, reports that there were approximately 1,210,000 abortions in the U.S. in 2008. Thats about 3,315 abortions per day. Excluding miscarriages, 22% of all pregnancies in the U.S. end in abortion, and, at current rates, 1 in 10 women will have an abortion by age 20, 1 in 4 by age 30, and 3 in 10 by age 45. is some evidence, however, of a growing pro-life sensibility in the U.S. Gallup reported in May that the number of Americans who self-identify as pro-choice is at a record low (41%). affecting the tilt towards pro-life sensibility is the medical realization that the viability of a fetus the touchstone in the Roe decision for the time when a state acquires a compelling interest in protecting the fetus has moved to earlier times in the gestational period . Significant, too, has been the development of 4D ultrasound, which makes the fetus much more visible to the eye and thus, IMO, more undeniably a human being worthy of both moral and legal protection. I believe that abortion is ultimately a hearts and minds issue, the Supreme Courts Roe decision is not impregnable from attack. In fact, it has been modified significantly over the years, most notably by the court in its Casey decision, which reduced the strict scrutiny standard for analyzing limitations on abortion to a somewhat less rigorous undue burden standard. Applying the new standard, the court upheld the provisions of a Pennsylvania statute that imposed a 24-hour waiting period, an informed consent requirement, and the need for a minor to obtain the consent of at least one parent. This is not to say that Roe is open to reversal anytime soon, especially given the present composition of the Supreme Court, but as science and, hopefully, peoples attitudes about the fate of the unborn change, the Roe decision will lose its precedential force. So I do think things will move, perhaps slowly but inexorably, towards a communal shared belief that the unborn of the species and genus Homo sapiens deserve the full protection of the law and the moral recognition that they count fully as one of us.

Jim, thanks for the lnks to WaPo and AP fact checking. It would be interesting to have a fact checker aggregator of some sort. Tom, I don't think gave Clinton's speech a big old sloppy wet leftist kiss, exactly. They nailed him on his premature congratulations to Obama on the success of the health care act, the major provisions of which haven't kicked in yet, and pointed out a number of exaggerations. Just curious about where you see him getting a pass. Or do you feel that the Annenberg Foundation, which sponsors FactCheck is biased? Just curious.

Jean, What I was reacting to, re FactCheck, was the contrast with what it and the other fact checkers did with Paul Ryan. Clinton got gigged for being optimistic or premature, but not for flat-out lying, except in one bizarre precinct where the complaint was, OK, maybe he didn't lie last night but he did about Monica Lewinsky. Which, I guess, was supposed to provide media balance for calling out Ryan last week. I mean, I no longer get astonished as often as I pretend to, but I was truly astonished at the way the media treated young Mr. Ryan.

Tom, I don't quite see what you're driving at. President Clinton, like just about every other cheating husband, lied like a lying snake. But you want the fact checkers to factor in Monica Lewinsky into every remark Clinton makes? On the other hand, it might be interesting to assign a reliability rating to various politicians and partisans based on the number of lies they've cumulatively told in the course of their careers, and then giving a separate analysis for specific speeches. Or there could be a Pinocchio icon, like in the WaPo Jim Pauwels linked to that had a nose that grew and shrank each time a pol or pundit lied or told the truth.Certainly, fact-checking is an interesting business and not without some subjectivity; I asked students to think about how they would pick statements to fact check (press releases? stump speeches, off-hand conversations in podunk cafes?), which issues they would focus on, and what sources they would use to determine truth. It's not an easy job.I don't know how "the media" handled Congressman Ryan. "The media" is everybody from Rush to Fox News to MSNBC to PBS., which is the specific media I was referring to, nailed Ryan on five issues in his acceptance speech. I think trying to nail him on things like how fast he ran a marathon 20 years ago and whether his characterization of himself as a marathon runner is accurate is ludicrous. Those are not the things FactCheck considers (I searched Ryan marathon and got nothing). I guess I'm thread hogging a bit here, so I'll shut up now that the conventions are done.

I find the evolution and development of a "fact checker" industry fascinating, for a couple of reasons:* It's interesting to me that the mainstream mass media, and/or the marketplace that consumes what the media puts out there, apparently has decided that fact checking is something that is bracketed out from the core function of reporting the news. I'm not a member of the Fourth Estate, but I'd think that identifying, reporting and providing background and context for half-truths, distortions, outright fibs and so on is a core function of news reporting and news commentary - isn't it? Do the reporters whose assignment is to cover campaigns think of it as part of their job to report that a prominent candidate said something - or repeatedly says something - about an important issue that doesn't pass the truth sniff test?(Perhaps this is part of the issue: it seems to me that in our Age of Twitter, reporters are racing to put out standalone nuggets in real time, and we get even less context than before. Here in Chicagoland, we had a major news development yesterday - Jury Finds Drew Peterson Guilty! The Chicago Tribune blasted out an email alert. I clicked on the link in the email about a half hour after it hit my inbox. I expected to be taken to ... a news story, even if a sketchy and hastily written and edited one. Instead, I was redirected to a page that essentially consisted of a headline sitting atop a stack of tweets. It was an interesting mosaic of facts and impressions and images, but it wasn't a *story*.)* The phenomenon of fact-checking raises interesting questions about truth itself - what is it; to how complete an account of it are citizens entitled; what is the responsibility (and ability?) of the media to meet that standard.

Jim, I think you raise good questions. Facts do not equal truth, but verifying numbers, historical events, and projections of future outcomes by reliable experts is still a worthwhile endeavor.Here's some background that you may find interesting: started several years ago largely due to complaints about political TV ads, which are above (or below, depending on how you see it) the laws of truth in advertising and, effectively, libel actions. I used the site a lot in my advertising/PR class during Obama-McCain.Some mainstream media outlets were covering TV ads but mostly in a cursory and sportslike way: how many hits, how much money, effects of the ads. The Annenberg Foundation felt that, because ads had tremendous effect on election outcome, they should be scrutinized much more closely. The effort extended to political speeches and comments as more people responded positively, and what began as a temporary project for one presidential election cycle has turned into a nonprofit organization that is partially supported by public donations and has extended its scrutiny to many political utterances. The operation tries for transparency. You can read more about it here:, FactCheck has inspired similar efforts at the local level (Michigan Truth Squad ( and inspired/shamed mainstream media to add fact-checkers to its efforts. What I think is very heartening about some of these operations is that they have an interactive component allowing people to submit comments made by politicians, not just during elections but throughout their terms. I think these sites encourage political engagement on facts, not just visceral reaction. And that's a good thing.OK, now I will shut up.

Jean, very interesting stuff - thank you!