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Cognitive dissonance.

Yesterday on the First Thoughts blog Mary Rose Rybak posted a video of First Things Associate Editor David Goldman's appearance on the Larry Kudlow program. Kudlow had convened a panel to discuss the value of the U.S. dollar. "Watch FTs own David Goldman dominate the discussion on last nights Larry Kudlow show," Rybak wrote. About four minutes into the interview, while Goldman was lamenting the cheap dollar, he explained that "the probability of the collapse of America's world position and a correspondent collapse of the dollar is priced into gold at about one thousand sixty today." Then he offered the following digression: "It's likely to keep going up as long as Obama runs foreign policy as if it were the Special Olympics.""The Special Olympics!" Kudlow bellowed. "It's like we want to be C-plus students with everybody else. That's the part that really troubles me.""Yeah," Goldman agreed. "Everybody gets a prize. Everybody's equal."

This morning's lead story on the First Things homepage is written by Archbishop Charles Chaput. It's called "Conscience, Courage & Children with Down Syndrome."Remember when President Obama made an offensive "joke" about the Special Olympics? Care to guess what at least two First Things bloggers had to say about that? Check it out here, here, and here.

About the Author

Grant Gallicho is an associate editor of Commonweal. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.



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I hope Goldman and Kudlow get roundly criticized for their totally insensitive remarks. I also hope that Abp. Chaput will join the criticism, especially in light of what I think is an excellent essay on his part. I don't always agree with him, but the Abp's essay is often eloquent:The real choice in accepting or rejecting a child with special needs is never between some imaginary perfection or imperfection. The real choice is between love and unlove, between courage and cowardice, between trust and fear. And thats the choice we face as a society in deciding which human lives we will treat as valuable, and which we will not.....Every child with Down syndrome, every adult with special needsin fact, every unwanted unborn child, every person who is poor, weak, abandoned, or homelessis an icon of Gods face and a vessel of his love. How we treat these personswhether we revere them and welcome them or throw them away in distasteshows what we really believe about human dignity, both as individuals and as a nation.

Both instances are clearly reprehensible. I hope other Commonwealers will join me in asking for the resignations of Goldman, Kudlow, and President Obama.

Every family I ever met with a Down syndrome child showed enormous love. It.s the 'lookie-lous' as mentioned above who are aghast.. and the families don't give a damn about them either. ..

It's quite clear that First Things values laissez-faire capitalism moreso than the welfare of the disabled.

What are the odds that the editors of First Things are now crafting a positive spin on Goldman's remarks, something like he was only using the President's own analogy regarding his bowling to describe his foreign policy?

Grant--What is the point you are trying to make with the First Things links? Cardinal Chaput's article is, as always, well worth reading, but I don't see what it has to do with your post. The other links to the blogs criticize the media for hypocrisy in handling Obamas gaffes compared to Bushs gaffes. Who can argue with that?

I confess I always found Goldman's "Spengler" column at the Asia Times worth a read - quirkily learned, and even when disagreeable, unlike anything or anyone else out there.But I think the First Things tent may have gotten a little too big - even for a self proclaimed ecumenical endeavor - by making him one of their flagship writers, to say nothing of one or two other recent post-Neuhaus additions. Certain...political tendencies which were always there seem to have been accelerated.Goldman's and Kudlow's comments were extremely unfortunate, to put it politely. Archbishop Chaput's essay is a welcome tonic.

"Its quite clear that First Things values laissez-faire capitalism moreso than the welfare of the disabled."I actually think the remarks were made on General Electric's CNBC television network, not in First Things. Unless you are saying since Mr. Goldman is associated with First Things that his remarks represented an editorial opinion of First Things in which case the same conclusion would apply to the Majority Party given the President's remarks referred to herein and his remarks regarding the torture and homicide of Terri Schiavo.

Would that all participants had heard Tim Shriver's address at this year's Commonweal Conversations dinner, when he spoke so eloquently about the Special Olympics. Everyone is equal, after all.

"Its quite clear that First Things values laissez-faire capitalism moreso than the welfare of the disabled."Hi, Morning's, I'd think you're not a regular reader of First Things if you have that impression.Here is a recent First Things feature article on capitalism, a reflection on economics and morality by Edmund Phelps, an economics professor at Columbia and a Nobel laureate. I thought it was interesting and balanced - well worth the read. By no means is it a manifesto for laissez-faire capitalism - in fact, it contains some judicious criticism of it. readers of First Things also know that the topic of disabled children comes up fairly frequently in feature articles and opinion pieces - generally in the context of life issues, as Archbishop Chaput's very good blog post is. This is a vitally important topic, and I'm usually glad to read such thoughtful pieces.

I guess, if I'm scoring at home, I find President Obama's remark to be extremely offensive, Kudlow's "C+" remarks to subject to a construal that would make it offensive, and Goldman's ... I dunno. Someone needs to connect the dots for me on that one. I know very little about the Special Olympics, so I'm not entirely sure what he meant. Are all participants awarded a medal in the Special Olympics, whether they finish first or last in the race? If so, then I guess he's saying that the President's foreign policy treats all nations as equals, when in fact they are not equal? E.g., Israel and the Palestinians should not be treated as though they are morally equivalent? (Hazarding that guess because it sounds like the kind of thing Goldman would comment on). Really, I'm not sure what he was trying to say. I think it's possible that he wasn't using the term "Special Olympics" in a sense that denigrates people with disabilities.

I used to read FT a bit more often. There was a time when it be though provoking. Now, it has degenerated into yet another neocon mouthpiece, still defending the Iraq war and occupation, heavily pushing American exceptionalism, and winking at torture. At the same time, it has adopted the party line of laissez-faire liberalism, pushing ideology and fealty to individualism and the free market, snorting at notions of solidarity and the common good. In other words, its theology is more Calvinist and American-Gnostic than Catholic.

I agree with Morning's Minion. With the death of its guiding light, First Things has moved on to - using Cardinal George's famous phrase - "an exhausted project."

All I can say, Mornings, is I must not be getting all of the issues delivered, because you're definitely reading things I'm not recalling. They make all of their back-issue content freely available on the web (a WONDERFUL policy, if any Commonweal or America editors are reading :-)), so feel free to provide URLS pointing to snorts at the common good, oaths of fealty to individualism, winks at torture, etc.

I think we need to cut some slack for those of us (we all do it) who make remarks in questionable taste but without a hint of malice. If I have a memory lapse and say, "It must be Alzheimer's," am I really poking fun at Alzheimer's patients? I don't think so, although obviously there would be situations in which it would be totally inappropriate. If you criticize someone for a questionable remark and display less charity and more malice than was displayed by the person who made the remark, you have not contributed to making the world a better place for anybody.

Great point, David! But it's a good reminder that we should all try to think before we talk to question our motives before making a comment, to monitor any presence of malice. Of course, thinking before we talk is often very difficult to do in the give an take of conversation, especially conversations that are aired on live TV! Still, it's a lesson that is worth learning and is a point that I've tried to make myself. See and Thanks for the post, Grant!

David Nickol, I actually don't think it is about Goldman's malice toward the handicapped any more than it was about Obama's. Their attitudes are almost beside the point, I think. It seems neither man thought it through. The real problems to me are twofold:One, First Things writers jumped all over Obama for making the same jibe--saying he was "offensive" and "insulting" the handicapped, and that it was proof of media bias that it wasn't a bigger story. His "unthinking slight" was also juxtaposed to the beauty of Sarah Palin's acceptance of her Down syndrome son and over and against the 90 percent abortion rate of said children by those of Obama's "eugenic" mindset. That's pretty strong stuff, and then to say nothing when one of your own makes the same jibe seems a bit of a double-standard. Two, Obama's jibe had at least the mitigating factor of being self-deprecating rather than intending to insult other nations and peoples, as Goldman was doing. Obama compared handicapped people to himself. Goldman was comparing them to communities that don't deserve to be treated as equals. It doesn't seem to undergird the supposed pro-life cred of First Things to go all self-righteous in one case and then ignore it when the problem hits closer to home. You'd almost think they were using the life issues for political ends. Heaven forfend!

David Gibson: One thing that might get lost in all this is your excellent point that "neither man thought it through." Bringing reason to bear on how it is we talk to one another is something we should all want to do. By the way, I completely agree. Goldman's dislike for Obama is clear and his engaging in this tepid emotional outburst is evidence enough of malice, malice toward Obama and his policies. The right thing for Goldman to have done is to refrain from editorializing and emoting by keeping conversation focused on what is happening with the dollar.

Mark P: Chaput is not a cardinal, just a lowly flunky archbishop ---- this week. However, he plays the game correctly, says all the right things, wears the right clothes, etc., so can SuperStardom be far behind? And, as I understand, he is part Native American! There has to be some affirmative action value in that, even for and to the Vatican.

Jimmy--Thanks for the correction (sometimes I get ahead of myself) but, dang, that's pretty cynical. Would you have said the same about Avery Dulles? Wears the right clothes??

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