Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Idols with Feet Partly of Clay (Dan. 2:33)

This is a time of disappointment and disillusionment with our political and spiritual leaders, and the resulting curmudgeonly rant will not be to everyone's taste. I give fair warning: no prisoners will be taken, so read on at your own risk. Let's begin with the lower echelon and work upwards.

Hillary Clinton, touted both by her husband and by (convicted felon) Dan Rostenkowski as "the smartest woman in the world", has proved rather inept as a Secretary of State. Her gaffes abroad included reversing genders, as when she addressed the woman who is the European Union's commissioner of external relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, by using the masculine form "Benito", and when she transformed the foreign policy chief's name from "Javier Solana" into "Javier Solano". (Maybe we are all not literate in Spanish, but then we are not the Secretary of State, either.) These slips were eclipsed, however, when she told the Europeans that America's democracy was older than theirs, and thereby displayed a bias that was unpardonable, given democracy's historic roots in Athens some 2,500 years ago. She gained the greatest publicity, however, for her seeming inability to surround herself with people competent enough in the Russian language to know the difference between "overload" and "reset". She may well have been forgiven, at least by her fellow liberals, for all these missteps by the time she returned from her European trip. Nonetheless, by comparison with Condoleeza Rice, she has to spend a lot more time making apologies, and that sends precisely the wrong message about the capabilities of the Obama administration.

What can be said about Washington's "other woman", Nancy Pelosi, that has not already been noted? The latest embarrassment shows her dealing capriciously and imperiously with the military aides charged with arranging her transportation at the taxpayers' expense. Before that she showed her contempt for the taxpayers by ramming through the so-called "Stimulus Bill" at the last minute so she and fellow Democrats could leave on their planned junket for Europe. (The only thing the "Stimulus Bill" will stimulate is more big government, if there is any money left by the time it is due to be spent.) At least the Pope knew how to deal with a wayward Catholic who uses her post of public trust to preach the secular dogma of abortion; he refused her a photo opportunity, which she requested on false pretenses, and used the occasion instead to counter her views with a very public reminder of the Church's teaching.

About President Obama, the less said, perhaps the better. In just fifty days he has had to learn what it means to show up each day for a real job, in which one has to make decisions affecting millions and millions of people. He has treated his campaign promises exactly like the insincere fluff they were---those who fell for the act profess surprise at the crossed-fingers manner in which he "kept" his promise to put an end to Congressional earmarks. He has slung his power around childishly, telling Republicans "I won", and letting his aides mount a personal campaign to slur Rush Limbaugh. The latter has committed the unpardonable sin of expressing a hope that the President fails to achieve his announced goals for "change", which in reality (in combination with what the Fed is doing) amount to bankrupting the country. (In the usual double standard of the left-wing media, Rush is treated as a traitor, while the majority of Democrats who expressed similar sentiments about George Bush were just exercising their right to voice their opinions.) The President has had to find substitutes for nearly half of his principal nominees for office, after failing to catch tax cheating and conflicts of interest in the vetting process. Meanwhile, hundreds and hundreds of posts in the administration are yet to be filled---with a Senate ready to rubber-stamp almost (but not quite) everyone the President picks. The "smoothest transition" ever has slowed down to a grinding, squeaky series of bumps and jerks since the Bush administration left town. (Charge them with elitism and secrecy all you want, but they still look professional compared to the amateurs thus far working for Obama.)

The bloom is indeed off the rose, as the President's dissatisfaction numbers steadily rise and the number of those satisfied with his performance thus far falls. Those pundits who assured us that he had the experience---or if not, that he would at least surround himself with those who did---have now all fallen suddenly silent. All we are waiting for, it would seem, is for some foreign power to fulfill Joe Biden's prediction and put our clueless leader to the test. Why should anyone, Republicans included, take any joy in anticipating such an event? At least Bush's firmness commanded the Democrats' smoldering hatred and resentment---actually a form of respect, which Obama has yet to earn---motivating them to get out the vote against his successor. Unfortunately, however, the Democrats now look like the spouse who couldn't wait for a divorce, and then married on the rebound. If Obama can't get his act together before the Koreans, the Chinese, or the Russians take advantage of the situation, he will be a repeat of Jimmy Carter---a one-term infatuation that went sour fast. (Maybe Hillary knew what she was doing, after all.)

Meanwhile, in the spiritual world, the Archbishop of Canterbury disappoints while he continues doggedly to insist that opposites can be fully accommodated within the broad enclaves of the Anglican Communion. Both the Windsor Continuation Group as well as its offspring, the Pastoral Visitors, have taken too long to come down out of the hills while the battle has been raging on in the field below. It appears now that their function will be to ride in on their pearly white horses and to shoot the wounded, by pronouncing blame after the fact. The battle lines are already forming up elsewhere, heedless of the moral and spiritual ties that should bind. At Anaheim this summer, ECUSA will take yet more steps to alienate itself from the rest of the Anglican Communion, even while Dr. Williams blesses its machinations with his presence, and thereby lends the American liberals a certain legitimacy in their eyes. The new Anglican Church in North America will meet only slightly earlier to adopt its own Constitution and canons, and thereby become a self-governing association of religious entities----exactly the same as ECUSA itself. The doings at Anaheim will serve only to spur the new province, and the primates who support it, into more overt action to create a second family, at first within the Communion, and then later out of it altogether. As the geographical center of the Communion shifts southward and eastward, so too will a new political center form south of the Equator. At that point, His Grace will at last be on a par with Her Majesty, at least in figural terms---or, as the more common expression has it, "on paper."

And then we have the Pope himself, who is belatedly coming to the realization that the Internet might be useful, after all. But there is this big difference between him and the other leaders I have cited above: he learns much faster. He has quickly seen to it that his gaffe over Bishop Richard Williamson did not set back the efforts at rapprochement between Catholics and Jews, and has redeemed himself with a handsome apologia that accepts blame where blame is due, but also stresses what is actually important. (H/T to Fr. Matt Kennedy at StandFirm for being the quickest to find a full translation.)

In her bemused commentary on the Pope's failure to appreciate just how blinkered Bishop Williamson had become in his views on the historical realities of the holocaust, Ruth Gledhill accompanies her post with a cartoon showing the Pope dealing with the not-so-subtle trivia of Facebook, and suggests that he take up Twittering. There actually was a much better cartoon you could have used, Ruth, and which is more in keeping with the Holy Father's dignity. So that this post will not end on a sour note, I reproduce it below, with my thanks to the cartoonist Dan Piraro for having had the foresight to publish it almost a year ago:


  1. I hear an echo in the comment about President having "to show up each day for a real job" of Gov. Palin's comment that the difference between a governor's job and a community organizer's was that a governor has repsonsibilities. As a former community organizer I know that I had responsibilities and that Mr. Obama did. I suspect that there would be senators who would see in the comment the implication that they don't have a real job.

  2. You are right, Father Weir; from what I see them mostly doing, Senators (and Representatives even more so) view their job as the process of getting re-elected, starting with the day after the last election. Anyone who could vote for the President's 2010 budget could not have had this country's future uppermost in mind.