Saturday, August 2, 2008

Smearing Democratic VP Selections

The effort to smear John Edwards was pretty coordinated. The smear merchants who are trying to sabotage Kathleen Sebelius have to work harder to come up with something better than this:
Beyond her decision not to "speak Catholic," Sebelius has a politically thorny relationship with her bishop. In April, she vetoed legislation that would have beefed up efforts to enforce restrictions on abortion providers in Kansas. The law was aimed squarely at Dr. George Tiller, one of the nation's fiercest defenders of late-term abortions. Sebelius said she vetoed the law because it was clearly unconstitutional and would invite frivolous lawsuits, a position that was supported by the Kansas City Star and various women's organizations. Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City — Sebelius's own bishop — saw it differently: He went public with his request that the governor refrain from presenting herself for communion. In a column in his diocesan paper, the archbishop called her behavior "scandalous" before going on to say, "The spiritually lethal message, communicated by our governor, as well as many other high-profile Catholics in public life, has been in effect: 'The church's teaching on abortion is optional.'" Sebelius did not offer any public response to the archbishop's edict.

Archbishop Naumann is one of a number of conservative prelates who have decided to use the communion rail as a bludgeon in the culture war. (The most famous example came in 2004, when Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis forbade John Kerry from receiving communion within his jurisdiction; another was when Douglas Kmiec, a former Department of Justice official in the Reagan administration, was denied communion for his support of Obama this year.) Naumann has been published in the conservative Catholic journal First Things, a magazine that often mimics White House talking points more faithfully than it follows the teachings of the Catholic Church. And he has participated in the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, an annual event that's meant to bring Catholics together with (mostly Republican) political leaders. In the event that Obama selects Sebelius, we can expect Naumann to take to the airwaves, and Obama's campaign could be forced into a high-profile and unwelcome skirmish with a religious figure.

Sounds devastating! But it's not. Sounds like Sebelius is out. But she isn't.

Not only do most Americans disagree with the good bishop, so do most Catholics, depending on who asks the questions and who frames them. Not only would the American people react with indifference and confusion to something like this, there's a pretty good chance they'll see it for what it is and embrace Sebelius as a good leader. When people see what a demagogue the bishop is, they'll quickly reject what he has to say. Public policy should not be dictated by religious leaders in this country and that's exactly how Sebelius has governed. That means she passes the test of being a good leader.

And that means she's qualified. No politician who separates faith from public policy should have any kind of "problem."


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