April 28, 2009
Dear Father Jenkins,
When you informed me in December 2008 that I had been selected to receive Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal, I was profoundly moved. I treasure the memory of receiving an honorary degree from Notre Dame in 1996, and I have always felt honored that the commencement speech I gave that year was included in the anthology of Notre Dame’s most memorable commencement speeches. So I immediately began working on an acceptance speech that I hoped would be worthy of the occasion, of the honor of the medal, and of your students and faculty.
Last month, when you called to tell me that the commencement speech was to be given by President Obama, I mentioned to you that I would have to rewrite my speech. Over the ensuing weeks, the task that once seemed so delightful has been complicated by a number of factors.
First, as a longtime consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, I could not help but be dismayed by the news that Notre Dame also planned to award the president an honorary degree. This, as you must know, was in disregard of the U.S. bishops’ express request of 2004 that Catholic institutions “should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles” and that such persons “should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” That request, which in no way seeks to control or interfere with an institution’s freedom to invite and engage in serious debate with whomever it wishes, seems to me so reasonable that I am at a loss to understand why a Catholic university should disrespect it.
Then I learned that “talking points” issued by Notre Dame in response to widespread criticism of its decision included two statements implying that my acceptance speech would somehow balance the event:
• “President Obama won’t be doing all the talking. Mary Ann Glendon, the former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, will be speaking as the recipient of the Laetare Medal.”
• “We think having the president come to Notre Dame, see our graduates, meet our leaders, and hear a talk from Mary Ann Glendon is a good thing for the president and for the causes we care about.”
A commencement, however, is supposed to be a joyous day for the graduates and their families. It is not the right place, nor is a brief acceptance speech the right vehicle, for engagement with the very serious problems raised by Notre Dame’s decision—in disregard of the settled position of the U.S. bishops—to honor a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church’s position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice.
Finally, with recent news reports that other Catholic schools are similarly choosing to disregard the bishops’ guidelines, I am concerned that Notre Dame’s example could have an unfortunate ripple effect.
It is with great sadness, therefore, that I have concluded that I cannot accept the Laetare Medal or participate in the May 17 graduation ceremony.
In order to avoid the inevitable speculation about the reasons for my decision, I will release this letter to the press, but I do not plan to make any further comment on the matter at this time.
Yours Very Truly,
Mary Ann Glendon
Fr. Jenkins responded, “We are, of course, disappointed that Professor Glendon has made this decision. It is our intention to award the Laetare Medal to another deserving recipient, and we will make that announcement as soon as possible.”
Ummm, now that Mary Ann Glendon has (unlike Notre Dame) correctly set forth the position of the Church, what Catholic could, in good conscience, accept the Laetare Medal – which is given in recognition of outstanding service to the Roman Catholic church and society? I guess we’ll find out.
Obama administration officials, alarmed at doctor shortages, are looking for ways to increase the supply of physicians to meet the needs of an aging population and millions of uninsured people who would gain coverage under legislation championed by the president.
The officials said they were particularly concerned about shortages of primary care providers who are the main source of health care for most Americans.
What evil, selfish, greedy corporate malefactor is causing this shortage?
Senator Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat and chairman of the Finance Committee, said Medicare payments were skewed against primary care doctors — the very ones needed to coordinate the care of older people with chronic conditions like congestive heart failure, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
Ooops. The government has caused this problem. So, obviously, the solution is…for more government tinkering:
One proposal — to increase Medicare payments to general practitioners, at the expense of high-paid specialists — has touched off a lobbying fight.
Family doctors and internists are pressing Congress for an increase in their Medicare payments. But medical specialists are lobbying against any change that would cut their reimbursements. Congress, the specialists say, should find additional money to pay for primary care and should not redistribute dollars among doctors — a difficult argument at a time of huge budget deficits.
To cope with the growing shortage, federal officials are considering several proposals. One would increase enrollment in medical schools and residency training programs. Another would encourage greater use of nurse practitioners and physician assistants. A third would expand the National Health Service Corps, which deploys doctors and nurses in rural areas and poor neighborhoods.
April 27, 2009
April 25, 2009
At the prodding of the White House, Democratic Congressional leaders have agreed to pursue a plan that would protect major health care legislation from Republican opposition by shielding it from last-minute Senate filibusters.
The aggressive approach reflects the big political claim that President Obama is staking on health care, and with it his willingness to face Republican wrath in order to guarantee that the Democrats, with their substantial majority in the Senate, could not be thwarted by minority tactics.
Yes, “tactics,” such as debating the particulars of the bill and offering amendments.
But Obama’s scheme is justifiable since W did it first:
But other leading Democrats say they need the ability to circumvent filibusters if Republicans refuse to negotiate. They noted that Republicans often relied on reconciliation when they held power, notably using it to enact President George W. Bush’s tax cuts in 2001 and 2003.
You wouldn’t let a three-year-old get away with that excuse, but this is the dawning of a new day, so never mind.
April 25, 2009
April 22, 2009
At the recent Summit of the Americas, President Obama yukked it up with socialist thug Hugo Chavez, accepting from Chavez an anti-American book, and failed to respond to Marxist thug Daniel Ortega’s 50-minute anti-American speech.
Eugene Robinson opines that President Obama should have acted upset:
My argument isn’t that Obama should try to be someone he’s not. It’s that he’s declining to use one of the tools at his disposal. As public anger over the U.S. bank bailouts was rising, a well-timed burst of presidential outrage might have allowed him to get out in front of it.
Obama was right to show respect for the leaders of neighboring countries big and small at the Summit of the Americas. Those who were not gracious enough to show respect for him deserved to be given – metaphorically, of course, and in the spirit of hemispheric cooperation – the back of the presidential hand.
I guess actually being upset at such anti-American venom is too much to ask of the President of the United States of America.
April 21, 2009
After saying that Bush-administration lawyers who drafted guidelines for interrogations of terrorists, Obama [is now] Open to Inquiry in Interrogation Abuses:
President Obama [today] left open the door to creating a bipartisan commission that would investigate the Bush administration’s use of harsh interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects, and he did not rule out taking action against the lawyers who fashioned the legal guidelines for the interrogations.
Unable to make decisions, however, Obama – of course – votes present on the matter:
Mr. Obama, who has been saying that the nation should look ahead rather than focusing on the past, said he is “not suggesting” that a commission be established.
Mr. Obama said once again that he does not favor prosecuting C.I.A. operatives who used interrogation techniques that he has since banned. But as for lawyers or others who drew up the former policies allowing such techniques, he said it would be up to his attorney general to decide what to do, adding, “I don’t want to prejudge that.”
No, no – why would he want to act like a president?
Showing the incoherence that has defined his administration, Obama decides that those who merely did their jobs will not be prosecuted, except of course for those who will be prosecuted:
The decision to promise no prosecution of those who followed the legal advice of the Bush administration lawyers was easier, aides said, because it would be hard to charge someone for doing something the administration had determined was legal. The lawyers, however, are another story.
Huh? President Bush asked administration lawyers to attempt to define torture. They did what the president asked. There is not a scintilla of evidence to suggest that the lawyers approached this assignment in bad faith. Soooo, those who carried out the torture were just doing what someone else ordered, while those who carried out their task of defining the undefinable were involved in criminal activity!
Speaking of the impossibility of the task involved, I have an idea. How about all those who call for prosecuting these lawyers first provide a clear definition of torture? If it is so patently obvious that the Bush lawyers criminally drafted these memos, then it ought to be easy to come up with a legal definition of the techniques at issue. Any takers? (By the way, why doesn’t the Democrat president demand that the Democrat-controlled Congress to pass a bill that once-and-for-all defines and outlaws “torture” so that we can get beyond the stale debates of the past?)
The fact that defining torture is an incredibly difficult task just about definitively proves that there was no criminal activity. Yes, the lawyers may have reached the wrong conclusion, but offering a legal opinion that turns out to be incorrect is not illegal! Otherwise, John Paul Stevens would have been in the dock decades ago.
Perhaps more importantly, the threat of prosecution in these individual cases will no doubt undermine a president’s ability to obtain candid advice from his advisors. One would think that the current president would be concerned about that. But not Obama:
“Don’t be discouraged by what’s happened in the last few weeks,” he told employees. “Don’t be discouraged that we have to acknowledge potentially we’ve made some mistakes. That’s how we learn. But the fact that we are willing to acknowledge them and then move forward, that is precisely why I am proud to be president of the United States and that’s why you should be proud to be members of the C.I.A.”
Don’t be discouraged, but be prepared to be prosecuted if you render candid advice that turns out to have been possibly mistaken.
Finally, this story provides a wealth of tidbits demonstrating Obama’s unwillingness to be a real leader:
In the end, aides said, Mr. Obama opted to disclose the memos because his lawyers worried that they had a weak case for withholding them and because much of the information had already been made public in The New York Review of Books, in a memoir by George J. Tenet, the former C.I.A. director, and even in a 2006 speech by President George W. Bush.
Please, make it stop!