What if Dean were a GOP God guy?

There he goes again.

You may have noticed that Democratic Party Chairman Howard “God, gays and guns” Dean has shown up again on the Godbeat.

I swear, this man’s press aide must have the patience of Job (cue: rim shot).

This time around, Dean made headlines with his statement that Republicans have become “a pretty monolithic party. They all behave the same. They all look the same. It’s pretty much a white Christian party.” There were more fireworks where that came from.

“The Republicans are not very friendly to different kinds of people,” Dean said . . . responding to a question about diversity during a forum with minority leaders and journalists. “We’re more welcoming to different folks, because that’s the type of people we are. But that’s not enough. We do have to deliver on things: jobs and housing and business opportunities.”

This statement — no surprise — ticked off some conservative religious and political leaders. They wondered how mainstream journalists and politicians would have reacted to similar brash statements involving other social and religious groups.

Dean, meanwhile, bravely marched on and defended his turf. Here is a sample, drawn from an Associated Press report carried by The Washington Post. I find it interesting that the Beltway Bible did not assign one of its own reporters to this story.

Dean noted that he, too, is a white Christian. But he said the GOP is too narrow in its scope and the Democratic Party is far more diverse.

While even prominent Democrats in recent days have distanced themselves from some of his comments, the outspoken Dean, appearing on NBC”s “Today” show, said criticism of him is meant by Republicans to divert attention from the country’s problems and make him the issue instead.

The AP quoted Dean, when challenged, as saying that “unfortunately, by and large it is. And they have the agenda of the conservative Christians.” In response, GOP Party Chairman Ken Mehlman quipped that “a lot of folks who attended my Bar Mitzvah would be surprised” that he leads an all-Christian party.

According to Peggy “friend of this blog” Noonan, this whole episode raises darker questions about political discourse.

In a Wall Street Journal column called “Seeing Red,” the superstar speechwriter asked what would happen if President Bush delivered a speech in the heartland that included this language:

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. I want to speak this evening about how I see the political landscape. Let me jump right in. The struggle between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party is a struggle between good and evil — and we’re the good. I hate Democrats. Let’s face it, they have never made an honest living in their lives. Who are they, really, but people who are intent on abusing power, destroying the United States Senate and undermining our Constitution? They have no shame.

But why would they? They have never been acquainted with the truth. You ever been to a Democratic fundraiser? They all look the same. They all behave the same. They have a dictatorship, and suffer from zeal so extreme they think they have a direct line to heaven. But what would you expect when you have a far left extremist base? We cannot afford more of their leadership. I call on you to help me defeat them!”

Imagine the explosion of negative MSM coverage — all of it deserved — that would follow this address.

The problem is that those two paragraphs consist of phrases from remarks by Dean and by Sen. Hillary Clinton. You need to see Noonan’s color-coded version of the column to know which Democrat spoke which words. Again, you will find it here.

One of her main questions is this: Where is the MSM outrage at these Dean and Clinton sermons which, in part, single out a certain brand of religious believer for such harsh criticism?

Now, I know some wackos on the Religious Right can sling some similar acid around. But we are talking about the top leaders of the Democratic Party. I don’t think this is going to help them in the blue zip codes across the Bible Belt.

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Could it be . . .

Can the prince of darkness thrive in Giulianified New York?

That question is repeatedly posed by Jim Knipfel in his cover story in the current issue of the New York Press. The question sets up an interview with Peter Gilmore, a mover in the Church of Satan who was involved in relocating the organization’s headquarters from San Francisco to New York in 2001.

My favorite bit is when Knipfel catches Gilmore out in a bit of Evil nostalgia:

“Times Square used to be the most potent vista for viewing this entire spectrum in one glance,” he said. “If one stood on Broadway and 42nd, simply by looking around you could see human passions embodied: base sexuality in the venues for all facets of pornography, the restless mind hungry for information in the endless electronic crawl of headlines and in the publications cramming the newsstands. Our need for fantasy was served by the many theaters showing every level of film being produced and a similar range of live performance from the splendid to the sordid. There were shops which sold exotic weaponry and tacky souvenirs. The cuisine ranged from street vendors of dubious cleanliness and the quintessentially American Howard Johnson’s to the second-floor exotica of the Chinese Republic.” . . .

As we all know, that symbolic, iconic Times Square is long gone, replaced with “retail boxes” catering, as he puts it, “to the bland needs of tasteless drones.” The supposed revitalization of the area, he further notes, “has slapped a sanitized mask on the true face of our Babylon.”

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Colson and Howie mull Deep questions

It isn’t every day that one gets to read Howie Kurtz and Chuck Colson and mull over moral issues linked to journalism and politics and the politics of journalism. Still, it’s clear that people are a long, long way from being done talking about the Deep Throat case. To get back the original post by the Rt. Rev. LeBlanc, please click here.

So, to get the mood right, just light up a cigaratte and keep reading. Let’s start with the key section of a new Colson BreakPoint radio commentary, in which he once again argues that Felt — a close associate of Colson’s in those days — was not being heroic.

You will not be surprised that this conservative Christian apologist believes this case offers us another insight into the moral conflicts — are there absolutes? — of our day. It also helps to remember that Colson went to jail for doing precisely what Felt did. Here’s the key part of the text:

Today, I’m not concerned about how Mark Felt, or those of us involved in Watergate, or the press is judged by history. All of us have to be responsible for what we did ourselves. What I am concerned about is how, in the eyes of many people, Mark Felt’s end justified his means.

I’ve watched some of the classroom discussions on TV, and, almost to a person, students say he did the right thing because his end was good. This is terribly wrong. I know we live in an era of moral relativism — everybody chooses what is “right” for them. But this is a path to chaos and a lawless, ungovernable nation.

That’s the religious and moral side of this drama.

It is also possible to ask questions about how this case impacted the ethics and morality of journalism. That’s the larger question that has been bothering me and it also seems to have been bothering the nation’s top news-media-beat reporter, over at The Washington Post, of all places.

Here is how Kurtz starts off:

Was Watergate bad for journalism? On its face, the question seems absurd. The drama of two young metro reporters for The Washington Post helping to topple a corrupt president cast a golden glow over the news business in the mid-1970s.

Newspapermen became cinematic heroes, determined diggers who advanced the cause of truth by meeting shadowy sources in parking garages, and journalism schools were flooded with aspiring sleuths and crusaders. But the media’s reputation since then has sunk like a stone, and one reason is that some in the next generation of reporters pumped up many modest flaps into scandals ending in “gate,” sometimes using anonymous sources who turned out to be less than reliable.

We are just getting started with this, methinks. So keep reading, and don’t let the smoke get in your eyes.

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Noonan: Felt had his reasons

Sorry to have gone all but AWOL in the past few days due to intense teaching and editing duties at our SIJ 2005 journalism boot camp here in Washington, D.C. Let me jump in here for a moment to urge you to check out the lively exchanges on the Rt. Rev. LeBlanc’s post on Mark Felt, ethics, modern journalism and a host of other topics — with guest appearances by whistleblowers, Clinton administration fans, Nixon critics (on the left and right) and folks offering many, many other points of view.

Who knows, the debate may even circle back around to journalism!

Meanwhile, I would also like to point readers toward the new column by Peggy “friend of this blog” Noonan over at The Wall Street Journal. She has lots of questions about the granting of hero status to Felt. Here is one of the most interesting paragraphs:

(Felt’s) motives were apparently mixed, as motives often are. He was passed over to replace J. Edgar Hoover as director of the FBI by President Nixon, who apparently wanted in that place not a Hoover man but a more malleable appointee. Mr. Felt was resentful. He believed Nixon meant to jeopardize the agency’s independence. Here we have a hitch in the story. The liberal story line on the FBI was that under Hoover it had too much independence, which Hoover protected with his famous secret files and a reputation for ruthlessness. Mr. Felt was a Hoover man who joined the FBI in 1942, when it was young; he rose under Hoover and never knew another director. When Hooverism was threatened, Mr. Felt moved. In this sense Richard Nixon was J. Edgar Hoover’s last victim. History is an irony factory.

You don’t have to agree with Noonan on everything to enjoy her romp through the moral minefields in this case. And she stresses one major truth — the journalism side of this story is not over.

Amen to that, sister. Here is my question: Does anyone know if Felt is or was a smoker?

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Second-guessing Deep Throat

Chuck Colson has become one of the elder statesmen of evangelical Protestantism since his conversion, his prison term for Watergate crimes and his long-term involvement with ministry among prisoners. Colson also has long shown a concern for Christian apologetics, whether through the books he’s written with various coauthors, his bimonthly column for Christianity Today, his BreakPoint radio commentaries or his other media appearances.

On Tuesday’s edition of NewsNight with Aaron Brown, Colson used the momentous news of Deep Throat’s newly revealed identity to make the case against ends-justify-the-means ethics, and the results were — how to put this? — cringe-inducing. This was not Colson as Richard Nixon’s hatchet man, but it was Colson with a blind spot for the important role that journalists play, sometimes through relying on anonymous sources, in holding government accountable. Brown tried to make the case that there was a heroic element to Mark Felt’s actions as Deep Throat, but Colson was hearing none of it.

Let’s go to the transcript:

Brown: If people make history, history also makes them, often in unexpected ways. And the history that was Watergate clearly changed Mr. Colson. And he joins us tonight from Naples, Florida. It’s nice to see you, sir. Are you buying that Mark Felt was Deep Throat?

Colson: I was shocked, because I knew Mark Felt well and did not believe — I thought he was a consummate professional, an FBI man who would take the most sensitive secrets, have everybody’s personal files in his control, deputy director. I talked to him often and trusted him with very sensitive materials. So did the president. To think that he was out going around in back alleys at night looking for flower pots, passing information to someone, it’s just so demeaning. It’s terribly disappointing. It’s not the image of the professional FBI that you would expect.

Brown: Why is it. . . .

Colson: It’s one more tragedy to chalk up to Watergate.

Brown: That’s an interesting way to look at it. Why is it not honorable? Why is it not — believing that an institution you’ve devoted your life to, care a lot about and is important to the country, is being used in an improper way, and the only way you have to solve it or to deal with that is to go outside that agency? Why isn’t that honorable?

Colson: That’s not the only way. He could have walked into Pat Gray’s office, the director of the FBI and said, here are things that are going on in the White House that need to be exposed; the president needs to know about this, needs to deal with this. Maybe you believe the president himself is involved.

We should confront him on this, because we represent law enforcement. And go into the president and tell him what you saw.

Now, let me tell you something. I knew Richard Nixon intimately. Richard Nixon was no paragon of moral virtue. He would not necessarily have said, oh, my goodness, let me get to the bottom of this, it’s terrible. But he would have known that the director of the FBI and his deputy knew these things. He of course would call an end to this kind of stuff. He could — Mark Felt could have stopped Watergate. He was in the position of that kind of influence. Instead, he goes out and basically undermines the administration. I don’t think that’s honorable at all.

Brown: So in the end — I mean, I wonder if there’s something generational here, honestly, that people my age — I’m 55 — I went through this when I was a kid, really, in the ’60s, in the 20s — I was 20 years old, late 20s. Saw Deep Throat as a hero of a sort, because we didn’t believe, honestly, that government was willing to investigate itself.

Colson: Well, I think government is willing to investigate itself, and I think we’ve seen it do it many, many times. Watergate clearly was out of control. Watergate — I’m writing memoirs at the moment, just about to publish them, that — in which I take my own full responsibility. I saw things ordered by Mr. Nixon that I should have stood up and said, no, stop, this is wrong.

But Mark Felt, with the responsibility of being the number two man in the FBI, I would feel much better about things had he tried to stop it any other way than just going out and giving scandalous kind of material to newspaper reporters, where it could never be checked, where you could never rebut the accusation.

We always forget, of course, what it was like being inside in those days. Many of those accusations that came firing our way were not true. So you were having a trial in the press, which was not a right way for this to be handled either. And the ends don’t justify the means, Aaron. I’m sure you’d agree, that this was not an appropriate way for the number two FBI official in America to act.

He easily could have come to the officials responsible. If they hadn’t acted then, he would resign, have a press conference, and that would be entirely honorable. That would be an honorable position for a whistle-blower to take.

Brown: I’ll tell you what, here’s the deal I’ll make you. When the memoirs come out, we’ll discuss it in more detail whether I agree that in this case the ends justify the means. It’s a really interesting question, and I’m glad you put it out there tonight. Thank you.

Colson: If you can make that case for me, I’d sure like to listen to it. I’d have a good time debating you.

Brown: I look forward to the discussion. It’s nice to see you, sir.

Colson: I went to prison — I went to prison for ends justifying the means.

Brown: Yes, you did. Thank you. Chuck Colson down in Florida tonight.

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Evangelicals & Catholics together

If Time magazine can name Rick Santorum, a lifelong Roman Catholic, as one of the top 25 evangelicals in America, Santorum is happy to extend the ecclesial mix and match to President Bush, whom he calls America’s first Catholic president.

Santorum’s remarks about Bush are not new, but are revisited in “The Believer,” an 8,200-word profile by Michael Sokolove that appeared in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. Santorum first made the remarks to John Allen Jr., the National Catholic Reporter‘s Vatican correspondent, in January 2002. As Sokolove makes clear, with his comparison to Toni Morrison’s remark that Bill Clinton was the nation’s first black president, Santorum was speaking symbolically:

In 2002, in a little-noticed interview that took place in Rome, Santorum told National Catholic Reporter, a U.S.-based weekly, that he considered George W. Bush, a Methodist, to be “the first Catholic president of the United States.” (His remark was reminiscent of the novelist Toni Morrison’s saying that Bill Clinton was the nation’s first black president, although an obvious difference is that there actually has been a Catholic president.) Santorum explained his claim to me: “What I meant was if you look at the two major issues of the church, it’s sanctity of life, sanctity of marriage and the family — and third is care for the poor. And you have a president who is consistent with Catholic social teaching on all of these issues.”

And what about John F. Kennedy? Santorum says he believes that in a political sense, Kennedy shed his Catholicism. (Kennedy’s most famous statement on church and state was: “I do not speak for my church on public matters — and the church does not speak for me.”) “I can understand and even defend him in some respects for doing so,” Santorum said. “There was still a very anti-Catholic bias, certainly among Southerners.” Other Catholic politicians, he continued, “have sort of adopted that same line, that they are going to hold that part of themselves off to the side, which has led to people who want to completely separate moral views from public life, which is a dangerous thing.”

Senator Susan Collins, a moderate Republican from Maine, is far from Santorum on most social issues but close to him personally. A Catholic, she has attended the catechism classes he holds in the Capitol. She wasn’t familiar with his statement in National Catholic Reporter and let out a little chortle upon hearing it. “That is so vintage Rick,” she said. “One of the things I like best about him is he is completely authentic. I would draw the line differently than where he does. But he believes there should be more of an intertwining of government and religion, and he believes it passionately.”

As this blog has noted before, evangelical Richard Land once spoke of the greater solidarity he felt with Pope John Paul II than with some of his fellow Southern Baptists. In that light, there’s nothing terribly unusual in Santorum’s remarks, except his provocative insistence that Bush behaves more like an observant Catholic than some public officials who belong to the Catholic Church.

Sokolove’s tone suggests a certain admiration for — but clearly not agreement with — Santorum’s passion for prolife issues and faith-based assistance to the poor. He explores the irony that the Democratic Party, which barred Bob Casey from the speaker’s podium in 1992, now feels such enthusiasm for Bob Casey Jr., who shares his late father’s opposition to abortion. One difference already is clear in the prolife positions of the younger Casey and Santorum: Casey’s campaign manager has criticized Santorum as “the only member of Congress to intrude on Terri Schiavo’s hospice.”

Sokolove further captures the cultural divide on issues of fetal life in describing how Santorum and his family handled the death of baby Gabriel Michael Santorum, who died in the womb:

The childbirth in 1996 was a source of terrible heartbreak — the couple were told by doctors early in the pregnancy that the baby Karen was carrying had a fatal defect and would survive only for a short time outside the womb. According to Karen Santorum’s book, “Letters to Gabriel: The True Story of Gabriel Michael Santorum,” she later developed a life-threatening intrauterine infection and a fever that reached nearly 105 degrees. She went into labor when she was 20 weeks pregnant. After resisting at first, she allowed doctors to give her the drug Pitocin to speed the birth. Gabriel lived just two hours.

What happened after the death is a kind of snapshot of a cultural divide. Some would find it discomforting, strange, even ghoulish — others brave and deeply spiritual. Rick and Karen Santorum would not let the morgue take the corpse of their newborn; they slept that night in the hospital with their lifeless baby between them. The next day, they took him home. “Your siblings could not have been more excited about you!” Karen writes in the book, which takes the form of letters to Gabriel, mostly while he is in utero. “Elizabeth and Johnny held you with so much love and tenderness. Elizabeth proudly announced to everyone as she cuddled you, ‘This is my baby brother, Gabriel; he is an angel.’”

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Just say no?

From an interesting, fairly even-handed report in The Washington Post. A bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives that would expand government-funded embryonic stem cell research. The president’s response?

“I’ve made it very clear to the Congress that the use of federal money, taxpayers’ money, to promote science which destroys life in order to save life — I’m against that. And therefore if the bill does that, I will veto it,” Bush told reporters during a picture-taking session with Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

I wonder what the political fallout would be if the president decides to use his veto pen for the first time ever to restrict stem cell research? For his part, co-sponsor Mike Castle isn’t backing down. He insists that the bill is in line with the president’s original compromise on the subject: that is, make a limited number of cell lines derived from harvested and already dead embryos available for research.

Castle said his legislation in essence lifts the cutoff date of Bush’s policy to allow federally funded research on stem cell lines “derived ethically from donated embryos determined to be in excess.”

“Under no circumstances does this legislation allow for the creation of embryos for research nor does it fund the destruction of embryos,” Castle said.

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Take the Pew test; find your label

As part of the never-ending quest for political metaphors after the red-blue divide, the Pew Research Center for People and the Press has developed a nifty little online test in an attempt to give a snapshot of the basic political viewpoints in the land.

The resulting report includes more than a few doses of religion.

Overall, the result is a series of camps framed to undercut the much-cursed red-blue divide. Here’s a place to see the various types of politicos.

I still think there are some crazy twists and turns here, and I am one who thinks that the clout of strong red-zip-code people and the elite blues is one of the major stories of the year. The 10 percent or so of true believers on left and right are real. They have power, in their niche. They affect key states and primaries. There is a story here — probably more than one.

And religion is a key part of the equation in this Pew study. For example, it says there are three kinds of conservatives — Enterprisers, Social Conservatives and Pro-Government Conservatives. Note: Three kinds. Then one of the other basic camps consists of “conservative Democrats.”

Wait a minute.

Three plus one equals . . . FOUR? Right? I am not very good at math and, perhaps, neither is the copy editor for this study. Well, I guess there are no conservatives in the Democratic Party. And they don’t go to church more often than other Democrats, either (and they are not largely Hispanic or African American).

So take the test. I did. Let us know how you scored, if you wish. Anyone want to label each member of the GetReligion borg?

I already know my handle. Clue — I am not in the GOP (cue: gasp from some readers).

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