Smart people saying smart things

Smart people saying smart things August 14, 2012

Wells Tower: “Desperately Seeking Mitt”

On some level, he must know that the world’s more complex than this, and that these past three decades have been very good to people like him and Harold but not so good for everybody else. It’s a big, ugly truth to have to willfully ignore. Not that it’s his fault. Romney’s presidential bid would combust the instant he stopped talking about America as though it is a pretty hologram in a block of cut glass and that its only flaws, easily effaced, are a few thumbprints Obama left on the crystal. Still, it is lamentable that if you ever hope to get elected, your most closely guarded secret is your honest, unairbrushed vision of the nation you want to run.

As I shoulder my way to the rope line, I’m thinking how emotionally fatiguing it would be to spend all day, every day telling America it can be rescued by rich men and hymns and keeping secret for the quiet room his real worries for the land he wants to govern. Secrets are exhausting. Coming down the rope line, Romney looks exhausted. Haggard, bleary. He grasps my hand. A really good grip: firm, but not a knucklebuster, choked up solidly into my hand-crotch of thumb and forefinger, wholly avoiding one of those awkward fingertip-clutching situations. His skin is dry and warm. I look him in his hooded eyes. “You must be very tired,” I say.

“Heh, heh.” Two popcorn emissions of dry, synthetic jocularity. “I’m doing all right.”

Daniel Altman: “How Republicans Sabotaged the Recovery”

Imagine, for a moment, how difficult it would have been to land a man on the moon if half of the U.S. Congress had believed that the sun revolved around the earth. Or consider how the War in the Pacific might have progressed if half of Congress had still thought the world was flat. Or whether polio would have been eradicated if half of Congress insisted that the best cure was bleeding using leeches. Unfortunately, this was the situation the United States in January 2009, when Barack Obama assumed the presidency. The nation was trying to climb out of the deepest economic hole since the Great Depression, but the Republican Party had about as scientific an approach to the economy as medieval alchemists did to the periodic table.

Peter Montgomery: “12 Rules for Mixing Religion and Politics”

1. There can be no religious test for public office, nor a religious test for participation in the political process.

2. While it is appropriate to discuss the moral dimensions of public policy issues, religious doctrine alone is not an acceptable basis for government policy.

3. Public officials have every right to express their personal religious beliefs, and no right to use the power of their office to proselytize or coerce others to adopt any religious beliefs or practices .

4. Government institutions must show neither official approval nor disapproval of religion, or favor one religion over another.

5. Religious institutions may cooperate with government in programs supporting the common good, but public funds must not be used to support proselytizing, religious education, worship or discrimination.

6. Government has a right to demand that religious institutions and individuals comply with reasonable regulation and social policy.

7. Public officials cannot use their religious beliefs as a rationale for failing to uphold the duties of their office.

8. Political discourse should respect religious pluralism.

9. Political figures and the media should not treat religious constituencies as monolithic; political and religious leaders should not claim to speak for an entire religious community on public policy issues.

10. Politicians and media should not equate orthodoxy with authenticity.

11. Religious and political leaders should not “cry wolf” about religious persecution.

12. Religion should not be used as a political club.


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