Hope Abides Not With Biden

Hope Abides Not With Biden September 4, 2008

When Barack Obama chose Senator Biden for his running mate, on the one hand, he gained an important ally for his cause, someone who is quite intelligent and capable of thinking on his feet, acting as both attack and guard dog for the Democrats, while on the other hand, he also gained someone who presents several significant liabilities which Obama needs to address and deal with. Certainly anyone who looks at the choice can see that Obama has hurt many of the important and positive messages he had; if a Democrat wants to run as the voice for change, one doesn’t go out and pick Biden, someone who is as tied to the establishment as one can find. Obama, to be sure, wanted someone who could advise him if he were elected president, but if that is the case, does it actually have to be someone who has had any political background? Could he not have gone looking through political science departments and found an outsider who represented his own ideals better than Biden? And that is where the problems begin. Biden and Obama, despite the bond of friendship which has developed between them, represent two different ideals, and Biden brings with his experience various positions which undercut Obama’s stated beliefs, and indeed, represents a real set back to the kind of dialogue Obama has said he wanted in the political environment. While it would be ill-advised to single out Biden with hate, it is wise for one to look at him and see what kinds of concerns one can and should have with his nomination. Let’s take a look at some of the more important ones.

First, by serving in the Senate for so long, Biden has been able to dig himself into the establishment. He has accepted many of the establishment’s finer points, from American and Israeli exceptionism, to the dark side of the American liberal experiment, that is, an individualistic understanding of freedom and liberty which looks more to the social contract than to natural law as the means by which a nation is to be governed. For the first point, Joe Biden is the one who makes it clear he is a Zionist; he thinks Israel is America’s greatest friend and asset in the Middle East, and it seems that is enough to make him one of the great defenders of Zionism. He thinks Israel helps defend America’s interests by its presence and that justifies our open-ended support to a nation which at least borders on terrorism in its world-actions (if it doesn’t actually cross it). It’s fine by him because this makes the need for less of an American military presence in the Middle East while we still have nominal hegemony in the region. Thus, it is also clear, he follows through with another general Americanist mistake: the belief that might makes right, and that through a strong military power, Americans help produce world peace. From a Catholic standpoint, such a view is to be denounced as strongly as possible: the threat of violence is a form of violence, and it encourages the kind of “king of the hill” mentality that ultimately leads to conflict and wars between nations. We need to think of different ways of establishing peace, as Pope Benedict wisely stated, “Thus there is an urgent need, even within the framework of current international difficulties and tensions, for a commitment to a human ecology that can favour the growth of the ‘tree of peace.’ For this to happen, we must be guided by a vision of the person untainted by ideological and cultural prejudices or by political and economic interests which can instill hatred and violence.”[1] That is, nations need to work for peace, not through the force of arms, but by overcoming those prejudices in the world which lead to hate and violence, especially the kind (such as any nationalistic form of exceptionism) which looks down upon an other simply because they are other and a potential threat. We must establish peace, not by the force of arms, but by actually working with the other, even one’s enemies, and finding ways to make them friends. “We would like to be able to dispel this threatening and terrible nightmare by proclaiming at the top of our voice the absurdity of modern war and the absolute necessity of Peace – Peace not founded on the power of arms that today are endowed with an infernal destructive capacity (let us recall the tragedy of Japan), nor founded on the structural violence of some political regimes, but founded on the patient, rational and loyal method of justice and freedom, such as the great international institutions of today are promoting and defending.”[2] Biden, however, has made it clear through his many years in the Senate that he accepts the belief that peace is best held by power, and America must remain in the world state as a world power which enforce peace by its power, by its arms. This is a policy which is not in line with Christian ethics; peace by power is a false peace; it creates resentment and hatred by those who feel that power is squashing their own desire for liberty. As we saw on 9-11, the end product of this is terrorism, because it is the only way those who feel marginalized by the powers that be think they can express themselves and be heard. If this is the kind of result that comes out of peace established purely by force, even on a secular level, such a policy can not be deemed acceptable.

Nonetheless, from this, we can begin to see why Biden initially supported the war with Iraq. Not only was it politically expedient at the time, but he believed that such an intervention in Iraq was the way by which the United States should achieve its goals in the world, despite the critical questions raised about the war by moral and religious thinkers. He not only supported the war, but he worked to silence opposition to the war; he was as guilty as G.W. Bush in selling the war to the nation. He willfully ignored the questions which were being raised as to its legitimacy. He worked to make sure they were not raised out in the open. While he supposedly changed his mind on the war in Iraq, when he did so, it was too late, and it looks extremely like it was done to garner political clout for the Democrats as they entered into an election season. There is little to no indication that his opposition to the war became one of a moral rejection by which the principles of war were established, but as to how it was managed and the kind of misinformation which Bush used to get us into Iraq (information he could have checked out more carefully himself, but did not). If anything, one could say that he, more than Bush, is culpable for the outcome of the war, because he, more than Bush, had reason to listen to Pope John Paul II and to know the basis by which an objection to the war could be found, and he should have raised such objections on the Senate floor, even if it made him unpopular.

That he has not learned his lesson, but continues to think along these Americanist lines can be seen in his reaction to the conflict between Georgia, America’s ally, and Russia, a nation which America has questionable, at best, relations with. The conflict is of course seen by him to be entirely Russia’s fault. Biden, with the rest of the Americanist state, wants to stand completely behind Georgia, declare it is free from all blame, and find any way at all to explain away Georgia’s significant (and detrimental) role in the conflict itself. He went to Georgia at that nation’s request, and worked exclusively for them, to provide the kind of support it wanted in America to encourage a more militant stand against Russia. “I left the country convinced that Russia’s invasion of Georgia may be the one of the most significant event to occur in Europe since the end of communism. The claims of Georgian atrocities that provided the pretext for Russia’s invasion are rapidly being disproved by international observers, and the continuing presence of Russian forces in the country has severe implications for the broader region. The war that began in Georgia is no longer about that country alone. It has become a question of whether and how the West will stand up for the rights of free people throughout the region.”[3] His posturing remains one with a militant overtone, trying to use the threat of violence to force Russia to do as the United States wishes, whether or not such wishes are sufficiently just (both Russia and Georgia are guilty of atrocities, and it is quite clear Russia was brought into the conflict through Georgian aggression, placing greater culpability on Georgia; but it is also clear, for the United States, the issue is American hegemony, and that continues to be established by support of Georgia). Biden demonstrates that his international skill, while there, is used for one purpose: American hegemony, and nothing greater.

Turning to his views on the secular state, it is clear he has fully accepted the false libertine and individualistic views of the Enlightenment. From this viewpoint, freedom is freedom only when an individual is free to achieve whatever it is they will, as long as that individual keeps himself or herself within the established social contract accepted by their state. That contract, which should be aimed for as much individual liberty as is possible, puts little real social responsibility on the individual, and gives little value to moral law as a means by which one establishes secular law.  Such individual liberty, of course, includes the ability of an individual to pile up personal force and use it at the expense of threats, as long as that kind of force has been deemed acceptable by society at large; thus one can understand where he comes from, and why he is in error, when he supports the pro-choice ideal for civil society.[4]I am a long-standing supporter of Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose.”[5]He’s gravely wrong for such support. While it is clear he does not personally endorse abortion, he is incapable of making a universal appeal to one of the basic and fundamental human rights, that of life. And while he might point out that there is a certain right to personal liberty, he, like so many others, fail to recognize that along with such rights is personal responsibility, and that responsibility includes the recognition of all life, at all its stages, as being sacred and should not be willfully taken by the hands of any man or woman.[6]

Thus, when one looks at Biden, one finds two disturbing trends which one could see as being two different aspects of a greater proper: his embrace of the culture of death. When one believes that the method by which one gets their way in the world is through violence, either by its direct use or threat, it encourages a savage, nihilist worldview. The strong survives, the weak either listens to the strong, becomes strong itself, or is killed off. If someone else, on any level, appears to be a threat, one takes them out by any means one deems necessary and one is capable of doing. Abortion, for many in the culture of death, is acceptable, because the child is collateral damage in the war for the woman’s body. Justification for war abroad and justification for abortion end up one and the same in the culture of death; usually, one finds, logically, a separation between the two in a given politician, leading to an internal contradiction in their political views. Alas. Such is not the case for Biden. And for this reason, no Christian, no Catholic can ever abide in hope that with Biden things will get better, and it is clear Obama has chosen a dangerous ally for his own political war against McCain.

 Footnotes

[1] Pope Benedict XVI. “Message For World Peace Day: Jan. 1, 2007,” 10.
[2] Pope Paul VI. “Message For the Celebration of the Day of Peace: Jan 1, 1978.”
[3] Joe Biden Quoted in, Jonathan Wiseman. “Biden, Back from Georgia, Speaks Out Against Russian Invasion” (August 18,2008).  http://voices.washingtonpost.com/the-trail/2008/08/18/biden_back_from_georgia_speaks.html
[4] Interestingly enough, he is not as bad as it gets in relation to his stand on choice; Obama certainly is much worse. Biden did vote against public funding of abortion, he supported the partial birth abortion ban, and he has said life begins at conception. But with such a view as the last, it is quite clear how his support for abortion is indicative of a danger, because it shows he is willing to allow human life be taken for the sake of political expediency.

[5] Quoted in, Joshua Mercer . “Choice of Biden Re-Opens Catholic Wounds,” Aug 23, 2008 (http://www.reuters.com/article/idUS29316+23-Aug-2008+PRN20080823).
[6] CF. Pope Benedict XVI. Values in a Time of Upheaval. Trans Brian McNeil (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 40; 48 – 51.


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  • Yes, I am glad you finally got around to the pro-choice question, which is the Catholic issue par excellence. Biden, like Obama, is drowning in the blood of 40,000,000 children slaughtered by their mothers.

    Anyone who advocates on behalf of the abortion industry is participating in the greatest atrocity in human history. Non Catholics can at least plead moral ignorance before the throne of God. Biden and all other pro=choice Catholics cannot.

  • Finally?

  • Tim F.

    maybe Fr. J. meant within this particular essay.

  • TeutonicTim

    Interesting to be the one who decided Biden was appropriate as the VP candidate.

  • Mark Shea

    He picked Biden cuz he needs to carry Pennsylvania. I suspect Palin has just scotched that hope. She’ll resonate a lot more with your average Picksburg Stiller fan than somebody who wants to play “Mine’s bigger” with his IQ scores. That’s how politics works.

  • phosphorious

    She’ll resonate a lot more with your average Picksburg Stiller fan than somebody who wants to play “Mine’s bigger” with his IQ scores.

    Why that’s elitism!

    And not the good kind.

  • Mark DeFrancisis

    Watch your regional prejudice, Mr. Shea; the university systems are among the largest employers in Pittsburgh. Take it from this lifelong Steelers (and Pirates) fan.

  • Mark Shea

    It’s elitist to say that normal people relate more easily to normal people than to boastful people?

    Oh! I get it! You *assumed* that a Stiller fan has to be dumb and then attributed that assumption to me. In fact, I neither said nor implied it. But I note that you assumed it nonethless (to the impure all things are impure).

    The reason I don’t assume a Stiller fan is dumb could have something to do with the friend of mine from Pittburgh with the Ph.D who teaches history at the University of Washington and roots for the Stillers. Five’ll getcha ten he’s way brighter than Biden. But I wouldn’t know because he’s never felt the need to do combat with anybody about his IQ. Biden has, and that’s a turnoff to people of any IQ.

    Which was my point.

  • Mark Shea

    But then, why should you care? MM has been defending elitism (though not defining the elitism he is defending) for several days right here on this blog. Why go attacking elitism when I am not proposing or defending it while ignoring posts with titles like “In Defense of Elitism”?

    The riddles and mysteries of the Church You Cannot See.

  • Mike

    Why would “normal people” relate to the boastful and vicious Sarah Palin? Oh! You must mean normal people are stupid. Certainly the Republicans are hoping they are.

  • Great post, Henry. I am very unimpressed with Biden. Surprised you didn’t mention his atrocious quote where he said “Church is where I go in order to be alone,” or something along those lines.

    (I did quite like the rosary quote though.)

  • Mark,

    I’ve only lived in Pittsburgh for a year and a half now (Brookline), but I really think you are not envisioning Western Pennsylvanians correctly. Pittsburgh is not the blue collar place I think you have in your head, its as blended as any other American metropolis and I’m not quite sure how Palin will “resonate” in a different way than anywhere else.

    Its true that Pittsburgh is “big labor” and like the rest of the State, Western PA has a lot of hunting enthusiasts. But many of those hunters are also staunchly in favor of gun control. Additionally, even though Palin’s husband is a union member, Palin herself seems more like the management. Kind of like when Huckabee accused Romney of reminding people of the guy who laid them off. Also, evangelicals are really looked down upon here, I attribute this both to the higher numbers of Catholics and Eastern Orthodox in the city. To add another layer to this, belonging to a denomination that thinks that Israel is being attacked by terrorists as a divinely ordained punishment isn’t going to fly in Squirrel Hill.

    The list goes on, but so far as I can figure, Palin is only going to penetrate the suburbs that are so developed they have no regional feel to them at all.

  • For those who don’t know, BTW, Squirrel Hill is the Pittsburgh’s largest neighborhood, and one of the largest Jewish enclaves in the Eastern half of the US. Sorry to leave that out.

  • Jim McCann

    Amazing, since Mark never said anything about blue collar workers, unions, management, hunters, or guns.

    All that stuff came entirely from the mind of adamv.

    What Mark did say was that men who, like Biden has, go about proclaiming their IQ (funny how no context is ever given to these scores by these jackholes) turn people off.

    Do you think only blue collar gun nuts are turned off by such behaviour? Do you believe that academics and white collar workers find it a perfectly normal activity?

  • Policraticus

    He picked Biden cuz he needs to carry Pennsylvania. I suspect Palin has just scotched that hope. She’ll resonate a lot more with your average Picksburg Stiller fan than somebody who wants to play “Mine’s bigger” with his IQ scores. That’s how politics works.

    As a Pittsburgh native, I can tell you that Allegheny County will go Obama, as will the whole state.

  • LCB

    “The unborn child, who is alive and is a member of the human family, cannot defend himself or herself. Good law defends the defenseless. Our present laws permit unborn children to be privately killed. Laws that place unborn children outside the protection of law destroy both the children killed and the common good, which is the controlling principle of Catholic social teaching. One cannot favor the legal status quo on abortion and also be working for the common good.

    Cardinal George pretty much destroys the poor excuses used by Obama-Biden-Infanticide supporters.

  • LCB – Actually, no he doesn’t. At least not in the quote you provided. Supporting Obama does not necessarily mean supporting his policy on abortion. I know of no Obama supporting Catholics here at VN who favor the legal status quo on abortion.

  • phosphorious

    It’s elitist to say that normal people relate more easily to normal people than to boastful people?

    Oh, I see. . . boasting is only wrong when it involves the IQ. Candidates are allowed to boast about toughness, and strength and everythign else. . .but suggesting that you are smarter then somebody else is “elitist”.

  • TeutonicTim

    I know of no Obama supporting Catholics here at VN who favor the legal status quo on abortion.

    Bull. MM has spoken on this multiple times. His reasoning? Promoting what I call “socialist” programs hoping it would potentially reduce the need for abortion (while providing paid abortions in the same programs)

  • phosphorious

    But then, why should you care? MM has been defending elitism (though not defining the elitism he is defending) for several days right here on this blog. Why go attacking elitism when I am not proposing or defending it while ignoring posts with titles like “In Defense of Elitism”?

    The riddles and mysteries of the Church You Cannot See.

    MM has been asking why a political philosophy that in non-election years, defends elitism, and rails against a forced and unnatural “egalitarianism”, uses the word “elitist” unqualified as an insult.

    Which is a perfectly good thing to wonder about.

    The answer, of course, is that there is a “good” elitism, practiced by conservatives, and a “bad” elitism, practiced only by the vile and hateful liberals.

  • Timster –

    1) MM does not favor the status quo on abortion.
    2) That you oppose the promotion of programs that would reduce the perceived need for abortions is telling.
    3) MM is not in favor of providing payment for abortions.

    You are beyond dishonest.

  • TeutonicTim

    The answer, of course, is that there is a “good” elitism, practiced by conservatives, and a “bad” elitism, practiced only by the vile and hateful liberals.

    Sounds similar to what MM himself said, only reversed.

  • TeutonicTim

    Mikester:

    Timster –

    1) MM does not favor the status quo on abortion.

    You said “legal status quo”. MM does indeed favor that, as he’s argued against a legal solution to the abortion problem.

    2) That you oppose the promotion of programs that would reduce the perceived need for abortions is telling.

    What’s more effective to reduce abortion than abstinence and personal responsibility and self control?

    3) MM is not in favor of providing payment for abortions.

    The same programs he lauds as potentially reducing the number of abortions (which is debatable in and of itself) would fund abortions.

    You are beyond dishonest.
    Funny, Each of your “points” is so dishonest it’s not funny.

  • You said “legal status quo”. MM does indeed favor that, as he’s argued against a legal solution to the abortion problem.

    He can speak for himself, especially if I am reading him wrong. But my own position is that while I do not favor the legal status quo, I also do not think a legal “solution” will work, nor do I think it is likely.

    What’s more effective to reduce abortion than abstinence and personal responsibility and self control?

    Being a part of a covenant community that says no to abortion and offers to raise unwanted children born to mothers outside the church.

    The same programs he lauds as potentially reducing the number of abortions (which is debatable in and of itself) would fund abortions.

    Not necessarily. And even if they did, MM would not be in favor of it as you suggest.

  • Brett

    When Biden was selected I turned to my wife and said, “So much for the new politics.” I am no fan.

    But in all honesty, Fr. J., when you say abortion is the Catholic issue par excellence, that does not speak solely to how important an issue abortion is, but how American Catholicism has also dropped the ball on the whole range of issues which combine to create a culture of life or a culture of death. Oh! How that I wish the public, due to the character of Catholic public witness, were able to acknowledge how Catholics stood against: “murders, adultery, lust, fornication, thefts, idolatries, magic arts, witchcrafts, rape, false witness, hypocrisy, double-heartedness, deceit, haughtiness, depravity, self-will, greediness, filthy talking, jealousy, over-confidence, loftiness, boastfulness; persecutors of the good, hating truth, loving a lie, not knowing a reward for righteousness, not cleaving to good nor to righteous judgment, watching not for that which is good, but for that which is evil; from whom meekness and endurance are far, loving vanities, pursuing revenge, not pitying a poor man, not laboring for the afflicted, not knowing Him Who made them, murderers of children, destroyers of the handiwork of God, turning away from him who is in want, afflicting him who is distressed, advocates of the rich, lawless judges of the poor, utter sinners.” This is what the Didache called “The Way of Death.” To choose one and only one from this list as the “Catholic issue par excellence” is itself a moral failure.

    I’d prefer a discussion of how a Catholic might vote according to all of these issues, not just one. Perhaps McCain would rise to the top. Perhaps Obama. But that discussion has not happened yet. Our moral imagination hasn’t allowed it because we are captive to interests and loyalties which make us pick and choose from the list above. Christ have mercy.

  • TeutonicTim

    Not necessarily. And even if they did, MM would not be in favor of it as you suggest.
    The first piece of legislation he will sign would eliminate the Hyde amendment that currently prohibits federal funding of abortions. Introducing health care either provided by or brokered by the federal government would be required to cover any “medical” procedure including abortion.

  • TeutonicTim

    He can speak for himself, especially if I am reading him wrong. You said that no contributor supports the legal status quo, so you were speaking for all VN contributors.

  • digbydolben

    I don’t “favour the status quo” on abortion either.

    However, please say it quietly and repeat it to yourself: In a time of financial and economic melt-down of neo-liberal globalist capitalism (caused by the emergence of the creditor states, as world powers); in a time of increasingly militarist responses to those pressures; in a time of massive environmental degradation; in a time of increasing dysfunction of America’s national health system (and the possibility of epidemic-scale disasters in that sector); in a time of proliferation of “dirty” weapons of mass destruction–ABORTION SIMPLY CANNOT BE THE Sine Qua Non for political choices, and to make it such would be a singularly unpatriotic act, the betrayal of whatever community might eventually be capable of acting in unison to eliminate the social and economic pressures that are instrumental in causing so many abortions.

  • S.B.

    I know of no Obama supporting Catholics here at VN who favor the legal status quo on abortion.

    You should stop saying thing like this, unless Gerald Campbell has ceased being a contributor. You do know of his position, much as you might try to deny it. He’s even said that pro-lifers are “insane” for trying to change the legal status quo.

  • TeutonicTim

    digby – say it to yourself so we don’t have to see it taking up space on the internet.

  • In line with the Declaration on Procured Abortion, I believe that the law should provide “appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child’s rights.” What those sanctions should be is open to debate (there is certainly no call to punish it as homicide, even if it is the moral equivalent of homicide, and I don’t believe any jurisdiction in history has done so). Moreover, I believe that those responsible for the common good who claim that abortion is a “right”, and vote and campaign for laws in this direction, or affirm legal judgments in this vein, are guilty of formal cooperation in evil.

    I also believe with every core of my being that the strategy adopted today by the Catholic right, by the Republican party, by the politicized pro-life movement is a shameless charade that will do nothing to foster a culture of life or to reduce abortions in this country.

    I have said all of this before. I say so again to face down the poison that had infested our comboxes as of late.

  • TeutonicTim

    Moreover, I believe that those responsible for the common good who claim that abortion is a “right”, and vote and campaign for laws in this direction, or affirm legal judgments in this vein, are guilty of formal cooperation in evil.

    So Obama is guilty of formal cooperation in evil. At least we agree on that.

  • Tim, I must have written hundreds of bloody posts on this topic, and I’ve only made that point a couple of thousand times.

  • Brett

    My post two up from Digby’s makes the theological case for the same point, whereas he was making a point based on pragmatic timeliness (a fine point, I think). Tim, care to respond to that? I’m interested in what you think.

  • Brett

    I am guilty of formal cooperation in choosing the way of death, if I go by the list from the Didache. I repent of that. I am humiliated by it. Let us all begin there.

  • Michael I

    When I started writing this, I thought I would go into many more issues; but as went through it, you can tell, just to get the few I did, took quite a bit of space, and I thought they were the big issues, so left it with them.

  • Jim McCann,

    Its rather telling that you automatically accuse me of misquoting Mark Shea. He gave reasons he thought Palin would work, and I gave reasons she wouldn’t. That you automatically assume some kind of antipathy is both depressing and a little bit creepy.

    Then again, it makes you like 70% of the other commenters here.

  • He’s even said that pro-lifers are “insane” for trying to change the legal status quo.

    But of course this does not mean that he favors the legal status quo.

  • love the girls

    Michael J. Iafrate writes : “But of course this does not mean that he favors the legal status quo.”

    These indicate that Gerald Campbell does favor the legal status quo because he is arguing to keep the legal status quo.

    Gerald Campbell writes: “The question of freedom is not about the freedom to murder. It is about the freedom from government intrusion into the life of the individual.”

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/voxnova/2008/01/28/obama-the-proabort/#comment-10246
    Obama, the proabort « Vox Nova

    Gerald Campbell’s argument does not advocate killing but does advocate keeping abortion legal which is the status quo. It’s the “pro-choice” argument, a women should have a legal right to choose to either keep her baby or kill her baby

    _____________________

    Or this where Gerald Campbell defends those with perfect NARAL voting records as being pro-life. They’re just attempting eliminate abortion by different and better means. A better means which includes keeping the legal status quo.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/voxnova/2008/04/29/deal-hudson-and-deacon-sambi/#comment-20053
    Deal Hudson and Deacon Sambi « Vox Nova