Jul 24

Who are they, and where do they stand?

In the course of the past week, we saw the entire Republican convention play out with the formal nomination of Donald Trump and his acceptance speech laying out his vision and plans if elected. And we’re about to see the Democratic convention unfold, as Hilary Clinton is officially nominated candidate and formally accepts on the final night. These are historic events, we’ve often been reminded in this election cycle. But while there’s a certain ‘first ever’ historic nature in the two candidates, the reality of their party platforms and their individual visions for America—what, at the end of the day, they actually stand for and they would actually do in the Oval Office—is what America must (or should) consider now that we’ve heard Trump and prepare to hear Clinton.

In the course of the last week, we also learned the running-mates of the two candidates. While neither Trump nor Clinton are, or ever were Catholic, the two running-mates have significant connections to the Catholic Church. Trump V.P. pick Mike Pence, Governor of Indiana, was raised as a Catholic, but is  now a devout Evangelical Christian. Clinton choice Tim Kaine, U.S. Senator from Virginia, is a Catholic who worked as a missionary with the Jesuits in Latin America and, according to his Pastor, still actively practices the faith.

However, it’s only on the actual position of a person—what they espouse and what they promise to do—that American citizens can make a choice. And while the Democratic ticket has the only Catholic in the race, and the Republic ticket has been called the most “anti-Catholic” in recent history (especially given Trump’s verbal spat with Pope Francis over his trademark promise to build a Wall, a promise the candidate repeated in his recent keynote speech at the Republic Convention), when it comes to life issues across the spectrum—from the womb to natural death—the platforms could not be more different.

The Democrats’ has never been more pro-abortion, (USA Today claims ‘anti-abortion’ Democrats are outraged over it) and the Republicans’ has never been more pro-life.

Divisions are clear in this particular election year. None, perhaps, more clearly so than here.

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Jul 14

Do we have race problems? Police problems? Both? What can be done?

Turn on the TV or open the newspaper in America today and you will see a dialogue—perhaps overdue—about social themes of the importance of human lives, racial equality, respect for the law, the rights of people to speak their voices, and whether or not we, as Americans, are as divided as we seem. These issues have come up with a certain strength today in America due to the confluence of at least three major events—two concerning a police-involved shooting, and one concerning a home-grown terrorist who sought to assassinate white police officers—within a few days. However, they are not new. In Chicago alone, the tension over police-related cases has resulted in the firing of the Chicago Police Chief and nearly cost the Mayor of Chicago his job.

However, while the discussion is over major social, cultural and political trends, Gregory Thomas, President of the (US) National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), reminds us that all policing is local, as he told me on radio Thursday.

It’s an unfortunate tide of events that have occurred in the past week, like getting hit in the gut three times. Shot on video, we had two police shootings, and the third event being the Dallas shooting of police officers. It doubled the nation over. So now we’re sitting here in pain, and it happened on consecutive days. We’re making it a national issue, but it’s a local issue.

While the reality is that about 95 percent of police are doing the right thing, that means five percent aren’t, and it’s all local. So if the cop on my block will stop me in my vehicle and harrass my kids, then that’s the whole police department to me. I don’t know what the other 99 are doing.

What a law enforcement officer is doing, and what a citizen is doing, in any given moment, is at the center of these terrible events.

It’s an important point lost in much of the rhetoric: each of these cases involve individual decisions of people in very different circumstances. It was the decision of an officer in Falcon Heights, Minnesota to pull over Philandro Castile. It was the decision of Mr. Castile and the decision of the Officer that led to the shooting. It was the decision of Mr. Castile’s girlfriend that led to the aftermath being filmed, uploaded on the internet, which led to a series—perhaps tens of thousands—of other decisions of how to react to that video. It was the decision of religious officials to honor his mother’s request to hold a funeral for him in the Catholic Cathedral of St. Paul, Minnesota, and it was the decision of the family not to invite the media to that funeral.

The current events, on the one hand, point out that there is significant tension under the surface in America over the relationship between members of certain racial groups and the police. This tension, however, cannot be simplified since the members of all those same groups are also members of the police. We cannot forget that an Asian and a Hispanic police officer were the victims of the shooting in New York last year. And we should not forget that an African-American mother was also injured in the shooting of the white police officers in Dallas last week.

On the other hand, the current events conceal the individual nature of these choices. The Dallas shooter, as President Obama pointed out, most certainly does not represent all Black Lives Matter protesters. The same must be said for the cases of police abuse of power. Those individuals who abuse their power, or who make wrong decisions, must be held accountable. What will not help on this front is when the decision of one, or some, is attributed to a broader group. And yet, the principle that all policing is local reminds us that people form opinions—and opinions are decisions in the mind—based on what they see and experience.

If the events recently in America teach us anything, they should first show us the great need for a serious dialogue that seeks to bring all people to equal treatment before the law, as well as reminding us that every decision we make in our individual lives—be it a police officer carrying out his beat, or a business person at his desk—carries ramifications well beyond that individual, and, in a way, impacts the social fabric of which we are all part.

We have to decide who we want to be, and what we’ll do to achieve that goal in our lives, homes, communities and nation.

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Jul 06

It’s what you can get away with that matters now.

That was proven, yet again, by FBI Director James Comey’s long-awaited remarks Tuesday summing up the bureau’s investigation into and findings on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s rogue email server operation.

Even the New York Times didn’t hold back.

Hillary Clinton may not be indicted on criminal charges over her handling of classified email, but the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, all but indicted her judgment and competence on Tuesday – two vital pillars of her presidential candidacy – and in the kind of terms that would be politically devastating in a normal election year.

The silver lining for Mrs. Clinton is that this is not a normal election year.

This is really some piece.

Mrs. Clinton’s campaign is built on the premise that she has the national security experience and well-honed instincts to keep Americans safe in the age of terrorism, and that Donald J. Trump does not. Nearly every day, she seeks to present herself as a more thoughtful and responsible leader.

She has spent months describing Mr. Trump as “reckless,” “unprepared” and “temperamentally unfit” to be president, and she has presented her four years as secretary of state and eight in the senate as unparalleled preparation for becoming commander in chief.

Yet in just a few minutes of remarks, Mr. Comey called into question Mrs. Clinton’s claims of superiority more memorably, mightily and effectively than Mr. Trump has over the past year. And with potentially lasting consequences.

This was a major indictment, without being quite an indictment, in official terms.

This NRO piece explains, with great clarity, restraint and unusual charity for political discourse.

There is no way of getting around this: According to Director James Comey (disclosure: a former colleague and longtime friend of mine), Hillary Clinton checked every box required for a felony violation of Section 793(f) of the federal penal code (Title 18): With lawful access to highly classified information she acted with gross negligence in removing and causing it to be removed it from its proper place of custody, and she transmitted it and caused it to be transmitted to others not authorized to have it, in patent violation of her trust. Director Comey even conceded that former Secretary Clinton was “extremely careless” and strongly suggested that her recklessness very likely led to communications (her own and those she corresponded with) being intercepted by foreign intelligence services. Yet, Director Comey recommended against prosecution of the law violations he clearly found on the ground that there was no intent to harm the United States.

Why? How did it come to this?

In essence, in order to give Mrs. Clinton a pass, the FBI rewrote the statute, inserting an intent element that Congress did not require. The added intent element, moreover, makes no sense: The point of having a statute that criminalizes gross negligence is to underscore that government officials have a special obligation to safeguard national defense secrets; when they fail to carry out that obligation due to gross negligence, they are guilty of serious wrongdoing. The lack of intent to harm our country is irrelevant.

Read this whole piece carefully, it captures the essence of what went on here.

It is a common tactic of defense lawyers in criminal trials to set up a straw-man for the jury: a crime the defendant has not committed. The idea is that by knocking down a crime the prosecution does not allege and cannot prove, the defense may confuse the jury into believing the defendant is not guilty of the crime charged. Judges generally do not allow such sleight-of-hand because innocence on an uncharged crime is irrelevant to the consideration of the crimes that actually have been charged. It seems to me that this is what the FBI has done today. It has told the public that because Mrs. Clinton did not have intent to harm the United States we should not prosecute her on a felony that does not require proof of intent to harm the United States. Meanwhile, although there may have been profound harm to national security caused by her grossly negligent mishandling of classified information, we’ve decided she shouldn’t be prosecuted for grossly negligent mishandling of classified information.

(Emphasis added.)

Yes, it’s as convoluted as it sounds. But read it for what it says, which is clear.

I have just returned from a two week family vacation in Europe, right smack at the time of the Brexit referendum and the start of the fallout from that. And also in the area when Austria and Italy have been going through political spasms along with more of the globe than one detects within the US borders.

But returning home just before Independence Day weekend, with celebrations of what freedom means and how hard fought it was won, promised to be fortifying. However, with back to back terrorist attacks happening abroad just after returning and the national search for a leader in the U.S. taking on increased gravity, only to have old school politicking carrying news cycles over the Fourth of July weekend involving the Clintons, the Justice Department and the FBI, followed by Comey’s backhanded exoneration of Mrs. Clinton, it was deflating.

Or, at least a reminder that the greatness, honor, leadership, strength and character we seek and need must come from us and not some candidate of a political party. It is a time of upheaval alright. Let’s focus on where our treasure really is – on our communities, our families, ourselves – to do what is right and good and true, and make a coalition to raise the bar on what is necessary for a just, virtuous and humane society.

And then hold politicians who seek higher office to rise to higher standards.

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Jun 08

Fracture.

There are as many ways to say what this means for America as there are Americans, though most people are baffled and couldn’t answer the question of how the primary season of Election 2016 began and ended as it did.

To recall (it seems so long ago now), that long season started out with a wide field of Republican candidates of different strengths and weaknesses entering primary season many months ago, and wound up with perhaps the least likely one of all as the party nominee. And the Democratic Party’s two candidates were longtime Washington insiders in an anti-establishment climate, though Sen. Bernie Sanders convincingly represented himself as the oustsiders’ candidate.

On the final primary day of 2016, Hillary Clinton prevailed to become the Democratic nominee, and Donald Trump had already arrived as the Republican candidate weeks ago. This is about as unlikely as it gets.

Of all the commentaries and analyses out there to date, one of the most incisive and clarifying accounts comes from Yuval Levin and his new book The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism.

Some highlights from his book, and the conversation I had with him on radio this week…

One of his main themes and central points is that American party politics is stuck in nostalgia for an earlier time when each party believed things were good, or as they should be, and should be again now. For the Democrats, he says, it’s 1965, for Republicans, it’s 1981.

“There’s a sense that everything is breaking down, that America doesn’t work like it used to,” he told me. “The defining theme is that America is not what it used to be. The middle of the 20th Century is the time most people in politics are most nostalgic for now.”

I asked him about his book’s reversal of the perception that we’re in the start of a new phase of American politics, whereas he contends we’re experiencing the end of the last one. “It is the last gasp of an exhausted and nostalgic baby-boomer politics”, he claims.

“So now we have this political situation with two 70 year old candidates yelling at each other over the best way to go backward,” he told me. “And it’s very hard to imagine that as the beginning of the next phase of American politics. In this election we’re seeing the crashing of the baby-boomer centered approach to political life. The question is really what comes next.”

Well put.

Levin continues: “Our problems are distinct to this moment. We would do much better to empower problem solvers throughout the country instead of looking to one leader or a handful. Power has been flowing upward toward Washington. But we have a better chance of addressing problems if we allowed power to flow through communities and institutions. Family, community, church, school, civic institutions.”

Refreshing ideas, and proven to be true from the past, ironically. “The more public policy can be decentralized, the better the hope that it’s going to be more effective, more in line with our Constitution, more in line with what’s going to work better,” he continued. “Most people are persuaded that the way our government works now is not working.The way politics have been handled results in absurdities like the president of the United States deciding who should use which bathrooms in schools.”

Solving problems at the most local level is known, in social teaching, as subsidiarity, and Levin points to that as the ideal. “One thing we do now is embody this idea that the solutions are going to come from our communities,” he said. “Take care of our own problems directly, not wait for someone else. Take, embody and populate institutions that take on problems directly. There’s a great passage in Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville that says ’When there are problems to be solved, Americans don’t fold their arms and wait for an official to show up, they take it upon themselves’. That’s the spirit we need to have in this election.

Levin says the struggle for religious liberty is central for subsidiarity in this society. “There’s such resistance from the government to allow institutions that embody the moral impulse to take care of things in this country” he said. “This must be fought at the local level.”

However, a convincing pragmatism helps. “It’s important that we who think we have solutions need to make them attractive to political leaders and our fellow voters,” Levin added. “In order to make them politically powerful, you first have to make them attractive to your neighbors. And then your political leaders.”

Start now, if you haven’t already. There may be months left, but they’re going fast. And the year has proven that anything can happen. Even, and especially, the unforeseen.

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Jun 01

See how fast a grassroots effort can be launched?

We need to learn from this.

Being Memorial Day, I was out and about and taking the rare break from constant news coverage. But getting into my car just after headline news was underway, I caught an interview with a Cincinnati zookeeper about a silverback gorilla they just lost, without an immediate context, though with very reasoned remarks about the animal’s enormity and strength, and a sincere appreciation for all the concern expressed for the occasion, tough as it was but necessary. What the heck happened, I thought.

It didn’t take long to learn. CNN’s report was the first account I got of the events that led to the demise of Harambe for the protection of the child in his grip. Though I’m assuming nearly all of you know this story by now, here’s that early account of the basics.

Zookeepers shot and killed a rare gorilla on Saturday after a 3-year-old boy slipped into its enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo, triggering outcry over how the situation was handled.

If they had to do it again, they would respond the same way, the zoo’s director said Monday.

Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard said he stands by the decision to kill 17-year-old silverback Harambe to save the child. The boy went under a rail, through wires and over a moat wall to get into the enclosure, according to the zoo. Footage shot by a witness shows Harambe dragging the child through the water as the clamor of the crowd grows louder.

Zookeepers shot the 450-pound gorilla with a rifle, rather than tranquilizing him. The brief encounter sparked widespread Internet outrage over the decision to shoot Harambe and whether the child’s parents were to blame for failing to look after him.

But those second-guessing the call “don’t understand silverback gorillas,” Maynard said in a news conference. And, they were not there when it was time to make the crucial decision.

“That child’s life was in danger. People who question that don’t understand you can’t take a risk with a silverback gorilla — this is a dangerous animal,” he said. “Looking back, we’d make the same decision. The child is safe.”

End of story, right? You know that’s not the case. Activists who rush to protect different species other than homo sapiens lit up the internet and social media with reaction to this event, championing the cause of the gorilla over the safety of the little boy.

Even though famed, celebrity veteran animal zookeeper Jack Hanna reaffirmed the danger of the situation and his sheer lack of doubt that the animal would have killed the boy had not the zookeepers taken the swift action they did.

Harambe was a silverback male. When an intruder enters the gorillas’ territory, the male asserts itself; having people shrieking at it from above while it’s confused would only further antagonize it. Hanna says the instant he saw the footage of an agitated Harambe yanking the kid roughly through the water by the foot, he knew it would have ended with the child dead had zookeepers not intervened. To give you a sense of the power the animal has, he notes that humans need a hatchet and a sledgehammer to generate the force needed to crack the shell of a green coconut. Male silverbacks can do it with their bare hands. Let that thought guide you in what lay in store for the kid.

But it didn’t, for animal activists who place more value in animal life than human.

Carolyn Moynihan wrote about it here. Blogger Max Lindenman says activists show “what happens when justice is pursued without any notion of transcendent human value”. These are good pieces to read, consider and absorb. So is Mona Charen’s NRO piece on the moral confusion that comes with treating animals like people.

My reaction was deeply felt and concerned with the impromptu and organized reaction of animal activists, which swiftly erupted into a campaign, while so many of us are working to get attention on the populations of human beings being seized, held hostage, tortured and massacred in the Middle East, Nigeria and elsewhere, with insufficient response from the international community who has a ‘responsibility to protect’, acknowledged formally since the 2005 World Summit to prevent genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

Having recently attended the UN conference on international religious freedom, genocide and mass atrocities committed against Christians and other religious minorities, I’m more keenly aware than ever of the need for attention to this crisis growing in urgency all the time. Speakers from the US, Europe, Iraq and Syria gave powerful witness to the daily reality for vulnerable populations of people fleeing for their lies, or camping out in tents by their churches while they could still stay safely there (safety refugee camps could not provide Christians and Yezidis), hoping the West would take up their cause and call for awareness and relief.

Where’s the ‘guerilla activism’ there?

Iraqi priest Fr. Douglas Bazi, from Erbil, wonders:

I too know what the people in the camps have been through, because like them, I was kidnapped by terrorists, and tortured simply because I was Christian…How did this happen to my people? Who bears the moral responsibility of this? What should be done for the Christians who remain in Iraq? And just as important, for those Iraqi Christians and other refugees whose lives are on hold in this situation in other countries, such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan…

My people are losing hope. And we are disappearing. Every day our members are growing smaller. Soon we will be small enough for the world to forget us completely. Then, Christianity in Iraq will essentially be gone. Can we change the future? Does the will exist among the good people of this world to change this reality? Has this finding of genocide come in time to make a difference? And what can we do with it now?…

There are many who would say, mostly from a distance, that it is important to save Christianity in Iraq for a culture and for historical reasons. There is a great truth to this course. But friends, the Christians of Iraq, we are living, breathing human beings, not museum pieces. If there is a fundamental reason that they should survive, it is simply this: on our small earth, peaceful people should have the right to live in their homes in peace and dignity. And when the world stands by and watches any peaceful people disappear, it is a wound to the entire world, all the time, and wounding will kill us all.

We don’t know what we don’t know, but some media groups are working to spread awareness and inform us. Groups like Citizen GO who participated in the conference and worked to generate awareness, Aid to the Church in Need, Knights of Columbus, In Defense of Christians, CNEWA, Picture Christians, Iraqi Christian Relief Council, 21 Wilberforce Initiative, and many others.

When we saw the spontaneous eruption of activism on social media and in on site demonstrations on behalf of a gorilla, drawing a stunning amount of impulsive, instantaneous response, all I could think of was how great it would be if we could generate that same kind of grassroots activism on behalf of women, children, young boys, men, the elderly, and all who live right now, at this moment, in moral danger personally, and danger of extinction as a group.

I’m not going to ask ‘is that too much to ask for?’ Because I know it’s not. It just takes conviction, impetus, will and action that follows from it. This can happen in a heartbeat. So many depend on that.

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May 31

We needed the occasion, to remember in America, and with our friends abroad, what greatness is.

We needed it to celebrate honor, duty, service and sacrifice in such a year as this. It fell just about halfway through this contentious, dishonorable, politically charged and pivotal election year, so it would be nice if it were more of an opportunity to re-ground ourselves in what we just celebrated, than to let the day go by as a wonderful recall of noble heroism embodied in countless acts of virtue, of ‘grace under pressure’, impulsively carried out to serve or save another without hesitation or concern that it may be a final act in the life of that hero, who only thought they were doing the right thing.

‘The right thing’ has become a political calculus these days, ‘right’ being as redefined as so many other terms in our shared social life, as if there were no moral compass and objective natural law of what we ought to do and what we can’t not know, apart from the dictates of the culture of relativism as manifested in media, law and politics.

Everywhere I turned and looked on Memorial Day weekend seemed more filled than ever with witnesses to greatness in acts of goodness, displays of loving gratitude, celebrations of appreciation for the ultimate act of service for a single other person, groups of others, or countless populations of others, sometimes in a split-second decision to take that action, out of the impulse to protect and to save.

Here are two examples.

On my radio program, I had the opportunity to feature three individuals in two wars. Adam Makos told me about the story of Tom Hudner and Jesse Brown, two great friends and Navy pilots in the Korean War, a story that fills the pages of Makos’ book Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship and Sacrifice.

“On December 4th, 1950, the Korean War had turned very dire. We had 10,000 U.S. Marines surrounded by 100,000 Chinese communist troops at a place called the Chosin Reservoir, way up in northern North Korea. Men like Tom and Jesse would fly [from their nearby naval carrier ships] to give air support to the Marines. They would drop bombs and strafe, and that’s when Jesse Brown was shot down. He was hit by a bullet from the ground, from a Chinese soldier, and he crash-landed in the only place he could — on the side of a North Korean mountain.”

Brown’s wingman, Tom Hudner, witnessed what happened, and then saw smoke rising from the nose of Jesse’s plane, which lay 13 miles behind enemy lines. Hudner said, “I’m going in.” All the other pilots remained silent.

Makos continued, “Tom knew his friend was about to die, and he was willing to give his own life to try to change that. With his wheels up, Tom circled around and came to a skidding, screeching stop alongside of Jesse’s plane. Tom got out into that deep snow and set out to try to save his friend’s life. It had never happened before; it has never happened since.”

Among the many extraordinary lessons in this story is the transcendent nature of friendship, human dignity and faith. Discrimination in society over race, religion, background and economic class falls away in war, the great and terrible equalizer. It is life lived at its absolute essence, informed by a powerful transcendent belief, that emerges in all the accounts of war heroes.

That was personified in the service and witness of Fr. Vincent Capodanno, Marine Chaplain who served in the Vietnam War and lost his life in the most extraordinary acts of ministering to dying men during a firefight that exposed him to mortal danger. I featured his story on that Memorial Day program as well, but it barely scratched the surface of a profoundly deep belief in and dedication to the care of others, body and soul, who are in front of you in whatever circumstances you’re in, and theses were dire.

The whole account is in The Grunt Padre, the fuller account of Fr. Capodanno’s service and sacrifice in detail, during his time in Vietnam 1966-1967. Christ Stefanick does a good job summarizing it in this video.

Some snips:

He knew that where the fighting was thickest, is where a chaplain might be needed the most.

One marine said

“He just gave me a look like ‘don’t worry, it’s going to be okay’.” Then the gas started getting lobbed, and Fr. Capodanno refused to take the Marine’s gas mask. “He said ‘no, you need it more than I do’. At that moment, he was just gone from my view.”

A marine was hit with shrapnel. When Fr. Capdanno got to him, “a bubble of peace descended around him. All he heard was his voice: ‘God is with us all this day. Someone will be here soon to help you.’ Fr. Capodanno was always able to see the crisis of the moment from an eternal perspective…Capodanno didn’t survive that day. He was running to minister to a medic who was shot, just yards from the machine gunner who had targeted him. He was shot 27 times in the back. He died in a field in Vietnam with that medic.

The excerpt from The Grunt Padre about that final assault is profound. It’s what Corporal Ray Harton recalls in a powerful testimony of Fr. Capodanno’s final minutes. Harton was hit repeatedly in the battle after “the carnage started”.

I don’t know how long I lay there. I found myself getting weaker and could see the North Vietnamese soldiers moving in on us…I thought everyone else was dead. I prayed to God, for I knew I was bleeding to death…I expected a bullet or bayonet at any moment. As I closed my eyes, someone touched me. When I opened my eyes, he looked directly at me. It was Father Capodanno. Everything got still: no noise, no firing, no screaming. A peace came over me that is unexplainable to this day. In a quiet and calm voice, he cupped the back of my head and said, “Stay quiet, Marine. You will be OK. Someone will be here to help you soon. God is with us all this day.”

As Stefanick notes, Fr. Capodanno didn’t survive the day. But his service and witness are beyond extraordinary.

And so were those told by others throughout the Memorial Day weekend, in so many ways and places, from the Mall of Washington events honoring service members in different wars, to tributes published and broadcast in so many outlets. Many note that it’s a memorial held beyond US borders.

Like this one in Cambridge, England.

And this one in France.

Taking it all in, allowing ourselves to be filled with gratitude for so many individuals who so nobly gave everything they had for another human being, and inspiration that these countless stories are being continued in so many ways today in battles to save endangered populations from extinction, villages and towns and refugee camps from assault and violence, and the most vulnerable human beings from enslavement, trafficking, torture and death, we should be filled with hope.

And that each of us has the power of greatness within us to serve the common good, and the responsibility to do what’s in our reach each day, without looking for a savior in politics. The sooner we do, the less we’ll believe that making America great, or ‘getting’ hope and change, relies on a politician or someone running for political office.

It relies on each and all of us.

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May 25

At least a third of them turned against abortion.

What caused that?

This.

When faced with the reality of the abortion procedure, many people who are pro-choice change their minds instantly. A video put out by Live Action shows former abortionist Dr. Anthony Levantino describing and showing the process of a second-trimester (13-24 weeks of pregnancy) surgical abortion procedure. Dr. Levantino has preformed over 1,200 abortions and explains in detail how babies are ripped apart limb by limb in these procedures.

It’s a roughly 4 minute video, with the procedure part done in medical animation instead of graphic photos, plainly and simply stating the facts and showing what’s done in an abortion.

Live Action approached people on the street and asked them if they were pro-choice. To those that said yes, even up to the point of birth, they showed Dr. Levatino’s video of the procedure. After watching the video, the people who claimed to be pro-choice changed their minds on the spot. They admitted they were unaware of how developed babies are at this point in pregnancy and described the video as “inhumane.”

Live Action President Lila Rose told me on radio Wednesday that many people who identify as ‘pro-choice’ and accept the abortion movement’s language and rhetoric about rights and women’s health don’t really know what abortion is or does, they just don’t know what this is about. Until they see it so clearly explained. “It’s a medical narrative they see in the video, precisely accurate, done in medical animation, with Dr. Levatino explaining,” she told me. “They make the emotional and mental connection when they see the video.” A connection they never made before, never having had the opportunity or occasion to learn the truth.

“We’re strategically getting in front of people and showing them the truth, with authority and gravity, in a huge effort to educate people about abortion” Lila told me. The project assumes the best about people, that they believe what they do based on misconceptions about the topic and issues and realities. Giving them that benefit of the doubt, and the opportunity on a hand held video device to see a brief video for their consideration, the Live Action team found that most people took the occasion to watch it and respond. In the short time it’s been posted, over 43 million people have viewed it online, and over two hundred on the sidewalks of Los Angeles where the team showed people passing by. Which is why the link above shows both the video of the procedure, and the video of reactions to having seen it.

There have been almost a million views of that ‘man on the street’ video, Lila said.

“Abortionists have worked for decades to keep women in the dark about how developed their preborn children in the womb are and what abortion procedures actually entail for both the mother and the child,” said Lila Rose, president and founder of Live Action.  “The more people learn about abortion, the more they see how barbaric and inhumane it is — whether the abortion is committed by depriving a preborn child of nutrients for days until she dies, or by ripping her limbs apart while she’s still alive, or by injecting her with a drug to induce cardiac arrest.”

Almost half of the pro-choice women polled — 46 percent — felt that the medical animations should be shown to high school sex education classes, and 39 percent felt that pregnant women considering abortion should watch them.

This is extraordinary.

“Pro-choice women told us that young people and women considering abortion should have access to these facts about abortion, not just to the pro-abortion spin that seems to dominate media, entertainment, and politics today.  The Internet allows us to spread the truth about abortion faster and farther than ever before, and the fact that these videos have already been viewed over 42 million times to become the most-watched pro-life videos in history proves it,” said Rose.

Under the post of the ‘man on the street’ reaction video, NRO said

America’s views on life are changing for the better as science and technology reveal the fascinating stages of life babies progress through from the moment of conception. Videos like this one are helping to change the debate and show uninformed individuals what it is they actually profess to believe in when they say they support pro-choice policies.

This will be a major topic in the presidential election and other government seats up for election in November, and Lila Rose and others are working to meet with each of the candidates and their campaign staff to ask more specific questions than ‘Where do you stand on abortion?’ They and their organizations and followers are eager to hear the responses.

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May 04

Against all conventional wisdom, he has become the GOP’s presumptive nominee for president.

But the only consistency in this wild political season has been its unpredictability, in both parties. This has been an election cycle far out of the bounds of political models and establishment control and certainly, conventional wisdom. Very different winds have been blowing in America since the early GOP campaigns launched last year and over a dozen candidates joined the crowded field by early 2016. Who would have thought back then that it would wind up like this.

That unforeseen force of nature has caught up American Democrats since Hillary Clinton began what was supposed to be an easy stride to the convention podium this summer to accept the Democratic nomination for president, only to be outshone in popularity by longtime Democratic Socialist Senate veteran Bernie Sanders. She may well be the inevitable candidate, but it’s May and she’s not there yet. That’s remarkable.

It has been a bruising, belligerent, demeaning, undignified and uninspiring battle to date. Conventional wisdom had Ohio and/or Florida as always pivotal in putting candidates over the top. This time, all the states played a key role, but it was Indiana that handed Donald Trump the decisive win that, suddenly, turned him into the inevitable GOP candidate for presidency. It also knocked Sen. Ted Cruz out of the race all of a sudden.

Here’s the New York Times early analysis, one of the few outlets swift to offer anything more than a placeholder paragraph or two until they could process what just happened. Essentially, it shows a matchup of two unpopular candidates, another remarkable reality in this year’s election. Donald Trump packed stadiums and arenas and picked up momentum on ‘the Trump Train’ as time went on, but for all those primary victories, he continually polled behind Clinton in a general election matchup. Until the night of the Indiana primary.

The Times story doesn’t report this, but one of the latest polls showed Trump about even in that faceoff. The bigger story is that polls and predictions haven’t meant much this year, as people at the grassroots defied them again and again. The Times article had to fill the analysis with something, so it resorted to conventional wisdom. Which makes no sense. People reacted. We have become a reactionary nation, visceral and impulsive and driven by emotion. How voting polls show one thing in people registering to vote for the first time or first time in a long time, longer lines at many polling places, reflecting engaged citizens, while popularity polls show the ‘unlikeability’ factor rather high for the now presumptive GOP and Democratic candidate, is beyond reason and virtually beyond precedent.

I recently heard former Texas Governor and presidential candidate Rick Perry on a news show, asked for his opinion on Trump. He said: “We have never had anyone on the political stage who is as talented at selling a brand as Donald Trump. Now selling a brand is different from managing a country, so we’ll see.”

We’ll see whether and how the tone, tenor, content and character change in this new stage of Election 2016. And we’ll be watching, and listening, closely.

 

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Apr 06

The leading candidate in both parties don’t know how to talk about life.

Shouldn’t that disqualify them?

Alas, abortion and what’s referred to as ‘the question of when life begins’ (as if it’s uncertain and therefore debatable) has played into elections for decades now. It certainly will for the rest of this election year. How candidates respond to specific questions relating to abortion, rights, and human life reveal a lot about their ideology or lack of a well-formed belief system, their adherence to talking points or lack of a base of knowledge about the topic. Any version of those is revealing.

So when Hillary Clinton was asked by Chuck Todd on Meet the Press when and whether an unborn child gets constitutional rights, I recalled having heard that question put almost that same way to candidate Barack Obama in the Saddleback Civil Forum by Pastor Rick Warren.

When Warren asked when life and human rights begin, McCain’s succinct reply, “At conception,” and mention of his pro-life voting track record were greeted with some of the loudest applause of the evening.

Obama’s pro-choice stance and flippant language were not.

“Whether you’re looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective,” Obama said, “answering that question with specificity is above my pay grade.”

…a former spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops…called the comment a “dodge that wasn’t even intellectually respectable.”

Clinton’s response to Todd was very close to Obama’s back in 2008.

“Well, under our laws currently, that is not something that exists,” Clinton answered. “The unborn person doesn’t have constitutional rights. Now, that doesn’t mean that we don’t do everything we possibly can in the vast majority of instances to, you know, help a mother who is carrying a child and wants to make sure that child will be healthy, to have appropriate medical support.”

(So, wait a minute…What’s the difference between an unborn person not having any constitutional rights, and doing everything possible in some instances to help a mother carrying a child to make sure the child will be health with appropriate medical support? The elasticity of the semantics of political ideology, and dishonesty of the culture of relativism.)

Following that appearance on Meet the Press, Clinton was asked for clarification on The View by Co-Host Paula Varis.

VIEW HOST: You said, ‘the unborn person doesn’t have constitutional rights.’ And my question is at what point does someone have constitutional rights? And are you saying that a child, on its due date, just hours before its delivery still has no constitutional rights?

HILLARY CLINTON: Under our law, that is the case. I support Roe v. Wade because I think is important statement about the importance of a woman making this most difficult decision with consultation by whom she chooses… and under the law, and certainly under that decision, that is the way we structure it.

That default “that is the way we structure it” talking point response is almost the same as Donald Trump responding to MSNBC’s Chris Matthew’s question about punishing women who get abortions if the law changes, by saying ‘yes, there should be some punishment.’ Both are responses made under the pressure of the moment to pry out the candidates’ most deeply held beliefs about human life. But one had talking points and an entire industry prepping and propping her, while the other hadn’t thought it through well or for long and had virtually no prep.

However, both responses tell us a lot. Human life is a relative idea, protection of the most vulnerable young human beings is strategically embedded in political ideology more than inherently so in a mother’s womb, and facts not only don’t determine a candidate’s well formed positions on first principles, they actually get in the way of those positions when candidates don’t seek to be well informed and grounded in science, maternal/fetal medicine and fundamental morality.

Both Clinton and Trump have been exposed and made more vulnerable by questions relating to abortion. No doubt Clinton will be drilled by her camp, and Trump will do whatever he does to prepare for facing challenges to his views and beliefs.

But this is an issue central to Election 2016, and it’s going to remain so through November, and beyond.

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Apr 03

But it put some important questions into the arena of public debate.

No matter how to whatever degree Donald Trump’s campaign has tried or managed to change the wording and intent of his response to MSNBC’s Chris Matthews about punishing women who have abortion if it were to become illegal, the correction will not catch up with the original statement. Matthews set up a ‘gotcha’ trap and Trump walked right into it. The news cycles ever since have fed on the resulting sound bites, and will continue to for months now that the hot button candidate has stumbled on the hot button issue.

So let’s clarify, and set the record straight, apart from whatever Donald Trump or any other political candidate, politician, or activist might say.

This came up as an abortion activist ploy in 2007, which I wrote about in a now defunct publication, as soon as it came out that pro-lifers were being ambushed with a variation on Matthews’ question. It was a new tactic to silence them, and at first, it seemed to work (and history has seemingly repeated itself in this political moment).

Here’s what I wrote then:

The question is simple and blunt: “If abortion is criminalized, what should the penalty be for a woman who has one?” It’s amazing the abortion movement has taken more than three decades to come up with it, but even more dumbfounding that they see it as the “eureka!” moment, the great trump card that will, they believe, stop pro-lifers in their tracks.

This is their new strategy?

“Gotcha!”

(Nine years ago, I could never have imagined the pun in that line “the great trump card” the abortion movement was playing.)

Continuing:

Now, they have begun to ambush pro-life people outside abortion clinics with a camera, drop the big question about making women criminals, and post the video online.

Newsweek columnist Anna Quindlen hardly contained her enthusiasm over this new strategy in her piece titled “How Much Jail Time for Women Who Have Abortions?” (Newsweek, August 6, 2007). It starts with the description of a YouTube “mini-documentary shot in front of an abortion clinic” in Illinois. “The man behind the camera is asking demonstrators who want abortion criminalized what the penalty should be for a woman who has one nonetheless. You have rarely seen people look more gobsmacked. It’s as though the guy has asked them to solve quadratic equations”.

Quindlen relishes this story. Especially reporting these responses by pro-lifers: “I’ve never really thought about it”. “I don’t have an answer for that”. “I don’t know”. “Just pray for them”.

End of Newsweek snip, at which point I say:

This is unacceptable. Her cynicism? [No.] That’s the level of discourse we get in the media these days. The ambush tactic? [No.] That’s the type of attack we can expect in the abortion battle at this point. But Quindlen’s report on the inability of committed pro-lifers to answer the big questions that still confuse this culture is totally beyond the pale. Because the debate has shifted dramatically in recent years, especially since South Dakota [passed an abortion ban], the pro-life movement owns the argument. There is not one question they should fear, and not one answer the abortion movement can honestly claim as validation for what they do.

But this isn’t about honesty. It’s about talking points and spin control. Now they’re spinning this myth that pro-lifers want to criminalize abortion, and make women criminals for getting one illegally.

Quindlen declared it triumphantly: “A new public-policy group called the National Institute for Reproductive Health wants to take this contradiction and make it the centerpiece of a national conversation, along with a slogan that stops people in their tracks: how much time should she do?” They are celebrating their cleverness.

But consider the big picture…

This much Quindlen gets right: “If the Supreme Court decides abortion is not protected by a constitutional guarantee of privacy, the issue will revert to the states. If it goes to the states, some, perhaps many, will ban abortion”.

But she draws a false conclusion: “If abortion is made a crime, then surely the woman who has one is a criminal”. Wrong. Not one state has written or planned language in abortion ban legislation that would consider — or allow anyone to consider — the woman a criminal for having an abortion. The party guilty of a crime would be the abortionist. Quindlen and her abortion-backing colleagues came up with this false dichotomy. They propose that, by their logic, the woman is a criminal. And they’re pinning that tortured logic on pro-life people.

At least on the ambush video and in print articles like Quindlen’s. That is, until she inadvertently stumbles on the truth: “Lawmakers in a number of states have already passed or are considering statutes designed to outlaw abortion if Roe is overturned”, Quindlen writes. “But almost none hold the woman, the person who set the so-called crime in motion, accountable”.

Exactly.

Get it straight, pro-life people, pro-abortion people, media who write about the issues and ask candidates about them, politicians who are asked those question, and voters confused by the breathless news cycles.

Here’s the truth:

Pro-life legal experts, legislators and advocates know that women are already victims in abortions. Whether the abortionist is a doctor or a back-alley hack, they would be held accountable for breaking the law wherever abortion is banned. This is information all pro-life people need to understand thoroughly.

The South Dakota abortion ban, House Bill 1215, states in Section 4:

“Nothing in this Act may be construed to subject the pregnant mother upon whom any abortion is performed or attempted to any criminal conviction and penalty.

“The South Dakota legislators who drafted it had already crafted legislation to protect women in the earlier informed consent law, HB 1166. Here is one of its provisions:

“Require that the State create a written disclosure form that requires the abortion doctor to provide the mother, in person, with all of the risks of abortion to the mother and her unborn child. Require that this disclosure take place before the woman pays for the abortion and before she is taken to the procedure room. Require that the mother must also be provided sufficient time for personal review and discernment.”

In other words, a standard informed consent that any medical procedure requires. Planned Parenthood immediately took the law to court and blocked its enforcement. Their argument before the district judge and then the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals was that the abortionists’ freedom of speech (i.e., not to tell women about all the risks) trumped the women’s right to know.

Which got virtually no coverage outside the pro-life world and social media.

Quindlen’s article in Newsweek wraps up with this: “The great thing about video is that you can see the mental wheels turning as these people realize that they somehow have overlooked something central while they were slinging certainties.”

Actually, abortion activists have been slinging their own certainties for decades. It’s only a matter of time before a video turns up that captures their wheels turning, while the most committed abortion supporters confront a few questions and see whether there are any true epiphanies.

(That was eight years before the undercover videos of Planned Parenthood employees answering questions about obtaining and making available for sale baby body parts after abortions.)

In 2007 through present times, one could and can ask…

Questions like: “If the abortion movement is really all about ‘choice’, why are you so opposed to actually giving women one, by following the standard medical procedure requirement of obtaining ‘informed consent’?” “When informed consent laws in different states actually make it close to passage, why do you fight them so vigorously?” “If you really are ‘pro-choice’, what do you have against giving women a two- or three-day consideration period … or even 24 hours … after allowing her to know all her options?”

(These aren’t actually answered, or even confronted.)

The Newsweek column concludes that “there are only two logical choices: hold women accountable for a criminal act by sending them to prison, or refuse to criminalize the act in the first place. If you can’t countenance the first, you have to accept the second. You can’t have it both ways.” But that is wrongheaded and illogical. This is the abortion movement contriving an untenable calculation.

Americans United for Life Senior Counsel Clarke Forsythe published this clarification in April 2010 about states not prosecuting women even before Roe v. Wade. It’s very thorough and should be read now.

The political claim—that women were or will be prosecuted or jailed under abortion laws—has been made so frequently by Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and NOW over the past 40 years that it has become an urban legend. It shows the astonishing power of contemporary media to make a complete falsehood into a truism.

For 30 years, abortion advocates have claimed—without any evidence and contrary to the well-documented practice of ALL 50 states—that women were jailed before Roe and would be jailed if Roe falls (or if state abortion prohibitions are reinstated).

This claim rests on not one but two falsehoods:

First, the almost uniform state policy before Roe was that abortion laws targeted abortionists, not women…

Second, the myth that women will be jailed relies, however, on the myth that “overturning” Roe will result in the immediate re-criminalization of abortion. If Roe was overturned today, abortion would be legal in at least 42-43 states tomorrow, and likely all 50 states, for the simple reason that nearly all of the state abortion prohibitions have been either repealed or are blocked by state versions of Roe adopted by state courts. The issue is entirely academic. The legislatures of the states would have to enact new abortion laws—and these would almost certainly continue the uniform state policy before Roe that abortion laws targeted abortionists and treated women as the second victim of abortion. There will be no prosecutions of abortionists unless the states pass new laws after Roe is overturned.

This political claim is not an abstract question that is left to speculation—there is a long record of states treating women as the second victim of abortion in the law that can be found and read. (emphasis added)

So media have the task, embedded in their profession, to find and read it.

Meanwhile, more from my article in 2007.

The week the Quindlen column came out in Newsweek, two post-abortive women, Georgette Forney and Janet Morana, co-directors of the ‘Silent No More Awareness Campaign’, reacted to the continuing deceit of the abortion movement in public statements. “To Anna Quindlen and anyone else I would say that women are already serving time for abortion right now in our own prisons”, Forney said. “No condescending dismissal of women’s torment by abortion ideologues can diminish the daily punishment of guilt, shame, and remorse post-abortive women experience.”

Morana made it clear what the overwhelming majority of pro-life people believe: women who have abortions are frequently victims as well because of the way abortion businesses sell abortions to them with misinformation….”The abortion profiteers and their shills in the press have been telling society for years that whatever it is that abortion terminates, it’s not a baby,” she said.

“This propaganda onslaught has taken its toll on women who believed that lie and who emphatically state today that had they known that their child was not just a “clump of tissue,” as abortionists told them, they would have never aborted,’ Morana added.”

This is going to remain a big issue in Election 2016. Good.

Abortion activists want to put the big questions out there. Let them be prepared to answer them, to carry the argument through to its logical conclusion. Why does an abortionist have more of a right to remain silent about abortion risks than the woman patient does to receive it, when her health is at stake?

(Re: informed consent law claims by Planned Parenthood and NARAL)

Why did NY Salon’s abortion forum, titled ‘What’s So Bad About Abortion?’ refuse any participation to the women from ‘Silent No More’, who could actually answer that question? Why does NY Salon’s website claim the group “believes passionately in free speech and discussing ideas robustly” but they would not allow Forney to discuss the idea that abortion is bad for women? After all, they already stacked the forum with four abortion advocates, from NARAL, the National Abortion Federation and a British abortion business. But the forum did not include any women who have had abortions and regret that decision. So, did they really want to know what’s so bad about abortion, after all?

Furthermore.…Why has the abortion movement turned its back for so long on Norma McCorvey after she was useful as “Jane Roe”, after she turned pro-life and Catholic and began to work so hard to inform the public about the impact of abortion? Do abortion activists realize that “reproductive rights” is a euphemism to fool the public into blanket acceptance of all contraception and abortion, or are they deluded as well? Although, if they’re deluded, they can’t answer that.

There’s a principle in law and logic that applies here. Never ask a question you can’t answer.

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