Saturday, October 13, 2007

Political Desperation Fever begins to spread

There is a condition that grips the hearts and minds of politically concerned Americans (and those of other countries, I suppose, but I haven't any experience there) as elections approach, and until I come up with a better name, I'll call it "Political Desperation Fever." It manifests itself principally in a conclusion that may be stated thusly: "but we can't afford to lose this election" or alternately, "we can't afford to have ___ win." I have seen this among conservatives, but I suspect liberals are susceptible as well.

The other manifestation is the immediate corollary: "therefore, we must support ____" or we must tolerate such-and-such a compromise because...(insert first assertion here)."

So, the Fever is now focused on Hilary Clinton as the mortal peril--i.e., we cannot survive her election, that is the claim--and therefore, we must support Giuliani (or someone else, if Giuliani's campaign falters).

So there is a debate on the pages of National Review Online, with one commenter echoing an evangelical's rationalization for backing Giuliani--even before the primaries begin!--and then others critiquing the argument.

There are, of course, lots of things to talk about here: how good or bad would Giuliani be? How much credence should sensible people give to his rhetoric and promises? Even taking as a given that Hilary Clinton is awful on prolife issues, how reasonable is it to catastrophize about her election?

About Giuliani the supposed friend of social conservatives: gimme a break! The credulity with which people accept his promise that he'll appoint only sound judges to the Supreme Court is almost morally imputable--i.e., many of the people who say they believe it, I think cannot be that stupid, so they must be deliberately insincere. Giuliani has a record of appointments in New York City--consult the record; and he said, during a debate, his idea of a "strict constructionist" judge might well uphold Roe v. Wade, so that gives up the game right there.

A President Giuliani will be in a position to frustrate and weaken the prolife movement in ways a President Hilary Clinton never could, because so much of the movement must work within the Republican Party. It would be wonderful if the Democratic Party also had a significant prolife movement, but prolifers are barely tolerated in the Democratic Party. So if legislation will reach the floor of Congress, it will do so through the GOP for the time being.

The leadership within the party can be very corrupting--as we've seen with President Bush, who has led the GOP from being a party of small government and spending restraint to being enthusiastic backers of big spending and intrusive big government.* Meanwhile, remember when Bill Clinton was president, the GOP did a far better job of providing opposition to spending and advancing issues dear to social conservatives, and we made progress, far more than under the prior George Bush, or this one!

* Update ca. 2:45 pm: in fairness, the GOP had started down the wrong path before this. The GOP Congress started moving away from fiscal discipline later in the Clinton Administration, and decided--foolishly in my judgment--to make Clinton their only issue, and it cost them in 1998. But they were models of rectitude by comparison to their actions under Bush.

I have no idea what a President Hilary will be like, but it's a bit much to expect people to agree with you that you know it will be a disaster all around. Of course we know she's terrible on prolife issues--but then, so is Giuliani. At least if Hilary wins, we can hope for vigorous opposition to her.** Of course she'll name terrible justices, but to replace whom? It's not at all clear that should she get to name anyone to the court, her replacements will make things any worse (i.e., if she replaces Stevens, Ginsberg or Souter?). In any case, why assume Giuliani's will be better? It will be far easier for the GOP to oppose Hilary's nominees, than their own presidents.

** Update ca. 2:45: this is what the tub-thumpers for Giuliani specifically, or anyone trying to stampede you into desperation, hope you forget--that the President cannot do anything she or he likes, but must act with Congress. How amazing it is that the exact same political group who said you couldn't push for everything you wanted, when it was a GOP Congress and a GOP president, are now coming to you saying, hysterically, if Hilary wins, she can pass everything she wants! How stupid do they think we are?

What's more, people also forget how much progress the opposition made, during the Clinton years--on prolife issues and across the board. If you are a conservative or a Republican (the terms used to overlap), the years 1994-1999 were years of policy progress across the country. If you look at all 50 states as well as Congress, lots of GOP candidates won, taking control of state houses as well as Congress, and policies were enacted, that would please GOPers and conservatives. Meanwhile, a lot of that has been eroded under Bush.

Meanwhile, some claim Hilary's presidency will be a military disaster. Well, show me your crystal ball, and then I'll believe you know something. I think it's very reasonable the first woman president of the U.S. may feel the need to prove she's tough enough, or at least be concerned not to make a wrong move that suggests she's soft?

The bottom line is that we can, do and will survive...or not, but not on the basis of a single election. Everything does not hinge on who is president. The world will keep spinning, and if Hilary becomes president--or Giuliani for that matter--the task will be to respond and keep fighting. There are no permanent defeats...or victories, in politics--or at least, very few.


Fr. Larry Gearhart said...

On the whole, I agree with this case, too.

A Clinton II presidency would help conservatives in the long run, but, then, so might a Giuliani presidency. Both are anathema to social conservative principles. If anything, the yellow-dog Republicans just might irritate social conservatives more in a Giuliani presidency than in a Hilarious one.

It seems to me the decisive case to be made between Clinton II and Giuliani is over Iraq. Either will preside over a national disaster. Given that, it would be better that the person at the helm be a Democrat.

That said, I wouldn't vote for either of them under any conceivable circumstances.

Anonymous said...

If you don't vote for either of them, for whom do you vote? I have friends who think the Pope will tell me how to vote. I wish he would!

Sir Galen of Bristol said...

The credulity with which people accept his promise that he'll appoint only sound judges to the Supreme Court is almost morally imputable

Well said Father!

I've been wondering what you had to say on this issue, and I'm pleased to see that you seem to agree with what I've been blogging on topic.

And anonymous, may I be so bold as to recommend Duncan Hunter in the primaries?

If Giuliani is nominated, find a pro-life 3rd-party candidate to support.

Michael E. Lawrence said...

Maybe this is the year to finally vote third party. For too long I was tempted to do it but always relented, quite directly from the syndrome that Father is describing here. "If I don't vote for Bush, then Gore might win." Foolishness; it doesn't make a difference; they're all the same, practically speaking. I'm done with the Republicans. They've forgotten how to spell "conservative," in addition to "constitution."

Rachel said...

Lots of good sense in your post, Father. :) Clinton and Giuliani are both so unacceptable that I'm likely to go third party too. If *lots* of people vote third party, that might make it clear that there's a demand for a socially conservative nominee.

matt said...

Hi Father Fox! I have enjoyed reading your blog for quite some time now, but I must totally disagree with this post that you just made.

Are you telling me that you'd like to endorse a candidate, Hilary Clinton, who wants to create socialized medicine for the United States? Did you know that she predicts it would cost $110 Billion (probably more actually, as we all know that spending can get out of control when it actually comes down to it). It seems as that would only be worse for America.

I don't know if it would be a military disaster if Hilary were elected, but it certainly wouldn't be a good outcome. She has flip-flopped on whether she actually is in favor of the Iraq War. Furthermore still-- she's flip-flopping on how she'll deal with troubled nations that America has problems with, like Iran for example.

Thirdly, she wants to create $5,000 Baby Bonds for every newborn child born in America. That's another $2.5 Billion Dollars per year tacked onto the $110 Billion she wants to spend on socialized health care.

As far as Giuliani is concerned-- he would definitely make a far better leader than Hilary ever could. Giuliani actually wants to see abortion made illegal (and he has even said that!) and has said that he would appoint judges to the Supreme Court that would be like and vote like Scalia or Alito. Furthermore, when he was Mayor of NYC abortion actually declined 16-18% and adoptions increased more than 150%!!

I thought Catholics were supposed to be more of a conservative thinking, which is why I'm perplexed at why you are leaning towards Hilary than a Republican.

I suggest you join the Stop Hilary Express! :)

Fr Martin Fox said...

Joseph M.:

At no time did I say or give the slightest suggestion of endorsing Hilary Clinton. That you read my post and drew that conclusion only serves to prove the very point I was making.

Nancy Reyes said...

The first thing Clinton did was to try to force Federal docs and military docs to do abortions, legalized funding for embryonic research, and had the federal government push abortion on Catholic countries by linking abortion legalization with US aid.

Guilliani would not do that. I think Thompson will win the nomination but Hillary has the MSM behind her and they are determined that she will win as president...

And if we get a health care plan similar to the one they tried to push thru in the early 1990's, then docs could be forced to do abortions etc. and ethics committees could have the feds back them when they stopped treatment on the elderly and retarded...

Fr Martin Fox said...


The reality of living in a country with representative government and a significant portion of the voting public in favor of legal abortion is that you're always going to be able to say, of anyone who holds office, "The first thing ___ did was to try to force Federal docs and military docs to do abortions..." etc.

In other words, contrary to what many people on both the left and right seem to believe, we do not live in a dictatorship! The President is not all-powerful. Yes, Presidents try to do all manner of terrible (and good) things, and both are frustrated in that by Congress and the courts.

So the rest of the story is, Clinton tried x, y, and z, got some of it, but then Congress switched, and the new Congress did a, b, and c . . . and as always, the policy result is a mixed bag.

It is simply not true that with Clinton as president, everything got worse and worse; some things got worse, other things got better -- on prolife and any number of other important issues.

And by contrast, it is likewise not true that with the current Bush, everything got better -- even on the prolife issues. Again, some better, some worse.

What you offer is a very good reason not to vote for Bill or Hilary Clinton, and I plan on not doing so. But it is not in any way a reason to vote for a pro-abort with an (R) after his name, such as Giuliani.

Our system is far more complex that one person in a white house; and one of the symptoms of the Political Desperation Fever is people forget that, and talk as though a President can do whatever she or he likes, gets whatever he or she wants, and pretty soon people are hyperventilating about Jesse Jackson as Secretary of State, Alan Dershowitz on the Supreme Court, and blue helmeted peace-keepers patrolling our streets with black helicopters over our heads.

The funny thing is, it happens every four years -- and somehow, people seem not to notice how silly it all is.

I'm not saying you don't oppose bad candidates and bad policies, I'm saying, calm down -- the world will not end with the nomination or election of anyone.

matt said...

Father-- I'm just interested to know who you are supporting for President? Which candidates do you think that Catholics should support? Do Catholics have a moral responsibility to vote for the candidate that is the most pro-life or something? Or is it not really a big deal (i.e. "the world will not end with the nomination or election of anyone")?

Fr Martin Fox said...


I normally am happy to answer questions, but not when they are insulting: "Do Catholics have a moral responsibility to vote for the candidate that is the most pro-life or something? Or is it not really a big deal."

If you can find anything that I have said that gives you reason I think prolife is "not really a big deal," feel free to cite it here.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it's time that we have someone who is moral and consistent on the important issues! And I don't think that person is either Ms. Hilary or Giuliani...

In response to those who said that he is against abortion (and I do know that he has said this...) here is something else:

"Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani in his campaign appearances this year has stated that he personally abhors abortion, even though he supports keeping a legal right to choose. But records show that in the '90s he contributed money at least six times to Planned Parenthood, one of the country's leading abortion rights groups and its top provider of abortions."

You can read the rest of the article here:

Fred Thompson, yes, would be miles better, I'm sure. Also, have any of you looked in to Ron Paul (a republican congressman from Texas)? He is consistent, pro-life, against the war (from the beginning - unlike most others who flip-flopped on it) and is continually fighting for the protection of our freedoms that is laid out in the Constutition! Check him out - he's AWESOME! In one speech, he laid out the Catholic just war theory that our Holy Fathers (JPII, and Pope Benedict) have exhorted us as a country to follow.

Anyway, sorry for the lengthy post. Glad to hear all your musings on these important issues

Incidentally, he raised $4,000,000 in ONE DAY - yesterday!