Phil Lawler

Televised presidential debates have harmed America

Phil Lawler
By Phil Lawler
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October 23, 2012 (CatholicCulture.org) - Not many American voters changed their minds as a result of last night’s presidential debate, I feel sure. Voters who favored Barack Obama before the debate generally felt that the President had the better of the discussion; those who favored Mitt Romney thought he was the winner.

But then, neither candidate was really trying to change minds. Both Obama and Romney were clearly concentrating their attention on those who have not yet made up their minds: those elusive “undecided” voters. Campaign advisers essentially conceded that both candidates were posturing rather than arguing; they were more concerned about conveying a public image than explaining a public policy.

So President Obama did his best to make Romney appear uninformed and reckless on questions of foreign policy. Romney, meanwhile, strove to appear calm and authoritative: to project a “presidential” image. Each candidate had obviously polished his talking points, memorized a few one-liners, and even rehearsed a set expression to assume when his rival was talking. I cannot say with any certainty which candidate “won” the debate, but I can say that image took precedence over reality, and style won over substance.

What does it mean, anyway, to “win” a debate in which both participants are perfectly willing to sacrifice a good argument for the sake of appearances? If this had been a true debate, the candidates would have practiced winning arguments rather than winning smiles. As a student I was a competitive debater; later I coached debate teams and judged contests. Let me tell you, folks: What I saw last night was not a debate.

During televised presidential debates, the organizers usually take time to remind us that the “exchange of ideas” is the essence of the contest. Do you believe that? I’m reminded of the beauty contests in which trim young women strut around a stage wearing bikinis and high heels, we’re told by the contest organizers that this exercise helps the contestants to demonstrate their “poise.” Let’s be honest. We’re not really evaluating the women’s poise, and we’re not really comparing the candidates’ ideas, either.

Last night’s debate, which was (theoretically, at least) devoted to foreign policy, promised some fireworks. In their last previous encounter, Obama and Romney had a heated clash about the assault on an American consulate in Benghazi. Everyone expected a renewal of that dispute. But both candidates tacked carefully around the issue. Why? It is understandable that President Obama did not want to talk about the slaughter in Libya; the topic is embarrassing to him. But why did Governor Romney drop the argument? Apparently because he did not want to appear combative; if he pressed the question aggressively, that might interfere with his overriding determination to appear cool, controlled, and “presidential.”

For similar reasons, no doubt, both Obama and Romney avoided comment on the looming collapse of the European Union: a development with enormous implications for American foreign policy. Both men accepted the highly dubious proposition that the government of Afghanistan will be prepared to defend itself without American troops within a matter of months. Neither candidate spoke at any length about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East.

In a column for The Catholic Thing, Hadley Arkes laments that on domestic questions, too, the presidential campaigns have steered around the contentious issues of abortion and same-sex marriage. Informed voters know where the candidates stand on these issues, but they do not hear the issues debated.

An exchange of ideas? The Lincoln-Douglas debates were an exchange of ideas. In today’s political contests we have come instead to expect an exchange of barbs. Campaign advisers are not even hoping that their candidate’s logical clarity will carry the day; they are hoping to snare their opponent in a gaffe or a “gotcha” moment. Televised presidential debates have become another form of “infotainment.”

And sadly we, the voters, accept it. We don’t demand that presidential candidates address their policy differences forthrightly. We are content with a candidate who supports our favored causes, even if he wants to keep quiet about them. Since 1960, when a bad shave on debate night might have cost Richard Nixon the presidency, televised debates have contributed mightily to the dumbing down of American political discourse.

More than 200 years ago, the Federalist Papers set forth the basic principles of constitutional government with extraordinary candor and in remarkable depth. Today’s presidential candidates evidently don’t believe that the American public is prepared to grapple with such sophisticated arguments in the early 21st century. But why not? Last night President Obama kept suggesting that America’s problems—even foreign-policy problems—could be resolved by hiring more teachers. Yet the Federalist essays were written for a reading audience of American voters who had only a few years of formal schooling. The real problem is that we Americans are no longer willing to ask the fundamental questions about the future of our country, nor are our political leaders willing to answer them.

This article reprinted with permission from CatholicCulture.org

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For Hillary Clinton, abortion access trumps religious liberty

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By Dustin Siggins

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 1, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- For Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, apparently abortion trumps religious liberty.

It may have gotten bipartisan support in the House of Representatives last night, but a spokesperson for the Democratic Party's leading presidential candidate says a resolution protecting religious liberty in the District of Columbia "overrule[s] the democratic process" and hurts women.

The vote, which saw three Democrats join the GOP majority and 13 Republicans stand with Democrats, was meant to protect pro-life and religious organizations in the District from the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act (RHNDA).

RHNDA was signed by the mayor of the District of Columbia, Muriel Bowser, in January, and makes it illegal for any employer, including religious and pro-life organizations, to use a person's belief or actions about abortion in employment considerations. It also requires employers to provide abortion coverage.

The resolution now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to fail due to the Senate being on recess. Under existing federal law, the measure has 30 legislative days to be disapproved by Congress and President Obama. If this does not happen, it becomes law.

The 30-day window ends on Saturday. President Obama promised a veto of the resolution on Thursday, even though RHNDA was opposed by former District mayor Vincent Gray. According to Gray, while he "applaud[s] the goals of this legislation," the former mayor believes RHNDA could violate the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal treatment under the law.

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The statement by the Clinton campaign left no doubt that she stood with Obama and a majority of Democratic legislators. Spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri told CNN, "Hillary Clinton has fought for women and families and their right to access the full range of reproductive health care without interference from politicians or employers."

"Hillary will fight to make it easier, not more difficult, for women and families to get ahead and ensure that women are not discriminated against for personal medical decisions."

The remarks come a week after Clinton took criticism for saying that "religious beliefs" critical of "reproductive rights" must "be changed."

“Yes, we've cut the maternal mortality rate in half, but far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health,” she told the Women in the World Summit on April 23.

“Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper," said Clinton in her speech. "Laws have to be backed up with resources, and political will."

“Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed,” said the candidate.

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Social conservatives may be funding the destruction of marriage: corporate watchdog

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By Dustin Siggins

May 1, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- With over $55 million in annual revenue, the Human Rights Campaign may be America's most powerful LGBT activist group. And according to a conservative corporate watchdog, that's in part because social conservatives are funding it.

"Conservatives would be surprised to know that many of the dollars they spend every day are helping fund an agenda that seeks to destroy traditional marriage and undermine religious freedoms," said 2nd Vote National Outreach Director Robert Kuykendall. "Even when they purchase a beverage from a company like Coca-cola or Starbucks, their dollar is going to support HRC's liberal agenda to redefine marriage."

Less than 18 months old, 2nd Vote has graded hundreds of corporations on six issues -- corporate welfare, the environment, education, support for the Second Amendment, abortion, and as of two weeks ago, same-sex "marriage." Using their "scoring" system, 2nd Vote ranks corporations on their direct or indirect involvement with these hot-button public policy and cultural issues.

And according to them, some of America's favorite corporations are making the radical HRC agenda possible.

"HRC is the largest LGBT lobbying organization in the United States with reported revenues of over $55 million," Kuykendall told LifeSiteNews. "The redefinition of marriage and the undermining of religious freedom are major components of HRC’s policy agenda. To fund their policy goals, HRC has enlisted the help of many major corporations that we do business with every day to help fund. Over a third of the contributions received by HRC are listed as 'Corporate/Foundation Grants.'" 

Why should conservatives care about corporate donors to HRC? Kuykendall says the organization is both politically influential and publicly deceptive. "Last election cycle, HRC spent around a million dollars on electioneering activities and in support of liberal candidates willing to push their legislative agenda. HRC is responsible for spreading much of the misinformation regarding [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] laws and has also mischaracterized the protections provided by these laws."

"HRC organized a massive grassroots campaign in support of the legal battle to overturn state laws protecting marriage and influence the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges," said Kuykendall.

Marriage isn't the only issue on which conservatives may be at odds with HRC's corporate backers. "2nd Vote’s research into other issues such as life, the environment, and the 2nd Amendment shows that many of the companies supporting HRC have taken liberal stands on other issues as well,” he said. “For example, Apple, Citigroup, Microsoft, and Coca-Cola are Platinum Partners, the highest level of HRC’s National Corporate Partners, that have also funded the liberal Center for American Progress [CAP]."

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"Bank of America, Google, Goldman Sachs, Starbucks, PepsiCo, and Morgan Stanley are also HRC Corporate Partners that have funded CAP. Furthermore, all of these companies signed the amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to overturn state marriage laws."

In Indiana, the state's religious liberty law was modified because of corporate pressure led by Tim Cook, Apple's gay CEO. Kuykendall says conservatives should not give up, though he acknowledges that "for too long, conservatives have let liberals and groups like HRC bully companies into not just going along with their agenda, but actively funding and promoting it."

"However, conservatives have also proven their ability to mobilize and use their dollars in support of traditional values as we’ve seen through the fundraising campaigns for the pizza parlor and wedding cake makers who have been attacked by liberals for their beliefs. Conservatives need to turn the tables on the left, and groups like HRC, and motivate companies to stop funding the liberal agenda through the power of their shopping habits."

Only nine companies have ranks of "five" or "four" on 2nd Vote's ranking system, indicating a pro-marriage perspective. They are outnumbered more than 10 to 1 by organizations that support redefining marriage.

Concerned citizens can download the app on 2nd Vote's website. The full list of corporation scores can be found here.

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Fr. Mark Hodges

First graders exposed to book about transgender boy—without parental notification

Fr. Mark Hodges
By Fr. Mark Hodges

KITTERY POINT, ME, May 1, 2015, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Parents at one Maine school are upset that children as young as six were exposed to a book promoting transgender issues, in the name of "acceptance."

Parents were not only not consulted, they were never even notified of their children's exposure to transgenderism.

Horace Mitchell Primary School read the book I Am Jazz to first-grade students. The book is about a boy who identifies as a girl from the age of two, "with a boy's body and a girl's brain." He eventually finds a doctor who tells his parents, "Jazz is transgender."

Parents began to inquire about what was being taught at Horace Mitchell Primary after children came home with questions about their own sex and wondering if they, too, might be transgender.

One mother, upset that teachers would broach the subject of transgenderism with her little boy, said the primary school ignored her complaint. "I feel like my thoughts, feelings and beliefs were completely ignored...My right as a parent to allow or not allow this discussion with my child was taken from me," she told Hannity.com.

"When I spoke with the principal he was very cold about it," the mother continued. "It's amazing how thoughtless the school has been with this whole thing."

Only after Sean Hannity made national inquiries did Horace Mitchell Primary School suggest that teachers should have told parents ahead of time.

Allyn Hutton, the superintendent of the local district, said she supported reading the book but admitted that parents should have been given advance warning about the subject matter. "We have a practice of – if a topic is considered sensitive – parents should be informed. In this situation, that didn't happen," she said. "We understand that toleration is tolerating people of all opinions."

Horace Mitchell Primary School sent an e-mail, after the fact, to concerned parents, including a link to a blog post of the school's guidance counselor, explaining their motivation was "cultivating respect."

"Some may think primary school students are too young to worry about addressing issues surrounding gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) students. Not so, experts say,” the school's guidance counselor wrote. “It’s never too early to begin teaching children about respecting differences."

Homosexual activists say they support the teaching of transgenderism to first-graders, with or without parental notification. "The staff of Mitchell School is...shedding a light on [LGBTQ] issues,” said a column in Gay Star News.

The LGBT puublication goes even further, advocating homosexual propaganda be commonplace in elementary schools across the country. "LGBTQ issues should never be classified as a 'sensitive subject,' [because] there is nothing sensitive about the way we are born. Blonde hair, brown hair, gay, straight or somewhere in-between."

Brian Camenker of MassResistance commented on the infiltration of homosexual propaganda in children's schools. "We deal with parents and teachers a lot, and the idea that teachers would do this is unconscionable. It's like the people that promote this stuff are evil. It's demonic. You can't imagine adults that would do this to other people's children, and do it with such anger, and such vitrol.”

Camenker emphasized that this is “not an isolated incident with just one, rogue teacher. This happens because the whole administrative hierarchy buys into it.”

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“The new generation of educators is very, very frightening,” he said.

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