Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

Order 'Evolution for the Catholic Student' - Click on the image above

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Reflections on the President's Speech

Reflections on the President’s Speech

          Barack Obama gave his acceptance speech at the culmination of the Democratic National Convention Thursday night.  This analysis of the speech is focused solely on its content.  After four years, people should be well equipped to make their own judgments on his rhetoric and his actions, and whether they are consistent with the content of what he said tonight.  I will try to keep my own opinions of such matters out of this article as much as possible.
          I will try to give a fair analysis of what the President said and how it squares with Catholic principles, such as the dignity of the human person, the sanctity of every human life, the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity, and the preferential option for the poor.
          The President’s speech began with his accounting of what he’s done right the past four years and what he says Mitt Romney will do wrong if elected.  That’s not worth discussing.  Everyone is aware of the President’s record and no one needs Mr. Obama or Mr. Romney to spin it.  Neither is it particularly enlightening to hear Mr. Obama’s predictions for a Romney presidency.  We can all guess that.
          The first area of substance regarding the next four years came when Mr. Obama spoke of energy.  He promised to tap our domestic resources of oil and natural gas, while promoting cleaner energy sources.  This, of course, sounds great to Catholic ears, but it should be noted that the Republican ticket has supported essentially the same thing.
          Mr. Obama also promised to bring the war in Afghanistan to an end in 2014, which also, of course, is important to Catholics, as long as it can be done justly and wisely, which is a question of prudent judgment.  He said he would maintain “the strongest military the world has ever known,” although shortly after that he suggested that money that Mr. Romney would spend on the military, he would put towards building roads and bridges, and paying down the debt.
          The President reiterated his commitment to raising taxes on “the wealthy,” but failed to mention the Ernst and Young study that said his plan would include many small businesses and projected it would cost over 700,000 jobs.  (Not that Mr. Romney mentions any studies he dislikes the results of either, just to be fair.)
          He made the case that all of our problems can not be solved by a government program, but that government does have a role to play in the solutions.  This was reminiscent of Paul Ryan’s statement at the RNC that “limited government does not mean no government,” referring to the role he saw for government in social programs and the “safety net.”  Neither side has specified exactly how much government we’re talking about, and Mr. Obama gave us no real indication as to whether he was speaking more of local governments or government in Washington.  All in all, it is hard to judge the speech in terms of subsidiarity.
          The speech concluded with anecdotal stories and rousing rhetoric, none of which is particularly relevant.  There was nothing too controversial in the speech and other than attacking his opponents and casting himself in a positive light, he didn’t distinguish his vision from that of the Republicans in great detail.  Perhaps that was not his intent.
          As far as Catholic social principles are concerned, with one exception, which I will mention in a minute, nothing was particularly opposed, and most of what he said came down to voicing goals most Americans would hope for (a better economy, a safer world, etc.), and it leaves it to us to use our judgment as to which ticket could more likely get us there.
          There was one paragraph that was quite troubling, though.  It seems Mr. Obama has left it to others this convention to hammer home the points on social issues that are directly contradictory to Christian principles, and he only gave them subtle and passing mention.  He did very briefly mention his support for same-sex “marriage,” and “health care choices that women should make for themselves,” a clear reference to abortion.  This, of course, as an intrinsic evil, is enough to disqualify Mr. Obama for the Presidency.
          I know this analysis has been boring and mostly devoid of personal opinions.  I suspect that what one thought of the speech depended on what you already knew about and thought of President Obama.  Of course, it would be crazy to vote for someone based solely on what they said in a speech, as politically important as a convention speech might be.  My high school history teacher used to remind us to “pay a lot of attention to what politicians do, and very little attention to what they say.”
          But, Mr. Obama’s speech tonight was an important moment in the 2012 election.  I have tried to accurately cover the parts of the speech that contained relevant substance.  So now you don’t have to go watch it on Youtube.  You’re welcome.

Cardinal Dolan’s Benediction at the DNC

          Cardinal Dolan made it clear that he would not use his prayers at the two conventions as political tools or endorsements.  But this courageous man of God had no fear of praying for the defense of the unborn, the institution of marriage, or religious liberty at the close of the DNC.