Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sarah Palin, You're No John Kennedy

It appears unfair, prejudicial, and obsessive, but really isn't. And Mrs. Palin herself, if asked, would probably play the victim card she favors and blame it on sexism if people continued to refer to the exchange she, had in September, 2010 with Katie Couric of CBS News:

Couric: What, specifically?

Palin: Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me all these years.

Couric: Can you name a few?

Palin: I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news, too. Alaska isn’t a foreign country, where it’s kind of suggested, “Wow, how could you keep in touch with what the rest of Washington, D.C., may be thinking when you live up there in Alaska?” Believe me, Alaska is like a microcosm of America.

Palin brings the opprobrium onto herself. A 44-year old governor of a state and nominee of a major political party for Vice-President of the world's leading superpower could not name a newspaper or magazine she read. Later, she would claim she reads "USA Today, yes, and New York Times." In her new book, "America By Heart," the woman who was unable to finish her term in statewide elective office addressed Senator John F. Kennedy's approach to his religion, as reflected in his speech (text here; partial video here and below) given to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association during the Democratic nominee's presidential campaign in 1960.

I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party's candidate for president, who happens also to be a Catholic.

The Associated Press' Jocelyn Noveck writes

Palin writes that while growing up she was taught that JFK's speech reconciled religion and public service without compromising either. But revisiting it as an adult, she says, she realized that Kennedy "essentially declared religion to be such a private matter that it was irrelevant to the kind of country we are."

She praises former Massachusetts Gov. Romney, a Mormon, for not "doing a JFK" during his campaign for the 2008 GOP nomination. "Where Kennedy seemed to want to run away from religion, Mitt Romney forthrightly embraced it," she writes.

In fact, Kennedy's reference to being "not the Catholic candidate for President" but a "candidate for President, who happens also to be a Catholic" was an acknowledgement, not a denieal, of the role of religion in American politics" (and an accurate statement). But if she were accused of being aware of nuance, or sensitive to complexity, Mrs. Palin probably would vigorously deny the charge. And attack the accuser.

But Palin's more serious charge was "Kennedy seemed to want to run away from religion..."

The charismatic Republican may be unaware Kennedy's speech to the Houston ministers came in response to the following fears of a non-Protestant president:

.... the editor of Eternity magazine argued that although Kennedy pledged to abide by the separation of church and state, the Catholic Church would not allow him. It was “unmistakably clear” that he must be a Catholic first and president second in matters involving their church.

An article in Christianity Today, widely distributed as a pamphlet by the organization Protestants and Other Americans United for Separation of Church and State, predicted that if Catholics became a numerical majority and gained political control, they would make Catholicism the nation’s official religion, restrict Protestant worship, prohibit evangelistic services, and forbid criticism of the Catholic Church in print or on the air. The National Association of Evangelicals, the Church of God, and the Southern Baptist Convention expressed similar fears.

Even liberal Protestants such as Charles Clayton Morrison, the long-time editor of Christian Century, insisted that contemporary democratic societies faced “two powerful monarchical” competitors—“the Communist Dictatorship and the Infallible Papacy”—and argued that Kennedy’s allegiance to the Constitution “would be qualified by his prior and equally sacred allegiance to another State.”

A group of 150 Protestant ministers espousing varied theological perspectives, including Norman Vincent Peale, well-known author of “The Power of Positive Thinking,” and Daniel Poling, editor of Christian Herald, issued a public statement on September 7 questioning whether a Catholic president could successfully resist pressures from the Catholic hierarchy

The Baptist Pastors' Conference of St. Louis issued a statement in which

With deep sincerity and in Christian grace, we plead with Senator John F. Kennedy, as the person presently concerned in this matter, to appeal to Cardinal Cushing, Mr. Kennedy's own hierarchical superior in Boston, to present to the Vatican Mr. Kennedy's sincere statement relative to the separation of Church and State in the United States and religious freedom as represented in the Constitution of the United States, in order that the Vatican may officially authorize such a belief for all Roman Catholics in the United States.

Sarah Palin evidently cannot imagine an America in which someone could be denied serious consideration as President because of his/her religious affiliation, though given the attitudes of many in her party toward American Muslims, a little humility is in order.

No reputable candidate for president should be unaware that the United States of 2010- or 2008, given the ex-governor's reference to the Romney campaign- is not the U.S.A. of 1960. The Democratic nominee was facing a virtual religious test for office, notwithstanding Article VI, Section 3 of a constitution which Palin claims to hold dear. Even Mrs. Palin's failure to name a magazine or newspaper that would have kept her up-to-date on current events can excuse her from a basic knowledge of fairly recent American history.

Someone might wish to remind Mrs. Palin that Mitt Romney was originally the favorite for the Repub nomination for President in 2008, an arguably stronger general election candidate than his party's eventual nominee, and formidable vice-presidential option with extensive access to money from proud and affluent Mormons. But he was unable to land a spot on the 2008 ticket. And if she believes that had nothing to do with Romney's religious affiliation, she might be hankering to buy a bridge in Nebraska.

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