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Posts published in “Day: September 23, 2015”

Dare to be . . . ?

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(An Open Letter to Senator Mike Crapo)

Dear Senator Crapo—Thanks but no thanks. I’m returning the fund-raising solicitation I received from your campaign today empty first because you already have $4.2 million in cash on hand and probably will not even have an opponent (which has been your good fortune before).

The hysterical tone that you need $95,000 more by the next FEC report deadline is truly implausible if not downright misleading. You are the safest bet for re-election in the nation, and you know it.

Fiscally conservative Idaho “business Democrats,” like myself, have supported you in the past where we knew you to be the better representative. Also, a few of us admire your intelligence and recognize your potential, even if you don’t.

Candidly, when you first entered the Senate I had high hopes you would be a different kind of a Republican, that you would on occasion stand up against your caucus, that you would exercise independence, that you would dare to be different, that you would be a true compassionate conservative, to borrow George W. Bush’s phrase.

When you served with distinction on the Simpson/Bowels Fiscal Reform Commission you were starting to meet expectations. You stood up against Grover Norquist, the GOP guru who tries to extract a “no new taxes pledge” from all Republicans because you recognized the long-term solution to our incredible debt was a systematic approach that required both a reduction in spending and some new revenue enhancements. That was your finest hour.

What has happened to that Mike Crapo? The one I see running for re-election today is running to the hard right, mouthing the mindless bromides of the Tea Party. Friends of yours tell me that you wanted to pre-empt any primary attack from the right. Really? Mike Crapo is running to the hard right because he’s afraid of someone acting even more heartless than Donald Trump who wants to ship all 11 million illegal but largely tax-paying contributing immigrants out of the country?

And when did you start idolizing that heartless¸wealthy colleague of yours, Senator Jim Risch, who demonstrates time and again he cares for little but himself and maintaining the growing gap between the super rich and the middle class?

That sure was a great deal he struck switching property tax relief for his large corporate contributors for more sales tax and then had the gall to tell folks it would not cut into state support for education - but it did.

Nor did he bother to disclose his personal though modest benefit from this legislation he pushed during his seven months as governor.

So imagine my disappointment when I hear you bragging that you and Risch vote the same 99% of the time? You’re honestly proud of that? Really? If voting with Jim Risch is an example of what your letter calls good old-fashioned common sense, God help us all.

Of course your letter contains the usual list of issues you’ll work on which polls tell you are popular with the electorate, but all are couched in broad generalities. You say you’ll work to repeal ObamaCare. With all due respect Senator, ObamaCare is here to stay. You know its provisions banning denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions and capping expenditures are well on their way to becoming entitlements.

Senator, for the life of me, I really don’t understand why you don’t exercise more independence and display more courage. Be the salmon that swims against the strongest part of the current. You’re a good senator doing an adequte job but you could do so much more than just touting about holding town meetings in every town in Idaho.

I’m sure you are familiar with the parable of the talents in the New Testament. Do you honestly believe you are employing all your talents for the greater good of the citizens? Or are you indeed becoming more like Senator Rish, gliding along in what is the easiest job in the world when you hold one of the safest seats?

Many people have told me that you greatly admired, and rightly so, your older brother, Terry, who was taken so prematurely just as he was beginning a political career in which most veteran observers at the time thought would lead to true greatness. I had the privilege of covering one sesssion of the Idaho Legislature in which he truly stood out. I too thought he was destined to be someone who truly would make a difference.

I believe you and he are cut from the same cloth, that you can still fulfill a higher, better destiny. You’re a good man and a good senator, but dare to be great, Mike. Dare to be great.

First take/The pope

This is the day Pope Francis takes Washington by storm - a good deal of it, at least. He will be a difficult figure for some people to come to terms with, because his views split so much through this country's ideology. He stands up for the poor, for dealing with (and acknowledging) climate change and business practices that have human costs. But parts of his viewpoint encompass more traditional and conservative church positions as well.

Here is what he had to say at the White House (delivered personally, in English):

I am deeply grateful for your welcome in the name of all Americans. As the son of an immigrant family, I am happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families. I look forward to these days of encounter and dialogue, in which I hope to listen to, and share, many of the hopes and dreams of the American people.

During my visit I will have the honor of addressing Congress, where I hope, as a brother of this country, to offer words of encouragement to those called to guide the nation's political future in fidelity to its founding principles. I will also travel to Philadelphia for the Eighth World Meeting of Families, to celebrate and support the institutions of marriage and the family at this, a critical moment in the history of our civilization.

Mr. President, together with their fellow citizens, American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination. With countless other people of good will, they are likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and their right to religious liberty. That freedom remains one of America's most precious possessions. And, as my brothers, the United States Bishops, have reminded us, all are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.

Mr. President, I find it encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution. Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation. When it comes to the care of our "common home", we are living at a critical moment of history. We still have time to make the changes needed to bring about "a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change" (Laudato Si', 13). Such change demands on our part a serious and responsible recognition not only of the kind of world we may be leaving to our children, but also to the millions of people living under a system which has overlooked them. Our common home has been part of this group of the excluded which cries out to heaven and which today powerfully strikes our homes, our cities and our societies. To use a telling phrase of the Reverend Martin Luther King, we can say that we have defaulted on a promissory note and now is the time to honor it.

We know by faith that "the Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home" (Laudato Si', 13). As Christians inspired by this certainty, we wish to commit ourselves to the conscious and responsible care of our common home.

The efforts which were recently made to mend broken relationships and to open new doors to cooperation within our human family represent positive steps along the path of reconciliation, justice and freedom. I would like all men and women of good will in this great nation to support the efforts of the international community to protect the vulnerable in our world and to stimulate integral and inclusive models of development, so that our brothers and sisters everywhere may know the blessings of peace and prosperity which God wills for all his children.

Mr President, once again I thank you for your welcome, and I look forward to these days in your country. God bless America!