S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

What the players bring to the (bully) pulpit

Tomorrow Congress begins its 10th session in earnest. The Washington Post headlines: "New Congress Brings Along Religious Firsts"

By Jonathan Tilove
Religion News Service
Saturday, January 6, 2007; Page B09

The new Congress, for the first time, includes a Muslim, two Buddhists, more Jews than Episcopalians and the highest-ranking Mormon in congressional history.

Roman Catholics remain the largest single faith group in Congress, accounting for 29 percent of all members of the House and Senate, followed by Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Jews and Episcopalians.

House & Senate leaders vs. our current president (OCP) - Today's post, as has been my plan for S/SW focus, is about spirituality. The question is, what spiritual aspects do Speaker Pelosi, Leader Reid and OCP bring to the fight over the direction of the war in Iraq. Each has the "bully pulpit" with which to influence the expressions of public opinion that may be necessary to force an actual course correction by OCP.

Speaker of the House News - Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is the first woman to hold that posisiton. has the story headlined, "Pelosi Basks in Congress' Historic Day." It is from the Associated Press, by ERICA WERNER on anuary 04, 2007. To quote,
The 66-year-old San Francisco Democrat began her history-making day running into pro-life demonstrators as she went to a prayer service with her husband, Paul, and a daughter at St. Peter's Catholic Church near the Capitol.
'You can't be Catholic and pro-abortion,' read one placard. Pelosi and her entourage walked past the small group of protesters without saying anything.
Attending the service with her were Republican leaders that her party put into the minority in the November election: new Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio and Minority Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri.
Also there were new House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland, a one-time Pelosi rival elected by House Democrats to be her No. 2 over her protests, and Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean.

Pelosi on her faith - transcript of interview of Rep. Nancy Pelosi by Joe Feuerherd in the National Catholic Reporter. I quote the entire set of Q & A's about being a Catholic:
Q: Is being a Catholic in public life a blessing or a burden?

A: Oh, it’s a blessing. I have more people praying for me.

In the family I was raised in, love of country, deep love of the Catholic Church, and love of family, were all the values I was raised in. I don’t like to have religion and politics come too closely together, but I will say that I am motivated by the Gospel of Matthew, as many people in politics are. I find it an inspiration.

What did I see the other day? The divinity in me bows to the divinity in you. The respect that we have for the individual because of the spark of divinity that we all carry serves me well in politics - to respect people and their point of view. I say that, I hope it doesn’t sound patronizing, …in a very respectful way.

My upbringing -- working on the side of the angels with my parents -- to help people, again according to Gospel of Matthew, and the idea …. [that we] look upon God’s creation as an act of worship - to ignore the needs of God’s creation is to dishonor the God that made them. And that we have that responsibility, all of us.

It’s part of me, it’s immediate in my life, it’s immediate in the lives of many of my colleagues.

Q: You were recently quoted as calling yourself a “conservative Catholic.” Are you?

A: I think so. I was raised, as I say, in a very strict upbringing in a Catholic home where we respected people, were observant, were practicing Catholics and that the fundamental belief was that God gave us all a free will and we were accountable for that, each of us. Each person had that accountability, so it wasn’t for us to make judgments about how people saw their responsibility and that it wasn’t for politicians to make decisions about how people led their personal lives; certainly, to a high moral standards, but when it got into decisions about privacy and all the rest, than that was something that individuals had to answer to God for, and not to politicians.

I have five children, five grandchildren; I try to abide by all the teachings of the church in relationship to family. I think my family speaks very clearly to that.

Q: Two litmus tests that help define “conservative” and “liberal” in the church: Married priests and women priests.

A: What can I say? The record speaks for itself in some respects. I have always thought that there should have been a stronger role for women in the church. When I was little my mother always wanted me to be a nun. I didn’t think I wanted to be a nun, but I thought I might want to be a priest because their seemed to be a little more power there, a little more discretion over what was going on in the parish. I think the reality of life is that wherever God sends a vocation that marriage should not bar anyone from following that vocation. I know that that is in the future, I just don’t how long it will take.

Q: Women as priests?

A: Oh absolutely…Why not? Why not?

Q: You’ve work with the church leadership on many issues over the years -- Central America, China -- and other domestic concerns. Have the scandals of the past year damaged the church’s credibility?

A: I don’t think so. I think the church has high moral standing on issues of lifting people up and reducing violence in the world. I don’t think there’s anybody in the world who is a more credible messenger for social improvement in the lives of people than his Holiness [Pope John Paul II]. I say that without any question.

Of course, in different parishes and different dioceses it’s different, but …in my diocese years ago…our archbishop got a standing ovation for standing up on issues related to disarmament. And our churches in San Francisco and across the country we have worked together on issues relating to sanctuary for people from El Salvador and to end the violence in Central America. The Pope is the leader in the world in helping on alleviation of poverty in terms of the debt… All of these issues are not only important values that the church has taken the lead on, worked closely with its parishioners and [its] following on, [but has provided] moral leadership for the rest of the world.

Having said that, the tragedy for some of us is that as much as we have worked on alleviation of poverty, and [on] social issues, and reducing violence in the world, and respecting the other person, and meeting the needs of other people, and [seeing] God’s creation as an act of worship - those relationships have been sadly affected by the decision on the part of some in the church to disassociate themselves from [some political leaders] because of our position on choice.

Q: Is it more difficult today to be a pro-choice Catholic then it was, say, ten years ago?

A: It’s about the same. Now when I traveled across the country when I was campaigning for candidates this last time, when I was in another city on a Sunday, I would try to find a Catholic church nearby. I heard some of the sermons in some of the churches down south, so I understand what some of our colleagues undergo in the church -- it was difficult. We’ve had those sermons in California, but a little more subtlety than I was hearing down south. It gave me a better understanding of what some of my colleagues are going through.

I have never in my district in California, in my archdiocese…if I was going to [be allowed to] receive communion; I never knew if this was the day it would be withheld. And that’s a hard way to go to church. Fortunately, I’m invited -- I have a big family -- I go to a lot of weddings, I’m in a different church every week. I’m a moving target. I travel, so I’m not exactly a target in terms of always being in the same church, although I go to St. Vincent DePaul, which is my neighborhood parish.

In addition to that, on many occasions the archdiocese has told the nuns that I couldn’t be the speaker at some event. And that’s hurtful because we have so much in common. But it’s the decision the church has made.

Q: On the flip side of the abortion question, how big a tent is the Democratic Party? Is it big enough to welcome Democrats who oppose abortion?

A: I think it is a bigger tent than people realize. I come myself from a family that does not share my views on choice.

Q: That must make for some interesting dinner table conversations.

A: Interesting in that they get back to the point that I made earlier - that we are all blessed by the creator with a free will [to] which we are answerable and I will step back to that. And that seems to be common ground [among the family].

Having said that, I think there are occasions where they would like me to be less visible, that they don’t like to see any disagreement between the church and any of us.
National Catholic Reporter, Posted January 22, 2003

Senate Majority Leader News -

carried a story regarding the Mormon Church, of which Majority Leader Reid is a member. It is headlined, "Senator Harry Reid leads Mormons into D.C. mainstream," and carried in the Salt Lake Tribune, Nov. 19, 2006, written by Thomas Burr. To quote,
U.S. senator, D-Nev., will be highest-ranking elected Mormon ever when he becomes the majority leader
WASHINGTON - The day after it was clear the Democrats would rule the U.S. Senate, President Bush invited its top two leaders to the White House for conversation and coffee.
It’s a good bet that Sen. Harry Reid didn’t partake of the latter. The Nevada Democrat, a faithful Mormon, won’t touch coffee, tea or alcohol.
“He doesn’t even drink soda. I’m sure it was orange juice” Reid sipped during the presidential chat, joked Tessa Hafen, Reid’s former spokeswoman.
It’s a small but important detail to note for Reid, who was elected last week to lead the Senate when Democrats take over in January. He’ll assume the role of majority leader and take his place in history as the highest-ranking elected Mormon in U.S. history.
Observers say that shows that Mormonism, long a religion seen outside Utah as peculiar, is becoming more mainstream.

Reid on his faith - on his party's Senate website,, Reid posts, "A Word to the Faithful." To quote the preamble:
As Democratic Leader, I’ve made outreach to the faith community a top priority and have had the great privilege of meeting with leaders of many faiths. I’ve talked with Protestant ministers about the immorality of a budget that cuts programs for the neediest among us while rewarding those with the most. I’ve discussed immigration and poverty with Catholic Bishops, and I’ve met with Jewish leaders to discuss ways we can help hardworking families across this country.
My discussions have only reinforced the belief that the Democratic Party and people of all faiths share many values and goals, and I intend to continue my outreach in the months ahead. As part of this effort, it is my honor to introduce you to this website – A Word to the Faithful. It’s dedicated to illustrating how people of faith and Senate Democrats can work together to lift our neighbors up and achieve our common goals.

Presidential News - This February 2003 speech of OCP seems to be his declaration of war on Iraq. The transcript comes from Titled, "President's Remarks at Religious Broadcaster's Convention" Feb. 10, 2003, here is the portion that seems to lay out the future,
. . . And today, the peace is threatened. We face a continuing threat of terrorist networks that hate the very thought of people being able to live in freedom. They hate the thought of the fact that in this great country, we can worship the Almighty God the way we see fit. (Applause.) And what probably makes him even angrier is we're not going to change. (Laughter and applause.)
We face an outlaw regime in Iraq that hates our country. A regime that aids and harbors terrorists and is armed with weapons of mass murder. Before September the 11th, 2001, there's a lot of good folks who believe that Saddam Hussein can be contained. Before September the 11th, 2001, we thought oceans would protect us forever; that if we saw a gathering threat somewhere else in the world, we could respond to it if we chose -- so chose to do so. But that all changed on that fateful day.
Chemical agents, lethal viruses, and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained. Secretly, without fingerprints, Saddam Hussein could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own. Saddam Hussein is a threat. He's a threat to the United States of America. He's a threat to some of our closest friends and allies. We don't accept this threat. (Applause.)
. . . My attitude is that we owe it to future generations of Americans and citizens in freedom-loving countries to see to it that Mr. Saddam Hussein is disarmed. (Applause.) It's his choice to make as to how he will be disarmed. He can either do so -- which it doesn't look like he's going to -- for the sake of peace, we will lead a coalition of willing countries and disarm Saddam Hussein. (Applause.)
If war is forced upon us -- and I say "forced upon us," because use of the military is not my first choice. I hug the mothers and the widows of those who may have lost their life in the name of peace and freedom. I take my responsibilities incredibly seriously about the commitment of troops. But should we need to use troops, for the sake of future generations of Americans, American troops will act in the honorable traditions of our military and in the highest moral traditions of our country.
We will try in every way we can to spare innocent life. The people of Iraq are not our enemies. (Applause.)
The true enemy of the Iraqi people, Saddam Hussein, has a different strategy. In violation of the Geneva Conventions, Saddam Hussein is positioning his military forces within civilian populations in order to shield his military and blame coalition forces for civilian casualties that he has caused. Saddam Hussein regards the Iraqi people as human shields, entirely expendable when their suffering serves his purposes.
. . . There's an old saying, "Let us not pray for tasks equal to our strength. Let us pray for strength equal to our tasks." (Applause.) And that is our prayer today, for the strength in every task we face.
I want to thank each of you for your prayers. I want to thank you for your faithfulness. I want to thank you for your good work. And I want to thank you for loving your country.
May God bless you all, and may God bless America. (Applause.)

Bush on his faith - Truth or Fiction headlines, "Email Says Presidential Candidate George W. Bush is a Born-Again Christian-Truth!" To quote,
. . . the statement is a true quote from George W. Bush's book, "A CHARGE TO KEEP" (Morrow). It is in chapter 10 titled "The Big 4-0", beginning on page 136.
A real example of the story as it has been circulated:
Subject: George Bush's Statement of Faith
If any of you are interested in what George Bush believes spiritually, here it is. It's from an interview when he was asked about his faith . . . "Actually, the seeds of my decision had been planted the year before, by the Reverend Billy Graham. He visited my family for a summer weekend in Maine. I saw him preach at the small summer church, St. Ann's by the Sea. We all had lunch on the patio overlooking the ocean. One evening my dad asked Billy to answer questions from a big group of family gathered for the weekend. He sat by the fire and talked. And what he said sparked a change in my heart. I don't remember the exact words. It was more the power of his example. The Lord was so clearly reflected in his gentle and loving demeanor.
The next day we walked and talked at Walker's Point, and I knew I was in the presence of a great man. He was like a magnet; I felt drawn to seek something different. He didn't lecture admonish; he shared warmth and concern. Billy Graham didn't make you feel guilty; he made you feel loved.
Over the course of that weekend, Reverend Graham planted a mustard seed in my soul, a seed that grew over the next year. He led me to the path, and I began walking. It was the beginning of a change in my life.I had always been a "religious" person, had regularly attended church, even taught Sunday School and served as an altar boy. But that weekend my faith took on a new meaning. It was the beginning of a new walk where I would commit my heart to Jesus Christ."

The two leaders in Congress will contest with the president over the next weeks about the war in Iraq. They have already told him so in a letter. It will be very interesting to see how the spiritual bases of each of the players informs their leadership decisions, if such can be detected. But, at least we can see what they have said about their beliefs in the context of governance.

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