Why I am a Democrat:

Governor Mark Warner on “Why I am a Democrat.”

Remarks to Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson-Hamer Dinner by Governor Mark Warner of Virginia.

Jackson, Mississippi, May 31, 2003

In Virginia, we have had to cut $6 billion from our state budget in 16 months. That’s because my predecessors cut taxes, increased spending, and assumed the go-go days of the 1990s would last forever.

And this year, while we were busy trying to increase funding for public education – they wanted to eliminate the estate tax to benefit about 400 wealthy families.

But we said, when you’re in a hole – the first thing you do is stop digging.
While we were launching the most extensive reform of state government in a generation they tried to kill important reform legislation just to keep me from winning a political victory.
In Washington the last couple of years, we’ve seen lots of talk, but few results. And we’re heading in the wrong direction.

The last time we had a Democratic President, America saw the first budget surpluses in a generation.

Just three years later, the Republicans’ own numbers show a future filled with deficits as far as the eye can see.

The last time we had a Democratic President, unemployment fell to record lows. But today it climbs a little higher every month.

The last time we had a Democratic President, the stock market soared. Today, it just sputters.
In 2000, America was promised something called “compassionate conservatism.” And you know – that sounded familiar to a lot of us in the South. We had been saying for a long time – balance the budget, but not on the backs of working people.
But they meant something else – and all we got was more of the same.
Look at public education. Two years ago, the No Child Left Behind Act became law. It was a sweeping effort to raise academic standards, improve the quality of teaching, and close the achievement gap.

But there was no money to back it up, and current budget plans leave it almost $10 billion short.
Or look at health care. The rebuilding has begun in Iraq – and they’re starting with health care.
If you listened closely after the fighting ended, you might have heard that, “In one year, the US hopes to rebuild 6,000 Iraqi schools, to repair 100 clinics and hospitals, and to provide basic universal health care to 25 million Iraqis.”

That’s the right thing to do in Iraq – and it’s the right thing to do here at home, where more than 40 million Americans still don’t have health insurance.

Or look at homeland security. You know, the images of September 11 will always remain in the minds of every American. For me – I was in the middle of a heated campaign. The polls were close, a big debate was coming up, and no one was getting enough sleep.

Our campaign office was just a few miles from the Pentagon. We all climbed up on the roof and watched the smoke rise. And none of the political battles seemed important.

Over the weeks that followed, I found myself inspired by the work of the firefighters, the police, the EMS workers in Virginia, in New York, and in Pennsylvania. They made us all proud to be Americans.

But in many ways, it seems like they have been forgotten – because we’ve never seen the
billions that states were promised to train first responders, help prevent future attacks, and respond to emergencies.

You know, back in February, Governors from both parties met with the President and top White House officials. We shared our concerns about these issues and others.
And we were told, very politely – there simply is not any additional money at the federal level, and you should not expect any.

But the next day – we learned that the federal government had found $26 billion to entice Turkey to cooperate with the war with Iraq.

Now I support our troops and their efforts to change the regime in Iraq. But if the federal
government can find the money for a worthy international goal, they should be able to find it for worthy domestic priorities as well.

That’s just a snapshot of what’s going on in Washington. You know, it looks like the Republicans
will keep on talking a good game – and we’ll keep cleaning up the mess.
But that means we have to strengthen our party – starting with the grass roots. That means strengthening local Democratic committees. It means identifying good candidates to run for office at all levels.

It means remembering that TV commercials don’t win elections – but knocking on doors and meeting people one-on-one does.

It means reaching out to new voters and new Americans – and inviting them to be part of our Democratic family.

And it means having a message that reaches out to all Americans.

We did it in Virginia in 2001 – and if we can do it there, we can do it here in Mississippi, and we can do it again for America.

Virginia hasn’t voted for a Democratic President since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. When I ran, the Republicans controlled both houses in the legislature and every statewide office – and the White House picked our Governor to run the Republican National Committee. And despite those odds, we won because we built a new coalition of Virginians. We did that by laying out a message that focused on meeting the needs of an information age economy – a message that stressed economic opportunity, educational opportunities, and fiscal responsibility.
We started with the most loyal Democrats. We said to African Americans and to working people – We know that you have been taken for granted in the past. Those days are over. You will help lead this team.

We said, we’re going to bring people together – just like Governor Winter showed us how to do here in Mississippi.

And then we reached out to Virginians in rural communities – to people who hadn’t voted for a Democrat in a long, long time. And we asked them to give us a chance.

In a 21st century economy, you can be successful anywhere – if you have a good education and job skills.

We talked about giving young people the chance to get a good job in the place they grew up. Because you shouldn’t have to leave your family or your hometown to get ahead.
We said, Virginia will never prosper if all the good jobs are in one area, and other places get left behind.

And then we said something that a lot of people had never thought of – you can like NASCAR – you can like hunting – you can like bluegrass music – and you can still vote for a Democrat.
We did all this because we recognized that if you’re going to offer people economic hope, you can’t spend all your time talking about the same old social issues that have divided us for too long.

You can’t move forward if every discussion is about abortion and guns.
Those are all important issues, and we can’t ignore them. But they create passion that often distracts us from more fundamental issues.

And let me say it again – if we can do it in Virginia, we can do it for America.
We have to do it for America. Because America deserves better than failed fiscal policy. America deserves better than an economy that leaves millions of people and whole communities behind.

And Democrats offer better. We offer optimism, and we offer hope for the future.
Now as you might guess, a lot of Republicans and Independents supported us. And since then, a lot of them have asked me, Mark – Why exactly are you a Democrat?
And I just smile. Because if you have to ask, you wouldn’t understand.

Amy Tuck clearly wouldn’t understand.

I am a Democrat because since Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence – and since Jackson spoke for the common man – our party has never been the party of the status quo.
Instead, we have been the ones to see a challenge – and do something about it. Let’s be honest – it hasn’t always worked perfectly. Sometimes it has gotten us in trouble. Sometimes it has split us apart. But sometimes, those are the wages of progress.

And yet, I am a Democrat because the greatest and most noble political experiments of our time had their birth in our party.

I am a Democrat because the New Deal literally saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans.

I am a Democrat because a generation after a Democratic president started the Peace Corps, you can still find faded photographs of John F. Kennedy on the walls of homes from South Africa to South America.

I am a Democrat because fighting for working men and women is always the right fight.

I am a Democrat because our party led the struggle for civil rights – in the tough places like Virginia and Mississippi – and because we recognize that discrimination and bigotry are not dead – and that we must continue to seek equal opportunity for all.

I am a Democrat because despite our failures, our missteps, and our excesses – we know that waging a war on poverty does not mean fighting the individuals who are poor.

I am a Democrat because we know that today’s battle is about the future versus the past – and it’s time to put aside yesterday’s battles of us versus them.

I am a Democrat because we know that criticizing success won’t create a single job.
And most of all, I am a Democrat because when my three daughters go out into the world to make their lives, I want them to find a world where there’s less hopelessness – less selfishness – and less violence.

I want them to find a world where there is more opportunity – more understanding – and more hope.

That is the mission of this party.

That is what we work for.

That is why we get up every morning.

That is why we’re here tonight.

And our work is not done.

A return to civility is long overdue

Reprinted from The Providence Visitor (4/25/2005)
The posting of this article by Fr. Creedon does not, in any way, imply his agreement with any other postings on this website.

By Father Joseph D. Creedon

To write or not to write, that is the question. There is a debate going on in my head. The sensible side of my brain is telling the idealistic side of my brain not to write. The idealistic side of my brain is telling the sensible side to write. If you see this article in print, you will know which side prevailed.

In the recent past, I used to submit articles for publication. Then I stopped. I have heard many explanations for my absence from these pages. The most frequent was that I had been silenced. Believe me, nothing could be further from the truth. I stopped writing because I was tired of being personally attacked for my opinions. While I enjoy the banter that is part of sharing differing opinions, I do not enjoy being personally attacked for holding a differing opinion. I enjoy the healthy exchange that should take place when good, sincere people differ about what is the right or wrong way to be church.

In the not too distant past, opinions were opinions, theories were theories and dogma was dogma. Now, it seems, everything is treated as dogma and gravitas is the mood of the day. We have lost something in the contemporary church. We have lost the art of disagreeing in a civil way, and we have lost our sense of humor. I am old enough to have been part of the pre-Vatican II and the post-Vatican II church. I was ordained in 1968, just as the flood of enthusiasm of the Second Vatican Council was reaching its peak. It was a special time. There were good and sincere believers who thought the council was a mistake, and there were good and sincere believers who thought the council was the best thing since sliced bread. At that time, the dialogue, disagreements and debates were spirited, but they were almost always civil. Everyone, or almost everyone, realized that the discussions were between believers. We knew we were part of the same church. We may have been in different pews, but we were in the same church. There was room for divergent opinions, and that made for a healthier church.

One of my first pastors was ordained two years before my parents were married. He used to wonder why we couldn’t agree on more things. I tried, with moderate success, to point out to him that we were from very different generations. His church was different from my church, but it was, nevertheless, the same church. We just looked at the church from different vantage points – not a better vantage point nor a worse vantage point, just different ones. In the end, we agreed to disagree. He did not suspect me, nor did I suspect him of being a subversive. Our disagreements were always respectful and civil, and we never lost the ability to laugh at ourselves and, in some cases, at the issues. This is what we have lost.These pages have recently been filled with an ongoing spate over whose feet should be washed on Holy Thursday. Should it be just the feet of men or should it be men and women? From the letters to the editor, it is apparent that in some parishes, only men have their feet washed, while in other parishes, men and women have their feet washed. One group represents the past; the other represents the future. The real issue is this: How do we live in the present, which is obviously a period of transition? Our church has a rich history of living in transition. Early on, it was Jews or Gentiles; persecuted or free; Mary, the Mother of Jesus or Mother of God. That period was followed by Roman or Orthodox, Catholic or Protestant, infallible or not, Latin or vernacular and collegial or authoritarian, to name but a few of the transitional moments in the history of the church. Anyone with a modicum of historical understanding knows that some transitions were handled better than others, but that movement was always forward, never backward. The speed of change may have been glacial, but the direction was always forward. Our past should always guide the present and help form the future.It seems to me there must be more important issues than whose feet get washed on Holy Thursday. The first and most important issue is that the foot washing, no matter whose feet are being washed, is an example of service, service to the people. What matters is that the people feel that their leaders are willing to be servants. What matters is that the people in the pews experience leaders who treat them with dignity, respect and loving service. What does not matter is toenail polish or no toenail polish.

Our church is being threatened by a shortage of clergy and diminishing attendance at Mass. Our church is suffering from the ongoing backlash of the clergy sexual abuse scandal. Young adult Catholics are living together without benefit of marriage, and many of those who are marrying are doing so without the benefit of church. Catholic schools are closing, and those that remain open are providing education mainly for the upper middle class and the affluent. Many Catholic women feel alienated from the church and some of them are hanging on by their fingernails waiting for the day when they can be full, equal members. Surely, there are many issues more important than whose feet get washed. These issues need to be discussed in a civil, respectful manner with attention on what is being said and not who is saying it.

M.D. : Medical Degree or Mass Deception?

In regards to Karl F. Stephens rant against “liberals” and Bob Kerr (“On Bush and WMD, Kerr’s still in dark,” May 28, 2005), could you kindly explain what the “M.D.” at the end of Mr. Stephens name is? Is it a reference to the (W)MD’s that were allegedly in Iraq is 2003? Of course, Mr. Stevens’ erroneously states that everyone thought the weapons were in Iraq in 2003. Oh, people worldwide knew the weapons were there….since we ourselves armed Saddam with them in the 1980s under the Reagan Administration. However, not everyone necessarily knew they were in Iraq in 2003 [see Ambassador Joe Wilson‘s comments on nuclear arms and WMDs from BEFORE the war].

So have (W)MD’s become a faddish suffix? Or is the signature a reference to President Bush’s “Mass Deception”? I ask, of course, because one’s degree in medicine has nothing to do with the politics of the war in Iraq. By signing his name “Karl F. Stevens, M.D.” the author has merely communicated his allegiance to Bush by tax-bracket. I hope all readers keep that in perspective while reading the attacks on journalists and the unabashed praise for an administration of lies. These lies have manipulated the media and the release of information (re: the Pat Tillman’s tragic death for one). Should I sign my letters with suffixes identifying my two bachelor degrees and two post-graduate degrees? No, I will let my words and the facts stand on their own.

On Bush and WMD, Kerr’s still in dark
01:00 AM EDT on Saturday, May 28, 2005
Since the false Newsweek story and its tragic aftermath, I have been skimming Bob Kerr’s columns, anxious to see how he would manage to make President Bush responsible.

Unfortunately, for my reading pleasure, he must not be in a creative streak at the moment; he merely resorts to regurgitating the liberal talking point: It’s no different from Bush lying about weapons of mass destruction (“We might never know the real reason,” May 18).
Last November’s presidential election showed that most Americans “get” the weapons-of-mass-destruction issue, but evidently it needs to be explained again, for those who don’t:
— Bush didn’t “lie.” The intelligence services of not only the United States and Britain but also France and Russia believed the WMD were still there, and no responsible president would ever ignore so many experts.

— All agree that Iraq had them at one time. And even though the delays caused by the French and Russians, trying to protect their oil deals, allowed Saddam Hussein to temporarily (he thought) get rid of them — apparently by sending them to Syria, dumping them in the Tigris, or some other means — no sane person doubts that the minute we turned our backs, he’d have been making them again.

“Chronic and Delayed-Onset Mustard Gas Keratitis,” in the April issue of Ophthalmology (aaojournal.org), presents vivid photos as evidence that Saddam possessed — and used — WMD. They also make one realize that any leader who does not take every step necessary to spare his populace the agony of these individuals would truly be criminal.

KARL F. STEPHENS, M.D.
Barrington

Bush’s Calvin College surprise

Bush’s Calvin College surprise
by Jim Wallis

As I’ve traveled the country this spring – 82 events, 48 cities, and hundreds of media interviews since January – I’ve witnessed a new movement of moderate and progressive religious voices challenging the monologue of the Religious Right.

An extremely narrow and aggressively partisan expression of right-wing Republican religion has controlled the debate on faith and politics in the public square for years. But that is no longer true.

At packed book events around the country these days, I often make an announcement that elicits a tumultuous response: “The monologue of the Religious Right is finally over, and a new dialogue has begun!” Smiles light up the faces of thousands of people as they break out in thunderous applause.

That new dialogue was visible recently at Calvin College. Karl Rove, seeking a friendly venue for a commencement speech in Michigan, approached Calvin and offered President Bush as the speaker. The college, which had already invited Nicholas Wolterstorff of Yale to deliver the speech, hastily disinvited him and welcomed the president. But the White House apparently was not counting on the reaction of students and faculty. Rove expected the evangelical Christian college in the dependable “red” area of western Michigan to be a safe place. He was wrong.

The day the president was to speak, an ad featuring a letter signed by one-third of Calvin’s faculty and staff ran in The Grand Rapids Press. Noting that “we seek open and honest dialogue about the Christian faith and how it is best expressed in the political sphere,” the letter said that “we see conflicts between our understanding of what Christians are called to do and many of the policies of your administration.”

The letter asserted that administration policies have “launched an unjust and unjustified war in Iraq,” “taken actions that favor the wealthy of our society and burden the poor, ” “harmed creation and have not promoted long-term stewardship of our natural environment,” and “fostered intolerance and divisiveness and has often failed to listen to those with whom it disagrees.” It concluded: “Our passion for these matters arises out of the Christian faith that we share with you. We ask you, Mr. President, to re-examine your policies in light of our God-given duty to pursue justice with mercy….” One faculty member told a reporter, “We are not Lynchburg. We are not right wing; we’re not left wing. We think our faith trumps political ideology.”

On commencement day, according to news reports, about a quarter of the 900 graduates wore “God is not a Republican or a Democrat” buttons pinned to their gowns.

The events at Calvin, along with the growing crowds at our events around the country, are visible signs that the Religious Right does not speak for all Christians, even all evangelical Christians. What I hear, from one end of this country to the other, is how tired we are of ideological religion and how hungry we are for prophetic faith. The students and faculty at Calvin College are the most recent sign of that hunger.

Xenophobia

I find it amusing that the British are upset by Malcolm Glazer’s purchase ofthe “football” team Manchester United.

Maybe we can swap their soccer team for the British ownership of our supermarkets [Shaw’s owned by Sainsbury, UK, Ltd.], our electricity [National GridTransco, UK], and even our coffee and ice cream [Dunkin’ Donuts and BaskinRobbins are owned by Allied Domecq PLC (AED), UK]!

Ordinarily, it seems it’s Americans who are xenophobic, like the American response to the sale of rights to the Grand Canyon and Rockefeller Center to foreign corporations.However, at the same time, it is outrageous for the British to complainabout something that they do themselves -buy up companies in other countries.

Sun, May 22, 2005
Anti-Glazer protest makes little impact
Associated Press
CARDIFF, Wales — The threatened anti-Malcolm Glazer protest by disgruntled Manchester United supporters made little impact at the FA Cup final on Saturday.

Although fans held banners showing their anger at Glazer`s takeover of the famous soccer club, their threat to disrupt the biggest game in the English soccer season never materialized.

One banner depicted a shattered coffin with the words “MUFC Glazer. RIP. No customers, no profits.” There was also “Glazer rot in hell,” “Yankee Go Home” and “MUFC 127 years. Glazer not in a million years.”
More Stories

The anti-Glazer faction among the fans said they wore black as a protest gesture. But with the United players forced to wear black instead of their usual red because of a clash of colors with Arsenal, most of the United followers did the same anyway.

After Saturday`s match, the fans trooped home in the rain after their team lost a penalty shootout to Arsenal 5-4 after a 0-0 draw at Millennium Stadium.

Glazer, owner of the NFL`s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has bought 75 percent of United for 790 million pounds (US$1.47 billion, €1.16 billion), meaning he can virtually do what he likes with it.

Because most of that figure is borrowed money, fans organizations fear he could sell the club`s Old Trafford stadium or use it as collateral against debts. They also fear he will raise the cost of season tickets.
They have threatened not to renew their season tickets and have refused to buy anything from the club`s highly profitable merchandising stores.

Catholicity and Politics

Who “should” Catholics vote for?

Who is a pro-life Catholic to vote for? The Presidential election in 2004 has marred the picture. The media constantly questioned and attacked John Kerry’s voting record and support for abortion. Unfortunately, much of the secular media’s coverage of the life issue has been skewed.. Conservatives constantly decry the “liberal media,” yet it was George Bush who “won” the battle of the media. The pro-life positions of the Catholic Church clearly include much more than abortion: the death-penalty, euthanasia, stem-cell research, hospital life-support devices and the concept of living wills. There is a double standard for Catholics and politics. Democratic politicians, as we have seen, are forced to defend their Catholicity, yet Catholic Republicans who support the death-penalty are given a free pass.

Too many articles about the life issue give misleading or false information. Rhode Island’s own congressional delegation is comprised of three Catholics: two also support abortion and one is “pro-life.” Yes, Rep. James Langevin, is against abortion, but he supports stem-cell research. Such research also runs contrary to the “life platform.” In national politics, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (R) is famously regarded as a devout Catholic; his son is even an ordained priest. Scalia, however, supports the death penalty. So do other “famous” Republicans such as Clarence Thomas, Rick Santorum, Frank Keating, Arnold Swartzeneger, Jeb Bush, and Sam Brownback.

Frank Keating supports the death penalty, but was named Chairman of the Bishop’s committee on pedophilia? Would a Catholic who supported abortion be given such a position?

Rick Santorum and Sam Brownback (member of Opus Dei), who strongly support the death penalty, were given free “face-time” during John Paul II’s funeral and the election of Benedict XVI. Isn’t it curious that they were, but not John Kerry?

Jeb Bush, in a recent interview, was “allowed” to explain how “difficult” it was for him to be Catholic and sign death warrants. Read the article and replace Jeb Bush with John Kerry and death penalty with abortion.

Jeb Bush Given ‘Pause’ When at Odds with Church (Reuters)
By Phil Stewart Sat Apr 23, 3:14 PM ET

Whether it is the war in Iraq or the death penalty, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush says he is given “pause” when the policies he and his brother support run against the views of the Roman Catholic Church. Bush, who converted to Catholicism to share the faith of his Mexican-born wife Columba, will lead the U.S. delegation to the inauguration of Pope Benedict on Sunday on
behalf of President Bush.

“I get uneasy when the Vatican writes me letters when a death penalty case is about ready to take place in Florida. I’ll be honest with you, that gives me pause. It makes me pray harder,” Bush told reporters in Rome on Saturday.

“Even though it’s the law of our land and I have a duty to uphold that law, when there is a conflict .. it does give me concern. “But having said that, I think the president’s decision (on Iraq) was the right one,” he added, returning to an original question about Iraq.

Pope John Paul, who died on April 2, sought in vain to avert the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and was a stern and vocal opponent of capital punishment. Jeb Bush considered postponing an execution earlier this month until after John Paul’s funeral on April 8. He decided to proceed after speaking with the victims’ family, and the 47-year-old was killed by lethal injection for the 1999 strangling of a store clerk. He was the 60th person to be put to death since Florida reinstated the death penalty in the 1970s.

President Bush oversaw the most executions of any U.S. governor in modern history when he was governor of Texas from 1995 to 2000. Texas executed 152 people. The Republican party receives strong support from Christian conservatives and is often allied with the Catholic Church on divisive issues like abortion, stem-cell research, gay marriage and euthanasia. “It’s not a question of picking or choosing. I don’t believe it’s related to that … All of us can improve our relationship to God,” said Bush, who will meet the Pope following the ceremony on Sunday.

Like his brother did earlier this month, Gov. Bush spoke about the papacy’s important role in cultivating the “culture of life” and cited the case of Terri Schiavo. The brain-damaged Florida woman died last month after a U.S. state court ordered her feeding tube removed at her husband’s request. The decision drew strong opposition from the Vatican, her parents, Jeb Bush and the U.S. president.

How does it read now?

As a Catholic American, it concerns me that some people lose sight of the big picture in the world: the environment, children’s rights, women’s rights, working conditions, labor rights and peace. All of these are issues of importance to the church. Of course, nothing is as important to church teaching as the centrality of life, but it is wrong to rank the life issues in personal preference and project that opinion on candidates to serve your own agenda.

There are persons, especially members of the clergy, who would tell people that “abortion is the gravest evil.” As leading Democrats have finally stated, of course this country is better off when abortions are rare. Abortion is a sin to Catholics. However, a selective interpretation and preaching of the Church’s teaching is not the act of a Christian –it is the act of political hacks and psychological manipulators. Look at the
website http://www.cfpeople.org/page6.html maintained by Catholic priests who purport to be “pro-life.” Do you see the phrase “death penalty anywhere? Where is the line between “people of faith” and “people of agenda”?

When was the last time any secular publication questioned the Catholicity of a Catholic who supports death-penalty? Catholics should not be guilted into voting for one party or another. Catholics should look at the whole picture and decide for themselves without the manipulation of others.