Tuesday, October 19

Kerry Technically Excommunicated!

Win or lose come November, John Kerry has already lost something far more important than the election. Marc Balestrieri, Director of the Roman Catholic ministry, De Fide, recently filed a formal case at the Vatican for heresy against Kerry for the Senator's enthusiastic support of abortion through all nine months of pregnancy. This week Mr. Balestrieri revealed that he has received a ruling from the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, affirming that any and all Catholic politicians who persist in supporting the right to abortion are "automatically excommunicated."

Mr. Balestrieri said the response was written by the Reverend Fr. Basil Cole, a Canon Law theologian, who was delegated by the Undersecretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Very Rev. Fr. Augustine di Noia, to formally respond. "I went to Rome in person to submit two critical questions to the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith," said Balestrieri. "The first: Whether or not the church's teaching condemning any direct abortion is a dogma of Divine and Catholic Faith, with the denial or doubt of that dogma constituting heresy. The second: Whether or not the church's teaching condemning every right to abortion is a dogma of Divine and Catholic Faith, with the opposite error to that dogma heresy." In a four-page letter now posted at www.defide.com, Fr. Cole responded "Affirmative" on both counts. So, the polls in November may not be the most important test Mr. Kerry faces this fall after all.

There was some "good news" for the Kerry camp however: PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat endorsed the Democrats' nominee for president! Ain't life grand? Rebuked by the church, lauded by the terrorists!

Tariff Devotionals? Hmm!

Anyone who knows me or follows my work will readily testify that I remain somewhat adverse to self-promotion. Even when a new book comes out, I am generally pretty reluctant to do much more than mention its existence. But, with a very important election coming up, I thought I might just have to violate protocol--just this once.

Two things: first of all, I will be co-anchoring the election night coverage on the nationwide Moody Broadcasting Network with my good friend Wayne Shepherd. So you might want to do what I do for Titans games: turn the volume all the way down on the TV and listen to the radio--that way you can see what is happening but you won't have to endure the innane chatter of the national barking-heads. Second, my friend and frequent book correspondent, Ben House, has written a thoughtful, if overly kind, review of my book on the Electoral College for Amazon.com. I'm reprinting it here--in what appears to be a shameless act of self-aggrandizement. In fact, I get no royalties on this book whatsoever, so it really is a kind of public service announcement. At least, that is what I keep telling myself! I guess you'll have to decide for yourself:

American political history is quite dull. Consider the effect of trying to present American political history in a Medieval Era setting:

"Was he a rightful heir or a usurper? That question had convulsed the realm for some time. In his bitterly contested battle for the crown, he had bested Crown Prince Albert with what was a near-run victory, a victory allegedly affected by some wrongdoing and treachery. Aided by his brother, a duke, who worked behind the scenes, the contender claimed victory and the crown on quite flimsy and questionable grounds. Only the interference of the bishops secured his claim. But that claim too was tenuous, being that only the five of the nine bishops who had received their sinecures from his father and his clan consented."

"The reigning monarch, King William, grimaced over losing his throne. He had taken the throne from the usurper’s father less than a decade before. King William’s short reign was a time of prosperity for the kingdom, although the king himself was more taken with his own immoral escapades than with wise rule. His queen, Queen Hillary, more a political consort and co-ruler than wife, especially desired continuing their reign and plotted for an eventual regaining of the imperial throne."

"But the moment had arrived. Again the question was whether this was the coming of the true king or intrigues of a usurper. With his entourage, his personal guard and his now aging father, the heir apparent, George, approached the castle. King William and Prince Albert stood awaiting him, still flanked by the army at their command. The dukes and lords gathered expectantly to watch the confrontation. Without either sword or shield, George boldly strode into the castle, shared a cup of coffee with William and Albert, and then they all peacefully proceeded to the inauguration."

Isn’t American political history dull? This account is of the American Presidential election of 2000. Almost any other country, almost any other time-period, almost any other bid for power, and you would have had civil wars, kidnappings, stealthy assassination by poisoning, palace intrigue, a military coup, a foreign invasion, or something neat. Shakespeare could have written a tragedy or Sir Walter Scott could have penned a great romance about the event. Historians could have written histories that read like mysteries. Mystery writers could have written fiction that read like history. But the American political system is unbelievably dull. (Do you remember Al Gore having former Secretary of State Warren Christopher as his spokesman? Talk about dull!) With hanging chads and pregnant chads being the prime suspects, not even the fictional talents of a John Grisham or a Dan Rather could make this American story anything but dull.

Buttressing this dull political system is an antiquated, almost Medieval, reactionary, pre-Civil War, 18th century concoction of a committee called the Electoral College. It is of this institution that George Grant has written his latest book, with the ever-so uncatchy title The Importance of the Electoral College (San Antonio: Vision Forum Ministries, 2004).

In spite of having written exciting works about such figures as Theodore Roosevelt (Carry a Big Stick) and of such current and relevant issues as the dangers of Islam (Blood of the Moon), Dr. Grant now has given us a book on the Electoral College. What’s next, Dr. Grant, morning devotionals on tariff issues? And yet it is the dullness of the subject, the supposed obsolescence of the system, and the nature of the critics and the criticisms that make this issue and this book so important.

In a few weeks, the Electoral College will come into play with what promises to be another close election. The Electoral College, not the will of the majority or even plurality of voters, put George Bush in the White House four years ago. The Electoral College will determine whether Laura Bush needs to run down to the trash bins of local stores and pick up boxes to start packing.

Back in 2000, the claim of Mr. Gore and his supporters was that they won over a million more votes nationwide than Bush and were the rightful intended recipients of more votes in Florida. The will of the people was somehow thwarted, so the Gore supporters claim. Still the issue revolved not around the millions of votes cast, but the 270 electoral votes. Was this a travesty of democracy? “Bush won 29 states to Gore’s 21. Bush won 2,436 counties but Gore received majorities in only 676. Bush won regions covering approximately 2,432,456 square miles of the nation while Gore won in 575,184.” (p. 43) A Gore Presidency would have largely represented only a few densely populated clusters along the coasts as opposed to Bush’s broader appeal.

Of course, it is easy to defend the Electoral College when my candidate wins. Before the 2000 election, I feared a Bush popular victory with a Gore electoral victory. (Another sign of my canny political prognostications.) The question still remains, is this the best system? After all, a candidate could win the White House by winning the 11 most populous states by one vote each even if he lost the other 39 states and the District of Columbia by 99% margins.

Dr. Grant provides three major lines of reasoning in supporting the Electoral College. First, the system works. Even with at least 14 of the 43 Presidents being elected without a popular majority, the system has worked in providing an adequate means of determining a winner in Presidential races. Even in cases, such as 1800, 1824, and 1876, when the system was subjected to questionable political tampering, it was not the Electoral College that was the issue. Rather, there were political forces at work outside the system that created the tensions. In such elections as those of 1888 and 2000, when the candidates receiving the most votes were denied the electoral prize, the winning candidates represented a greater cross section of the entire country.

A second line of reasoning in defending the Electoral College is that it represents many minority groups in the nation. Black Americans comprise only 13% of the electorate, but they comprise “25% of Alabama’s electoral vote, 27% of Georgia’s 13 votes, 31% of Louisiana’s 9 votes” (p. 20). Less than 4% of the population are farmers; 100% of the population eats. Farm issues crop up in several states. So Presidential candidates don straw hats and hold up ears of corn and tour dairy barns. Sparsely populated, but often geographically large, states have a say so in the election. Thus, Vice President Cheney’s home state of Wyoming with its 3 electoral votes offset the left coast mob-opolis of California with its walloping 54 votes in the 2000 election. The abolition of the Electoral College would mean that all of us who are not with 50 miles of an ocean front beach would not only be denied easy access to the wind and the waves, but would have almost no say in who leads the nation.

Grant’s third line of reasoning is the stability of the republic based on both the wisdom and the anti-revolutionary gravitas of the Founding Fathers. Alexander Hamilton, in The Federalist Papers, and others were quite pleased with the federal system of governing and the federal nature of electing the chief magistrates contained in the Constitution. As usual with George Grant books, this work contains a host of brilliant quotations gleaned from sources obscure and scattered. These quotes strengthen the case for the Electoral College and affirm the genius of the system.

Is it flawless and without any need of reform? No, and this book suggests some methods to give greater flexibility to the system. For example, two states--Nebraska and Maine--already award electoral votes on the basis of congressional districts. If more or all states did this--Colorado will vote to approve such a method this year--it would arguably improve and yet preserve the essential system.

This is a most necessary and important little book. Our ultimate hope for the nation is not found in the Electoral College, but a vital means of conserving the best of this nation is found in it. Let us hope we can preserve the dull political system of America.

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