Presidential Spring TrainingGEORGE WEIGEL
In late December 1959, Senator John F. Kennedy was annoyed by a news report that he was committed to running for president. Which, of course, he was — as everyone knew.
Those were the days.
The 2008 presidential campaign began, formally, in January 2007. Informally, it began before sundown last November 7, the day of the mid-term congressional elections and a full two years before the 2008 presidential balloting. This is, frankly, ridiculous. But given the fund-raising imperatives of running for president these days, it's also probably inevitable. So let's try to make lemonade out of lemons and raise the level of the "discourse:" which, to date, has been rather down market, if occasionally entertaining.
Herewith, questions to be put to any presidential candidate with whom you're in contact:
Iran: Iran is, at most, a few years away from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. The Iranian government today is led by an apocalyptic who seems quite serious in his belief that incinerating the State of Israel — even if that would involve the retaliatory incineration of Iran — would be worthwhile, because it would hasten the coming of the messianic age. Iran with nuclear weapons would be an unprecedented danger: a nuclear power with a passion for martyrdom. What do you propose to do to forestall Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's doomsday scenario?
Iraq: Is the war in Iraq a singularity, or is it part of the fabric of the global struggle against Islamic jihadism? If you believe it's a singular situation, why do so many jihadists think otherwise? If Iraq is one front in a global contest, how do you imagine the U.S. end-game in Iraq shaping the rest of the struggle?
Defunding jihadism: One reason why Wahhabism and other jihadist ideologies have traction in the 21st century is that the West has transferred trillions of dollars to people who have exported radical Islamism around the globe. This is suicidal. What can be done about our dependency on Middle East oil — not in the next twenty or thirty years, but in the next ten?
Hearts and minds: Do you think it's a good idea for U.S.-funded Arab-language radio to broadcast Britney Spears, J. Lo., and Eminem throughout the Arab world? Is this the best story we can tell about our culture and its values?
The Life Issues: Are you aware that embryonic stem-cell research has yet to produce a single clinical application, while dozens of cures have been effected with adult stem-cell therapies? Do you agree that the oversell of embryonic stem-cell research is cruel? What should the U.S. government do to accelerate the development of therapies based on non-embryo-destructive stem cells?
Do you believe that Roe v. Wade was rightly decided? Would you nominate Supreme Court justices who think that Roe v. Wade was rightly decided? Would you ask potential Supreme Court nominees whether they agreed with Justice Byron White (a Kennedy appointee) that Roe was an act of "raw judicial usurpation"?
Europe's experience demonstrates that, where euthanasia is permitted, euthanasia will soon be required. What will you do, in health care policy and federal judicial nominations, to prevent America from becoming inhospitable to the so-called "burdensome" elderly?
Education: Why does the United States do such a poor job in its elementary and secondary schools, measured by the standards of other information-age societies? Are you "pro-choice" when it comes to parents being empowered to choose the best education for their children? If so, do you support vouchers, tax credits, or some other form of financial aid that "follows the child," irrespective of whether the school the child attends is religious? Is something awry when colleges and universities accumulate multi-billion-dollar tax-free endowments but charge their undergraduates $50,000 (at least) per year?
Partisanship: Do you agree that there is "partisan division" in Washington because there are real disagreements about serious issues?
Roots: Is the presidency, for you, an ambition, a job, or a vocation?
George Weigel. "Presidential Spring Training." The Catholic Difference (March 14, 2007).
Reprinted with permission of George Weigel.
George Weigel's column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Phone: 303-715-3123.
George Weigel, a Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, is a Roman Catholic theologian and one of America's leading commentators on issues of religion and public life. Weigel is the author or editor of seventeen books, including God's Choice: Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church (2005), The Cube and the Cathedral: Europe, America, and Politics Without God (2005), Letters to a Young Catholic: The Art of Mentoring (2004), The Courage to Be Catholic: Crisis, Reform, and the Future of the Church (2002), and The Truth of Catholicism: Ten Controversies Explored (2001).
George Weigel's major study of the life, thought, and action of Pope John Paul II, Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II (Harper Collins, 1999) was published to international acclaim in 1999, and translated into French, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Portuguese, Slovak, Czech, Slovenian, Russian, and German. The 2001 documentary film based on the book won numerous prizes. George Weigel is a consultant on Vatican affairs for NBC News, and his weekly column, "The Catholic Difference," is syndicated to more than fifty newspapers around the United States.
Copyright © 2007 George Weigel
Not all articles published on CERC are the objects of official Church teaching, but these are supplied to provide supplementary information.