Civility and trust don’t come easy

Back in the days when a real Republican was President of the United States, people like Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush ruled the land with strength, grace and eloquence. Democrats fought Republicans over policy, but could still occasionally work together. Compromise was not a dirty word.

That seems so long ago, but as the nation honors the memory of H.W. this week there have been lots of commentaries about how it used to be. Reagan talked about a “city upon a hill.” Bush spoke of “a thousand points of lights.” They were trying to inspire the country by speaking of charity and volunteerism.

There are many things that a Democrat would challenge about Reagan’s and Bush’s legacies. Reagan had his Iran-Contra scandal. Bush beat Michael Dukakis with the racist Willie Horton ad. Reagan gave us William Rehnquist. Bush’s contribution to the Supreme Court was Clarence Thomas. Republicans cheered. Democrats attacked.

Bush’s passing, though, is perhaps best memorialized by his manner, his civility. He was a patrician and a gentleman, in the broadest meaning of the word. He respected people and played by the rules. He served his country honorably from his days as a World War II naval pilot right through his presidency. He pushed through the Americans with Disabilities Act, an extension of civil rights that will be his major domestic achievement. He worked with Canada to reduce coal omissions which created acid rain that nearly destroyed many lakes in the rust belt and in the northeast.

Bush completed Reagan’s efforts that challenged the old Soviet Union and saw the Berlin Wall come down. He fought an efficient and successful war against Iraq.

The country and the Republican Party is not the same anymore.

The Republicans are now basically a wholly owned subsidiary of the Trump organization. The Trump-Republican Party no longer believes in civility, respect for others or compromise. Smash-mouth politics and trash talking appease the base. Civil Republicans in national politics are about as rare as a unicorn.

Donald Trump and his party take pride in their in-your-face style of politics. Civil rights are being set aside by the Justice Department and the Education Department. Coal and all the danger to the environment that it creates are the fuel of choice in Trumpland. Trump is oh so cozy with Russian pal Vlad, and maybe more than that. Trump’s international forays with murderous dictators like Putin, Mohammed bin Salman and Kim Jong-un have stood America’s support for freedom and human rights on its head.

And as for H.W.’s “a thousand points of light,” here is what Trump said about earlier this year: “Thousand points of light, I never quite got that one. What the hell is it? … And it was put out by a Republican, wasn’t it.”

So as you observe the nation’s honors for George H.W. Bush and Donald Trump’s fake praise, keep in mind that Trump couldn’t hold a candle to Bush.

A matter of trust

The sex scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church have brought on a great deal of introspection among members of the Church. It has been very hard for many of the faithful to hear story after story about the sins of their priests. In many instances the issues go beyond the laws of God and extend to the laws of man.

Perhaps even more painful, we have watched as the leadership of the Church, from Rome on down to the local bishops, have covered up and protected those who have broken the laws of God and man. This is, after all, a political blog, and so it should be noted that in these Church scandals, as in political scandals, the cover-ups are often worse than the original crimes.

And so members of the Church are left to wonder, how can I believe the Church clerics and leadership? If I cannot trust them, what is left of the Church?

A program was held at Canisius College last week to discuss an initiative entitled “The Movement to Restore Trust.” Unless you caught TV or radio news stories about the event that evening or the next morning you might not know that it actually happened. The Buffalo News has not printed a paragraph about it, even on their page 3 “News Briefs.”

The program was well intentioned but it did not accomplish anything of note. The 30 second pause by the panel after a question from the audience about whether or not Buffalo Diocese Bishop Richard Malone should resign was revealing, as none of them chose to answer. A question about whether women should be ordained or whether priests should be allowed to marry was talked around for five minutes or so without any answer to the question. There was no follow-up question.

The thing is, there are 2000 years of history pointing to what exists today as the church’s leadership. From time-to-time the laity are humored by allowing them to play minor roles, but the roles are insignificant.

The laity in Buffalo or any other place is not going to restore trust in the Church. Trust is not given or restored by someone outside of the leadership, it needs to be earned by that leadership. Only the clerical leadership of the Church can earn back the trust of the faithful which has been so badly shattered. They are not even close to doing that.

A political tidbit

Final campaign financial reports following the 2018 state and local elections were due on December 3rd. I’m going to skip the details since there is not a whole lot to report. But there is a tidbit of two worth pointing out.

Politico has reported that the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee in this year’s campaigns spent $636,000 on behalf of the successful candidate in the 146th district, Karen McMahon. That is in addition to whatever she raised and spent on her own. The Committee also spent $181,000 on Patrick Burke’s successful Assembly effort in the 142nd district. That’s an incredible amount of money on seats that, while currently occupied by Republicans, are Democratic by affiliation and should have been winnable, given strong Democratic turnout, regardless of the money that was spent. I guess they did it because they could do it. Overall it is reported that the Democrats actually had a net loss of one seat statewide. They will have to make due with their 106 to 44 seat majority.