Is Religion Damaging The GOP?

Over the weekend, Salon published an excerpt from Mike Lofgren's new book, The Party Is Over:

Having observed politics up close and personal for most of my adult lifetime, I have come to the conclusion that the rise of politicized religious fundamentalism may have been the key ingredient in the transformation of the Republican Party. Politicized religion provides a substrate of beliefs that rationalizes—at least in the minds of its followers—all three of the GOP’s main tenets: wealth worship, war worship, and the permanent culture war.

Religious cranks ceased to be a minor public nuisance in this country beginning in the 1970s and grew into a major element of the Republican rank and file. Pat Robertson’s strong showing in the 1988 Iowa presidential caucus signaled the gradual merger of politics and religion in the party. Unfortunately, at the time I mostly underestimated the implications of what I was seeing. It did strike me as oddly humorous that a fundamentalist staff member in my congressional office was going to take time off to convert the heathen in Greece, a country that had been overwhelmingly Christian for almost two thousand years. I recall another point, in the early 1990s, when a different fundamentalist GOP staffer said that dinosaur fossils were a hoax. As a mere legislative mechanic toiling away in what I held to be a civil rather than ecclesiastical calling, I did not yet see that ideological impulses far different from mine were poised to capture the party of Lincoln.

Read more of the excerpt here

New $6.5 Million GOP Campaign Targets Jewish Voters

Republican Jewish Coalition, screenshot via website

Republican Jewish Coalition, screenshot via website

Michael Goldstein voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and supports gay marriage and an assault weapons ban. Before moving to New Jersey 11 years ago to raise a family, the Brooklyn native fit right in with other lifelong Democrats in Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

But Goldstein now says he has buyer’s remorse. And last week the 48-year-old East Brunswick man became the face and voice of a national campaign aimed at converting fellow Jews who voted for Obama four years ago into supporters of Republican Mitt Romney.

In a video on the Republican Jewish Coalition website, Goldstein talks about his disappointment in Obama’s handling of the economy and U.S. relations with Israel.

“I was a big Obama supporter. I really believed in him and believed in what he stood for,” Goldstein says in the video. But, he continues, “when he gave the speech about the ’67 borders, it was nothing that had come up in his campaign originally. That really changed my mind about him.” 

Conservative Congressman defends Muslim-Americans, religious pluralism

Scott Keys reports for ThinkProgress

"One of the most conservative congressmen in the country stepped up to defend Huma Abedin, a top aide to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, and the rights of all Muslim-Americans yesterday against Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R-MN) spurious accusations that she is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, calling them 'the wrong thing to do.'”

During a town hall held by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) on Sunday, a constituent lauded Bachmann’s anti-Muslim witchhunt about a supposed Muslim Brotherhood infiltration of the U.S. government and called on her congressman to support her efforts. Sensenbrenner instead used the opportunity not only to defend Abedin, but to advocate for the larger notion of religious pluralism in America and a separation between church and state."

Read more about Rep. Sensenbrenner's response here

Paul Ryan’s Not-Very-Catholic Catholic Budget

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks about 'America's Enduring Promise' at Georgetown Un

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks about 'America's Enduring Promise' at Georgetown University. Win McNamee/Getty Images

Give Congressman Paul Ryan credit for persistence.

The Wisconsin Republican and architect of the GOP’s budget plan has spent a month arguing that his party’s proposals to cut programs for the needy while sparing the Defense Department and not raising taxes on the wealthy are in line with the social justice teaching of his own Catholic Church.

And for just as long, Catholic groups and theologians -- and even the Catholic bishops -- have been saying that in fact the GOP plan fails to meet the basic “moral criteria” of Catholic teaching.

Ryan Seeks To Defend Catholic Roots of GOP Budget

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is introduced before speaking at Georgetown University. Win McNamee/Getty Images

Speaking at Georgetown University, Rep. Paul Ryan—the chairman of the House Budget Committee and a possible vice-presidential candidate— seemed to seek to quell the debate. He called his budget a roadmap to avoid a debt crisis that will hurt the poor hardest of all.

And he seemed to soft peddle his defense of the document as consistent with Catholic teaching.

“The work I do as a Catholic holding office conforms to the social doctrine as best I can make of it.  What I have to say about the social doctrine of the Church is from the viewpoint of a Catholic in politics applying my understanding to the problems of the day,” he told an audience composed mostly of students, faculty and staff.


Catholic Bishops Say Ryan Budget Fails Moral Test

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) on March 27. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A week after House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan claimed his Catholic faith inspired the Republicans' cost-cutting budget plan, the nation’s Catholic bishops reiterated their demand that the federal budget protect the poor, and said the GOP measure “fails to meet these moral criteria.”

That and other strongly-worded judgments on the GOP budget proposal flew in a flurry of letters from leading bishops to the chairmen of key congressional committee.

The letters to Capitol Hill were highlighted in a Tuesday (April 17) statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that came after Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican and rising conservative hero, told an interviewer last week (April 10) that his fiscal views were informed by Catholic social teaching.

Rick Santorum and Family Values

Most of the first punditry around Rick Santorum suspending his quest for the Republican presidential nomination focuses on his drop in the Pennsylvania opinion polls and his difficulty in fundraising. Those were no doubt part of the decision. But there’s a deeper reason more important than political considerations.

As has been frequently reported, Sen. Santorum and his wife Karen’s youngest child Bella, was born with a rare and usually fatal chromosomal condition known as Trisomy 18. Bella, 3-years old, has been hospitalized twice already this year with pneumonia, most recently this past weekend.  Santorum took two days from campaigning to be with her.

Rick Santorum Drops Out of GOP Presidential Race

Rick Santorum addresses the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Jun

Rick Santorum addresses the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, June 17, 2011. Via Shutterstock

Rick Santorum, candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination, has ended his run for the GOP presidential nomination, he announced at a news conference from a hotel in Gettysburg, Pa., today (Tuesday).

Despite winning primary contests in 11 states, failure to win any of the three primaries last week in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia heaped pressure on Santorum’s campaign.

Sen. Santorum, accompanied at the podium by his wife and several other family members, explained to journalists gathered at today’s press conference that the recent hospitalization of his young daughter Bella, who has a rare genetic disorder, had impacted his decision to end his campaign.

Obama on Republican Budget: 'Social Darwinism'

In a lunchtime speech today before hundreds of reporters and editors attending the annual meeting of the Associated Press, President Obama launched an attack on the House Republican budget passed last week.

“Disguised as a deficit reduction plan, it’s really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It’s nothing but thinly veiled social Darwinism,” Mr. Obama said. “By gutting the very things we need to grow an economy that’s built to last — education and training, research and development — it’s a prescription for decline.”

The House budget would do the reverse of what the country needs. It cuts taxes on the wealthiest, increases military spending, and drastically reduces domestic programs, especially those serving the neediest. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said, “It would likely produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history and likely increase poverty and inequality more than any other budget in recent times (and possibly in the nation's history)."

Before Politics, Mitt Romney Was a Mormon Bishop

Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney addresses supporters as he campaigns in Maryland. Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Mitt Romney whom many Americans see today is often depicted as wealthy, wooden and out of touch with the working class. To some, he seems gaffe prone, detached, even distant.

But that's not the man Boston Mormons knew in the late 1980s and early '90s, when many saw him as an eloquent speaker, a compassionate counselor and a creative problem-solver, generous with his money and quick to help any in need.

Are the two guys related?