Saturday, February 10, 2007

Time to Revisit Donohue's Partisanship

True, despite the best attempts of the liberal blogosphere to say otherwise, the John Edwards blogger fiasco (see here and here) has precious little to do with our old friend Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League. But, given all the attention, I thought it was about time to revisit some of Donohue's inflammatory rhetoric. Donohue is an easy target: see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. In this post, though, I will confine my comments to Donohue's vastly different standards he applies to Democrats and Republicans on the subject of religion.

First, Bill really likes George Bush. Donohue actually entitled a 2003 press release "Is Bush too Holy to be President?" and claim that his opponents "put words in his mouth and then denounce him for saying what he never said." In 2004, he comes out with the fantastic statement that "most observers, regardless of their political bent, agree that President George W. Bush seems at home with his Christianity". And after Bush's 2004 victory, Donohue proclaimed that "most Americans appreciate and admire President George W. Bush for his strong religious convictions". Elsewhere Donohue quotes approvingly Bob Woodward's claim that Bush "prayed for the strength to do the Lord's will" before the Iraq war. Donohue also presented a number of anti-Bush quotes as evidence that "we need to build more asylums".

Second, Bill really does not like John Kerry. For when it comes to religion, Bush is religious, Kerry is a phony. So when Kerry talks about religion (such as when he stated the Catholic belief that both faith and good deeds are required for salvation) he is denounced as a hypocrite, and insincere. Donohue is disgusted by Kerry trying to defend his religiosity, asking "whether Kerry is playing politics with his religion". To Kerry, "religion is an enigma". Donohue even feels the need to list friends of Kerry's who claim he is not religious. Contrast with the fawning treatment of Bush.

There's more. How about both candidates' attempts at religious outreach? Special venom is reserved for Kerry's people. Donohue claimed that the resume of one (Mara Vanderslice) is "that of a person looking for a job working for Fidel Castro", while another (Brenda Peterson) is lambasted for opposing "under God" in the pledge of allegiance. Contrast this with his now infamous defense of Bush's Catholic liaison, Deal Hudson. After allegations that Hudson abused his authority as a Fordham professor by taking one of his female students, a disturbed 18-year old, to a bar, proceeding to get her drunk before engaging in sexual relations, Donohue blamed the victim, decrying the allegations of a "drunken female he met in a bar." Even by Donohue's standard, this was low.

And then there is the Bob Jones incident. During the 2000 election, Donohue accepted Bush's apology for speaking there, claiming that the issue was now settled. He talked about Christian forgiveness. He then went on to accuse John McCain of "demagoguery" and of playing the "politics of fear" for raising Bob Jones's anti-Catholic and racist background. And others who kept raising the issue were engaging in a "smear tactic" for "political profit". Later, when John Ashcroft received an honorary degree from Bob Jones, and was criticized, Donohue leaped to his defense, calling it "much ado about nothing" and declaring that Ashcroft was right to attack his opponent for raising the issue. So much for speaking out against anti-Catholicism.

Contrast this with the Catholics for a Free Choice incident. Donohue hounded Terry McAuliffe for listing this organization under the "Catholic" banner on the DNC website. And in this case, Donohue actually had a point. But when McAuliffe caved, how did Donohue react? You might guess something along the lines of "settling the matter" and "Christian forgiveness", along the lines of Bush at Bob Jones? You'd guess wrong. His actual statement? "We will not congratulate the DNC for doing the right thing... this victory is oh, so sweet." Nice.

And how about the Justice Sunday incident? Here, Donohue faced allegations that some of his evangelical allies included those who branded Catholicism a false religion. Perfect fodder for the president of the Catholic League? Alas, wrong again. Donohue not only defends his friends, but attacks phantom left-wing critics: it's the "fat-cat, left-wing bigots like George Soros who concern us" whereas "Dobson is our friend."

No, on all issues, Donohue is a partisan conservative Republican in a deep alliance with the evangelical right. Just look at the policy issues he focuses on: aside from abortion and gay marriage, he spends an inordinate amount of time discussing such core Catholic issues as the public display of the Ten Commandments, the pledge of allegiance, and school vouchers. Bill also has views on other topics too. How about the allegation that Republicans favor tax cuts for the rich? "The greedy want to keep the money they've earned; those who want to take it from us are the altruists". What about the Iraq war? Here, he claimed, falsely, that Pope John Paul never said that there was "no legal or moral justification for the war". And he angrily denounced those who "exploited" the pope's position while not respecting "his teaching on all subjects".

So, there you are, Bill Donohue in a nutshell.


Joseph O'Leary said...

Thanks for this dismantling. There seems to be an endless supply of such creepy types.

Katerina Marie said...

Michael always disliked Bill Donohue and I didn't know much about his political inclinations until I started dating him... now I understand... of course at the time I would defend Bush up and down too, so I didn't see anything wrong with Donohue. That's what bothers me about the extreme right's ideas of reducing true Catholic doctrine to mediocre republican ideals.

I think I'm going to write a post about the similarities between the portrayal by Catholics on the extreme right of Bush and Eusebius of Cesaerea's painting of Constantine... :) That will be interesting...

Thanks for the post... I'm sure Michael will love it as much as I did!

Morning's Minion said...

I'd love to read that post!!

Amy Welborn also had a kink today to a 19th century American bishop telling the government that when the pope condemned slavery, he didn't really mean *American* slavery. My first thought was that those on the right make the same arguments today (Iraq war, death penalty, immigration).

Franklin Jennings said...

Its good to see you link to one of your own posts where you demonstrate that you don't understand the distinction between "hypocrite" and "sinner". That took guts.

Kudos to the minion of the Morning Star.