This Week’s Political McNuggets: In which we find God in schools, Romney in NAACP-Land, and ethics pretty much nowhere

A few things I wanted to touch on today, but none of them really merit their own post:

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Louisiana, Florida to Allow God to Have a Peek at Public Schools:  Conservative legislators in Louisiana appear poised to pass SB 98.  The bill, which is patterned after similar recent legislation in Florida, expressly allows students to talk about their faith at non-compulsory school events, including graduations and assemblies.  Though the language used to sell the bill says it is designed to allow “inspirational messages,” it is obvious that the bill is intended to allow for all types of non-coercive religious discourse.  It specifically states that it applies only to students, not faculty or other public employees or school contractors.

There is a lot about the politics behind this bill that make me uneasy.  For one thing,  the way it is being sold panders to its constituents’ worst instincts.  The bill’s sponsor, Rep Charles Van Zant (R) claims that children not being allowed to pray in school is the direct source of disciplinary issues among students in America. (Never mind that students are, in fact, already permitted to pray in school.)  But even so, I find that I like this bill – a lot.

As a risk manager, I can tell you that school boards and administrations, terrified of law suits, have a tendency to confuse the need for school employees not to proselytize with the need to shut down student voices about those religious matters that are of primal import to them.  Every now and then you hear about some school that didn’t allow some valedictorian to read some poem or sing some song at graduation because it had the word “God” in it.  (Sometimes these stories turn out to be ginned up, but a lot of times they are true.)  So while I never see Johnny Law shutting down the quoting of a psalm in a student speech, I do see administrators – thinking that Johnny Law might – shut down a student prophylatically.  If this law takes away that misunderstanding, then I see it as a good thing.

Rep. Jeff Clemens (D) asked if a student would be allowed to say “We believe Satanism to represent the reawakening of pagan spirituality, which with the foundation of National Socialism, will usher in the new Aeon.”  This seems so academic an argument as to be meaningless to most voters; a far more interesting scenario will be when a Muslim student asks to quote the Quran in a graduation speech in a deeply conservative Christian community.  However, Van Zant to his credit responded to Clemens by saying “[that] would be the student’s prerogative, because of our First Amendment right of free speech.”  I see no reason not to take him at his word.

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Mitt Romney & the NAACP:  You know it’s a slow news week when the big story is that Romney may not have as much support as Obama in the African American community.  Nonetheless, the hot election topic everyone seems to be talking about is that Mitt was booed giving a speech to the NAACP.  In point of fact, his saying he would repeal Obamacare was booed; they appear to have applauded him at the end of his speech (if only politely).  I have very little to say about this, except that I love that Romney spoke at all.

In today’s post-Palin world, no one running for office ever has to deal with people that disagree with them.  Mitt could easily spend his time this week doing nothing but granting interviews to FOX and giving speeches to pro-Romney venues.  That he chose to take his message to a group of people he knew would disagree with him is refreshing.  And despite silly and moronic overreaction on both the right and the left over the boo-birds, I thought the response by the audience (listening politely and applauding his coming, but letting him briefly know in very specific places where they were dissatisfied with his vision) was exactly right.

I’d like to see more of this type of public political forum and discourse, both by candidates and audiences.

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Public Disclosures Appear to Mean Nothing:  As Elias has already pointed out, it appears that Mitt Romney’s public disclosure that he was out of Bain Capital in 1999 has been proven to be completely made up a typo.  For me, what is most troubling about this is how inconsequential it appears a fabrication oversight like this is by Washington DC Standards.

This week the bi-partisan House Ethics Committee released the verdict on its investigation of Vern Buchanan (R-FL).  For those who are unaware, Buchanan faced ethics charges for failing to disclose all of his sources of income, and all of the entities in which he shares ownership – not just once, but for four consecutive years.

This Week's Political McNuggets: In which we find God in schools, Romney in NAACP-Land, and ethics pretty much nowhere

Buchanan was cleared of all charges by his fellow house members on the committee. The reason? Everyone does it. No, really

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22 thoughts on “This Week’s Political McNuggets: In which we find God in schools, Romney in NAACP-Land, and ethics pretty much nowhere

  1. Fun fact: When I was in middle school, I was given a “0” on a paper and told to rewrite it because I mentioned God and a belief therein (it was not inappropriate in context). It was a little too early to take the incident to Fox News and become a celebrity, alas. Instead, I just modified the paper and removed the offending section.

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  2. What made you retract in the last part there? Is Romney claiming a typo? Mixing up 2000 and 2001 is a typo… One number is offer. But mixing up 1999 with a number in the 2000’s is unlikely so… It requires mixing up all 4 numbers. It could be a mistake still, but most certainly is not a typo.

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    • Mike, did you see Romney’s speech right after the NAACP? Where he talks about how the audience just wanted free stuff and should vote for the other guy.

      Imagine if Obama gave a speech at AIPAC and got booed. Good for him, right? Outreach. But immediately afterwards he speaks at a fundraiser in LA and talks about how the AIPAC crowd are just bloodthirsty warmongers and if that’s how they think the world works they should vote for the other guy – more war! What do you think the take-away is? Who is he actually reaching out to?

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      • He actually didn’t say that the NAACP just wanted free stuff. Hespecifically referred to anybody that supports PPACA, including the friends of those in the Montana audience who feel that way:

        When I mentioned I am going to get rid of Obamacare they weren’t happy, I didn’t get the same response. That’s ok, I want people to know what I stand for and if I don’t stand for what they want, go vote for someone else, that’s just fine. But I hope people understand this, your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this, if they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy-more free stuff.

        I’m not entirely comfortable with this, but I do think it’s different from saying “Those NAACP people just want free stuff.”

        It’s a regular part of delivery. He should have been more careful about tying it in with something that just happened, but he didn’t make up the “free stuff” line in response to the thing that had just happened (and the people it had happened with).

        {shrug} I still think it reflects well on him that he went (and didn’t give the speech that Gingrich said he would).

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        • Romney purposefully avoided patronizing, saying the same stuff he says elsewhere. A spokesman, the [black] Lt. Governor of Florida put it out there immediately; Hence, “Obamacare,” even though he knew it would get boos, and
          “if you want free stuff, vote for the other guy.”

          The Romney crew fully knew they were right on the horns of a dilemma with their critics, either “fooling” the black audience or “insulting” it. So he played it straight, come what may.

          The new strategy of his critics is to in fairness admit the truth, then bash him anyway as though it doesn’t matter.

          http://maddowblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/07/12/12700434-romney-naacp-members-want-free-stuff?lite

          It’s a credit to Romney that he spoke the same to the NAACP as anyone else
          as opposed to, say,

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FlpbRFXC9E

          Hillary Clinton, finding her inner jive.

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        • Will, that’s a fair description of what Romney said and the fact that the “free stuff” line is a common part of his speeches softens the blow a bit.

          But my question still stands, why did Romney go and give the speech? If it’s for outreach to a hostile group, that’s great! but then his subsequent comments just shit on the carpet of good will he tried to lay out. If it’s to bully around a hostile group to please his base, well then his subsequent comments make a lot of sense but it’s not exactly admirable behavior.

          I will admit this is not dissimilar to Obama’s statements about bitter people clinging to god and guns, except Obama had the decency to make those comments in private and about some amorphous “other”, not about a specific ethnic group that he had just tried to court to his side.

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          • He gave the speech to show R voters that he is willing to reach out to AA’s. Romney is trying to show he does not represent , what some people think, is an ugly strain of race baiting or nasty racial tone in R politics.

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          • Trizz,

            The thing is, they booed him. This opened them up to criticism. They don’t get to escape the criticism because they are the NAACP. We have no particular reason to believe this criticism was on the basis of their race because he has lobbed this criticism generally.

            Would it have been preferable had he simply taken his lumps and not commented on it? In my view, yes. But a failure to do that does not constitute, in my mind, “shit[ting] on the carpet of good will.”

            What would qualify – and if he has done this and we haven’t seen it yet – would be a more Gingrichian approach. “This is the problem with the black community…” Or, for that matter, giving a speech closer to the one Gingrich said he’d give. Instead, he commented on the fact that he was booed and lobbed a familiar criticism.

            As for why he made the speech, I think it’s primarily because it’s good politics to try. Not because you think you’re going to win them over, and not to turn around and talk about the perceived problems with blacks, but because you make the effort. One part cynicism, one part decorum. Better than the alternative, despite the ripple that came afterward.

            On a sidenote, Montana isn’t really the place to play this card anyway. In the Montana-Idaho-Wyoming-Utah axis, African-Americans are not as relevant to day-to-day life and perceptions as they are in the south*. If Romney goes to North Carolina, Virginia, or some other state where race plays a larger role in the day-to-day and is still talking about the NAACP, I’ll retract a lot of what I said here. I don’t know if I’ll believe that he did it just so that he could turn around and trash talk him, but I will believe that more of the criticisms are warranted.

            * – Except among certain groups who reside out here in good part because African-Americans don’t. These groups are not particularly likely to attend mainstream-candidate fundraisers. They fit one of a couple of profiles, one rather marginalized and the other unlikely to have much money.

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            • Okay, I’m convinced. I was looking at it purely through the Gingrich lens but you’re right that as of now it’s still just the standard anti-Dem moochers boilerplate. I would have liked to see Romney tone it down a bit given the history. Heck, I would have liked to see Romney not deliver the same speech he always does but actually talk to the NAACP about how his policies specifically benefit the black community. But you’re right, on balance it was still a good deed. Thanks for the explanation.

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              • Trizz,

                I appreciate your open-mindedness on this. To be honest, I understand the mistrust here. I almost didn’t say anything because, for all I know, he will milk this all he can for all he can and undo any of the good will he (IMHO) earned from the speech and then some. The GOP is in a tough spot as far as lot of this goes, but they aren’t passive players in all of this.

                I am with you in wishing that Romney had thought twice before saying what he did in Montana.

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  3. Governor Jindal’s band of merry pranksters just passed a voucher program that allows state money to go to private religious schools and one republican said she was shocked, just shocked, to learn that the money could also go to schools teaching Islam. She thought the money would only go to christian schools like the founders wanted. You know like Jefferson and Paine.

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  4. “Van Zant to his credit responded to Clemens by saying “[that] would be the student’s prerogative, because of our First Amendment right of free speech.” ”

    ” I see no reason not to take him at his word.”

    Seriously? After writing about how unnecessary this bill is, that in fact no one is forbidden to pray in schools, and how you suspect this panders to the worst instincts, you write:

    ” I see no reason not to take him at his word.”
    Because we can all be assured that he is merely protecting Muslim student’s right to shout Allah Akbar after spiking the football. Happens all the time in Louisiana, I am sure.

    Jesus. And no, I’m not praying.

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