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Inside Blogotics

- The Washington Times - Monday, January 19, 2009

Religion and politics I

Law professor Douglas W. Kmiec last year became one of Barack Obama's highest-profile Catholic backers, writing a book titled "Can a Catholic Support Him?" and citing such issues as the death penalty, the war in Iraq and environmentalism.

The conservative Catholic blogosphere (known as "St. Blogs") was mightily unpersuaded, and scores of "parishioners" — ordained and lay, John McCain backers and third-party supporters — vigorously criticized Mr. Kmiec's series of articles and interviews.

In the latest issue of Commonweal, Mr. Kmiec went hard after his protagonists. Although he neither named any specific sites nor linked to any specific articles, Mr. Kmiec said he had been "subjected to unrelenting personal attacks launched from right-wing Catholic keyboards-blogs (and bloggers) so coarse and uncivil they make the insults of talk radio sound like actual journalism."

"My online tormentors … all too often mixed the smallest dollop of substance into a big steaming stew of personal contempt," Mr. Kmiec wrote in an article that also accused the "hate-filled blogosphere" of "politics of odium" that operates without "a microsecond of charitable thought before hitting the send button."

The counterattack from some of the most popular Catholic blogs was swift. Thomas Peters of American Papist noted that Mr. Kmiec's latest article did not address the substantive criticisms he and others had made of Mr. Kmiec's writings.

"Hyperbolic fluff has always been part of the background noise of the blogosphere, but to equate that with the excellent Catholic journalism represented in many blogs is the worst sort of overgeneralizing. It is like complaining that 'the press' is persecuting you, and then proceeding to quote exclusively from the National Enquirer gossip pages," he wrote, concluding that "one faces a daunting task when trying to discover any sort of sustained argumentation from Kmiec."

The Rev. John Zuhlsdorf of What Does the Prayer Really Say took particular issue with Mr. Kmiec's claims about why people cited Mr. Obama's vow to sign the Freedom of Choice Act.

"Let me get this straight … Catholic opposition to FOCA does not in truth spring from fear about the consequences of unrestricted abortion or the consequences that will have for hospitals and various professionals. It is really about trying to drive a wedge between an Obama administration and the Holy See. Right. Got it," Father Zuhlsdorf said dryly.

Religion and politics II

Speaking of Catholic backers of Democrats, a longtime Ohio activist involved with Catholics for Kerry, Catholic Alliance for the Common Good and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's primary bid has been arrested on charges of running a Columbus, Ohio, prostitution ring that involved minors.

Eric McFadden, who was head of the state's Office on Faith-based Initiatives for eight months in 2007, was arrested on charges that include compelling prostitution involving a minor, promoting prostitution and pandering. Some of the actions involved a 17-year-old girl and a Web site where viewers could rate prostitutes, authorities said.

Ohio Catholic blogger Jay Anderson was convinced that Mr. McFadden had been commenting at his site Pro Ecclesia "when I first began taking on Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good." But Mr. Anderson noted a lighter side of knee-jerking and partisan double standards as he read the coverage in the secular-left media.

"Geniuses at the Huffington Post see the words 'faith-based' and assume McFadden is a Republican. The original post said 'Ohio GOPer Arrested for Running Hooker-Review Site.' Upon learning of their mistake, however, the title was changed to 'Ohio Pol Arrested for Running Hooker-Review Site.' Got that? NOT 'Ohio Dem,' but 'Ohio Pol,'" Mr. Anderson wrote before reminding his readers to "be sure to read the comments" at the Huffington Post, which he called "a hoot."

"They all pretty much take on the tone of 'Another Republican Christianist hypocrite … Oh, wait. You mean he's one of ours? Never mind. Prostitution should be legal anyway.'"

Bailouts Gone Wild

Noel Sheppard at his Newbusters blog noted that Hustler publisher Larry Flynt and Girls Gone Wild Chief Executive Officer Joe Francis have asked Congress to bail out their industry, too.

"Americans turn to entertainment for relief. … Congress seems willing to help shore up our nation's most important businesses, we feel we deserve the same consideration," the two said in a statement.

Mr. Sheppard's reaction: "I kid you not."

Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly's blog Political Animal began his post on the bailout request (which was reported by CNN's Political Ticker blog) with the title "Insert inappropriate pun here."

His comments were "Critics of the very idea of industry bailouts have argued in recent months that Congress shouldn't get in the business of picking and choosing — if you bail out one failing industry, others will expect similar support. I'm afraid this might bolster their argument."

Fired-up base

Barack Obama recently backed off a couple of his more extravagant campaign promises on national security.

Mr. Obama had promised to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center within 100 days, which he said in an ABC "This Week" interview "is more difficult than I think a lot of people realize."

Also, while refusing to rule it out, he was not terribly interested in prosecuting Bush administration officials on war crimes and other charges, saying his instinct is "getting things right in the future, as opposed to looking at what we got wrong in the past."

Liberal blogs hit the roof last week.

Glenn Greenwald at Salon called the interview the latest "alarming" evidence that Mr. Obama's talk of post-partisanship is nothing more than "devotion, first and foremost, to perpetuating rather than challenging how the Washington establishment functions."

"There's absolutely no good reason for Obama not to close Guantanamo immediately and simply try the detainees in our already-extant courts of law. That's how we've convicted all sorts of accused terrorists in the past. The only reason not to do so is a desire to disregard — violate — these long-standing American principles and instead create a new process that allows torture-obtained evidence to be used," Mr. Greenwald wrote.

"Digby" wrote at her popular liberal blog Hullabaloo that Mr. Obama is kidding himself if he thinks winning over the intelligence community on these issues is a game he can win.

"But I would suggest that Obama contemplate one little thing before he decides to try to find 'middle ground' on torture. It is a trap. If he continues to torture in any way or even tacitly agrees to allow it in certain circumstances, the intelligence community will make sure it is leaked. They want protection from both parties and there is no better way to do it than to implicate Obama. And the result of that will be to destroy his foreign policy."

Contact Victor Morton at vmorton@washingtontimes.com