Voters deserve better than debates over debates

There’s no question that US Sen. Scott Brown and his Democratic challenger, Elizabeth Warren, are “debating.” The televised debate proposed by Vickie Kennedy, widow of the late senator Edward M. Kennedy, to be moderated by heavyweight Tom Brokaw fell apart after Brown’s conditions – that she not endorse either candidate and that MSNBC not be a sponsor – were not met.

Brown showed political savvy in ducking what he and his team viewed as a “Kennedy/NBC/Liberal Media” set-up, but one can’t help but ask if his real concern was having to field questions from Brokaw, not Vickie Kennedy’s certain endorsement of Warren. But while Brokaw would surely have made Brown own up to and defend his record of so-called bipartisanship, the veteran newsman would also have pressed Warren about the “Cherokee heritage” issue.
After stepping away from what he saw as a Democratic ambush, Brown turned around and blasted Warren for backing out of a WBZ-AM radio debate hosted by conservative/libertarian Dan Rea. Rea’s show is often entertaining and almost always provocative; he is also an unabashed supporter and self-avowed friend of Scott Brown. So…it’s fine for Senator Brown to slip out of a debate sponsored by Vickie Kennedy, but shocking for Warren to nix a sit-down with Dan Rea as an “impartial” moderator?
To the media, Brown expressed his “disappointment” at Warren’s decision to “duck the first debate.” He contended that Warren “is saying one thing but doing another.” Actually, both candidates are debating about avoiding debates that each feels is biased. Warren has agreed to venues hosted by the Boston Herald, which is deep in Brown’s camp, and by a WBZ television debate moderated by Jon Keller, who can hardly be deemed partial to Warren, given his commentary on the “Cherokee identity” as a “big issue.”
Warren has certainly blundered in her handling of her ancestry, providing both Brown and the media the chance to zero in on this sole topic and to give secondary coverage of the candidates’ sharp differences on taxes, banking and Wall Street reform, the national debt, and all aspects of the economy. Unless actual proof that Elizabeth Warren used her claim of Native American ancestry to advance her career surfaces, it’s high time that a Senate race about genuine issues begin. My suggestion: Let Scott Brown’s “misstatements” about his secret meetings with royalty and Elizabeth Warren’s mentioning of her Native American heritage cancel each other out, and the real debate, the one we all deserve, commence.

Don’t Hold Your Breath Until
Clerics Leave the Political Fray
Another ongoing debate boils on between America’s cardinals and bishops and the Obama health-care bill. By the time this article goes to press, the argument might well be a moot point if, as expected, the US Supreme Courts rules 5-4 that the health-care mandate is unconstitutional. If so, the prelates will have their chance to prove that their objections truly were based on religious beliefs and not at all in politics – specifically, support for the Republican Party over the Democrats.
On June 13, in preparation for Fortnight for Freedom, the Catholic Church’s initiative on religious liberty that ends on July 4, Archbishop William E. Lori delivered a speech in which he asserted that the “Fortnight is strictly about the issue of religious freedom, at all levels of government here in the US, as well as abroad—it is not about parties, candidates, or elections, as some others have suggested.”
So it’s not about parties when the prelates and arch-conservatives have tightly lined hands on the issue of “Obamacare.” It might not be about politics, but the archbishop himself raised the specter of the IRS taking a hard look at the church’s role in the debate. While skeptical of the prelates’ claims that none of this is political, this writer does not think that the church should have its tax status challenged by the government. Still, Archbishop Lori contended that the Obama health-care bill showed no concern for “the consciences not only of employers, but also of the various other stakeholders in the health insurance process, such as insurers and employees.”
These are highly charged political words, whether he admits it or realizes it. By not specifying “religious employers,” such as the church or Catholic universities, Lori seems to be asserting the right of any employer to deny coverage for any medical treatment on religious grounds. It’s even more troubling to listen to the archbishop trumpet insurers’ rights to deny coverage on moral grounds. Not political? Sounds like the very ideas embraced by Congressman Paul Ryan and other conservative Republican/Tea Party politicians.
Again, all of this becomes a passing storm if the Supreme Court tosses out the health-care bill and the Catholic church steps out of the political fray. I hope it does, but something tells me that the cardinals and bishops will keep on finding ways to let their political preferences show.