Don’t Put His Views In a Political Box.  What The Media Are Missing About Pope Francis.

  New Republic

“We in the press are about to over-politicize his visit to America,” writes New York Times columnist David Brooks.

How right he is.

The media are awash with bland, secular generalizations. The trumpets of left and right are already at blaring with either praise or denunciations of the Pope’s message.

House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to Pope Francis to address Congress “will be at his own party’s expense,” declares Brian Beutler in the increasingly hardline liberal journal “New Republic.”

In a scathing article, curmudgeon conservative George Will blasts The Pope for “his woolly sentiments that have the intellectual tone of fortune cookies.”

  The New York Post

But comments from both sides that seek to put the Pope in a box miss this importance of his message and above all, his example.

American Catholics don’t fit neatly into frames tethered to snippets extracted from a hugely complex spiritual leader,” writes conservative Catholic Ashley McGuire. As “a capitalism-loving, pro-life advocate who is quite possibly obsessed with abortion, I could not be more excited to welcome Pope Francis to America.

Regardless of political affiliation, many Americans appreciate the Pope’s emphasis on love and mercy over dogma and orthodoxy. 

He is humble and a warm presence in world of snarky pundits and fiercely opinionated politicians. As a Jesuit, Francis takes his vow of poverty seriously. He believes we can learn from the poor. His heart is with those who suffer and are in need.

As a devout Catholic he understands how symbols send a message. After arriving at Andrews Air Force Base and being greeted by President Obama and Vice President Biden, the Pope hopped into a small Fiat instead of the usual large limo reserved for dignatories.

He says the church should be “bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out in the streets,” instead of being unhealthy “from clinging to is own security.

As Gerald Seib points out in The Wall Street Journal, this Pope is a disrupter: “in sync with the dissatisfaction with the status quo” and also recognizing that The Catholic Church establishment has lost its way.

Many of us like leaders who would shake things up. Think Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders. This Pope challenges the existing order. An overwhelming majority of American Catholics approves of what he’s doing.

“I don’t think the categories Left and Right are very useful for understanding the Pope,” says theologian and papal expert Lawrence Cunningham of Notre Dame.

On some social matters he is deeply conservative. “Francis unflinchingly maintains the church’s ancient teaching about the sanctity of human life and total opposition to abortion,” writes Timothy Carney in a highly perceptive piece in The Washington Examiner.

“Although he has urged Catholics to drop their “obsession” with such issues, Francis would also stand with his predecessors against gay marriage. In fact, he clashed with the Argentinian government when it was expanding marriage to include same-sex couples.”

“On economics, Francis would look more like a Democrat than like a Republican, but so would his “conservative” predecessors,” writes Carney.

On the environment he has been more outspoken than those who came before him. But with rising carbon levels in the atmosphere and a growing sense among global leaders that action is required, the need is greater than it was years ago.

Fact is, whether  we’re conservative, liberal or independent, most of us like the guy.

“Pope Francis is an extraordinary learner, listener and self-doubter,” says David Brooks. “The best part of this week will be watching him relate to people, how he listens deeply and learns from them, how he sees them both in their great sinfulness but also with endless mercy and self-emptying love.”


Why Hillary Clinton May Have To Make Only Simple Change To Turn Things Around.

The one really big thing the polls are telling us right now is that the American people want a Presidential candidate who tells it like it is. 

Donald Trump is the prime example of the unplugged guy who says outrageous things and is fun to watch.  Ben Carson and Bernie Sanders are also anti-establishment “outsider” candidates who are doing far better than expected.  

Hillary Clinton is the prime example of someone who’s telling it like it isn’t.  Her campaign is boring, ultra-cautious, and buttoned-up.  She’s facing an enthusiasm gap.

But despite her apparently disastrous poll plunge, Hillary is still in a place where nearly every competitor would like to be.

Her campaign has a ton of money and a strong organization to fight the primary and caucus states next year after Iowa and New Hampshire.

Unlike Sanders, or Trump for that matter, she has strong support among minority voters. 

Above all, she is un-peaking early and still has plenty of time to recover.  At this point in 2007, with 14 months to go before an election, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson were the top two Republicans in the race. Remember them?

To turn things around, Clinton must make just one really big change. Instead of keeping the press and her critics at a distance, she should welcome them in.  Answer their questions until she’s blue in the face. 

The former First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State needs to get into the trenches.  That should include an offer to make regular appearances before Republican-led committees in Congress.  She’s a very smart and seasoned operator, who would do nicely in the spotlight offered by Capitol Hill.

Instead of just doing friendly softball TV shows like “The View” or “The Ellen DeGeneres Show“, she ought to go on Fox. Appear with the scrappy Bill O’Reilly.  Do a bunch of talk radio, just like Trump has. 

Fight back, Hillary.  Get your hands dirty.  Take on your critics in unedited, spontaneous settings.  Go beyond the political echo chamber.

Detractors say Clinton is too defensive and doesn’t like the press.  Those aren’t disqualifications for the White House.

You don’t have to be the most likable candidate in the race.  Face it: she never will be. 

But people do respect a fighter. And above all they want someone who explains in clear English exactly why she wants to be President.

She should find her passion and shed her caution. And yes, be herself.
Recent polls say Democratic voters care far less about the email server controversy than journalists or political elites.

The reason why Bernie Sanders is gaining support not just because he’s an outspoken liberal.  Voters may not agree with all his positions, but many see him as authentic, who sticks to his guns.

Hillary Clinton, if you want to win the Democratic Presidential nomination, stick to yours.

One-Size-Fits-All.  Our National Panic Over Sex Crimes


This week I changed my mind about America’s sex offender laws. Sure, they’re popular and were passed by Congress and state legislatures in response terrible crimes.  
But no law can cure all ills and the national sex offender registry appears to be in urgent need of reform. 
In recent years we’ve had a scorched-earth debate about sex offenses led by the voices of fear and outrage. On the nightly news and in shows such as “Law and Order,” Americans have been fed this image of “stranger danger” – the creepy older guy who preys on children.
But the vast majority of assaults – as many as 90% – are committed by people who know the victims. 
In her new book, “Protecting Our Kids? How Sex Offender Laws Are Failing Us”, Sociology professor Emily Horowitz argues that Jessica’s Law, Megan’s Law and some other recent acts are examples of over-reach and a sweeping one-sized-fits-all approach to a very complex problem. Other researchers have also argued against moral panic that treats all sex offenders as monsters.
Dangerous adult predators are lumped together with teenagers and adolescents who were convicted of fondling or even sexting.
“We’re in the middle of a sex panic that’s been going on for decades now,” says Emily on the latest episode of our podcast, “How Do We Fix It?” 
Today there are more than 800,000 names on the ever-growing national sex offender registry. “Those are people who are publicly listed on the internet with all of their personal information and photographs. These are all people who’ve served time, completed probation and parole.” 
Until we spoke with Emily I believed that public shaming and a registry for sexual predators was a good idea. I still do – in some cases. But far too many people are on the list.
The national registry, which continues to grow each year despite a decline in sex offenses against children, may be an egregious violation of individual liberties, especially for the large share of offenders who were under 18 when they broke the law. They could stay on the list for the rest of their lives.
“It makes emotional sense. but it doesn’t make practical sense,” says Emily. “There is no other crime where people are listed on a public registry.” This includes those convicted of murder and assault.
“The premise underlying sex offender registries is that people who commit sex crimes are different from all other criminals, because they’re predatory, they cannot be stopped, and they’re uncontrollable so they need to be listed for life.”
“But that’s not true,” Emily insists. A quarter of the people on the registry committed crimes as juveniles. “They are particularly responsive to treatment. There are very few who are violent pedophiles.” 
“Child sexual abuse is very complicated and it happens most often within the family and among people known to the children so these laws are totally ineffective.”
The recidivism rate for sex offenders is not higher than for other crimes.” 

Among the fixes we discussed:
– Reform the national sex offenders registry, and include only the most violent offenders. Most people on the national registry were convicted of a single offense.
– Money now spent to maintain the registry should be diverted to mental and social services. .
– Educate children and parents. Encourage discussion about sex offenses and how to report them.
– Help people who’ve served their time re-build their lives. “You are much less likely to re-offend if you have a stable job and a stable home,” says Emily Horowitz.
I don’t agree with all that she says. Her focus on the treatment of offenders does not fully take into account the victims of the most horrendous crimes. Their stories must continue to be told. 
But a strong case has been made for registry reform. In its current state, the lives of many families face ruin. As a result victims of sex crimes, who know the perpetrators, may be very reluctant to report them to law enforcement. 

Solutions Advice For Jeb Bush… Be Positive.  Have Some Fun At The Expense of Donald Trump


The man Jon Stewart called “the comb-over King” is giving Jeb Bush a bunch of bad hair days. 

This was the guy who was supposed to be the optimistic candidate, who campaigns with “joy in my heart”.  But Bush 3 been thrown horribly off his game by the great usurper, Donald Trump.

“Mr. Bush does not seem to be radiating much joy these days,” reports Jonathan Martin on today’s front page of The New York Times. “Mr. Trump, the surprise leader in the polls, had turned his summer into a miserable one for Mr. Bush.”

The taunts, provocations, broadsides and personal ridicule from The Donald have clearly thrown Jeb off his game. And his poll numbers have sunk to single digits. 

“Trump is trying to insult his way into the Presidency,” said the somewhat glum candidate today on ABC’s Good Morning America.

Meanwhile, Trump is having a ball at the expense of others.  Instead of dry and detailed policy statements, Trump plays on his celebrity with a mixture of bluster and outrage. 

Bush needs to use a little humor to deflate Trump.  And he must at least look like he’s having fun out on the trail.

Answering Trump’s barbs point-by-point on Good Morning America may be the right way to respond to Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, or Scott Walker. But not to a guy who operates outside the normal theater of politics.

“Bush’s YouTube response to one of Trump’s attacks was good — for 2008,” writes Jonathan Capehart in The Washington Post.  But sending a Twitter link to a 70-second video is not enough.  Instead, Bush needs expand his use of social media and make brief Instagram slaps at Trump. 

“Going forward, watch for other campaigns to use the popular social media site to draw distinctions between themselves and others in the race. If you can’t say it, explain it or show it in 15 seconds, you’re not doing it right,” says Capehart.

And Jeb Bush also needs to do more radio and podcasts: Quick interviews from his campaign bus interviews with liberal as well as conservative hosts.  

Act like you have nothing to lose, Jeb.  After all, right now you are only one of 17 Republican candidates.