Following are questions and my responses to recent questions for The Arena at Politico.com:
Question: "Texas Gov. Rick Perry's Aug. 6 day of prayer and fasting is generating significant heat nationwide. Advocates for the separation of church and state say an elected leader should not be leading what looks to be, in effect, an evangelical Christian revival. Now Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R), the lone governor to commit to the day of prayer this Saturday, is reportedly getting fresh pressure to back out by a gay rights group in his state."
"Is there something inappropriate about the day of prayer and fasting sponsored by Perry, a possible 2012 Republican presidential candidate? Or is it an innocuous affirmation of the role of faith in public life?"
Answer: Something "inappropriate" about a call to faith by a politician - even a President? For guidance let's see what our first three Presidents had to say:
George Washington: "While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian."
John Adams: "The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty."
Thomas Jefferson: "God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever; That a revolution of the wheel of fortune, a change of situation, is among possible events; that it may become probable by Supernatural influence! The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in that event."
Indeed, the only thing "inappropriate" in today's America is that too often we have forgotten, even ignored, our heritage and the examples of our Fathers.
Question: Under the debt ceiling agreement a so-called super committee of Congress will be tasked with finding an additional $1.5 trillion in cuts to the deficit by Thanksgiving. In theory this joint select committee will have the teeth to do something big to slash the deficit. Language in the legislation requires leaders in the House and Senate to bring the package to the floor of each chamber — without an opportunity for amendments.
But are super committee members any more likely than rank-and-file lawmakers to make unpopular choices like scaling back Medicare and Social Security benefits, slashing defense spending and/or raising taxes? Is the new committee a political ploy or serious effort at deficit and debt reduction?
Answer: The committee is a congressional theater tactic in an attempt to convince voters that this time they are really serious. Wasn't there a deficit commission already? Is the real reason Congress has failed to significantly deal with this because there haven't been enough committees, commissions, or white papers on the subject? No one has really come up with legitimate ideas as of yet?
There is a deep ideological divide. Democrats want to start with tax increases which are anathema to the GOP. And, the closer the 2012 elections get the more difficult it will be to find a point of compromise. Neither side is inclined to budge, nor give the other any legitimate claim to victory.
I think the chances that this committee can find the holy grail of deficit reduction and get this congress to approve it, is somewhere between zero and none. What is needed is another election to change the majority in the Senate and the occupant in the White House.
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