Friday, July 13, 2007

Personal Asides: Something (What is It?) is Delaying the Fred Thompson Announcement…Character is at Stake with Republican Senate Defectors…Yes, It is the One, True Church.


That Certain Something.

First he was supposed to announce around the 4th of July. Now he’s supposed to announce in August. Who? Fred Thompson. Why the delay? I don’t think it involves a television contract. Given that he has expressed so strongly his determination to run, it would be a little strange for something of that nature to come up. I wonder if it’s not more personal than that. The delay has all the earmarks of strategists trying to flush out negatives…either allay them or prepare an answer to them…before they appear. Well, what kind of negatives? Nothing that have surfaced thus far are serious: lobbying for Jean-Bertrand Aristide or Planned Parenthood. Nothing of that sort. It would have to be more serious.

Delays of this sort are usually caused by consternation over how to deal with problems involving personal rectitude. There have been a flurry of self-propelled stories about his post-divorce bachelorhood where the candidate said he chased around and the girls who chased him always caught him. Nothing wrong with that but it smacks of attempted self-inoculation.

You can bet the delay isn’t because they can’t find a finance chairman, or a campaign manager or something like that.

Character is at Stake.

The Republican senators want to pull the plug on Iraq before the mid-September report comes on the effectiveness of the surge show not just a weakening of resolve but lack of character. They are the usual suspects except for one…one whom I have long admired…Norm Coleman of Minnesota who was an extraordinarily good mayor of St. Paul, a former Bobby Kennedy Democrat who outdebated Walter Mondale (although concededly that is no big trick as Ronald Reagan, then approaching his dotage did it in 1984).

To others, the defection of John Warner, ranking Republican on Armed Services is alarming. Not when you know him. Not really.

Probably the ranking opportunist and co-captor of the John Kerry Prize for Gold Digging is Warner of Virginia. He was born in D. C. and went to St. Alban’s. Very important to him. You think the Chinese revere their ancestors? Try talking to John Warner. He will tell you his Virginia lineage which he hopes you believe is patrician but is not; they are about as distinguished as you can find in Virginia but like Sargent Shriver the money went bye-bye before Warner was born. His grandparents lived in Amherst county, Virginia; his father was a field surgeon during World War I and operated while bullets were whistling around; that a great-uncle served in the Confederate army and lost his arm in the Battle of the Wilderness, that he—Warner—volunteered for both Army and Navy in 1944 at age 17 (he’ll add that he is one of five World War II veterans in the Senate: Stevens of Alaska, Inouye of Hawaii; Akaka of Hawaii and Lautenberg of New Jersey) and with the Marines in Korea —which means he has had one salutary benefit to his character. He is grandiloquent and a tad effeminate if you look at him a certain way.

Aside from his laudable military record, Warner convinced himself that the only way he could make it big time was to romance some wealthy women--=which he did, being a gigolo, playing tennis with the right people, especially heiresses, a guy with fashionably shaggy hair and a phony kind of Virginia accent. He scored big time by marrying a Mellon granddaughter which got him a mansion in Virginia horse country while he worked as an assistant U. S. attorney. The dough enabled him to make sizable contributions to the Republicans until the marriage fizzled because Warner was inattentive, always eyeing another opportunity. He used the Mellon dough to become secretary of the navy under Nixon but when the marriage ended and he was on his own, he cast about but the women he dated were, while wealthy, nothing like a Mellon.

Then he found Elizabeth Taylor fresh from her sixth marriage (five if you don’t count Burton twice who served 1964-74 and 1975-75. In Taylor Warner found somebody who had more money than he (not a Mellon but not bad) and also a celebrity status which he used to have her escort him to events in 1978 in Virginia when he sought the Virginia GOP’s nomination for U. S. Senator. Virginia has the convention system and unfortunately Warner ran second, narrowly missing the nod. But the winner, Richard Obenshain, died in a private plane crash (nobody checked the engine and Warner wasn’t fiddling around at the private air strip that day). Warner was chosen because the wealthy matrons of Virginia wanted Taylor to drink with them (she could drink them and Warner under the table) at their private gatherings and tell outrageous stories of Hollywood with everybody’s ears hanging out to savor the gossip. Taylor was also a lot more liberal than Warner who had planned to be a conservative to fit in with Virginia’s lofty style. She got him to be pro-choice which endeared him to the wealthy Virginia matrons but lost him the hard-edge Virginia conservatives. Upshot: Warner won with only 4,700 votes. Thereupon, Warner squired Taylor with him across the country as he made Republican speeches, using her celebrity for prominence and dough so the next time he ran he made it easily.

In 1982, Taylor skipped out on him in order to do some serious drinking without his manufactured patrician distraction and disapproval (she was becoming a liability because now she couldn’t hold her liquor and would tell the matrons things about Warner they shouldn’t know).

Warner with no need for another wife, having used up two, began his concentrated rise up the ladder to chairman of the Armed Services committee. He could handle the rest himself, crafting a moderate record in Virginia, blessing the memory of the now sodden Taylor who convinced him to be a pro-choicer since it was the popular thing to be. As he’s not a dumb bunny, he proved to be hard-working and fairly conversant on the issues, although he looks at them through a hugely self-interested prism. He became ranking Republican on Senate Armed Services but no sooner had the Republicans won control of the Senate than Strom Thurmond who would not die put in a claim for chairman and, of course, outranked Warner (since Thurmond seemingly could hearken back to the Blackhawk War; and was actually a paratrooper under Ike on D-Day). So Warner graciously…grinding his teeth all the while…allowed the dotty old gentleman to accede to chairman of the Committee.

I would see the two of them walking down the corridors to the railcar that delivered them to the Capitol, Warner holding the geezer’s arm tightly, pulled up almost under his chin…and it occurred to me—as I am sure to him—that if somehow he could get the ancient babbling solon to miss a step in his late 90s, the chairmanship would pass to him. Then thankfully one day while having his diaper changed by the Senate surgeon, Thurmond groaned that maybe it was time for him to pass the baton to Warner…which the surgeon, a Virginian, passed on to Warner. Then became one of the funniest episodes in Senate history…relayed to me by a Thurmond aide who overheard it.

Warner said something like this: “Mr. Chairman, have you ever had a desire to step down? I don’t mean out of the Senate but as Chairman?”

Thurmond: “Huh? Step where?”

Warner, speaking louder: “I say, have you ever had a desire to turn the chairmanship over to a younger man?”

Thurmond: “Eh? Yes. But what younger man? Where would I find him?”

Warner: “Well, I am younger.”

Thurmond: “John, you’re 71. That’s not young.”

Warner (privately enraged): “Well…it’s twenty years younger than you, Mr. Chairman!”

Thurmond: “Well, that’s true.”

A long pause.

Thurmond: “John…”

Warner: “Yes…”

“I forgot what I was going to say.”

“We were talking about the chairmanship.”

“The what?

“The Chairmanship of Armed Services!”

“What about it?”

“I say we were—oh, forget it.”

My staffer friend came to Warner’s rescue. One day the old man told Warner that he had a brilliant idea…not Warner, Thurmond.

“And what is that?” asked Warner breathlessly.

Just then Thurmond’s secretary, beauteous, came in with a glass of water and a vial of pills, saying, “Time for a toddy!”

Warner told my staffer friend: “Joe, I believe I am going mad. Either that or have a stroke and the sonuvabitch will outlive me. I’m sure of it!”

Somehow the idea was communicated and Warner became chairman.


But for a consummate opportunist, gaining the chairmanship was only the latest vista. While he struggled to wonder what else he could do, he inadvertently did some interesting and valuable things. In early 2001, before 9/11 he created an Emerging Threats subcommittee to dwell on terrorism and chemical and biological as well as cyberwarfare. He got a new lease on life with 9/11 where he could appear with frosty irrelevance on television. But always fearful that he would miss a step with ever-changing opinion, he has been a pinwheel of relativism. Thus he has become a kind of joke to many reporters; it was expected that as soon as the Iraq War got unpopular in northern Virginia, he’d become a dove. As so he is. He’s eighty now and spends his time wondering how to catch up with the latest opinion trends which he reads voraciously.

Thus…the Statesman.

One, Holy and…

Earlier this week the Vatican reaffirmed that the Catholic Church is the one, true church even if elements of truth can be found in separated churches and communities. This displeased secularists most of all—not Protestants or Jews particularly in my experience…because is those skilled in religious dialogue, they have come to understand the Catholic position.

The document, “Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine of the Church” was signed by William Cardinal Levada, prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and “approved” by Pope Benedict XVI before publication. In a minor matter, it settles the role of Levada who as archbishop of San Francisco was one of the more liberal prelates; his appointment to Ratzinger’s old job was criticized by authenticists as a case of the Vatican wobblies.

Not so. Whether Levada is himself a wobbly is immaterial; the man who “approved” the document is the Pope who is his own best theologian and who, for Catholics, cannot err on doctrines of faith and morals. While theologians will argue whether or not this falls into the area of infallibility, the practical assumption is that it does. And it says what it means but is nowhere as tyrannous or autocratic as the Associated Press has implied.

The first sign of disunity within the church that Jesus Christ founded came in the First Century when Clement I asked the people of Corinth: “Do we not have one God, one Christ and one Spirit of grace poured out upon us? And is there not one calling in Christ?” He and other popes laid down the fundamental truth that is gospel for all us Catholics. The Church claims possession of the fullness of God’s revelation. Sure it seems one-sided and is—as truth is. But it was Pius X,…now a saint but then as now regarded as a tough old bird by modern standards…who informed the Protestant-sponsored international conference at Edinburgh in 1910 which launched the present ecumenical movement this: “The elements of faith in which you all agree are numerous and are common to the various Christian bodies and then can serve as a point of departure for your discussion”—meaning “this is a work in which we in our day may well cooperate.”

This said, Christ chose twelve apostles and sent them, as He had been sent, to teach and government, to serve and sanctify the believers. He appointed Peter their head and His vicar on earth. He made known to them all things that He had heard from the Father. He determined through Baptism those who would believe would be incorporated into the body of the Church. And before He died, He instituted at the Last Supper the sacrifice and sacrament of the Eucharist.

Certain fundamentalist Protestants take the words of Christ reported in Matthew 16:18 after Peter confessed the divinity of Christ: “Thou are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church” and maintain that through mistranslation Christ’s meaning was garbled in Greek. What Christ meant, they say, was that He, Christ, would be the rock, not Peter. Hence, they say, why did He use the Greek name “petros” which means a small stone instead of “Petra” which means an immovable foundation? The answer they say: Peter was no sure foundation. The answer is that Christ did not speak in Greek, nor Hebrew which was reserved as a sacred language but Aramaic, the common language of Palestine at the time. In that language, the word for “rock” is “kepha.” Or “thou are Kepha and upon this kepha I will build my Church.” When Matthew’s gospel was translated from Aramaic to Greek, there was the problem because unlike Greek, Aramaic’s “kepha” has the same ending whether it refers to rock or is used as a man’s name.

What the fundamentalists are saying is that Peter was, recognizably, a weak man, who denied Christ three times who was the first link in the papacy. So: a weak link. To them it is a scandal that Christ would not choose as His vicar, a weakling rather than the strongest. But that’s what gives us hope! God seems to enjoy working through the lowly and weak to confound the mighty…as He chose to be born in a stable rather than a palace. I can tell you it is a comfort to me when I report of the earthen vessels that constitute my church’s bishops. You can’t not believe the Church is divine when you see some of these guys, believe me. And it is a great comfort.


  1. Constitution ReaderJuly 13, 2007 at 2:06 AM

    Tom, critiquing Sen. Warner over his personal life is, admittedly, entertaining. But it is about as substantive as criticizing George Bush for famously poor grammer.

    The buffoons in the Senate may have inadvertently stumbled on the truth. Yes, they are humorous, but don't discount what they've done.

    The biggest mistake of this Iraq War was Chairman Henry Hyde (R-IL) pooh-poohing and killing a Declaration of War against Iraq introduced by Rep. Ron Paul.

    Why? For one, going to war without a congressional declaration flies in the face of the Constitution all members have taken an oath to support and defend. And if that doesn't matter to some, there's this: we've never (make that ***NEVER***) won an undeclared war.

    The congressional abdication of it's power to take the country to war will go down in history as an infamous act.

    Senators feebly attempting to rein in the executive branch is a good thing. It is a start of something long overdue.

  2. Tom,

    Do you think that people have the right to come to their own conclusions on matters of faith? Do you think that the power of the state should be enlisted to encourage others to be adherents of a particular church or religion? Do you think that a Pope could wind up in Hell? What would your response be if a Pope were to proclaim that abortion is a blessing? If we all have to give account of ourselves to God, how much weight do you think He'll put on membership in a given church?
    One of your fans
    (who happens to be a Protestant)

  3. David:

    I know you asked Mr. Roeser, but I'll give you my thoughts to your questions:

    1) People can come to their own conclusions (and do) but the church is where the background where those conclusions are formed.

    2) The state (at least the US) will not tell people where to worship. Never going to happen.

    3) The Pope could wind up in hell if he earns his way in. There might be a few down there already. However, the Pope is infallible in interpreting scripture and making doctorine. Outside of those areas, he is as capible of as much sin as the rest of us.

    4) It doesn't take a Pope to figure out that abortion is murder, and that murder is wrong. Many (most?) Christains also believe the same thing. The Pope affirming abortion ain't gonna happen.

    5) The "one true Church" proclaimation does say that salvation may be made to non-Catholics. Protestants needn't worry.

    As for me, I don't understand what all the fuss is about. Protestants left Catholicism because they already believed that Catholicism is wrong. What are they worried about now? And what does ecuminism(sp?) between Catholics and Protestants do for anyone anyhow?

  4. Tom you are clinging deck chairs of George Bush's Titanic neo-con inspired Iraq failure like a blind follower in Jonestown!

    Libby,,,,, OH how you trumpeted for Libby's pardon....and threw the verbal palms down in his path..... he was only the attorney for Clinton's buddy the infamous Mr. Rich who got a sweetheart pardon from buddy Bill. Come on Tom just tell me ONE thing Libby did for social conservatives! Please oh please THOMAS do tell me and the other readers of your blog!

    Tom, your blind following of the neo-con mantra has you looking downright FOOLISH these days! You are foolish because neo-cons in the end BETRAY the social conservatives.....

    But then your blessed Pope really infuriated your new "chosen" friends!!!! You've go me confused Tom, so just who are "Chosen"? So Tom are you going to side with the Pope or with your neo- "friends"? Come on Tommy, choose..... But then mushy politicians always weasel.... just look at the good liberal "catholic" politicians positions on abortion ala Daley, Kennedy, divorced Giuliani, Palosi, etc... staunch liberal by day but then on Sunday or Saturday night at Mass they become the pious forgiven neo-saints with that good little wafer and wine to cover it all up!!!!!!

    Kinda disgusting.... ain't it! Dare we say HYPOCRITS?

    But then as I read it aren't you saying that the Catholics are the only "chosen" ones.... Come Come Tom..... how could you? Your neo "friends" will not like you for it.

  5. While I have a different view on petros/petra (namely, that we should go with the words we have, and not speculate on what the underlying words might have been), I'm not bowled over with disbelief that the Roman Catholic Church has declared itself the one, true church. Every Christian church, including my own, has declared itself the one true church. Yet in many situations, Christians are able to discuss our views of the truth without killing each other. Unfortunately, reasonable discourse is

  6. You have fallen into the trap set by reactionaries who chose to characterize William Cardinal Levada's wise and deliberate leadership of the San Francisco archdiocese as "liberal". "Liberal" is, in the vocabulary of these provocateurs -- and, I worry, sometimes of your own --, a code for "unfaithful to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church". Such a characterization of the Cardinal could not be further from the truth.

    Your characterization of the Cardinal during his tenure in the difficult and wearying position of Archbishop of San Francisco is unfair. You will not retract it, of course, and will either ignore these comments or, worse, bluster back with an unbalanced assessment of his good work there.

    The slack I'm willing to cut is understanding that you want to bang out a minimum number of words in these little commentaries. It would not interest your usual readership if you were to experience the conversion of heart that would lead you to greater consideration of whether the judgments you issue with such facility are actually correct.

    But life is short; eternity is long. We can never say for certain how far we are from the moment when we are called to a final accounting for our words. Maybe it is time to reflect on whether what you say promotes or detracts from the community of the Faithful.