The National Catholic Review

Washington was consumed this weekend with one question: When Congress completes work on the financial reform legislation, should it next take up comprehensive immigration reform first or climate change legislation? The discussion has shown precisely why so many people say they have little respect for Congress or its leaders no matter which party is in power.

The under-current of the discussion is that after the health care vote last month, and with midterm elections approaching, it is unreasonable to expect members of Congress to sustain two more tough votes. So, the logic goes, the choice is not which issue to do first, but which to do this year. If one of the issues gets booted to next year, it will come before a new Congress and, not knowing the partisan make-up of either chamber but guessing both will likely include more Republicans, the issue that is postponed may have less of a chance of passage. This is revolting. At a time when millions of Americans are struggling to find work and pay their mortgages, congressmen think voting is tough? It’s their job. If they have to take twenty "tough votes" they should do so, and the President is well advised to remind them of that fact publicly.

There is another under-current to the debate that is equally revolting. I saw a report that quoted an unnamed congressional staffer saying that for the Democrats it made sense to move forward with comprehensive immigration reform whether or not they have the votes because it would help boost Latino turnout this November. To be clear, neither issue should be pursued because it yields partisan advantage; both should be pursued because the nation desperately needs to address these issues. Climate change and immigration reform are both urgent and concerns for political fallout should be relegated to the sidelines. This being Washington, of course, no such relegation is possible.

Curiously, at the center of the Senate’s effort to negotiate a bipartisan bill on both issues is Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina. The conservative legislator is working with New York Sen. Charles Schumer on immigration reform and with Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry on climate change legislation. It would be difficult to over-emphasize how important his continued work with the Democrats is. I hope someone in the White House is prepared to sit down with Sen. Graham and do almost whatever it takes to keep him on board both issues. It is not just the bipartisan label that he brings to the table. Graham is a living rebuke to those, like Sen. John McCain, who have caved into the more conservative and nativist elements in the GOP and have backed off their previous support for immigration reform. Graham’s courage is not only a necessary asset to the President, the South Carolinian is the best hope for the GOP’s future.

I know it is foolish to criticize politicians for considering politics when they make their decisions. But, as President Obama says again and again, good policy is good politics. Congress should undertake both climate change legislation and immigration reform not because they are good or bad politics, but because we need better policies in both areas of national life than the ones we have now. And if any member of Congress wants to pay my mortgage next month, then I will listen to their complaints about "tough" votes; otherwise, I don’t want to hear it.

Michael Sean Winters



Helena Loflin | 4/26/2010 - 7:32pm
I forgot to include bullying.
KEVIN MULCAHY | 4/27/2010 - 11:28am
Re JR Cosgrove's comment in Number 2.  Why not just say "Is MSW capable of writing an accurate and well-informed column about  . . . .?"  By saying he is incapable of writing honestly, and later saying that he must know what he is writing is drivel, you impugn his character.  If you say that he is wrong rather than say that he is a willful liar who knows he is writing drivel, you keep the discourse on the level of logic and information rather than the writer's presumed motives (essentially unknowable except perhaps to his intimate friends and relations).  Note that you also would then have a lesser burden of proof (it would be easier to show someone mistaken or unaware in most instances than to prove him a liar), and you would come across as more dispassionate and less angry.
Sorry if that seems a presumptuous suggestion, but I used to be a writing teacher and sometimes old habits resurface.
Anonymous | 4/26/2010 - 9:53pm
Well I suppose its best to let it go, but the frustrating thing is that some of you are guilty of engaging in precisely the sorts of sordid things you've accused the "conservatives" of doing: political labelling, elbow-throwing, etc.  Maybe its best to remove the logs from our own eyes before removing splitners in to other eyes.
Stanley Kopacz | 4/26/2010 - 9:18pm
Well, I guess America could invite Glenn Beck to blog here. But they couldn't afford him. America is on a tight budget and I don't want my contributions to AMerica wasted. There are plenty of venues for conservative opinion in the corporate, monopolistic media. Now I have to share America with them? That's "What's mine is mine, and half of what's yours is mine, until I get around to closing down the other half."
Vince Killoran | 4/26/2010 - 9:07pm
My question is this: Is MSW's argument compelling? Does he provide evidence for his claims? How would you revise it?  
All the rest of it-the political labeling, the anger over who is invited to provide an on-line column, the anguish about the state of the Jesuits-is not intellectually or spiritually useful. If it's meant to be a distraction, it's worked: we've spent our efforts trading jabs and missed an opportunity to comment on what's been offered to us.  I'm going to work at avoiding these kinds of discussion threads again.
Anonymous | 4/26/2010 - 9:06pm
My problem with Mr. Winters and a couple other authors on this site is that they are one sided and get that way by distorting the evidence to support their point of view while at the same time distorting the other side to make it look bad.  The Catholic religion I was taught for 16 years including the Jesuits at the college level would not have thought such an approach was honorable let alone Catholic.  
The opinion above is about climate change and immigration.  Does anyone think that these are not complicated issues but yet Mr. Winters wants to ram through some ill conceived program while the Democrats have a large majority.  He has been hired not because he thinks and writes clearly but it seems because he means to provoke.  My guess that the provoking intended is to raise emotions against certain groups that the managers of this site do not like.  I suggest that one scour his writing to find who these groups are.  Some are political, some are other Catholics, some are just there and must be attacked.  But there is a pattern and this pattern points back to the attitudes of those who are paying his salary.
I am willing to take on Mr. Winter on the facts but he never engages the issues in such a way.  It is nearly always on an emotional basis and then he moves on.  He is a drive by shooter or kidnapper who abandons his target and then moves on to the next.  And he feeds a frenzy here amongst some of the readers.  That is what is so obvious and what is so abhorrent, is who sponsors this behavior. 
Anonymous | 4/26/2010 - 8:33pm
"I forgot to include bullying."
another spurilous charge for which you provide no evidence.  and yet again, we're the ones accused of attacking people.
And Mr. Cosgrove's assertions about the Jesuits, while I don't fully endorse them, are not new charges.  Many have objecting to the "dumbing down" of the formerly rigorous standard self-imposed by many religious orders, for which the Jesuits remain most famous.  I still fail to see any justification for the assertion that his arguments are somehow extensions of whatever personal issues or "baggage" he may have.  My response to your assertion is not the result of caffeine, but rather genuine disgust at your attempt to belittle the arguments of others as the result of "baggage".  Speak for yourself, but don't deign to speak for the motivations of others.  I know, however, that's really hard for liberals to not do.
Vince Killoran | 4/26/2010 - 7:08pm
Take it easy my over-caffinated fellow blogger.  
Of course, we all bring "baggage" to our interactions with others. . . It just seems that there is an obsession with attacking Jesuits-both individuals and the order-as well as bloggers, usually with no regard to the actual posting being considered. This must be rooted in something else. 
BTW, my criticism of MSW's piece is that there is nothing particularly relevant to the relationship of religion and politics.
Anonymous | 4/26/2010 - 6:30pm
I should add, Mr. Killoran my astonishment at being able to diagnose the personal mental hickups of people whom you have never even personally met!!!  Are you Padre Pio, by chance?
Anonymous | 4/26/2010 - 6:29pm
"For some MSW critics this space seems like a place for them to work out personal issues not discuss politics and culture in a Catholic context."
And yet Cosgrove & I are getting accused of personal attacks or impugning movtives?!?!  Really, Mr. Killoran - you're such an astute judge of character that you can determine that people only assert conservative arguments because of personal hangups they might have?   Wow, that's a really mature, objective argument you're making there.  How could I be so silly; of course my mother's overly zealous care and concern for me as a child (or was it my father's relentless push for me to succeed in life?  Oh hell, it was the Humane Vitae that did me in!) rendered me incapable of forming higher thought sufficient to agree with Mr. Winters all the time!  WOW, thanks for the enlightenment!
Vince Killoran | 4/26/2010 - 6:23pm
I think MSW-and any blogger-can stand getting roughed up a bit-but focus on his arguments, not the fact that he dare write for a Catholic blog and the Jesuits dare publish him.
For some MSW critics this space seems like a place for them to work out personal issues not discuss politics and culture in a Catholic context.
Anonymous | 4/26/2010 - 6:18pm
This site is run by Jesuits and those they appoint.  The Jesuits control probably more than half the Catholic colleges in the country in terms of enrollment and certainly prestige and thus are in a position to influence an enormous number of people.  They have a history of rigorous intellectual argument and defense of the truth.  I do not see it in this current iteration of Jesuit thought as displayed on this site.  So my personal objectives is to hold them and those who they appoint to a standard of truth.  It is one thing to have a point of view and support it, it is quite another to distort the situation to support your opinion and to hurl ad hominems at those you disagree with.  Mr. Winters is a champ at both and if these are the objectives of those who manage this site, they have chosen wisely.  People often confuse a clever use of words with truth and wisdom.
I rarely find Michael Winters a bearer of truth when he discusses politics.  There are so many things going on in Washington and Mr. Winters has failed to characterize a small percentage of them correctly.  I would think that those educated by the Jesuits would want open debate not an echo chamber for a failed philosophy.
Anonymous | 4/26/2010 - 5:58pm
I should also add that I don't think any of the comments (sarcastic or otherwise) are any harsher than some of the partisan sniping Mr. Winters engages in his blog posts about Republicans (and certainly no where near the churlishness on the NY Times webpage, usually in response to a conservative column).  But that's politics.  If you can't take the heat, stay off the comment pages.
Anonymous | 4/26/2010 - 5:53pm
"I too am sick and tired of the personal attacks routinely leveled against Mr. Winters and others with liberal views.  My youngest children exhibit better manners on their worst days.  This type of self-righteous ugliness directed toward Mr. Winters and his  readers has its place...somewhere else. "
Excuse me, but as one of the conservative commentators on here, I take issue with your characterization of (I assume) Mr. Cosgrove's comments (among others).  I think his comments always straight forward arguments on the facts.  Would you please provide an example wherein a "personal attack" was hurled against Mr. Winters?  By personal attack I do not mean a legitimate counter-argument.  I mean calling him a nasty name or some such thing (and "liberal" doesn't count).  I daresay you won't find such an example. 
What Mr. Cosgrove (& I) question is the LACK of diverse viewpoints (politically at least) on the blog; its not that I don't realize that America is a left of center publication and therefore will have a primarily left of center point of view.  Its just that it would be nice, every once in a while, to have some space dedicated to a forthright conservative Catholic viewpoint rather than some of the partisan elbow throwing that even Mr. Winters has confessed to engaging in for the sake of readership.  As has been mentioned, America usually does a good balancing job in hits publication; it would be nice to see that replicated in the blog.
Who's impunging motives or making persona attachs here when you label others as "self-righteous" or juvenile or childish for responding?  I think some of YOU are the ones who need to come to grips with diverse points of view & whine a little less when people disagree with you.
Helena Loflin | 4/26/2010 - 5:41pm
I too am sick and tired of the personal attacks routinely leveled against Mr. Winters and others with liberal views.  My youngest children exhibit better manners on their worst days.  This type of self-righteous ugliness directed toward Mr. Winters and his  readers has its place...somewhere else.  There are loads of rightwing blogs that exist  for individuals who need to vent their spleens against Democrats, liberals, President Obama, etc., by hurling ugly personal insults like so many we read here. 
I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Killoran.  Come to terms with Mr. Winter's role and stop the childishness.  As mentioned, there are blogs that subsist entirely on ugly attacks like "Is Mr. Winters capable of writing an honest opinion piece on politics on this site. Apparently not.  I have yet to read one.  He knows what he is writing is drivel."  (Really?)  And, on supremely juvenile stuff like "HAHAHAHAs."
"The incessant impugning of motives here by the usual people has become rather tiresome."  Thank you, Mr. Kopacz.  I agree with you.  Indeed it has, and then some.
And, Mr. Winters, thank you.  Write on!
James Lindsay | 4/26/2010 - 4:54pm
JRC, I think you are confusing MSW with MGB on the motive for doing immigration reform. You've got your Michaels confused.

There are a few conservative voice, usually Bishops, who appear in the magazine. Sometimes they do their cause some good and sometimes they are effective foils for reform.
Anonymous | 4/26/2010 - 2:17pm
"but I appreciate the wide range of views AMERICA's editors offer its readers.  There are several bloggers who are angry with the magazine because it offers space to non-conservatives"
HAHAHAHA.  You're a bit late on April's Fool Day, Mr. Killoran!  Angry because the magazine offers space to non-conservatives...that is a good one!  This made my day!
Stanley Kopacz | 4/26/2010 - 12:17pm
I don't agree with Mr. Winters about everything. I support more disribution of power in the church and I believe the wars in which we are presently involved are without moral and even practical self-interested merit. However, I can only believe that he loves his church and his country and wants the best for both. That includes both living up to their highest ideals and promoting justice. The incessant impugning of motives here by the usual people has become rather tiresome.
Anonymous | 4/26/2010 - 11:03am
Is Mr. Winters capable of writing an honest opinion piece on politics on this site.  Apparently not.  I have yet to read one.  He knows what he is writing is drivel.  Climate change legislation is not about climate change.  It is about a different scheme of taxation and raising money.  If he had said pollution control which is what it should be about then that would be honest.  But climate change.  That is not a distortion but a lie.  The expression ''climate change'' is one used to mask underlying true intentions.  Are those running this site untroubled with this frequent use of deception by Mr. Winters.
Immigration reform.  Mr. Winters does not want meaningful reform.  Does any reader here believe that all he really wants is something that will give the Democrats more votes.  He will use the facade of saying ''social justice'' but Mr. Winters is not interested in social justice or else he would be taking a much different approach.  
Just what is fair for immigration?  Maybe we should have a debate on this?  But not here because you can guarantee any thing advocated is an attempt to advance a political agenda rather than get at a workable fair solution.  There are dozens of issues that are never even discussed on this that are crucial to any workable solution that the voting population would accept.
Oh and as to what the voting population would accept, does anyone here think Mr. Winters cares about that?  His only concern is to see what an unpopular congress can ram through while they still have a large majority that was voted in on a series of lies.  I mean who is he kidding, bi-partisanship is going to depend upon Lindsay Graham who will probably be voted out the next time he comes up.  What happened to Susan Collins or Olympia Snowe or whoever can be duped or bribed at the moment to advance questionable objectives.
Please M. Winters reflect on your Catholic education and find in it some place something about telling the truth.  It would be refreshing to see that here on this site.  Honest discussion instead of such transparent rhetoric.  Where have the Jesuits of old gone?
Vince Killoran | 4/26/2010 - 1:14pm
Like Stanley I don't agree with everything MSW writes (I happen to think MSW is a "moderate") but I appreciate the wide range of views AMERICA's editors offer its readers.  There are several bloggers who are angry with the magazine because it offers space to non-conservatives.  
Please come to terms with his role on this website and stop acting childish.  About every "Cathollic" publication at the back of my church is filled with articles by conservatives written from a narrow perspective. You should write to those editors-on a daily basis-and harangue them for a change.
James Lindsay | 4/26/2010 - 10:49am
Neither issue would be a problem if the powers that be had pursued DC statehood rather than voting rights (which failed last week). Statehood would have brought a 61st Senator to the table and should have been done on a party line vote before Scott Brown took office, with Democrats losing seniority for voting no. We would not be having a discussion of whether these things being thrown over for political purposes if justice had been given to DC first.

Recently by Michael Sean Winters

Collegiality Made Visible (January 18, 2010)
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