President Obama’s speech at Notre Dame was not remarkable in itself and probably deserves less comment than I’m about to provide. As is typical of commencement speeches these days, the president urged the graduates, in effect, to save the planet and picture world peace:
Your generation must decide how to save God’s creation from a changing climate that threatens to destroy it. Your generation must seek peace at a time when there are those who will stop at nothing to do us harm, and when weapons in the hands of a few can destroy the many. And we must find a way to reconcile our ever-shrinking world with its ever-growing diversity — diversity of thought, diversity of culture, and diversity of belief.
Flattery is also a staple of commencement speeches and Obama offered this example of it while, oddly, taking a shot at bloggers:
You’ll hear talking heads scream on cable, and you’ll read blogs that claim definitive knowledge, and you will watch politicians pretend they know what they’re talking about. (Laughter.) Occasionally, you may have the great fortune of actually seeing important issues debated by people who do know what they’re talking about — by well-intentioned people with brilliant minds and mastery of the facts. In fact, I suspect that some of you will be among those brightest stars.
On the abortion issue, Obama acknowledged that “at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable.” He called, however, for “open minds, open hearts, and fair-minded words” on the issue. But there is no evidence that Obama, who stands at the extreme end of the pro-abortion rights spectrum, has an open mind or an open heart. And by pretending to stand above the debate as some kind of moderator seeking common ground and civility, Obama’s words contained only the appearance, not the reality, of fair-mindedness.”
Obama did confess to using less than fair-minded words on the issue during his 2004 Senate campaign. At that time his website attacked “right-wing ideologues who want to take away a woman’s right to choose.” In response to a complaint, Obama removed that phrase and, to my knowledge, has not spoken as harshly about pro-life advocates since.
But Obama continues to employ the same kind of linguistic assault on those who disagree with him on other fundamental issues. For example, he demonizes those who stand in the way of his redistributionist agenda by attemping to exercise contractual rights. And he demonizes those who made tough decisions to protect this coutnry from attack at a time of crisis — decisions to which the Democratic leadership did not object at the time — because, from the relatively safe perspective of today, the tactics his political opponents employed strike him as unduly harsh.
Thus, Obama’s plea to the graduates that they not “demoniz[e] those with just as strongly held convictions on the other side” rings hollow. If Obama is going to demonize his opponents on issues other than abortion, then he plainly lacks standing to object if he is “demonized” for his views on this issue. This is particularly true to the extent that Obama’s concept of “demonization” encompasses statements by the pro-life forces that merely express the strong moral convictions that underlie their position.
Obama was also quite disingenuous when he discussed his experience with religion in the South Side of Chicago. He devoted five paragraphs to explaining how he was drawn “to be in the church” as a result of the assistance he received from a group of Catholic churches in Chicago, plus all of the good works that their faith, and the faith of those in other churches, inspired them to perform.
Obama neglected to note that the church he joined was the virulently anti-American operation of the hate-monger Jeremiah Wright. To be sure, no one would expect Obama to mention his relationship to Rev. Wright in this, or any other setting. But a more honest leader would have avoided the subject of his Chicago-based religious conversion altogether. President Reagan, for example, did not see the need to discuss his private religious experiences and views when he spoke at Notre Dame.
Obama, though, can never resist trying to have it both ways, however intellectually dishonest it causes him to be.
Ultimately, however, the content of the speech doesn’t matter. The bottom line is that Obama, holding what he concedes is a position that cannot be reconciled with the bedrock moral position of the Catholic Church, came to the center of Catholic America and applied his considerable charm in an effort to win the hearts and minds of the next generation of Catholics and to neutralize the moral authority of the Church. In violation of the commands of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, Notre Dame honored him for his effort.
This looks like a win for Obama and a loss for the Catholic Church.