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“Vatican To Trump”: It’s Not ‘Personal,’ It’s Religion

The Vatican on Friday tried to tamp down a firestorm ignited by Pope Francis’ comments assailing Donald Trump’s views on U.S. immigration as “not Christian”, assuring the Republican presidential front-runner that it was not a personal attack or attempt to influence the U.S. campaign.

Francis told reporters during a conversation on his flight home from Mexico on Thursday, “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”

Trump has said if elected president, he would build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border to keep immigrants from illegally entering the United States.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told Vatican Radio the pope’s comments, in response to a reporter’s question on Trump, were an affirmation of his longstanding belief that migrants should be helped and not shut out. He said the pope believed people “should build bridges, not walls”.

“In no way was this a personal attack, nor an indication of how to vote,” Lombardi said.

Trump, who leads Republican candidates in opinion polls, lashed out on Thursday, dismissing the pope’s remarks as “disgraceful” for questioning his faith.

“If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS (Islamic State), which as everyone knows is ISIS’ ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president,” Trump said.

Later, during a television appearance, he rowed back, calling Francis “a wonderful guy.”

EXCHANGE MAKES HEADLINES

The extraordinary exchange between the billionaire real estate developer and leader of the world’s 1.25 billion Roman Catholics, which occurred days before Saturday’s Republican nominating contest in South Carolina, was headline news around the world.

On Friday, New York’s Daily News gave it the front page. Against a backdrop of an image of Trump, a headline blared: Anti Christ! The New York Post ran a front page photo of Trump and the pope wearing boxing gloves with the headline: Trump & pope: Bible belters.

It was unclear what, if any, effect the tussle might have on the vote in South Carolina, a conservative state that is home to many evangelical Protestant Christians.

Patrick Hornbeck, chairman of the department of theology at Fordham University in New York, said on Thursday that Francis’ words were not surprising given the poverty he had just seen in Mexico.

“There is very little common ground between Pope Francis and Donald Trump,” Hornbeck said. He predicted the pope’s words on electoral politics would have little effect on any U.S. Catholics who liked Trump as a candidate.

At a CNN town hall in Columbia, South Carolina, on Thursday night, Trump said he had “a lot of respect” for Francis but that the pope had been influenced by hearing only Mexico’s side of the border issue. The pope’s statement also had been exaggerated by the media, he said.

“I think he said something much softer than it was originally reported by the media,” Trump said.

Earlier on Thursday, Thomas Groome, director of the Boston College Center on the Church in the 21st Century, said Francis’ comments were entirely in keeping with his focus on mercy.

“The pope is commissioned to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s his job,” Groome said. “So when he was asked a direct question, he gave Trump the benefit of the doubt, he said we have to be sure he said this, but if he said this, it is not Christian.”

 

By: Emily Flitter, The National Memo, February 18, 2016

February 20, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Pope Francis, Religion | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Constitution Has Established A Process”: Obama Delivers Unmistakable Message To Republicans

President Obama hosted a press conference at the U.S.-Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in California yesterday, which comes against a backdrop in which the future of the Supreme Court is dominating much of the domestic political conversation. The president is obviously aware of Senate Republicans’ plans for a total blockade against nominee, regardless of merit, so Obama took some time to remind GOP lawmakers about the constitutional process.

“The Constitution is pretty clear about what is supposed to happen now. When there is a vacancy on the Supreme Court, the President of the United States is to nominate someone. The Senate is to consider that nomination, and either they disapprove of that nominee or that nominee is elevated to the Supreme Court.

“Historically, this has not been viewed as a question. There’s no unwritten law that says that it can only be done on off years – that’s not in the constitutional text. I’m amused when I hear people who claim to be strict interpreters of the Constitution suddenly reading into it a whole series of provisions that are not there. There is more than enough time for the Senate to consider in a thoughtful way the record of a nominee that I present and to make a decision.”

Unfortunately for the right, all of this has the benefit of being true. The Constitution has established a process; Obama intends to follow the process; and there’s plenty of time for senators to do their jobs. It’s all surprisingly simple, and to date, Republicans haven’t come up with any coherent defense for rejecting any White House nominee, sight unseen.

Reflecting on the broader political circumstances surrounding judicial nominees, the president added, “The fact that it’s that hard, that we’re even discussing this, is I think a measure of how, unfortunately, the venom and rancor in Washington has prevented us from getting basic work done. This would be a good moment for us to rise above that.”

You can almost hear GOP senators laughing at a distance.

Looking ahead, the president reminding Republican lawmakers, “This is the Supreme Court. The highest court in the land. It’s the one court where we would expect elected officials to rise above day-to-day politics. And this will be the opportunity for senators to do their job. Your job doesn’t stop until you’re voted out or until your term expires. I intend to do my job between now and January 20th of 2017. I expect them to do their job as well.”

Of course, the high court vacancy isn’t the only subject on the political world’s mind. There’s also the matter of the election to choose President Obama’s successor.

As NBC News reported, Obama has taken note of the Republican frontrunner.

President Barack Obama on Tuesday reiterated that he doesn’t believe New York businessman Donald Trump will ever be president, saying the American people realize the highest office in the nation “is not a reality show.”

“I continue to believe Mr. Trump will not be president,” Obama said…. “And the reason is because I have a lot of faith in the American people. And I think they recognize that being president is a serious job.”

“It’s not hosting a talk show or a reality show. It’s not promotion, it’s not marketing. It’s hard. And a lot of people count on us getting it right.”

My suspicion is the leading Republican candidate and his team were delighted to hear this – with just a few days remaining before the South Carolina primary, Obama criticizing Trump is probably the best thing Trump can hope for.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 17, 2016

February 18, 2016 Posted by | President Obama, Senate Republicans, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Positions On Brady Bill And Background Checks”: Can South Carolina Forgive Bernie’s Gun Record?

Hillary Clinton is taking a message to South Carolina: Bernie Sanders is soft on guns.

In a newly released campaign ad, Clinton is hitting the Vermont senator straight in his progressive bona fides. The 30-second spot features Rev. Anthony Thompson, who lost his wife in the Charleston church massacre last year.

In debates and town halls, Clinton has repeatedly pointed out that Sanders—in addition to voting against the Brady Bill—has failed to support the most basic tenet of gun control: background checks. And being in favor of civil immunity for gun manufacturers likely played well in the Green Mountain State, where gun violence is relatively uncommon.

“I come from a state that has virtually no gun control,” Sanders said at a gala dinner hosted by the South Carolina Democratic Party over the King holiday weekend. “We must bring this country together under those provisions that the majority of the country supports.”

However, a public opinion poll conducted by CBS News and The New York Times found that the vast majority of Americans—92 percent— “favor background checks for all gun buyers.”

South Carolinians have been grappling with gun control since the day 21-year-old Dylann Roof murdered nine people—including South Carolina State Sen. Clementa C. Pinckney —after a prayer service.  The mass shooting at Emanuel A.M.E. Church, one of the largest and oldest historically black churches in the south, whipped up the political winds.

State Sen. Marlon Kimpson, who endorsed Clinton this week, introduced a comprehensive bill aimed a curtailing the flow of illegally obtained guns and tightening restrictions on buyers. Senator Sanders, who talked to the state lawmaker about his legislation, has said he voted against the Brady Bill because he “opposed a provision in the bill that would have held gun shop owners responsible if a gun they sold was used in a terrible crime.” He favors, according to a statement provided to The Daily Beast, holding “manufacturers and sellers responsible for knowingly or negligently selling a gun to the wrong person.”

None of that has stopped the Clinton campaign from attempting to exploit what they see as a weakness. By targeting Sanders with an ad that features an “Emanuel 9” widow, just 15 days before the Democratic primary contest in South Carolina, Clinton is out to show that Sanders is out of the mainstream and that he doesn’t understand the needs of people who live in the line of fire. That message is being dispatched by surrogates—including state elected officials and members of the Congressional Black Caucus, to houses of worship in every corner of the state.

In debates, Sanders has vigorously defended himself on the issue—pointing to his D-minus rating from the National Rifle Association and saying he will continue to fight for “common sense gun safety measures” as president.

The Sanders campaign said the senator does support closing the gun-show loophole, which allows unlicensed dealers to sell weapons without a background check. He also wants to make “straw man” purchases a federal crime, ban semi-automatic assault weapons and launch a renewed focus on mental health.

While gun control is not a featured issued on the Sanders campaign website, FeelTheBern.org says the candidate believes in a “middle ground solution.”

“Bernie believes that gun control is largely a state issue because attitudes and actions with regards to firearms differ greatly between rural and urban communities.”

The website is built and maintained by volunteers who have no official affiliation with Sanders.

By comparison, Clinton’s proposals are much more aggressive and she lays out her public record on the issue—as First Lady when she supported the Brady Bill and background checks, and as a U.S. Senator when she co-sponsored legislation to re-instate the assault weapons ban. Clinton has vowed to close the “Charleston loophole,” which allows a gun sale to proceed without a background check if that check has not been completed within three days.

There are few who believe that Sanders stands a real chance of winning in states like South Carolina— with its markedly more diverse electorate.  Clinton, with the new ad and a throng of issue-driven surrogates, is out to prove that Sanders is disconnected, that he doesn’t know how “real” Americans live and that he doesn’t know how to govern.

Clinton isn’t just saying that Sanders is soft on guns, but that his all-or-nothing positions are dangerous.

 

By: Goldie Taylor, The Daily Beast, February 12, 2016

February 13, 2016 Posted by | Background Checks, Bernie Sanders, Gun Control, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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