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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Center-right Straw Polls for Iran and '08

Hugh Hewitt has an April straw poll for president and on what President Bush should do regarding Iran. The early results have Rudy Giuliani, George Allen, and Mitt Romney leading and the preferred action for the president to take being "Order military action to degrade the nuclear program as soon as the Pentagon says it is capable of conducting such a mission," rather than ask Congress for authority to take action, ask the UN Security Council for sanctions on Iran, or "wait and see." The latest results are here.

Among self-tagged Catholics, the presidential results are very similar, with Allen having the edge over Giuliani. They also prefer pre-emptive military action as soon as planned. I find these results a little disappointing.

First, regarding Iran. An authentic just war determination requires temperance in the pre-emptive use of force. Here the US bishops have it nearly right, even though they have loosened the just war framework from its historical roots. This does not mean there must be a "presumption against war," or somesuch, but that there must be due diligence prior to its exercise. Without an explicit declaration of war against particular terrorist networks, their affiliates, their sponsors, etc., the responsibility for that due diligence resides with Congress as the war-making branch on a case by case basis. Frankly, I'd rather see it reside with the Executive as the war-delivery branch, which it would after such a declaration, but it does not as of yet.

Second, regarding '08, here's a bold assertion... Early (pre-primary and primary) polls are about ideas, be they about personality/image, or issues. If people can say with a straight face that Bill Clinton was the first black president, then it is quite reasonable to say that George W. Bush is the most Catholic president, needing only to cite his ability to mobilize actively practicing Catholics away from the Democratic party. Looking at the early snapshot of the Catholic-tagged vote here shows that the common idea among the three poll leaders, however, is one of the president's traits that is not derived distinctively of Catholicity, i.e., "decisiveness," rather than doctrinally-aligned positions. This could be problematic. It will not be a question of opting for a Democrat, but whether to stay home. The three leaders also share a common loose thread that the Dictator of Relativism himself won't hesitate to pull, embryonic stem cell research. There is an hierarchy of Truth. It cannot be comparmentalized, nor can it be ignored, without things going badly--that's the funny thing about natural law. And clarity on this is at the heart of the Catholic's affinity for the president. Also, consider, when it comes to national security and prosecuting GWOT, how much real difference will there be among the three poll leaders and, for example, Brownback, Huckabee, or Santorum?

Call me a "nutter" if you like, but here's the long and the short of it: If the nominee and the Republican party's center-right heart are not aligned on the Church's five doctrinal non-negotiables, it may prove tough to keep a Democrat out of the White House in '08, no matter how dysfunctional that party is. Remembering that John Kerry received 60 million votes, now look at the Catholic populations of the midwestern purple states (Pennsylvania, Ohio, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota) and do the electoral math.

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