On dissing Obama: prestige or embarrassment

Background. (added after receiving the comment from Sonic Charmer).  Arizona State University has invited Obama to be their commencement speaker.  Under usual circumstances they would confer upon him an honorary degree.  But a spokesperson for the University said  that they were not giving it to President Obama, because “his body of work is yet to come.”  Apparently, he has not reached the level of stature of the education minister from the Republic of China, who has received the honor.   Notre Dame has also invited Obama as a commencement speaker, just as they have invited Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush in past years.  Obama’s invitation has stirred many protests.  My objection here is to the over-the-top insulting comments from the Bishop of Chicago.

In the news, there are two major institutions who have dissed Obama recently, Arizona State University, and the Catholic Church in America.  A.S.U. apparently is worried about reducing its standards (and prestige) if it hands out an honorary degree to the first African American President of the U.S.  Perhaps they should have thought more about prestige before they made a decision that made them look like total idiots while simultaneously making them seem anti-American.

The Catholic Church did not actually diss Obama.  Rather, some prominent representatives of the church insulted him.   In particular, Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago, called Obama’s planned appearance at Notre Dame an “extreme embarrassment” because of Obama’s views on choice.  Fortunately for America, Catholics do not agree.  In fact, Catholics supported Obama over McCain by a 9-point margin (54% to 45%)

Moreover, American Catholics are not even unified against abortion, despite official condemnation from the Church hierarchy.  Two weeks ago, The Christian Times reported that 40% of American Catholics view abortion as morally acceptable (the same as the non-Catholic population), and 63% of American Catholics find embryonic stem cell research morally acceptable (statistically equivalent to views of non-Catholic Americans.)

As I see it, Cardinal George simultaneously insulted the President of the United States, the majority of Americans, the majority of American Catholics, and a premier Catholic University.   And he easily could have kept quiet.  If I were a Catholic in Chicago, I think that I would be very embarrassed by his actions.


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3 Responses to “On dissing Obama: prestige or embarrassment”

  1. Sonic Charmer Says:

    How is it “dissing” President Obama for Arizona State University (of all places!) not to give him an ‘honorary degree’? Why would they give him one in the first place? What on earth is Barack Obama’s connection to Arizona State University (or vice versa)? There are thousands of universities in the country. Which ones are allowed not to give Barack Obama an honorary degree? None?

    As for Catholics, it doesn’t matter what a ‘majority of Catholics’ think. The Catholic Church is not a pure democracy. It is an organization, with a hierarchy and a stated doctrine. That doctrine holds to beliefs that President Obama does not. It is perfectly understandable then that Obama appearing before this organization would be controversial within that organization. If you don’t like that you are free to not be in that organization, which I assume you aren’t. None of that amounts to “dissing Obama”.

    • jimorlin Says:

      It’s a “diss” from ASU because it is standard for them to give honorary degrees to a President who is their graduation speaker. As for the Bishop of Chicago, his statement is clearly insulting. And Catholics have lots of beliefs not shared by other graduation speakers such as the previous President Bush. They don’t believe in contraception, they don’t believe in capital punishment, and so on. The Bishop has an obligation to reaffirm the beliefs of the Church. He does not have any obligation to insult the President of the US if he does not agree with some of the Church’s beliefs. Moreover, his comments were unnecessarily inflammatory, thus further dividing Catholics in this country. But if your primary point was that the choice of Obama as speaker was controversial, then I fully agree.

  2. Sonic Charmer Says:

    In fairness one thing this shows, which I never seem to fully learn, is that I should learn more facts before commenting 🙂 I hadn’t actually known it was a tradition to give honorary degrees to graduation speakers. (Seems like a dumb tradition, in fact the whole concept of an ‘honorary degree’ almost offends me, but I guess all that’s irrelevant.) On the plus side this forced me to actually look into the news story and I found this article, which implies that the most likely explanation was a simple lack of communication between the group that chooses speakers & the group that confers honorary degrees. Or at least, the story got leaked before the two had a chance to coordinate. I don’t know but an explanation along these lines – interorganizational dumbness, essentially – rings far more true than “they were dissing Obama!”

    As for the Cardinal’s comments, I simply don’t read them as “insulting the President”. It seems to me the “embarrassment” he refers to is the embarrassment caused by dissonance between Church doctrine (and the organizational need to present a united, hierarchical, single point of view) & the invitation. It is simply a fact that Obama’s views are in conflict with Church doctrine in that regard, and as you agree, this makes choosing him to give the commencement speech at a Catholic University inherently controversial; this observation need not be considered an “insult” to Obama per se.

    I can’t mind-read so I don’t know if “dissing” was the intent of these people though. Perhaps it was. I guess I replied simply because citing these (both rather trivial in the grand scheme) as “insulting” the President, Americans, etc etc etc seemed to be an instance of trying too hard to look for insult where there may be none, and the explanation may be simple plain old vanilla incompetence (ASU) or orthodoxy (Catholic Church).

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