There is no headline in the Washington Post today to tell readers that Virginia Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine has been endorsed for Governor by one Michael Schiavo, the man who campaigned for years to get his wife's feeding tube pulled. It's buried at the end of an article on page B-4. (But wait -- I can't even find the story in my newspaper today.) It may not be a huge story, but it's fascinating placement after the Post has published two front-page articles this week stressing Kaine's Catholicism -- how much he believes it, and promises to never allow it to influence his decisions as Governor.
This, to some extent, is like running for Mayor of Washington D.C. stressing your credentials as an NRA member as a reason to like you, but promising to never overturn the federal city's handgun ban. Isn't stressing the NRA membership a bit irrelevant, then? Wouldn't it make people who belong to the NRA believe you're taking advantage of the positive angle of that membership while campaigning as an empty suit? The Post seems to believe that Kaine's Catholicism makes him sound moral, and perhaps more socially conservative. But stressing his faith is either irrelevant, or a sign of terminal insincerity. (Imagine someone running for governor of Virginia in the 1960s saying he believed in ending segregation, but would make no move to change the laws. Would he get credit for his unimplemented views?) Kaine says he's stressing his faith for "values voters." But he's stressing "I have values, and I promise not to use them."
John F. Kennedy didn't run stressing his Catholicism, merely addressing fears about it. The Post campaign began Monday with a Caryle Murphy front-page article titled "Catholicism, Politics A Careful Mix for Kaine." Murphy is a careful reporter, but her only Catholic interviews in the piece are Georgetown liberals like Chester Gillis.
The real eye-rolling quote from Kaine: "I'm not saying somebody has to believe X or Y to be a good Catholic," he said. "I'm just saying I've embraced my church's teachings on both abortion and the death penalty." Politically, this may be a fine sentence. Religiously, it's a mess. What if a Catholic believes Jesus isn't God? Is he a good Catholic then? But it's a classic summation of Kaine's jumbled position. I don't think his potential endorsers at NARAL Pro-Choice America believe you can vote against abortion and be a good Democrat. They chose not to endorse him -- or he asked them not to endorse him.
Yesterday's front-pager was headlined: "For Kaine, A Faith in Service: Mission Trip as Student Put Democrat on New Course." Can you see the tough stance of the Post in the last days before an election? Nope, me neither. What a campaign advertisement this story is. It tells Virginia voters that Kaine and his wife went back to Honduras on a vacation to revisit the site of his missionary work as a student. His priest there, Father Patricio, endorses his fine qualities: "He was very rational. He was kind to people. He was open to people." Kaine says since "he spent those months teaching and living among the poor in Honduras, he said, he has been a devout Catholic." It made him run for high office: "You know why I'm doing this?" he said in an interview about the campaign. "It has got to be advancing the spiritual choice that I made in my life."
But today, in the Post's buried Schiavo paragraphs, we're told how Kaine advances his devout Catholicism. Schiavo was encouraged by Kaine's remarks in an October 9 debate: "I don't think governors should use their PR grandstanding to intervene in these cases."