Yesterday my wife and I discovered a wonderful local resource after almost 2 years of living in the neighborhood. The local independent bookstore Booksmith hosts readings and book signing events and yesterday's guest was former Senator Gary Hart promoting his new book "God and Caesar: An Essay on Religion and Politics".
Before the talk I only knew two things about Gary Hart. First, he had been a Democratic Presidential candidate in the running to win his party's nomination in 1988 before press allegations of an extra marital affair fueled by a memorable photo of him cavorting with Donna Rice on a boat euphemistically called "Monkey Business". Second, he had co-chaired bipartisan National Commission on Terrorism which issued several findings calling for broad changes to security policy, but many were not heeded until 9/11.
During his talk I learned two new things about Gary Hart. First, he had a very strict religious upbringing in the Church of the Nazarene (they split off from the Methodists for being too liberal) and later graduated from the Yale Divinity School, so he is a man of some religious knowledge. Second, he is passionate about reigniting the Democratic party because the fundamental Protestant church has taken over the political machinery of the Republican party and he believes democracy is under threat from theocracy today.
He made a number of points which resonated with me
- Is not the threat of theocracy very real when Karl Rove calls church leaders to ask for their approval of Supreme Court nominee?
- Republicans have very successfully become the party of "faith and values", but he encouraged all thinking citizens to examine "what faith" and "what values" these truly are and whether they match with their own.
- For Democrats to become a viable alternative to the Republicans, they first have to build credibility in foreign policy and defense. All other issues are secondary.
- The real reason the Bush administration went to war in Iraq was the need to establish a military base in the Middle East and be able to project power throughout the region.
- The four outstanding presidents of the 20th century each focused on key principle: FDR - "as a country we are all in this together"; Truman "we need to be part of the global community and build alliances and institutions for the betterment of all"; JFK "we are a republic where the duty is on the citizen not the country" ;and LBJ " social justice for all". He believes these four principles can the rallying cry for the Democratic party to rebuild their identity.
We bought the book and I look forward to the essays.