Gary J. Caruso | Friday, August 24, 2012
Wow, what a summer!
The advent of each school year ushers in that mundane question, “How was your summer?” Short of the June landmark Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a., Obamacare, many from the Notre Dame community experienced a similarly momentous summer. This year’s warm weather brought cheers, jeers and lucrative payouts to some alumni, providence and misfortune to others, arrests and unveilings within the football program along with legal wrangling from the administration. Summer was characterized by a collective “wow” factor typically unfelt by so many Domers during one season.
Campus administrators bookended their “offseason” by first, filing a religious freedom law suit over healthcare coverage mandates against the federal government the day after graduation. While the University chose for financial reasons to self-insure its healthcare recipients – purely a secular business model decision
– somehow administrators want to claim a moral religious freedom objection against providing contraception for non-Catholic and non-Christian employees. What was that adage about giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s while holding up Roman coins?
In mid- to late-summer, Fighting Irish quarterback Tommy Rees and linebacker Carlo Calabrese faced consequences from a skirmish with local law enforcement officials. Both were suspended from the opening game in Dublin. But as part of youth, every college-aged person makes unwise decisions, unfortunately more times than not as part of maturing. I personally was no stranger to stupidity at college. Hopefully they learned a valuable, but painful lesson. Does anyone believe that learning how to make better choices now can translate onto the field of play?
Earlier this month, athletic administrators unveiled their new football uniform design. Their chaotically cluttered, visually amateurish football uniform design was reminiscent of any high school. Talk about tarnishing the classic Notre Dame football brand. Notre Dame now rivals the University of Maryland for wearing the silliest split-colored helmet design of sparkling gold popcorn on one side, with a menacing fighting leprechaun insignia reminiscent of a Cirque du Soleil painted clown on the other. May this writer suggest that the athletic department sponsor a campus contest to redesign your football mess by maintaining some classic uniform elements, while possibly concentrating on the jerseys and pants, not the helmets?
Several alumni have experienced interesting summers as well. On the lighter side, semi-retired Regis Philbin (’53) continued to wander through TD Bank commercials saying silly things while laughing about an increase to his personal bank account. Politically, Republican Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (’76) noted that he was honored to be on the GOP Vice Presidential short list. However, earlier this year, Virginia Democrats bestowed upon him the title “Governor Ultrasound” after he supported legislation mandating that any woman considering abortion must submit to a trans-vaginal ultrasound, even against her will or against her doctor’s advice. After an uproar, the GOP legislature amended the bill to require an external ultrasound, that as McDonnell’s signing statements notes, “can help the mother make a fully informed decision” about having an abortion and “some type of requirement that a woman be offered a view of an ultrasound before an abortion can be performed.” Shall we call this a neutral summer for McDonnell?
My good personal friend, California GOP U.S. Representative Dan Lungren (’68) – truly the first person I think of when I tell others that some of my best friends are Republicans – has fought a more difficult summer. This month, during two town hall events, protesters challenged Lungren by calling him too extreme for office, a warrior against women and unfit for Congress. One protester called for citizens to hold Lungren accountable for his “stoned-aged views” noting his denial of science in favor of oil and gas lobby interests. Could enough Fred Flintstones live and vote in Lungren’s district this year to save my good friend’s election?
Closer to campus, political happenstance affects the Second Congressional District. Paradoxically, our sitting Double Domer, Democratic Congressman Joe Donnelly (’77, ’81 JD), who beat former GOP Congressman Chris Chocola in 2006, can now thank Chocola for the opportunity to win the Indiana U.S. Senate seat in November. Chocola is president of The Club for Growth, an organization whose mission “promotes essential American policies through Pro-Growth policies and economic freedom.” The organization affected the GOP primary by successfully toppling incumbent U.S. Senator Richard Lugar
– apparently by unmasking the Rhodes Scholar’s anti-growth and economic enslavement bent. May we call this the “Luck of the Irish” for Donnelly?
In Washington this summer, the political parties and presidential campaigns geared for their run-up to November. In softball, the RNC beat the DNC in the last inning. The congressional Democrats whipped the GOP 18-5 in baseball. The congressional women lost their softball game by a couple runs to the women’s media team. Take what trends you like from these results.
So, how was your summer?
Gary J. Caruso, Notre Dame ’73, serves in the Department of Homeland Security and was a legislative and public affairs director at the U.S. House of Representatives and in President Clinton’s administration. His column appears every other Friday. He can be contacted at [email protected]
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.