Washington Prowler

Kerry’s Cunning Calls

Reaching out to Michael Berg. Dropping in on Cardinal Mahony.

By 5.17.04

Last week the campaign of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry made much of the fact that their boy spoke with the father of Nicholas Berg, the American murdered by Muslim extremists with ties to al Qaeda.

Kerry, who was campaigning in Arkansas with Wesley Clark spoke by phone to Michael Berg for about ten minutes. Kerry's camp claimed that Berg had "reached out" to Kerry and that Kerry had returned the phone call. But according to a Kerry campaign staffer, it was the campaign that initiated the call to Berg.

"People in our Pennsylvania operation had contacts with the family," says the Kerry staffer. "The parents have been active in the anti-war movement. The family was known to some of the groups that do work for the campaign in Philadelphia and the suburbs up there."

The Bush campaign on several occasions has made a point of highlighting Kerry's attempts to take political advantage of tragedies that occur in Iraq. "This is another one," says a Bush campaign staffer. "It's just another example of Kerry wanting it both ways."

After the conversation with Berg, there was talk of Kerry traveling to Pennsylvania, a pivotal state in the 2004 election cycle, and attending the Berg funeral. But according to the campaign source, there was a general consensus such a move would be too politically obvious.

In fact, Kerry had been off the phone with Berg less than four minutes before press aides in Arkansas were calling media contacts to leak that the conversation had taken place.

Likewise, Kerry made much of the fact that his staff had to call the White House to arrange for a new time to see the yet unreleased photos of alleged abuse of Iraqi inmates. In fact, Kerry's Senate staff had failed to make arrangements for the senator to see the films, as other senatorial staffs had done.

"There was nothing different. All Kerry's staff had to do was make an appointment with the appropriate folks handling things in the Senate," says a staffer for a conservative Democratic staffer. "Instead, they make it look like the White House was trying to block him or something."

The senior leadership of Roman Catholic Church continues to give aid and comfort to the Kerry campaign. The latest to step up is Los Angeles archbishop, Roger Cardinal Mahony, who met last week with John Kerry and his wife in Los Angeles, and announced that Kerry was welcome to receive communion from him or any priest in his diocese at any time.

Under Catholic Church teaching, Kerry, who has consistently voted for and supported infanticide laws in his time in the Senate, should refrain from receiving the sacrament of Holy Eucharist. Some bishops across the country have announced that Kerry is not considered a Catholic in good standing with the Church. But two of the most senior church leaders in the United States, Theodore Cardinal McCarrick of Washington, D.C. and now Mahony, have met with Kerry, and, according to a source in the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops, encouraged the Massachusetts Democrat's campaign.

"There is a large segment of the conference that supports Kerry and his progressive social and economic ideas," says the staffer. "This is, for them, a golden opportunity to support a Catholic in bad standing who can further their progressive goals on the impoverished, alternative lifestyles, HIV and AIDS, and globalization. They will take the good with the bad."

In fact, McCarrick, who is heading a committee studying how bishops should relate to Catholics who happen to be politicians, according the conference source, is said to have told Kerry to ignore the slings and arrows of religiously conservative bishops.

"The word is, Kerry was told that they are a vocal minority, with no standing in the hierarchy of the conference," says the staffer.

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