George Will’s Weird Take on the Pennsylvania Governor’s Race - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
George Will’s Weird Take on the Pennsylvania Governor’s Race

“Pennsylvania is on fire,” opines George Will in his Washington Post column on the Pennsylvania election for governor. “Since 1915, the Red Ash colliery has been burning beneath the hills near Wilkes-Barre, and dozens of other fires smolder in abandoned coal mines. This year, however, the important heat is on Pennsylvania’s surface, in the contest to become the state’s next governor, the 2022 election that poses the most risk to the nation.”

Given the title of Will’s piece, “Why Mastriano’s candidacy presents a special danger to the nation,” readers certainly can expect Will to go after the Republican nominee, Trump-backed Doug Mastriano. He does just that, and then some.

But given Will’s lead about Pennsylvania on fire, reasoning conservatives — of which Will has always fashioned himself a leader — might have expected the journalist to rebuke both the Republican candidate, Mastriano, and the left-wing Democratic candidate, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, in a manner akin to Nebraska GOP Sen. Ben Sasse’s denouncing both the Republican and Democratic presidential nominees in 2016. Using similar incendiary language, Sasse described the 2016 election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as a “dumpster fire.”

But Will, David French–like, and like so many visceral anti-Trumpers, has fallen prey to the weird mentality among many conservatives to speak ill mainly of Republicans, with too often nary a negative word to say about radical left-wing Democrats. They wail and gnash their teeth at Trump and certain other Republicans, but for some bizarre reason — surely more psychological than political — they can’t seem to say anything bad about President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and the larger cabal of left-wing cultural revolutionaries that is fundamentally transforming America.

Will’s takedown of Mastriano is very much in this mold. OK, he doesn’t like Mastriano. Fine, no problem. But Will in his piece offers not one criticism of Shapiro, who has been an awful Pennsylvania attorney general and (if he wins) would be a terrible governor. Quite the contrary, Will apparently likes Shapiro. He writes:

Fortunately, Mastriano’s Democratic opponent is two-term Attorney General Josh Shapiro, 49, who when reelected in 2020 received about 3,000 more votes than Joe Biden drew in carrying the state. Although 24 percent of Pennsylvanians are Catholics, Shapiro says he encounters from them more gratitude than resentment for his tenacious assault on the church’s stonewalling about sexual abuses of children by priests. Speaking of religion, the author of Ecclesiastes 10:19 — “money answereth all things” — was a better writer than political scientist. Yes, social media provides inexpensive deliveries of messages, and there is a steeply declining utility of dollars spent on television ads after a saturation is reached. Nevertheless, money matters, and Shapiro will spend more than Mastriano.

Will seems inspired to wax biblical after ruminating on the alleged virtues of Shapiro, an odd overture for the lifelong atheist. But more to the point, is this not an endorsement of Shapiro by Will? If so, why? Is Will a conservative or not? Again, he doesn’t like Mastriano. OK. But can he find nothing negative to say about Shapiro?

Will’s praise for the Democratic nominee focuses on Shapiro’s role in his 2018 Pennsylvania attorney general’s report on abuses performed by Roman Catholic clergy. And if I may, let me please speak to that because pundits nationwide have a major blind spot in praising Shapiro for that work.

As a Pennsylvanian, my first close exposure to Shapiro was his lead in the commonwealth’s grand jury report on Catholic clergy abuses. As a Pennsylvanian Catholic, I dove into the report. Like other Catholics, I was very grateful to see guilty clergy finally exposed. And yet, as I dug into the report, I was shocked by its reckless hyperbole. The opening summary of the report did not accurately depict what the actual report stated. And yet, most media outlets quoted only the introduction, an approach that was really damaging. I wrote about it several times. Of course, the report rightly exposed the disgusting abuses by a minority of deranged and diabolical, if not demonic, sicko clergy, but Shapiro’s office’s statements were incautious, incendiary, and harmfully overstated.

The introduction to the report included this summary statement, which instantly became the most quoted passage in the media: “Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all.” The opening paragraph claimed that such abuses “happened everywhere.”

No, they did not. They happened in way too many places, but not everywhere, by any stretch. That statement hit everyone like a ton of bricks. If you read the actual report, however, it does not show that. The very report itself contradicted that explosive charge. In fact, I found the name of my previous priest (a longtime friend) in the report. He’s no abuser. I was gratified to see Father Mark described as reporting an accused abuser based on just one allegation. He is one of many men of God who did something. Yes, some bishops covered up abuses, but certainly not all of them. Quite the contrary. The report by Shapiro’s office painted with a broad brush and smeared all Catholic clergy in Pennsylvania.

I was not the only one to notice the egregious hyperbole. Peter Steinfels, longtime editor of the left-wing Catholic publication Commonweal and religion reporter for the New York Times, wrote a superb 12,000-word piece titled “The PA Grand-Jury Report: Not What It Seems.” Like me, he took the time to read the full report.

The claims of Shapiro’s office were wild and irresponsible. Shapiro himself dashed to every camera and microphone, becoming the report’s frontman and condemning a “sophisticated” and “systematic cover up” by the Church that is aimed at protecting “the institution at all costs.”

I wrote at the time that Shapiro needed to apologize for his gross hyperbole and the misperceptions and damage it caused. Not only did Shapiro never do so, but he has run for governor on the supposed strength of his clergy abuse report — and with glowing praise from the likes of George Will.

That brings me back to Will and conservatives of his mindset.

What bothers me about Will’s piece on the Pennsylvania governor’s race is not his dislike and even contempt for Mastriano, but the attendant warm language used to describe Shapiro, who, if elected, will give Pennsylvanians four more years of a radical Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf. Shapiro and Wolf are not Bob Casey Sr. Democrats. The late Casey was the commendable pro-life Casey of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a hero for the rights of the unborn. Wolf literally served as a Planned Parenthood abortion-clinic escort when Casey was battling America’s largest abortion provider. While Casey was trying to stop Planned Parenthood, Wolf was escorting pregnant girls into Planned Parenthood clinics to ensure that they got abortions. Wolf is proud of that morbid work, even boasting of it on the governor’s official website.

Pennsylvania was once a staunchly pro-life state with numerous pro-life Democrats, including the governor. Wolf reversed that. Shapiro is another Wolf, promoting abortion and all other cultural craziness.

As for Will: Hey, go ahead and denounce Mastriano. Fine. But can’t you say one negative thing about Shapiro?

We see this strange psychology among so many anti-Trump conservatives. There’s little nuance. Yes, we know, you don’t like Trump, but could you speak out against Biden maybe once in a while?

The “special danger to the nation” has long come from the ideological Left, which has only gotten more and more extreme. Wake up. Or, at the least, pause to make that point occasionally while you also excoriate conservatives you don’t like. It’s possible to do both.

Paul Kengor
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Paul Kengor is Editor of The American Spectator. Dr. Kengor is also a professor of political science at Grove City College, a senior academic fellow at the Center for Vision & Values, and the author of over a dozen books, including A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Communism, and Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.
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