Obituaries: Robin Leach, John McCain

Staff & Wire Reports

FILE - In this Oct. 17, 2013 file photo, Robin Leach attends the Food Network's 20th birthday party in New York.  Leach, whose voice crystalized the opulent 1980s on TV's "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," has died, Friday, Aug. 24, 2018. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)

FILE - In this Oct. 17, 2013 file photo, Robin Leach attends the Food Network's 20th birthday party in New York. Leach, whose voice crystalized the opulent 1980s on TV's "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," has died, Friday, Aug. 24, 2018. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)

FILE - In this Oct. 17, 2013 file photo, Robin Leach attends the Food Network's 20th birthday party in New York. Leach, whose voice crystalized the opulent 1980s on TV's "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," has died, Friday, Aug. 24, 2018. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)


Robin Leach of ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’ dies


Associated Press

Friday, August 24

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Robin Leach, whose voice crystallized the opulent 1980s on TV’s “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” died Friday. He was 76

Leach’s family said through a public relations firm that he died in Las Vegas, where he made his home.

Leach had a stroke in November while on vacation in Mexico that led to a months-long recovery, much of which he spent at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio before returning to Las Vegas in June.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal, which ran Leach’s columns before he became ill, said he suffered another stroke Monday.

“Champagne wishes and caviar dreams” was Leach’s sign-off at the end of every episode of his syndicated show’s decade-long run that began in 1984.

The catchphrase captured excesses and sometimes gaudy style of the 1980s, a time before oil billionaires, titans of industry and Wall Street traders gave way to sneaker-wearing tech execs as the world’s richest people.

Leach appeared occasionally on the show, but he and his unmistakable English-accent narrated throughout, taking wishful viewers on tours of mansions with diamond-crusted chandeliers, yachts with Jacuzzis, and champagne that ran to four figures. It was much like rap videos would do in future decades.

Leach and producer Al Masini coined the catchphrase and conceived of the show.

“He asked me if I could get magnates T. Boone Pickens or Sam Walton to do the show,” Leach told The Huffington Post in 2016. “In my naivete, I said, ‘Of course.’ And thus, ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.’”

Leach said in later years that someone still shouted “champagne wishes and caviar dreams” at him almost daily. He was constantly parodied, and like other distinctive voices of the age like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Howard Cosell, everyone had a Leach impression.

“Saturday Night Live” consistently satirized him through the years, with Harry Shearer as a subdued Leach hosting “Lifestyles of the Relatives of the Rich and Famous” in the 1980s, and Dana Carvey as a brash, shouting Leach on “Weekend Update” in the 1990s.

Even decades later, in 2011, Snoop Dogg spotted Leach at a news conference in Las Vegas and was thrilled, rushing to grab the mic and breaking out his impression, touting his career earnings in an over-the-top English accent.

“Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” was the core of Leach’s career that spanned six decades and included stints with CNN, People magazine, Entertainment Tonight and the Daily Mail, where he began as a writer in Britain at 18.

In the mid-1970s, he tried out TV as a regular contributor to “AM Los Angeles” with hosts Regis Philbin and Sarah Purcell, and found his calling. He became a regular on television’s morning news and entertainment shows, practicing a sort of tabloid journalism that was more celebratory and lighthearted than tawdry. He often became friends with the celebrities he covered.

Then, in 1984, he landed “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” and gained his own fame.

The gaudy show became wildly popular, but never with critics.

“They wrote that television had reached an all-time-low,” Leach told The Huffington Post. “But I looked at the ratings every Monday morning, and I was rubbing my hands with glee.”

He was also an executive producer and occasional writer on the show, and hosted a brief spinoff, “Runaway with the Rich and Famous.”

For the show’s final year, with producers looking to liven up the aging property, he had a younger co-host, actress Shari Belafonte. The show was re-titled “Lifestyles with Robin Leach and Shari Belafonte” but the new look didn’t save it.

In 1999, Leach went to Las Vegas to work with celebrity chefs at the Venetian casino-resort, and made the move permanent, becoming a fixture in the city as he covered the destination’s entertainment and lifestyles for America Online and his own website. He also wrote for the Las Vegas Sun and, most recently, for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

He made frequent appearances on the celebrity reality TV circuit, hosting VH-1’s “The Surreal Life: Fame Games” and appearing on the celebrity editions of “Wife Swap” and “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.”

He was among the founders of the Food Network, selling his equity for a big payday when the channel took off.

Married once and divorced, Leach spent much of his later years in the company of his three sons, Steven, Rick and Greg, and several grandchildren.

“There is this image of a guy in a hot tub, drinking champagne with two buxom blondes,” Leach told the Las Vegas Sun in 2011. “But that is not the real me. I am a father, and I am a grandfather, too.”

Dalton reported from Los Angeles.


Opinion: Dianne Feinstein — Growing Rich off of Chinese Interests

By Daniel Turner

Leaders of the anti-Trump left have clung to two words as the foundation of their impeachment argument. For billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, it’s emoluments, or a fancy way of alleging that the Trump family gains wealth from the presidency a la Bill and Hillary Clinton with the Clinton Foundation. For Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, it’s collusion and the charge the Trump campaign worked with foreign agents in 2016 against the national interest.

Both narratives are headline fodder for cable news, and for the better part of two years they beat this drum. If emoluments and collusion are of such national interest, the same level of Justice Department investigation, congressional hearings and media inquiry should apply to all elected officials, and in a particular case, the senior senator from California, Dianne Feinstein.

First, the emoluments. Since her time in the Senate, Feinstein’s husband, Richard Blum, has grown extremely rich. One could be suspicious of the $25 billion deal the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation struck with the senator’s husband’s real estate company during the housing crash of 2009. It raises an eyebrow that as chair of the Military Appropriations Subcommittee, Feinstein approved millions in contracts benefiting her husband’s firm. One may question how Blum acquired a lucrative $108 million contract to sell post offices in California.

It’s not what you know, it’s whom you know.

“U.S. Senator Games the System, Gets Rich” would hardly make the front page. So, though convenient at best, sleazy at worst, none of Senator Feinstein’s familial business dealings rise to the level of national security. And that is because other dealings, far more questionable and nefarious, are shamefully underreported: the collusion.

Feinstein and her husband have a long relationship with China and enormous personal and professional investments. Few media outlets have pointed out that Feinstein has had Chinese spies in her office before. So it was not a surprise to those who follow this odd Chinese love affair that yet again a spy was found in her office — her driver and office manager of 20 years.

If China is embedding spies in the Senate offices of people willing to advance the agenda of the communist state, one must assume they are actively influencing other industries as well.

My organization, Power the Future, fights for energy workers in America, and the biggest threat to their jobs and livelihood is the well-funded, brilliantly organized and fanatically zealous green movement. I have spoken on TV and radio, and have written frequently about these green groups as agents of foreign nations who do not want to see America become the world’s leader in energy production. Even Hillary Clinton publicly acknowledged some of the largest anti-fracking groups were funded by Russia.

The National Resource Defense Council, a green organization with a nine-figure annual budget, has been called out by Congress for its actions on behalf of China, and questioned whether or not the anti-American energy organization should have to register as a foreign agent.

While the story of her communist Chinese spy/driver was breaking, Feinstein’s office was still casual enough to quote the NRDC is its anti-American energy press releases.

Is it not worthy of the media’s time to question who drafts her policy statement: staffers concerned for her constituents in California or Beijing? California employs tens of thousands of energy workers in California, and such positions as advanced by Sierra Club and NRDC threaten their jobs, but that seems counter to her husband’s business interests. While the media are questioning “collusion” with regards to President Trump and Russia on a non-stop basis, the real, proven, verified collusion with a foreign agent against the national interest of the United States is happening under their nose. And they stay silent.

There is sufficient evidence that both emoluments and collusion are part of Feinstein’s modus operandi. And the America people are the ones who suffer — energy workers in particular. Every phony protest at a pipeline, every effort to block oil and gas and coal, only furthers the interests of our two biggest adversaries: China and Russia. It should raise tremendous suspicion that a senator with vast experience on the Intelligence Committee would ever put America’s energy interests second.

Feinstein is a vestige of the old D.C. ways, The Swamp, as coined by our current energy-industry loving president. As President Trump pushes for an energy dominance agenda, Congress and the media should use their unceasing interest in emoluments and collusion to investigate those who put personal wealth and foreign interests above those of our nation.


Daniel Turner is executive director of Power the Future, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for American energy jobs. He wrote this for

The Conversation

What Harvard can learn from Texas: A solution to the controversy over affirmative action

August 14, 2018

David Orentlicher

Professor of Law and Co-Director, Health Law Program, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Disclosure statement

David Orentlicher does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


University of Nevada, Las Vegas provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.

When it comes to the use of race-conscious affirmative action in college admissions, no one seems to be happy with the way it’s playing out.

Opponents charge that taking into account an applicant’s race or ethnicity amounts to “reverse discrimination.” Supporters recognize that disadvantaged minorities have been losing ground under affirmative action. Blacks and Hispanics are less likely to attend a top college than they were 35 years ago.

As a professor of constitutional law, I’ve studied an important college admission policy from Texas that – when paired with affirmative action – can more fully address inequality and its consequences.

This policy bears more relevance now that the Trump administration has reversed Obama-era support for affirmative action, following instead a Bush administration guideline that “strongly encourages race-neutral” admissions practices.

I believe the policy could also be instructive for Harvard, which is currently facing a lawsuit charging that the university’s efforts to increase racial diversity discriminate against Asian-Americans.

The Texas top 10 percent policy

The college admission policy in Texas holds that if students graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school class, they earn automatic admission to the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M and other state-run universities. This promotes diversity in the colleges’ entering classes because students at poor, mostly minority high schools have the same odds of admission as students at wealthy, mostly white schools.

At UT-Austin, which admits students through both a modified top 10 track and a standard track with an affirmative action component, the top 10 students are 34 percent Hispanic while the standard students are only 20 percent Hispanic. Nineteen percent of the top 10 students, but only 7 percent of the standard students, come from low-income families. When it comes to creating a diverse student body, the top 10 policy has done a better job than has affirmative action.

The top 10 policy has become a model in other states and countries. For instance, France uses a top 10 policy in its system of higher education. And New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has proposed a similar policy for New York’s elite public high schools.

Some observers worry whether high school class rank is an adequate measure of student ability. The top students from a weak school may not be as capable as middle-of-the-pack students from a strong high school.

But Texas has been able to maintain quality with its increased diversity. The top 10 students at UT-Austin achieve at the same levels as their classmates who are most like the applicants who were denied admission because of the top 10 policy. The top 10 students also graduate at the same rate.

How will colleges react to Trump policy on race in admissions?

Addressing economic disparities

Top 10 policies also address the problem of economic inequality by targeting a key cause – the “economic segregation” of neighborhoods in the United States.

Economic inequality creates highly uneven opportunities for success in life. Children in wealthier communities have much greater chances for upward mobility than do children in low-income communities.

And what matters more for children’s professional opportunities is not how rich or poor their families are but how rich or poor their neighborhoods are. Thus, a poor child living in an economically diverse community has much greater upward mobility than does a poor child living in a poor community.

Traditional college admissions policies reward upper-income families for creating exclusive neighborhoods that have stronger school systems than elsewhere. The higher-quality high schools will more likely be seen as “feeder” schools for top colleges.

But consider what would happen if elite colleges adopt something like the top 10 policy, where the best students from different high schools all have the same odds of acceptance.

If that were true, parents would weaken their children’s chances of admission by creating exclusive communities. Their children’s chances of admission would be greater if they lived in economically integrated communities. Top 10-like policies can turn elite universities from institutions that exacerbate inequality into institutions that foster equality.

Would parents really choose less exclusive communities and lower-performing schools to improve their children’s chances for admission to an elite college? They have in Texas. Studies have shown that many parents select lower-performing schools and live in less prosperous school districts to take advantage of the top 10 policy.

To be sure, the effects on school and residential choice have been modest – in the 5 to 10 percent range. But that’s because the top 10 policy doesn’t affect an applicant’s chances of admission to a private university or an out-of-state public university. If all elite universities followed the Texas model, the incentives for residential integration would be powerful.

And the benefits from residential integration need not come with a sacrifice of academic excellence, as some critics charge. As the Texas experience indicates, colleges can treat the top applicants from all high schools equally and maintain the quality of their student bodies.

To be sure, there are increased costs to smoothing the transition to the rigors of college studies for students from weaker high schools. Fortunately, elite colleges have ample financial resources to meet the need.

Preserving diversity

If affluent students move to lower-performing schools, wouldn’t they simply displace their less affluent peers from the top of the class? That will happen to some degree, but a few aspects are reassuring.

Consider, for example, how top 10 policies affect the performance of students who already attend lower-performing schools. By increasing the chances for admission to an elite university, the policies give the students greater reason to work hard in school. And the students respond by achieving at higher levels.

Other innovative reforms, such as the New Orleans charter school system, have the same impact. When policymakers level the playing field for disadvantaged children, those kids excel in school, too.

Most importantly, colleges can pair the Texas model with affirmative action to realize the benefits of top 10 policies while also ensuring that their student bodies remain diverse.

Science achievement gaps start early – in kindergarten

September 14, 2016

F. Chris Curran

Assistant Professor of Public Policy, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Disclosure statement

F. Chris Curran has received funding from the AERA Grants Program with support from the National Science Foundation.


University of Maryland, Baltimore County provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.

The annual back-to-school season is filled with high hopes for making new friends, meeting new teachers – and, from the view of many policymakers – promoting gains in science achievement. Scientific learning and research carry substantial economic benefits.

Historically, however, not all groups have excelled in science equally. Black and Hispanic individuals as well as women have been less likely to enter or persist in science-related studies or occupations.

These gaps have been well-studied at the level of high school and higher education. These gaps, however, actually start much earlier.

My research found that these gaps exist at the level of kindergarten. However, these gaps can also change significantly in the first two years of schooling.

Large gaps in science

In a 2016 study, my research assistant, Ann Kellogg, and I examined the science performance of over 10,000 kindergarten students who began school in 2010. We analyzed data from a national study called the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS-K) conducted by the federal government.

The data included science achievement tests that assessed concepts in physical, life and environmental science as well as scientific inquiry. Examples of science instruction in kindergarten includes studying how plants grow, experimenting with erosion on a water table or constructing a picture of the solar system.

Previous research had examined science gaps in early grades. Our study, however, looked at science gaps as early as kindergarten with newer data and better science achievement tests.

Our study revealed large gaps in science achievement in kindergarten between white students and racial or ethnic minorities. And, where science gaps existed, we found that they were generally larger than the gaps in reading or mathematics achievement. However, we did not find significant gaps by gender.

Achievement gaps are not stagnant

On average, black students and Hispanic students performed significantly lower than white students on the science achievement tests in kindergarten. Approximately 41 percent of black students and 49 percent of Hispanic students scored in the bottom 25 percent. In comparison, only 12 percent of white students were in this category.

The difference in science achievement between black or Hispanic students and white students is roughly equivalent to what an average elementary student learns over a period of nine months between kindergarten and the end of first grade. The gaps between black, Hispanic and white students might be expected given similar gaps in mathematics and reading.

What surprised us was that Asian students in our study performed significantly lower than white students in kindergarten on the science achievement test. Approximately 31 percent of Asian students scored in the bottom 25 percent on the science test. In contrast, only 12 percent of white students did so. This gap was present even though Asian students performed as well as or better than white students in mathematics and reading.

Interestingly, unlike the black-white gap, the science gap between Asian and white students closed rapidly between kindergarten and the end of first grade. In fact, by the end of first grade, the gap had reduced by almost 50 percent.

It’s unclear what causes this rapid decrease in the Asian-white science gap. However, what it does show is that achievement gaps are not stagnant.

Prior research conducted by scholars David Quinn and North Cooc showed similar findings. By eighth grade, Asian student performance in science was equivalent to or higher than that of white students. Other researchers have also found Asian students’ performance in science increases rapidly relative to white students throughout elementary and middle school.

No gender gap

Additionally, we found no difference in science achievement between boys and girls in kindergarten. A small male advantage was evident only in first grade. This too is an important finding given the documented gender gaps in the later grades of elementary school.

Prior work has found that boys outperform girls in science at third grade. Similarly, results from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) show a male advantage in science in the fourth grade.

Our work shows, however, that these gaps in later grades do not extend back to kindergarten. Instead, boys and girls appear to begin schooling on relatively equal footing when it comes to science achievement. It is only as they progress through school that the gender gap emerges.

Science gaps larger

Finally, we found that the kindergarten gaps by race or ethnicity tend to be larger in science than in mathematics or reading.

For example, on the kindergarten achievement tests, the Hispanic-white gap was about twice as large for science as mathematics or reading. Similarly, the black-white gap was slightly larger in science than in mathematics and was about twice as large as the gap in reading.

It is possible that students lagging behind in math and reading struggle even more in science as it requires the application of language and mathematics to scientific content.

In sum, our findings point to the importance of the early elementary grades for equity in science achievement. We show that many gaps, such as the black-white gap, already exist when students start school. We also show, however, that these gaps can change significantly in the first two years of schooling as evidenced by the Asian-white gap and the emergence of a gender gap.

What’s happening in classrooms?

All this means that the early elementary years may be an appropriate point for addressing inequities in science achievement. However, science instruction has not been a high priority in the early elementary grades.

Research comparing kindergarten in 1998 to that in 2010 found that teachers cover fewer science topics than before and students spend less time using science equipment.

Furthermore, kindergarten classrooms today are much less likely to have science or nature areas. Indeed, in kindergarten classrooms, teachers spend only about a fourth of the amount of time on science that they do on mathematics or language arts.

What can we do?

Our findings point to the need for increased emphasis on science in kindergarten and first grade. I believe, for example, that teachers and school leaders should look for opportunities to incorporate science concepts into reading and math lessons.

Looking beyond the classroom setting, the findings of our work and that of others suggest the need to provide support to informal science learning opportunities. Visiting museums, interacting with nature and exploring novel tools all represent ways in which parents and caregivers can support early science inquiry.

Science achievement gaps begin early. It is important that our policies and interventions take steps in those early years to ensure increased science achievement for all.

Ohio measure eases drug crime penalties, may trim sentences

Thursday, August 23

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohioans will vote in November on whether to reduce penalties for non-violent drug crimes while allowing many current inmates to seek shorter sentences.

Issue 1 would reduce purchase, possession or use of a host of drugs, including fentanyl, heroin, cocaine and LSD, from felony to misdemeanor offenses. Jail time couldn’t be imposed until the third offense.

The constitutional amendment also allows reductions of up to 25 percent on the sentences of current inmates who participate in rehabilitation, work or educational programming. Only murderers, rapists and child molesters are ineligible.

Opponents argue the measure removes key leverage from judges and prosecutors, particularly when addiction and substance abuse is involved, and is overly broad and dangerous.

Supporters say cost savings would leave more money for drug treatment and crime victim compensation.

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The Conversation

John McCain, dead at 81, helped build a country that no longer reflects his values

June 12, 2018 Updated August 25, 2018

Elizabeth Sherman

Assistant Professor Department of Government, American University School of Public Affairs

Disclosure statement

Elizabeth Sherman does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


American University School of Public Affairs provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.

Arizona Sen. John McCain – scion of Navy brass, fly-boy turned Vietnam war hero and tireless defender of American global leadership – has died after a year of treatment for terminal brain cancer.

“With the Senator when he passed were his wife Cindy and their family. At his death, he had served the United States of America faithfully for sixty years,” McCain’s office said in a statement.

I am a scholar of American politics. And I believe that, regardless of his storied biography and personal charm, three powerful trends in American politics thwarted McCain’s lifelong ambition to be president. They were the rise of the Christian right, partisan polarization and declining public support for foreign wars.

Republican McCain was a champion of bipartisan legislating, an approach that served him and the Senate well. But as political divides have grown, bipartisanship has fallen out of favor.

Most recently, McCain opposed Gina Haspel as CIA director for “her refusal to acknowledge torture’s immorality” and her role in it. Having survived brutal torture for five years as a prisoner of war, McCain maintained a resolute voice against U.S. policies permitting so-called “enhanced interrogations.” Nevertheless, his appeals failed to rally sufficient support to slow, much less derail, her appointment.

Days later, a White House aide said McCain’s opposition to Haspel didn’t matter because “he’s dying anyway.” That disparaging remark and the refusal of the White House to condemn it revealed how deeply the president’s hostile attitude toward McCain and everything he stands for had permeated the executive office.

McCain ended his career honorably and bravely, but with hostility from the White House, marginal influence in the Republican-controlled Senate, and a public less receptive to the positions he has long embodied.

The outlier

McCain’s first run for the presidency in 2000 captured the imagination of the public and the press, whom he wryly referred to as “my base.” His self-confident “maverick” persona appealed to a more secular, moderate constituency who like him, might be constitutionally opposed to the growing political alignment between the religious right and the Republican Party.

McCain enthusiastically bucked his party and steered his “Straight Talk Express” through the GOP primaries with a no-holds-barred attack on Pat Robertson and Rev. Jerry Falwell. The two were conservative icons and leaders of the Christian Coalition and the Moral Majority.

McCain branded Robertson and Falwell “agents of intolerance” and “empire builders.” He charged that they used religion to subordinate the interests of working people. He said their religion served a business goal and accused them of shaming “our faith, our party, and our country.” That message earned McCain a primary victory in New Hampshire but his campaign capsized in South Carolina, where Republican voters launched George W. Bush, the stalwart evangelical, on his path to a presidential victory in 2000 against Democratic nominee, Vice President Al Gore.

By 2008, McCain saw the political clout of white, born-again, evangelical Christians. By then, they comprised 26 percent of the electorate. Bowing to political winds, he adopted a more conciliatory approach.

McCain’s willingness to defend America as a “Christian nation” and his controversial choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, an enthusiastic standard bearer for the Christian right, as his running mate, signaled the electoral power of a less tolerant, more absolutist “values-based” politics.

McCain’s about-face revealed a political pragmatist willing to make peace with the Christian right and accept their ability to make or break his last attempt at the presidency.

His strategy reflected his tendency to abandon principles if they threatened his quest for the presidency. Having railed eight years prior against the hypocrisy of the right-wing religious leadership, McCain may have felt some personal discomfort kowtowing to the dictates of self-appointed moral authorities. But the electorate had changed since then, and McCain showed he was willing to shift his position to accommodate their beliefs.

The primary that year also required an outright appeal to independents and even crossover Democrats. That would potentially provide enough votes to boost him past George W. Bush, whose campaign had already expressed allegiance to the conservative religious agenda.

In 2008, Mitt Romney, a devout Mormon considered religiously suspect by many evangelicals, emerged as McCain’s main rival for the nomination.

Sensing an opportunity to establish a winning coalition, McCain jettisoned his former objections to the political influence of the religious right, shifting from antagonism to accommodation. In doing so, McCain revealed his flexibility again on principles that might fatally undermine his overriding ambition – winning the presidency.

In fact, the incorporation of the religious right into the Republican Party represented but one facet of a more consequential development. That was the fiercely ideological partisan polarization that has come to dominate the political system.

The lonely Republican

Rough parity between the parties since 2000 has intensified the electoral battles for Congress and the presidency. It has supercharged the fundraising machines on both sides. And it has nullified the “regular order” of congressional hearings, debates and compromise, as party leaders scheme for policy wins.

Fueled by highly engaged activists, interest groups and donors known as “policy demanders,” partisan polarization has overwhelmed moderates in our political system. McCain was a bipartisan problem-solver and was willing to compromise with Democrats to pass campaign finance reform in 2002. He worked with the other side to normalize relations with Vietnam in 1995. And he joined with Democrats to pass immigration reform in 2017.

But he was also one of those moderates who ultimately found himself on the outside of his party.

McCain’s dramatic Senate floor thumbs-down repudiation of the Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare turned less on his antipathy to Trump and more on his disgust with a broken party-line legislative process.

On an issue as monumental as health care, he insisted on a return to “extensive hearings, debate, and amendment.” He endorsed the efforts of Sens. Lamar Alexander, a Republican, and Patty Murray, a Democrat, to craft a bipartisan solution.

Foreign and defense policy was McCain’s signature issue. He wanted a more robust posture for American global leadership, backed by a well-funded, war-ready military. But that stance lost support a decade ago following the Iraq War disaster.

McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign slogan of “Country First” signified not only the model of his personal commitment and sacrifice. It also telegraphed his belief in the need to persevere in the war on terror in general and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in particular.

But by then, 55 percent of registered independents, McCain’s electoral base, had lost confidence in the prospects for a military victory. They favored bringing the troops home.

Over the course of six months that year, independent support for the Iraq war fell from 54 percent to 40 percent. Overall opposition to the troop “surge” was at 63 percent. Barack Obama’s promise to wind down America’s military commitment and do “nation-building at home” resonated with an electorate wearied by the conflict and buffeted by their own economic woes.

Advocate for global leadership

McCain continued to assert the primacy of American power. He decried the country’s retreat from a rules-based global order premised on American leadership and based on freedom, capitalism, human rights and democracy.

Donald Trump stands in contrast. Trump, like Obama, promises to terminate costly commitments abroad, revoke defense and trade agreements that fail to put “America First,” and rebuild the nation’s crumbling infrastructure.

In his run for the presidency, Trump asserted that American might and treasure had been squandered defending the world. Other countries, he said, took advantage of U.S. magnanimity.

In Congress, Republicans have become cautious about U.S. military interventions, counterinsurgency operations and nation-building. They find scant public support for intervention in Syria’s civil war.

Seeing Russia as America’s implacable foe, McCain sponsored sanctions legislation and prodded the administration to implement them more vigorously.

Accepting the Liberty Medal in Philadelphia, McCain repudiated Trump’s approach to global leadership.

He declared, “To abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.”

McCain spent his life committed to principles that, tragically – at least for him – have fallen from favor, and the country’s repudiation of the principles he championed may put the nation at risk.

Editor’s note: This is an updated version of an article originally published on on June 12, 2018.

Why it’s so hard to hold priests accountable for sex abuse

August 27, 2018

Carolyn M. Warner

Associate Director of Graduate Studies & Professor, Arizona State University

Disclosure statement

Carolyn M. Warner received funding from the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University to support a year of research and writing, 2017-2018.


Arizona State University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.

A grand jury report recently found shocking levels of child sex abuse in the Catholic Church. It uncovered, in six dioceses, the sexual abuse of over 1,000 children and named 301 perpetrator priests. It also found that religious officials had turned a blind eye to the abuse.

In response, Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church, wrote a letter addressed to “the People of God,” saying,

“With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives. We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.”

The fact is the pope has the power to ensure that this does not happen again. As a scholar of the Catholic Church, I believe an important but often poorly understood reason for the abandonment of abused children is the Church’s Code of Canon law, which the pope alone can change.

Early church laws on sex abuse

Canon laws govern the church and lay out its theology. All Catholic religious officials are bound by them.

Canon law has a complex history. It originated in early Christian communities. Christians, building on the Gospels and other sacred texts, developed norms and rules about acceptable practices and behavior, including wrongdoing by clergy. Christian communities usually had rules against religious officials sexually abusing children. They were harsh on sodomy. Punishments could include being smeared with spit and bound in iron chains.

As Christian communities spread throughout the Mediterranean region in the third century A.D., regional meetings were held to discuss rules that could be applied uniformly.

By the fourth century A.D., Christian churches, usually through councils, started issuing authoritative rules accepted by all Christian communities. These came to be called “canons.” The most well-known were those of the Council of Nicaea, convened by Emperor Constantine in A.D. 325.

The enforcement of the canons was put in the hands of church bishops.

As Christianity spread east and west, it struggled with rulers who wanted to control peoples and territories. Diverse rules and norms proliferated. At the same time, over many centuries, various religious leaders and theologians tried to create a uniform system.

It was not until 1917, under Pope Benedict XV, however, that the Church consolidated and revised the many different rules in Western Christendom. This was titled the Code of Canon Law, applicable to all Roman Catholic churches. Only the pope could issue or change canon law. The Orthodox, or “Eastern rite,” churches have a slightly different set of laws.

The Church sometimes turned errant priests over to civil authorities.

That changed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when Church-state battles flared in Europe as secular states rejected the church’s claims to sovereignty. The Church made the handling of clergy child sex abuse an internal matter.

The 1917 code was revised in 1983 to take into account changes stemming from the Second Vatican Council, an assembly of Roman Catholic bishops meant to settle doctrinal issues, held between 1962 to 1965. Both versions of the code include canons about sex abuse.

Under Vatican control

Here is how canon law changed over the years.

Since 1917, the church dealt with accusations against sexual abuse of children through rules that barred priests from soliciting sex when they were in the confessional.

If priests, when taking a confession, solicited sex, they were viewed as having committed a particularly egregious sin. The confessional is a sacred space and confession a sacred act.

What is noteworthy here is that the concern was about the priest sinning, not about abuse being perpetrated on another. Also, the 1917 code did not have any canons that dealt with sex abuse outside the confessional or sex abuse of minors.

In 1922, the pope issued a set of guidelines, formally called an instruction. It tried to deal with cases in which the priest did not directly solicit sex during confession. Clerical sex abuse of minors was a crime if the act was somehow associated with the sacrament of confession.

The instruction was reissued by Pope John XXIII 40 years later, in 1962. The instruction was not officially incorporated into the Code of Canon Law, nor widely circulated.

From 1922 onward, investigations of clergy suspected of sexually abusing children were to be cloaked in secrecy. This limited bishops from reporting cases to the police, or even to parishioners.

But it was only in the 1983 code that child sex abuse was listed as a crime within the canon about clergy violating their obligation to not have sex. The new code gave the Vatican extensive control over the fate of accused clergy.

Other forms of ‘correction’

There was more. A canon about avoiding “scandal” compounded the secrecy issue. It was a sin, and a violation of canon law, to do anything that would cause “scandal” to the faithful by leading them to sin or question their faith.

If a bishop, for example, were to make known that a priest had sexually abused children in his diocese, the bishop, and not just the priest, would be guilty under canon law of causing scandal – because information about the abuse might cause Catholics to question their faith – as indeed, it often has.

Also included was a requirement that bishops provide priests with funds when the priests were removed from ministry, but not dismissed from the clerical state (not “laicized” or “defrocked”).

Thus, what to Catholics and those outside the institution looks like the morally dubious practice of paying child sex abusers is to the hierarchy a fulfillment of their obligations.

Under the 1917 code, bishops, under certain conditions, could dismiss priests from the clerical state, and without a canonical trial. But it could be done only after it was determined that there was no possibility of reform.

If a priest claimed his abuse was due to pedophilia or other psychological disorders, canon law provided for a more lenient punishment. The priest could be regarded as not being fully responsible for his actions.

Escaping accountability

The 1983 revision put forward by Pope John Paul II to the entire code made it impossible for bishops to dismiss priests. Authority for doing so became centralized in the Vatican.

At the time, the pope appeared to be responding to a wave of priests abandoning the priesthood. However, the change ended up constraining the bishops. They had to retain the abusive priests unless the latter were found guilty at a canonical trial and the Vatican – officially, the pope – agreed to dismiss them.

At most, bishops could suspend priests’ clerical faculties: that is, priests’ authorization to say mass and administer other sacraments, or present themselves publicly as priests, for a short time. But they could not do so permanently.

The 1983 code also reduced the maximum time within which proceedings could be initiated against priests having sex with a child to five years.

With victims often, understandably, not coming forward for years, that meant many priests escaped internal punishment by the Vatican.

Canonical trials also require the cooperation of the victim as a witness and are another obstacle to holding priests accountable. The code has encouraged the very inaction by bishops that the pope condemns.

There are no provisions in canon law that specify what is to be done if a bishop has failed to act on a case of suspected or actual child sex abuse.

Power lies with the pope

Since 2001, in a further centralizing move, the Vatican has required that bishops send all cases of substantiated allegations of child sex abuse to its Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is located at the Vatican, and is usually headed by a powerful Cardinal.

Its job is to “promote and safeguard the faith.”

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith may tell the bishop to conduct a canonical trial, may conduct one itself, or accept or reject a request for dismissal and apply conditions. Priests can appeal the verdicts and sentences. The Vatican sometimes overrules bishops who want to dismiss priests.

Although it is entirely within his power to do so, Pope Francis has not altered the Code of Canon Law with regard to clergy child sex abuse and how it is handled by bishops.

For the church truly to hold priests and their bishops accountable for child sex abuse, this is an important step.

FILE – In this Oct. 17, 2013 file photo, Robin Leach attends the Food Network’s 20th birthday party in New York. Leach, whose voice crystalized the opulent 1980s on TV’s "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," has died, Friday, Aug. 24, 2018. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File) – In this Oct. 17, 2013 file photo, Robin Leach attends the Food Network’s 20th birthday party in New York. Leach, whose voice crystalized the opulent 1980s on TV’s "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," has died, Friday, Aug. 24, 2018. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)

FILE – In this Oct. 17, 2013 file photo, Robin Leach attends the Food Network’s 20th birthday party in New York. Leach, whose voice crystalized the opulent 1980s on TV’s "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," has died, Friday, Aug. 24, 2018. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File) – In this Oct. 17, 2013 file photo, Robin Leach attends the Food Network’s 20th birthday party in New York. Leach, whose voice crystalized the opulent 1980s on TV’s "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," has died, Friday, Aug. 24, 2018. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)

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