Stuart Reid Charterhouse
0 ne of the few people in London not chattering like mad about the American presidential election is my wife, who is, as I may have mentioned before, an American. The only thing she is looking forward to this autumn is Strictly Come Dancing — that and tucking up the garden for winter.
All the same, she follows the news. On Sunday she said to me: "What's the difference between a pit bull and a hockey mom?"
"Lipstick," I said.
"No," she said. "A muzzle."
There is no muzzling Sarah Palm, or at least no stopping her delivering the lines that her clever gag-writers are feeding her in a last, desperate bid to lever John • McCain into the White House.
You can tell a person as much by her enemies as by her friends, and the sneers and lies of Sarah's enemies make you warm to the woman. The feminists (of both sexes) have been especially nasty. They talk as though her pro-life stand is not only a betrayal of the sisterhood but of humanity itself.
When a Christian woman espousing Christian values stands for high office, and it emerges that she is not only opposed to abortion but to the pernicious influence of neo-Darwinist atheism (translated as: "in favour of teaching creationism"). the furious reaction leaves you in no doubt that that the ruling Anglo-American culture is not only secular but anti-Chri stian. .
And yet ... Sister Sarah's friends do not do her any favours. We saw them in St Paul, Minnesota, last week, howling, yelping, blubbing. The Republican convention was part rock concert, part Billy Graham rally.
According to the narrative, family values were back on the agenda, but many of us were unconvinced. If the Republican strategists really cared about family values, they'd have urged the former Miss Congeniality to stay at home with her family, especially the "special needs" child she paraded before the cameras.
It was shortly after getting these snobbish and possibly uncharitable thoughts on paper that the was arrived. He is not only a very good plumber but a very good Catholic, and rather wiser than your average PhD in moral theology.
I put my point about family values to him in the hope of getting a nihil obstat, but no luck. He said that we should weigh any possible neglect of Baby Trig — extremely remote anyway — against the babies whose lives might be saved if McCain were elected; and then he showed us how to switch on the central heating.
It seemed to me he had a point, but here's the rub: there is always more than one issue facing an electorate. The Church understands this and teaches that it is permissible to vote for a pro-choice candidate — if there are truly "proportionate" reasons to do so.
It's not easy to be sure what this means, but many of us, I suspect, will have voted for pro-choice candidates without giving proportionality a second thought. Certainly I must have done so. I am a congenital Tory, and in election after election I have supported a party that has pretty consistently backed abortion. It is true that the 1974 manifesto advocated abortion law reform, but there is no official policy now and the present leader is decidedly pro-choice. On the whole, of course, we British avoid the subject, since we are too squeamish to give much thought to delicate moral questions.
In the United States, political parties often do have a policy on abortion, and many other moral issues, and if you look at the McCain-Palin website you will find that it is explicitly pro-life. That is why it is being suggested in some quarters that Catholics have a duty to vote Republican.
It may be that proportionality demands no less, but ' many conservative Catholics reject the idea. They do not believe that McCain is sincere in his opposition to abortion, but they do know that he was an enthusiastic supporter of a war condemned by two popes and are convinced, not without reason, that he remains a committed warmonger and imperialist.
Earlier this year Andrew Bacevich, a military and political analyst. put it this way in The American Conservative: "Social conservatives counting on McCain to return the nation to the path of righteousness are kidding themselves. Within this camp. abortion has long been the flagship issue. Yet only a naïf would believe that today's Republican Party has any real interest in overturning Roe v Wade or that doing so now would contribute in any meaningful way to the restoration of 'family values'. GOP support for such values is akin to the Democratic Party's professed devotion to the 'working poor': each is a ploy to get votes, trotted out seasonally, quickly forgotten once the polls close I am not, of course. endorsing Barack Obama. Nor am I indifferent to the industrial scale of abortion in the United States. On the contrary. All the same, we Brits are foreigners. and may perhaps be forgiven for worrying more about American foreign policy than about American domestic policy. especially since the Republicans seem to be more interested in getting the pro-life vote than in implementing pro-life policies.
It may not be wise to speak ill of Titian — especially if you crave the respect of your peers — but I have to say that those two Titians in the National Gallery of Scotland leave me cold.
It is no doubt very kind of the Duke of Sutherland to offer Diana and Actaeon and Diana and Callisto to the nation at a knockdown price of £100 million, but I would not go to see them if you offered me five tickets and an incentive package that included a Marks & Sparks gift voucher and a fish supper.
I think they are ugly and embarrassing: all that naked, slug-belly white female flesh; all those fat, dimpled bottoms; all those big bellies and small bosoms; all those fey, forced, camp poses.
What's wrong with me? A very wise woman I had lunch with on Sunday — a former art teacher — told me, perhaps a little frostily, that I didn't like them because I didn't understand them. She said I took a very Protestant English view of Titian. That hurt.
But I am not alone in my misgivings. A few days earlier a young friend who knows what she's talking about — she did A-level art — said: "I never got Titian either. Cellulite and bad lighting. Also their stupid little flipper fleet would never hold them up."
Yeah, right, Titian.