One of the sidebars to the story about the passage of the voter ID law in Pennsylvania was the fact that most of the state’s Republicans think Democrats, particularly those in Philadelphia, cheat with impunity. Democrats claim this is all nonsense, but those who know the city’s political history understand that this is one place where machine politics is not something confined to the history books. That law won’t be enforced this year as a result of a court ruling that more time is needed to prepare voters. However, suspicion that Democrats are up to no good lingers and a partisan email blast from the city official who supervises elections isn’t helping matters.
Stephanie Singer is the chairman of the City Commission, the body that supervises, among other things, Philadelphia’s Board of Elections. In a normal city where such an office is a non-partisan or civil service post, it would be inconceivable that the person who is in charge of ensuring a fair vote would be involved in partisan politics, but when it comes to civics or ethics, Philadelphia remains mired in the bad old days of machine politics. Therefore, when the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Singer sent out an email blast urging citizens to vote to re-elect Barack Obama, the city of Brotherly Love merely shrugged. That Singer also went on in the email to claim that Judaism demands its adherents vote for the Democrats illustrates the way Jewish liberals have attempted to politicize their faith. But the willingness of the city to accept a situation where the elections commissioner is a rabid partisan tells us a lot about why there is so much distrust in Pennsylvania about the honesty of the elections system in the state’s largest city.
In the aftermath of the second presidential debate, Democrats are attempting to reboot the “war on women” theme that was the keynote for President Obama’s re-election campaign during the spring and summer. That’s being driven in large part by Mitt Romney’s “binders of women” comment, but it was also the product of the exchange at Hofstra between the two about insurance coverage of contraception. The president slammed Romney for opposing universal coverage of contraception under his ObamaCare bill, while the Republican claimed he wanted to ensure full access to it for all women.
Democrats are claiming this is another example of the new “Moderate Mitt” that has replaced the “severely conservative” candidate that campaigned in Republican primaries, and to some extent they are right. Romney was telling the truth in that he clearly does not oppose denying access to contraception to anyone, nor does he think that “employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care or not.” But he passed on the chance to explain to voters how the ObamaCare mandate infringes on the religious freedom of religious institutions and individuals, since it forces them to pay for services that violate their consciences and their faith. This was just one of a number of flubbed opportunities to hit the president on issues where he is vulnerable on Tuesday, but it reinforced the impression that in his desire not to offend moderates and especially women voters, he is willing to abandon the principles he campaigned on up to this point. Given the stakes that might be understandable, but the Romney campaign ought not to confuse the need to portray the candidate as a reasonable person that women can trust with a less laudable desire to fudge the differences with Obama on important issues. Romney should be speaking more about religious freedom, not abandoning the issue to the president.
Via Ed Morrissey, this is a significant blow to the Obama administration’s so-called compromise on the birth control mandate. The Catholic Health Association was a key supporter of Obamacare, and provided the administration with Catholic cover by initially supporting the mandate compromise. But after a long review, the CHA has decided that the administration’s accommodations don’t go far enough. USA Today reports:
President Obama’s support for his signature health care act took a fresh hit Friday. The Catholic Health Association, the nation’s largest private health care provider, has rebuffed the latest White House moves to make its contraception coverage mandate more acceptable to Catholics and conservative evangelicals, according to Religion News Service.
The CHA was a critical voice in getting the Affordable Care Act passed in 2009. Sister Carol Keehan, head of CHA, drew standing ovations from progressive Catholics.
The CHA expressed lingering concerns about aspects of the mandate in a letter to HHS on Friday.
It may be that the Supreme Court’s pending decision on the constitutionality of ObamaCare will render moot the controversy about whether Catholic institutions can be compelled to pay for practices that they oppose on religious grounds. But no matter how the court rules, the impact of the increasingly nasty effort to discredit the church’s effort to defend itself will still be felt. A good example of how liberals are trying to brand the church’s defenders as “partisans” when the opposite is true, came in the editorial in Sunday’s New York Times that branded the lawsuit launched by church institutions as a “stunt.”
The Times argues that the government’s attempt to compel the church to violate its principles was not a violation of its rights and further claims the inadequate “compromise” proposed by the White House should have silenced their concerns. This is an absurd distortion of the facts, but far worse is the way the Times — following the Obama campaign’s playbook — tries to claim that Catholics seek to impose their beliefs on others. Quite the contrary, it is the government fiat that employees at Catholic institutions are provided with free contraception that is the imposition. The point here is not so much to advance the cause of women’s health — the justification advocates of the government’s position seek to use — but to demonize a faith group that has the temerity to stick up for its rights.
On Monday, 12 suits were filed in federal court by 43 Catholic institutions, including the University of Notre Dame, Catholic University, and the archdioceses of New York and Washington. The suits are an effort to overturn the Department of Health and Human Service’s mandate for contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs under the Affordable Care Act — a regulation that forces Catholic hospitals, universities and charities to act in ways that violate their conscience and the teachings of their church.
“The government … cannot justify its decision to force Notre Dame to provide, pay for, and/or facilitate access to these services in violation of its sincerely held religious beliefs,” Notre Dame’s lawsuit argues. “If the government can force religious institutions to violate their beliefs in such a manner, there is no apparent limit to the government’s power… The First Amendment also prohibits the Government from becoming excessively entangled in religious affairs and from interfering with a religious institution’s internal decisions concerning the organization’s religious structure, ministers, or doctrine. The U.S. Government Mandate tramples all of these rights.”
The University of Notre Dame, is should be said, is not an institution that is naturally hostile to President Obama. After all, it awarded Obama an honorary degree in 2009. Read More
As James Taranto notes in his Best of the Web column in today’s Wall Street Journal, the left is crowing today about putting Rush Limbaugh on the run. As Taranto writes, “The kerfuffle was no fluke but a left-liberal set piece” in which a concerted effort was made by liberal members of Congress to spin the Obama administration’s attack on the Catholic Church as a defense of women’s rights. But liberals aren’t satisfied with just their success in changing the conversation from one about religious freedom to one centered on the mythical attack on the right to contraception by the church and conservative opponents of ObamaCare. The real prize in this controversy is not the way the left has enabled the president to avoid taking responsibility for the way his signature health care bill will subvert liberty but the chance to take down the most popular conservative talk show host for the last 20 years.
The flight of Limbaugh’s advertisers under the storm of pressure orchestrated against the radio personality is significant. Since Limbaugh’s tasteless comments about Sandra Fluke’s testimony in which the Georgetown University Law student complained about the cost of birth control, nine of his sponsors have pulled their ads from his show. Limbaugh’s belated apology to Fluke was not enough to stop the bleeding because some of those who dumped him did so after his attempt to walk back his foolish and vulgar jibes. But by pushing so hard to knock off the king of talk radio, the liberal chorus of outrage may have gone a bit too far.
The White House has escalated the controversy about Rush Limbaugh’s supposedly grave insult of a Georgetown University law student who testified on Capitol Hill in favor of mandatory insurance coverage for birth control. President Obama called Sandra Fluke today to tell her her parents should be proud of her. The call and the effort to inflate Limbaugh’s satirical remarks about Fluke’s complaints about the high cost of birth control during her congressional testimony are clearly part of a Democratic effort to change the discussion from defending religious liberty against ObamaCare to one about the subjugation of women. Unfortunately, for those who care about defending the Catholic Church’s freedom to defend their faith, Limbaugh’s typically over-the-top humorous jibe at Fluke’s expense is being exploited to obfuscate the real issue at stake here.
Republicans are running for cover as the Democrats and left-wing women’s groups attempt to make Fluke a feminist martyr. Speaker of the House John Boehner called Limbaugh’s comments “inappropriate.” He’s right about that, but the problem is that while Democrats seem to regard Rush as some kind of Republican pope, much of what is said on the show needs to be understood to be no different than the rhetorical excesses of Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show.” Limbaugh’s use of the words “prostitute” and “slut” in connection to Fluke were not intended to be a literal accusation but a hyperbolic takedown of the notion that women at Georgetown are oppressed because they must spend as much as $1,000 of their own money for contraception the Jesuit-run school refuses to pay for.
The final tally was 51 to 48, on a motion to table an amendment that would allow employers to opt out of an ObamaCare rule mandating them to cover birth control under their health insurance plans. As expected, the vote broke down mainly on party lines:
Leading pro-life organizations called on the Senate to vote for the amendment to the mandate the Obama administration issued, but Democrats banded together against [R]epublicans to defeat it on a 51 to 48 margin by adopting a motion to table, or kill, it. …
The text of the Blunt Amendment consists of the language taken from the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (S. 1467, H.R. 1179). It would amend the Obama health care law (“ObamaCare”) to prevent the imposition of regulatory mandates that violate the religious or moral convictions of those who purchase or provide health insurance.
Needless to say, this isn’t a fight Catholic organizations are going to give up on so easily. If anything, this will probably help Republicans during the presidential election by increasing the opposition to ObamaCare. Obviously many Catholic organizations that initially supported the health care reform now have an incentive to support its repeal.
There’s been a trend this week of prominent conservative women writers warning about Rick Santorum’s out-of-mainstream social views. They’ve all touched on a similar concern: Santorum’s past comments on social issues are so extreme that they likely render him unelectable.
This is alarming enough on its own. But the increasingly vocal criticism from right-leaning female pundits also indicates another problem on the horizon for Santorum: can he rely on the conservative media, particularly the women, to have his back on social issues in a general election?
Last night’s debate was not among the best we’ve seen, but there was one particularly memorable moment. It came to us courtesy of Newt Gingrich.
When the candidates were asked (from a pre-selected e-mail) about their views on contraception, Gingrich responded by saying, “I want to make two quick points, John [King]. The first is: There is a legitimate question about the power of the government to impose on religion activities which any religion opposes. That’s legitimate. But I just want to point out — not once in the 2008 campaign, not once did anybody in the elite media ask why Barack Obama voted in favor of legalizing infanticide.”
One of the arguments Senator Rick Santorum made on behalf of his campaign was that if he were the nominee, he’d succeed in making Barack Obama the subject of the election, not himself.
That was before Santorum shot to the top of the GOP field. What candidates can never fully anticipate, until they’re considered a frontrunner, is the sheer intensity of the focus on their past record and words. That’s now happening to Santorum, and suddenly he’s on the defensive, despite his best efforts to avoid that from happening.
Rick Santorum was interviewed Friday morning by CBS’s Charlie Rose on the former Pennsylvania senator’s views on contraception. It’s clear that Senator Santorum is tired of talking about contraception. One can understand why.
Senator Santorum’s core defense is that he’s supported federal funding for contraception in his role as a public official, even though he’s personally opposed (as a faithful Catholic) to it. But in this October 2011 interview Santorum – presumably in an effort to contrast himself with the other GOP candidates — insisted that he would talk about contraception if he were president. He argued that contraception, even within the context of marriage, was damaging to the institution. In talking about contraception, Santorum said this: “Again, I know most presidents don’t talk about those things, and maybe people don’t want us to talk about those things, but I think it’s important that you are who you are. I’m not running for preacher. I’m not running for pastor, but these are important public policy issues. These have profound impact on the health of our society.” [emphasis added]
Initially, after the HHS mandate for employers to provide birth control for its employees was announced, the religious right flank of the Jewish community, the Orthodox Union (OU), came out strongly against the decision. In the New York Times, the executive director of public policy for the OU Nathan Diament explained:
Kathleen Sebelius, the Health and Human Services secretary [says] religious entities that “serve the general public and employ people of different faiths” should not receive the same religious liberty protections as, for example, a church or a synagogue. Such reasoning is wrongheaded.
For many people of diverse faiths, religious observance is not to be confined to the sanctuary. For many, faith compels engagement with the broader world and service to our fellow man, especially those in need. To say the government will afford religious liberty only to the most insular of religious institutions but not to those that serve, or employ, people of other faiths is a troubling view of faith and what role it should play in America.
Yesterday, many on the left had a hearty laugh about the statement by Bishop William E. Lori on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops at a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform about the administration’s effort to force the church to violate its principles by paying for insurance coverage for practices it opposes. The left-wing site Talking Points Memo in particular thought it was ludicrous for Bishop Lori to claim a government mandate that Catholic institutions pay for contraception is akin to one that would force Jewish delis to serve pork. To the left, the analogy is ludicrous, because getting free birth control from your employer is, they believe, a constitutional right, and a ham sandwich is merely a whim.
But Lori was absolutely right. The attempt by the president to force all employers, even those whose religious convictions forbid them from doing so, to provide insurance coverage for contraception is no different than a hypothetical law that would require all places that serve food to include non-kosher items on the menu.
Often, the bias of the media is evidenced not in the in-your-face liberalism of MSNBC, but in somewhat more subtle ways. Take as an example Politico’s coverage of a congressional hearing earlier today. (See also Jonathan Neumann’s post.) The headline of the story is, “Carolyn Maloney, Eleanor Holmes Norton walk out of contraception hearing.” And the story begins this way: “Two female Democrats walked out of a House Oversight Committee hearing on the contraceptive coverage rule Thursday morning, accusing Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) of manipulating committee rules to block female witnesses from testifying.”
For one thing, the rule in question isn’t simply about contraception; it also covers sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs. But more important is this: This issue is significant not because it involves, in part, the matter of contraception (which I happen to support), but the more fundamental issue of religious liberty. It has to do with the federal government being the aggressor in the so-called culture wars and inserting itself into the internal life of the church and religious institutions. That’s why Protestants who aren’t troubled by contraception have expressed solidarity with Catholics who do.
This morning, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (Congressman Darrell Issa’s committee) hosted a panel of religious leaders, representing the Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, Orthodox Judaism, and a Baptist seminary, to discuss the ongoing struggle over inclusion of contraceptive options in insurance provisions by religious institutions. (It was the first panel this morning.)
Predictably fiery, the discussion sincerely engaged with the realities of the First Amendment in an America governed by a bloated and increasingly overbearing federal government. One particular issue, which echoed the general concern from the Democratic bench (which was invariably supportive of the Department of Health and Human Services policy) and spoke to the fundamental disagreements, was raised by Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY). Read More
One of the most persuasive cases against nominating Mitt Romney is that he would make it difficult for Republicans to attack Obama over health care during the general election. But conservatives need to go beyond just asking themselves what ground they want to challenge Obama on. They also need to ask themselves what ground they want to spend the general election defending.
If Mitt Romney is the nominee, Republicans will have to scale back the all-out assault on ObamaCare they hoped to pursue. But at the same time, they won’t have to spend the race mounting a vocal defense of RomneyCare, since Democratic attacks aren’t likely to focus on that issue. Instead, Democrats will target Romney on class warfare, business regulations, taxes, Wall Street, and so on.
Now that he’s surging in the polls, Rick Santorum’s words are being scrutinized not just by his political opponents but also by members of the press. For example, Michael Scherer of Time magazine highlights this October 2011 quote from Santorum:
One of the things I will talk about that no president has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea. Many in the Christian faith have said, “Well, that’s okay. Contraception’s okay.”
It’s not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They’re supposed to be within marriage, they are supposed to be for purposes that are, yes, conjugal, but also unitive, but also procreative. That’s the perfect way that a sexual union should happen. We take any part of that out, we diminish the act. And if you can take one part out that’s not for purposes of procreation, that’s not one of the reasons, then you diminish this very special bond between men and women, so why can’t you take other parts of that out? And all of a sudden, it becomes deconstructed to the point where it’s simply pleasure. And that’s certainly a part of it—and it’s an important part of it, don’t get me wrong—but there’s a lot of things we do for pleasure, and this is special, and it needs to be seen as special.
Again, I know most presidents don’t talk about those things, and maybe people don’t want us to talk about those things, but I think it’s important that you are who you are. I’m not running for preacher. I’m not running for pastor, but these are important public policy issues. These have profound impact on the health of our society.