In September, after the first Senate debate between Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown and his liberal challenger Elizabeth Warren, I criticized Warren’s decision to nationalize the race. In the debate, Brown—a local Bay Stater who sounds the part and speaks with fluency about local issues–repeatedly offered answers to questions that showed his moderate, bipartisan streak and his insistence on voting as he believes Massachusetts voters would want him to. Warren, on the other hand, kept referring to what the U.S. Senate would be like if Republicans won back the majority.
But Warren seems intent on proving such criticism wrong. She has now wagered the entire campaign on this gamble. As the race nears its end Warren has given up on trying to portray Brown as a Tea Partier and instead paints a picture of what has to be a dystopian future in the minds of northeastern liberals. Here is Warren’s closing argument, per her TV ad (followed by the transcript):
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.
When libertarians (and Libertarians) object that despite the popularity of some of their causes they are not taken seriously as a voting constituency by the two major American parties, it’s easy to see where they’re coming from. Republicans and Democrats seem to hate the TSA’s invasive and pervasive screening process; opposition to the drug war is growing in both camps; and the popularity of gay marriage on the left and opposition to Obamacare on the right would seem to remind voters on both sides of the political divides of their libertarian streaks.
Yet they are unloved. Instead of finding the Koch brothers convenient allies given their social libertarianism and dedication to funding the arts, the left has turned the Kochs into the villains of the election cycle, offering some of the most ignorant and self-defeating politics of personal destruction in years. And now Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for president, claims to be shut out by the GOP and feels that his voice has been trampled by Republicans who fear he could cut into Mitt Romney’s vote share in several key states. The New York Times reports:
Here’s one final note about the vice presidential debate. Both Vice President Biden and Paul Ryan had their weak moments. Ryan couldn’t explain what Mitt Romney would do differently in the future to deal with the tragedy in Syria even if he was right about President Obama’s mistakes. He was also flummoxed by Biden’s comeback about his request for stimulus funds for his Wisconsin congressional district, something for which he should have been prepared. The list of Biden’s mistakes is much longer. Biden told a flat out lie when he claimed he opposed the Iraq War and the add-on of the prescription drug plan to Medicare. He voted for both of the wars and the free drugs for seniors. But as bad as that was, far more offensive was the lie about the administration’s attack on religious freedom via ObamaCare.
In response to Ryan’s accurate charge that the HHS Mandate under ObamaCare forces religious institutions to violate their consciences to pay for services their faith opposes, Biden claimed the following:
With regard to the assault on the Catholic Church, let me make it absolutely clear. No religious institution—Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital—none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact. That is a fact.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. Indeed, one might ask Biden if Georgetown is not being compelled to pay for contraception, then what exactly was behind the ruckus about Sandra Fluke’s complaints about the university’s refusal to do so. Biden’s claim was not only an offensive falsehood, it was a stupid one since even his liberal supporters know that is what is happening.
When Mitt Romney mentioned the issue of religious freedom during last week’s presidential debate, the lines on the graph indicating the interest of members of CNN’s focus group spiked. But, contrary to the liberal spinners who dismissed the point as mere rhetoric, efforts to constrict religious liberty are very much an issue in 2012. The main focus is the effort to push back against the Obama administration’s efforts to enforce the Department of Health and Human Services mandate to force institutions and individuals to pay for services that offend their consciences and faith. This dangerous by-product of ObamaCare has raised the stakes on the health care debate because unless it is repealed, it will result in a redefinition of religious freedom that will ensure that free exercise of faith will be banned from the public square.
Just as significant is a referendum battle in Florida that will not only help determine the future of religious liberty in this country, but whether we are capable of facing up to our troubled past. Florida’s Amendment 8 is an effort to formally allow the state to legalize aid to religious institutions providing social services as well as education. It was made necessary by a lawsuit launched by left-wingers determined to prevent religious groups from providing aid to prisoners in the state’s jails who say the Florida Constitution bans the flow of state money to any religious institution, group or individual. They are right, since Florida was one of many states to pass a so-called Blaine amendment in the late 19th century as part of a campaign of discrimination against Catholics. Though the left looks to such Blaine amendments to enforce their ideas about an impenetrable wall of separation between church and state, it is nothing more than a holdover from an era of religious hate. Repealing it via the passage of Amendment 8 will not just make things easier for religious social service and education providers in Florida. But it could also be a turning point for the battle to defend religious liberty in America.
Earlier, I wondered whether Democrats would fall into a trap of their own making by goading President Obama into engaging in personal attacks on Mitt Romney in the next presidential debate. But it appears that some on the left prefer to return to one of their old standbys to explain the president’s flop in the debate: he’s a bad salesman for brilliant policies. That’s the tack taken by New York Times editorialist David Firestone today in a piece in which he argues that the president’s inability to defend his record on the stage in Denver is no different from what the writer considers the failures of Democrats to speak up for ObamaCare, the stimulus and even the sequester of funds that will results in huge defense cuts.
Firestone is right about one thing. The president does consider the act of explaining liberal projects to the public tiresome and somehow “beneath him.” But the Times writer fails to observe that liberals have actually been defending these ideas for all four years of the Obama administration. Their failure to gain support for them from the public isn’t the fault of Obama’s poor salesmanship, but due to the fact that most Americans, including those who distrust the Republicans, are wary of a huge expansion of government power, unchecked federal spending and gutting national defense. That is why the only successes Democrats have had in putting across their ideas hasn’t stemmed from championing these unpopular policies but from sliming their opponents. When they abandon such tactics, as Obama did last night, they are left with very little that the voters find compelling.
It would be hard to dream up a clearer example of an entitlement mentality than this e-card on the Obama campaign website:
Mitt Romney says he would repeal the Affordable Care Act. So here’s a quick question: Can I borrow $18,000 to help pay for my birth control?
The e-card is supposed to point out that it’s ridiculous to ask your mother for $18,000 to pay for birth control. True, but that begs the question: wouldn’t it be even more ridiculous to ask a perfect stranger to pay for your birth control? Because that is essentially what Obama’s “free birth control” law does. Pills cost money to make — the materials, the research, the labor, complying with government regulations. It costs money to package and export to pharmacies. It costs money to advertise. It costs money to fight against class-action lawsuits. It costs money for pharmacists to fill the prescription. It costs money for the doctors to write the prescription.
With only a little more than six weeks to go before the election, most consumers of political journalism have long since given up hoping major media outlets will write about anything but the horse race element of the story. The strategies, the gaffes, the attacks and, most of all the polls, are the main elements of coverage, as well as the topics for those of us who provide analysis. But every once in a while, we get a piece that reminds us of what all the shouting is actually about. Politico’s story published yesterday titled “Obamacare foes fear GOP losses,” is one such article. The headline may be fairly accused of stating the obvious but the story reminds the reader that the election this year is about something more than the egos of the politicians or their campaign gurus: if the Republicans don’t sweep Congress and the White House, the country will be irrevocably changed by the survival of the president’s signature health care legislation.
Obamacare isn’t the only important issue for voters to consider in November. Spending, taxes, the national debt and the related issue of entitlement reform are all crucial. So, too, are the foreign policy challenges that face the next president, a list that includes the deadly nuclear threat from Iran. But on no other issue is the choice so stark. It is, for example, theoretically possible that either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney will do what must be done to halt the debt crisis or to stop Iran. It is also possible that neither will do so. But there is no doubt that unless the GOP secures the presidency and majorities in both the upper and lower chambers of Congress, Obamacare will not be repealed. By the next midterm election, it will be too late to prevent the full implementation of the health care bill. Once that happens, dismantling the infrastructure of the new federal bureaucracy and entitlement will be beyond the capacity of even future conservative majorities. 2012 is simply the last chance to prevent the transformation of the nation’s health care and the massive expansion of government power. If that doesn’t concentrate the minds of an American people that polls tell us overwhelming favor repeal, nothing will.
In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, Georgetown law professor Randy Barnett provided a concise summary of the “saving construction” Chief Justice Roberts used to uphold the Obamacare statute. By changing the requirement to buy insurance into an option to pay a penalty, and by making the Medicaid mandate on the states optional as well, the Chief Justice created a revised law he could then deem constitutional. As Prof. Barnett wrote:
By converting the now infamous “individual mandate” into an “option” to buy insurance or pay the remaining “penalty,” he could then uphold the “penalty” as a tax. Then, by similarly rewriting the Medicare requirement being imposed on the states, he was able to “defer” to Congress and uphold the rest of Obamacare. In short, Justice Roberts rewrote the statute so that he could save it in the name of “judicial restraint.”
So what was saved — in the cause of judicial restraint — was a statute judicially re-written, materially different from the one Congress wrote. No one knows if Congress would have passed the rewritten statute in the first place, had it been presented in the form that emerged from the Chief Justice’s opinion: the number of uninsured people covered, the financial cost of the law, and the likely impact on health care are all different from the law Congress enacted. Moreover, in the process, the Chief Justice endorsed a new shared responsibility payment power for Congress that we may see again in the future.
Barack Obama unveiled his new campaign theme last night: the president is unpopular. More specifically, the president keeps enacting unpopular policies. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s also Mitt Romney’s campaign theme: he, too, wants you to know the president is unpopular.
The audience last night heard this point alluded to throughout—usually euphemistically as a willingness to make tough choices–but Obama himself explicitly brought it up. “If the critics are right that I’ve made all my decisions based on polls, then I must not be very good at reading them,” Obama said near the end of his speech. And he’s right.
The campaign of embattled Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin has responded to the furor created by his idiotic comments about rape with an ad asking voters to forgive him. In it a penitent-looking and sounding Akin apologizes for saying that women cannot be made pregnant when raped. Though a day late, it’s full-blown apology in which he walks back his offensive statement and seeks a fresh start from voters. That’s appropriate but it also misses the point. If Akin is still expecting conservatives to rally around him and claim he is a victim of media bias and double standards that allow liberals a pass on gaffes while conservatives are crucified, he’s mistaken. The stakes involved in this election are simply too high to allow right-wingers the luxury of sticking with the Missouri congressman.
The ad seems to signal that Akin is determined to stay in the Missouri Senate race. If so, that will set off a day of furious activity intended to convince him that he must pull out before the 6 p.m. (EST) deadline today that would allow Akin to be replaced on the ballot. The consensus on the right that Akin must go is based not just on revulsion against his stupid and insensitive crack. Conservatives understand that his determination to stay could allow the Democrats to hold onto the Senate this fall. Lest anyone forget, a Republican majority in the Senate next January is necessary if there is to be any chance that ObamaCare can be repealed before it goes into effect. Even if Mitt Romney wins the presidency and the GOP holds onto the House of Representatives, if Harry Reid is the majority leader when Congress reconvenes in 2013, ObamaCare will survive.
At the top of today’s political news are two stories that are potentially damaging to Republicans. But the thing you might miss from the glaring headlines and breathless commentary (especially that coming from the left) is that one of the stories is a real problem and the other isn’t. The one that is the real problem is, as John and Alana have already written, Missouri Rep. Todd Akin’s bone-headed comment that rape victims can’t get pregnant. Akin, who recently won a tough Republican primary for the right to face embattled Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, was the foe the incumbent wanted and he has delivered for her turning a seat that was a sure GOP pick-up into a toss-up and perhaps allow ObamaCare to survive even in the event of a Romney victory in November.
The story that isn’t much of a real scandal is the one leading Politico’s morning playbook about the fact that members of a Republican Congressional delegation that visited Israel last summer went for a swim in the Sea of Galilee. One congressman, Kevin Yoder of Kansas, did so without a swimsuit while others in the group dove in fully clothed. Alcohol may have been consumed. We are supposed to be scandalized about this, but I’m not buying it.
Yesterday, Jonathan wrote about the increased price of pizza for customers of Papa John’s in light of the Affordable Care Act, showcasing a very real-world and imminent example of how the healthcare law will increase costs not just for taxpayers, but also for consumers. Many of our respondents held this view:
It is shocking that the CEO of Papa John’s and this magazine commentator would begrduge the near-poor workers of that company health insurance — and better healthcare for a few cents per pie!! Our country is based on the premise that we all pay a little more to help those less fortunate — the key here is “a little more.” Does anyone really object to that??
What this person and other liberals have wrong is this: It’s not about the price of pizza. If it were actually possible to improve healthcare for millions of Americans and insure millions more, conservatives would be on board. The basis of conservative opposition to ObamaCare is this: We do not think it will help the majority of Americans. The bill is titled the “Affordable Care Act,” but does nothing to make healthcare more affordable, nor will it improve health care. In reality, it provides a worse standard of care at a higher cost.
There may be some voters who are indifferent to the impact ObamaCare will have on the economy or even to the way it seeks to diminish religious freedom. But will they stand for an increase in the price of pizza? The founder and CEO of the Papa John’s pizza chain isn’t making any predictions on the presidential election, but he is promising a price hike on his product if the president’s signature health care legislation isn’t derailed by the November election. As Business Insider reports, John Schnatter said the additional costs ObamaCare will burden his business with will result in his pies costing 11 to 14 cents more per pizza and 15 to 20 cents per order. Because it will cost his company more to operate, the ObamaCare government surcharge will, he promised, be passed on to consumers.
Papa John’s isn’t alone in seeing a price increase in their futures. As the magazine relates, in its most recent earnings call, McDonald’s said the health care plan will cost their stores an extra $10,000 to $30,000. While the vast expansion of government power involved in the bill will result in more federal expenditures, the pizza magnate’s comment highlights the fact that it will create an across-the-board surtax on virtually all expenditures by families and individuals. This will mean an increase in the cost of living that will hit the poor a lot harder than the rich the president claims to want to tax.
While much of the political discussion in the last couple of weeks centered on marginal or made up issues such as Mitt Romney’s tax returns or whether or not he committed gaffes abroad, the implementation of ObamaCare this month is placing the real stakes of the fall election in focus. On August 1, the preventive mandate ordered by the Department of Health and Human Services went into effect, forcing nearly all employers in the country, including those whose religious and moral scruples forbid it, to pay for abortion-inducing drugs, contraception and sterilization. The implementation of the HHS mandate, only staved off in some instances by challenges from religious institutions and individuals, will compel businesses around the nation to choose between violating their religious beliefs or give up providing insurance and face heavy government fines.
At the same time, as the New York Times reported yesterday, the federal government is moving quickly to set up health exchanges in states that are refusing to take part in ObamaCare. This means Washington will be operating health markets in perhaps half of the states in the union. With the refusal of Republican governors and legislatures to take part in this massive expansion of federal power, the result of their principled decision will be to give the Obama administration the opportunity to set up an even more massive and unwieldy bureaucracy than even its opponents envisioned. Combined with the merciless advance of the HHS Mandate, it’s clear that while the two parties and their presidential candidates will be trading blows on a wide array of issues, the one thing we know for sure that will hang on the outcome will be whether the government will be proceeding after January to continue the implementation of ObamaCare.
In recent months, I’ve written in support of the Catholic Church’s effort to fight back against the Obama administration’s attempt to force it to pay for services that contradict the teaching of its religion via the Health and Human Services insurance mandate. But this issue is not just about church institutions, it is also about the ability of individuals to conduct business without violating their faith. The Newland family, owners of an HVAC distribution company named Hercules Industries and devout Catholics, believe the HHS mandate created by the ObamaCare legislation that would force them to pay for free contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drug coverage to their employees is a violation of their religious freedom. In response, they sued, and fortunately, days before an August 1 deadline that would have forced the company to begin making changes in its insurance plan to comply with the dictates of the administration, a federal district court judge appointed by Jimmy Carter granted a temporary injunction against the government. This victory in the case of Newland v. Sibelius will allow them to bring their case to court before crushing fines (the penalties could amount to as much as $10 million per year) are levied against them.
While the Obama administration has issued a narrow religious exemption to houses of worship, it has not extended that to other religious institutions, let alone individual business owners. As Judge John L. Kane ruled, any delay in enforcing the government’s demand “pales in comparison to the possible infringement upon [the Newlands’] constitutional and statutory rights.” While the injunction is limited to the Newlands rather than to all private businesses, the family’s fight is one on which hinges the future of religious liberty in this nation.
Obviously Chief Justice John Roberts was going to take a hit in the polls after his ObamaCare decision — but a 40-point drop among Republicans? There’s no way he ever bounces back from this, right?
A Gallup poll released Monday found that Roberts’s favorables dropped 11 percentage points among all Americans since the last survey in September 2005. The most recent polling showed Roberts with 39 percent of national adults having a favorable opinion of him. In 2005, the same poll found that 50 percent of adults had a favorable view of the chief justice.
Among Republicans, Roberts’s drop has been more drastic. Sixty-seven percent of Republicans had a favorable view of Roberts in 2005, a figure which plummets 40 points to 27 percent in the 2012 survey. Four percent had an unfavorable view of the chief justice in 2005, jumping to 44 percent in the new poll.
Roberts’s betrayal wouldn’t have been as gut-wrenching if his decision had been based on principled arguments, even if they were wrong. The elevation of politics over principle made it much worse. He wasn’t just mistaken; he sold out his own side for political expediency. Americans have come to expect that from politicians, but not from the Supreme Court.