Sorry I’ve been scarce. This upper respiratory infection has just wiped me out.
Anyway — I have been following the contraception flap and am persuaded President Obama played the bishops, and the Republicans, like a fiddle (see Blue Girl for commentary). The best article I’ve read on this is by Helene Cooper and Laurie Goodstein in the New York Times. According to Cooper and Goodstein, the President didn’t give a hoo-haw about appeasing the Catholic bishops. However, he was getting some flak from people like Sister Carol Keehan, head of an influential Catholic hospital group, and Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a nuns’ social activist group. Now the sisters are happy and Planned Parenthood is happy, so it’s all good.
Even better, the bishops are still pissed. They and some GOP politicians are holding out for allowing employers to pick and choose what health care coverage their employees may have. So if the employer is a Christian Scientist, does nothing get covered?
Poll after poll says the public is in favor of the HHS policy. This includes a majority of Catholics. Yet cluelessness abounds. Possibly the oddest commentary is from rightie blogger Tom Maguire, who titles his post “The Contraception Controversy Would Have Been Avoided If Obama Were President.” The implication, of course, is that the President is not in charge, but based on my reading of Cooper and Goodstein, the President has been driving this issue exactly where he wants it to go.
And see the comment by Extraneus —
It’s amazing that they’re [the Obama Administration] willing to go to the mat for … birth control? Seriously?
We should already have a candidate who’s up ten points on this douchebag.
This brought to mind a post by John Cole from a few days ago:
Others here have talked about the issue in more detail, but I really just can’t believe that in the year 2012, with everything that is going on, Republicans want to pick a losing fight over condoms and the pill. I thought they were stupid, but I didn’t think they were that stupid. It’s like they’ve given up on taking us back to 1950 and have just decided to pretend it is 1950 all over again.
Or, to paraphrase — It’s amazing that they’re willing to go to the mat to stop … birth control? Seriously?
See, unlike fantasy issues like the President’s birth certificate and imaginary death panels, birth control actually makes a difference in the lives of real people. Yes, many people fork out the money themselves. But since we’re talking mostly about women’s health care, when contraception is not covered by insurance it amounts to a womb tax.
Cluelessness abounds. The congenitally clueless Ruth Marcus writes at WaPo,
The biggest puzzle is how the administration landed itself in this fix. There was going to be no satisfying the Catholic bishops. From the church’s point of view, no exemption could be broad enough. In a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops argued that contraception “is not properly seen as basic health care” and that the mandate “should be rescinded in its entirety.”
But the public was not in an uproar about the mandate itself. The administration’s self-inflicted wound involved its refusal to write a large enough exemption.
Marcus, you dimwit — the public was not in an uproar at all. The public overwhelmingly is opposed to allowing Catholic hospitals an exemption from birth control coverage.
And, of course, we’ve got some “Obama caved” snorting coming from the Left (see especially comments). I think this was a fight the President needed to have, however, and I think on the whole he has come out of this in better shape than he went in.