Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Catholic Bishops and Republicans prepare for war

Obama being Obama, he offered, last Friday, to make peace on a liberal issue on which he enjoys wide public support—requiring Catholic hospital and university employers to provide employee health insurance for contraceptive services.
With 57% of the general public and 56% of independent Catholics already in his corner, he presented a revised plan that would allow those employers to refrain from paying directly for contraceptive coverage—their insurers would be obligated to provide the coverage instead.

Obama effectively gets what he wants: near universal health insurance coverage for women and the freedom to get back to work on the economy.
Being the Obama they loath, however, Republicans scorned his offer to move on. Their leaders in Congress will proceed with legislation that will allow all employers in the US to follow their religious beliefs in deciding whether their employees get access to health insurance coverage for contraceptives. 

Rather than congratulate themselves on forcing another compromise out of a president who “doesn’t know how to lead,” they’ve chosen to side with the Conference of Bishops—and their stark insistence that the federal government not assist women to make choices they oppose.
Obama insists that no woman’s health should depend on “where she works.” Mitt Romney calls the regulation to accomplish that principle an “outrageous assault on religious conscience,” and Rick Santorum divines that this fight is about both religious freedom and government “control of our lives.”

Words in politics are disposable. Yet, the Republicans seem to have tied their fortunes to the “moral analysis” of the Bishops—a conference of wordsmiths that does not answer to swing voters or have any qualms about making women uncomfortable or sounding reactionary.

Mike Huckabee declared to a cheering conservative audience that “we are all Catholics now.” That’s a great one-liner. But, is it tenable politically? Can Romney or Santorum use that line in an acceptance speech at the Republican Convention next August and in a debate with Barack Obama?
In designing health and social programs, should a good president—Catholic, Mormon, or Evangelical—respond to a lobby of Catholic Bishops as good Catholic? 

After cramming on economics for so long, Democrats may not feel up to fighting with Republicans on an issue of conscience—this is: should the government defer to the teachings of Church hierarchy or to the preferences of individual believers and non-believers? It shouldn’t take elaborate preparation to stand up for a liberal principle that inspired the constitution.
When it comes down to whether a president answers to his church or to the people, Democrats would be well served to reply: “We’re all democrats; aren’t you?”

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