Obama’s Contraception Trap For The GOP

Andrew Sullivan —  Feb 13 2012 @ 12:23pm


I'd like to respond in part to Joe Scarborough on Meet The Press over his interpretation of my new Newsweek cover-story on the politics of contraception and religious freedom. I didn't say this last week of political frenzy was an advance elaborate trap by Obama, set months in advance. In fact, as we know, if anything, it was a trap set by the increasingly political Catholic Bishops to wage war on this president. Over to Joe Morning:

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Here's the paragraph Joe, I think, misreads a bit:

The more Machiavellian observer might even suspect this is actually an improved bait and switch by Obama to more firmly identify the religious right with opposition to contraception, its weakest issue by far, and to shore up support among independent women and his more liberal base. I’ve found by observing this president closely for years that what often seem like short-term tactical blunders turn out in the long run to be strategically shrewd. And if this was a trap, the religious right walked right into it.

I'm talking about the quick compromise, not the original decision. But I do think that defending free contraception for all women, as already mandated by the EEOC in 2000 (which the Bush administration did nothing to change) is a winner for Obama in the long run, especially since the Bishops, after an initially restrained response, have now fused themselves with Mitch McConnell, as pure allies of the Republican right. In fact, some in the GOP want contraception banned in any healthcare plan offered even by secular corporations who happen to be run by orthodox Catholics:

Behind Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), some Republicans want not only to repeal the mandate on faith-based non-profits, but to extend waivers to any group or person who objects to the coverage requirements for either religious or moral reasons.

The Bishops fail to see any difference. They want contraception, practised by 98 percent of Catholic women, and critical to preventing higher rates of abortion, kept out of any healthcare plan an employer decides.

Let them try. Most, I believe, will see the Obama compromise as a sane if difficult one. Finding a way to ensure all women get contraception in line with the 2000 EEOC ruling and existing laws in many states, including New York and California, while keeping the Church hierarchy from any contact with implementation or direct payment for something they object to is exactly what we elected this president for.

If you have the time, read the piece. The thing I find most politically damaging for the GOP is the oxygen and funding this will give Santorum:

Obama’s greatest skill is in getting his opponents to overreach and self-destruct. And this issue could not be more tailor-made to benefit the candidate with real potential pull with far-right-wing Catholics and evangelicals: Santorum. If the GOP really makes this issue central in the next month or so, Santorum (whose campaign claims to have raised $2.2 million in the two days following his victories last week) is by far the likeliest candidate to benefit. It could finally unite the Christian fundamentalist right behind him—especially since Romneycare contained exactly the same provisions on contraception that Obamacare did before last week’s compromise was announced.

That’s right: Romneycare can now accurately be portrayed as falling to the left of Obamacare on the contraception issue. This could very well be the issue that finally galvanizes the religious right, especially in the South. Imagine how Santorum could use that on Super Tuesday. In fact, it could be the issue that wins him the nomination. And do you really think that would hurt Obama in the fall?

Meep, meep.