Happy Sunday Morning

Anne Laurie posted this Dan Savage video at Balloon-Juice and, despite not wanting to be a blog that just links to other blogs all the time, I wanted to share it as well. I know many Christians despise Savage because of his sexuality and his outspokenness and his wildly successful campaign to redefine a certain presidential candidate. But watch this video.

If you aren’t moved by Savage’s story of his struggles with his (lack of) faith and how he dealt with the death of his mother, then you have not love, and you are nothing.

Dan Balz is an idiot

So the alarm goes off at 6:45 (Pacific Civilized Standard Time) and because I hate my brain, I flip on The Daily Rundown with Chuck Todd on MSNBC.  He has his panel of three pundits who are all there to give us the usually wrong conventional wisdom for the day.

And Dan Balz is on there and he’s telling Chuck that the Obama administration showed their incompetence on handling of this entire contraception controversy (my previous takes here, and here, and here), that it was a real “bobble” (yes, his word), and why didn’t they just come out with this “accommodation” right away instead of picking a fight with the bishops.

Well, first of all, I’m not sure how it can be considered a “bobble” when the majority of Americans agree with the policy and disagree with the bishops.  And if the White House has “bobbled” by managing to get the GOP candidates united around an anti-contraception coverage policy, then keep on bobbling White House.  Bobble away.

Finally, I’m sure I wasn’t the only liberal in America facepalming or spitting out coffee at Balz’s brilliant suggestion of just coming out immediately with the accommodation instead of moving towards it afterwards.  Yes, if only Obama would be more reasonable immediately on his many policy proposals, then maybe the GOP would just say yes, and we could eliminate all the bickering! A new bipartisan spirit will descend on Washington and everyone will get a pony.

There are two ways I look at this faux controversy.  First, and most importantly, Obama made the correct policy decision and is looking out for the health concerns of women in getting them this contraception coverage.  This really can’t be overstated, and I really wish this was the only point to be made.  Women have an advocate in the White House, truly, and he is in danger of being replaced by a man who thinks that contraception is wrong.

But secondly, dismissing the policy and from a purely political view, I see this as Obama finally learning that when you are negotiating with people who are not acting in good faith, you don’t start with your compromise.  You don’t come out and say, “here, I’m going to give you this and this and this, and I just get this, but I’m willing to do this deal.”  Because the other side always sees the first offer as… a first offer.  And you will always get less than the first offer.

So, to the idiot pundits like Dan Balz out there who are dumbfounded that Obama seems to be actually, horror of horrors, acting in such a way that he ends up getting his preferred policies implemented, just shut up.

White House negotiates good deal on contraception mandate.

Like many liberal supporters of the president, I was cringing this morning when it was announced that he would be announcing a compromise on the contraception coverage mandate.  Visions of the Bush Tax Cuts extension or the doomed Public Option were dancing through my head.  (The Bush Tax Cuts extension was square dancing, like a jerk.  The Public Option did a slow, sad interpretive dance, then collapsed.)

However, I swear it wasn’t me who sent out this Tweet this morning:

I won’t call anyone out but I think the responsible person’s name began with “i” and ended with “nuyesta.”  Ahem.

Anyway, the “deal” struck by the White House is as follows:

What the White House will likely announce later today is that the relationship between the religious employer and the insurance company will not need to have any component involving contraception. The insurance company will reach out on its own to the women employees. This is better for both sides, the source says, since the religious organizations do not have to deal with medical care to which they object, and women employees will not have to be dependent upon an organization strongly opposed to that care in order to obtain it.

This puts the responsibility on insurance companies to reach out to women to offer contraception coverage, and leaves the employer out of it completely.

Planned Parenthood had this to say about the deal:

In the face of a misleading and outrageous assault on women’s health, the Obama administration has reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring all women will have access to birth control coverage, with no costly co-pays, no additional hurdles, and no matter where they work.

And then there’s this:

The president of the Catholic Health Association, a trade group representing Catholic hospitals that had fought against the birth control requirement, said the organization was pleased with the revised rule.

“The framework developed has responded to the issues we identified that needed to be fixed,” Sister Carol Keehan said in a statement.

So it’s a deal that would seem to be acceptable to women who want access to contraception and to Catholics who don’t want to participate in that.  I’m sure the Republican candidates will consider this matter settled and will move on to issues like the economy and jobs.  Hahaha, just kidding.  My guess is we’ll be hearing words like “fungible” from very serious people in the near future.

What the contraception mandate is not

First, some facts about the new health care regulation about contraception:

  • 98% of sexually active Catholic women have used birth control.
  •  The new federal regulations mandate that employers who provide health coverage for their employees must cover contraception.
  • All churches are exempt from this mandate.  Yes, that’s right.  No church must provide contraception to its employees.
  • Church-owned businesses such as hospitals or universities are not exempt.  If the business provides a service that is not religious, then it is not exempt.
  • No person will ever be forced to take contraception because of this mandate.  If a woman doesn’t wish to take contraception, she doesn’t have to take contraception.
  • No religious hospital or doctor will ever be forced to prescribe contraception because of this mandate.
  • DePaul, the largest Catholic university in the United States, already provides contraception coverage to its employees.
  • The State of Georgia requires all employers to cover contraception, including Catholic hospitals Saint Joseph’s in Atlanta and Saint Mary’s in Athens.
  • Mitt Romney, as governor of Massachusetts, upheld and enforced a law that mandated Catholic hospitals to provide emergency contraception.
  • Republican lawmakers in more than a dozen states have introduced laws to ban Sharia Law, an assertion from the state of legal dominion over religious customs and practices of a religion.
  • The Supreme Court has already ruled that conscience does not trump the law in Employment Division v. Smith.  Antonin Scalia wrote the opinion.
  • The best way to prevent abortions is to prevent unwanted pregnancy.

Any discussion of the recent controversy over the contraception mandate should recognize all of those facts, and if any of those facts make your particular argument weaker, then that says more about your argument than the mandate.

It is perfectly valid to believe that the government should not impose this mandate, but calling this rather modest mandate an “unprecedented attack on religious liberties” is beyond ridiculous.  Newt Gingrich is now saying that it is “the most outrageous assault on religious freedom in American history.”  Seriously, he said that.

The conventional wisdom in Washington seems to be that the Obama administration has blundered again, picking a fight with people who care strongly about religious freedom.

The debate is stealing attention from where Obama wants it, on the improving economy, and could alienate moderate voters.

I hope it surprises absolutely no one that I completely disagree with the conventional wisdom here.  Rachel Maddow talked about this with Chris Hayes last night on her show.  That video provides the best analysis of this issue that I have seen so far.

Griswold was 47 years ago.  People are pretty comfortable with contraception as a good thing now.

If the Republicans want to make the issue of contraception coverage into a campaign issue (and clearly Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich really really do) then I am frankly delighted.