As President Obama understandably runs for cover from the emotional firestorm of opposition from Catholic Church officials and Republican Congress members, there comes to mind the old saying about two sides involved in a controversy ignoring the presence of an elephant in the room.
The elephant in this case, of course, is the fact that while Catholic bishops and Republicans in Congress reacted angrily to a policy requiring that all hospitals offer contraceptives to employees including employees of Catholic hospitals, nobody is talking about the elephant in the room; i.e., the fact that contraception, from which the Catholic hierarchy is determined to protect employees of its hospitals, is practiced by millions upon millions of American Catholics, in direct contravention of church doctrine.
Another old saying comes to mind, “Physician, heal thyself.” In this case, the Catholic Church could do a great many times more to stamp out what it conceives as the evil of contraception by bringing its members into line than by going ballistic over a White House proposal that Catholic hospitals be treated like non-Catholic hospitals in being required to make contraceptives available, free of charge, to employees.
Overlooked in the emotional debate is the fact that there is no requirement that hospital employees, Catholic or non-Catholic, must use contraceptive devices. Some of the emotional outbursts would make one almost believe that the opponents see the federal policy as an effort to entice good Catholics into disobeying Church edicts.
Obama, Understandably, Decided To Retreat
The political clout of Catholicism when aroused was, of course, quickly effective in forcing President Obama to retreat. He came up with a proposal that not the Catholic ownership of the hospitals but the insurance companies involved must provide free contraceptive services.
Some might call this a distinction without a difference, but it has satisfied at least some of the opposition.
Unsatisfied still are two Nebraska members of Congress, Representative Jeff Fortenberry and Senator Mike Johanns, both of Lincoln, where Catholics come under the iron-fisted control of Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz.
Fortenberry and Johanns are both supporting bills which would allow all health care providers and all small businesses that pay for health coverage to refuse to offer contraception coverage.
A more direct—and, yes, more honest—approach would be to repeal ObamaCare itself and start over on a national health care policy. But to leave ObamaCare in place and single out contraception as a target is simply out of step with the reality in America today, emphatically including the reality among American Catholics.
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Santorum Talks Nonsense, Gingrich And Wife
Run Risk Of Recalling His Adultery
Former Senator Rick Santorum followed up his three-state victory in the contest for the Republican presidential nomination by talking nonsense as he moved his campaign on to Oklahoma . In his speech in Oklahoma City, Santorum said:
“We’re throwing Israel under the bus because we know we’re going to be dependent upon OPEC. We’re going to say, ‘Oh, Iran, we don’t want you to get a nuclear weapon—wink, wink, nod, nod—go ahead, just give us your oil.’
“Folks, the president of the United States is selling the economic security of the United States down the river right now.”
The glib candidate from Pennsylvania didn’t explain how the United States is “throwing Israel under the bus.” It may have been a cloudy suggestion that we are promoting continued frendship with Saudi Arabia and other oil-producing Mid-Eastern states by following a tough line toward Israel in its negotiation with the Palestinians.
Santorum seemed to be suggesting that we are willing to accept Iran’s development of nuclear weapons in return for Iran helping keep oil flowing from the Middle East.
Whatever the explanation, Santorum’s remarks appear, as I see it, simply foolish.
Gingrich And Third Wife Roll The Dice
Elsewhere in the Republican presidential nomination contest, Newt Gingrich and his young (compared to Newt) wife, turned themselves into more of a campaigning team by finally letting the wife, who had been his mistress for six years during his second marriage, play a speaking role.
The wife now introduces Newt instead of simply standing beside him during his campaign speeches.
It might be that Newt had noticed what a good job Mitt Romney’s wife does in the husband-introducing role. In any case, Newt’s wife, Callista, seems to be doing a pleasant job introducing Newt.
Some commentators have pointed out that to have Callista at his side, either mute or talking, is a calculated risk in that it can serve as a reminder that she was his mistress for six years.
Not surprisingly, the acidulous Maureen Dowd of The New York Times has taken note of Callista’s presence beside Newt on the campaign trail and concluded a recent column with these words:
“There’s always a chance, of course, that Callista is not staring so intently at Newt to make him feel more Napoleonic. Maybe she just doesn’t want to let him out of her sight.
“As the maxim goes, ‘When a man marries his mistress, he creates a job opening.’”
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‘SuperPACS’ Pollute The Political Process;
Some Way Must Be Found To End Them
Advice for political office-seekers and those who raise m oney for them:
Devise a statutory policy of sensible restriction on political campaign contributions—a policy that does away with “SuperPACS.”
Find a way to nullify the Supreme Court ruling that opened the floodgates to virtually anonymous infusions of literally hundreds of millions of dollars into the influencing of political campaigns.
Under the Supreme Court ruling, there is supposed to be no connection between a specific campaign and the SuperPac’s supposedly generalized political message. But the mega-bucks spending is customarily closely coordinated with the campaign of a specific candidate, doing much of the candidate’s political-low-road work for him.
The SuperPAC connection has raised ethics questions for Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.
Ethic questions which President Obama attempted to capitalize on with holier-than-thou speeches about the scandalous ways big bucks were being fed into the Republican presidential nomination campaigns through SuperPACS.
But now, even with the advantage of taxpayer-financed campaign trips flying in Air Force One, President Obama has had a change of conscience and authorized the creation of his own Super PAC.
Obama said he just couldn’t fairly compete for volume of campaign dollars without SuperPAC help.
Change of heart is one thing. Change of conscience is quite another.
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Women In Politics Deserve No Discrimination,
Also No Special Help To Replace Men
On and on it goes, an effort to encourage more women to run for—and be elected to—public office. An important effort, if your objective is to find women candidates more qualified than men to fill public office.
A recent news story suggested that perhaps you should hide from a young daughter the fact that the percentage of seats women hold in Congress is 17, while the percentage of women in the general population is 51.
The story continued: “How about this one: The share of women in the Nebraska Legislature, 22%.”
The clear implication was that these percentages are deplorable and that the nation is either discriminating against women or not doing enough to make it easier for them to take the place of men in public office.
The subject was discussed at a recent event sponsored by the Women’s Fund of Omaha. The meeting included what the reporter described as “a sober bombardment of the wide-ranging challenges women face, starting with the depictions in media as objects of sex or violence.”
There was no explanation of how media depiction actually makes it more difficult for women to prepare themselves to become candidates for public office.
Family responsibilities obviously play a part in the availability of qualified women to seek public office. There is a great deal more of sharing parental responsibilities than was the pattern in decades past, but a good many married women still consider home and family a priority responsibility.
Certainly there should be no barriers placed in the way of women who are prepared for, and aspire to, public office. But, as I see it, there should also be no campaigns principally designed to “get the numbers right.”
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Some ‘Fringe Deficits’ Go Along With
The Prestige Of High Public Office
For today’s column-ender, with the tempo of political campaigning increasing at both the state and national levels, it might be appropriate to take a light-hearted look at some of the “fringe deficits” of seeking and/or holding public office.
The “be nice to all the voters” aspect of seeking and/or holding public office wasn’t the determining factor in my two decisions not to run. But I thought about it.
I remember the time I was being asked to run for governor. One of my friends said, in effect, “Andy, don’t worry about the financing. We can provide that.”
My reply went something like this: “I appreciate the interest and offering of support, but somehow my mind goes forward to a crisp late-October Saturday when Nebraska’s Cornhuskers are playing the Missouri Tigers in Memorial Stadium. You and other major financial supporters will be at the football game.
“With the election 10 days or so away (you can see I figured I would have won the GOP nomination), I will be in Plattsmouth, pressing flesh at the Kass Kounty King Korn Festival. I would much rather be in Memorial Stadium.”
All prospective candidates for public office ought to hear a story that former Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming told at the annual luncheon of the Associated Press in New York City some years ago.
Simpson said, since he had decided not to seek re-election, he was looking forward to the day when a lady comes gushing to him at some kind of public event and says something like: “Oh, Senator Simpson, I met you in Laramie last year. And I’ll bet you don’t remember me.”
Simpson said he’d finally feel free to reply: “That’s right, ma’am. And I don’t give a rat’s ass who you are.”
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