Posts Tagged ‘Abortion’

The Unhinged Anger on the Right Leads to An Ill-Advised and Unhedged Bet Against Reform.

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

There are 2 broad lessons to take from last night:

1. Unhinged Anger Makes For Great Ratings.

Hell no!” John Boehner frothed, spittle flying as he cursed on the floor of Congress yesterday.

“This health care bill will ruin our country. It’s time to stop it…We’re about 24 hours from Armageddon,” Boehner had claimed earlier.

Baby killer!” an as yet-unnamed Republican congressman screamed at pro-life Democrat Bart Stupak on Sunday.

Nigger!” a chorus of protesters chanted to Rep. John Lewis, who also heard such things while being beaten nearly to death fighting for civil rights in the 1960s on Saturday.

Faggot!” screeched other protesters at Barney Frank that same day.

Just a few days earlier, a disturbing video recorded a man barely able to walk due to Parkinson’s disease being mocked and ridiculed by anti-health care Tea Party protesters.

A short time before that, a conservative millionaire was promising guns to “patriots” concerned about “what was coming.”

This overheated Manichean good-vs-evil rhetoric in which slight changes in wording transform you from a pro-lifer to a “baby-killer,” in which subsidies for the uninsured constitute a “government takeover,” or in which America is about to be overrun by destroyed yet again eventually must discredit it’s purveyors. At least, it must decrease in its effect over time.

Common sense has taught people that “when there’s smoke, there’s fire.” And Republican operatives epitomized by Karl Rove have taken advantage of this. Top-line Republican operatives have adopted with more vigor than the left ever did the tactics of the radical New Left of the 1960s: from attacks on the legitimacy of political institutions (from the CBO – which Rove accused of Madoff-style accounting this weekendto the Senate Parliamentarian to Congress to the Courts to the media to presidency) to the maxim that the “personal is political.” Unlike the New Left, they have virtually no agenda but to hold onto power and to, having lost it due to incompetence, tarnish the other side enough to get it back. Their hysteric charges represent the triumph of moral relativism. Their escalating outrage is an attempt to fool the American people.

This is how the rage has been created over a bill whose provisions are broadly popular and that is based on a plan offered by Republicans a generation earlier. David Frum cogently explained last night how even those Republicans “who knew better” were driven to bend before this unhinged anger that led the Republican Party to take an unhedged bet against reform, how it provoked them to declare this fight a make-or-break fight, and to take out all stops to their opposition, even though they stood little chance of succeeding:

There were leaders who knew better, who would have liked to deal. But they were trapped. Conservative talkers on Fox and talk radio had whipped the Republican voting base into such a frenzy that deal-making was rendered impossible. How do you negotiate with somebody who wants to murder your grandmother? Or – more exactly – with somebody whom your voters have been persuaded to believe wants to murder their grandmother?

…Yes [such talk] mobilizes supporters – but by mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead. The real leaders are on TV and radio, and they have very different imperatives from people in government. Talk radio thrives on confrontation and recrimination. When Rush Limbaugh said that he wanted President Obama to fail, he was intelligently explaining his own interests. What he omitted to say – but what is equally true – is that he also wants Republicans to fail. If Republicans succeed – if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office – Rush’s listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less, and hear fewer ads for Sleepnumber beds.

That’s point #1: Cynical politicos out for short-term partisan gain and entertainers trying to get ratings foment unhinged anger to push their party to make a suicidal unhinged bet against reform.

Point #2. This Was Waterloo.

The Republican Party made a huge wager that they could block health care reform, and lost. Senator Jim DeMint rather infamously declared in a secret call to anti-reform advocates:

If we’re able to stop Obama on this it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.

Newt Gingrich echoed this point:

This could be the bill that drags his whole presidency down and they look back on it and suddenly the whole thing is unraveled.

Ralph Reed wrote in an email last week:

Our goal: To shock Congress into abandoning Obamacare (which will also effectively end the Obama Presidency and save freedom in America).

That was their game plan, their goal. They wanted a repeat of 1994. Their strategy in opposing the bill presumed it would never be able to pass. They escalated the rhetoric to insane levels. The less hysterical merely called it the “government takeover of 1/6th of the economy.” Bent on manipulating public opinion, the more cynical asked “innocent” questions:

Will America become another failed Cuba-style Socialist state? [Source.]

Do you think your political affiliation might eventually play into the decision on whether you get the life-saving medical treatment you need? [Source.]

A nation of Terri Schiavos with a National Euthanasia Bill? [Source.]

The more hysterical began to panic about legislation containing death panels, killing grandma, forcing government-mandated abortion, euthanasia, and reparations for slavery, authorizing government jackboots invading your home to take your children for socialist indoctrination, and overall, destroying America as we know it unless we arm ourselves and “prepare for what is coming.”

As the American people find out the answer to all of these questions is a resounding, “No!” – as they find out that the claims were made to monger fear for partisan gain – and that the bill that a plurality of people oppose contains mainly provisions that most people support – as the reality of this reform sinks in, the Republican Party will lose traction. As David Sanger quoted David Axelrod in the New York Times:

“This only worked well for the Republican Party if it failed to pass,” David Axelrod, one of the president’s closest political advisers, said at the White House as he watched the vote count for the final bill reach 219 in favor. “They wanted to run against a caricature of it rather than the real bill. Now let them tell a child with a pre-existing condition, ‘We don’t think you should be covered.’”

Now that the bill has been passed, we can focus on whether the health care plan’s tinkering with our dysfunctional system is making things better or not – as Ross Douthat says. And we can focus on the 10 things health care legislation will do right away. Obama can make his case for what he is doing (again to Sanger): “to sell the government’s oversight role over doctors and insurance companies the way he is trying to sell financial regulation: as a leveling of the playing field, in favor of consumers.” The passage of the bill re-shapes the coverage from “what could happen” to “what it is doing.” And the Democrats are more comfortable with that argument. Perhaps most frightening of all for Republicans, if this bill accomplishes what its supporters claim it will, it will re-shape the political landscape – as Bill Kristol explained in warning Republicans against cooperating in 1994:

It will revive the reputation of the party that spends and regulates, the Democrats, as the generous protector of middle-class interests. And it will at the same time strike a punishing blow against Republican claims to defend the middle-class by restraining the growth of government.

This won’t necessarily benefit the Democrats. Republicans don’t need to keep doubling down on their anti-government rhetoric; but for the present, it seems they will.

Today, the most profound effect though is a different one. By passing this bill, Obama has proved he has yet again broken the backs of the idiocrats who threw every rhetorical, legislative, and political obstacle at him. He has showed the patience and passion which won him the presidency can be translated into presidential achievements. The bill only tinkers. It isn’t dramatic reform. But it’s core accomplishment is dramatic: a change to our core social bargain; as explained by James Fallows:

[T]he significance of the vote is moving the United States FROM a system in which people can assume they will have health coverage IF they are old enough (Medicare), poor enough (Medicaid), fortunate enough (working for an employer that offers coverage, or able themselves to bear expenses), or in some other way specially positioned (veterans; elected officials)… TOWARD a system in which people can assume they will have health-care coverage.

This is an historic achievement. It is a moral one, and it is, counter intuitively, an important step towards controlling societal spending on health care.

[Image not subject to copyright.]

The Un-American Pledge, Nietzsche (Republican), Islamists, Anti-Statism, Health Care Reform (again), and Abortion Politics

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Today, I present to you an early addition of the best reads for the long Thanksgiving weekend…

1. The Un-American Pledge. Michael Lind explains why the Pledge of Allegiance is un-American.

2. Nietzsche was a Republican. The Economist’s Democracy in America discusses Medicare and Nihilism. As it is undeniable that America’s population is aging, and that this accounts for the massive projected deficits in the future, and as everyone also acknowledges that such deficits are unsustainable, something must be done. The health care plans proposed by the Democrats include – along with various experimental measures to restrain health care spending – a Medicare commission “empowered to make decisions that automatically become law unless Congress comes up with equivalent savings” that will reduce spending as much. Republicans and the blandly smiling wise men and women of the pundit class have made it a point of conventional wisdom that Congress won’t be able to push through the cuts, and will find a way to circumvent this mandate. DiA, echoing a point Ezra Klein has been making repeatedly for the past few weeks, challenges those criticizing the plan to come up with something better:

If you don’t think an independent Medicare commission empowered to make decisions that automatically become law unless Congress comes up with equivalent savings will do the trick, then you have a responsibility to suggest something that will. Otherwise you’re just placing a bet that America’s government is going to self-destruct—a tenable argument, certainly, but not very helpful.

3. Learning from former islamists. Everyone else seemed to recommend this article a few weeks ago when it came out, but I just got to it recently myself. Johann Hari interviewed a number of former islamists who have recently renounced islamism and have begun to fight for their version of a “secular Islam” in Great Britain. He portrays this group as a vanguard. One of the islamists, Maajid Nawaz was a recruiter for an islamist group in Egypt for a time. Nawaz’s description of factors affecting recruitment seems to coincide with both intelligence agencies’ and liberals’ judgments, and to contradict the right-wing understanding:

“Everyone hated the [unelected] government [of Hosni Mubarak], and the US for backing it,” he says. But there was an inhibiting sympathy for the victims of 9/11 – until the Bush administration began to respond with Guantanamo Bay and bombs. “That made it much easier. After that, I could persuade people a lot faster.”

Eventually, Nawaz was imprisoned in Egypt. He was abandoned by the islamist group that he was working for. The only forces protecting him, as a British citizen, were forces he considered “colonial” and corrupt:

“I was just amazed,” Maajid says. “We’d always seen Amnesty as the soft power tools of colonialism. So, when Amnesty, despite knowing that we hated them, adopted us, I felt – maybe these democratic values aren’t always hypocritical. Maybe some people take them seriously … it was the beginning of my serious doubts.”

4. Anti-Statism: As American as Apple Pie. John P. Judis of The New Republic delves into the undercurrent of anti-statism in the American psyche.

5. Getting depressed about the public option. Timothy Noah depressed me more than anyone else with his ruminations on the public option.

6. Feeling better about health care reform. These pieces by Ron Brownstein and Andrew Sullivan though have made me feel much better about health care reform in general. Brownstein’s piece is especially helpful in looking at the various cost-cutting measures in the bill, and has a rather optimistic take. President Obama has apparently made that post “required reading” among White House staff. I’ll be following these posts up at a later date.

7. Abortion politics. The New Yorker had an extraordinary interview about abortion politics with Jon Shields. Shields seems to be, himself, pro-choice, but he seems to have reached an understanding of abortion as an issue which contradicts the propagandistic rhetoric that passes for most liberal commentary on abortion, which presents its opponents as being mainly concerned with keeping women in their place.

[Photo by road fun licensed under Creative Commons.]

America’s Schizophrenic Abortion Politics

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

The Stupak amendment has brought out the least attractive side of many progressive pundits:  a doctrinal, ideological, visceral disregard for opposing views. Right wingers regularly accuse liberals and progressives of this, and perhaps I cannot see it on most issues as I am firmly in the liberal camp. Or perhaps on abortion, there is an element of ideological certainty which is different than on other issues. I don’t see the same knee-jerk dismissal of opposing views as I do on the issue of abortion with regards to government intervention in the society or economy,  various social issues, or American empire. It was fair to say, as most liberals did, that opposing the stimulus was madness, and the arguments against it were often fatally flawed. It was fair to label the “enhanced interrogation techniques” torture, for that is what they were. It is fair to see homophobia as the greatest motivator of opposition to gay marriage, even if it is not the only one. It was fair to call much of the opposition and debate over health care reform “unhinged” – as the debate bore little relation to the moderate bill being proposed.

Yet, as someone who grew up a Catholic, who went to Catholic schools all my life, who has read and wrestled with Catholic doctrine and thought, I get frustrated reading the ignorant and arrogant ramblings of many pro-choice pundits as they discuss the real motivations of the pro-life movement. By ignoring the stated motivations, these pro-choice pundits are able to attribute the opposition to abortion to an anti-woman animus. It seems to me such dismissals are meant to avoid tackling the core question, which is difficult, and nearly impossible to resolve or even discuss. As such, abortion is perhaps the subject least subject to the type of technocratic solution that most Democratic politicians and policy wonks seem to favor.

(Side note: The attempt by the Obama administration to work on this issue was commendable though – attempting to reduce abortion through contraception and education. Unfortunately, the Catholic bishops scuttled this deal as they oppose contraception as well as abortion – a longstanding position. As if to prove their clueless-ness, Matt Yglesias and Atrios at that point stated that this proved that the Catholic Church didn’t really think abortion was murder – because if they did, they would set aside their silly opposition to contraception. While I agree that the Church’s position on contraception (as well as sex in general) is silly, only someone who knows nothing about the Catholic Church would be surprised at this or think it calls into questiontheir opposition to abortion, as I explained at the time.)

In the midst of the fallout from the Stupak amendment, pro-choice pundits once again demonstrated that they misunderstand the politics of abortion. Atrios, for example, tweeted:

2010’s gonna be a bloodbath if dems vote to take away abortion rights

This impression – that support for keeping the status quo on abortion rights is popular – is in fact now, and has long been, untrue. A majority of the country does favor keeping abortion legal, but much of the same majority believes it should be harder to get abortions and supports significant conscience opt-outs regarding abortion. This majority includes a majority of women. Most people do not see abortion as simply “a medical procedure,” but as a profound act. Matt Yglesias dismisses this distinction made by the majority of Americans as “arbitrary” and as merely part of an effort to delegitimize abortion.

Yglesias, a favorite blogger of mine, wrote a similarly clueless post – in which he suggested that nothing was achieved with the Stupak amendment – as Republicans continued to oppose it, the National Right to Life continued to oppose it, and the Catholic bishops only supported the amendment rather than the whole bill. Of course, Yglesias ignores the clearest goal of the Stupak amendment – to get pro-life Democrats on board, without whom the bill wouldn’t have passed. As to the groups Yglesias addressed, the National Right to Life committee gives the pro-life movement a bad name – as it has become entirely co-opted by the Republican Party and now merely distributes propaganda for the party. But the bishops had previously said they would not support any specific legislation, even as they supported the goals of this health care reform. Their only reason to oppose the bill was whether or not it would be “abortion-neutral.” The Stupak amendment removed their opposition – and even lead Cardinal Francis George to call Republican Minority Leader Boehner to make sure “the GOP didn’t play any games,” blocking health care reform on the pretense of a pro-life position. Yglesias failed to take these into account because they interfered with the point he was trying to make: that pro-lifers are insincere in their opposition to abortion and instead just oppose the Democratic Party and the rights of women.

What Democratic politicians realize – but progressive pundits do not – is that Democrats will only win if they can with the Catholic vote. And the largest impediment to winning the Catholic vote is the issue of abortion, for which Catholics bear a great deal of the blame for the schizophrenic position of the majority. There is a hard core of conservative Catholics, but they are a small portion of America’s largest religious group, which includes almost all of the fastest growing ethnic subset, Latinos. They are also the ultimate swing vote, having voted for the presidential candidate who won the popular vote (and except in 2000, the winner), in every election since 1960 save Richard Nixon’s 1968 win.

At the same time, the attitudes of younger Americans have also moved away from the Democratic Party line, as the young favor gay marriage, the legalization of marijuana, and restrictions on abortion.

If Democrats do not figure out how to either convert pro-life voters to pro-choice voters, or to soften their opposition, they will not hold onto power. So, what are Democrats to do? To win over the Catholic vote – and a significant percentage of the younger pro-life vote, there are a few simple steps:

  • Respect. They can stop using the propagandistic terms “anti-choice” or “anti-woman” to describe those who disagree with them on abortion. They should be consistent and either refer to both sides by the terms they prefer: pro-choice versus pro-life; or describe the issue more precisely as anti-abortion and pro-abortion rights.
  • Civility. They can stop questioning the motivations of their opponents and accept the rationale offered. Nothing turns off someone who disagrees with you on one issue, but agrees on most others more than claiming that their opposition is based on something they claim it is not.
  • Dialogue. Rather than dismissing concerns about abortion as “arbitrary,” take some time to think through the issue from the beginning. I find it somewhat incongruous to consider a zygote a full human being. It’s much harder though to distinguish between a fetus who has not yet taken a breath of air from one who has. That border does seem quite arbitrary. Consider – for a moment – whether or not pro-lifers are actually only concerned with keeping women in their “proper place.” Consider that they may be wrong, but that they are raising some valid arguments. Any political philosophy is successful to the extent it can deal with and subsume the arguments opposing it. On abortion, the Democrats are failing miserably.
  • Common ground. Keep working on reducing the number of abortions. The Catholic Church and thus most pro-life organizations may continue to oppose such measures, but it will win over the center. In fact, better yet, just pass a bill that reduces the number of abortions without worrying about whether or not you have their support. Make the Democratic Party the party that will fight to keep abortions legal, but will help reduce them as it was under Bill Clinton.
  • Attack partisan groups. If – when – the National Right to Life committee and other pro-life groups continue to shrilly oppose the Democratic Party, isolate and attack these groups as not attempting to find a solution to this issue.

Coincidentally, this bears a great deal of resemblance to the approach Obama has taken to his political opponents generally, including on the issue of abortion – using respect and civility as a potent weapon. And this is why both serious Democratic candidates in 2008 sought to soften their pro-choice stands.

[Image by Steve Rhodes licensed under Creative Commons.]

Nancy Pelosi’s Essential Leadership

Monday, November 9th, 2009

At this point, whatever you think of Nancy Pelosi’s policies – or her personality – you have to admit this: she’s ruthlessly pragmatic, knows how to wield her power effectively, has excellent political instincts, and is one of the more effective Speakers of the House in recent memory. In an interview with Ezra Klein, Pelosi described her legislative philosophy:

“You get the votes,” she said, balling one hand into a fist, “and you take the vote,” and she punched her other hand. “Because you never know what can happen.”

Pelosi’s 11th hour compromise Saturday night – accepting the Stupak amendment – proved she was willing to do what it took to get the health care “bill that no one loved but almost everyone still believed in” passed. The Stupak amendment brought two key constituencies on board: the Catholic bishops and pro-life Democrats. As Minority Leader Boehner prepared to use legislative maneuvers to scuttle the bill on the grounds it would make everyone in the health insurance exchange pay “an abortion premium” – Pelosi’s acceptance of the Stupak amendment lead Cardinal Francis George, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, to call Boehner to make sure “the GOP didn’t play any games,” blocking health care reform on the pretense of a pro-life position. At the same time, the Stupak amendment also allowed the bill’s sole Republican supporter to sign on, Congressman Anh Cao. The fallout among the pro-choice Democrats has been severe – but Pelosi must assume it’s manageable. Given the fact that this provision will likely be stripped from the final version of the bill, it seems a small price to pay to pass this historic legislation.

At the same time, Klein points out that Pelosi’s decision to push cap and trade legislation through months ago looks prescient today:

I’m not saying that cap and trade has great odds this year, but whatever chance it does have is a function of Pelosi passing it back in June. She got the votes, and she took the vote.

The House has now passed two bills tackling two major issues that have been growing worse for the past two decades but Washington has been unable to address due to partisan gridlock. Obama deserves much of the credit. But Nancy Pelosi has proven to be a formidable pol – and it is her leadership most of all that has gotten this legislation as far as it has.

Now, all eyes turn to the Senate – for both health care and cap and trade. In the coming months we will find out whether or not Washington is able to deal with either of these issues, or to once again put them off, drawing closer to the moment that is too late. But in the meantime, Nancy Pelosi has done her job.

[Image by Public Citizen licensed under Creative Commons.]

Senator David Vitter Lies Again: Claims Health Reform Creating “Abortion Mandate” That Will Kill “Millions Upon Millions”

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

TownHall.com – who previously had sent this email claiming people needed to act immediately to prevent Obama from killing your grandparents and babies just now forwarded a message from Senator David Vitter.

The complete email from Vitter is below – but his main point is that health care reform is secretly a “new abortion entitlement” claiming that it contains an “abortion mandate” and that “millions upon millions will be killed each year” if the bill passes. Politifact – a nonpartisan fact checking organization hasn’t dealt with Vitter’s lies yet, but they have evaluated a number of similar claims that are circulating:

[W]e checked a claim by Rep. John Boehner that the plan would require Americans to “subsidize abortion with their hard-earned tax dollars.” While there are several versions of the health care plan floating around Congress, and it seems that full abortion coverage would be permitted in the government-sponsored program, we didn’t see anything in them that would put taxpayers on the hook for subsidizing abortions. In fact, we found an amendment in a key version of the House plan that specifically seeks to ensure that federal funds are not used to subsidize abortion coverage. And so we ruled that claim False. [my emphasis]

The White House and Democrats have in fact attempted to make their health care reforms “abortion neutral” so that the bill would neither encourage nor discourage abortion. If the amendment referenced above does not pass, the health care reform bills would not cover any abortions that would not have been covered by private health insurance.

In other words, Senator David Vitter, paragon of moral virtue, is lying to pro-lifers in a desperate attempt to block health reform.

Dear Townhall Reader,

Now it’s time to turn up the heat.

I’ve spent the last several days talking with fellow pro-life Senators about our strategy to ensure that any new national health care plan does NOT include coverage for abortion on demand.

We’re all agreed on two main points:

  1. This has to be the #1 objective of the pro-life cause right now — if we fail, millions of babies will pay the ultimate price, and;
  1. We have the truth and public opinion on our side, but what’s needed is steady grassroots pressure on key lawmakers nationwide.

And it needs to begin right now.

That’s why I’m asking you to click here to sign the Susan B. Anthony List’s petition to keep abortion out of healthcare.

We must ACT to stop the abortion mandate today.

Because if President Barack Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi pass a national health insurance plan that includes full coverage for abortion on demand:

  • Taxpayer-funded abortions will be the law of the land in all 50 states.
  • Health clinics nationwide will become federal abortion facilities.
  • Millions upon millions will be killed each year.

That’s some kind of “hope and change” isn’t it?

I don’t know about hope, but it’s a definite change away from everything we’ve achieved these past eight years to promote a culture of life.

So please act right now  and sign the petition-–  if we all come together and make our voices heard, this could be the biggest victory for unborn children in a decade.

What makes this such a desperate fight?

For beginners, new entitlements never go away.

President Obama knows that, and so do Nancy Pelosi and the lobbyists at Emily’s List and NARAL –- they see this as a way to solidify government policy in support of abortion for generations to come. Of course, we created federal entitlements like Social Security and Medicare in the past to help people live. This new entitlement promotes abortion, not life.

That’s not a sign of progress.  It’s horrifying, and we cannot allow it.

So after you sign the petition, I hope you will rush the most urgent contribution you can afford right now to the Susan B. Anthony List.

This legislation creating a new national health care plan is changing rapidly, moving through various committees, with anti-life lobbyists trying to sneak abortion coverage in at every turn.

You have my word that I am paying close attention to all the language in these bills, and so are my pro-life colleagues both in the House and the Senate.

Emily’s List, NARAL and Nancy Pelosi’s pro-abortion friends won’t sneak anything by us. If they want to create a new abortion entitlement, they’re going to have to cast a series of public roll-call votes.

And those votes will be very close.

Because I don’t have pro-life stalwarts like Elizabeth Dole and Rick Santorum here with me anymore, I’m not working with a big margin in the Senate.

The numbers are difficult in the House as well.

But there is hope.

Recently, 19 House Democrats signed a letter to Speaker Pelosi expressing their opposition to abortion funding in health care reform.

I’m told a handful of Senate Democrats are prepared to express similar principles to Majority Leader Harry Reid.

The rest –– and victory or defeat — is up to you.

If you and the really dedicated pro-life footsoldiers across America can summon enough energy, outrage, noise and financial generosity on our side, we’ll win.

Susan B. Anthony List staffers and I have identified the dozen lawmakers we consider the key “swing votes” on this issue, and our petition with thousands of names of Americans nationwide will go directly towards applying pressure on them to vote against taxpayer-funded abortions.

We need to act quickly, so please click here to sign the SBA List petition to keep abortion out of health care.

I’m doing everything in my power as Senator to stop Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi from creating a new national health insurance program that funds abortions, and the Susan B. Anthony List is playing a vital role in this fight.

Townhall Reader, we really need your help.

Sincerely,
David Vitter
U.S. Senator

P.S.    Townhall Reader, this will come down to one or two Senators and maybe ten Representatives -– that’s who will make the difference between a huge pro-life victory or a new national health insurance plan that will use taxpayer dollars to fund the entire abortion-on-demand agenda and result in millions of murdered babies.

I’m doing everything I possibly can in the Senate to stop this new abortion entitlement, but I need your help.  Please sign the SBA List petition to keep abortion out of health care TODAY.

Stop ObamaCare Before Obama Murders Your Comatose Wife and Infant Daughter!

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

I received an email this morning from Townhall.com entitled, “ObamaCare Equals Government Funded Euthanasia” with the above image. I’m sort of curious why they couldn’t have just shown a picture of Obama with a gun to the baby’s head. It would have been more effective at getting their message across. But then again, they might be concerned about losing the white male gun owner vote – ’cause after all, its hard to maintain that Obama is both a liberal pansy (who’s the next Hitler and therefore is going to take away your guns) and that he carries a Glock around so he can take out any infants he sees.

But I take this email to demonstrate that the right is now stepping up its blizzard of lies about the Democratic health care reform bill over the August recess. Here’s some context for the photo:

Everyone knows that nationalized healthcare is a terrible idea but everyday we unearth even more awful details in what is in the proposed government-run plan.

A nation of Terri Schiavos with a National Euthanasia Bill?

In 2005, a COURT ordered the removal of a feeding Tube from Terri Schiavo. It outraged a nation. If the Government takes over health care, bureaucrats will decide who lives and dies in America. In the name of “creating efficiencies,” they will delay – or deny – treatment to critically ill patients because it costs too much.

We will have a NATION of Terri Schiavo’s, with a faceless Federal Bureaucracy pulling the plug instead of a Court.!

Sound crazy? It happens every day in Great Britain.

You can STOP what will in effect be government sponsored euthanasia in America if you ACT NOW.

If you care about the Sanctity of Life, the proposed Government Takeover of Health Care is an attack on your values.

It’s quite interesting that Town Hall would bring up Terri Schiavo – the pinnacle of right-wing overreach that helped alienate libertarians from the Republican camp – and that led the public to near unprecedented levels of agreement over the matter. 62% of Americans favored removing the feeding tube – and 82% of Americans believed that Congress and the President should have stayed out of the matter. Yet Town Hall – speaking only to its base – sees Schiavo as a rallying cry. And not just to their base – they claim that the removal of the feeding tube, “outraged a nation.” I wonder what it accomplishes to lie to your base and tell them that they are the real majority, aside from radicalizing them and alienating them from the American system.

But getting back to the substance of what they are claiming, they bring up a repeated right-wing canard – that:

If the Government takes over health care, bureaucrats will decide who lives and dies in America. In the name of “creating efficiencies,” they will delay – or deny – treatment to critically ill patients because it costs too much.

So many inaccuracies – as, to start, the Democratic health care reform doesn’t lead the government to take over health care. At worst, it would lead to a government-provided health insurance. And any health insurance – private or public – will deny treatment on occasion due to expense. The problem with our status quo is that rationing occurs both by cost – depending on what insurance plan you have and by health insurance company bureacrats whose job it is to deny as many treatments as possible and/or to rescind your policy if they can’t deny the treatments. That sounds a lot less like rationing and more like a war that health insurance companies are waging against the sick of America – a war in which their goal is to maximize their profits regardless of the cost to society or their paying customers.

As to the Democratic health care reforms endorsing government-funded abortion and euthanasia, I truly wonder who actually buys this load of crap. Clearly, it is an attempt by Town Hall to manufacture outrage – but who is stupid enough to believe this? Too many people, I’m sure.

Edit: On reddit, criswell improves the image, writing:

Man, look at his eyes! Obama sure hates that baby!

That pic is all kinds of win…. But it could be better… It may be too subtle for your average American… It needs… something….. Hmmmm….

(more…)

Matt Yglesias’s Prejudiced Caricature of Catholicism

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

Dan Gigloff of US News reported yesterday that a number of anti-abortion groups – specifically citing the US Conference of Catholic Bishops – are opposing an Obama administration attempt to bridge the Culture Wars by offering a comprehensive package to reduce abortions including contraception and sex education. This prompted a few responses in the liberal blogosphere.

Matt Yglesias:

It’s precisely because of stances like this that it’s very hard to take the “abortion is murder” crowd seriously when they say abortion is murder. Their revealed behavior indicates that they don’t actually find abortion especially problematic, but just place it on a spectrum containing a general aversion to women controlling their own sexuality

Atrios:

Those People We Want To Find Common Ground With?

Aren’t interested. I’m shocked!

The fact that these two prominent liberals both take such idiotic positions astounds me. Though I have to give Yglesias credit for not faulting Obama for the outreach – as Atrios seems to be doing. Yglesias instead seems to be describing “the Obama Method” at work. And to be clear – I think Obama is doing the right thing here and should keep these two initiatives together. It’s smart politics – and it makes sense to the majority of Catholics and other religious who believe that abortion is awful but contraception isn’t.

But the fact that these two people – who I normally find to be intelligent and worthwhile commentators – cannot understand the position the bishops are taking perhaps explains why the Democrats have had such trouble getting the Catholic vote.

Let me start by way of analogy: Knowing that Yglesias and Atrios opposed wars of choice, I could ask them to support a bill that was meant to reduce wars of choice by supporting coups d’etat in countries who we might otherwise invade. To back up my push, I would show statistically – over history – that such coups would reduce overall violence in the globe. Now, if Yglesias or Atrios rejected this compromise, it wouldn’t mean they didn’t really oppose wars of choice. It would mean that they didn’t think two wrongs made a right. It wouldn’t mean they were appeasers and pacificsts. And for me to claim it did would be nothing but political theatre.

Back to abortion and contraception: the Catholic Church has officially opposed contraception and abortion through much of its history – and certainly for hundreds of years. The justification has changed over the years – evolved it is said – but the basic foundation has remained the same – and this foundation is not the subjugation of women as Yglesias flatly states. Yglesias reveals a prejudice here, grounded as most prejudices are, on ignorance.

The foundation of the Churhc’s policy is a perverse view of sexuality that sees its only redeeming value as procreation. Many Catholics do not live as if this were true – and many reject it – but it remains (with a few qualifications) the official position. This is why the Catholic Church opposes masturbation, blow jobs, dildos, plastic vaginas, anal sex, pornography, prostitution, etc. Given this, it is pretty clear why the bishops view both contraception and abortion as wrong. The Church has even condemned the use of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS – which is incredibly irresponsible – but it goes to demonstrate their consistency on this issue.

It’s not about oppressing women. And it’s not about bad faith. To suggest such indicates a kind of ideological blinkering I most often see on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. To top it all off, it certainly alienates Catholics – even the majority who disagree with the Church’s position.

It behooves intelligent liberals such as Yglesias and Atrios to actually respond to the Catholic bishops’ position on the merits rather than resorting to prejudiced caricatures.

[Image by Lawrence OP licensed under Creative Commons.]

Distractions

Monday, December 29th, 2008

The Bush administration has been praised often for doing their part to ensure a smooth transition to an Obama presidency. At the same time, many leading Republicans have said that they – like the rest of the country – are rooting for Obama to succeed. The consequences of him failing, especially on the economic front, are just too dire.

Yet, someone in the Bush administration hasn’t gotten the message. Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt recently instituted a new regulation expanding the right of various health care workers to refuse to refer a woman to an abortion provider, to refer a woman to any service that might counsel an abortion, or to provide emergency contraception.

This regulation is set to take effect on Obama’s inaguration day. Leavitt could hardly think that such a regulation would survive past the inaguration of a pro-choice president. And for some reason, he had not instituted the regulation before this point despite being secretary since 2005 – so he obviously didn’t see it as a priority.

But it’s hard to think of a better way to drag Obama into the culture wars and reduce his political capital as he attempts to tackle our looming economic crisis.

[This picture is a work of the U.S. Federal government and thus part of the public domain.]

The World Is Blowing Up. We Can’t Be One-Issue Voters Today.

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Chuck Hagel, a Republican, is quoted in the most recent New Yorker in a piece by Connie Bruck:

There was a political party in this country called the Know-Nothings. And we’re getting on the fringe of that, with these one-issue voters—pro-choice or pro-life. Important issue, I know that. But, my goodness. The world is blowing up everywhere, and I just don’t think that is a responsible way to see the world, on that one issue. And, interestingly enough, that is one issue that stopped John McCain from picking one of the people he really wanted, Joe Lieberman or Tom Ridge. [my emphasis]

McCain Bipartisanship vs. Obama Bipartisanship

Friday, September 12th, 2008

McCain has branded himself “The Original Maverick”. He bases this assertion of his brand on the numerous times he has gone against his party and, in another branding phrase, “Put Country First.” He and his surrogates have asked constantly – and some more independent-minded writers have also asked – “When has Obama challenged his party in a way similar to McCain?” The implication, and sometimes the outright attack, is that Obama is unable or unwilling to challenge the Democratic party in the same way McCain is willing to challenge the Republican party. A good example of this is in Rick Warren’s questions to McCain and Obama at the Saddleback forum. Warren asked McCain:

John, you know that a lot of good legislation dies because of partisan politics, and party loyalty keeps people from really getting forward on putting America’s best first. Can you give me an example of where you led against your party’s interests — oh, this is hard — (LAUGHTER) — and really, maybe against your own best interests for the good of America?

For John McCain, the answers to this question are clear – he stood against his party on the issue of torture (although he later qualified his initial opposition to torturing); he stood against his party on the issue of global warming; he challenged the Bush administration on how they were handling the Iraq war; he stood against his party on Bush’s tax cuts (although he again completely reversed positions on this issue); he stood against the base of his party on the issue of immigration; and he stood against his party on the issue of campaign finance reform.1

In all of these cases, McCain stood against his party and with the Democrats. His positions were not “bi-partisan” – they were examples of a Republican acknowledging his party had the wrong position.

He went against his party’s interests because he clearly believed his party had the wrong position for America. It is also worth noting that the Republican party on all of these issues had blatantly wrong and unserious positions. Defending torture? Denying global warming despite the widespread consensus of scientists? Rick Warren’s question presumes that Republicans and Democrats are both equally wrong about the issues – and that we can get past this impasse by compromising. But that is not, in fact, the situation. He didn’t compromise and wasn’t bipartisan – he took the side of his political opponents because his party had taken an untenable position. That takes a measure of courage, but to demand Obama take stands against his party, you first have to identify similar no-brainer issues on which the Democratic party has taken a side. Obama instead is faulted for partisanship, in part, for having the same position on these issues as McCain. McCain, for coming to the same conclusions, is a maverick. What few acknowledge is that on the issues on which McCain has stood against his party, they have clearly been in the wrong.

The wedge issues of the 1990s divided the country between conservatives and liberals who competing ideologies – abortion, gun rights, affirmative action, welfare, homosexuality2 – these were issues in which both sides had entrenched positions – and on which the country was in broad and deep disagreement. These are issues on which bipartisanship and moderation and federalism are the only solutions – because to legislate either side would leave half of the population in extremely strong disagreement. And it is worth noting that on these issues Obama has embraced bipartisanship – which he understands to mean finding goals both sides agree on related to these issues (from his speech in Denver):

We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country.

(APPLAUSE)

The — the reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than they are for those plagued by gang violence in Cleveland, but don’t tell me we can’t uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals.

(APPLAUSE)

I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in a hospital and to live lives free of discrimination.

(APPLAUSE)

You know, passions may fly on immigration, but I don’t know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers.

McCain has rejected bipartisanship on these issues in his presidential campaign – embracing a hard right position on abortion and an enforcement first approach to immigration. His examples of embracing “bipartisanship” are really just examples of him taking the Democratic position.

It’s worth noting in the days ahead how differently these two men define bipartisanship. Obama defines it as working with people you disagree with to find common goals; McCain defines it as standing with the Democrats when he can they are clearly in the right.

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  1. I have left out McCain’s Gang of Fourteen compromise which secured the appointments of Roberts and Alito – which is a rare case of McCain’s actual bipartisanship. However, it is worth noting that McCain’s bipartisanship in this instance did not actually result in a compromise for the Republicans – but in a total victory for them. []
  2. And government spending fits in here too, but not as neatly, so I will reserve this issue. []