Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Sting

With rising economic indicators and jobs data, President Obama's chances in the fall are looking better than ever. Along with the rosier economy undercutting the main criticism from conservatives that his policies are making things worse, it's pretty obvious that none of the main Republican challengers is about to set the world on fire. Barring international catastrophes or blunders on Obama's part, things are looking good for another four years and an opportunity for Democratic gains in the House and Senate. Which is why the administration's recent decision to gut the ability of religious institutions, primarily Catholic hospitals and charities, to accept federal funding without having to provide universal access to contraception is pretty baffling. Granted most Catholics in the US ignore the church's teachings on birth control, but still, the institutions of the Church are having their hand forced by this decision, and that doesn't sit well with Catholics, even liberals like myself that understand where the Church is coming from as far as a respect for life and human sexuality. So where does this decision come from? It's hard to believe that the Obama administration, with Biden, a prominent Catholic, as Vice-President, would purposely set out to alienate a portion of the electorate that swung in his favor in the last election. By changing a long-standing policy that had enjoyed bipartisan and universal favor, Obama risks arming the evangelical right and the conservative Tea Partiers with much needed ammunition as they set out to portray him as the leader of an overbearing government intent on trampling our rights. No, the Obama people are far to canny to do anything like this unwittingly. Here is the political calculus being weighed in the White House as I see it. As Romney begins to romp through the Republican primary, support for him from all sectors of the GOP will consolidate and thus give the Republicans many months to regroup and turn their sights on the man in the White House. Far better to see that selection process delayed and the fight go on to a brokered and mud-slinging finale. So let's give the evangelical and conservative voters a jolt and swing some support to Santorum, who may be able to go on a run and make life a little difficult for Mitt. And then later, with a wave of the Presidential wand, we'll see the White House, or the Department of Health and Human Services more specifically, issue a new edict in the summer establishing freedom of conscience in how religious institutions deal with federal funds. I could be totally wrong, but that's the most obvious reading of the situation. I say it's good to see the Republicans being played for a change.
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