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More Than a Touch of Malice

When Barack Obama first announced that he intended to force all employers, including Catholic institutions, to provide contraception and abortifacients as part of the healthcare package they offer their employees, my friend Michael Barone observed that the President “was spitting in the eyes of millions of Americans and threatening the existence of charitable programs that help millions of people of all faiths”; and, presuming that the President could not possibly have intended to stir up a hornet’s nest, he suggested that his decision in this matter must have been a function of ignorance and isolation. This was my first instinct as well. It seemed foolish – guaranteed to alienate a constituency that had supported Barack Obama in 2008 and had hailed his election.

NancyPelosi1.jpgWe know a bit more now. We know that the President did not act on impulse, that he took his time in making this decision, and that he sought advice from a range of individuals within the Democratic Party. Vice-President Joe Biden and William Daley, who was then Obama’s Chief of Staff, both profess to be Catholic, and they strongly advised against doing anything that would antagonize the Catholic bishops and the laity. Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Nancy Pelosi, the former Speaker of the House and current Democratic minority leader, were also consulted. They, too, profess to be Catholic, and they fiercely advocated imposing this burden on all employers providing health insurance for their employees.

The decision appears to have been made before the New Hampshire primary. Otherwise, it would be hard to explain why, at the debate in New Hampshire in early January, George Stephanopoulos – who pretends to be a journalist but is still obviously nothing more than a Democratic operative – repeatedly pressed Mitt Romney to spell out where he stood on the question of contraception. Stephanopoulos’ disgraceful performance, which drew boos and catcalls from the crowd, is an indication that Obama and at least some of his aides thought that they had something to gain by injecting this question into this year’s campaign.

KathleenSebeslius.jpgOn the face of it, President Obama would appear to be shooting himself in the foot. Why would he risk losing the Catholic vote? One could, of course, argue that his aim was to excite the feminists and give them a reason to turn out in November. As a rationale, however, even this seems a bit lame. The benefit that the President proposes to provide is insubstantial. The administration’s claim to the contrary notwithstanding, the pill and other birth control devices are not free. But the expense involved is not great. Among those who are employed and have healthcare insurance, no one is hard put to come up with the paltry sum required.

This suggests that there can be only one reason why Sebelius, Pelosi, and Obama decided to proceed. They wanted to show the bishops and the Catholic laity who is boss. They wanted to make those who think contraception wrong and abortion a species of murder complicit in both.  They wanted to rub the noses of their opponents in it. They wanted to marginalize them. Humiliation was, in fact, their only aim, and malice, their motive.

Last week, when, in response to the fierce resistance he had deliberately stirred up, the President offered the bishops what he called “an accommodation,” what he proffered was nothing more than a fig leaf. His maneuver was, in fact, a gesture of contempt, and I believe that it was Barack Obama’s final offer. From his perspective and from that of Sebelius and Pelosi, the genuine Catholics still within the Democratic coalition are no more than what Vladimir Lenin called “useful idiots,” and, now that the progressive project is near completion, they are expendable – for there is no longer any need to curry their favor.

In his piece in The Washington Examiner, which I link above, Michael Barone mentioned Obama’s decree with regard to contraception and abortifacients in tandem with a brief discussion of the President’s decision to reject the construction of the Keystone Pipeline. He was, I think, right to do so – for there is no good reason that any student of public policy can cite for doing what the President did. Cancelling the pipeline will not delay or stop the extraction of oil from the tar sands in Alberta, and the pipeline itself would pose no environmental threat. If the President’s decision had any purpose, it was symbolic – an indication to all that he cared not one whit about the plight of the white working class and that he was capable of punishing those whom he does not like and more than willing to do so.

In 2008, when he first ran for the Presidency, Barack Obama posed as a moderate most of the time. This time, he is openly running as a radical. His aim is to win a mandate for the fundamental transformation of the United States that he promised in passing on the eve of his election four years ago and that he promised again when he called his administration The New Foundation. In the process, he intends to reshape the Democratic coalition – to bring the old hypocrisy to an end, to eliminate those who stand in the way of the final consolidation of the administrative entitlements state, to drive out the faithful Catholics once and for all, to jettison the white working class, and to build a new American regime on a coalition of  highly educated upper-middle class whites, feminists, African-Americans, Hispanics, illegal immigrants, and those belonging to the public-sector unions. To Americans outside this coalition, he intends to show no mercy.

Mark my words. If Barack Obama wins in November, he will force the Catholic hospitals to perform abortions, and the bishops, priests, and nuns who fostered the steady growth of the administrative entitlements state, thinking that they were pursuing “the common good,” will reap what they have sown.

In the end, politics has as its focus persuasion. Our difficulties are a function of policy, not of mismanagement. If we are to stop Barack Obama in 2012, we will have to find a standard-bearer who can articulate a compelling argument against the administrative entitlements state and, by means of persuasion and praxis, reverse our democracy’s inexorable soft despotic drift. Let us hope that one or another of the remaining candidates rises to the occasion.

ADDENDUM: This post is intended as a sequel to two earlier posts on related subjects: American Catholicism’s Pact with the Devil and American Catholicism: A Call to Arms.

  1. Cobalt Blue

    “A Republic – if you can keep it.” Well, Ben, we failed you. God help us. 

    Thanks Prof. Rahe for this crystal clear, and I fear appallingly accurate, analysis of where we stand.

  2. raycon and lindacon

    We stand to be condemned by getting our wish, an America in which God is merely a byword to most and ignored by the rest.  The remaining America which seeks a faithful life of acknowledging God as our source, and the Constitution as our earthly instrument for governance, is the recipient of the ire both of Obama, and the majority of the American people.

    Ben did, indeed, ask the right question.  America has proven that she cannot keep the republic with which God blessed us. 

    Can America recover that which is lost?  God’s grace is there for us, but we must ask for it and acknowledge that we are unworthy to receive it. 

    I am pessimistic.

  3. Phillip Mathes

    I think that the president’s “compromise” is simply a distinction without a difference. In so doing, he has madde the decision that, in his hierarchy of favored groups and organization, the feminists  and envirinmentalists are tied for #1, and anyone else who tries to do anything against those groups will be smashed, no matter what. Apparently, Obama thinks that there are enough radicals in the US to elect him when the blacks and dumb masses of non-taxpaying voters get together with them this fall.

    Phil

  4. K T Cat

    Paul, you hit the nail on the head.  This is a religious war with fascist state-worshipers on one side and Christians, Jews and Muslims on the other.

    I don’t think the next step is Catholic hospitals performing abortions, I think it’s hate speech laws in favor of gay marriage.

    Lastly, a blogging friend of mine has coined the term, Vichy Catholics.  I think it describes them well.

  5. raycon and lindacon

    Au Contraire.  Muslims are a preferred religious group.  The Islamist countries receive preferential accommodation, and the followers of Islam, while certainly not an Obama monolith, can be counted on not to oppose HRH-O.

  6. Pseudodionysius

    King Barry the Eighth and his wary knives of censure were always cloaked in the seamless garment of 60′s Catholic capitulant. 

  7. liberal jim

    In my view Mitch Daniels is the only person seriously talked about who has demonstrated he would attempt to reverse your “soft despotic drift”. Your boy Ryan after all has been fostering it for a decade or more.  If a different Republican is nominated and wins it means that it will be at least 8 years before anything is done.  If Obama wins and his policies are as dreadful as expected things should be much worse in two or three years and Dems will get the blame.    Since Reagan the GOP has been part of the problem and as things look now there is little likelihood this will change in the near future.

  8. Ralph Baskett

    One must understand President Obama’s contraceptive mandate from the point-of-view of a thoroughgoing Progressive.  He wants to establish the precedent that government can dictate what health insurance will, and will not cover.  In his view, contraceptives are popular and everybody uses them, or should.  They expand everybody’s freedom to do what they feel like doing.  Only “bitter clingers” could be against that. 

    Politically, the contraceptive mandate forces opponents of government-controlled healthcare to object to a benefit that is seen as trivial, popular and thus, “nothing to get angry about.”  President Obama doesn’t want the fight to be about an issue that will alarm everyone such as denying patients life-saving drugs or procedures in order to control healthcare costs. 

    Republicans need to provide a multitude of examples of government healthcare denying life-saving treatments and emphasize that this is what government-controlled healthcare really looks like. 

  9. Dave Carter
    C

    Professor Rahe, you have absolutely nailed this.  President Obama has gone from thinly veiled progressivism to outright contempt,  not just contempt for the Constitution, but for the people themselves.  He is indeed rubbing our noses in it, and is on par with Lenin derisively asking how many divisions has the Pope.  My own sense is that he’s over reached on this one and (hopefully) awakened an electorate that will hold him accountable in November.  

  10. Austin Arnold

    Prof. Rahe, 

    Your argument that President Obama is seeking a new mandate, a much more radical one, is spot on the money. It is odd that he is alienating much of the traditional Democratic party coalition. I think his strategy is very risky, and ultimately, I think this will cost him the election. 

  11. Paul A. Rahe
    C
    liberal jim: In my view Mitch Daniels is the only person seriously talked about who has demonstrated he would attempt to reverse your “soft despotic drift”. Your boy Ryan after all has been fostering it for a decade or more.  If a different Republican is nominated and wins it means that it will be at least 8 years before anything is done.  If Obama wins and his policies are as dreadful as expected things should be much worse in two or three years and Dems will get the blame.    Since Reagan the GOP has been part of the problem and as things look now there is little likelihood this will change in the near future. · 30 minutes ago

    As you know, I share your admiration for Daniels. In the last couple of years, Ryan has been just as good. But, of course, they did not run. At this stage, I think that Gingrich is finished. So, we have to choose between Romney and Santorum. I suspect that Romney is the one who better understands budgets and management. Santorum is a man of firm principles. Neither is consistently eloquent (and that is an understatement). We shall see.

  12. Brian Watt

    In the process, he intends to reshape the Democratic coalition – to bring the old hypocrisy to an end, to eliminate those who stand in the way of the final consolidation of the administrative entitlements state, to drive out the faithful Catholics once and for all, to jettison the white working class, and to build a new American regime on a coalition of  highly educated upper-middle class whites, feminists, African-Americans, Hispanics, illegal immigrants, and those belonging to the public-sector unions. To Americans outside this coalition, he intends to show no mercy.

    You’ve nailed it, Dr. Rahe. John C. Drew, a classmate of Obama at Occidental, expressed that the Obama he met was a radical Marxist/Leninist. Stanley Kurtz chronicled Obama’s further immersion into radical socialism and the ultimate goal of transforming the Democrat Party into a socialist workers party marching in lock step with public sector unions. Obama now speaks of the “American Promise” meaning those with an “unfair” share of wealth owe it to the coalition you speak of because they are entitled to it. Meanwhile, Romney still characterizes Obama as a typical “tax-and-spend” liberal. There are none so blind…

  13. Paul A. Rahe
    C
    Austin Arnold: Prof. Rahe, 

    Your argument that President Obama is seeking a new mandate, a much more radical one, is spot on the money. It is odd that he is alienating much of the traditional Democratic party coalition. I think his strategy is very risky, and ultimately, I think this will cost him the election.  · 3 minutes ago

    That is my suspicion precisely.

  14. Paul A. Rahe
    C
    Dave Carter: Professor Rahe, you have absolutely nailed this.  President Obama has gone from thinly veiled progressivism to outright contempt,  not just contempt for the Constitution, but for the people themselves.  He is indeed rubbing our noses in it, and is on par with Lenin derisively asking how many divisions has the Pope.  My own sense is that he’s over reached on this one and (hopefully) awakened an electorate that will hold him accountable in November.   · 15 minutes ago

    Yes, indeed. I believe, by the way, that the statement you attribute to Lenin was made by Stalin (not that it matters).

  15. nick

    If America survives him, it will owe Obama a great debt, for he, full of the passionate intensity of the self-righteous sophomore, will have revealed what a less-forthright, more sophisticated ideologue would not: that his politics is vicious, merciless and bent on the destruction of his country and of those who disagree. I wish I could share Professor Rahe’s optimism that the HHS mandates are his bridge too far.

  16. Mel Foil

    Because leftists think just like leftists, they’re easily convinced that YOU declaring something morally wrong means that YOU intend to outlaw it, like they’d outlaw plastic grocery bags or internal-combustion engines if they could.

    Along with artificial contraception, the Catholic Church considers masturbation a sin. And just like the Church is not trying to empty the Atlantic Ocean with a bucket, they have no plans to prevent the general public from using contraception, or to make masturbation illegal. The Church might tell people why it’s not good, but that’s just free speech.

    The trick, for Obama, is to convince voters that Republicans operate just like he does, where HIS wish immediately becomes OUR command.

  17. Brian Watt

    From Darrell Issa’s Facebook posting this morning further indicating the radicalization of the Democrat Party: 

    “I would not look with favor upon a President working to subvert the First Amendment’s guarantees of religious liberty.” – JFK. 

    The Democrat Party is doing the Full Mussolini now. Hey, maybe the bullet trains will run on time.

  18. DrewInWisconsin
    Paul A. Rahe

    This suggests that there can be only one reason why Sebelius, Pelosi, and Obama decided to proceed. They wanted to show the bishops and the Catholic laity who is boss. They wanted to make those who think contraception wrong and abortion a species of murder complicit in both.  They wanted to rub the noses of their opponents in it. They wanted to marginalize them. Humiliation was, in fact, their only aim, and malice, their motive.

    I’m sure the President will continue to present this as a mere ideological difference, but what you say above highlights the malevolence. It is evil. There is really no other word for it.

  19. Percival
    Brian Watt: From Darrell Issa’s Facebook posting this morning further indicating the radicalization of the Democrat Party: 

    “I would not look with favor upon a President working to subvert the First Amendment’s guarantees of religious liberty.”- JFK. 

    The Democrat Party is doing the Full Mussolini now. Hey, maybe the bullet trains will run on time. · 5 minutes ago

    Barack really needs a hat.  He’s had the chin-thrust perfected for a while now.

  20. Brian Watt
    Brian Watt: From Darrell Issa’s Facebook posting this morning further indicating the radicalization of the Democrat Party: 

    “I would not look with favor upon a President working to subvert the First Amendment’s guarantees of religious liberty.”- JFK. 

    The Democrat Party is doing the Full Mussolini now. Hey, maybe the bullet trains will run on time. · 10 minutes ago

    …and if forced sterilizations, abortions and a one-child policy ensues then probably more accurate to say the Full-Mao-nty.