President Barack Obama lost my vote yesterday when he declined to expand the exceedingly narrow conscience exemptions proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services. The issue of conscience protections is so foundational, I do not see how I ever could, in good conscience, vote for this man again.
UPDATE: This article now includes the statement from the USCCB on the HHS decision.
To say that news of the decision by President Obama not to expand the conscience exemption for church-affiliated institutions who do not wish to cover birth control is a disaster would be a gross understatement. I'll explain my thoughts on the subject in a subsequent post.
But one sentence in the statement from HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stands out: “The administration remains fully committed to its partnerships with faith-based organizations, which promote healthy communities and serve the common good.”
An illustrious collection of Catholic leaders has signed an open letter to former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and former Senator Rick Santorum, asking them to refrain from racial stereotyping and other demeaning comments as they seek the GOP nod for the presidency. The signatories remind the candidates that racism is an "intrinsic evil."
Hope is a Christian virtue and a splendid thing, and hoping that GOP candidates will refrain from dog whistling about race in the midst of a South Carolina primary shows that hope can spring eternal, even when the likelihood of it attaining fruition is slim indeed.
The audio is up from my interview yesterday with Joe Donohue on WAMC, discussing my newly released biography of Rev. Jerry Falwell.
Over at Huffington Post, I have an article today about Mitt Romney's debt to Jerry Falwell. Falwell relied on Francis Schaeffer's theory on "co-belligerancy" to overcome his traditional fundamentalist Baptist aversion to being "yoked" with un-believers, paving the way for fundamentalists to form political coalitions with conservative Catholics, Mormons and others.
What a day! If you are a political junkie like me, yesterday will be tough to top. From the pre-dawn news from Des Moines that Mr. Romney actually did not win the Iowa caucuses, to the interview with Gingrich’s ex-wife, to the news that Perry was dropping out of the race and endorsing Gingrich, to the fireworks in last night’s debate, it was difficult to stay on top of the news. As I went to bed last night, I thought – how am I going to digest all this in the morning for the blog? I thought a good night’s sleep would help but such an agitated day produced an agitated sleep and I awoke at 3 a.m. and tossed and turned for a couple of hours before resigning myself to the fact that I was not going to be able to go back to sleep.
The homepage at Politico has several commentaries of Rick Perry's decision to quit the race and even more on one of Newt Gingrich's ex-wives' interview with ABC, but not a single item on the most important news of the day: The number of new jobless claims fell again last week to the lowest level since April 2008.
And, as Jonathan Cohn notes over at TNR, the unemployment rate in Michigan dropped to its lowest rate since September 2008. To be sure, at 9.3%, Michigan's jobless rate is still too high. But if the unemployment rate in key swing states, and nationally, continues to move in the right direction, the GOP will have a hard time arguing that President Obama's policies have failed. In Michigan, where Obama's decision to bailout the auto industry played a big role in stabilizing the economy, a decision Mitt Romney opposed, the case will be well nigh to impossible to make.
E.J. Dionne looks at the reasons why the Tea Party's push to craft a variety of GOP populism has hit the skids. EJ wrote his column before the news that the most aggressive populist in the race, Rick Perry, was dropping out and throwing his support behind Newt Gingrich, who practices a kind of populism of his own, but his argument makes sense: The GOP can always find a way to live with "a Harvard-educated private-equity specialist" like Mitt Romney.
Yesterday, I commented on an article at The New Republic by Michael Kazin that I thought misunderstood the influence of the Religious Right in GOP politics.
Why do I love TNR? Because it is not afraid to publish conflicting articles on consecutive days.
Let us set aside the environmental issue of whether or not the extraction of oil sands is too dirty, and too energy intensive a process, to make sense. If Canada wants to extract petroleum in such a fashion, that is their business.
The question the President faced was whether or not to build a new pipeline to bring the oil so extracted to refineries on the Gulf Coast. That proposed pipeline would have passed through what is known as the Ogallala Aquifer, which supplies water to much of the Great Plains. One accident, and the result could be devastating. Ask yourselves this: Do you like grabbing a burger at McDonald's every once in awhile? A poisoned aquifer could result in no corn, and no corn means no beef, and no beef means no burgers.