Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Political Agility

You have to hand it to the Obama folks. They're nothing if not politically nimble. It helps, of course, to have the media in your vest pocket and to be unconcerned about truth, but the ease with which they've turned a loser position into a winner is amazing. Here's an overview:

President Obama launches an assault on the first amendment in general, and freedom of religion in particular, by requiring Catholic institutions to violate their conscience and provide birth control for female employees, something they've never before done. The ploy blows up in their faces when Catholics resist this blatant infringement on their freedom to hold to their religious convictions.

The president's waterboys in the media immediately rush to his aid by framing the Church's objections as an attempt to deny women birth control when, of course, it was nothing of the kind.

George Stephanapoulis asks Mitt Romney out of the blue whether he thinks a state has the right to ban birth control. No one has ever proposed such a thing. Romney wonders why on earth Stephanapoulis is asking such a question, and the exchange makes news.

Now it's all over television that Mitt Romney is talking about birth control. The media then dredge up Santorum's personal opinions on birth control, which are the same as those his church has held for a thousand years, and which he articulated in speeches as a private citizen to Catholic audiences before becoming a candidate.

The media press Santorum to clarify his views on the matter. The candidate, out of politeness, answers their questions which spurs the media to ask him why he's talking so much about contraception. Does he intend to ban it, they inquire. He insists that he does not, but it's too late. The very question, added to his personal, religious objection to contraception, serves as reason enough to suspect that he does.

Republican candidates are subsequently grilled with the question. The media keeps bringing it up even though the candidates want to talk about the economy and the catastrophe we're headed toward unless we stop spending and borrowing money. The media, however, is obsessed with the topic of birth control, they ask about little else, and then can't figure out why, if the candidates really don't want to ban it, they're talking about it so much.

The reason they're talking about it, of course, is that the media ask the questions, and that's what they're asking about. They're using contraception as a foil to deflect and forestall substantive criticisms of the incumbent's record. The Republicans, too late, seem to realize what's going on, but choosing not to answer the questions affords no way out for the hapless candidates.

Mitt Romney, for instance, is asked what he thinks about Rush Limbaugh's comments about Sandra Fluke. Romney doesn't want to get anywhere close to a discussion on birth control so he answers somewhat tepidly. The Democrats then lower the boom on him for being so lukewarm about Limbaugh's offensive comments, even though these same Democrats have been almost totally indifferent toward the misogyny that's almost epidemic among their own media personalities.

So now a clumsy attack by President Obama on the first amendment has morphed into the perception that the Republicans are campaigning to deny women the right to buy birth control and are, in fact, waging "a war" against women.

And women, even Republican women, incredibly enough, are duped by the ploy. Here's part of a somewhat giddy New York Times report on how politically independent and GOP women are fleeing the Republicans:
As baby showers go, the party Mary Russell attended to celebrate her niece’s first child was sweet, with about a dozen women offering congratulations over ice cream and cake.

But somewhere between the baby name game and the gifts, what had been light conversation took a sharp turn toward the personal and political — specifically, the battle over access to birth control and other women’s health issues that have sprung to life on the Republican campaign trail in recent weeks.

“We all agreed that this seemed like a throwback to 40 years ago,” said Ms. Russell, 57, a retired teacher from Iowa City who describes herself as an evangelical Christian and “old school” Republican of the moderate mold.

Until the baby shower, just two weeks ago, she had favored Mitt Romney for president. Not anymore. She said she might vote for President Obama now.

“I didn’t realize I had a strong viewpoint on this until these conversations,” Ms. Russell said. As for the Republican presidential candidates, she added: “If they’re going to decide on women’s reproductive issues, I’m not going to vote for any of them. Women’s reproduction is our own business.”

In Iowa, one of the crucial battlegrounds in the coming presidential election, and in other states, dozens of interviews in recent weeks have found that moderate Republican and independent women — one of the most important electoral swing groups — are disenchanted by the Republican focus on social issues like contraception and abortion in an election that, until recently, had been mostly dominated by the economy.

And in what appears to be an abrupt shift, some Republican-leaning women like Ms. Russell said they might switch sides and vote for Mr. Obama — if they turn out to vote at all.

“Everybody is so busy telling us how we should act in the bedroom, they’re letting the country fall through the cracks,” said Fran Kelley, a retired public school worker in Seattle who voted for Senator John McCain over Mr. Obama in the 2008 election. Of the Republican candidates this year, she added, “They’re nothing but hatemongers trying to control everyone, saying, ‘Live as I live.’ ”

She continued, “If Republicans would stop all this ridiculous talk about contraception, I’d consider voting in November.”

[I]n a New York Times/CBS News poll last month, the president finished ahead of Mr. Romney among all women by 57 percent to 37 percent. He held much the same advantage over Mr. Santorum.

Last week Joyce Kimball, a retired secretary in Greenville, Ill., who voted for Mr. McCain in 2008, said she had recently become “fed up,” adding that it was not out of the question for her to vote for a Democrat in November. “I’m looking to hear how the candidates propose to put people back to work, not what they think about contraception,” she said. “I hope to God they stop talking about this.”

Even more than Mr. Romney, Mr. Santorum has made himself a champion of the traditional family with two parents, arguing in speeches that single motherhood increases a child’s chances of poverty and related problems.

The stance particularly vexes Meredith Warren, a Republican strategist in Andover, Mass. “Well, guess what?” she said. “There are a lot of single moms out there. That’s reality. I don’t think he does himself any favors denigrating that situation.”

Ms. Warren said her job had not been made any easier lately. “A lot of my younger friends are Democrats, and it’s hard for them to understand how, as a woman, you can be a member of the Republican Party,” she said.

Ms. Russell, who changed her political views at the baby shower, said she was impressed with how Mr. Obama handled his administration’s compromise over the much-debated birth control policy, saying, “I think he’s more of a women’s candidate.”

A rally for women’s rights in San Diego on Thursday drew Jessica Lopez, 27, a registered independent who said she voted for President George W. Bush in 2004. Ms. Lopez said her choice this year became clear amid the Republican debate on contraception and abortion. “This has really energized me, that I need to get more involved with the Obama campaign,” she said.

Ms. Lopez added: “The G.O.P. has never been so clear about their agenda for women. I’m afraid if we get a Republican president, my health will be up to their personal discretion.”
It is so sad that so many can be so easily snookered by a media so intent on insuring Mr. Obama's reelection.