This blog’s…er… ‘mission statement, ‘ is one of many brilliant thoughts by a high achieving academic black American.
It’s not Barack Obama though.
Thomas Sowell said:
“There is usually only a limited amount of damage that can be done by dull or stupid people. For creating a truly monumental disaster, you need people with high IQs.”
Well, Obama’s monumental disaster is picking a fight with something a lot bigger than him: the Catholic Church.
In essence, the dreaded Obamacare will require, by law, all employers’ health insurance schemes to provide contraceptive and abortion cover. Whether you agree with it or not, at least the church’s stance on this is widely known and hasn’t varied. And the church employs a lot of people: schools, hospitals, universities etc. Not big business, just essential charitable and humanitarian work. He is using the rule of law to try to force people to act against their conscience. That is a very very big deal.
Obama, with a flaky record on religion and associated issues, in so far as he had a record on anything, so bereft of executive experience as he was, received the benefit of the doubt when, amid controversy, he was graciously received by Notre Dame University as a speaker early in his presidency – a much more prestigious outing than many secular Brits might realise.
Now he has very publicly repaid the church, but not in kind.
Ten years ago The Knife was in San Francisco on Ash Wednesday. I went to get ashed, as you do, at the nearby church, one of the oldest buildings in the city. I was used to British churches – modest, sincere, relatively small – in a British secularised society. Not so in the US. The church was completely full, with a large crowd overflowing to well down the street. It was one of six masses that day, and Ash Wednesday is not what we call a holy day of obligation, ie. you aren’t required to go. This was my first taste of American religious practice, in this case Catholicism. It’s nothing like the UK, and it’s easy to see why politicians frequently obsess about the ‘Catholic demographic’. Indeed, it’s the only reason why a dope like Joe Biden is currently vice president.
And Obama has made a cynical decision that to win the next election, he needs it less than he needs to shore up his secular fanbase. Risky.
It’s gone down badly with a lot of people, and they’re not all Catholics.
As the Washington Post says:
Both radicalism and maliciousness are at work in Obama’s decision — an edict delivered with a sneer. It is the most transparently anti-Catholic maneuver by the federal government since the Blaine Amendment was proposed in 1875 — a measure designed to diminish public tolerance of Romanism, then regarded as foreign, authoritarian and illiberal. Modern liberalism has progressed to the point of adopting the attitudes and methods of 19th-century Republican nativists….Obama is claiming the executive authority to determine which missions of believers are religious and which are not — and then to aggressively regulate institutions the government declares to be secular. It is a view of religious liberty so narrow and privatized that it barely covers the space between a believer’s ears.
Archbishop Timothy Dolan, whom Obama has very specifically snubbed stated:
“In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences. To force American citizens to choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their health care is literally unconscionable. It is as much an attack on access to health care as on religious freedom.”
This is a long post, but The Knife wishes to quote the astute and emotionally intelligent (when it comes to US elections) Peggy Noonan:
There was no reason to make this ruling—none. Except ideology.
The conscience clause, which keeps the church itself from having to bow to such decisions, has always been assumed to cover the church’s institutions.
Now the church is fighting back. Priests in an estimated 70% of parishes last Sunday came forward to read strongly worded protests from the church’s bishops. The ruling asks the church to abandon Catholic principals and beliefs; it is an abridgement of the First Amendment; it is not acceptable. They say they will not bow to it. They should never bow to it, not only because they are Catholic and cannot be told to take actions that deny their faith, but because they are citizens of the United States.
If they stay strong and fight, they will win. This is in fact a potentially unifying moment for American Catholics, long split left, right and center. Catholic conservatives will immediately and fully oppose the administration’s decision. But Catholic liberals, who feel embarrassed and undercut, have also come out in opposition.
The church is split on many things. But do Catholics in the pews want the government telling their church to contravene its beliefs? A president affronting the leadership of the church, and blithely threatening its great institutions? No, they don’t want that. They will unite against that.
The smallest part of this story is political. There are 77.7 million Catholics in the United States. In 2008 they made up 27% of the electorate, about 35 million people. Mr. Obama carried the Catholic vote, 54% to 45%. They helped him win.
They won’t this year. And guess where a lot of Catholics live? In the battleground states.
There was no reason to pick this fight. It reflects political incompetence on a scale so great as to make Mitt Romney’s gaffes a little bitty thing.
There was nothing for the president to gain, except, perhaps, the pleasure of making a great church bow to him.
Enjoy it while you can. You have awakened a sleeping giant.
Obama and his increasingly absurd wife have come to resemble Tony and Cherie even more quickly than predicted by the likes of James Delingpole. The difference is that it currently seems highly unlikely that Obama will be shortly welcomed into the Catholic church. A man whose judgement is that it’s wise to repeatedly suck up to militant islam, yet directly attack Catholicism at home is not displaying game-winning statesmanship. Transient pyrrhic victories fought for reasons of short term political opportunism and spite, won’t beat an institution that famously thinks in centuries.
The Knife is not saying that Obama can’t win the next election, but win or lose, it’s downhill from here.