When a Democratic President loses Chris Matthews … where else can he turn? Matthews rips MSNBC analyst John Heilemann on the air for regurgitating incorrect White House talking points during a discussion of the contraception mandate when Heilemann claims that the HHS order is the same as in 28 states now. Not true, says Matthews, who notes that the states offer various ways for religious organizations to avoid paying for products and services that violate their conscience, which is not possible with the HHS mandate (via Greg Hengler):
Wow. When was the last time we saw Matthews reject White House spin on his program? I don’t watch Matthews often enough to keep score, but I’d guess that it would have been January 19th, 2009. Matthews isn’t the only one who’s not buying the White House spin, either. The Daily Caller reports that Obama has angered Hispanics with this intrusion into religious conscience — and not just the Catholics:
President Barack Obama’s campaign to woo growing Hispanic communities in southern states being thwarted by his simultaneous campaign to regulate their neighborhood churches, both Catholic and evangelical.
The proposed regulation “has caused an incredible amount of consternation and angst in the Hispanic community. … It is un-American to tell my pastor, my minister, my priest that they have to violate what they believe in,” said Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.
The conference represents 18,000 non-Catholic churches and 15 million Hispanic evangelicals, or roughly one third of Hispanics in the United States.
Even John Kerry is starting to chafe at the new mandate, although he spun this as some sort of work in progress for the Obama administration — despite having already spent months discussing this with faith leaders before publishing the rule:
In a statement, Kerry said, “I think the Administration is working towards a final rule that reflects a reasonable compromise. I think there’s a way to protect everybody’s interest here. I think you can implement it effectively in a way that protects women’s access, but at the same time protects people’s religious beliefs, and that should be everyone’s goal.”
Why would Kerry and other Democrats be nervous? As Politico notes, Barack Obama just re-energized the culture war and handed Republicans a large amount of credibility for their attacks:
President Barack Obama, with one swift contraception regulation, accomplished something his rivals have struggled to do: unify the Republican Party and fire up its base.
“You never look for a fight, but you never walk away from a fight, and we will embrace this one a thousand percent,” said Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), a former head of the New Jersey chapter of Right to Life. …
There’s good reason for Republicans to welcome the fight: It’s one in a series of culture war issues that have surged to the forefront of the political debate and knocked the economy off the front page. For social conservatives, it dovetails perfectly with this weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference, Rick Santorum’s resurgence in last Tuesday’s caucuses and reaction to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision striking down California’s Proposition 8, which would have reversed a law allowing same-sex couples to marry.
But more than the other rallying points, the battle over contraceptive coverage at religiously affiliated institutions has bound together Republicans of all stripes because it hits core GOP themes: religious liberty, government intrusion and reproduction politics. Perhaps more important politically, it has given Republicans something to talk about other than the economy, just when Obama’s gotten a lift from modest gains.
It’s difficult to recall a more foolish political decision than Obama’s mandate — and in an election year. If this survives longer than a week, I’d be shocked. Keep an eye on the wire services late this afternoon for a climb-down. Obama cannot afford to push Catholics and Hispanics into the arms of the GOP for very long.
Update: It had better be a better climbdown than this one, reported by ABC News’ Jake Tapper:
With the White House under fire for its new rule requiring employers including religious organizations to offer health insurance that fully covers birth control coverage, ABC News has learned that later today the White House — possibly President Obama himself — will likely announce an attempt to accommodate these religious groups.
The move, based on state models, will almost certainly not satisfy bishops and other religious leaders since it will preserve the goal of women employees having their birth control fully covered by health insurance. …
White House officials have discussed the state law in Hawaii, where religious groups are allowed to opt out of coverage that includes birth control, as long as employees are given information whether such coverage can be obtained. But this accommodation would not go that far.
This announcement would not go that far. Sources say it will involve health insurance companies helping to provide the coverage, since it’s actually cheaper for these companies to offer the coverage than to not do so, because of unwanted pregnancies and resulting complications.
Uh, so the administration response will be tell insurers for religious organizations to take on the costs themselves without passing it along to the religious organizations that pay for the policies? I’m not sure that even Chris Matthews will buy that as a “compromise.” Religious organizations whose doctrines oppose birth control are not going to buy insurance policies that cover it — nor should the government be forcing them to do so.