Here are two questions, tightly bound at the hips of rhetoric and (more importantly) reality:
• Is there anything a lover of The Big and Omniscient State won't say to mislead, misdirect, and confuse anyone and everyone about what he really wants to do?
One of my first posts about then-Sen. Obama (January 24, 2008) was about the candidate's brazen remark, made in an interview to Christianity Today, "I don't know anybody who is pro-abortion." Just a few days later the Senator, in a statement made to mark the 35th anniversary of "Roe v. Wade", was more forthcoming: "Throughout my career, I've been a consistent and strong supporter of reproductive justice, and have consistently had a 100% pro-choice rating with Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America." This was just the beginning of a clear and consistent pattern of saying one thing and doing another, with startling audacity and remarkable verve. This pattern was summed up well by Dr. William Brennan, author of John Paul II: Confronting the Language Empowering the Culture of Death, when I interviewed him a couple of weeks ago for Ignatius Insight:
Obama's slavish conformity to pro-choice doublespeak is especially relentless. In a talk before the Planned Parenthood Action Fund on July 17, 2007, he repeatedly parroted pro-choice slogans, characterizing the "right to choose" as "one of the most fundamental freedoms," reminding his audience, "I've stood up for the freedom of choice in the United States Senate," and reassuring them, "On the issue of choice . . . I will not yield." He further vowed that the first thing he would do as president "is to sign the Freedom of Choice Act." On January 22, 2008, the 35th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, Obama boasted about his "100 % pro-choice rating with Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America" and again stated he would continue defending "the woman's right to choose" by "passing the Freedom of Choice Act." Soon after becoming president, he released a statement asserting, "I remain committed to protecting a woman's right to choose." By the end of April 2009, he repeated his hardcore allegiance to the woman's "right to choose," but announced that the "Freedom of Choice Act" is no longer "my highest legislative priority." Apparently, the limitless access to abortion so strikingly evident in FOCA has a better chance of success when its totalitarian provisions are enacted within the less transparent context of subtle, incremental, and step-by-step stealth strategies.
And, of course, this is exactly what is happening: the expansion of federal funding of abortion is part and parcel of the President's vaunted health care reform. And this even while there has been and continues to be constant rhetoric about "seeking common ground" and the "reducing the need for abortion"—rhetoric apparently used by President Obama when meeting recently with Pope Benedict XVI. The USCCB expressed its concerns in a June 17th letter, written by Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., on behalf of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development:
On respecting life and dignity, he said, “No health care reform plan should compel us or others to pay for the destruction of human life, whether through government funding or mandatory coverage of abortion. Any such action would be morally wrong.”
After citing protections from public funding of abortion in U.S. law, Bishop Murphy added, “Health care reform cannot be a vehicle for abandoning this consensus which respects freedom of conscience and honors our best American traditions. Any legislation should reflect longstanding and widely supported current policies on abortion funding, mandates and conscience protections because they represent sound morality, wise policy and political reality.”
However, President Obama, consistent with his practice throughout his young presidency, discounts such concerns, saying yesterday that he doesn't want to "get distracted by the abortion debate at this station." Well, of course not; it would be far better if we all simply went along, stopped asking questions about what our government is going to be with our money and our health care, and accepted the premise that the federal government should have a vastly expanded role in the decisions of patients, hospitals, clinics, doctors, and others working in the medical field. The important connection between the two questions above becomes increasingly obvious, not only because the distinction between abortion supporters and the federal government is becoming gossamer thin, but because they flow from the same belief in the all-wise and all-encompassing State. This view has been addressed many times by Pope Benedict, who wrote in his first encyclical, "The State which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person--every person--needs: namely, loving personal concern" (Deus Caritas Est, par 28b.; see Fr. Schall's essay for Ignatius Insight, "The State Which Would Provide Everything," Oct. 3, 2006).
President Obama gives eloquent speeches about families, fatherhood, and community, but his policies and record consistently point to the drive for an ever-growing, all-encompassing government leviathan, the very thing denounced by Benedict: "We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need."
(A quick side note: there is, of course, the matter of how President Obama plans to reduce the need for abortions. It is, not surprisingly, mainly through contraceptives and "family planning." I say this isn't surprising, because this is exactly what Sen. Obama consistently advocated. In 2007, he stated, in support of The Prevention Through Affordable Access Act, that, "We must do more to help low-income women and college students access affordable contraceptive drugs. No woman should be turned away from university clinics and health centers because the cost of prescription drugs is out of reach. Access to contraceptives is essential to lowering the rate of unintended pregnancies in this country." Never mind that the contraceptive mentality likely does not reduce pregnancies, but might even increase the number of "unwanted" and "accidental" pregnancies.)
Bishop Murphy also stated in his letter, "The Bishops’ Conference believes health care reform should be truly universal and it should be genuinely affordable.” What is so perplexing is not that President Obama's says his health care reform will be that and more, but how he is making his case. As Thomas Peters notes, " the crux of the debate is not even ideological or philosophical, but factual." The President avoids facts like a plague, and instead resorts, again, to his bag of rhetorical tricks: employing misdirection, setting up straw men, manufacturing false conflicts, and relying on hypothetical constructs of dubious veracity. As David Freddoso of Washington Examiner writes, with obvious frustration:
President Obama thus frames the issue as a false choice between doing nothing at all and handing over to Washington complicated, case-by-case medical decisions that cannot possibly be legislated or dictated by government.
The President's embarrassing tactics are becoming so obvious and empty that even the (gasp!) Associated Press took him to task on a number of his claims and statements. While the details and particulars are very important, my interest continues to be in how the President continues to woo and win the support of many Catholics while pursuing policies and upholding positions that are either openly in conflict with Catholic moral teaching or arguably undermine central tenets of Catholic social teaching, especially subsidiarity. Less than three weeks ago I wrote, "The President's worn method of argument and same old attitude of moral superiority is getting tired fast." I have a hard time seeing how he can continue the same tactics for three more years, at least with much effectiveness. At some point, I have the audacity to hope, he will have to start using actual arguments, sound facts, and substantive rhetoric.
Related IgnatiusInsight.com Articles, Excerpts, & Interviews:
• Exposing the Language of the Culture of Death | Interview with William Brennan | Dr. Brennan discusses his book John Paul II: Confronting the Language Empowering the Culture of Death.
• The Case Against Abortion | An Interview with Dr. Francis Beckwith
• Abortion and Ideology | Raymond Dennehy
• The Illusion of Freedom Separated from Moral Virtue | Raymond Dennehy
• Contraception and Homosexuality: The Sterile Link of Separation | Raymond Dennehy
• Human Sexuality and the Catholic Church | Donald P. Asci
• The Truth About Conscience | John F. Kippley
• What Is Catholic Social Teaching? | Mark Brumley
• Introduction to Three Approaches to Abortion | Peter Kreeft
• Some Atrocities are Worse than Others | Mary Beth Bonacci
• Personally Opposed--To What? | Dr. James Hitchcock