Politics & Policy

A Genius for Subject Changing

Andres Serrano and his ‘Piss Christ’
Muddying the water is a bad habit of the Democratic party’s.

The Obama administration issues an edict regarding birth control that is a) blatantly unconstitutional, b) economically absurd, and c) completely unmatched to any national need, and what are we talking about? The “Republican war on women.” 

Democrats are geniuses at muddying the waters and twisting the debate in a direction they find congenial. They’ve been at this a very long time. Recall that in the late 1980s and early 1990s, we found ourselves ensnared in a discussion of so-called “censorship.” The National Endowment for the Arts, (a luxury no deeply indebted nation should indulge), had provided grants to two particularly obnoxious exhibits. One was a photograph by Andres Serrano called “Piss Christ” that depicted a crucifix submerged in a jar of the artist’s urine. The other was a series of homoerotic photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe, featuring, to cite just one example, a man’s anus being penetrated by a bullwhip.

#ad#A number of conservative organizations protested this use of taxpayer dollars, and some in Congress responded by threatening to cut off NEA’s funding (droll, no?). The liberals were ready with a jaw-dropping claim: To deny a federal subsidy to “Piss Christ” was censorship. Or, as Obama might put it, “It’s not who we are.”

Conservatives and others who hadn’t completely lost touch with common sense, responded that censorship had nothing whatever to do with it. No one was proposing to deny Mapplethorpe or Serrano the opportunity to sell their miserable wares to willing buyers, or to exhibit them at private galleries (which indeed happened). Certainly no one was threatening to deny employment to the artists (which happens in countries that practice censorship), or God forbid, to arrest them. The proposal was simply to refrain from offering such works taxpayer subsidies.

Today we are again invited to believe that to deny a taxpayer subsidy is to withhold a right. For no discernible reason, the Obama administration has decreed that all contraceptives must be provided “free” to those who want them (which of course means that everyone else’s insurance rates must rise). 

The administration demands this despite the fact that 1) most Americans can well afford their own contraception (it’s less than the cost of a weekly trip to Starbucks); 2) inexpensive contraceptives are widely available at every supermarket and pharmacy; 3) Medicaid recipients already receive them free; 4) the feds also spend another $300 million annually to provide free contraceptives to those who are low-income, uninsured, or otherwise do not qualify for Medicaid; and 5) Planned Parenthood and state and local public health clinics distribute contraceptives free around the nation.

That even Catholic institutions, who object to this command on religious grounds, are to be bullied by the federal government into violating their consciences, ought to have provoked an outcry from liberals, allegedly firm guardians of the First Amendment. Instead, a compliant media has peddled the narrative of a supposed Republican “war on women.” Every Sunday talk host presented the issue on the Democrats’ terms. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.) wailed that Republicans “want to take us back to the Dark Ages . . . when women were property.” The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is encouraging signatures on a petition to fight back against Republican efforts “to deny tens of thousands of American women life-saving health care services.”

More bunk. Contraceptives are not a matter of life and death. But even if they were, as for example, cancer drugs are, is that an argument for forcing insurance companies to provide them free of charge? Why not force free distribution of all medicines? The mandate makes no economic, social, or moral sense.

President Obama has slyly maneuvered to participate in this subject-changing project. First, he contacted Barnard, a women’s college, and offered himself as commencement speaker. They said yes, bumping New York Times editor Jill Abramson. Sisterhood is powerful, but apparently not that powerful. Next, he phoned the Georgetown Law student whom Rush Limbaugh insulted. To be sure, Limbaugh unintentionally helped the Democrats’ project by offering them something that fit so conveniently into the “war on women” trope. But Limbaugh’s unfortunate comments (for which he apologized) cannot obscure the absurdity of the Democrats’ argument that it is an urgent national concern to provide free contraceptives to law students and everybody else.

Of course there is no Republican “war on women.” But there is a Democratic war on religious liberty, taxpayers, and common sense. 

— Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2012 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

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