Newt Gingrich has a flair for the dramatic, except when the stage directions read “Exit stage right.”
Many Republicans have bought the Democratic/media line that the administration’s attack on conscience rights is popular and Republicans would be fools to fight back. Polling keeps contradicting this theory. In recent days, both the New York Times and the Washington Post have run stories about how Republicans are alienating women — and then run polls showing that women may be turning against Obama (the Post) and think religious institutions should be allowed to opt out of covering birth control (the Times). It turns out that it is perfectly possible to believe simultaneously that Rush Limbaugh should not have called Sandra Fluke a “slut” and that there is no good reason to coerce employers into providing coverage they oppose for moral or religious reasons. We believe both things; so, it seems, do most Americans.
Having done the right thing, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska) quickly repented. She voted for an amendment, offered by Missouri Republican senator Roy Blunt, to allow employers to refrain from providing the insurance coverage they find objectionable. Then she told the Anchorage Daily News that she regretted her vote, because the amendment was “overbroad” and people had perceived it as hostile to contraception. If there is a pressing reason some employers should be required to cover contraception for the first time in American history — to say nothing of abortion drugs — Murkowski does not provide it. She did, however, take the opportunity to say that she does not agree with all the teachings of the Catholic Church or the principles of the Republican party, both institutions to which she belongs. The Daily News columnist to whom she spoke was clearly pressing her to move left in the name of “moderation,” which in Murkowski’s case appears to be defined in terms of an incremental surrender of freedom, pace to be determined by the polls and the media cycle.
Liberal Republican Olympia Snowe announced that she would not run for reelection to her Maine Senate seat. She coupled the announcement with a lament for the loss of virtues such as compromise and civility. Civility is a good thing, and compromise can be. But we cannot resist pointing out that it is easy to be civil about, and compromise on, principles that one does not have.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s so-called cold-case posse has turned its attention to the deathless non-issue of Barack Obama’s place of birth. Even if President Obama’s constitutional qualifications to hold the office were in question — and they are not — it would hardly be a question to be settled by the sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz. Sheriff Arpaio some time ago crossed the line from colorful to self-caricature, and his publicity-seeking is unseemly. Worse, he has teamed up with conspiracy entrepreneur Jerome Corsi, who co-authored a book on the presidential birth-certificate question with one of Arpaio’s investigators. The president of course long ago released his birth certificate, and the so-called long-form document from Hawaii’s archives has been made available for inspection. Public officials of both parties have confirmed the authenticity of the documents, and an Arizona judge in March definitively rebutted the half-informed legal speculation holding that the president is somehow not a natural-born citizen as required by the Constitution. We very much hope that Mr. Obama is returned to his native Hawaii, or Chicago, or wherever he likes, in November, perhaps to begin the third volume of his memoirs. Sheriff Arpaio, Jerome Corsi, and the fools surrounding them are making that prospect more remote.
Before he died, Andrew Breitbart promised exposés of President Obama’s radical past. Joel Pollak of Breitbart.com went on CNN with one such, a video of a young Obama introducing Professor Derrick Bell at a Harvard campus rally in 1991. A black law student and the lone black prof on the faculty would naturally gravitate to each other; Obama says nothing of substance; it all happened over 20 years ago. Yawn? Not quite. Bell was the leader of critical race theory, a left-wing school of thought that held that America’s laws and institutions were infected with white privilege. Young Obama praised him. Not that CNN cares (Soledad O’Brien, in trying to cut Pollak up, clumsily garbled Bell’s theories). Voters in 2012 will judge Obama on the record of his first term. But it is useful to understand the habits of his heart — not the fantasies of Sheriff Arpaio, or the myths retailed by his memoirs and his claqueurs.