Claudius in Chief

The patron saint of progressivism?

For ’tis the sport to have the enginer

Hoist with his own petard, an’t shall go hard

But I will delve one yard below their mines

And blow them at the moon.

 –  Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 4, 202-209

For individuals who seemingly have it all, politicians sure have an uncanny ability to self-destruct. It is a phenomenon we have seen play out time and time again, particularly in our current election cycle. Who could forget the agony of watching Rick Perry stumble over his proposal to slash the departments of Commerce, Education, and… “oops?” Or Michelle Bachman’s triumphant account of Paul Revere’s midnight ride to Concord, New Hampshire? Herman Cain certainly didn’t fare any better when answering questions about President Obama’s Libya strategy. And let us not forget Newt Gingrich’s near fatal decision to vacation in Greece instead of campaigning this past May.

On the whole, the theme of this election cycle seems to be volatility; as often as there were candidates moving through the revolving door of popular conservative support, there were severe gaffs and miscalculations that knocked them back down again. All the while, the “unsinkable Mitt Romney” plodded along above the fray, consistently remaining the front-runner amidst transient challenges from his rightwing rivals.  Faced with the cringe-worthy tectonics of the Republican pool, many voters looked at President Obama and his charismatic professionalism as the only viable option. With job numbers picking up and an absence of a strong conservative challenger, it seemed that a successful reelection bid was not an unreasonable proposition.

That is until now. Although you most certainly didn’t hear about it, President Obama may just have made a fatal mistake that will cost him reelection. Buried within sensational reports of Romney misquotes and headlines about the flip-flopping absurdity of the Susan G. Komen Foundation lies the political bombshell that could very well mark the end of Mr. Obama’s political career. As reported by The Wall Street Journal, the President signed off on a Health and Human Services ruling that says that under ObamaCare, Catholic institutions—including charities, hospitals and schools—will be required by law to provide and pay for insurance coverage that includes contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization procedures. If they do not, they will face ruinous fines in the milions of dollars. Or they can always cease their operations and go out of business. In short, under the threat of debilitating financial penalties, the administration wants the Catholic Church to stop being Catholic and support policies to which it has expressed existential opposition.


 

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What on earth is Mr. Obama thinking? There is absolutely no reason, none whatsoever, to make this sort of contentious ruling. Any sort of cost benefit analysis amongst his staff would reveal that in endorsing Health and Human Services, his administration has nothing to gain and everything to lose. Without a single pragmatic explanation available, we are forced to conclude that this decision was made for absurd ideological reasons alone; by pursuing such an antagonistic policy, it appears that Mr. Obama is doing his best imitation of Diocletian. Much like that erstwhile Eastern Roman Emperor, the President would love nothing more than to march Catholicism under the yoke of progressivism. To him, religion is the enemy. Long seen as a bastion of American conservatism and the traditional values that his administration is frequently at odds with, the Church represents a formidable philosophical and political opponent whose power vexes the Democratic Party. Pandering to his petty personal agenda, Mr. Obama aims to make the Church bow to liberalism by legislating their adherence to incompatible social policies. As Commander in Chief, he his deploying his power against progressivism’s age-old foe. In so doing, he is picking a fight that he cannot possibly win.

In response to this antagonism, the Catholic Church is mobilizing against the ruling in a dramatic fashion. As an officeholder facing reelection, this is very bad news; nine months before the election, you most definitely do not want the Church dissatisfied with you. There are 77.7 million Catholics in the United States, the vast majority of whom turn out on Election Day. In 2008, they made up 27% of the electorate. In his successful campaign, Mr. Obama carried the Catholic vote, 54% to 45%. Perhaps more than other demographic besides the young, they helped him win.

This time around, that certainly will not be the case. Since the ruling, an estimated 70% of parishes came forward to read a strongly worded protest from the Church’s bishops. They contend, rightly so, that the Obama Administration is asking the Church to abandon Catholic principles and beliefs. In so doing, its ruling represents an abridgement of the First Amendment and is completely unacceptable. They will not bow to it, and they will fight the ruling with everything they have. Now Mr. Obama will to pay the political price for waging an unnecessary way. By forcing the Church to adhere to the abhorrent provisions of his abhorrent healthcare bill, Mr. Obama has given Catholics and fiscal conservatives good reason to forge strong alliances in an election year. This will almost certainly play out very badly for him come November 6th, far worse than a Perry-like debate slip or Gingrich-style faux pas. In using his power as President to combat his ideological opposition, he has picked a fight that he cannot possibly win. Thus, much like King Claudius, Mr. Obama may just have hoisted himself with his own petard.

 

— Nick Desatnick