According to a report in The Hill, President Obama recently said that the controversy surrounding the HHS mandates was like being in a "time machine."
He went on: "Republicans in Congress were going so far as to say an employer should be able to have a say in the health care decisions of its female employees. You know, for a party that prides itself on being rabidly anti-regulations of almost any kind, for folks who claim to believe in freedom from government interference and meddling, it doesn’t seem to bother them when it comes to a woman’s health."
Commenting on the General Election campaign of 1935, Churchill wrote: "Neither side usually has much to be proud of at election times."
Obama's comments are egregious for at least a few reasons. First, he might have noted that currently employers already do have a lot of say over their employees' health care insurance, though not their health care decisions. Secondly, he might have allowed that religious employers are different from secular employers - remember, even his awful initial, pre-accommodation proposal allows some employers to make decisions that affect their female (and non-female for that matter) employees. Third, as a former constitutional scholar, he surely knows that the concerns raised by the Catholic bishops - and by his Catholic supporters - were not centered on the issue of contraception per se, but on the implications for the First Amendment of his policies.
Mind you, the Republicans are undoubtedly hypocrites on the issue. I have yet to hear one Republican office holder, and precious few of their supporters in the blogosphere, raise their voices to defend religious liberty in the face of Alabama's anti-immigrant law. I have yet to hear a single republican lawmaker chastise those who sent dark letters to Missouri ministers, threatening to get their tax exempt status revoked if they joined the campaign to combat the predatory practices of payday lenders. And, since Speaker John Boehner has pulled the Fortneberry Bill from the calendar - he can read polls too - I doubt that the GOP is going to serve as a First Amendment champion anytime soon.
But, none of that absolves the president. His words are ill-chosen, not least because they belie his continued claims that he wants to resolve all outstanding issues regarding the HHS mandates in a way the Church can live with. Certainly, I do not appreciate being lumped with congressional Republicans, and I suspect the congressional Republicans do not appreciate being lumped with me. The President should refrain from repeating such mischaracterizations in the future.