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Checkmate

[ 62 ] February 10, 2012 |

I wasn’t thrilled when I heard that Obama was going to announce a “compromise” on contraceptive coverage either, but as it turns out the “accommodation” does not affect the substantive rights of employees and is also probably good politics, so it’s fine with me. And yes, of course, the Bishops won’t go for it, but 1)good, since any policy they would agree to would be unacceptable, and 2)to the extent that this isolates them from actual Catholic health care providers and forces them to just argue against contraception, also good. If Republicans want to fight on this terrain, they can go right ahead; this will make their Schiavo crusade look popular by comparison.

See also Jon Cohn, whose tweeting as this was being announced was invaluable. Official Planned Parenthood statement here. Obama’s speech announcing it was also very good.

perfect summary: “But still, the bottom line is this: Obama gave the bishops everything they claimed they wanted, but not what they really wanted. He gave them everything they asked for, but not the thing they adamantly denied they were seeking. The bishops’ bluff has been called.”

Comments (62)

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  1. SeanH says:

    First link is broken.

    I’m still concerned that a) this puts additional bureaucratic burdens on female employees seeking birth control, which they may have difficulty navigating, and b) that it singles out which employees want birth control, which could have a host of negative consequences, particularly with trans men who may be outed.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      Linked fixed. These procedural questions don’t seem to be an issue in states that have similar policies.

      • Jesse Ewiak says:

        Also, once a religious group indicates they don’t want to cover contraception, the insurance company has to be proactive in communicating to women that need to be covered.

    • What Jesse said about a).

      About b): this outing would be to the insurance company, and not to the employer, because of the change announced today. As I understand these rules, the employer-churches wash their hands (heh) of the entire subject, leaving it up to the insurance company.

  2. norbizness says:

    I don’t know, I read the word compromise and I’m afraid that it’s going to be a while before I calm down and try to get payment of my check to Rosanna Arquette stopped. Wait, Roseanne Barr’s running? DOUBLE SHIT!

  3. Njorl says:

    Easiest game of 11 dimensional chess ever. Fortunately, Obama’s opponents in this matter were restricted to walking diagonally.

  4. rea says:

    Occasionally, he reminds us of why we voted for him.

    • Charlie says:

      Occasionally Often, he reminds us of why we voted for him.

      Fixed that for you. Unless of course you’re a whiny leftier-than-thou piece of shit who doesn’t consider major health insurance reform, the end of the Iraq War, the decapitation of Al Qaeda, the resurgence of a greener US auto industry, the repeal of DADT, two solidly left female SCOTUS justices, Dodd-Frank, Lily Ledbetter, and student loan reform, to name a few things, to be major accomplishments. I mean, they certainly do pale in comparison to the major feats of the last Democratic President, who gave us DADT, NAFTA, Welfare Reform, and the repeal of Glass-Steagall.

      • rea says:

        You don’t read my comments very often, do you. :)

        • thebewilderness says:

          Not only that he doesn’t appear to remember just how pissed we were a couple weeks ago when the President decided that we could continue to be at the mercy of religious pharmacists when we need emergency contraception.
          That business of being able to remember from one week to the next qualifies me as a “whiny leftier-than-thou piece of shit” I’m sure.

          • thebewilderness says:

            Still, it is good to be reminded from time to time that dismissing those icky womens issues that only affect half the population is a bipartisan position.

      • Saurs says:

        For “major health insurance reform,” read: healthcare taking, once again, a backseat to more sweetheart corporate deals. Yeah, the insurance companies are really taking a hit, aren’t they?

  5. Blue Neponset says:

    Kudos to Obama. I thought he would fold like a lawn chair (as he usually does) but this is a really clever way to get the God botherers to admit they just want to control people.

  6. scanner says:

    There was a part of my brain that wanted to crush the Bishops and hear the lamentations of their altar boys simply because their arguments on this were so terrible, but like Scott said, on further review this sounds either A) successful or B) exposing how deeply out of touch the anti-contraceptive base is.

    also, from the tabs it looks like some Loomis-hating homophobe’s gone wild with the search box.

  7. AcademicLurker says:

    As soon as I heard the word “compromise” I assumed that the Obama administration had, per usual, caved in and given the conservatives everything they wanted.

    It’s nice to be pleasantly surprised. I just wish it happened more often.

    • DrDick says:

      Ditto. I agree with Scott’s analysis of this and, while diplomatically phrased, it is a big poke in the eye for the bishops.

  8. Brautigan says:

    Only downside to this that I see is that Obama continues to enable the shrieking harpies.

  9. Uncle Kvetch says:

    Charlie Pierce doesn’t share your rosy view, Scott, but I’m inclined to agree with your take over his (as are a number of his commenters). A pleasant surprise indeed.

    • Two observations about Pierce’s post:

      1. The conclusion seems wrong on the merits, in so much as Obama has not, in fact, accepted the right of the Church to deny its employees access to contraception, and has in fact done just the opposite, only in a way that symbolically shifts the matter of who is bearing the cost for the coverage.

      2. It seems rather strange that Pierce didn’t make one reference to the opinion of an actual women’s reproductive rights group like, say, Planned Parenthood in the entire post. Especially considering the “lady-parts” bit in the headline.

      • Njorl says:

        symbolically shifts the matter of who is bearing the cost for the coverage.

        It is fortunate that it works out that the costs involved are probably zero or negative. If the Catholic Church had an ideological opposition to bone marrow transplants, this method would not work.

        In a just world, insurers would charge the church extra for not covering birth control, then give a rebate to the employees who accept a gratis free-birth-control rider.

    • Steve LaBonne says:

      I sympathize with Pierce’s view that any giving in to misogynist insanity is an undesirable thing, but you just can’t die in every single ditch. The important thing was that the substance was completely preserved and the “compromise” was pretty much purely on symbolism. I’m no reflexive Obama supporter but I’m with you (and Scott)- this is a win.

      • Ed says:

        I agree. If I’m reading events correctly, Obama played this as many of his critics, including your correspondent, have wished he would do in the past: He took a stand and then made a compromise that didn’t give away the store and preserved the essential position.

        That said, it’s depressing that the Democratic Party as a whole couldn’t hold its ground on an issue as central to women’s rights as this one. News reports indicate that the Catholic Guys in the White House (Daley, Biden, et al.) went up against the women in the Administration on this one. Also sorry to hear that so many “liberal Catholics” really aren’t that liberal where women’s health is concerned, after all.

        • Njorl says:

          I think it’s more a case that the liberal Catholic politicians are out of touch with the Catholic people. While Catholics object to what they perceive as government butting into their Church, they also want zero copay birth control.

          Obama probably could have taken a harder line without paying a political price, as long as he wasn’t a dick about it. it would have been an unpredictable battle though.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      Right. He assumes a substantive concession that doesn’t exist. And, yes, instinctively I would have preferred to just tell the Bishops to go piss up a rope, but in other news I would be an extremely ineffective politician.

      • Jay C says:

        Your suggestion for the Bishops is one I would heartily endorse, but yeah: the realities of politics tend to rain on our dreams sometimes….

        This is a WIN for Obama, IMO: if he sticks to his guns and makes sure he looks like President Reasonable, the oppo will find themselves wrong-footed into a corner yet again.

      • L2P says:

        You know what’s awesome about this compromise?

        It’s a “compromise,” in that Obama’s giving something up. So the Villagers will be all “Oh, look, Obama’s such a moderate! Bipartisanship! Kisses!”

        But it’s totally NOT a compromise. Obama’s giving up NOTHING. Women still get birth control covered by their government-subsidized, employer-offered insurance plan.

        It’s the best of both worlds.

        • Uncle Kvetch says:

          It’s a “compromise,” in that Obama’s giving something up. So the Villagers will be all “Oh, look, Obama’s such a moderate! Bipartisanship! Kisses!”

          I think you’re giving the Villagers too much credit, i.e., actually believing that they mean what they say. The Villagers’ response could just as easily be “He plays a mean political game, but what does he stand for? Where are the unshakable principles, where’s the passion? Say what you like about Rick Santorum but at least yadda blah…”

  10. actor212 says:

    I hate when Obama does something I should be pissed off at, but can’t without suspending reality.

  11. Incontinentia Buttocks says:

    This does seem to be good politics: standing one’s ground while formally compromising, thus forcing the Catholic hierarchy and its political pals into a revealing, and politically unpopular, position. Nicely played.

    • Davis X. Machina says:

      Not a Catholic in the pews, or enough to matter, will give a rat’s ass that the bishops are apoplectic, either.

      They’re doing what they’ve always done. And it might be worth reminding the bishops that it’s the consensus omnium fidelium, and not the consensus omnium episcoporum, where the buck stops.

  12. I particularly like the bit where every article about the compromise is going to have to say “contraceptive coverage is good for insurance companies because it’s cost-effective, reduces unwanted pregnancies and abortions.”

    Kinda makes you wonder why they weren’t offering it before.

  13. Malaclypse says:

    Does anybody know how this impacts large companies that self-insure?

  14. [...] The bishops’ bluff has been called.Scott Lemieux thinks that’s pretty nifty. “Checkmate,” he writes. BooMan is blunter, saying this accommodation gives the bishops “About what [...]

  15. I wasn’t thrilled when I heard that Obama was going to announce a “compromise” on contraceptive coverage either

    I had it pegged as soon as I saw Axelrod’s statement, which was widely viewed as a harbinger of a cave.

    I think Axelrod was talking about figuring out some kind of accounting/organizational solution, like the firewalls regarding religious activities by groups that receive government social service funds, that allows the churches to say that they’re not actually paying for contraception.

    It was easy to see this coming, because it’s precisely how Obama played the Republicans on the debt ceiling debate. Oh, he’s being so reasonable, and his opponents still won’t take the deal! They’re so extreme!

    The bishops are still trying to figure out what to say. I can’t wait; I hope this gets drawn out until November.

    • Ed says:

      Axelrod’s statement was feared as the harbinger of a cave because of Obama’s undistinguished history in this regard. An error, but a perfectly understandable one, even if more recent events have already demonstrated to the Administration the limitations of the Only Adult in the Room number and the advantages of showing a little spine.

      • An error, but a perfectly understandable one

        I know this song. I was right for the wrong reasons, you were wrong for the right reasons, I know I know.

        Here’s a thought: maybe the impressions of past performance that keep leading you astray are unreliable, and maybe the different set of impressions that help others of us to more accurately comprehend events aren’t actually a consequence of bias.

  16. Dirk Gently says:

    This isn’t chess, this was Cannae. Obama was Hannibal, and Catholic leaders, wingnut anti-women crusaders, and insurance companies were the Roman legions pushing into the middle of the line.

    • John says:

      If only the bishops had entrusted this battle to Admiral Ackbar. That man could recognize a trap when he saw it.

      P.S. Did the insurance companies actually oppose this provision? Why would they care?

      • Dirk Gently says:

        I oversimplified: I don’t think they want the paperwork, but I do think they are looking forward to the overall cost savings if the contraception actually results in lower pregnancy rates. Perhaps it would have been best to leave them out of this analogy. :)

  17. Props on the Schiavo reference.

    People forget, but the mainstream media was incredibly favorable towards the religious-right position when that story first hit the media, and the conservatives were sprinting towards the cameras because they thought they really had a winning issue.

  18. mds says:

    Oh, well, now that this has gone nowhere, time for conservative members of Congress to pivot and get behind another current policy initiative of the US Council of Catholic Bishops: extending unemployment benefits.[PDF] I mean, Mike Huckabee even said “We are all Catholics now.” So I’m guessing Marco Rubio’s unemployment extension bill will be hitting the floor as we speak, right? Joe Manchin’s already declaring that letting unemployment benefits expire is unconstitutional, right? Because we wouldn’t want these guys to act like cafeteria Catholics.

  19. Snarki, child of Loki says:

    yeah, the only negative is that somehow Obama left out saying “why should I care what a bunch of pedophile-enablers think?”

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