Perhaps because the cynicism that dominates contemporary political discourse militates against taking any politician’s words at face value, surprisingly little analysis is devoted to what President Obama actually says in his principal public addresses. Americans are so busy figuring him out, they have stopped hearing him.
The presidents with whom Barack Obama is often compared, Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan, did not face the obstacles he does. Obama has every right to be frustrated: When Republicans obstruct, he takes the blame. But even though his assessment of the situtation is correct, his response to it should be different.
Many of the groups challenging the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act on religious-liberty grounds hang their hopes on one Supreme Court case: Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal. But while the superficial attraction of O Centro is obvious, the facts of the mandate are quite different.
The final HHS rules are the product of a genuine and heartfelt struggle over the meaning of religious liberty in a pluralistic society. "What we've learned," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, "is that there are issues to balance in this area. There were issues of religious freedom on two sides of the ledger"—the freedom of the religious institutions and the freedom of their employees who might not share their objections to contraception.
The Bishops' Case Against the Mandate
Rightward Tilt Clouds the Christian Message
With the election over, responsible members of both parties acknowledge that a long-term budget deal, one that gets entitlement spending under control but also increases tax revenue, is necessary for the health of the economy and for restoring confidence in the nation’s political institutions.
Barack Obama took on a militant conservatism intent on reducing the responsibilities of government and cutting taxes on the wealthiest Americans. In the process, he built an alliance of moderates and progressives who still believe in government's essential role in regulating the marketplace and widening the circle of opportunity.
The Catholic Right’s False Nostalgia
A Partisan Abuse of the Church’s Moral Teachings
For Barack Obama's supporters, the fact that the president played offense and had a strategy was reason enough for elation. But the most electorally significant performance was Mitt Romney's: Under pressure this time, the former Massachusetts governor displayed his least attractive sides.
Translating Moral Principle into Public Policy
What the Bishops' Voting Guide Overlooks
Like his recent predecessors, President Obama has moved on policy and personnel in ways designed to avoid the time-consuming gridlock that sometimes results from procedures mandated and constraints imposed by the Constitution. But in this election season, candidates on both the left and right need to show humility, restraint, and patience.
President Obama and Mitt Romney have chosen running mates who reflect their political philosophies. Both vice presidential candidates are also Roman Catholics, the first time this has happened in American history. Yet despite the obvious sincerity of their faith, their moral and political views reflect the positions of their political parties more than those of their church.
Ongoing Analysis & Opinion
In the final installment of our series, William Galston responds to the U.S. Catholic bishops' latest statement on religious freedom.
There is a healthy struggle brewing among the nation's Roman Catholic bishops. A previously silent group, upset over conservative colleagues defining the church's public posture and eagerly picking fights with President Barack Obama, has had enough.
When the Bishops Surrendered Their Religious Liberty
Is the Ban on Contraception Just an Identity Marker?
What are the U.S. Catholic bishops really arguing about with the Obama administration? Is it religious liberty, as they insist? Is it contraception and sterilization, as the headlines in my archdiocesan paper stress? Is it simply anti-Obama prejudice? Maybe it’s all of the above, and then some.
Bishops & Electoral Politics
What Some Priests Don’t Understand About Contraception
Do the bishops know Obama is taking them seriously?
Conservative Catholics complain that liberal Catholics instinctively greet every statement from the Vatican with suspicion. Fair point. Patient attention to the legitimate concerns of others and the presumption of goodwill on the part of those we disagree with are essential virtues. Unfortunately, patience and the presumption of goodwill were not much in evidence in the response of the U.S. bishops to President Obama’s contraception compromise.
The bishops, contraception & religious freedom