There is quite a kerfuffle stirring about Obama’s new pick to lead the HHS Faith-Based (even as an Episcopalian, I loathe that term) Office, Alexia Kelley. Sarah Posner has a post up on it. Evidently Ms. Posner isn’t too familiar with Mr. Obama’s political gamesmanship.
It’s called triangulation. Obama appoints Kathleen Sebelius to head HHS, who has a strong pro civil rights record (aka on supporting a woman’s right to choose), then appoints a Catholic that’s known for a group put together during the Kerry – Catholic fights, which was founded by John Podesta and others, to lead the faith-based office. Posner’s jumping off point is Dr. Tiller’s murder. (As an aside, Justice just launched an investigation on it.)
President Obama has appointed Alexia Kelley, executive director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good (CACG), to head the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the Department of Health and Human Services. Kelley is a leading proponent of “common ground” abortion reduction — only CACG’s common ground is at odds with that of Obama. While the administration favors reducing the need for abortion by reducing unintended pregnancies, Kelley has made clear that she seeks instead to reduce access to abortion. That is an extremely disturbing development, especially coming this week in the wake of George Tiller’s assassination. …
Holy hyperbole! He’s done it now.
Forgive me if I demure.
Secretary Sebelius is in charge under a President who has no intention of alienating anyone, including on abortion, and especially if it involves Democrats reaching the broader Catholic vote, when he can instead reach “common ground.” Translation: reducing abortions.
I’d also like to know what Posner and others think is going to happen when Obama picks a Catholic, especially someone who headed Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good (CACG). Last time I checked, the Pope is still against abortion, as well as contraception. If you think that’s a movable venue to work I’d say you’ll have a short career in politics. Now, if Posner wants to make the argument, part of which she offers in her post, that religion has no place in this debate, well, she’s about thirty years too late for that one. Reagan solidified their presence by embracing them, and since Obama has given overt signs he admires Mr. Reagan, why would you expect otherwise from him? Beyond that, religion is in politics as long as we have a president who believes “common ground” is more important than picking up ideological ground.
But most disagree with my realist analysis when it comes to Obama on these things, which is still good to take around the block when we confront certain road blocks.
Besides, if anyone has watched the way Obama has plucked Republicans from moderate districts, so Dems can win to replace them, you’d see he’s not exactly diminishing our tent, which goes along with what he’s doing at HHS. Giving a nod to Catholics in an office and under a department that is a target for the right, thereby inoculating Sebelius, etc.
So what I suggest is that everyone pocket the outrage on this one and save it for something or someone who might actually warrant it. Which brings up the issue that we don’t have a clue where Judge Sotomayor, also a Catholic as well as an Hispanic, will come down on the issue of a woman’s civil rights where choice is concerned. Let’s hope during confirmation someone asks her a question that leads to light, because right now it’s darkness. Though even with any knowledge there’s no fighting the eventual outcome. All we can do is hope precedence will be her guide.
UPDATE: I got an email from someone with knowledge, shall we say, who has given me permission to use (anonymously) what I was sent from her/him, which I offer below. CACG stands for Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.
CACG was originally founded by people like John Podesta, Tom Perriello and Ms. Kelley, in the wake of the Catholic Right making the dominant story that Catholics could not vote for John Kerry. Democratic Catholics like these believed that the Catholic Right’s partisan attacks were a major reason Bush won the Catholic vote. Therefore, these Catholics founded a group (or more accurately, a number of groups, including Catholics-United) set to refocus the faith debate on issues like healthcare, poverty and war that are important to Catholic teaching and that also are part of the Democratic platform. Their first test case was in Ohio, and they played a major role in the Catholic outreach of the victorious Ted Strickland.
CACG’s chief problem was that it wanted to be a a progressive Catholic organization, and yet still operate as an accepted group within the the American Catholic hierarchy. Kelley spent more of her time meeting with Bishops and USCCB officials assuring them of CACG’s support for Church issues. In doing so, CACG can not support abortion. It must be a “pro-life” organization. CACG has instead supported the Pregnant Women’s Support Act (also supported by the Bishops) because it did not criminalize abortion. They funded a study which found that a more effective way of reducing abortions is to provide full and complete health care for women and children rather than to get rid of Planned Parenthoods. They advocated family support rather than abortion restriction. Despite what Posner says, this IS a position of President Obama. It’s also a position most Catholics can support.