HOW TO FAKE A FIRESTORM
The New York Times:
WASHINGTON -- Facing vocal opposition from religious leaders and an escalating political fight, the White House sought on Tuesday to ease mounting objections to a new administration rule that would require health insurance plans -- including those offered by Catholic universities and charities -- to offer birth control to women free of charge....
Please note that this is an "escalating political fight" even though polls show that clear majorities of Americans -- and Catholics -- support birth control coverage. The leadership of the Catholic Church is peeved, but rank-and-file Catholics aren't. So why is this a firestorm?
It's a firestorm, I think, because the American political elite teems with high-profile right-wing Catholics -- among them converts such as Newt Gingrich, Robert Bork, Sam Brownback, Laura Ingraham, Lawrence Kudlow, and Ramesh Ponnuru. There's been a concerted effort in recent years to win influential wingers over to the Catholic Church (Father John McCloskey, a prime mover in this effort, was described in a 2002 Slate article as "The Catholic Church's K Street lobbyist"); the effort seems to be the political equivalent of Scientology's focus on converting famous entertainers.
When you combine all these wingnut Catholic converts with birth Catholics who are prominent right-wingers (William Bennett, Scalia/Thomas/Roberts), you get a Catholic-winger noise machine that can convey the sense within the Beltway that Catholics believe a certain thing when, in fact, only prominent right-wing Catholic pols and pundits believe it in great numbers.
This is a great mechanism for fooling easily spooked non-right-wing Catholics such as Cokie Roberts and E.J. Dionne -- both of whom have engaged in fretful hand-wringing about the terrible political misjudgment President Obama has allegedly made. Well, it really does looks like a terrible decision -- if the only Catholics you encounter regularly are your Georgetown cocktail party pals.
(X-posted at Booman Tribune.)