I am not crazy enough to believe that the U.S. culture wars ever ended, but it is kind of breathtaking to watch them reignite into flame before your eyes. After announcing just three days ago that it would no longer fund breast exams at a handful of Planned Parenthood affiliates, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast-cancer charity, having endured a relentless barrage from politicians, prochoice activists and soon to be ex-supporters, said today that it is reversing that decision.
"We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women's lives," a Komen statement said.
In previous statements Komen officials said their decision to drop Planned Parenthood affiliates wasn't "political"; I guess in the sense that its reversal likewise isn't political, which is to say it is all political.
The folks at Planned Parenthood, which orchestrated the shock and awe response to Komen's decision, have been busy on a number of different fronts this week and must be feeling pretty satisfied with their many public relations efforts. In fact the Komen controversy and the U.S. bishops response to HHS have proved something of a public relations and fiscal watershed for Planned Parenthood. In television ads this week PP is thanking President Obama and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for "standing firm" on contraception. PP may be overdoing the victory dance on this one; watching the self-righteous counterattack against the bishops and noting the increasingly Nativist tone of some of the sentiment expressed on that vast wasteland of the Interent, I can feel some atavistic response mechanism kicking in myself. Will liberal Catholics come home to stand by their bishops despite their differences? (We know the Lefebvrians won't.)
In today's Wall Street Journal Peggy Noonan argues ("A Battle the President Can't Win") that President has made a fatal blunder in this decision:
The church is split on many things. But do Catholics in the pews want the government telling their church to contravene its beliefs? A president affronting the leadership of the church, and blithely threatening its great institutions? No, they don't want that. They will unite against that.
The smallest part of this story is political. There are 77.7 million Catholics in the United States. In 2008 they made up 27% of the electorate, about 35 million people. Mr. Obama carried the Catholic vote, 54% to 45%. They helped him win.
They won't this year. And guess where a lot of Catholics live? In the battleground states.
There was no reason to pick this fight. It reflects political incompetence on a scale so great as to make Mitt Romney's gaffes a little bitty thing.
There was nothing for the president to gain, except, perhaps, the pleasure of making a great church bow to him.
Enjoy it while you can. You have awakened a sleeping giant.