Thursday, March 25, 2010

Columnist Kathleen Parker Says Stupak Was Betrayed

A bad column concludes with a loaded image

Bart Stupak, the pro-life congressman from Michigan's Upper Peninsula is taking a lot of fire for his role in passing the healthcare reform bill on Sunday. A Catholic, Stupak has been a hardliner in his opposition to the use of federal funds to pay for abortion. But, "when all the power of the moment was in his frail human hands, he dropped the baby," wrote Parker in a Washington Post column, "Stupak's original sin."

Parker goes on to argue that in becoming one of the few Democrats who originally voted against the bill to change his vote and enable passage, Stupak proved to be "weak and overwhelmed by raw political power." Worse, perhaps, he was deceived by the obvious fraud of an "utterly useless" executive order, which falsely promised "that no federal funds will be used for abortion."

Stupak, Parker says, knew he was being deceived; after all "the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops explained to him...the only way to prevent public funding for abortion was for his amendment to be added to the Senate bill." Besides, even Obama "is well aware of the uselessness of his promise," wrote the apparently omniscient Parker.

Of course, all this is actually contested terrain and Parker, a usually more reasonable, if also right-wing, observer of Washington politics, should know this. Yes, the Catholic bishops claimed that the bill would expand federal funding for abortion, but a very influential association of catholic hospitals said that the bill would not do so.

Further, executive orders do matter, as Parker likely also knows. They may not be a matter of law, but they guide how federal employees interpret and implement laws. And, in this particular instance, Obama's executive order has been blasted by pro-choice groups who feel betrayed by the president's action. In "Order on abortion angers core backers," Nancy Northrup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights is quoted blasting the executive order, which has created a new "obstacle to abortion," she said.

But Parker may very well think that Northrup is crying crocodile tears, pretending to disappointment in order to further the liberal conspiracy advancing the cause of big government against the wishes of the American people. Indeed, Parker has caught the symbolism of a gesture that the rest of us may have missed--Stupak has been betrayed.

"After the Sunday vote, a group of Democrats, including Stupak, gathered in a pub to celebrate. In a biblical moment, New York Rep. Anthony Weiner was spotted planting a big kiss on Stupak's cheek.

"To a Catholic man well versed in the Gospel, this is not a comforting gesture," Parker wrote.

Though the phrase resists linear interpretation, Parker's meaning is clear. Stupak is hardly the Christ, but Parker judges him betrayed--his betrayal more properly understood if one recognizes that Weiner is the Judas figure, the betrayer in Parker's passion play. Parker has chosen here to speak directly to the good Christian commie-hunters mobilized in tea parties. Talk about original sin.

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