Gerson’s silly analogy

GERSON’S SILLY ANALOGY…. Over the last week or so, conservative criticism of President Obama nominating Kathleen Sebelius for HHS has focused on her staunch support of women’s reproductive rights. Today, the Washington Post‘s Michael Gerson criticizes the nomination for related, but contradictory, reasons.

It is probably not a coincidence that Obama has chosen a Roman Catholic — Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius — to implement many of these policies as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Obama has every right to a pro-choice Cabinet. But this appointment seems designed to provide religious cover. It also smacks of religious humiliation — like asking a rabbi to serve the pork roast or an atheist to bless the meal.

This doesn’t make any sense at all. Sebelius, conservatives tell us, is a “liberal extremist” when it comes to issues like abortion rights, family planning, and stem-cell research. Why would it “smack of religious humiliation” for the president to ask Sebelius to work on an agenda she already agrees with? This isn’t an example of a rabbi serving pork; it’s an example of a rabbi hosting a seder — there’s nothing odd about it.

Gerson insists that the “common thread” of Obama’s pro-choice agenda is “the coercion of those who disagree with it.” Except, Sebelius doesn’t need to be coerced; she’s on the same page as the president. I know this, of course, because Gerson’s conservative allies keep telling me about it.

What’s more, Gerson sees some kind of elaborate scheme at play. To hear him tell it, Obama deliberately chose a Roman Catholic to lead HHS as “cover.” Gerson bases this on … nothing in particular. Of course, if “this appointment” were part of some symbolic plot, the president has been awfully clumsy — Sebelius was his second choice for the cabinet spot.

I realize that Gerson’s column has a singular focus. But is it really so hard to believe that the president asked Sebelius to lead HHS because she’s an accomplished governor, close political ally, and a strong manager who agrees with Obama on health care?

She’s not the one who should feel “humiliated” here.