Just Stand Still

Well, scanning the news it’s kinda hard to avoid writing still more about the contraception mandate issue. Every single public gabber in America appears to have a strong, perhaps even violent opinion on the subject. It has practically taken over the Republican presidential nomination contest, as the candidates compete to accuse the Obama administration of the worst persecution of Christians since Diocletian. The White House is, as this morning’s Politico headline put it, “boxed in” now, unable to do much of anything that will not infuriate friends in one camp or the other. “Slaps in the face” and “punches in the nose” and “betrayals” and “sellouts” are being alleged and feared by everybody.

Worst of all from the White House’s point of view, the internal debates on the politics and the policy are all going public in the usual ax-grinding manner, as evidenced by Jake Tapper’s collection of insider quotes today. If, as is now being suggested, the administration’s decision-making process on this highly technical subject really does come down to tediously predictable battle-lines of gender and faith, then who can blame everyone else for reacting just as mechanically?

So whether or not the earlier administration statements on the mandate were the final word, an opening gambit, or something written in vanishing ink, it would be helpful for the president to get to where he wants to stand really soon, and stay there.

I’m reminded of the old southern story about the politician who’s trying to make a speech and audience members keep calling out to him that he should “stand with the president.” The frustrated pol finally responded: “I’d be glad to stand with the president if he’d just stand still!”

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.