Dana Milbank Live: Is Obama caving on contraception mandate?

Feb 10, 2012

Seeking to allay the concerns of Catholic leaders, the White House is planning to adjust its health care rule requiring religious employers to provide women access to contraception, a senior administration official said.

Should Obama have compromised? Does this mean he's caving? Chat about this live with Dana Milbank. Topics also up for discussion include CPAC, Rick Santorum's gaffe on women and more.

Dana Milbank Live is your weekly opportunity for a give and take with Dana centering on the latest political news in Washington and his recent columns.

Good afternoon.

I spent much of yesterday at CPAC and am watching it again today. I will be posting my Sunday column on the event later today.  Please share your observations on the event, if you have any.  If you have any suggestions on what Romney might do later today to win over the crowd, please pass those along as well.    Happy to take your questions on this, on my singing of Al Green at the Washington Press Club Foundation dinner on Wednesday, or on anything else.


Didn't George Romney, born in Mexico, run for president? How did that work?

I doubt it would satisfy the Donald, but here's the explanation.

I'd send you a question about Rick Santorum, but I currently have other types of emotions, if you know what I mean.

This chat is no place for a lady.

We saw the GOP cheering for people dying because of healthcare, booing a soldier because he was gay, and then at CPAC cheering when MSNBC Host Rachel Maddow was bashed by saying she never should have been born. Is there not a single person in the Republican Party who has the guts to say to his or her base that "It's okay to disagree with a position but be civil about it?" or are they all so terrified of their base that they just go what ever way the mob tells them to?

Well, it was Cal Thomas, so you've got to do an Ann-Counter-like discounting of what he says, but still I cringed when I heard it.

I love vests...but prefer leather. Do you think if Santorum was president he would mandate the wearing of vests, but ban any designs or material that might suggest a bestial tendency?

No but he would allow the states to impose such bans.

Is this where Rick Santorum and Catholic Bishops think is the only appropriate place for women?

Apparently Rick Santorum also allows his wife to appear at CPAC.

Will the Koch brothers, as Carville suggests, pull Newt aside and give him a golden handshake of a post-primary, history consulting contract to get out of the race?

They would have to throw in a line of credit for Callista, and even then I think it would only serve to create more of a two-man fight to the death between Romney and Santorum.

28 states require religious organizations to offer health insurance with birth control to their non-clergy employees and most Catholic organizations already do so. An overwhelming number of women support birth control including those who identify as either Catholic or Evangelical. This is a drummed up outrage for no other purpose than attacking the President, the same as everything else that the GOP flip flops on: Cap and Trade, the Individual Mandate, Bank Bailouts... they'll be against anything that the President is for. I'm suprised the GOP in congress didn't go out and all buy cats when Obama got Bo. Why cave to this false outrage?

Haven't written on the contraception contretemps this week, so perhaps one of you can answer this question for me:  Isn't the bishops' stand on this basically a position in favor of more abortion?   If fewer people get birth control from Catholic facilities, won't more of them have -- and end-- unwanted pregnancies? 

Did you go the Skull and Bones meeting at the White House? And just how clueless was Goolsbee for meeting with them in the White House in terms of inviting questions/conspiracy theories?

Here's the buzzfeed item on that.  I have it on good information that they were negotiating the return of Geronimo's remains.    (Actually, I can confirm this group was in town but I met them at Ben's Chili Bowl.)

What do you think of the wild and crazy assortment of groups speaking at CPAC this year?

Mostly a feel gratitude for giving me an easy column.

Oddly enough, some chatters might find it interesting that uber-conservative firebrand Barry Goldwater's edibility to run for POTUS was challenged since he was born in Arizona before it entered the Union in 1912.

Trump would have lit his hair on fire. But I'm not sure we would have been able to tell the difference.

I am a pro-choice atheist and strongly dislike organized religion. But no, that is not a position in favor of abortion. They do not support premarital sex and believe all conceptions should progress to babies. That's a silly conclusion you reached.

No, I'm not saying they're in favor of more abortions. I'm postulating that the less birth control that's available (government financed or otherwise) the more abortions there will be.  But I'm just asking, because I'm sure somebody out there has some facts or science to set this straight.  It's a small attempt at crowd sourcing.

I voted for Obama and will likely do so again. But I no longer love him. He's totally caving instead of standing strong for women. If a religious group chooses to operate an organization in the secular world, such as a hospital or university, they are going to have to realize that not everybody buys into their religion. Get over it! Do they force their employees to abstain from meat during Lent? Why is it always women who bear the brunt of their actions?

I think your first line may well be the story of November:

"I voted for Obama and will likely do so again. But I no longer love him."


Yes, and Komen withholding donations from Planned Parenthood was basically a position in favor of more undetected breast cancer. In both cases, it's morality turned on its head, almost like the parable of the Buddhist monk who would rather leave a woman stranded on a riverbank than go against his vows.

Yes, I think the Komen thing is parallel.  But we need something more than a Buddhist parable to see whether these causes actually lead to these effects.

It is all a master plan to solve unemployment by forcing women back to the home in childcare, thus reducing the numbers of the "employable". Unfortunately most 'breadwinners' will not have adequate salaries to maintain 'the family'...but hey, "the family" is back, and unemployment numbers are down...and we all pray more!

Hmmm. In that case, they are really trying to boost Obama's reelection prospects by driving down the unemployment rate.  I wonder if we have missed the real story....

No. He did not. I did. And I served with female service members.. And did so under fire. To a person they conducted themselves with calm professionalism and courage. One wonders how would the vest-wearing wonder hold up under fire?

Thank you for your service.

I think a camo kevlar vest would look very good on Santorum.  But I'm thinking the soft stuff underneath it would make it very difficult for him to keep up with his fellow warriors.

Dana, You just don't understand the bishops! If employees of Catholic hospitals, universities, etc., don't have access to contraceptives, they won't have abortions. They'll just stop having sex. Duh!

You mean they will behave like. . .  priests?

Don't forget to vote in our poll:  How will Rick Santorum’s comments about women affect his campaign?

Let us know what you think in the comments section.

A couple years ago Max Blumenthal made the the most hilarious videos by going to CPAC and letting them spout off at length with crazy talk. Bring a camera and let that crazy talk flow.

Alas, my news organization is no longer wealthy enough to sponsor such multimedia undertakings.   But I saw plenty of amateurs with cameras at CPAC. One of them with bad breath got in my face and began asking me what I thought about redistribution of wealth.  I suggested it should all be redistributed to him.  I thought, but did not say, so he could buy some toothpaste.

I doubt Trump could have lit his hair on fire over Goldwater. You don't think they made that out of flammable material, do you?

No but some of the coatings he uses are petroleum based.

Are the odds growing for a GOP brokered convention?

Yes, they are. From about 2 percent to about 3 percent.   I would love to see this happen but I don't think we will be that lucky. 

How much money did you win betting on the Super Bowl?

Ten thousand bucks.

Despite the talking points for the Dems and their pundits it aint about BC and Health Insurance. Sorry hoss you all need to get off your liberal bias its about the Constitution and the First Amendment. The Catholic Church should not have to compromise its believes if it runs a hospital ie Georgetown or a basketball factory like Villanova. Now if I were the Cards and Bishops I would play hard ball and threaten a shutdown and religious revolution. Read you handy dandy pcoket Bill of Rights. Art 1. A tenured professor UVA Law

My handy dandy pcoket Bill of Rights does not mention Borth Control, professor.

I assume this question was sent in as a hoax but it is good enough that I wanted to share it with you all.

Do you plan to write a book about the 2012 elections? Seems like it would be a very fractured narrative with a new hero for each chapter. Since Cilliza is writing something now (a novel or non-fiction?), it will be important for you to protect your brand as the Washington Post's premiere chronicler of political foibles.

I have decided that the next time I write a book it should be one that people buy. So, no.  Something not about politics, perhaps -- although a biography of Cillizza would be compelling.

Being older than the average Post reader, I recall that Hubert Humphrey's physician Dr. Edgar Something-or-Other opined about the risks to our nation of women's raging hormones, and got his head pretty much handed to him by feminists. Santorum seems to be reviving this canard from the 1960s and '70s. Guess Rick wants to take us back to the "good old days," right?

Let me assure you that remembering Humphrey does not make you older than the average Post reader.  You would have to remember Coolidge to have that distinction.

OK, why? Because they (Coulter and Thomas) are so out there, they can get away with playing by different rules? Not-so-silent Cal has a commentary spot on WTOP every so often. How is he different than another commentator whose rhetoric you DON'T have to discount?

Good point.  You should discount all commentators. 

Can he win any state?

Only if Newt's moon colony can get statehood before the convention.

"A conservative a moderate and a liberal walk into a bar. And the bartender goes, 'Hi Mitt'"

Yep -- from the guy introducing santorum.  But then he made a joke about a blind horse that I didn't really get.

Santorum just keeps winning these beauty contests. Should he enter the Miss USA pageant next?

Goodness gracious. People are eating lunch at this hour. 

I wonder if people denied contraceptives could avoid pregnancy by pausing each time they feel amorous to think about Santorum.


Privately propose a swap to Ron Paul: Paul can have Maine if he gives Romney a private tutoring session in feisty.

They should pay for this advice.

That's awesome. On top of that grammatical trainwreck, randomized spelling and punctuation, and notable absence of logic, the real tip-off that the "professor" is an impostor is that he or she (Oh, who am I kidding? He) does not know the difference between Article 1 of the Constitution and the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. Thanks for the laughs, "Professor."

Why I consider "loving" any politician a fool's endeavor...they will always let you down. I can't be the only one that feels that way, can I?

Nope.  There are many sadder-but-wiser Democrats who have been disappointed to learn that Obama is not the Messiah but still think he's better than the alternative. 



See?  It's working already.  And I bet it will reduce sharply the number of unwanted pregnancies. 

Mitt Romney should propose this very policy at CPAC this afternoon.

Thanks for chatting.  Back with you next week.  

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Dana Milbank
Dana Milbank reviews the political theater of the nation's capital in his editorial-page column. His most recent book is "Tears of a Clown: Glenn Beck and the Tea Bagging of America;" his other books are "Homo Politicus" (Doubleday, 2008) and "Smashmouth" (Basic Books, 2001). Milbank joined The Post as a political reporter in 2000 and wrote the "Washington Sketch" column for nearly six years. He lives in Washington with his wife and daughter. • Dana Milbank Bio & Archive
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