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The Wisdom of Politico: Right Angry with President It Opposed

March 10, 2009

It's not for nothing that Politico is (or should be) known as the ESPN of politics, highlighting the contest but not the content of American democracy. One day after President Obama as promised signed an executive order reversing the draconian Bush restrictions on stem cell research, Politico focused on the grievances and disappointment of hard line social conservatives. Of course, while neglecting to mention that overwhelming majorities of the American people and their representatives in Congress backed President Obama on the stem cell issue, Politico left out one other fact about the raging right and Barack Obama. They didn't vote for him.
In an piece akin to an announcement that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west ("Stem cell decision ignites right's ire"), Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown gave vent to the fury of the Republican right:

He called for reducing abortions and seeking common ground on one of the nation's most divisive issues - promises that led some on the right to think maybe, just maybe, Barack Obama was a different kind of Democrat.
But no more.
A series of decisions in the past two months -- capped by an announcement Monday that he's abolishing Bush-era limits on embryonic stem cell research -- has led to a reassessment of Obama by some Christian conservative and other religious leaders, who now charge him with inflaming the very cultural divisions he once pledged to heal.

Of course, candidate Obama promised both to protect the reproductive rights of American women and to undo the damage to the future of the U.S. economy and health care system by President Bush's misguided stem cell policy. (Republican nominee John McCain, too, said he would reverse Bush's stem cell guidelines.) His appointments, like Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, reflect the positions he staked out during the campaign.
And for all of his efforts to assuage the religious right, including his personal involvement in rewriting the abortion plank in the Democratic platform, his pledge to maintain Bush's faith-based programs and subjecting himself in August to a hostile evangelical audience at Pastor Rick Warren's Saddleback Church, Barack Obama hardly dented the monolithically Republican Christian conservative vote. Despite it all, white evangelicals remained solidly Republican in 2008, preferring John McCain by a staggering 50 points. That landslide was little changed from the 57% margin George W. Bush enjoyed over John Kerry four years earlier. (It is worth noting that Obama did make gains among Catholics, taking by 9% a group Kerry lost by seven in 2004.)
After the debates of the 2008 election, no American, and certainly no sentient political analyst, would have expected Obama to extend George Bush's extremist social agenda. Bush's radical stem cell agenda, his withdrawal of funding for international family planning groups providing abortion procedures (or just information), and his unprecedented midnight regulation mandating health care providers retain workers who on religious grounds refuse to provide abortion services, artificial insemination procedures and even birth control, all of these outside-the-mainstream positions were rejected by the American people in November.
Except among that minority making the most noise. And like the thunderous basketball dunk, the NASCAR crash or the head-on football collision, the fury of the raging right on stem cell research makes for great political highlights for Politico, the ESPN of Politics.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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