7.27.2009

Obama's Catholic Outreach?


Deal Hudson was director of Catholic outreach for George W. Bush's presidential campaigns. Recently, he was asked about President Obama's approach to issues important to Catholics and the details are outlined in this week's U.S. News Weekly.

Hudson thinks Obama's "common ground" talk on abortion is disingenuous because the "president has rolled back the ban on federal funding for abortion providers abroad, supports rescinding the federal ban on government-funded abortion in the District of Columbia, and hasn't ruled out covering abortion through healthcare reform."

Regarding the meeting between the Holy Father and Obama, Hudson says, "It was misleading of the president to speak to the Holy Father about committing to abortion reduction when he knew the healthcare bill would include funding for abortion services and when he was on the record for supporting federal funding for abortions in the District of Columbia. I think those two things taken together will make his promise to the Holy Father a political mistake that will come back to haunt him when it's held up to scrutiny down the road."

"The Pope surprised Obama by handing him the bioethics document on human dignity, whose opening line is: 'Human life should be respected from the moment of conception until death'."

"Obama has made many overtures to the Catholic community, from sitting down with Catholic reporters before meeting with the pope to appointing a well-respected Catholic to be his surgeon general. Sonia Sotomayor and/or surgeon general nominee Regina Benjamin are presented as Catholics, but the part of their story that the White House highlights is something that is compelling from another direction."

"The administration knows in both cases that, once the Catholic issues are explored, there are going to be problems [because of the nominees' liberal positions]. But in both cases, they know they can be offset. In the case of the surgeon general, it was her rebuilding of a clinic to help the poor. That's something very appealing to Catholics. And they know Catholics are very sensitive on Sotomayor to the struggle of a minority woman to navigate the byways of a male-dominated establishment. They have thought carefully about how they are going to offset the expected criticism of these pro-choice Catholic nominees by having stories ready that they know will appeal to Catholics and blunt criticism from the pro-life side."

"The contrast between John Kerry's Catholic outreach and Obama's is night and day. We know that Kerry's inner circle did not take the advice they were getting from their Catholic advisers. There have been Catholic Democrats who've worked for Democratic presidential elections going back four or five elections. And they had this attitude that all American Catholics were post-Vatican II Catholics, that we know what the Vatican thinks but we know that American Catholics believe something else, and we're going to appeal to that something else. It was an undertone of we're on the side of the dissenters."

"Obama campaign Catholic outreach director, Mark Linton realized that the kind of Catholics who'd voted for Bush were not the kind of Catholics who are moved by invocations of American dissent on contraception, reminders of the sex abuse scandal, and this whole plethora of smart-alecky talk about the Catholic Church in America."

"Bush got the Catholic vote by showing respect for the Catholic Church and its leadership and some basic issues of importance to Catholics. And so Obama's advisers packaged him as someone who is going to do what he can to seek the same ends politically that the church wants the government to seek. It's an undertone of respect."

Catholics today "don't like the old evangelical, more stringent-type message. So the plan is going to be one more finger in the dike of the eventual realization that the president misled the Holy Father. The policy itself is the funding of abortion and the appointment of pro-choice Catholics."