Let's get one thing straight -- this isn't true:
The only way to prevent public funding for abortion was for [Stupak's] amendment to be added to the Senate bill.
Prolifers were understandably excited about Rep. Bart Stupak's amendment to the House bill. Recall the standard we started out with: any health-care reform bill would have to preserve the "status quo" -- that is, it would have to prohibit direct federal funding for abortion -- in order to be acceptable to prolifers. Stupak's amendment did that. But it wasn't the only possible solution. As we've continued to point out around here, the Senate bill also included language that met the "status quo" requirement. Compared to Stupak, perhaps, it looked like a compromise -- but preserving the status quo is itself a compromise. There was no reason, other than political expediency, to make Stupak's amendment the baseline for what an acceptable bill had to look like. But once the Senate bill passed and was sent to the House, adding Stupak's amendment to the Senate bill was a surefire way to stop health-care reform altogether. Which is, in large part, why it became such a popular cause among people who preferred not to see health-care reform pass.The claim I quoted above is from today's Washington Post column by Kathleen Parker. In her construction, Stupak is a "backstabber" who betrayed the prolife cause. "Ultimately, he was weak and overwhelmed by raw political power," she pronounces. It's a nasty column, and our friend (and her colleague) E. J. Dionne politely called her out for it on the Post's "PostPartisan" blog today. His defense of Bart Stupak is worth a read (especially since he has the good taste to keep on quoting Commonweal). It concludes:
The only people who can see Stupak as a sellout are those who were willing to see health reform die altogether. Kathleen and I, from what we have written, probably take a different view of the merits of the health-care bill that Obama signed into law. We will have plenty of time in the coming years to argue about which of us was right on the health-care issue itself. But I dont think that difference justifies an attack on Stupak, who was prepared to enrage a majority of his Democratic colleagues to advance the pro-life cause that has been dear to him throughout his congressional career. What he did at the beginning of this battle and what he did at the end took courage.
He's right that her attack on Stupak is "deeply unfair" -- he might have added "incoherent" and "overly dependent on mismanaged metaphors." Let's take a look!
In her opening, Parker accuses Stupak of "surrendering in exchange for a fig leaf, the size of which varies according to the degree of emasculation of said legislator and/or as a reflection of just how stupid people are presumed to be." Classy imagery! Then, with the "emasculation" joke out of the way, she moves on to sanctimony:
Poor Bart Stupak. The man tried to be a hero for the unborn, and then, when all the power of the moment was in his frail human hands, he dropped the baby. He genuflected when he should have dug in his heels and gave it up for a meaningless executive order.
Wait, gave what up? The baby? Was he still holding the baby when he genuflected? Isn't "genuflecting" something good Catholics are supposed to do? And is the baby a metonym for "the unborn" supposedly betrayed by Stupak, or is that cute phrasing just an unfortunate coincidence? Parker goes on expressing her sorrow for "poor Bart Stupak":
Now, in the wake of his decision to vote for a health-care bill that expands public funding for abortion, he is vilified and will forever be remembered as the guy who Stupaked health-care reform and the pro-life movement.
"Forever," that is, if Parker's attempt to turn "Stupak" into a verb catches on! (It probably won't, because she says it's equivalent to "backstabber," which isn't a verb; and in the sentence above, the only way it could apply to both HCR and "the prolife movement" is if it meant something like "championed.")Parker spends her entire column heaping opprobrium on Stupak, who got drunk with power and willingly deceived his supporters. Then, in her penultimate paragraph, she says:
[D]emonizing Stupak seems excessive and redundant given punishments to come. Already he has lost a speaking invitation to the Illinois Catholic Prayer Breakfast next month.
Oh, well, if he's racking up such losses, she's right, there's no need to go calling him names. Or laboriously attempting to turn his given name into an insult. We're classier than that. It's Parker's final flourish that really makes this column memorable, though. See if you can count the reasons this should have been spiked:
[Stupak's] political future, otherwise, may have been foretold by a late-night anecdote.After the Sunday vote, a group of Democrats, including Stupak, gathered in a pub to celebrate. In a biblical moment, New York Rep. Anthony Weiner was spotted planting a big kiss on Stupak's cheek.To a Catholic man well versed in the Gospel, this is not a comforting gesture.
Poor Kathleen Parker. Someone should have saved her from publishing that.
About the Author
Mollie Wilson O'Reilly is an editor at large and columnist at Commonweal.