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The hire power

Politico reports that Health and Human Services has a new deputy assistant secretary for public affairs. He is Tait Sye, media director for Planned Parenthood for the last four and a half years. At HHS, according to Politico, he will handle communications for the public health portfolio--the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention--areas "where you can be pretty sure abortion and contraception issues will come up."Sister Mary Ann Walsh, head of media relations for the USCCB, was considered for the job but HHS decided that hiring a religious sister would violate the First Amendment and, besides, it might annoy the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. No, I just made that last sentence up.Anti-abortion groups are outraged by the new HHS hire, Politico reports. If all this is true, I'm not exactly outraged myself, just fairly dismayed.Here's the Politico story:

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I think Obama would do better to try to attract the Nones rather than to try to win Catholics who are shocked that a pro- choice president appoints a prochoice or director. I also think he may be in trouble with his base on this. They could decide not to work hard for him, they could fail to vote. They may think Romney isn't really to be feared on abortion. And I do think PP is about contraception, and Catholics who support contraception against the recent efforts to oppose it by the bishops (they don't want it in the plan at all) will now have mixed feelings about PP.

I think Bob Nunz has it right . It's going to the unemployment level, and the economy that are going to decide this election. It's the candidate that proves that he's best for the econmy that's going to win.

Yes, the economy is the dominant issue. But if the economy is doing just so-so, the bishops' input could help tip a narrow balance. And that's why they need to be very careful not to demonize a president, which they are process of doing.

Jim Pauwels, re your noontime comment of today: Here's my objection. A can properly criticize what B says or does, but when A starts attributing bad motives to B then A ought to have some reasons other than the fact that A disagrees with what B has said or done. To attribute bad motives without RELLEVANT EVIDENCE ABOUT THE MOTIVES, NOT ABOUT THE DEED OR THE STATEMENT, is what is slanderous. It turns an opponent into a villain. Let's grant that Obama is pro-choice and supports the legal right to an abortion. In our present society, one may very well do so, not because he or she has contempt for pro-life people, but because he or she takes it to be sound policy or even morally acceptable. Such a person is indeed an opponent, but not an enemy, not someone who has demeaned pro-life people.I agree with Margaret and Matthew that this appointment is not politically deft. But I see no reason to think of it as malign. To call it malign you need more evidence than I can find. If it is malign, then Obama is not only morally bad but also politically foolish. He may well be the latter, but to charge him with being the former, without solid evidence, is, whether you meant it as such, slanderous.I raise this point, Jim, because it is so easy for all of us bloggers to shade over into inappropriately attributing bad motives to our opponents. I take Scott Appleby's comments on the CDF decision as a model of proper restraint. He strongly criticized the action, but steadfastly refused to attribute motives.

If you read the revised description of how HHS intends to treat the contraception issue, it looks like the Administration is bending over backwards for Catholicsand got no credit for trying.Not really. Bending over backwards would be giving Catholic institutions a clear and broad exemption. Better yet, canning this frivolous rule entirely.

Excellent post, Bernard. I used to read all the posts at dot.CWL, but now I sometimes skip some for the simple reason that what those posts mainly do is call names without sufficient reason. They're boring, unfair, and a waste of time.

Bernard, thanks for your comment, and I agree with you. But I don't see that I have attributed malign motives to anyone - I've tried to be descriptive.

Even an inexperienced male such as I knows that (1) successful contraception results in (2) no need for abortion.Jimmy, contraception is never 100% successful. I guess thats where your inexperience shows. :)

"Jimmy, contraception is never 100% successful. I guess thats where your inexperience shows."I'm not sure I agree with you a hundred percent on your police work, there, Lou.

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About the Author

Peter Steinfels, co-founder of the Fordham Center on Religion and Culture and a former editor of Commonweal, is the author of A People Adrift: The Crisis of the Roman Catholic Church in America.