Photo ops, as they are called in political jargon, seal an image and a chunk of voters. Hence, basketball, softball, Little League, football, and soccer teams hosted at the White House by what should be an overwhelmed President BarackObama. Lots of sports fans vote.
Kissing babies is a big win for the mothers. Lots of baby holding photo ops for Mitt Romney in Florida—and a huge chunk of voting support from married women—helped “thump” Newt Gingrich in the Florida primary.
Sometimes, these photo ops prove embarrassing, and cost elections; i.e., Michael Dukakis driving a tank was supposed to shore up his “macho pro-defense” credentials. Instead, he looked like Snoopy driving in circles.
President Jimmy Carter’s famous photo “running the rapids,” was designed to win the outdoor “western and environmental” voters. Instead, it led to the famous “killer rabbit” story where the former president insisted that he saved his crew from an attack by a killer rabbit swimming toward their raft and trying to get it. Late night comedians spun that mess like cotton candy.
This week’s election news presents an opportunity for Romney to not just put away Gingrich, but to possibly snare the rug out from the current occupant of the Oval Office.
Obama has managed to alienate a huge chunk of Democrats—the Reagan Democrats. More specifically, the Catholic Democrats. And, yes, even liberal Democrats.
As Washington Post columnist, E. J. Dionne (formerly a big fan of Obama’s) wrote: “Obama threw his progressive Catholic allies under the bus.”
At issue is the gnarly question of separation of church and state; i.e., who has the right to determine how, when, or even if, a president can interfere with a church’s teachings, doctrine or a woman’s right to choose.
Obama may have irreparably severed his ties to Catholics, with his frontal assault on their conscience. Even lapsed Catholics retain convictions about morals and conscience. Obama has just ignored them.
Oddly enough, Obama has a history of voting “present”—as in his Senate days in Illinois and in D.C. He still prefers, unlike King Solomon, to “split the baby.” Witness the Keystone Pipeline decision. He did not, as both sides argue, decide to kill the pipeline, but rather to delay the decision. His political team calls this “finesse.”
Why, then, did he not finesse the issue of conscience, health care, contraception, separation of church and state, a serious and very personal moral decision and, as Dionne says, “utterly botch[ed] the decision?”
According to Dionne, “At issue are regulations promulgated Jan. 20 by the Department of Health and Human Services that required contraceptive services to be covered by the insurance policies that will be supported under the Affordable Care Act.”
This was not a problem until the final decision, mandating that Catholic hospitals, universities, and even charities be compelled to pay for health insurance that covers sterilization, contraceptives and abortifacients.
Such an intrusion, by a president—any president—requiring practicing Catholics (or members of any religion) to violate their own conscience, is not just morally reprehensible, and legally questionable, but politically lethal.
Enter the photo op.
Helen of Troy’s face may have launched a thousand ships to war. But this photo could launch the undoing of Obamacare and his presidency.
Romney is looking at a chance to win the Oval Office early—unless Gingrich gets the photo first.
All that former Gov. Mitt Romney needs is a photo op with a broad spectrum of Catholic leaders—pushing back on an egregious overstep by this president—to win the presidency.
In a close election, the Hispanic, Reagan Democrats, and anti-big government voters—as well as liberal Catholics—who are fed up with intrusive government by decree, could alter the outcome.
Catholics, alone, constitute 20 percent of the general electorate—and even more important in some of the crucial swing states.
As one savvy Irish Catholic pol schooled me, “abortion is an issue between a woman and her God. Period.”
Not an issue between a woman and the president.
What was the president thinking?
One photo op, properly timed and framed, may alter his tenure.
Colleen O'Connor, a former college history professor, contributes political columns to Patch.