Why I Didn’t Write a Check for Obama Last Night

Gloria Feldt

Obama's recent comments backing away from a comprehensive mental health exception to the federal abortion ban and supporting abstinence education are far more likely to alienate feminist voters than win over conservative ones.

I was planning to attend Barack Obama’s big fundraising reception in
New York Wednesday night and make the maximum contribution to his
campaign, but I have torn up the invitation.

My decision
isn’t about the money, though the thought of writing a check for $4600
takes my breath away. It seemed important to do my part to prevent
the 100% anti-choice John McCain’s election and a de facto third Bush
term.

I supported Hillary Clinton in the primary because I
believe she’s the most capable of meeting the enormous challenges the
next president will face undoing the damage to women’s rights, health,
and justice caused by Bush. Still, I’ve admired Obama since I met him
at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Later, in Washington after
he was elected, I sensed he was genuine in his commitment to women’s
equality. So, despite my still-raw feelings about Hillary’s concession,
I was prepared to go forward this week and commit full support to Obama.

Then the danger signs started.

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I’ve spent enough years on the political frontline to know that before
getting that post-inauguration chance to do cleanup work, let alone
start on new initiatives, any Democratic candidate must first navigate
the political crucible that immediately engulfs him or her upon
becoming the party’s nominee. And it doesn’t surprise me that Obama
would seek to broaden his base by meeting with groups such as
evangelicals and conservatives who are unlikely suspects to become
Obama voters in large numbers. But I am shocked at the magnitude of
what Marie Cocco has properly dubbed Obama’s "pander tour."

During
the last two weeks, the thunderclouds of doubt have gathered ever more
ominously until they cast Obama’s character into serious question.
First there was a distant rumbling in his sudden support for FISA, followed by his support for the Supreme Court’s ruling expanding the right to handguns. His statements about religion in public life
and intentions to expand faith based funding programs made me nervous, though he did temper his comments with talk of Constitutional
protections for church-state separation.

By the time he
started parsing what reasons for abortion the law may deem acceptable or not — infantilizing woman and
devaluing their moral capacity and human right to exercise it — and sounding for all the world like he was
withdrawing his long held opposition to the federal abortion ban, I was
seriously questioning whether this man would have the necessary mettle
to withstand any challenges at all. Or worse, is he just another
politician swaying with the winds and running for cover at the hint of
a little thunder?

He’d obviously allowed the anti-choice misstatement of the abortion ban’s
provisions to frame his answer, when any lawyer ought to know that
buying into your adversary’s argument is guaranteed to doom your own.
He replied to their questions as though the abortion ban law concerns
only abortions late in pregnancy — when in truth it states no time or
gestation factor and could seriously limit access to abortions much
earlier in pregnancy. Equally disturbing, his words override the
principle of medical judgment in what constitutes risk to the woman. As
transcribed in Relevant Magazine:

Strang:
…there seems to be some real confusion about your position on
third-trimester and partial-birth abortions. Can you clarify your
stance for us?

Obama: I have repeatedly said that I think it’s
entirely appropriate for states to restrict or even prohibit late-term
abortions as long as there is a strict, well-defined exception for the
health of the mother. Now, I don’t think that "mental distress"
qualifies as the health of the mother. I think it has to be a serious
physical issue that arises in pregnancy, where there are real,
significant problems to the mother carrying that child to term.
Otherwise, as long as there is such a medical exception in place, I
think we can prohibit late-term abortions…

But the last straw
was his comments on sex education, when he gratuitously offered up
language coded to out-triangulate any triangulating he had ever accused
Hillary of doing:


Strang: You’ve said you’re personally against
abortion and would like to see a reduction in the number of abortions
under your administration. So, as president, how would do you propose
accomplishing that?

Obama: I think we know that abortions rise
when unwanted pregnancies rise. So, if we are continuing what has been
a promising trend in the reduction of teen pregnancies, through
education and abstinence education giving good information to
teenagers. That is important-emphasizing the sacredness of sexual
behavior to our children. I think that’s something that we can
encourage. I think encouraging adoptions in a significant way. I think
[is] the proper role of government.

Just when state after state has recognized the damage done by abstinence
programs and withdrawn from federal funding for them, we’re going to
have a president committed to abstinence education? I don’t think so.
And this coming from a man who in the Senate is a sponsor of the Prevention First Act and the Freedom of Choice Act? I certainly hope not.

In
the big picture, Obama’s character begins to appear as someone who is
quick to deflect, demur, defer to his challengers. The dreaded
flip-flopper, whom voters always see as a loser. When the frame is
focused on reproductive rights and health specifically, we see a
candidate who is either uninformed (not likely) or speaks with an
unacceptable lack of moral center about abortion, sex education, and
family planning.

I truly hope Obama will have sense enough
to
recognize that he’s a lot more likely to persuade women like me to
support him than those who push him to betray his previously
stated pro-woman principles and will almost certainly abandon him at
the ballot box anyway.

For now, he has a long way to go to convince me my $4600 would be a good investment.

Analysis Politics

Timeline: Donald Trump’s Shifting Position on Abortion Rights

Ally Boguhn

Trump’s murky position on abortion has caused an uproar this election season as conservatives grapple with a Republican nominee whose stance on the issue has varied over time. Join Rewire for a look back at the business mogul's changing views on abortion.

For much of the 2016 election cycle, Donald Trump’s seemingly ever-changing position on reproductive health care and abortion rights has continued to draw scrutiny.

Trump was “totally pro-choice” in 1999, but “pro-life” by 2011. He wanted to shut down the government to defund Planned Parenthood in August 2015, but claimed “you can’t go around and say that” about such measures two months later. He thinks Planned Parenthood does “very good work” but wants to see it lose all of its funding as long as it offers abortion care. And, perhaps most notoriously, in late March of this year Trump took multiple stances over the course of just a few hours on whether those who have abortions should be punished if it became illegal.

With the hesitancy of anti-choice groups to fully embrace Trump—and with pro-choice organizations like Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and EMILY’s List all backing his opponent, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton—it is likely his stance on abortion will remain a key election issue moving into November.

Join Rewire for a look back at the business mogul’s changing views on abortion.

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Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Tim Kaine Outlines Plan to ‘Make Housing Fair’

Ally Boguhn

“A house is more than just a place to sleep. It's part of the foundation on which a family can build a life,” wrote Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA). “Where you live determines the jobs you can find, the schools your children can attend, the air you breathe and the opportunities you have. And when you are blocked from living where you want, it cuts to the core of who you are.”

Donald Trump made some controversial changes to his campaign staff this week, and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) noted his commitment to better housing policies.

Trump Hires Controversial Conservative Media Figure

Republican presidential nominee Trump made two notable additions to his campaign staff this week, hiring Breitbart News’ Stephen Bannon as CEO and GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway as campaign manager.

“I have known Steve and Kellyanne both for many years. They are extremely capable, highly qualified people who love to win and know how to win,” said Trump in a Wednesday statement announcing the hires. “I believe we’re adding some of the best talents in politics, with the experience and expertise needed to defeat Hillary Clinton in November and continue to share my message and vision to Make America Great Again.”

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Both have been criticized as being divisive figures.

Conway, for example, previously advised then-client Todd Akin to wait out the backlash after his notorious “legitimate rape” comments, comparing the controversy to “the Waco with David Koresh situation where they’re trying to smoke him out with the SWAT teams.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Conway is also “often cited by anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim organizations such as the think tank Center for Security Policy and NumbersUSA.”

Under Bannon’s leadership, “mainstream conservative website” Breitbart.com changed “into a cesspool of the alt-right,” suggested the publication’s former editor at large, Ben Shapiro, in a piece for the Washington Post‘s PostEverything. “It’s a movement shot through with racism and anti-Semitism.”

Speaking with ABC News this week, Kurt Bardella, who also previously worked with Bannon at Breitbart, alleged that Bannon had exhibited “nationalism and hatred for immigrants, people coming into this country to try to get a better life for themselves” during editorial calls.

“If anyone sat there and listened to that call, you’d think that you were attending a white supremacist rally,” said Bardella.

Trump’s new hire drew heated criticism from the Clinton campaign in a Wednesday press call. “The Breitbart organization has been known to defend white supremacists,” said Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager. After pointing to an analysis from the SPLC linking Breitbart to the extremist alt-right movement, Mook listed a number of other controversial positions pushed by the site.

“Breitbart has compared the work of Planned Parenthood to the Holocaust. They’ve also repeatedly used anti-LGBT slurs in their coverage. And finally, like Trump himself, Breitbart and Bannon have frequently trafficked in all sorts of deranged conspiracy theories from touting that President Obama was not born in America to claiming that the Obama Administration was ‘importing more hating Muslims.’”

“It’s clear that [Trump’s] divisive, erratic, and dangerous rhetoric simply represents who he really is,” continued Mook.

Kaine Outlines Plan to “Make Housing Fair”

Clinton’s vice presidential nominee Kaine wrote an essay for CNN late last week explaining how the Clinton-Kaine ticket can “make housing fair” in the United States.

“A house is more than just a place to sleep. It’s part of the foundation on which a family can build a life,” wrote Kaine. “Where you live determines the jobs you can find, the schools your children can attend, the air you breathe and the opportunities you have. And when you are blocked from living where you want, it cuts to the core of who you are.”

Kaine shared the story of Lorraine, a young Black woman who had experienced housing discrimination, whom Kaine had represented pro bono just after completing law school.

“This is one issue that shows the essential role government can play in creating a fairer society. Sen. Ed Brooke, an African-American Republican from Massachusetts, and Sen. Walter Mondale, a white Democrat from Minnesota, came together to draft the Fair Housing Act, which protects people from discrimination in the housing market,” noted Kaine, pointing to the 1968 law.

“Today, more action is still needed. That’s why Hillary Clinton and I have a bold, progressive plan to fight housing inequities across Americaespecially in communities that have been left out or left behind,” Kaine continued.

The Virginia senator outlined some of the key related components of Clinton’s “Breaking Every Barrier Agenda,” including an initiative to offer $10,000 in down payment assistance to new homebuyers that earn less than the median income in a given area, and plans to “bolster resources to enforce Fair Housing laws and fight housing discrimination in all its forms.”

The need for fair and affordable housing is a pressing issue for people throughout the country.

“It is estimated that each year more than four million acts of [housing] discrimination occur in the rental market alone,” found a 2015 analysis by the National Fair Housing Alliance.

No county in the United States has enough affordable housing to accommodate the needs of those with low incomes, according to a 2015 report released by the Urban Institute. “Since 2000, rents have risen while the number of renters who need low-priced housing has increased,” explained the report. “Nationwide, only 28 adequate and affordable units are available for every 100 renter households with incomes at or below 30 percent of the area median income.”

What Else We’re Reading

CBS News’ Will Rahn penned a primer explaining Trump campaign CEO Bannon’s relationship to the alt-right.

White supremacists and the alt-right “rejoice[d]” after Trump hired Bannon, reported Betsy Woodruff and Gideon Resnick for the Daily Beast.

Clinton published an essay in Teen Vogue this week encouraging young people to fight for what they care about, learn from those with whom they disagree, and get out the vote.

“In calling for ‘extreme vetting’ of foreigners entering the United States, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump suggested a return to a 1950s-era immigration standard—since abandoned—that barred entry to people based on their political beliefs,” explained USA Today.

Trump wants to cut a visa program “his own companies have used … to bring in hundreds of foreign workers, including fashion models for his modeling agency who need exhibit no special skills,” according to a report by the New York Times.

A Koch-backed group “has unleashed an aggressive campaign to kill a ballot measure in South Dakota that would require Koch-affiliated groups and others like them to reveal their donors’ identities.”

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