FRC Blog

Good Policy More Important Than Good Photos

by Rob Schwarzwalder

July 16, 2014

President Obama is an intellectually curious man, and is to be applauded for this. He follows in the tradition of such giants of the mind as Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.

Such curiosity is noteworthy both because of its relative rarity and its relevance to the job of President. Our Chief Executive should be intellectually engaged, particularly given the extensive, imperative, and complex problems facing our nation and our world.

That said, it is a bit alarming to read about Mr. Obama’s recent penchant for late night dinners with physicists and soccer team owners. Here’s how the New York Times captured it: “In a summer when the president is traveling across the country meeting with ordinary Americans under highly choreographed conditions, the Rome dinner shows another side of Mr. Obama. As one of an increasing number of late-night dinners in his second term, it offers a glimpse into a president who prefers intellectuals to politicians, and into the rarefied company Mr. Obama may keep after he leaves the White House” .

His preferences for company are perfectly fine; that is, in my view, not an issue. Rather, there is the issue of his disingenuousness. For example, Mr. Obama refuses to visit our border on the pretext he doesn’t want a “photo op,” something so unbelievable that even John Dickerson of Slate writes, “The issue is not his unwillingness to engage in this particular form of presidential art. He’s making a choice: when a photo-op isn’t to his advantage, he elevates avoiding it to a high-minded ideal” .

Every politician likes opportunities to be photographed and filmed to his or her advantage. This is about as radical as saying that water runs downhill: Good visuals are to politics what icing is to cake. So, claiming that he doesn’t want to appear in a crisis-laden region because he doesn’t want to exploit it for political purposes is, frankly, phony. He and his advisors might feel there is no upside to his going to the border politically; I suspect he’s not going because illegal immigration is a terribly difficult issue and he doesn’t want to be photographed anywhere near it. But to claim that he is above “photo-ops?” C’mon, Mr. President.

In addition, in the realm of bad visuals, it looks disturbing to see the President wining and dining with the world’s elite while Latino toddlers languish in wire-fenced cubicles in south Texas, as Israel is on the verge of war, as Russia seems poised to invade Ukraine, as many millions of Americans remain unemployed, underemployed, or too discouraged to look for work , and so on.

Eating with the wealthy and powerful in elite international locations is not the photo-op you want, Mr. President, or that America needs. Good visuals should be incidental to good policy. If Mr. Obama takes that to heart, his enduring record will be much more profound than good B-roll.

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Democratic Bill to Override Hobby Lobby Ruling Fails

by Arina Grossu

July 16, 2014

A bill introduced by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), the “Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act” to override the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby ruling failed to get cloture in the Senate today. The Supreme Court ruled in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell that family business owners do not have to violate their consciences in order to earn a living by providing drugs and services to their employees in their healthcare plan, to which they morally object.

This bill seeks to overturn what the Supreme Court ruled earlier this month, and would force family business owners to provide their employees in their healthcare plan drugs and devices that have the potential to kill an unborn child even if they may have moral objections, and despite the protections afforded to them by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). It failed to get the sixty votes that were needed to move the bill forward, coming up short at 56-43 votes. We are thankful to the Senators who voted against cloture on this bill, thus protecting the religious freedom of all family businesses.

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Warning to Conservatives from Paul Ryan: Don’t Rely on the Supreme Court

by Haley Halverson

July 16, 2014

The Supreme Court is not a hero, and the conservative movement is not a damsel in distress.

This is one concept Congressman Paul Ryan (WI) discussed in his Independence Day Address, which he delivered at Hillsdale College’s Kirby Center this past Tuesday.

In the wake of recent Supreme Court decisions favoring religious liberty, conservatives could fall into the trap of putting their hope in a panel of judicial experts. This is a tendency that Ryan warned against in his final remarks:

Finally, there is the temptation to ask courts to intervene and solve our problems for us. Some conservatives think of judges the way Progressives think of bureaucrats: technical experts with the solutions to constitutional conflicts. But judges, like bureaucrats, are often the problem. We must be mindful of this temptation. It is true the Supreme Court can be an ally in conflicts surrounding the constitution. But, it can also be an adversary.”

Personally, the image of the Supreme Court as an adversary quickly brings the Roe V. Wade decision to mind. This decision legalized abortion and denied millions of Americans their right to life outside the womb. The Pro-Life movement would decidedly argue that, in the case of Roe V. Wade, the Supreme Court was an opponent of fundamental Constitutional and human rights.

Paul Ryan continued his statement, saying, “Let’s remember that under our Constitution of self-government, the court that really counts is the court of public opinion, where the American people hand down their verdict on Election Day.”

Congressman Ryan’s cautionary statements ring true. While each Supreme Court decision that upholds religious freedom and human life ought to be celebrated and encouraged, conservatives must not begin to neglect the importance of public opinion. The battle of ideas—whether concerning abortion, religious liberty or any other hot-button issue—is still taking place every day on Capitol Hill, in schools, and at the family dinner table.

This call to continue working to win the hearts and minds of Americans should leave conservatives throughout the country with a sense of empowerment, not discouragement. Each individual has the opportunity to reach out to his or her neighbor. Through conversations about political or moral dilemmas, acts of service, or prayer, individuals have the ability to impact the culture more fully than any Supreme Court decision.

The truth is that the conservative movement doesn’t need the Supreme Court as its hero. Rather than putting trust in institutions, conservatism draws its strength from individuals who carry out their duty and charity in faith that America will be blessed because of it. Hopefully the Supreme Court will sustain this renewed commitment to honor the Constitution and the American citizens. But whether it does or not, we must continue to stand firm and champion conservative ideals to a nation that desperately needs them.

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A Judge is Judged for Injudicious Behavior

by Travis Weber

July 16, 2014

I recently wrote about the depressing abuse of free speech in which a song writer decided to ridicule the Supreme Court justices in the Hobby Lobby majority opinion for nothing connected to the opinion whatsoever. Yes, of course. Freedom … .

Since then, a federal judge weighed in on his personal blog with his view that, instead of ruling on the issues in Hobby Lobby, the Court should “stfu” “shut the f*** up” in the parlance of some kids these days. Apparently, U.S. District Judge Richard G. Kopf of Nebraska believes the Court shouldn’t wade into issues to which he believes most Americans would react poorly. His reaction is the poor one, however. What’s worse is that it comes from a federal judge.

Therefore, I was heartened to see the news in the L.A. Times that he was being rebuked for his entirely improper behavior:

[A]fter coming under fire from fellow jurists and legal experts for writing a blistering criticism of the high court’s recent ruling in the Hobby Lobby case,” Judge Kopf was reported to comment that “[b]logging will be light while I figure this out.”

The L.A. Times is too kind, though. And imprecise. It wasn’t his “blistering criticism” of the decision that was problematic—it was his attack on other judges, his choice of words in that attack, and his crude rejection of the decision which betrayed any semblance of impartiality. Criticism of legal arguments and decisions occurs all the time and is a normal and even necessary component to our judicial system. What is not proper, however, is a personal attack. Neither is an overtly partial judge. But what is most troubling is Judge Kopf’s use of an obscenity. It has no place on the federal bench.

The judge, who also caught the attention of many earlier this year for inappropriate comments about a female attorney, apparently cut back on his recent blogging activity after receiving “a note from a lawyer he held in the highest respect who explained to him that people ‘expect judges not to be publicly profane, lewd or disrespectful.’”

Thank you, Mr. or Ms. Lawyer, whoever you are. You are a credit to the profession.

As the L.A. Times reports: “The incident raised questions about whether impartial, black-robed jurists can thrive in a blogosphere that often places high value on quick analysis and provocative comments.”

Exactly. Judges should simply refrain from blogging if they can’t resist the temptation. For now, I extend a hearty “thank you” to the attorney who took the time to explain to Judge Kopf that his behavior was indecent. Such actions preserve the integrity of the bar and the decency of our society.

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The Social Conservative Review: July 16, 2014

by Krystle Gabele

July 16, 2014

Click here to subscribe to the Social Conservative Review.


Dear Friends,

FRC is blessed to have classes of interns composed of some of the finest, brightest, most promising young men and women in America.

They come from every size and type of college and university, and work on every facet of the public policy issues we address here at the Family Research Council. Whether in doing analysis for our Marriage and Religion Research Institute, research for our pro-life initiatives, supporting our Government Affairs department, or advancing FRC’s message in the media, their contributions are important and their work is substantive.

Many of them are talented writers whose additions to the FRC Blog and publications in newspapers of all kinds help showcase not only their talent but their deep commitment to faith, family, and freedom. Here are some of their recent articles:

  • Haley Halverson (Hillsdale College) has written a moving piece on her family’s adoption of her brother Eli in, “Adoption Made Me Love Superman.”
  • Rachel Del Guidice of the University of Akron offers a powerful description of the value of religious liberty in, “Keeping the Freedom Fire Ignited.”
  • Emma Vinton, also of Hillsdale, shared a wonderful reflection on how her Dad has shown her the love of a Heavenly Father in a piece titled simply, “Our Father.”
  • Connor Headrick (Louisiana College) charges Christians to stand strong for the truth in “Finding a Firm Foundation.”
  • Bob Jones University’s Elizabeth Folger discusses the importance of sexual abstinence in, “Why Avoid Sexual Risk?.”
  • Regent Law School’s James Wheeler ranks first in his class. He discusses the recent Hobby Lobby decision in, “Burwell v. Hobby Lobby: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.”
  • And Liberty University’s Hannah Solem writes about Planned Parenthood’s desperate, irreverent effort to “Use God to Boost Abortion Sales.”

To learn more about FRC’s internship program, visit our Internship page and share your interest with us.

Sincerely,

Rob Schwarzwalder
Senior Vice President
Family Research Council

P.S. Join U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, M.D.(R-Md.) and our own Dr. David Prentice for a noontime lecture, “Human Cloning and Bioethics: Restoring Ethics in a Crazy World” on July 17. Register to attend or watch online, both at no charge, here.

Human Dignity and the Sanctity of Life
Abortion

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Women’s Health, right? The Right’s response: Wrong! Yep, that’s right.

by Hannah Solem

July 16, 2014

All this talk about S1696 protecting women’s rights? Down-right deceiving. If passed in the Senate, what has been referred to by National Right to Life’s President as “the most radical pro-abortion bill ever considered by Congress” would undo pro-life laws across the nation. It is because of the carefully-drafted and rightfully enacted pro-life laws that currently exist that women’s health and unborn children are protected.

Hundreds—yes, hundreds—of pro-life laws have been passed in states, including 21 measures this year alone.

The very essence of this bill is destruction, not protection. What would be the ramifications of passing S1696?

This bill would overturn these pro-life and pro-woman laws—laws that protect babies who are capable of feeling pain—laws that prevent sex-selection abortion—laws that ensure the medical competency of health providers—laws that hold abortion clinics to the same standards of ambulatory clinics. These laws are important and are being passed in states across the country.

S1696 is a serious unconstitutional attack on states’ rights. Last year, I was on the grounds of the Texas Capitol when HB2 and SB1 were debated. These measures have helped to protect the lives of numerous Texan mothers and their unborn children. It was a year ago when the Lone Star legislature demonstrated to the nation the truth of Lt. Governor David Dewhurst’s words, “At the end of the day, life can’t be stopped.”

However, S1696 seeks to end life. It seeks to stop the heartbeat of the child who is being nurtured in his or her mother’s womb. It seeks to make profit off of the woman in crisis. Is this protecting? No, it’s degrading. After all, what is honorable about intentionally lowering medical and health standards? Friends, this bill seeks to silence the voice of states like Texas that have raised their voice for life. It’s time to kill the bill and protect the mother and her unborn child.

Each of us has been blessed with mothers who showed us true love and protection when they made the choice to grace us with the gift of life. This bill is not about health rights; it’s about destroying the very inalienable right that we all have been given—the right to life.

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Persecuted: Would You Remain Silent?

by Nathan Oppman

July 15, 2014

This week, a movie will be released about persecution coming to modern day America, the persecution of Christians. Not for failing to renounce a belief but for failing to go along with a pluralist law that asks all religion to set aside their differences under the guise of anti-terrorism. I encourage you to go see this movie and consider its implications for the future of America. (Note: it is not for children and includes some violent images). Here is a synopsis of the plot from the movie’s website:

The new movie Persecuted opening in July 2014 depicts evangelist John Luther as the last obstacle in the way of sweeping religious reform. When a Senator frames Luther for the murder of an innocent teenage girl, an unprecedented era of persecution is unleashed. An evangelist turned fugitive, Luther’s mission brings him face-to-face with the coming storm of persecution that will threaten the entire Christian community in America.

America has long had a tradition of religious freedom for individuals. It is difficult to imagine a world of persecution in America, such as what is being experienced regularly by Christians in the Middle East or by those in Communist dictatorships such as North Korea. Perhaps, we will never see such persecution. But that does not mean we won’t see persecution. The one thing that is hardly tolerated in America is stating that something is wrong. We must be politically correct.

Political correctness is not only annoying, it is dangerous. Orwell once said that “freedom was the ability to say that 2+2=4.” If a man can no longer speak the truth, he is no longer free. John Luther was told to stop speaking the truth or risk everything. When faced with such a choice, would you be silent?

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Blumenthal Pro-Abortion Bill: Going Backward at Full Steam

by Rob Schwarzwalder

July 15, 2014

Various Supreme Court rulings have said that limitations can be placed on access to abortion in the states.

Over the past few years, especially, states have taken the Court up on their offers. According to the Guttmacher Institute, so far in 2014 13 “states have adopted 21 new restrictions designed to limit access to abortion.” Since the beginning of 2011, no less than 226 measures hemming-in elective abortion have been enacted at the state level.

Most of the new laws relate to things the majority of Americans agree are necessary: Sanitary and other health regulations for abortion clinics; requiring that abortion doctors have access to hospitals within 30 miles of their clinics in case of a medical emergency during an abortion; parental notification (note: that’s notification, not consent); requiring that women be shown ultra-sound images of their unborn children prior to having an abortion; bills that prevent abortion once a heartbeat is detected or once we know an unborn child can feel pain.

There is nothing radical about these measures. They better ensure safety for women and provide them with solid medical information concerning what an abortion really is. And they affirm the dignity of the unborn child, among other things recognizing that dismemberment without anesthesia is barbarity.

Now, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) wants to stop the progress, turning the clock back on common-sense protections for women and their unborn children. His “Women’s Health Protection Act of 2013” (S.1696) — an Orwellian title if ever there was one — would in a single scythe-like sweep eliminate hundreds of protections for women and their unborn babies. As Thomas Messner, legal policy fellow at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, says, the Blumenthal measure “would make it harder when not impossible for states to enforce measures that protect women as well as unborn children. In provision after provision S. 1696 puts not a thumb but a fist on the scales in favor of abortion providers and against both unborn children and mothers who face the fear and uncertainty of unexpected pregnancy.”

Increasing abortion and destroying humane safeguards for the unborn are retrograde actions. They pull our culture back toward a darker era when human life was considered cheap and the powerful exploited the weak. Sen. Blumenthal’s march backward is also a march into darkness. Those claiming to be children of the Light should fight it.

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Blumenthal Bill: Bringing medicine back to the dark ages

by Travis Weber

July 15, 2014

S. 1696, the “Women’s Health Protection Act of 2013,” is anything but. Indeed, such a title perhaps would have been more apt (though still laughable) many years ago, before technological advancements made it possible to view, and impossible to deny, that little baby struggling for life in the womb. Now, such a title is a complete sideline, a distraction of advocates of death who grasp at straws and try to block all images from sight and mind of a helpless baby growing and grasping at life as she is about to be delivered onto its stage. No, S. 1696 is not about “health.” It is but the latest ploy in an attempt to deny what is increasingly becoming more undeniable — the life of the baby in the womb.

How does S. 1696 attempt this ploy? By trying to interfere in the regulation of the health and safety of citizens — areas of general authority constitutionally left to the states. The bill doesn’t even attempt to hide this interference, explicitly stating in its findings: “Though described by their proponents as health and safety regulations many of these abortion-specific restrictions do not advance the safety of abortion services and do nothing to protect women’s health.”

The bill would prohibit specific tests or medical procedures in connection with the provision of an abortion. It would also prohibit limits from being placed on an abortion provider’s ability to delegate tasks, ability to prescribe or dispense drugs based on her or his good-faith medical judgment, and ability to provide abortion services via telemedicine. It would also bar states and localities from determining how equipment, staffing, credentialing, privileges, and transfer arrangements would work at facilities providing abortions, and from restricting abortion training. In all these matters, state and local governments may only regulate the health and safety of their citizens regarding abortions if they do so through generally applicable regulations or also regulate medically comparable fields. In addition, S. 1696 would bar state and local governments from requiring women to “make one or more medically unnecessary visits to the provider of abortion services or to any individual or entity that does not provide abortion services” before “obtaining an abortion.” Aside from the overt intrusion into areas of power clearly left to the states, the federal government is now going to tell the states what is and isn’t “medically unnecessary.” The brashness of this power grab is hard to ignore.

As if this wasn’t enough, the bill continues: “[a] measure or action that restricts the provision of abortion services or the facilities that provide abortion services that is similar to any of the prohibited limitations or requirements described [above] shall be unlawful if such measure or action singles out abortion services or make abortions services more difficult to access and does not significantly advance women’s health or the safety of abortion services.” Well that’s nice. How is any of this defined? “[A] plaintiff shall demonstrate that the measure or action involved — (A) singles out the provision of abortion services or facilities in which abortion services are performed; or (B) impedes women’s access to abortion services based on one or more of the factors described in paragraph (3)” (emphasis mine). One such “factor” is “[w]hether the measure or action is reasonably likely to delay some women in accessing abortion services.” So a lawsuit may be brought under this bill by merely showing that it takes longer to get an abortion (please pay no attention to the state’s serious health concerns). Under this theory, one could introduce legislation mandating “immediate medical treatment” of certain conditions because the diagnosis period is “too long.” Another such “factor” is “[w]hether the measure or action requires, or is reasonably likely to have the effect of necessitating, a trip to the offices of the abortion provider that would not otherwise be required.” Who determines what is “required.”

At this point, S.1696 should just stop pretending it is not intruding into areas of state authority. Other “factors” are laid out in the bill. But the last one is a doozy: “[t]he cumulative impact of the measure or action combined with other new or existing requirements or restrictions.” Thus, according to S. 1696, a plaintiff can make out a prima facie case by showing that a law “impedes women’s health” through the “cumulative impact of the measure or action combined with other new or existing requirements or restrictions.” Obfuscate. Muddle. Then go for the power-grab. On top of all this, the bill would require a state to show there is no “less restrictive alternative measure or action” to accomplish regulation of abortion—thus clearly interfering with the rational basis standard typically used to measure state regulation of citizens’ health and welfare. If S. 1696 isn’t an attempt to rip from state control the power to regulate the health and welfare of their citizens, I don’t know what is.

Adding insult to injury, the bill’s authors pretend to care about minorities by claiming that the “harms” they claim to fix “fall especially heavily on low-income women, women of color, and women living in rural and other medically underserved areas.” If they so cared about minorities, this bill’s supporters would look to restrict abortion generally, as abortion providers have been shown time and time again to profit off killing minority babies. Such purported minority rights advocates would have come to the defense of the Arizona law banning race-based abortions, yet they were silent there. Indeed, the NAACP and others actually opposed the law and sued to have it blocked! Yet, abortion must be advanced at all costs. Such is the sentiment of S. 1696.

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United Germany’s World Cup: This is Bush 41’s Victory, Too!

by Robert Morrison

July 15, 2014

I finally found something about which I can agree with the liberal editors of Slate. They ran a story yesterday about the televised hug between Germans victorious goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer, and that nation’s diminutive Chancellor, Angela Merkel. It’s a most appealing picture to see the young giant lean over, almost fall over, in a spontaneous gesture of affection for his country’s leader.

I was happy for Germany. This is a Germany we can cheer. And it is fine to remember that without the visionary leadership of George H.W. Bush, there would not have been an Angela Merkel in this photo. She was raised in East Germany. (So, for that matter was Germany’s current president, Joachim Gauck.) Chancellor Merkel and President Gauck are but two of the tens of millions of free Germans whose unification was staunchly supported by President Bush.

I distinctly remember the Fall of the Berlin Wall in November, 1989. And I was, I will admit, plainly irked that my president put out the word: “I will not dance on the Berlin Wall.” Why not, I thought then. Isn’t this a day to celebrate the triumph of freedom over oppression?

The senior Bush was forever being lampooned on Saturday Night Live for his commitment to “prudence.” But is prudence a bad thing?

Actually, it is the best thing for a statesman. When I studied American history in the years of the early republic—1797-1801—I could not understand how the Founders whom I so admired—Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton, Madison—all seem to have gone a bit crazy. Why were they clashing with one another like drivers in a Demolition Derby?

Well, the retirement of George Washington might explain it. He was the personification of prudence. And why did the United States survive the Civil War but find itself adrift before and afterward? Might it be that Presidents Buchanan and Johnson lacked that most notable quality of Abraham Lincoln: Prudence, with a capital P?

George H.W. Bush was almost alone among world leaders to want Germany reunited. West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl certainly hoped for German Reunification. His Socialist opponents certainly did not. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was hardly enthusiastic for the creation of a continental political and economic powerhouse. French President Francois Mitterrand, no doubt recalling Germany’s three invasions of his homeland in less than one hundred years, was decidedly cool to the idea of East and West Germany coming together. Lech Walesa of Poland was not beating the drums for a Germany reunited.

As for the USSR’s Mikhail Gorbachev, then riding a whirlwind in the Kremlin, he was the one who had decided not to send in the tanks. He would not order Communist border guards to shoot down spontaneous surge of East Germans toward the suddenly opened Brandenburg Gate in East Berlin. For not shooting his hostages, Gorbachev was being hailed by the Western media as a prince of peace.

If Gorbachev was really the wonderful reformer that Western journalists said he was, it was curious that all those vast crowds of West Germans did not flood through the suddenly opened Brandenburg Gate and throw themselves into his arms. There are no pictures of young West Germans hugging Mikhail Sergeivich, however, the way Manuel Neuer hugged Chancellor Merkel. A point worth noting on this festive occasion?

George H.W. Bush deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for his honorable, visionary, and yes, prudent statecraft at the time of German Reunification. He stood tall for America. This quiet and modest man said simply that America must keep her word to the German people.

For forty-five years, U.S. Presidents—Democrats and Republicans alike—has said America supports German Reunification. We would be unfaithful to our word if we did not back our steadfast NATO ally in the hour of need.

The fact that President Bush was able to skilfully chart his careful course, to support a peaceful Reunification of Germany, to bring that new and democratic Germany firmly under the NATO umbrella, and to achieve all this with the Soviets’ acquiescence (if not with their enthusiasm) is a tribute to statesmanship of the highest order. If anyone had said in 1988 that he would accomplish this all without firing a shot (or costing the U.S. taxpayers a dime) it would have been thought a delusion.

So this is President Bush’s victory, too. Now, Madam Chancellor, may I respectfully speak to you about not persecuting homeschoolers?

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