News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Stephanie Salter

June 26, 2011

STEPHANIE SALTER: Back in the saddle — with the usual burr under it

TERRE HAUTE — I really didn’t expect to be gone nearly six months, but then, that’s par for the course these days: What I expect to happen and what actually occurs are often about 180 degrees apart.

For example, I had expected a roundup of items to be my first column back after my hiatus. But some ferocious straight winds late last month shoved their way to the front of the line, and I couldn’t see much beyond the destruction they left behind. (Nature always bats last.)

Something else I didn’t expect was Mitch Daniels dropping out of the race for president. He’d been all but anointed The Great GOP Hope by some of the most enthusiastic, true conservative pundits in the country. (I say “true conservative” to distinguish between folks who believe in moving slowly and thoughtfully, conserving traditions of government and private enterprise, and folks who want to throw out the baby with the hot tea water, which is not conservative, but radical.)

I am not the governor’s biggest fan, but he was one of the most reasonable Republican politicians on the national menu. I looked forward to him debating his fellow party members — Hello, Michele Bachmann — and then President Obama in 2012. I also looked forward to the national media presence a Daniels’ candidacy would have brought to Indiana. Why should Iowa and New Hampshire get all that hotel and restaurant revenue?

Alas, Daniels disappointed many and quit. His stated reason must have given pause to seasoned GOP strategists who’d been so hot on him. Reiterating his desire and qualifications for the job, he said he was nonetheless bowing to the wishes of his wife and four daughters: “Our family constitution gives a veto to the women’s caucus, and there is no override provision.” In other words, “I really want to do this, I am really ready to do it and I really think I could win, but my wife and kids won’t let me.” That is an admirable stance if you are running for Father of the Year, but for a man who maintains that he has what it takes to pilot the United States, well …

More curious were the Hoosier pundits who heaped scorn on their media colleagues for daring to report on marital problems Mitch and Cheri Daniels experienced a few years back. The journalistic grousing was as irritating as it was naive.

Talk to the Obamas about fair coverage of their personal lives. Talk to Newt Gingrich and the three Mrs. Gingriches. Talk to Eliot Spitzer, Mark Sanford and former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner. It might be a shame (or it might not), but in politics, the personal is political and vice versa. So it has been for a long time. As Harry Truman cautioned more than six decades ago, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

I just wish the Daniels women had exercised their female caucus veto to help stop Indiana and its governor from committing HEA 1210, the anti-woman amendment to an anti-woman bill that has (1) made it harder than ever for poor females to access decent health care here and (2) picked an expensive court fight with the U.S. government.

In April, the predominantly male, “conservative” majority in the General Assembly voted to deny federal — repeat, federal — funding to the primary health care provider for 9,300 Hoosier women on Medicaid: Planned Parenthood. (Legislators insist their target wasn’t exclusively Planned Parenthood, but that’s a public relations lie.) Gov. Daniels signed the measure into law. Other “conservative” legislatures have followed suit, despite a similar move having failed in Congress.

Someday, the issue will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt advanced the case late Friday by granting a preliminary injunction to stop implementation of the de-funding until a permanent injunction hearing takes place.

In the long meantime, however, the lives of real women are affected in a seriously negative way. Medicaid patients have been told to pay for the services they receive at Planned Parenthood or “go elsewhere,” as if that were as simple as switching from Kroger to Marsh. Before Pratt’s ruling, all 28 Planned Parenthood of Indiana offices were shuttered because of a forced day-without-pay for employees.  

One more time:

n No federal money pays for abortions, in any state, ever.

n About 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s entire annual output of services involves abortion, the other 97 percent involves such services as Pap smears, breast exams, contraceptives (which prevent pregnancies and abortions) and diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. Of the 28 Hoosier Planned Parenthood offices, four provide abortions.

n According to the author of HEA 1210, state Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, “The fundamental issue is that when we take tax dollars and fund any entity that performs abortions, we’re forcing taxpayers to support a practice that many feel is objectionable.” Really? So why are hospitals that provide abortions exempt from the Medicaid de-funding? And what about the many millions of taxpayers who find safe, legal abortion much less objectionable than unsafe, illegal abortion?

n Indiana’s request in May to cut Planned Parenthood out of the Medicaid loop was denied by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In fact, the head of HHS’ Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services said the state’s new measure risks federal funding for about 1 million Hoosier Medicaid recipients.

n In her ruling, Judge Pratt, said the de-funding is a violation of federal law. She referred to potential Medicaid losses that “could total well over $5 billion dollars annually” for Hoosiers. Denying the injunction, she added, “could pit the federal government against the State of Indiana in a high-stakes political impasse. And if dogma trumps pragmatism and neither side budges, Indiana's most vulnerable citizens could end up paying the price as the collateral damage of a partisan battle.”

n The Social Security Act, which includes Medicaid, states: “Any individual eligible for medical assistance … may obtain such assistance from any institution, agency, community pharmacy, or person, qualified to perform the service or services required.”

n Abortion is still legal in this country, and every legitimate poll that uses straightforward questions finds that the majority of Americans still supports legal abortion with some restrictions.

Last item: A final few words about the aforementioned Anthony Weiner. Between his initial “I was hacked” denials and his June 16 resignation, Weiner fought hard to keep his congressional seat. Just one day after Weiner admitted he actually had emailed those close-up shots of his family jewels, a House colleague, Rep. Edolphus Towns, explained, “He was embarrassed. He is trying to pick up the pieces and move on.”

Admirable first idea, unfortunate second. Picking up the pieces after you have crashed your marriage and career to the floor is a good thing. Trying to “move on” only hours after the crash is childish, bone-headed and futile.

We are an impatient culture, to be sure, but some boo-boos require more than a couple of minutes in the penalty box. Sending sexually explicit photos of one’s self to several women one has never met, when one is a married U.S. Congressman, then lying about those actions, is precisely such a boo-boo. At least South Carolina Gov. Mark “I was hiking the Appalachian Trail” Sanford, knew that. “Forgiveness is not an immediate process,” he said, “it is in fact a process that takes time and I’ll be in that process for quite some weeks and months and I suspect years ahead.”

Another indication of Weiner’s poor grasp on, um, reality was noted by a friend of mine via e-mail. She said she had conducted a straw poll and “a high percentage of women are NOT interested or turned on to receive a photo of a man’s ‘junk.’ Women would prefer a picture of a kitten, puppy or chocolate! Someone needs to educate these Martians.”

Stephanie Salter can be reached by email at SalterOpinion@gmail.com.

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