As always, Chris and the Times can’t explain: Wedge issue fights can boil up fast, especially in election years.
Clarity tends to take a hike. Inevitably, your nation’s biggest newspapers and most famous broadcasters can’t explain the most basic facts.
This morning, the New York Times features this news report about the new wedge issue—the requirement that birth control and contraception be covered in insurance plans, even at Catholic universities and hospitals. Basically, Jennifer Steinhauer explains what different politicians have said about the new fight.
There’s nothing “wrong” with that kind of reporting. But shouldn’t a newspaper also explain the basic facts about major points in dispute?
Yesterday, the Times covered this same topic in a longer, front-page report. Along with the various quotes from the pols, Helene Cooper and Katharine “Kit” Seelye tried to explain a few facts.
One fact: By now, most people have heard that 28 states have some form of requirement which resembles the new proposed federal requirement. This leads to a fairly obvious question: How have Catholic hospitals and colleges dealt with the requirement to cover contraception and birth control in those 28 states?
In yesterday’s front-page report, Cooper and Seelye saved this question for their very last paragraph. This was their attempt to elucidate this widely-discussed, basic point:
COOPER/SEELYE (2/8/12): Administration officials say one avenue for resolution might be to look at how Catholic institutions in the 28 states with similar laws have dealt with the issue. One possible compromise might be to emulate Hawaii, where the rule is in effect, but where employees at religious institutions that do not offer free contraception can get birth control through side benefits, which the employees nominally pay for but which often end up being free.Good old Hawaii! But seriously though, folks. Do you have any idea what the fig newton that means?
Earlier, the dynamic duo wanted us to know what Mitt Romney has said and done in the past. This was their attempt to explain:
COOPER/SEELYE: In Johnstown, Colo., Mitt Romney called the rule “a real blow, particularly to our friends in the Catholic faith.” But Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, hoping to galvanize the conservative base of the party, tried to tar Mr. Romney with the same brush, saying that while he was governor of Massachusetts, he had allowed a similar rule to take effect and that he was being hypocritical now.Romney vetoed the measure, then got overridden. That seems to mean that Gingrich and Santorum were wrong in their accusations. Having said that, do you have any idea how that account of what Romney said was supposed to enlarge our understanding? Do you have any idea why that alleged statement was included at all?
In 2005, Mr. Romney vetoed a measure to require hospitals to provide the morning-after pill to rape victims. The Legislature overrode his veto, but he did say at the time that in his “heart of hearts,” he believed that rape victims should have access to emergency contraception.
What did Romney mean by that statement? Did he mean that rape victims should have access to emergency contraception somewhere else? Did he mean that, in his heart of hearts, he thought they should get access at those Catholic institutions?
What did Romney mean by his statement? Like you, we don’t have the slightest idea. Were the scribes trying to spawn a new flub? We don't know, but this type of work is quite routine at our most famous newspaper!
By the way: We keep hearing that one of “the 28 states with similar laws” is the state of New York—the very state in which the New York Times is located. On liberal TV, these states keep getting cited to show the hypocrisy of the bishops. We’re told that Catholic institutions have made their peace with these requirements in those 28 states.
But uh-oh! On January 30, the New York Times published this long, front-page report about the way students at Catholic colleges in New York have to go elsewhere for birth control. This showed the potential for trouble with the new federal rule, readers were told.
If New York is one of the 28 states, do you understand how this works? We don’t either—and that passage from Cooper and Seelye represents the New York Times’ current hapless attempt to explain how this works in those states.
Strange but true: You live in a culture whose major “journalists” can’t explain shit or shinola! Perhaps the most pathetic example occurred on last evening’s Hardball. Chris Matthews referred a discussion between Melinda Henneberger, who tends to oppose the Obama requirement, and Michelle Goldstein, who tends to support it.
Utter chaos ensued, as always. Chris couldn’t clarify a discussion if five million bucks were at stake. (To watch the segment, click here.)
By the time he was done, the whole world was a muddle. And so, the great man said this:
MATTHEWS (2/8/12): Thank you, Melinda Henneberger. And thank you, Michelle Goldberg.Too funny! In truth, no one understood squat or squadoosh after watching Matthews flounder and flail. Inside the culture this man helped create, no one ever will.
I think everybody understands these positions—
HENNEBERGER: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: —if they were paying attention in the last few minutes.
Chris got up to speed a bit later on, discussing Dear Jack’s teen-aged lover.