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

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

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.

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."

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:

…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.

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
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.

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  • invalid-0

    I really do feel like a lot of people are blowing his comments out of proportion. People are demonizing Obama for making one comment to a Christian magazine. Of course he’s going to temper his views when he’s talking to an evangelical Christian magazine! However, you have to look at his stance on Reproductive Rights, which have not changed. Have you read his other comments – the ones where he says a woman’s mental health is very important, but that “feeling blue” is not an exception? Those make much more sense. Have you read the comments he made to Planned Parenthood after their Action Fund decided to endorse him? He stated that one of the first things he would do while in office is sign the Freedom of Choice Act.
    The bottom line is, Obama has a very narrow lead and voters should be uniting to support him. When blogs like this are written, it does more harm than good by driving voters away from Obama and giving McCain more support. Women should be coming together as voters, not withdrawing their support after one comment. This is especially important when we consider what is at stake.

  • invalid-0

    Agreed with Jessica S. The Right is good at getting it together to back a candidate who they may not think is perfect, but who they feel is the closest to their beliefs. This is already happening in this election. Democrats could really learn something from them. Is Obama perfect? No. Clinton had plenty of flaws, too. Nobody is perfect. But Obama is infinitely better than McCain on these issues, and we’d do well to remember that. We shouldn’t be tearing Obama down, the Right will do that as well as they can, and we really don’t need to help them.

    Also, you quoted “through education and abstinence education.” I, um, don’t really see where the problem is, considering his audience. A comprehensive sex-ed program DOES include telling young people about abstinence. And birth control, etc would certainly seem to me to fall under the term “education.” In front of this group I would have been shocked if he HAD said, “teach them about condoms, the pill, how to get EC.” But his record and other speeches indicate that his stance on this is goo.

  • invalid-0

    This nonsense reminds me of a woman I know who in 2000 voted for Ralph Nader because Al Gore hadn’t “done enough for women.” Because, you know, Nader had done much. So thanks to people like her, we ended up with Bush.

    So you’re not going to support Obama. Would you rather have McCain? Do you think he’s going to be a champion for women’s rights? Extremely doubtful!

    Get used to it – Hillary is out of the picture. Unless you want McCain to be our next president, you should reconsider punishing Obama for failing to live up to your ideals on a few specific issues.

  • invalid-0

    Wonderful column, Gloria!

    I would like to respectfully suggest that the commenters above just don’t get it. The language in Roe regarding mental and emotional health is fundamental. Obama has indicated that he sees the mental and emotional health element of Roe as negotiable.

    As Gloria points out, “feeling blue” is both insulting and fantastic. Roe says we must trust the judgement of the physician chosen by the woman regarding her physical, mental and emotional health. Politicians and the public don’t get to weigh in on whether a woman has a serious mental condition, emotional distress or is just “feeling blue.”

    Yesterday Senator Obama voted in favor of Bush’s amendments to the FISA law. A quick stop at the ACLU’s website will bring you up to speed on how the new FISA seriously undermines the Fourth amendment to the Constitution (the right of the people to be secure in their persons and possessions against unwarrented government searches and seizures). And what is the right to privacy as articulated in Roe et al based on? The First, the Fourth and (if I remember correctly!) the Fourteenth amendments. Connect the dots. The lack of commitment throughout both political parties to fundamental civil liberties is a serious problem.

    You may find it helpful to consider this challenge in the framework of dog training. Over time, the political advocate trains the politician to anticipate what response he can expect to follow certain of his behaviors. If the politician is good, he can expect praise, support, an award, what have you. If he is naughty, he can anticipate negative repercussions – being called out in public, having support withheld, etc. But if the politician is naughty and there are no negative repercussions, what lesson have we taught him? And what behavior can we expect in the future? Senator Obama has indicated that he may be wobbly on some very important issues. Let’s not set ourselves up for failure in the future by sending the wrong message now.

    My dears, if you want change, you have to fight for it. The best time to do that is when you have leverage. Now, before the Convention, before the election, we have some leverage. After the election it may well be too late. The notion that if we keep quiet and be good the next President will protect us is both naive and strategically unsound – and, dare I say it, profoundly un-feminist.

  • invalid-0

    The author of this post isn’t saying she’s supporting McCain. Far from it. I’d bet dollars to doughnuts that she’s still going to vote for Obama. She’s just not excited enough about his recent statements to fork over almost five grand of her money to him. If you read the article carefully, she hints that she might even give money to him when/if he gets his act back together (which personally I think he almost certainly will).

    And how is encouraging debate going to tear us apart? Are we that we that afraid now that we have to stifle our own thoughts? Eight years of Bush scared me too, but c’mon, people, have more faith in yourselves and your fellow progressives.

  • invalid-0

    Of course, the defenses of her commentary are right: she isn’t saying, Don’t vote for Obama; she’s saying that she won’t give money toward his campaign. The argument that Obama will suddenly show his true liberal stripes — and in this case his true reproductive rights stripes — once he’s elected seems absurd. If he doesn’t believe absolutely in the moral imperative to give women the right to choose, he’s going to choose people to administer policies that don’t believe this either. What I find disturbing about him is his retro-gender politics, reflected in his sermon around the moral idea of “it takes a family to raise a child.” There are many ways in which he is signaling exhaustion from some of the rights movements from gay rights to women’s rights. For example, his repeated insistence that he wants an end to the divisive politics of the 1960s and that he admires aspects of Reagan. Now, what exactly were those divisive politics? I hope I’m wrong, but he has gone about packaging himself as the retro-candidate, as when he, a graduate of Columbia and Harvard Law, call women “sweetie,” as if we are to believe that this comes natural to him. I hope I’m wrong, but I will tell you that I’m not going to listen to people lecture me about the need to sit down and shut up.

  • invalid-0

    The problem with Obama’s comments about abortion is his “…feeling blue…” non-issue statement. What a stupid, paternalistic, condesending thing to say. Women don’t get third trimester abortions for trivial reasons and he should not address such an absurd non-issue.

    It was obviously a very dumb gaffe. He should fess up. I am a strong Obama supporter, but he really does owe women an apology on this one!

  • invalid-0

    I believe Gloria is pointing out that as ‘real life’ advocates for a woman’s right to choose we need to *remain vigilant* and speak up when our candidate is parsing to the detriment of the well-being of women, girls, men, boys, various forms of the family.

    While he may have been playing to his audience with the religious magazine… that gives me pause to wonder if he was playing to his audience when speaking to PPFA, NARAL, et al. |sigh |

    Ultimately, we will make the sane vote count. Nonetheless, ‘progressives’ do Not let your guard down… keep the candidate honest, push him to better understand that he Must stay strong and vigilant and protect & defend our rights.

    And by the way FISA is a very big deal as Emily pointed out! It absolutely takes my breath away that Obama voted the way he did… chilling really.

  • invalid-0

    Great column. The guy is back pedaling on progressive goals as fast as he can. Pro-choice? When he says it, I’ll listen. I haven’t heard him say it.

  • invalid-0

    Yes, great column. I’m getting very uneasy with Obama’s two faces on RH issues too.

    The comments above focused on his at best insensitive recent statements on abortion, but his “faith-based” initiative raised my B.S. antenna. I sent an email to his campaign web site withholding further contributions until he clarified whether his faith-based program would include or exclude federal funding for “faith based” “crisis pregnancy centers” that refuse to refer clients for abortion on request, subject clients to aggressive anti-abortion “counseling”, and/or refuse to provide contraceptive information and/or materials to unmarried and/or minor clients. Three weeks later I got a non-answer that addressed only discrimination in employment and didn’t even mention pregnancy counseling at all. I immediately sent a follow up email demanding an answer to my specific question. No answer yet (one week plus), either by email or on the campaign web site. Makes you wonder how much of the Bush theocratic interference with RH he really intends to dismantle. He seems to be backing away rapidly from the position staked out in his answers to the RH Reality Check questionnaire.