Obama: ‘Work it out within the party’

abortion_0515The story had to be written, so the New York Times turned to a veteran who has excelled as the newsroom’s designated expert on doing serious, fair and accurate coverage of cultural and religious conservatives. Yes, the Times has such a person. I have heard media critics on the right praise David D. Kirkpatrick far more often than I have heard them attack him.

Thus, this was the man who needed to write the story that ran under this headline: “Abortion Fight Complicates Debate on Health Care.” Here’s the top of the story:

WASHINGTON – As if it were not complicated enough, the debate over health care in Congress is becoming a battlefield in the fight over abortion.

Abortion opponents in both the House and the Senate are seeking to block the millions of middle- and lower-income people who might receive federal insurance subsidies to help them buy health coverage from using the money on plans that cover abortion. And the abortion opponents are getting enough support from moderate Democrats that both sides say the outcome is too close to call. Opponents of abortion cite as precedent a 30-year-old ban on the use of taxpayer money to pay for elective abortions.

My only negative comment about the opening of the story is that it makes it sound like this is something new. I reality, of course, this battle inside the Democratic tent has been going on for weeks or months. Click here and then here to catch up on that, a bit.

The story, you may note, also hints at the line that pro-life Democrats have been trying to draw in the sand, by calling for a simple, public up-or-down vote on the Hyde Amendment.

What will really raise eyebrows, however, is Kirkpatrick’s summary paragraph:

The question looms as a test of President Obama’s campaign pledge to support abortion rights but seek middle ground with those who do not. Mr. Obama has promised for months that the health care overhaul would not provide federal money to pay for elective abortions, but White House officials have declined to spell out what he means.

There you have the key to the whole thing. The president is insisting that he will keep the promise, but there is no singular statement of what the compromise bill will look like. And don’t think that his pro-life critics — left, middle and right — haven’t noticed that. This is also, I would assume, why journalists have hesitated to write about this issue. How do you nail down facts, or even opinions, when you don’t really know what is at stake?

The strength of this story comes near the end, with it’s focus on debates inside the Democratic Party and, finally, a clear statement in the Times about the importance of the U.S. Catholic bishops on this issue. Again, why do they matter so much? Duh. The bishops have a proven record of actually wanting health-care reform to pass.

As always in Beltway battles, people on the inside are already trying to do the math.

Lawmakers pushing the abortion restrictions say they feel the momentum is on their side, especially because the restlessness of other Democratic moderates is making every vote count. At least 31 House Democrats have signed various recent letters to the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, urging her to allow a vote on a measure to restrict use of the subsidies to pay for abortion, including 25 who joined more than 100 Republicans on a letter delivered Monday.

Representative Bart Stupak of Michigan, a leading Democratic abortion opponent, said he had commitments from 40 Democrats to block the health care bill unless they have a chance to include the restrictions.

After months of pushing the issue, Mr. Stupak said in an interview, Mr. Obama finally called him 10 days ago. “He said: ‘Look, try to get this thing worked out among the Democrats. We want you to work it out within the party,’ ” Mr. Stupak said, adding that Mr. Obama did not say whether he supported the segregated-money provision or a more sweeping restriction. “We got his attention, which we never had before.”

The story meticulously quotes calm voices on both sides, as it should, and ends with the bishops. Once again, the key debates are taking place among people who WANT health-care reform, but have questions about issues — abortion, rationing, etc. — that historically have been debated in terms that are both political and religious.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has lobbied for decades to persuade the government to provide universal health insurance, says it opposes the bill unless it bans the use of subsidies for plans that cover abortion.

“We have said to the White House and various Senate offices that we could be the best friends to this bill if our concerns are met,” Richard M. Doerflinger, a spokesman for the bishops on abortion issues, said in an interview. “But the concerns are kind of intractable.”

Why? Because many of the concerns are ancient and doctrinal. In other words, this battle is pulling everyone — both opponents of abortion and defenders of abortion rights — into church-state territory.

Stay tuned. Obviously.

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The point? Fatherhood & faith

pg2_g_kanderson1_400It was a strange story from the start. The Washington Post dedicated a lot of newsprint the other day to a story about an ex-hoops star, an urban basketball legend who, strangely enough, lacked strong ties to the D.C. area.

As you would imagine, the heart of this feature wasn’t really about basketball.

No, story of the rise and fall of ex-NBA superstar (or almost superstar, which is crucial) Kenny Anderson focused on another issue altogether — fatherhood. Reporter Dave Sheinin wrapped this drama in the language of moral choices right from the start.

PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. – He ran the production like a former point guard, which Kenny Anderson is, and as if his life depended on it, which, in a way, it did. He lined up the consents of five women — the mothers of his seven kids, some of them more amenable to the idea than others — and coordinated the kids’ flights, same days, same arrival times, so as to minimize the waiting-around time at the airport. There was no time to waste. He was finally getting his kids together. …

From the comfort of his home, Anderson, who didn’t know his own father until his early 30s, contemplated the blessings of fatherhood and beamed. In the faces of his kids, he could see the evidence of his own past mistakes — the womanizing, the failed marriages, the hollow attempts at fatherhood he made during a 14-year NBA career that ended in 2005.

But over the course of those few amazing, late-summer weeks, he could also see the seeds of his new beginning, a new chapter for Kenny Anderson — now a 38-year-old, full-time, stay-at-home father to Kenny Jr. and Tiana, and an aspiring college basketball coach who wants nothing more than to distance himself from those past failures as a father, as a husband, as a man.

It’s a long story, full of poignant details, fast cars (lots of them) and millions of dollars that seemed to vanish into thin air.

However, as you might expect, there is a woman standing behind this fancy player who is now trying to mature into something else. That woman is his third wife, a clinical social worker named Natasha. And that’s where the story uses interesting language that points to where it is going.

Thank God for Tasha, say those who are closest to Kenny Anderson. … Natasha, to be sure, was unlike any other woman Anderson had had in his life. She was salt-of-the-earth. She was strong. She “held Kenny accountable for Kenny,” as she puts it.

Just to make sure you get the point, the “thank God for Tasha” language shows up again.

That’s when I started to worry that this was going to be another one of those stories with a sprinkling of vague Godtalk and no actual reporting. It’s one thing to pull God into the picture. It’s another thing to try to figure out — with on-the-record details — the role that faith may actually play in a human life.

You see, playing the “Jesus card” is easy and reporters often let athletes get away with that. In this case, Sheinin didn’t settle for vague labels. He showed that Anderson is trying to build faith and faithfulness into the ordinary details of life. It’s called journalism and here’s a small sample:

It’s a beautiful life Kenny Anderson leads these days, beautiful in its simplicity and its structure. He gets a call every morning, between 6 and 7 a.m., from Al Taylor, his pastor back home, whom Anderson has known since junior high, and who married him and Natasha back in July 2007.

“Sometimes we talk about Scripture, but sometimes there’s something else in his heart, and I just wind up listening to Kenny,” Taylor says. “Sometimes, Kenny is going deep.”

Next, Anderson drives Kenny Jr. and Tiana — Natasha’s daughter — to their public elementary school and finds something to do until it’s time to pick them up again at 2:15. He’s a prolific Twitterer, particularly between, say, 8 a.m. and 2 p.m.

It seems easy to do this kind of reporting, but it isn’t.

I was afraid that this story would be haunted by a religion ghost, but that isn’t the case at all. It’s a story about a man learning to be a father and, as often happens, faith is playing a role in helping him keep his vows.

It’s a nice story. Read it all. And if you happen to be a conservative reader who loves to take shots at the Post, please drop the editors a line to compliment this story. Shock them.

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The anti-Gosselins

800px-Genova-Staglieno-IMG_2034Sometimes religion stories are about what happens at the sweeping level of doctrine, traditional and denominational controversy. And sometimes journalists have the chance to inspire readers to ponder the question –could I do that?

A story about a Chicago family of eight who has recently adopted two children from Ethiopia is another home run for Chicago Tribune religion writer Manya Brachear, and a sensitive exploration of the realities of what can happen when believers take their faith seriously.

Behind the doors of a modest Rogers Park frame house, Pete and Patty Mueller are acting out their own reality show of “Pete and Patty Plus 8.”

Home-schooling all eight of their children and surviving on one income, the Muellers have not sought the reality show spotlight that helped pop culture icons Jon and Kate Gosselin raise their brood and eventually broadcast the end of their marriage.

Still, there has been a fair share of drama surrounding the Muellers’ adoption of two children from Ethiopia — a process that started four years ago before anyone could have guessed Pete Mueller would lose his job.

The Muellers could have backed out of the adoption. But they didn’t. They believed they were answering God’s call in the New Testament to look after orphans in distress.

The Muellers have truly chosen a countercultural path — but also, apparently a sometimes messy one. There’s a lot that is wonderful about this article. Brachear examines the real life problems (job loss, home repairs, lack of time) that plague not only the Muellers, but many families. But she also highlights the qualities that impelled them to make decisions which many others might not have made.

I wish that she’d explained the normal meaning of “epiphany” (its not lightning bolt) but that seems like a quibble. Particularly interesting is the way Brachear reveals the way in which Muellers view their commitment to social justice as an expression of their faith –readers too often see the faith-works divide. It would have been interesting to have Brachear widen her article a bit to tell readers about the Mueller’s church (this one?) and denomination. I’d like to know- how do the other children feel about two new additions?

Brachear portrays a couple facing many real challenges, but forced, in Patty Mueller’s words “to live by faith, forced to need God.”

Pete Mueller’s evocative end quote, as does the whole piece, invites the reader to look at the families’ ordinary choices and Patty and Pete’s extraordinary sense of divine calling and ask themselves not “why?” but “why not”? To this reader, that’s a real achievement.

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Cain and Abel, Abel and Cain

I’m saving the best (Got News?) for last. But first, let’s cover culture war news from the Values Voter Summit held in D.C. And right off the bat I wanna say (yeah, that’s how we talk in Philly — you gotta problem with that?) that I’m ambivalent about any journalist who uses that term as a descriptor rather than the title of the Family Research Values conference. The term implies that conservative activists are the only ones with values, or that those on the left are value-free, or that voters who fell into the middle of the spectrum don’t take their values to the voting booth. In general, the reporters below tend to be clear that this is a term of choice, not of reality.

A few tidbits from the Summit: if you are looking to 2012 and the Presidential candidates, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee was first choice of the approximately 600 delegates who voted (Minnesota’s Tim Pawlenty made a strong showing among the more marquee names). Former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin chose to welcome her son home from Iraq rather than attend (sounds like a good move to me, but somehow this became controversial). Former Miss California Carrie Prejean gave a speech (which got sympathetic treatment in the Los Angeles Times) that had some delegates in tears.

So why does it matter that fewer than 2,000 voters came to a meeting in Washington, D.C.? For a few reasons. Folks who show up at such meetings tend to be highly engaged. Politicians recognize their importance by courting them. And activists, in the hyperdemocratic environment aided by the Internet and the turmoil in the mainstream press, are more adept than ever at getting the message out to the faithful and adulterous alike.

But some in the mainstream press did consider the Summit worth a mention. Among them was New York Times political reporter Adam Nagourney.

Some of the issues with Nagourney’s article are highlighted by this high-snark-factor piece from the Powernetblog.com (we don’t need to know that Nagourney is gay anymore than we need to know that conservative analyst Juan Williams is black — and targeting his “special pleading”? — schoolyard stuff). Conservatives could only be “nearly politically wiped out” if a liberal Great Awakening had occurred last year, sweeping away the right, and it didn’t. Poster John Hinderaker also takes on this statement by Nagourney:

Many Republicans have been arguing that the party’s focus on social issues is a mistake at a time when voters are concerned about the economic downturn and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But the emphasis at the summit, sponsored by the Family Research Council, was still decidedly on issues like same-sex marriage and abortion. The crowd rose to its feet to applaud Carrie Prejean, the former Miss California who caused a furor by denouncing same-sex marriage at the Miss USA contest, as she declared that “God chose me” to make the case she made

The blogger points out that, at a “Value Voters” meeting, attendants are predictably going to have a high level of interest in social issues, however much other groups are concerned about economic ones. I’m not sure I’d agree with Hinderaker that the focus on social issues in the Republican party is purely Nagourney’s, however — sedate as they might be, Summit attendees have ‘values’ that represent those of a large U.S. minority and in some cases cross party lines — particularly with some of the moderates and independents who voted for Democrats in last year’s election.

The main problems I have with Nagourney’s piece (but he does cover politics, after all) is that an overarching narrative (conservatives!! back from the dead!! (perhaps) ) takes over, mowing down any potential distinctions between attendees. And although one can assume that faith is a driver for many attendees, there’s almost no mention of it.

At ‘the vote blog’ of the website CSmonitor.com, the writers are also guilty of making sweeping generalizations (i.e., that the “tea parties’ and social conservatives are just two faces of the same group). But they do at least seem to get some of the religious tensions in the social conservative movement.

Many younger evangelicals — the type quite likely to be seen tea-partying or at this weekend’s conservative summit– apparently have a noticeably different set of values than their elders. For example, 44 percent favor a larger government offering more services — nearly twice the percentage of older evangelicals. They’re also more likely — 52 percent to 34 percent — to approve of same-sex marriage and civil unions.

Possibly. How do these guys know that the tea parties are either driven by evangelicals or that the younger ones were protesting last week? Some protesters aren’t religious — and not all the religious ones are evangelicals. But the bloggers link to a Washington Post OnFaith “Guest Voices” commentary that is by far one of the better pieces of analysis of “Value Voters Summit” values that I’ve seen. If you want to read something worthwhile and you don’t have much time, this commentary, written before the fact, by Public Religion Research’s Robert P. Jones is excellent because it reveals some of the internal fault lines, and the theological/doctrinal issues that drive many conservatives. That’s exactly what’s missing from the stories I’ve read.

By far the most revealing piece was Politicsdaily.com columnist David Gibson’s dissection of a survey on religious activists. The beginning sums up the thrust of his theme — that activists on both sides are much more alike than they would ever care to admit.

If you’ve ever stood in a pet shop and watched Siamese fighting fish attack their reflection in a glass tank, then you know what it’s like to read a fascinating new survey of more than 3,000 religious activists on the left and the right.

Extra! Extra! Read all about it. Activists on both ends of the spectrum have strong theological beliefs. They are generally better-off than most citizens in America, older, better-educated, mostly white. In other words, if the word has much meaning anymore, they are “elite.” If you were splitting hairs, you might argue that conservative activists are a bit more “elite” by virtue of income, but it’s pretty much a wash.

But one thing the conservatives and “progressives” have in common — they are convinced that they are right, and most invested in having you believe it, too.

The next time you are reading a story about these activists, it might help to remember that in many respects they are more alike than different. Kudos to Gibson for highlighting this survey, and a big hole in news coverage in general — much more invested in conflict than in sometimes disturbing similarities.

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Faith on the wall (not in story)

jeffcoatIt’s another NFL Sunday, so it’s time for another God and the gridiron story.

Or, rather, it’s time for a story about the gridiron that doesn’t include God and I wonder why.

To understand what I’m talking about, click right here and take a look at the art for a recent USA Today story about former Dallas Cowboy great Jim Jeffcoat and his family — especially the super prospect Jackson Jeffcoat who is getting so much attention, even as a high-school star (as is his twin sister, hoops star Jacqueline).

Now, I cannot use the actual photo with this post because it’s a USA Today photo and I don’t have the rights to it. But you can’t understand this short post without seeing the photo.

So, again, click here and look at it — very carefully.

See anything? See any rather obvious symbolism looming over this family as it gathers for a meal?

Unless my eyes aren’t working right, I think there are 17 crosses on that wall, if I am counting right, and it’s clear that we’re not seeing the whole wall. Do you see the crosses? Did any members of the USA Today team assigned to this story see them?

Now, as for the story itself, the headline is about this proud father and his role in holding his large family together: “Ex-Cowboy Jeffcoat provides guidance to his athletic family.” Here’s the thesis statement about this highly motivated crew:

The key to their success, however, can’t be summed up simply through genetics, though their grandfather played briefly in the NBA; two uncles played in the NFL; and Jaren, the oldest of the four Jeffcoat children at 21, plays basketball at Norwich University in Northfield, Vt., and recently passed up an offer to play professionally in Mexico.

“We’ve done a lot of hard work. We’ve been very motivated,” says Jackson, who averaged 11.8 points and eight rebounds last season. “That’s how our family is. We like to compete.”

The twins call themselves best friends. They share social circles, but they’re cognizant of boundaries.

“We have a standard to keep. He’s taught us so much about when we get to college what not to do and how to be coachable players,” Jacqueline says of her father. “It would be a lot harder if he wasn’t there. We’ve been prepared for things better than other kids.”

And it’s clear that the dad played a crucial role. He wasn’t like many of the other gridiron gods — he was and is a family man.

That’s it.

That’s the story.

I wish I could write more about it, but I can’t. Apparently all of those crosses on the wall are just decorative and have nothing to do with this unique father and his close-knit family, along with its unique set of values. The crosses cover the wall, but in the story? It’s just haunted.

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Eye to eye with an Oath Keeper

At this time, I would like to join MZ Hemingway in doing something that may sound a bit strange at this here weblog. I want to praise the Los Angeles Times for writing a major, A1 story that contains a little bit of religion, but not too much. Yes, there’s a religion ghost in this whole, quote, anti-government, unquote, movement, but the ghost does not appear to be running the show.

In this case, I’m talking about one of those giant “Column One” features that the Los Angeles Times dedicates to major local or national stories. The headline for this one is longer than many ledes I’ve seen lately. Here it is:

Oath Keepers organizer sees need to sound an alarm

Rand Cardwell drums up support for an antigovernment group whose views illustrate the disconnect that has come to define popular political discourse in President Obama’s first tumultuous year.

What’s the big idea in this story? It seems to be that Rand Cardwell of Farragut, Tenn., may be an Oath Keeper — part of a movement that many liberals fears is out of control and dangerous — but he is also, well, sane. In fact, the former U.S. Marine isn’t even completely a right-winger. His concerns are more complex than that and it’s hard to stereotype the concerns of the circle of white folks who have joined the laid-off aluminum plant worker in this new Oath Keepers chapter in the mountains of Tennessee.

Yes, white folks. That is part of the story that must be addressed, in part because of a Southern Poverty Law Center report warning that the Oath Keepers oppose President Barack Obama because he is black:

Cardwell betrayed only a hint of the exasperation that this line of criticism stirs in him. Nothing, he said, could be further from the truth. He served side by side in the Corps with African Americans. One of his best friends is a black guy.

“Our goal,” he said, “is to support and defend the Constitution, and that’s where it begins and ends at. … We’re not a hate group. We’re not a racist group. We’re not calling for armed revolt against the government.”

But here is the heart of the story, where the newspaper’s clear concerns meet the soft-spoken answers of the man under the microscope. Lo and behold, he’s a mainline Protestant who is highly skeptical of talk-radio stars:

There is a reasoned calm, even a gentleness, when Cardwell says such things. He and his wife are Lutherans, but not regular churchgoers. Gay rights don’t get him very riled. Legalized abortion he finds “unsettling.” He admits that it bugs him when he calls somewhere, and has to press “1″ for English.

He’s a gun owner, and he frets about Democrats’ commitment to gun rights. He takes in his share of Fox News and right-wing radio, but not uncritically: He suspects Beck, who has fomented so much anti-Obama protest, to be a “patriot for profit” who is mostly in it for the book deals. …

Cardwell had voted for Republican John McCain as the lesser of two evils. But he doesn’t see himself as much of a party man. The individualist streak in him, he said, goes a long way to explaining his belief in limited government. It is an outgrowth of the pioneering spirit that helped the Scots-Irish settle the rugged mountains of Tennessee — a spirit, he said, of “leave us the hell alone, we don’t need your help.”

So there’s a note of religion in there — a conservative civil religion, if you will — not too much religion. I’ve lived in those mountains and visit regularly and I’ve met people like this guy there. He thought George W. Bush was too pro-government, too.

So read it all and see if you agree with the Los Angeles Times that this man is sane. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Our newspapers trying to decide if the opponents of the current administration are racist, theocratic or insane? And make sure you read to the very end for the stunning — and totally valid — link to the health-care crisis.

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Baptism by football

Jesus-army-baptismHere’s a gridiron-and-God story for all of our readers in the beautiful state of Texas who just got home from a high school football game:

The parents of a 16-year-old Kentucky football player who was baptized along with some teammates during a trip organized by their coach said Tuesday they believe their son may have felt some pressure to go through with the ceremony.

Parents said the voluntary trip was organized by Breckinridge County High School football coach Scott Mooney, who is a member of the Baptist church where the revival was held Aug. 26.

Dannie Ammons told The Associated Press he had no idea his son, Robert Coffey, was being taken to a church in another county on a school bus. The teen told them he was going to see a motivational speaker. Eight or nine other players were baptized at Franklin Crossroads Baptist Church, he said.

“There wasn’t supposed to be anything religious,” said Ammons, who is Catholic.

Robert Coffey said the furor surrounding his visit to the church is “kind of stupid” and that he decided to go through with the baptism because some of his friends were doing it.

That’s the story’s lede. And it’s not difficult to imagine the circumstances under which Robert would have felt this pressure. I can just think back to going to a Miles Ahead crusade led by former footballer Miles McPherson. I was there friends from my church, and I was already a Christian. But when they did the altar call, I felt guilty for not wandering down to re-commit my life.

Or better yet, how about this gem shared with your GetReligionistas by the Divine Ms. MZ’s family? You see, her mom was baptized as an infant at a church that became part of the United Church of Christ. And when she was 13, she went with some friends to a Billy Graham revival. They encouraged her to respond to the altar call, and MZ’s mama was worried she would only get a ride home if she made “a decision for Jesus.”

But what about Robert Coffey? The AP article, which is well-informed and strikes a beautiful balance in reporting on what could be such a knee-jerk story, explains that his father is Catholic and mother Baptist. Robert doesn’t seem that into religion, but you know peer pressure. At least it wasn’t drugs, right?

The bigger issue here, of course, is not whether Robert felt required to join the 46 other people submerged in water that night. But why the football team was taken to a church revival in the first place. Again, AP reporter Dylan T. Lovan relates the backstory and the fallout in a way that I don’t think ABC News could:

The church’s pastor, Ron Davis, said Mooney had asked him if he could bring his players. Davis said the baptisms were “spontaneous” and had not been planned by a guest speaker giving a sermon that night.

“There was nobody telling them they had to be baptized that night,” said Davis, whose rural church in Hardin County has about 1,000 members. He said the church typically gets parental consent before baptisms, but “I was sure that they were cognizant enough to make that decision,” Davis said. He said he wasn’t sure if the boys were “16 or 20.”

School Superintendent Janet Meeks, also a member of the church, said Tuesday in a statement on behalf of school employees that the coach’s use of the school bus after school hours for an outside activity was allowed

And then very late in the story — not as a cheap grab for a money quote but for the sake of analysis — Lovan quotes an attorney saying the football trip was illegal and then a school district spokeswoman saying it wasn’t such a big deal.

And that’s it. A detailed story, a sympathetic central figure and an uncertain conclusion. In other words, a job well done.

PHOTO: A river baptism from Wikipedia

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Who’s calling who a liar?

I am sorry to be returning to this topic — the missing voices of the pro-life left — so quickly. However, there’s no way around it at the moment.

Trust me, I do realize that there are secular voices on the pro-life side, but even when you are dealing with a group like the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians, I have found that you are almost always dealing with lots of people whose views on this issues are rooted in science, law and faith. Religion is right in there, even on the pro-life left, in these debates over health-care reform and abortion.

So let’s go to Google News and do a basic search or two, to take a quick look at how most mainstream journalists are framing the abortion questions in the health-care debates.

As I write this post, a Google News search for “Obama” and then for “It is a lie” will get you 494 hits in various forms of news sites.

This is, of course, a key phrase from the speech by President Barack Obama — with the “lie” language aimed at critics who he believes are spreading misinformation about several health-care issues, including federal funding for abortion. This would, I noted earlier, mean that the liars include the U.S. Catholic bishops, Democrats for Life, Feminists for Life and other people who are not marching lock-step with the so-called Religious Right.

At the same time, if you search for “Obama” and then “you lie” — as in, “You lie!” — you will get 7,427 hits in Google News.

I guess reporters are more interested in Rep. Joe Wilson shouting “lie” at the president than they are the president calming aiming the word “lie” at a small, but strategic sub-group (right now, all sub-groups are strategic on the Democratic side of the aisle) in his own party. Oh, right, and don’t forget the U.S. Catholic bishops.

Just an aside: I agree that Wilson was way out of line. Where did he think he was, the British Parliament? No, wait, members of parliament are not supposed to call people “liars.” So would Obama be in trouble, too? Obviously, Wilson should have simply booed the president, since that was acceptable earlier this decade. But if you put “Bush,” “boo” and “Democrats” into Google News you get a mere 120 hits, mostly on conservative news sites.

Note to Republicans: Boo next time. That approach is more civil.

Meanwhile, here inside the Beltway, a Washington Post website search this morning turned up five references to the “lie” angle in the Obama speech, mostly in transcripts — not news stories or blog items. However a similar search for Wilson’s “lie” outburst found 58 news items, if I counted right. I got tired to clicking through all the screens.

So this is a story, once again, of Obama and a united Democratic Party taking on the right-wing Republicans who really don’t want health-care reform. That’s it. That’s all.

If you doubt me, check out this Los Angeles Times story, which ran under the headline, “Abortion foes aren’t buying Obama’s assurances — They continue to campaign against healthcare reform, contending that federal money will go toward abortions if the president has his way.”

Here’s the top of the story:

President Obama, a supporter of reproductive rights, forcefully reiterated in his speech to Congress this week that his healthcare plan would not lead to government funding of abortion.

The trouble is, abortion foes don’t believe him. They are working hard to persuade Americans that Obama is wrong — and have even created ads that evoke “Harry and Louise,” the fictional couple that helped tank the Clinton-era attempt at healthcare reform:

“They won’t pay for my surgery,” says an elderly man sitting at a kitchen table. “What are we going to do?”

“But honey, you can’t live this way,” says his wife, patting his arm.

“And to think that Planned Parenthood is included in the government-run health plan, and spending tax dollars on abortions,” he replies. “They won’t pay for my surgery, but we’re forced to pay for abortions.”

The ad, created by the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group, ran for two weeks in August in five states (California not among them). The ad has been criticized by people on both sides of the healthcare debate as a simplistic and inflammatory depiction of the reform measures Congress is considering.

First of all, I thought the newspaper’s style — along with most of the outlets in mainstream news — would say that the president is “pro-abortion rights,” rather than the vague “reproductive rights.” But I digress.

The Family Research Council is a player, no doubt about it, when it comes time to preaching to the choir on the right. But what influence will that organization and others in that wing of the anti-abortion movement have on Democrats? That’s the question for journalists.

If you read the whole report, you will find a complete gap on the pro-life left — although quoting someone at the Susan B. Anthony List came close to finding a note of balance.

LiarLiarThe story does attempt to quote people on both sides of the crucial question, which centers on whether it is possible to prevent government money from funding abortions without including a clear ban on this in the legislation. Once again, as Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) keeps saying, there needs to be a clear up-or-down vote on the Hyde Amendment (click here for background).

The problem, of course, is that Stupak is a Democrat and the story of the day is that Democrats are finding unity, in part because some fiscal Blue Dogs liked the tone of the speech and some liberals may be ready to compromise.

Yes, the Los Angeles Times did a separate story on that angle (as did lots of other newspapers). Read this story and search for signs that the pro-life Democrats exist and may have enough votes to force some clarity on this issue. Once again, the story is framed as Republicans vs. Democrats — as if the GOP has the votes to stop this train in the House and stop a compromise in the Senate that the White House can live with.

Wait a minute, here’s an interesting story:

Pro-life Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak has said he can block proposed health care reform legislation unless House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) allows a vote on a Hyde Amendment to the bill.

The Hyde Amendment, named after the late U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) prohibits taxpayer dollars from being used to pay for abortions. The current health care bill, H.R. 3200, is under fire for measures that allow federal funds to circumvent the Hyde Amendment and also mandate insurance coverage of abortion.

Rep. Stupak of Michigan claimed he has as many as 39 Democratic allies who could join Republicans to block the complete legislation from coming to a vote unless the House leadership allows a vote on a Hyde Amendment.

Drat! That a Catholic News Agency story. That isn’t real news. That’s the wrong kind of Democrat, the kind that tells lies.

NOTE: Before you click “comment,” make sure you have URLs for your quotes and facts. And stick to the journalism side of this post, focusing on the lack of coverage of the pro-life left and the divides within the Democratic Party that threaten this legislation.

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