I've figured out a way to test from an early age whether a youngster has a budding career as a politician. Put him or her in a VH1-Saved-The-Music class and see if Junior or Princess can come within a football field's distance of middle C. Because it seems like the overriding characteristic of a politician on the national stage is that he or she be absolutely, irredeemably tone deaf.
The Republican primary contest has really blown the doors off any secrets that remained shrouded around this phenomenon. Two little words were all it took: birth control.
I don't follow every twist and turn of politics or political campaigns - there isn't enough Pepto Bismol in the world, and I'm afraid my eyes would get stuck in the back of my head. But I pay enough attention to know that the guys and gals in the middle of the fray don't seem to be paying any attention at all.
The whole birth control powder keg seemed to really explode when Preacher Santorum -- sorry, I mean Mr. Santorum -- gave a sermon on the "dangers of contraception," which he said give us nymphos out here in the Real World "a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be."
Woops! There I go again - that wasn't a quote from a sermon! That was a quote from a campaign interview in October 2011, back when he was trying to figure out how to make a name for himself when he was up against the likes of a pizza magnate.
Since then, it seems every time Mr. Santorum dusts off the old sweater vest he's telling someone to keep it zipped up unless they're ready to get their procreation on.
Then came the whole Sandra Fluke controversy. She's the law student that testified before Congress to push for greater coverage of contraception in health care plans, such as the student health care plan offered by Georgetown University. The most remarkable thing about the fact of her testifying should have been that a law student gained an audience with Congress. Instead, Rush Limbaugh opened his mouth to do something other than insert a sandwich. He went on one of his trademark tirades, calling Ms. Fluke everything from a "slut" to a "prostitute" based on his insinuation that, because she was advocating for contraception coverage, she must have a raging pill addiction that flames the fires of her equally insatiable sexual appetite. (Oh Mr. Limbauuuggghhhh....careful you don't go getting all hypocritical, now.)
In the background, legislators in Arizona were getting tired of immigration bills and decided to mix it up by drafting legislation that read something like this:
Hey, women of Arizona! Congrats on getting a job in this bedraggled economy! Remember those HR people who just walked you through a bunch of boring forms and showed you how to use your key card? Well, get used to those faces, sister friend! Because every time you want to pop a Lo Ovral, you're gonna need a note from your doctor and a heart-to-heart with your local benefits coordinator (or maybe, for an even more awkward exchange, your boss!).
Why? That great health coverage you're so excited to have has one teensy-weensy string attached. It's nothing really. Just that your employer would like to be part of your family planning/reproductive considerations. More specifically, your employer doesn't want you to plan or consider. That's right, you're working under a disciple of Jesus, and he/she just wants to make sure that all the fun you have from 9-5 will continue in the afterlife. So you just go in and tell Mr. Boss Man about your bad period cramps or the acne you've struggled with for years, and your birth control will be a-oh-kayed! Otherwise, here's a chastity belt, you slutty, slutty slutlord.
I'm sorry, but I call bullshit. I know Mad Men is a powerful vehicle for AMC, but I didn't realize it could alter the time-space continuum and trap us all on their set. But I want them to stop it. Stop it right now. The 1960s are over. Like, fifty years over. Right?
The medicine that goes into my body is for me and my doctor to worry about. I don't care if it's birth control, Tylenol, or God help me, chemotherapy. If the FDA says it isn't going to kill me or make me grow an extra limb, then the government can stand down. My employer certainly doesn't need to get in the mix. I'll take care of my headaches and my ovulation on my own. Thanks so much.
Also, and I can't believe this even needs to be stated, but apparently it does: the fact that a woman takes birth control does not make her a sex-crazed lunatic. It basically just makes her a woman: literally 99% of American women are reported to use some form of birth control at least once during their reproductive lifetime. (Hey, Mr. Limbaugh - that probably explains how you've had four wives, who knows how many "girlfriends," and, ummmmm, no kids.)
To be fair, Obama had a role in this flame-throwing event. What has been dubbed as the "birth control mandate" of his health care plan dictates that insurance plans have to cover contraception without a copay. Maybe that is taking the whole thing a bit too far. I have a copay for every other medicine I have to get; I'm okay with one if/when I need to go on birth control. And it appears the mandate raises serious inconsistencies and impractabilities about how it is applied.
So if you take issue with the mandate, why not take issue WITH THE MANDATE? Why do you have to become Arizona and take issue with birth control?
Of course Congress, that bastion of public servants who can't get a budget pulled together, sprang into action and drafted up the Blunt Amendment, which says that any employer could refuse to cover birth control and any other health care measure for "moral reasons." The Senate (by the narrowest of margins) voted down the amendment about a month ago.
The people behind all these shenanigans are quick to mock outrage when critics suggest that these types of maneuvers are an affront to women. They keep saying that this is a movement for religious freedom, not about warring on women.
Again, bullshit. Remember that helpful theory about a walking, talking duck? Well, the reason why this feels like a war on women is that you're accomplishing your religious clean-up with one tool: an obstacle course the likes of which Wipe Out has never seen. That only a woman has to run. I don't see anyone telling men they have to prove that they don't use their salary to buy condoms or that they're not taking a personal day to go bang the nanny.
What's more, the separation of church and state means that the church(es) do their thing and the state does its thing, and ne'er the two shall meet. Nothing is ever quite as simple as that, but it is foolish to say that you're trying to promote religious freedom by making your religion's rules -- or any religion's rules, for that matter -- be The Playbook. If you don't want to take birth control, don't take it. If you want to roll the dice for kid #9 every time you have a romp in the hay, have fun and call the Duggars for a playdate. I really don't want to be a part of your bedroom activity or your medicine cabinet, and I'm not now and never will extend you an invitation to mine.
Mr. Santorum himself has said that throughout all of this, he has just been professing the views of his church, and he lamented the fact that he couldn't share his personally-held beliefs. DUDE, THAT IS THE POINT. The views of YOU and YOUR church should be celebrated and spit-polished by YOU and YOUR CHURCH. You're, ummm, running for this thing called President of the United States. That guy (and someday gal) gets to contribute to laws and policy that affect all of us. And I don't care if you Joel Osteen your mega-church, we can't all fit and most of us don't want to come in the first place. So just shut up about it and tell me when we're leaving Afghanistan, how you're going to fix the economy, and when I can afford to drive my car more than 5 miles again. Also, please tell me how much everyone in Congress gets paid, because most of them don't seem to deserve it and I know a few million people that might like their money back.
Just recently, Nikki Haley, the female, Republican governor of South Carolina went on The View. There are rumors that she's on Romney's short-list for a VP. Governor Haley put herself in the birth control debate by declaring during her appearance (1) that the government shouldn't be mandating "when we have to have" birth control, and (2) that women don't care about birth control. Governor Haley? The "mandate," much as there may be to criticize about it, isn't mandating that women TAKE the pill. It's mandating that IF they do, they shouldn't have to pay a co-pay for it. Mmmmkay? Oh, and Governor Haley? Women DO care about birth control. They just don't give a rat's ass about what you and your ilk think about it.
I wish I could hear the Fat Lady singing. But it doesn't appear as though this issue is going away anytime soon. I guess she could be singing her brains out, though, and it wouldn't matter. The people who are supposed to be listening wouldn't hear her anyway.