Fort Hood. Tucson. Aurora. Newtown. Boston.
These are just a few of the tragedies that have taken place over the past several years.
To his credit, President Obama responded to each of these horrific incidents with great aplomb. For the most part, he put politics aside and assured us everything would be okay and that the resolve of the American people would never be broken.
On April 25th, President Obama visited West, Texas to comfort those who lost loved ones in an explosion at a local fertilizer plant.
During his speech to the family members of those who died, the president cited Scripture and praised those who rushed to the scene of the blast for their willingness to put themselves in harm’s way.
Per usual, the president ended his address by saying, “God bless West.”
As reassuring as his speech was, the facade didn’t last long. Just one day later, on April 26th – mere days after Americans were made aware of the actions of Dr. Kermit Gosnell – Barack Obama opted to become the first sitting president to speak at Planned Parenthood’s National Conference in Washington.
Unlike his speech 24 hours earlier, the president’s address did not reference Scripture. Instead, the president accused those who oppose abortion as living in the past and being indifferent towards women’s health. “When politicians try to turn Planned Parenthood into a punching bag,” he began, “they’re not just talking about you; they’re talking about the millions of women who you serve.” What they’re really doing, he continued, “is telling many of those women, you’re on your own. They’re talking about shutting those women out at a time when they may need it most – shutting off communities that need more health care options for women, not less.”
He concluded the evening by saying, “Thank you, Planned Parenthood. God bless you.”
This two-facedness is truly astounding. What the president should have done was not attend Planned Parenthood’s event at all. The presidential thing to do, as Dr. Robert George and Ramesh Ponnuru have argued, would have been to put forth legislation that supports the civil rights of infants so they have protections against people like Dr. Gosnell, who was just found guilty of first-degree murder of three babies and involuntary manslaughter in the death of one of his patients.
I hope the Obama White House issues a statement about the Gosnell case, and that they pursue legislation that will stop these atrocities from happening, but I’m not holding my breath. As an Illinois State Senator, Barack Obama voted against legislation that would have protect children born alive after botched abortions on a number of occasions.
When asked about the Gosnell case several weeks ago, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that the president “does not and cannot take a position on an ongoing trial.” That’s a pretty weak dodge. Wasn’t the Trayvon Martin case an ongoing trial? Wasn’t the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates an ongoing trial? Why did the president feel compelled to weigh in on those cases and not the Gosnell case? Will he weigh in on it now that the case has been decided?
The president had the chance to put rise above the fray by refusing to speak to Planned Parenthood, but he didn’t. He had the chance to back up his talk in West, Texas about loving our neighbors, but he didn’t. He had the chance to act presidential – like he has in the past following national tragedies – but he didn’t. Instead, he ignored the atrocities of the Gosnell case and berated those who disagree with him on abortion. In other words, he put politics first and people second. It’s a trend we might as well get used to. The 2014 mid-term elections are a long ways away.
* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.