I just finished reading an interesting blog post on Rush Limbaugh, Sandra Fluke, and President Obama, written by an Oaklander named Aaron Bady (which means he lives not to far from me in the scheme of things). I was compelled to write this brief response because Mr. Bady concluded his rather long work called “The Deep Resentment of Having to Think About It: Rush Limbaugh and Sandra Fluke,” with this:
Limbaugh’s attacks might be personally damaging and personal in their invective, but this issue is not personal to Sandra Fluke. Indeed, since making it personal is precisely Limbaugh’s objective, the fact that the President is content that it remain an issue personal to her is precisely the opposite of what an ally would do. For while the president might have reached out to Fluke, what has he done for the nameless friend that Sandra Fluke was actually advocating for, or for the many women whose health is actually at risk?
That was, to say the least, wrongheaded, and for a host of reasons.
First, Mr. Bady, a PhD student in African literature in UC Berkeley’s English Department, quotes a rather questionable paragraph before the one I presented above and that was from another blogger, Melissa McEwan, and it reads like this:
As a personal gesture, it was extraordinary. [But, our President] who still has not given a single address dedicated to the issue of reproductive rights, who failed to mention reproductive rights in his State of the Union address, and who cannot even bring himself to include reproductive rights in his Women’s History Month proclamation, instead calls Sandra Fluke to thank her ”for speaking out about the concerns of American women,” because he evidently has not considered the many ways in which treating the feminist/womanist fight for reproductive rights as “woman’s work” is some fucked-up irony.
If you read the entire entry Ms. McEwan wrote, it smacks of someone who may have backed Hillary Clinton as much because she didn’t want a black president, as much as she wanted a woman. McEwan closed it with “Seethe,” and she also mentioned the President was the most protected person in the World, which is a strange entry. In all Ms. McEwan’s prose reminds me of this conversation I video-blogged with an irate, so-called Hillary Clinton supporter in 2008:
You get the idea.
So, because the entry by Ms. McEwan was based on some obvious emotional issues with President Obama, it was written without any emotionless research that would have rendered her work something she would have (or should have) deleted. She implies that Obama has never called for a woman’s right to choose or stood up for women’s reproductive rights (which is the same thing, really).
On January 22, 2009, President Obama, according to CNN.com “affirmed his support for a woman’s “right to choose” on Thursday, the 36th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that led to the legalization of abortion, as thousands of anti-abortion activists descended on the National Mall to challenge his position.” In a statement, Obama said Roe v. Wade “not only protects women’s health and reproductive freedom, but stands for a broader principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters.”
Obama then reiterated his support for Roe v. Wade this year, on January 23, 2012, when he said that Roe v. Wade “affirms a broader principle: that government should not intrude on private family matters,” Obama said. “I remain committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose and this fundamental constitutional right.”
But perhaps the most spirited defense of women’s reproductive rights came during the controversial 2009 Notre Dame Commencement Speech. Then, President Obama walked into the Lion’s Den, the bastion of Catholic religious beliefs, accepted an honorary degree from the University, and said this:
That’s when we begin to say, “Maybe we won’t agree on abortion, but we can still agree that this is a heart-wrenching decision for any woman to make, with both moral and spiritual dimensions.
So let’s work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions by reducing unintended pregnancies, and making adoption more available, and providing care and support for women who do carry their child to term. Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded in clear ethics and sound science, as well as respect for the equality of women.”
Understand – I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion can or should go away. No matter how much we may want to fudge it – indeed, while we know that the views of most Americans on the subject are complex and even contradictory – the fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable. Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction. But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature
It’s hard to understand how or why Ms. McEwan (or by extension Mr. Bady since he elected to extensively refer to and quote her) could miss these and other examples where President Obama has publicly defended a woman’s right to choose, or to put in Ms. McEwan’s way, “women’s reproductive rights.”
President Obama was right to publicly call Sandra Fluke and for four reasons. First, given his history of using the Presidential bully pulpit to announce his support for a woman’s right to choose, it would have been uncharacteristic of him not to say something. Second, had President Obama avoided any mention of Rush Limbaugh’s insults of Ms. Fluke, either the media or the public, then the media, would have not only called for him to do so, but asked why he waited to respond. Third, President Obama had to jump in to help Sandra Fluke and reset the conversation about women’s reproductive rights, because there was no other Liberal voice with greater power to Rush Limbaugh’s Conservative voice other than that of President Obama.
Finally, President Obama had to take advantage of an obvious open door to be able to continue to make the case for Liberalism in the 21st Century. This has been an ongoing theme for President Obama, of late; not taking advantage of the perfect storm that parted the Red Sea and allowed him to walk in and basically rescue Sandra Fluke from the bows and arrows of Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, and the dreaded Conservatives would be politically stupid.
So, from so many perspectives, President Obama was correct in making the personal, public. What’s more, Sandra Fluke has taken no issue with it.