Nothing like watching one of the leaders in the Democratic Party step all over one of the few successful talking points the party has managed to have hit home with female voters and the fact that when you look at the way Republicans have been governing, there is little doubt they would like to take women's reproductive rights back to the 1950's. But that's exactly what we got from Congressional Black Caucus chairman Emanuel Cleaver on CNN this Sunday.
I'd like to know where Rep. Cleaver has been while the House has been going after Planned Parenthood and their funding and passing a record number of bills restricting women's access to contraceptive and abortion services. I hope someone like Debbie Wasserman Schultz who was on the same program just before Cleaver has a chat with him about the fact that it's not helpful to be ceding the messaging wars to someone like Ralph Reed of all people and remind him that it's a complete false equivalence to compare the made up "war on religion" that Republicans are constantly harping about as Reed did here, to the actual attempts to roll back women's access to health care and the ability to control their own reproduction.
Now we can look forward to one Republican after another coming on the air and saying "even Emanuel Cleaver admits there's no war on women." Way to go Congressman. Maybe you should take Sen. Lisa Murkowski's advice if you don't feel the attack is real and "go home and talk to your wife and your daughters."
You want to know what's actually "damaging the body politic?" Pretending that Republicans' cruel policies on restricting women's access to health care and treating them like they're too stupid to make decisions about their own reproduction, for the sole purpose of pandering to the religious right, isn't doing real damage to real women and costing actual lives when they're also limiting access to services like cancer screenings.
Transcript via CNN below the fold.
CROWLEY: Congressman, I want to play something that President Obama said. He was at the National Prayer Breakfast -- this was in early February, and he took some heat for this particular remark. Let me just play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If I'm willing to give something up as somebody who has been extraordinarily blessed, give up some of the tax breaks that I enjoy, I actually think that's going to make economic sense. But for me, as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus' teaching that from to whom much is given much shall be required.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Congressman, what did you make of that remark? Is that using religion for political purposes or is that applying your religious beliefs to your politics?
CLEAVER: Well, let's keep in mind that that was the National Prayer Breakfast. I didn't see anything wrong with it in that environment. I think the trouble comes when we try to use it to separate us from others. In other words, religion becomes ethnocentric. We want to say that we are OK.
And all of us are still under construction, which means that we're not infallible. And the president's never said that.
I think we've gone way too far with all of this, the president's declared war on religion. That is absurd. The Chinese have declared war on religion. The Iranians have declared war on religion. And I think when we exaggerate things like that, it further polarizes the country and creates the thought that maybe we all need to be similar in our theologies, and I think that's doing damage to the Constitution.
CROWLEY: Let me, Ralph, ask you about this idea, because certainly the Republicans, ever since the whole problem with contraception and churches and whether church facilities should be forced to provide contraception in health care insurance, the Republicans have been pretty fast and loose with the words "war on religion."
Do you honestly think that Barack Obama as president, or the Obama administration in general, has declared war on religion? Those are pretty hot words.
REED: The question here isn't Obama's faith. The issue here are his policies. And when you, by the way, go before federal courts and say that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, when you're required to defend the laws of the Congress of the United States, which the president has signed into law, in other words, it's your obligation to defend federal law.
On case after case, religious churches, charities, educational institutions, this administration has shown either a total insensitivity to, if not outright hostility to the religious beliefs of millions of Americans. And it doesn't matter why. The point is, is that on issue after issue, they're just -- they've just been hostile to the First Amendment's rights to practice religious faith --
CROWLEY: Go ahead, Congressman.
REED: -- free from government restriction.
CLEAVER: Excuse me, Mr. Reed. Look, some Democrats called Governor Walker of Wisconsin Hitler. They likened him to Hitler and they held up posters. I'm a Democrat. I condemned that. Hitler killed 8 million people. Governor Walker is trying to kill a union. There is no comparison. And so that was wrong. We've got to quit exaggerating our political differences.
If you believe that the president is a Christian, why would that -- you still come to the belief that he's trying to destroy religion in this country? I think we've got to stop it. That is not doing this country this any good at all. And the truth of the matter is we know better. We know better, those of us who are in the public eye.
REED: So is it --
CLEAVER: We know that's not --
REED: -- so, Congressman, is it similarly wrong then for Democrats to say that the Republican Party is engaged in a war on women? Is that wrong?
CLEAVER: Yes, that is wrong. And I've never said it, not one time.
REED: Then perhaps we could --
CLEAVER: What we need -- what we need is for you and me -- and I'm willing to do it, and I don't think you would, but when that happens, do what I do. I condemn it. If it's a Democrat, if it's my cousin, it's wrong. And I think we need to stop that. It is damaging the body politic and it's further separating the people in this country.
REED: Well, I think what I've said is the administration has shown an insensitivity, if not outright hostility. But you know, it's -- I'm certainly glad to hear what you're saying this morning, but the president's own senior advisers are saying that the Republican Party is engaged in a war on women and he's the head of the party. So I think, you know, there's a little bit of selective outrage here.