Reason vs. hysteria in the birth control debate

David Boies explains the issue in terms of labor law, while Santorum says Obama may lead us to the "guillotine"

Published February 9, 2012 7:38PM (EST)

Rick Santorum and David Boies        (Reuters)
Rick Santorum and David Boies (Reuters)

On Wednesday night we reached the high and the low, so far, in the debate over the Obama administration's requirement that Catholic institutions that employ non-Catholics include contraception coverage in their health insurance policies.

The high, in terms of reason and clarity, came from famed attorney David Boies on MSNBC's "The Last Word." Lawrence O'Donnell has let male "liberal" pundits like Mark Shields wax a little shrill on his show, but to his credit, he offered the best rebuttal to all the shrieking I've seen so far: Boies calmly and clearly explaining the new regulations as an issue of labor law, and the government's regulation  of employers (relatively minimal, compared to other countries) on issues of health, safety and non-discrimination.

I've tried to make the same points: What if Catholics didn't believe in child labor laws? Would we let church-run agencies flout them? Boies used the example of a religion that believed people shouldn't work after age 60: Could they legally ban older people from employment? Of course, they could do neither. This is indeed an issue of religious freedom: the freedom of non-Catholics not to be bound by the dictates of the Catholic Church in the workplace.

But Boies, fresh off his 9th Circuit victory defending gay marriage, brought the legal knowledge. Watch below.

Of course, the very same night, the re-surging Rick Santorum offered the most shrill and hysterical reaction to the White House ruling, and in a week of shrillness and hysteria, that's saying a lot. Santorum actually said that President Obama's contraception ruling meant we are "headed down [the] road" to the French Revolution and the "guillotine." That's below, too.

If you watch the entire seven-minute clip, you'll understand why, despite Santorum's latest surge, I do not believe that even today's Republican Party, though it's been hijacked by the ultra-right, is capable of nominating him for president. Like so many right-wingers, he absolutely mangles what the Founders believed about religion. He says one problem with the French Revolution is that its slogan of "liberty, equality and fraternity" substituted fraternity, or "brotherhood," for "fatherhood," a reference to God the father, but also his right-wing belief in the centrality of male control to family and national stability. But his absolute craziness is best displayed in his remarks about the guillotine:

They are taking faith and crushing it. Why? When you marginalize faith in America, when you remove the pillar of God-given rights then what's left is the French Revolution. What's left is a government that gives you rights. What's left are no unalienable rights. What's left is a government that will tell you who you are, what you'll do and when you'll do it. What's left in France became the guillotine.

Although Santorum said we're "a long way from that," he insisted that with the Obama presidency "we are headed down that road." But watch the whole thing. Boies first, then Santorum. Reason before crazy. I'll be talking about all of this on MSNBC's "Hardball" today at 5 p.m. ET.


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Now crazy (h/t Crooks & Liars):

By Joan Walsh

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Contraception David Boies Rick Santorum