President Barack Obama had a clear message Sunday in his speech to the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC): It’s war.
No, not against Iran. But against partisan politics, specifically the Republican line claiming the president hasn’t supported Israel enough in its hardline position on Iran.
Obama sharply escalated his warnings to Tehran that the use of force is very much “on the table,” as the foreign policy cliché goes, in a possible response to its nuclear program.
But he paired that rhetorical ramp-up with a detailed plea for patience with diplomacy and bluntly charged that “too much loose talk of war” has helped, not hindered, the Islamic republic.

“There should not be a shred of doubt by now: When the chips are down, I have Israel’s back,” the president told AIPAC, listing a wide range of actions he’s
undertaken — like rescuing Israeli diplomats in Cairo, boosting security and intelligence cooperation. “Which is why if during this political season you hear some question my
Administration’s support for Israel, remember that it’s not backed up by the facts,” said the president. “And remember that the U.S.-Israel relationship is simply too important to be
distorted by partisan politics. America’s national security is too important. Israel’s security is too important,” he said, to sustained applause by the crowd.

“Already, there is too much loose talk of war,” he said. “For the sake of Israel’s security, America’s security, and the peace and security of the world, now is not the
time for bluster; now is the time to let our increased pressure sink in.”

And there is widespread talk that the United States and Israel are already waging a covert war against Iran’s nuclear and missile programs — so widespread that it was
featured in a controversial Israeli ad for Samsung tablets.

Obama’s appeal for patience with his diplomatic strategy coupled with his rhetorical escalation on the possible use of force drew immediate praise from
Nicholas Burns, the senior diplomat who served as George W. Bush’s point person on Iran.

When will we every learn to stop this gunboat, trigger-happy, shoot from the hip diplomacy? There will be plenty of time for military options before Iran becomes a threat to anyone! “they have weapons of mass destruction!” Anybody remember those words? We specifically elected this president to do exactly what he is doing; getting all necessary information and getting it right the first time, Knowing in advance what we are doing and why, understanding the beginning and endgame, and having an achievable, common sense exit strategy.



Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) angrily walked out of a congressional hearing on the contraception coverage rule last month because the one female witness the Democrats brought, Sandra Fluke, was rejected by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) for being “unqualified” to speak on the topic.

But after hearing that conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh called Fluke, a Georgetown University law student, a “slut” and a “prostitute” on Wednesday night for advocating that employers cover birth control pills in their health plans, Maloney is really fuming.

“I am just aghast,” she told The Huffington Post on Thursday. “If the far right can attack people like Sandra Fluke, women are going to be afraid to speak because they’re going to be called terrible words. It’s an attempt to silence people that are speaking out for women.”

Maloney and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) had brought Fluke into the hallway outside the House Oversight Committee hearing on Feb. 16 to allow her to give her testimony to reporters while the all-male panel of religious experts testified on record. Fluke told the story of one of her classmates who lost an ovary because Georgetown, a Jesuit university, did not cover the oral contraceptives that she was prescribed for her condition.

Limbaugh said on his show that Fluke’s parents should be ashamed of her for testifying that she is “having so much sex she can’t afford her own birth control pills.”

He added:

“What does it say about the college co-ed Susan Fluke [sic] who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex — what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.”

A handful of female Democratic lawmakers fired back on Wednesday and demanded that their Republican colleagues publicly denounce Limbaugh’s comments. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the remarks “unmask the strong disrespect for women held by some in this country,” and Maloney told HuffPost that if Republicans “stand silently by and let this pass, they will be condoning it and attacking women.”

Limbaugh’s comments coincided with a heated Senate debate on Sen. Roy Blunt’s (R-Mo.) controversial amendment, which would override President Barack Obama’s contraception rule and let any employer refuse to cover birth control or any other health service for moral or religious reasons. While Obama’s policy would allow churches and faith-based organizations to opt out of covering contraception, the Blunt amendment would allow anyone, including non-religious employers, to do so.

Maloney said that the GOP attacks on contraception access should serve as a “wake-up call” to the women’s rights movement.

“I believe these efforts are sinking in,” she said. “Women have to stand up and say stop. We have to get out and get out strong to let women know around the country that they can speak out against this abuse. The right to space and time our children for our own health and the ability to manage our lives — this is a basic right, and they’re going after it.”

from the Huffingtonpost


NEW YORK (AP) — Stepping into an emerging culture clash over women, President Barack Obama made a supportive phone call Friday to a law student who testified before Congress about the need for birth control coverage, only to be called a “slut” by Rush Limbaugh.

For Obama, it was an emphatic plunge into the latest flare-up on social issues. Democratic officeholders and liberal advocacy have accused Republicans of waging a “war on women” because of GOP stances on contraception and abortion rights, and Limbaugh’s tirade on his radio talk show was seen as an escalation.

In addition to her call from the president, the third-year Georgetown University law student, Sandra Fluke, was backed by members of Congress, women’s groups, and the administration and faculty at her Roman Catholic university.

Demands for Limbaugh’s sponsors to pull their ads from his show rocketed through cyberspace, and at least four companies, Quicken Loans, LegalZoom online legal document service, and bedding retailers Sleep Train and Sleep Number, bowed to the pressure.

Obama considers Limbaugh’s remarks “reprehensible,” according to White House spokesman Jay Carney. He said the president called Fluke to “express his disappointment that she has been the subject of inappropriate personal attacks” and to thank her for speaking out on an issue of public policy.

“The fact that our political discourse has become debased in many ways is bad enough,” Carney said. “It is worse when it’s directed at a private citizen who was simply expressing her views.”

Obama reached Fluke by phone as she was waiting to go on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports.”

“He’s really a very a kind man,” Fluke later told The Associated Press. “He just called to express concern for me and to make sure I was OK and to say that he supported me and to thank me for speaking out about something that’s so important to so many women.”

As for Limbaugh’s remarks, Fluke said, “I just thought that they were really outside the bounds of civil discourse.”

By calling Fluke and injecting himself into the Limbaugh controversy, Obama sent a message to more than one law student. He was reaching out to young voters and women — two groups whose support he needs in this re-election year. And he was underscoring that the White House, despite bungling its rollout of the birth control policy, sees it as a winning issue and welcomes Obama’s name next to it.

Republicans and conservatives can’t be so stupid as to anchor their political battlefleet to this torpedo.


Rush Limbaugh called the woman who was denied the right to speak at a controversial contraception hearing a “slut” on Wednesday.

Sandra Fluke, a student at Georgetown Law School, was supposed to be the Democratic witness at a Congressional hearing about the Obama administration’s contraception policy. However, Darrell Issa, the committee chair at the hearing, prevented her from speaking, while only allowing a series of men to testify about the policy. Fluke eventually spoke to a Democratic hearing, and talked about the need for birth control for both reproductive and broader medical reasons. She mentioned in particular a friend of hers who needed contraception to prevent the growth of cysts.

To Limbaugh, though, Fluke was just promoting casual sex.

“Can you imagine if you were her parents how proud…you would be?” he said. “Your daughter … testifies she’s having so much sex she can’t afford her own birth control pills and she wants President Obama to provide them, or the Pope.”

He continued:

“What does it say about the college co-ed Susan Fluke [sic] who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex — what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.”

Limbaugh then said, “ok, so she’s not a slut. She’s round-heeled.” “Round-heeled” is an old-fashioned term for promiscuity.

Limbaugh’s comments came on the same day that Fluke was mentioned during a debate in the Senate about the so-called “Blunt Amendment,” which would override Obama’s contraception rule. Sen. Barbara Boxer brought up Fluke’s testimony, recounting what she would have said at the Congressional panel if she had been given the opportunity.


Where are the women?

The question, posed by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) to an all-male panel at Thursday’s House Oversight Committee hearing on a new birth control coverage requirement, has rapidly turned into a political rallying cry, sparking a viral online campaign and lighting a fire under Democratic campaigns.

It has also put a coda of sorts on a culture war argument that erupted several weeks ago. A debate that began with the straightforward constitutional question of what the government could instruct religious institutions to do with respect to health care coverage has become the most galvanizing political issue for Democrats since the president introduced his jobs act last fall.

A series of incendiary events has thrust the issue of contraception to the forefront of the national discussion in the past few weeks. There was an outcry after Obama introduced the rule, which requires most religiously affiliated employers to cover birth control for their employees. Soon after, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the nation’s largest breast cancer charity, cut off funds to Planned Parenthood, which provides affordable cancer screenings and contraception to millions of low-income women, because some of its locations also perform abortions. The ensuing controversy sparked a massive national discussion about the politicization of women’s health and coaxed GOP politicians, such as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, into taking sides.

Just as the Komen controversy died down, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) introduced an amendment that would have allowed insurers to opt out of covering any form of health care to which they morally objected. This, in itself, was low hanging fruit for the Democrats. But when House Republicans convened an all-male panel to discuss contraception, and when Foster Friess, a top financial backer of former Sen. Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign, said that pregnancies could be prevented by “gals” putting Bayer Asprin “between their knees,” campaign consultants had the type of political imagery that they could only dream of. For Democratic lawmakers, it couldn’t have come at a more opportune time, giving them the chance to launch a well-oiled, comprehensive effort to lock in women’s votes ahead of the 2012 elections.

EMILY’s List, a political action committee dedicated to electing Democratic women to Congress, has launched a multi-pronged effort to rally voters around the birth control issue. The group has sent out multiple fundraising emails and created a new television ad, which features Friess’ comment and the image from the all-male Congressional hearing, in order to emphasize the need for more progressive women in leadership roles. Although Jess McIntosh, communications director for EMILY’s List, did not reveal the amount of money the group has raised in the past two weeks, she said it’s clear that the latest drive for money and supporters has been a huge success.

“We added over 60,000 members in the last couple weeks,” McIntosh told The Huffington Post Friday. “We had over 30,000 petition signers just yesterday for a petition about the birth control mandate, which is unusual. We have raised more money for candidates at this point in the cycle than ever before, and we’ve definite seen an uptick in also how active these folks are.”

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, sent a fundraising email and petition drive out to DSCC supporters urging them to oppose both the Blunt amendment and the “aspirin agenda.” A petition about the “aspirin agenda” collected over 65,000 signatures in one day. A similar “Where are the women?” petition circulated by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has collected over 250,000 signatures since it went out late Thursday night.

State Democratic parties and individual campaigns have also been able to use the federal birth control controversy to drum up local support. The Virginia Democratic Party, for instance, claims to have raised an unusually high amount of money and saw a “spike in interaction” in the two days following Issa’s birth control hearing.

“People kind of came to life about this issue. Across the board, we have seen a considerable uptick in the financial response our people have had to what’s going on,” said Brian Coy, a spokesperson for the Virginia Democrats. “We’ve raised thousands of dollars over the last 48 hours over this, which is absolutely not normal, and we’ve seen a huge uptick in Facebook and Twitter activity.”

Maggie Hassan, a Democrat running for governor of New Hampshire, said her campaign has also seen a considerable increase in donations and support since birth control rose to the forefront of the national discussion.

“All the men talking about birth control really is, I think, generating this kind of disbelief, and it’s really firing people up,” she told HuffPost. “We’re beginning to see a lot of discussion about it on our Facebook pages, I get asked about it at house parties, and it’s definitely motivating people to give money. Most of us, certainly in my generation — we all thought this was settled.”

Republican campaigns have been much more reluctant to discuss their fundraising efforts or success around the birth control issue. The National Republican Senatorial Committee circulated only one petition about the birth control rule, but left the words “birth control,” “contraception,” and “women’s health” entirely out of it, focusing instead on the issue of religious freedom. The petition had only received 15,000 signatures by Monday afternoon — a fraction of the DCCC’s 250,000.

When asked about fundraising efforts, a staffer at the NRSC said only that it’s hard to see how the DSCC’s “gender war spin” can be taken seriously when two female GOP Senate candidates, Sarah Steelman in Missouri and Heather Wilson in New Mexico, oppose Obama’s birth control rule.

Susan B. Anthony List, the anti-abortion alternative to EMILY’s List, said it has been too busy educating people about the contraception mandate to fundraise around it. “We have not fundraised off of it yet, but we do plan to use it in races where we think it will make a difference,” said SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser. “I think it will work in our direction. It is an underestimation of women that they are going see this issue as being about creating barriers to contraception and abortifacients — that’s not what this is. It’s about something so much more fundamental: the right of conscience and religious liberty for all people, including women.”

The Republican National Committee did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this article.

Whether the Democrats can hold onto their momentum after the uproar over birth control dies down remains to be seen, but it’s clear that they see their stance on the issue as crucial for rallying women voters in 2012. Obama relied on the women’s vote to win the presidency in 2008, winning ten million more votes from women than men. The unexpected controversy around an issue as fundamental to women’s health as birth control is making it easy for Democratic campaigns to fire up those same voters once again.

“The fortunate or unfortunate thing about this attack on women’s health is that you don’t really need strategies to incense people,” said Coy. “The task is just to make sure people know that it’s happening.”

None of this would have been possible, it seems, had the birth control debate expanded beyond its original focus. At first, it was confined to a very limited question: could the federal government compel religious institutions to include contraception coverage in the health care plans they offered employees?

But questions of religious liberties were soon overshadowed by gender politics on the Hill. First, Blunt (R-Mo.) introduced an amendment to the surface transportation bill that would completely roll back the president’s birth control coverage rule and remove all of the non-discrimination protections from the Affordable Care Act. It was done under the auspices of decreasing regulations and boosting the free market. But many said that because the measure would essentially allow any employer or insurer to refuse to cover contraception, maternity care, or any other health care service by claiming a moral objection to it, it carried with it a true threat to women’s health care.

Friess’ comments later that week caused further problems. Hammering the problematic imagery home even further, Bishop William Lori, the first witness on the House Oversight Committee’s all-male panel on religious liberty, spent a full ten minutes comparing birth control to a ham sandwich. “The government recognized that it is absurd for someone to come into a kosher deli and demand a ham sandwich,” Lori said of Obama’s revised birth control rule, “that it is downright surreal to apply this coercive power when the customer can get the same sandwich cheaply, or even free, just a few doors down.”

Women’s groups say they are not going to let that kind of rhetoric slide.

“It’s a shame and it’s appalling and it makes everybody really mad, but it’s lucky we have a place to put all that energy,” said McIntosh. “We have the luxury of saying, ‘Yes, this is terrible, but look at all these great alternatives.’ The women in office are on the front lines in this fight. Women like [Sen.] Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and [Sen.] Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) are standing up to the right, and everybody wants to send them more reinforcements.”



Democrats have an unexpected new foil in their effort to label the GOP as hostile to women: Rick Santorum.

After hammering away for a year at the message that Republicans are indifferent to women’s health and economic well-being, President Barack Obama’s party has been handed a nearly perfect political punching bag in the former Pennsylvania senator, whose down-the-line cultural conservatism is a major selling point in the 2012 primaries.

Gender issues have taken center stage in recent days as Santorum has made incendiary comments suggesting women not be allowed to serve in combat roles in the military (he later said he was concerned men would want to protect them). Santorum has also stood by his opposition to contraception, reiterating his position that it shouldn’t be covered by the national health-care law because it is “inexpensive.” While the ex-senator doesn’t favor outlawing birth control, he is personally opposed to it.

In another major hit this week, Santorum’s most prominent financial backer, Wyoming financier Foster Friess, joked on television that back in the day, women — he called them “gals” — would practice contraception by holding aspirin “between their knees.”

Read more:



Democratic Sen. Patty Murray blasted the GOP Friday over Thursday’s House contraception hearing with an all-male panel, charging that Republicans have been “waging a war on women’s health” since they won the House majority in 2010.

In a floor speech, the Washington Democrat, who chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, tied the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing to a series of other events, including Thursday’s remarks by a top donor to Rick Santorum who claimed that “gals” used to use aspirin for contraception.

For many women waking up to this news this morning, it may seem like there is a swift and sudden attack on women’s health care,” Murray said. “But … there is nothing new about the Republicans’ attacks on our family planning decisions.”

Murray’s speech — which was part of a series of floor speeches from other Democratic women, including Sens. Barbara Boxer of California, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire — confirmed that Democrats see political power in using the “attack on women’s health” line as an election-year theme.

Boxer said the photo of the all-male panel at yesterday’s hearing reminded her of an all-male Senate Judiciary Committee’s handling of sexual harassment allegations against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991. The backlash from this event is widely credited with helping to sweep several women into office in 1992, in what became known as “the Year of the Woman.”

Americans realized “there were only two women in the U.S. Senate [at the time], and it sent a shockwave through the entire country,” Boxer said. “We had the Year of the Woman, and we tripled the number of women in the Senate.”

Boxer said the photo of the all-male panel at yesterday’s hearing reminded her of an all-male Senate Judiciary Committee’s handling of sexual harassment allegations against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991. The backlash from this event is widely credited with helping to sweep several women into office in 1992, in what became known as “the Year of the Woman.”

Americans realized “there were only two women in the U.S. Senate [at the time], and it sent a shockwave through the entire country,” Boxer said. “We had the Year of the Woman, and we tripled the number of women in the Senate.”

Republicans insist that Democrats are overplaying their hand and that the Obama administration’s contraception rule — the subject of Thursday’s House hearing — is a religious freedom issue, not a women’s health issue.

Murray pointed to other early legislative priorities of the new House majority, such as attempting to eliminate funding for family planning under Title X, to defund Planned Parenthood and to roll “back every single one of the gains we made for women in the health care reform bill.”

“We know that the onslaught from Republicans isn’t going to stop anytime soon,” she concluded. “But we also know that we have millions of women — some whose voices we hear, some whose we don’t — to continue to fight for.”

This article first appeared on POLITICO Pro at 11:25 a.m. on February 17, 2012.