One of the arguments I’m starting to get very tired of is that when Senator Obama addressed Planned Parenthood and promised that the first thing he would do as President would be to sign the Freedom of Choice Act (thus cementing a more drastic pro-abortion regime than has ever existed in the US to day) he was obviously just scoring partisan political points, and that Catholics are not only ill advised to worry about FOCA passing and being signed but that if they do so they are actively behaving in bad faith by accusing Obama of supporting something he never really meant to do.
I don’t think it’s news to anyone that politicians often pander, and to anyone who doubted it in the first place it’s increasingly clear that the only difference between Obama’s “new politics” and the old kind of politics is that the “new politics” involves Obama being president. But even if it’s common knowledge that one of the good ways of knowing that a politician is lying is to see if his mouth is moving, I don’t see how we can even discuss politics if we don’t assume that the promises which a politician expressly makes on the campaign trial represent something which the politician at least thinks would be a good idea.
I don’t really doubt that if a some Republican presidential candidate were to get up in front of The American Nativist Association and announce that “the first thing he would do” about immigration reform would be to the sign the “Pure America Act” which would allow for the immediate deportation of all non-citizens and the sealing of the borders, that people would unhesitatingly call that candidate and dangerous yahoo and heap scorn upon him. Sure, such a bill would doubtless never pass congress, but the fact that he said he wanted to sign such a bill would be considered to be indicative of his character and policies.
If the tenor of the excuses for Obama’s FOCA promise was, “Look, I supported Obama, but the fact is that was an idiotic, divisive and dishonest promise that he made. Luckily, congress is better than that and we can hope that his advisers have now explained to him what a stupid thing that was to say.” I might be a little more open to listening. All of us who follow politics, even passionately, are (or at least should be) aware that “our” candidates often do foolish and even wrong things.
However, the general comment that seems to be coming in from Catholic Obama apologists is that it’s actively dishonest and inflammatory of the bishops and of individual Catholics to focus on Obama’s FOCA promise. I’m sorry but, “Trust me, we were lying,” is not among the more persuasive lines of argument I’ve heard of late. If there is someone acting in bad faith here, it’s not the bishops denouncing FOCA.