The current flap over mandating birth control services to employees of institutions owned or run by the Catholic Church is yet another example of mistakes brought on by political tone deafness in the White House and by President Barack Obama's decision to turn over the crafting of the giant health care reform package to Congress.
It's always the small things that come up and bite one on the rear. But it is astounding that the president didn't anticipate the results of this hot issue. What it demonstrates to me is that Obama's aloofness in the beginning has now put him in danger of alienating a vote he will need come November. Had the White House been more involved in the details of the enormous health care bill, it is hard to believe that someone on the president's staff wouldn't have red flagged this potential disaster.
The offended Catholic clergy's decision to reject Obama's proposed "compromise" to offer the church's workers the opportunity to receive contraceptive aid and comfort through private hospitals could have been anticipated. After all, it isn't who pays for the process or where it takes place, it's the process itself that runs counter to church policy.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops clearly has the president on the ropes on this issue and it obviously needn't have happened. But lest we forget, Obama's political experience before assuming the presidency was nearly nonexistent. He had barely discovered the location of the Senate floor when he decided he was ready to run the country. His prior jobs as a community organizer and state legislator were hardly an apprenticeship to the biggest position in the world.
If he truly had done his homework before determining that the best way to convince people he was ready for the White House was to alter 14 percent of the economy, he would have at least understood that such an enormous task should not be left up to Congress without daily guidance. And if he didn't get it, somebody he had hired to advise him on such matters sure should have.
So now what should he do? It might not be a bad idea to run to the nearest cathedral and offer his mea culpa over and over again.
Is it possible that Obama was not privy to the best-known "secret" in modern-day Catholicism: that 80 percent of American women who are among the faithful ignore the church's edicts when it comes to birth control? Outside the church's own hospitals, doctors rarely ask the religion of the women they are treating. Why should the federal government, as represented by the president, get involved in such a no-win issue, one that is clearly not the government's business?
Whether the church's policies on sex and propagation belong in the 21st century is not for me -- or, for that matter, other non-Catholics -- to say. They can do what they want, as they always have. I, for one, don't intend to vote or not vote for anyone because of religion or church doctrine.
It does seem that if the bishops had gone after the moral corruption in the priesthood as fiercely as they have over reproductive rights of women, the tattered image they now display worldwide might have been improved dramatically. There might have been even more tolerance for some of the church's less popular edicts. That, of course, is just a personal opinion of one who believes pedophilia and other aberrations are not only intolerable but a sure ticket to Hades.
But, again, that is not what this is all about. It occurs that during this discussion the insensitivity on the part of the White House is amazing. One needn't be Catholic to realize the ramifications. Obviously, the Catholic Jack Kennedy wouldn't have been caught in this trap.
Neither would most of Obama's predecessors. Few presidents in the nation's recent history would have allowed a badly divided Congress to provide the details of a health-care bill that is so monumental it appears even Obama might not know what is in it.
Email Dan K. Thomasson, former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service, at email@example.com.