Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Worst of Our Politics

Yesterday I had the opportunity to view Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards’ testimony before the House Oversight Committee. What I witnessed was the very worst of our politics.

Ms. Richards was summoned to testify before the committee ostensibly to justify on Planned Parenthoods’ federal funding. She was also there to answer charges that her organization illegally sells fetal tissue for profit. Those accusations stem from a controversial clandestine video that purports to show Planned Parenthood employees discussing the disposition of fetal tissue in callous terms. Planned Parenthood has publically denounced the video as having been substantively edited.

Regardless of the stated intent of the hearing it quickly became evident that the real purpose was to provide majority members with a public forum to express their revulsion for abortion and their disdain for Ms. Richards personally.

Ms. Richards was repeatedly interrupted, talked over and berated. She was bombarded with questions without being given the opportunity to finish her response. The level of disrespect shown her was palpable. The misogynistic attitude on display an embarrassment to the institution.

For example...

Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT.) brought up Mrs. Richards salary. In a clearly sarcastic manner he “congratulated” her on her level of remuneration. Ms. Richards, clearly uncomfortable with the line of questioning, stated that she made $520,000.

Ms. Richards was present to testify about matters relating to Planned Parenthood operations and funding. She was not being accused of any personal wrongdoing. Her level of compensation irrelevant to the matters at hand. Yet here was Chaffetz mocking her compensation publically for no real purpose other than to score political points. I wonder if Chaffetz reveals and critiques the compensation package for all male CEO’s appearing before his committee.

Chaffetz revealed a slide that appeared to show a dramatic rise in the number of Planned Parenthood abortions opposite a precipitous decline in the number of cancer screenings. Chaffetz point was that Planned Parenthood has been consistent in its claims that abortion services amount to only 3% of the total services provided. The graph clearly shows those assertions to be untrue.

Ms. Richards replied that she had never seen the slide before and that the information was inaccurate. Mr. Chaffetz, oozing confidence that he had caught Richards in an irrefutable lie responded smugly: "I got it straight from your annual reports.”

Ms. Richards’ attorney leaned in and whispered something in her ear. Richards then quickly said: “My lawyers just informed me that the source of this information is Americans United for Life, and anti-abortion group. I would check your source.” Noted as the source on the bottom right hand corner of the slide…Americans United for Life.

Chaffetz, looking alternately stunned, bewildered and embarrassed; quickly yielded his remaining time and turned off his microphone.

Abortion is one of the most important, sensitive, emotional and controversial topics of our time. As such any discussion of this issue should be cognizant of the sensitivities on both sides of the debate. There was none of that in evidence here.

When Barak Obama bludgeoned Mitt Romney in the last general election Republicans retreated behind closed doors to lick their wounds and find a new prospective. When they emerged from their soul searching they promised a more inclusive party. A party sensitive to the views of minorities and women. They even held seminars to teach candidates how to talk to women????? Apparently Mr. Chaffetz and the Republican members of his committee didn’t get the memo.

Republicans like to see themselves as constitutionalists and defenders of the rule of law…except in those instances in which the debate centers on women’s issues. Then misogyny runs rampant and women are treated as property.

Yesterday there was no evidence of the constitution or the rule of law in that hearing. As far as I know the constitution still holds that abortions are legal. As for the rule of law; had it been a courtroom Chaffetz and his cronies would have been charged with contempt for repeatedly badgering the witness.

Yesterday I watched the government disrespect, badger, marginalize and lie to one of its citizens. Her only offense…abiding by law and doing her job.

Yesterday I witnessed the very worst of out politics.

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