Chairman Kaine is in the uncomfortable position of being between a rock and a hard place. In this case, it’s the Catholic church vs. his support for President Obama.
The uproar among Catholics over the Obama Adminstration’s sweeping change to the conscience clause – a clause that exempts religious institutions from requirements that are antithetical to their faiths – is probably President Obama’s biggest gaffe of the 2012 election cycle. It puts him directly at odds with the largest Christian community in the United States. And it may have an impact on the Virginia Senate race.
Tim Kaine now finds himself in a serious quandry. Kaine, who is frequently characterized as a devout Catholic, has doubled down on his support for President Obama and his policies as the 2012 Senate race has begun. In the first debate of the season, between Chairman Kaine and Governor Allen, Kaine was unabashed in his support for the President’s policies. He’s made it clear he isn’t going to run away from the President during this campaign.
His unwillingness to abandon the President has been part of Kaine’s campaign philosophy from the beginning, and as former Cheerleader-in-Chief of the Democratic Party, he isn’t exactly in a position to run away from Obama even if he wanted to. This stands in stark contrast to many Virginia Democrats, who would have rather been caught hugging President Bush than be seen anywhere near President Obama in 2010 and 2011.
Alongside his support for the President, Chairman Kaine has also been consistent in his unwillingness to subordinate his personal views, largely influenced by his faith, in order to be more in-line with Democratic orthodoxy. He’s pro-life, supporting a variety of anti-abortion provisions and signed the “Choose Life” license plate law championed by AG Ken Cuccinelli into law over the complaints of many powerful Democratic constituencies. He is anti-death penalty with a veto record to prove it. His Catholic faith has always been an underlying theme to his biography.
President Obama’s approval of requirements under Obama care to force the church and Catholic charities to provide or cover contraception, abortion drugs and sterilization procedures puts him directly opposed to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The question is a tough one: Who will Kaine stand with? Whatever he does on this issue will undercut two of the fundamental building blocks of his campaign – his support for the President and his appeal to Catholics and other values voters because of his consistent stances on those issues.
Obama’s decision was wrong and deserves to be condemned widely. And, for any other politician, that decision would be an easy one. But Chairman Kaine doesn’t have that luxury, thanks to his previous statements about his support for the President and his decisions.
Whatever he does, he’s going to look hypocritical.
Peggy Noonan said this weekend that Obama may have just lost the election with this gaffe. It might have cost him a Senate seat, too.