Tag Archives: Rob Portman

The Republican Party is a Terrorist Organization

The Republican Party is a terrorist organization, unwilling, apparently, to convict a known terrorist for inciting insurrection, unwilling, evidently, to purge terrorists within its ranks, and, unwilling, ostensibly, to condemn the lies that aid and abet terrorism. It pains me to conclude that one of our nation’s two major political parties is a terrorist organization, but facts are facts. 

The Senate vote Tuesday on the constitutionality of proceeding with the trial of former president Donald Trump signals that the proceedings likely will end with Trump’s acquittal on the charge of inciting the January 6 riot at the Capitol. The evidence against Trump is overwhelming, and more emerges almost daily. His constant lies about electoral fraud and his tweets urging his followers to come to Washington to contest the certification of electors along with his speech just prior to the mob storming the Capitol prove his culpability. But, 45 of the 50 Republican Senators agreed with Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, that there is no constitutional basis for trying a former president.

Most constitutional scholars disagree, and precedents exist for the impeachment and trial of officials who no longer hold office. Democrats believe a trial is justified, arguing that Trump must be held accountable for his role in the riot. Conviction also can be followed by a vote to bar Trump from ever holding office again. 

By raising a bogus constitutional issue, Republicans have given themselves a public relations out for voting to acquit. They can get credit among hard-core Trumpistas for not voting against their cult hero, while saying to more moderate Republicans that they merely acted on constitutional grounds without assessing Trump’s guilt. As a political dodge, the argument on constitutionality may work; from a moral perspective, any vote to acquit puts the Republican Party on the side of terrorists. Historical accountability will be severe for the GOP.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has played his usual duplicitous role in the run up to the Senate trial. After the January 6 riot, McConnell announced that Trump had “provoked” the mob, suggesting he favored impeachment. But, in the week after the House impeached Trump on January 13, while he was still majority leader, McConnell refused to reconvene the Senate, guaranteeing that the trial would occur after Trump left office and paving the way for Paul’s cynical constitutional gambit.

I suppose it is conceivable for a senator to vote against the constitutionality of a trial and then turn around and vote to convict Trump. A public official may have constitutional qualms about an issue, but once the question of constitutionality is resolved by the appropriate authority, that official must do his duty according to the law. Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman, who is not running for reelection in 2022, but still voted with the majority of Republicans against going to trial, says, “But I’ve not made me mind up, I’m a juror.” But, it is going to be a heavy lift for Democrats to persuade at least 17 Republicans to vote for convicting Trump.

Republicans condoning terrorism goes beyond the Senate vote. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who said Trump “bears responsibility” for the attack on the Capitol, traveled to Florida Thursday to grovel before Trump in an attempt to mend relations. It may be one thing for Republicans in the Senate to vote to acquit on the spurious argument that a trial of a former president is divisive, but it is quite another to actually cozy up to Trump-the-terrorist. Apparently, congressional Republicans believe placating Trump is the key to winning elections. “We cannot take the House and the Senate back without his help. That’s just a fact,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina. Of course, with Trump in the White House, Republicans lost the House in 2018, and with Trump at the head of the ticket, Republicans lost the presidency and the Senate in 2020. That is a whole lot of help, Senator!

McCarthy seems amenable to rewarding terrorists. He placed Representative Majorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who identifies with the QAnon cult and refers to deadly school shootings as “false-flag” operations by gun-control advocates, on the House Education and Labor Committee. Greene should be condemned, not rewarded, by the House GOP leadership for liking a comment on her Facebook page saying “a bullet to the head would be quicker” in removing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Greene also liked comments about executing FBI agents, who she believes are part of the “deep state” working against Trump. Urging the assassination of the speaker and the execution of agents of the federal government are terrorist acts. Greene should be removed from all House posts, and Republicans should purge her from the party. Action should be taken against other terrorists within Republican ranks, such as Alabama Representative Mo Brooks, who said, at the rally before the storming of the Capitol, that January 6 was the day “American patriots start… kicking ass.” Similarly, some form of punishment is warranted for those members of Congress who encouraged and may have aided the mob.

Republicans have been complicit spreading lies that fuel terrorist acts. House and Senate Republicans did Trump’s bidding by lying about electoral fraud. Eight Republican senators and two-thirds of the Republican House caucus voted to overturn the election results in Arizona and Pennsylvania after the riot that endangered them. All but 10 Republicans voted against impeaching Trump, despite evidence that his actions put their lives at risk on January 6. 

Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney harshly condemned his colleagues for failing to disown the lies about electoral fraud. “I say, first of all, have you gone out publicly and said that there was not widespread voter fraud that Joe Biden is the legitimate president of the United States?” the former presidential candidate asked. “If you said that, then I’m happy to listen to you talk about other things that might inflame anger and divisiveness.” But, Romney asserts, do not claim a trial or condemnation of terrorists within the Republican Party is divisive, while continuing to spread lies.

Republicans must hold Trump accountable for his role in the terrorist attack on the our nation’s Capitol, condemn the terrorists in their ranks, and repudiate their own lies about the election. Failure to do so brands the Republican Party as a terrorist organization.

Posted January 29, 2021

The Politics of Obstruction

Let’s be clear about one thing: The Republican vow to block President Obama from selecting the next Supreme Court justice is politically motivated. All other explanations for delay are ahistorical and unconstitutional.

The justification that the voters should decide in the November election is nonsense. There is no precedent for the Senate declining to do its constitutional duty to “Advice and Consent.” The Senate has considered and approved numerous nominations in a president’s final year. The voters already decided when they re-elected Barack Obama in 2012. It is absurd to argue, as the Republicans appear to be doing, that the last election matters less than the election that has not happened. Moreover, the Framers of the Constitution never intended for the voters to make selections for the Supreme Court. The drafters of the Constitution gave the power to name justices to a president elected by the Electoral College, not the popular vote of the people, and approved by senators elected by state legislatures. The direct election of senators did not become national policy until 1913. It is passably odd that proponents of a strict constructionist reading of the Constitution wish to give to the people a right not found in the original document.

Republican obstruction on filling the vacant Supreme Court seat is outrageous and unjustified, but it is politically necessary. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had little choice but to declare within hours of the announcement of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death that the Senate should wait until after January 20, 2017, to vote on a replacement. Obstruction is politically necessary because of the virulence of the Republican base, whipped to a frenzy in this election cycle by the candidacies of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. McConnell knows that the base would erupt if the Senate approved an Obama appointee who would provide liberals with a majority on the nation’s highest court. A 5-4 liberal majority would protect abortion rights and might eventually reverse the Citizen’s United decision overturning campaign finance laws, the Heller ruling, written by Scalia, providing an expansive view of so-called Second Amendment rights, and the Shelby County v. Holder case striking down sections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

McConnell moved quickly after Scalia’s death, getting ahead of the GOP candidates, all of whom called for the Senate to delay during the presidential debate held that evening.  Trump was not alone in saying, “I think it’s up to Mitch McConnell, and everybody else to stop it. It’s called delay, delay, delay.” Cruz’s call for obstruction underscored Republican fears over a possible Obama appointment and the conservative justification for obstruction. “We are one justice away from a Supreme Court that will strike down every restriction on abortion adopted by the states,” the Texas senator said. “We are one justice away from a Supreme Court that will reverse the Heller decision, one of Justice Scalia’s seminal decisions that upheld the Second Amendment right to keep and to bear arms…. The Senate needs to stand strong and say, ‘We’re not going to give up the U.S. Supreme Court for a generation by allowing Barack Obama to make one more liberal appointee.’”

But, obstruction never comes without costs. As is often the case, Republicans are locked in a dilemma which pits the need to run to the right in primaries against the requirement to move to the center in the general election. Republican senators who are up for re-election this year potentially strengthen right-wing challengers in the primaries if they waver on Obama replacing Justice Scalia. But, and here is their dilemma, obstruction weakens those senators in the general election.

Because of the tea party rout of 2010, Republicans are defending a large number of Senate seats this year. Many of those seats are held by Republicans who pass for moderate in the current climate. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Rob Portman of Ohio, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Mark Kirk of Illinois, and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin all represent blue or battleground states. In addition, Marco Rubio is not running again, so his seat in the swing state of Florida is a likely tossup. Blocking an Obama appointment guarantees that Democrats will make Republican obstructionism and congressional dysfunction campaign issues. Republican attempts to guarantee that the next president appoints a pro-gun and anti-abortion justice makes it harder to appeal to an electorate in blue or swing states that does not embrace ultra-conservative positions on guns and abortion.

John Cornyn, the second ranking Republican in the Senate, said GOP obstruction “is not about the personality.” That is nonsense. Of course it is about the “personality,” in this case Barack Obama’s. It is just the latest example of the obstructionism the Republican Party has practiced since Obama’s inauguration in 2009.

The prediction here is that blocking Obama from naming Scalia’s replacement will work in the short term — keeping the Republican right at bay — but will backfire in the long run. Obstructionism helps Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders win this presidency and could give her or him a majority in the Senate, as well.

Posted February 26, 2016

The GOP Nightmare

There is growing panic within the Republican establishment at the possibility that Donald Trump may emerge as the party’s presidential nominee. As Jonathan Martin points out in a recent article in The New York Times, most party leaders agree that something must be done to prevent Trump from getting the nomination, but there is no agreement on how to stop the real estate mogul. With the Iowa caucuses less than two months away, there is growing urgency to derail Trump, but many fear getting in a public spat with him, given the reality TV star’s eagerness to spew insults at those who cross him.

The concern is that Trump’s willingness to offend minorities and women will doom the Republican Party to electoral defeat in 2016 if he heads the ticket. Trump is viewed unfavorably by 64 percent of women, 80 percent of Hispanics, and 73 percent of African Americans, according to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll. GOP leaders recognize that the party has to improve its standing with these constituencies — especially women and Hispanics — if it hopes to win the presidency.

Realistically, the path for a Republican victory in the presidential race would be narrow even with a candidate who made inroads among minorities and women. But the concern among many Republicans is not only would Trump get walloped by his Democratic opponent next November, but that his candidacy would drag down the rest of the Republican ticket, costing the GOP the Senate and perhaps giving the Democrats big gains in the House.

Brian Walsh, who has run Republican Senate campaigns in the past, cites Senator Rob Portman of Ohio as an example of a Republican endangered by the prospect of Trump heading the ticket. “He’s very well prepared,” Walsh said, “has tons of cash in the bank, and he got his campaign organized and up and running early. But if we nominate a bad presidential candidate like Trump, senators like Portman or Kelly Ayotte aren’t going to be able to outrun Hillary by that much. And there goes the Senate.”

Arizona Senator John McCain, who has been elected to the Senate five times, admitted he is anxious about Trump. “Of course I worry. All of us have to worry about the viability of the top of the ticket,” McCain said. He compared a possible Trump candidacy to Barry Goldwater’s landslide loss to Lyndon Johnson in 1964, “I think obviously we all know in history that when you have a weak top of the ticket, that has significant impact.”

Lindsey Graham, McCain’s Senate ally, did not mince words in assessing the effect of nominating Trump on the party’s electoral chances. “It would be an utter, complete, and total disaster,” the South Carolina senator said. “If you’re a xenophobic, race-baiting, religious bigot, you’re going to have a hard time being president of the United States, and you’re going to do irreparable damage to the party.”

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has issued a seven-page confidential memo, obtained by The Washington Post, urging Senate candidates to latch onto Trump’s “anti-Washington populist agenda” without accepting his “more extreme positioning.” The memo, written by Ward Baker, the committee’s executive director, urges GOP senatorial candidates to “stake out turf in the same issue zone [as Trump] and offer your own ideas.” But Baker warns the candidates to avoid mimicking Trump’s attacks on women. “Candidates shouldn’t go near this ground other than to say that your wife or daughter is offended by what Trump said,” he added. “We do not want to re-engage the ‘war on women’ fight.” Baker is urging fellow Republicans to engage in a delicate pas de deux by tapping into Trump’s popularity as an outsider who voters view “as authentic, independent, direct, [and] firm,” while avoiding the New Yorker’s cruder attacks on women, minorities, and just about everyone with whom he disagrees.

The problem facing the Republican establishment is that it does not have a viable alternative to Trump. Ben Carson once looked like he might challenge Trump for the lead in GOP polls, but his ignorance of the issues appears to be costing him at the polls. Jeb Bush, long the establishment’s favorite, has run a dull and ineffective campaign so far, and he is mired in single digits in the polls. Bush’s status as an afterthought in the race is demonstrated by the sad fact that he has spent millions more than all his rivals on television ads only to see his poll numbers drop. Chris Christie, also acceptable to the establishment, received the endorsement of the New Hampshire Union Leader, but he, too, flounders in single digits in the polls.

Ted Cruz has had a good run in recent weeks, with one recent poll showing the Texan only two points behind Trump in Iowa. But Cruz is no more palatable than Trump to the Republican establishment, which detests him for his arrogance and his overweening hunger for the spotlight. As Frank Bruni notes in The New York Times, most Republicans rate Cruz the equal of Trump “as [a] nasty piece of work.” Bruni quotes an alumnus of Bush 2000 who worked with Cruz on the campaign: “Why do people take such an instant dislike to Ted Cruz? It just saves time.”

Some in the party establishment are so desperate that there is renewed talk of drafting Mitt Romney for a run. Romney insists he is not interested, but some of his old allies think he could enter late and win the nomination in a floor fight at a deadlocked convention. That all begs the question of why Republicans would think the man who ran a poor campaign in 2012 — alienating women and Hispanics in the process — would run a better campaign in 2016?

The criticisms of Trump — and some of the other candidates as well — make a mockery of Ronald Reagan’s famed “11th Commandment.” But then “Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican” might have been a difficult precept for even Reagan to follow in this election cycle.

Posted December 4, 2015



What Do They Do Now?

Remember that telling last scene in The Candidate, when the newly elected senator from California, played by Robert Redford, says to his campaign manager, “Marvin, what do we do now?”

With a change in pronoun, it’s a question voters might be asking Republicans now that the party controls the Senate and has an even larger majority in the House.

Republican candidates for office provided little clue as to their goals. “This is not the time to lay out an agenda,” Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said four days before the election. On another occasion the likely new majority leader said, “It’s never a good idea to tell the other side what the first play is going to be.”

That’s true of football coaches and politicians who are selling ideas rejected by the voters, as are Republicans. An increase in the minimum wage — which congressional Republicans have repeatedly blocked — passed by huge two-to-one margins wherever it was on the ballot, including in die-hard red states Alaska, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Arkansas. Exit polls showed voters endorsing Democratic positions on climate change, immigration, abortion, same-sex marriage, and health care.

So why did the Republicans do so well Tuesday? No doubt the single biggest reason is the current standing of President Obama in public opinion polls. His unpopularity, some of it due to his standoffishness and seeming lack of passion, some of it due to things beyond his control, undermined the entire Democratic electoral effort. The Democrats always figured to do poorly in 2014: First, the electoral map favored the GOP, with far more Democratic than Republican seats up for reelection in the Senate; second, the traditional dip for the party of the president in his sixth year meant inevitable losses; and, third, the usual low turnout in midterm elections gave an edge to Republicans.

But the shellacking (to borrow a word the president used in 2010) was far worse than expected or predicted. The renewed terrorist threat from ISIS, the spread of Ebola (modest as the numbers have been in this country), the sense among voters that an improving economy was improving for someone else, and the overwhelming belief that Washington is broken all conspired to render the president unpopular and poison the electorate against his party. Never mind that Republican contributions to gridlock exceed the president’s and his party’s; when things don’t work, the president gets the blame.

The Republicans played their hand well. They avoided running the kind of whack jobs, like Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, Christine O’Donnell, and Sharron Angle, who torpedoed their efforts in the last two electoral cycles. The Republican establishment poured the necessary resources into Mississippi to insure that incumbent senator Thad Cochran defeated tea party-darling Chris McDaniel in the GOP primary. In Colorado, party regulars persuaded moderate-sounding Cory Gardner (who repudiated his support for a personhood amendment, sort of) to run for the Senate instead of ultra-conservative Ken Buck, who lost a Senate bid four years ago.

While Republicans managed to keep the kookiest candidates off the ballot this year, they did it largely by moving the party to the right. The tea party may have taken a hit operationally, but ideologically the faction’s ultra-right message went mainstream within the GOP.

Many of the new faces in the Senate and the House are on the far right, which will make governing more difficult for Republican congressional leaders. Mitch McConnell will soon find out that the only thing more difficult to manage than a Republican minority is a Republican majority. (Just ask John Boehner. His problems may have gotten even worse with the election of newer, more conservatives members of the House. And he won’t have Eric Cantor around.)

Texas Senator Ted Cruz — bolstered by the presence of new rightwing senators — is likely to be a thorn in McConnell’s (right) side. McConnell may be sincere in promising no more government shutdowns and in vowing not to use the debt ceiling for political purposes, but there’s no guarantee Cruz will agree. If Cruz pushes the agenda to the right, that will turn off senators like Rob Portman of Ohio and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, both of whom are up for reelection in 2016 in politically moderate states. Portman and Toomey won’t want to appear before their constituents saddled with Cruz’s hardline position on immigration and his promise to abolish the EPA and the Education Department.

And then there are the myriad Republican senators jockeying for a run at the presidency. All of the putative candidates will have their own agendas; they will be reluctant step in line behind McConnell’s goals, whatever those may be.

McConnell will find out, as has Boehner, that governing is the hard part. The problem for Republicans is that this time they are in the majority and, since Obama won’t be running in 2016, they will get the blame for Washington dysfunction.

That might make Hillary Clinton the ultimate winner. Assuming she runs and snares the Democratic nomination, she can wage a campaign against a do-nothing Congress.

Posted November 7, 2014


Republican Strategy

— “In the end, [background checks for gun purchases] didn’t pass because we’re so politicized. There were some on [the Republican] side who did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it.” 

No, those are not the words of a Democratic senator nor a liberal analyst.

They are the words of Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, cosponsor of the failed bill to expand background checks.

Toomey’s comments confirm what has always been known: The Republican legislative agenda consists of opposing whatever the president favors.

President Obama understands this. He’s been criticized, with some reason, for sounding defensive at his Tuesday news conference, but he has known from the beginning of his first term that putting his name behind legislation insures Republican disapproval. “I cannot force Republicans to embrace those commonsense solutions,” Obama said. “It’s tough. Their base thinks that compromise with me is somehow a betrayal. They’re worried about primaries. And I understand all that.”

Toomey, as cosponsor of the gun control measure with West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin, meant his comments, however inadvertent, as a criticism of his colleagues.  Yet those remarks only reaffirmed Republican strategy, trenchantly voiced in 2010 by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell when he said, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

The voters in 2012 did not give McConnell his wish, but his strategy remains in place. Republican congressional policy is not to do the nation’s business, but to oppose the president. Obama’s recognition of Republican aims is why he answered a question on Tuesday about immigration reform in the following way: “I’ve been impressed by the work that was done by the Gang of Eight in the Senate. The bill that they produced is not the bill that I would’ve written. There are elements of it that I would change. But I do think that it meets the basic criteria that I laid out from the start.”

The president realizes he must keep his hands off legislation for it to have a chance to get through the legislative process. That’s why all the criticisms of Obama for not “twisting arms” (or for not  having a drink with McConnell) are irrelevant. The more the president pushes for something, the less likely it is to occur.

It’s not Obama’s fault. It’s a result of the Republican single-minded opposition to him, occasioned by the rightward drift of the GOP (and, yes, in some instances, a result of racism). Republican extremism, coupled with legislative gerrymandering, means many in Congress no longer fear losing a general election; they worry, however, of primary challenges from candidates even more extreme.

There have been recent signs of Republican overreach. On background checks, supported by 90 percent or more Americans, voting no may have become a political liability. Recent polls show Arizona Senator Jeff Flake with an approval rating of just 32 percent, attributed largely to his “no” vote on background checks. The popularity of both Alaska senators, Republican Lisa Murkowski and Democrat Mark Begich, has dipped in a state where hunting is common, and Senators Dean Heller of Nevada and Rob Portman of Ohio have witnessed drops in their approval ratings since the gun control vote.

No one has suffered more for a “no” vote than New Hampshire’s Kelly Ayotte, whose support among Granite Sate voters has slipped precipitously and who has run into a buzz saw when taking her case to constituents in town meetings.

Toomey tried to soften his original comments by saying, “The toughest thing to do in politics is to do the right thing when your supporters think the right thing is something else.” But he was only half right: In this case, it may be tough for a Republican senator to do the right thing because of NRA lobbying, extremist pressure, and hatred of the president, but most Americans, including Republican supporters, are on the other side.

On background checks, the right thing is the popular thing. It’s also Obama’s thing.

Posted May 3, 2013


God, Markets, and Senator Portman


Senator Rob Portman’s announcement that he now supports same-sex marriage because his son is gay has touched off a lively debate about empathy in politics.

Matthew Yglesias’s “Rob Portman and the Politics of Narcissism” in Slate criticized the Ohio Republican for a “lack of compassion and empathy.” Yglesias asked “if Portman can turn around on one issue once he realizes how it touches his family personally, shouldn’t he take some time to think about how he might feel about other issues that don’t happen to touch him personally?” What would the senator’s attitude be, Yglesias wondered, if he had a son who was denied health coverage because of a preexisting medical condition? Might that encourage him to change his opinion on Obamacare?

William Saletan responded, again online in Slate, “It isn’t Portman who’s having an empathy problem. It’s his critics.” Saletan does some fancy verbal dodging in his piece, claiming at one point that Portman didn’t endorse discriminatory policies on hiring gays during an interview a year ago — after learning his son is gay — but rather “ducked the question.” Ducking doesn’t equal a profile in courage, but Saletan does make some other, more salient points.

Portman’s defenders, including Saletan, are right to note that public attitudes toward same-sex marriage have shifted rapidly in recent years. Certainly, Portman is not alone in having “evolved” on the issue. President Obama — who as a progressive ought to have moved quicker — was dilatory on gay marriage, waiting until it was politically safe and moving only after Vice President Biden forced his hand.

Saletan goes beyond the issue of evolving attitudes on gay rights. He says Portman’s critics are “baffled by religion,” unable to accept the senator’s longtime opposition to same-sex marriage as “rooted in my faith tradition.” Saletan also dismisses the analogy to health care reform. “The possibility,” he writes, “that anyone might limit the food-stamp budget or the government’s role in health care for reasons other than indifference—say, a belief in markets or in fiscal self-restraint—goes unmentioned.”

First, religion. Portman’s critics are not “baffled by religion.” Many liberals and progressives attend churches, synagogues, and mosques. Many religious institutions welcome gays and support gay rights.

Citing religion to support a political perspective is dicey. Religion has been used to justify hatred and abominations throughout history. The Crusaders thought they were doing holy work in retaking Jerusalem and butchering the infidel. Millions died during the Thirty Years War which pitted Protestants against Catholics, each convinced they furthered God’s plan. The terrorists of 9/11 went to their deaths convinced they were martyrs engaged in a Holy War.

The Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, defends its picketing of military funerals by claiming “God hates fags.” They have a First Amendment right to picket and brandish odious signs, but the rest of us don’t have to give the hate-mongering church a pass on religious grounds. Nor do we have to give a pass to those who justify on religious grounds more genteel forms of discriminating against gays.

None of this is to compare opposition to same-sex marriage to the Crusades or to terrorism or to Westboro, only to point out that religion can be, and has been, a convenient justification.

Pointing to the Bible is even dicier; proponents and opponents of almost anything can cite chapter and verse. Defenders of American slavery in the Nineteenth Century knew their Bible; after the Civil War segregationists had no trouble finding biblical sanction.

The Bible prohibits the wearing of garments of two cloths (Leviticus 19:19), yet not many honor that prohibition today. Exodus 21:7 permits a man to sell his daughter as a slave; fortunately, civil law forbids that practice.

On gay relationships, the Bible does not speak with one voice. Senator Portman indirectly acknowledges biblical confusion when he writes, “Ultimately, it came down to the Bible’s overarching themes of love and compassion and my belief that we are all children of God.”

As for Saletan’s point about opposing Obamacare because of a belief in markets, empathy is precisely the point. If Portman could change his religious opinions when confronted with a gay son, might he change his ideological views, his support of markets, if he were confronted with the problem of a child with a preexisting condition denied medical coverage? Surely, Portman’s defenders don’t want to argue that ideology is more persuasive or deeper rooted than religious beliefs.

Senator Portman faced a difficult decision. He may yet pay a political price for his support of same-sex marriage, though the rapidity with which public opinion on gay rights is changing may make that unlikely. Ultimately, the senator did what any loving parent must do, love his child and support him or her. Many fail even that test; Senator Portman did not.

Yet a question remains: Why did Rob Portman not have empathy and compassion for the millions of other gay children and their parents?

Before, that is, he spoke with his son.

Posted March 22, 2013