If there was one organization in America that I thought was immune to partisan attacks it was the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. An organization dedicated to fighting breast cancer and spreading pink ribbons all over the planet could hardly be considered controversial. Even a manly man such as I am couldn’t resist the lure of the pink ribbon.
But when the Komen Foundation decided to cut funding to Planned Parenthood for the very non-controversial reason that its bylaws don’t allow funding to organizations under investigation, all hell broke loose.
Planned Parenthood launched a counterassault, cashing in all of its media chits to make sure Komen was the issue, not Planned Parenthood.
When Dorothy Twinney first saw a Race for the Cure walk for breast cancer — “a sea of pink” traveling through her hometown of Plymouth, Mich. — she was so moved she sat in her car and wept.
This week, after watching The Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast cancer charity announce plans to cut funding to Planned Parenthood, then abandon those plans amid a public furor, Twinney decided she was done with the organization for which she raised thousands of dollars on three-day, 60-mile walks that left her feet bloodied and blistered, but her spirits high.
“It just feels like it’s all tarnished now,” the 41-year-old mother of two said. “Honestly, I’m not sure what they can do to change that.”
Or as Claire Shipman reported on ABC, “That ubiquitous pink ribbon … is sporting a black eye today.” Really? They are the ones with the black eye?
That’s not very flattering coverage for an organization that has basically received nothing but flattering coverage throughout its existence. In fact, it’s probably fair to say that “damage control” was well outside the experience of Komen’s PR and media departments. Within days, Komen crumbled.
“We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women’s lives. The events of this week have been deeply unsettling for our supporters, partners and friends and all of us at Susan G. Komen. We have been distressed at the presumption that the changes made to our funding criteria were done for political reasons or to specifically penalize Planned Parenthood. They were not…”
“Our only goal for our granting process is to support women and families in the fight against breast cancer. Amending our criteria will ensure that politics has no place in our grant process. We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities.”
The real issue isn’t how quickly an organization could be reduced from saint to sinner in a political attack juggernaut (although one may admire the ballsiness of an organization demanding that another organization continue funding them, or else), but how a single organization, Planned Parenthood is so powerful that it could orchestrate such a thing.
Particularly when one considers that as far as righteous causes go, rallying the troops because another organization didn’t want to fund you while you were under an investigation usually wouldn’t rank very high as a useful public relations campaign. But it did work for Planned Parenthood. And the reason that it did is that because out of the entirety of various liberal and Democratic Party constituencies, Planned Parenthood is the single most important liberal organization.
Yes, even more important than the unions, which provide much more money and manpower to the Democratic Party and liberal causes.
Surprisingly, money isn’t everything.
This was on display last August during the debt ceiling negotiations. As the Politico reported at the time:
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) had spent more than an hour meeting with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, inching toward a deal to avert a shutdown, but he kept insisting that it include a prohibition against federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
That was a nonstarter for Obama. As the meeting was breaking up, Vice President Joe Biden told the speaker, in no uncertain terms, that his demand was unacceptable. If that became the deal breaker, Biden said, he would “take it to the American people,” who would presumably punish the GOP for shutting down the government over an ideological issue.
“They were faced with a choice–they would either have to give in or shut down the government,” said a senior administration official, describing how the negotiations went from there.
So that’s how important Planned Parenthood is to the left. They were willing to shut down the government on the single issue of funding to Planned Parenthood. Although the amount of federal funding is eye popping to me, in federal government terms, $100 million in 2011, considering the overall size of the federal budget and debt it’s only a small line item. Yet it was a line item that a Democratic administration and Senate were willing to shut down the government to protect. It’s an important lesson for future budget negotiations, or any negotiations with the Democrats. The single most important issue to liberals, the one issue that unites them all and won’t be compromised, even if it means shutting down the government, is abortion.
An even better example than that was that the President and Congressional Democrats risked their entire Obamacare bill to ensure that abortions would be funded under the bill, even though the needed balance of votes needed in the House was in the hands of pro-life Democrats, lead by Bart Stupak. So important was it to retain that provision that the Administration risked the entire bill rather than compromise on abortions.
Planned Parenthood is the manifestation of that issue. If there is an equivalent issue on the right, I can’t think what it is. It’s not abortion though. Although most of the Republican Party like the country, opposes abortion, it’s not a deal breaker, and the Republican Party is much more tolerant of supporters of abortion rights in their ranks than the Democrats are of abortion opponents. The leading Republican candidate in the race, Mitt Romney, has quite a liberal record on abortion as governor. I can’t imagine the equivalent in a Democratic race.
Well we know where the line in the sand is for Democrats. That could be useful information for future negotiations or, given the negotiating skills of the current Republican leadership, totally useless information.