Rush Limbaugh, Cigar afficionado
On today's broadcast, Rush Limbaugh discussed the contention by Republican pundit Dick Morris, announced on Sean Hannity's show the night before, that a question posed by George Stephanopoulos to Mitt Romney in a January 7 debate at Saint Anselm's College in New Hampshire, had been a "set up" to position Mitt Romney on the extreme right side of the current debate on access to contraception. Here was Morris last night:
Here is the key point made by Morris in arguing that there was coordination between the Obama campaign and its "hit-man" Stephanopoulos:
They want to create the idea, and it’s no coincidence, that he came out with it after Minnesota and Colorado which was Santorum’s victories. They want to create the impression that the Republicans will ban contraception, which is totally insane, but they’re floating it out and they’re bringing it out there. And this move on Obama’s part was part of injecting that issue.Here is the supposed "set up" question to Romney at the Saint Anselm's debate:
Rush said today that when Stephanopoulos pressed the question about the right of states to ban contraception, he came totally "out of the blue" with it. Rush claims it seemed bizarre being injected into the debate. He talked about the fact that he and his staff were laughing the morning after the Saint Anselm debate over how stupid and meaningless the issue seemed at the time. Thus in retrospect to Rush, the inanity of the question to Romney makes it considerably more likely that it was a coordinated action to set up the contraception mandate issue for later in the presidential campaign.
Apparently Rush is suffering from significant memory loss. Again, the Saint Anselm debate took place on January 7, a little over five weeks ago. Here is the political context in which the question was asked of Romney by Stephanopoulos:
1. On November 8, 2011, the citizens of Mississippi had voted on a constitutional amendment to define "personhood" as beginning at conception, which would have run afoul of Roe v. Wade, and would have arguably banned intrauterine devices and the morning after pill. Mississippi, one of the reddest states in the country rejected the ballot measure by 55% to 45%.
2. Similar "personhood" ballot initiatives had already been rejected by voters in Colorado in 2008 and 2010.
3. Similar ballot initiatives were in process in other states, including Nevada, where a federal judge held the language of the ballot initiative so misleading that he ordered that additional language on the effect of the initiative be inserted in petitions by personhood supporters before circulation.
3. Santorum, Bachmann, Perry and Gingrich had already come out in favor of establishing by constitutional amendment that "personhood" occurred at the moment of conception. As noted in The Caucus blog post in the New York Times on December 22:
This month, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum have all signed a pledge to support “personhood” at conception that was crafted by Personhood USA, a Colorado group that has continued to push the idea in several states.Mrs. Bachmann, Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Santorum have also agreed to celebrate the personhood concept in a “Presidential Pro-Life Forum” in Iowa next Tuesday, Dec. 27, that will be moderated by the conservative radio host Steve Deace and broadcast live on his syndicated program. The 90-minute “tele-town hall” is being hosted by Personhood USA and co-sponsored by several of the country’s most conservative evangelical Christian groups including The Call, Liberty Counsel and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Coalition. “4. In early October, Romney appeared on Mike Huckabee's television on Fox and here is part of what transpired:
HUCKABEE: Would you have supported a constitutional amendment that would have established the definition of life at conception?
ROMNEY: Absolutely.If you want to see the context of the question and answer, here is the entire interview. The context can be seen starting at 4:06 and running through 6:20.
So the idea that George Stephanopoulos was trying, in early January, to set up Romney in advance of an announcement of the contraception care mandate by the DHSS is silly. The GOP candidates had already fully engaged women voters on contraception.