The key point in this poll, though, is that the survey was taken mostly before the White House announced its “accommodation.” The polling took place from February 6-12, and the supposed recalculation of the rule was announced early on Friday, February 10. Rasmussen’s report doesn’t give any indication if Obama’s approval rating rose in the three days of polling after the announcement.
As The Anchoress writes today at First Things, not only has Obama alienated moderate Catholics, he’s cut the ground out from underneath the Catholic Left that influenced them:
If, upon gauging the dismay of his allies within the church, Obama had truly meant to assuage the consciences of his Catholic allies, he could have done so easily and clearly; instead his words suggested to some that even the narrow conscience clause offered in his first decision was at risk, and his solution looks like a shell game, analogous, as blogger Marc Barnes put it, to trying to force Orthodox Jewish restaurants to sell bacon, but then “accommodating” them by forcing them to “pay a Gentile with a bacon cart to serve pork” for them.
For that matter, if Obama had been genuinely interested in pleasing believers in general and Catholics in particular, he would have conferred with the bishops, and gotten their thoughts on the nuances between direct and indirect co-operation with evil, rather than going around them.
But Obama’s move on Friday wasn’t about nuance; it was about destroying the surprising unity of the “Catholic Right” and the “Catholic Left” on this issue; it was about dividing and conquering. In a deeply cynical move, Obama used Sister Carol Keehan to foment that division; he needed her credibility to reassure the Catholic Left that it could prefer unity with his administration over unity with the church.
His punch was off. Possibly he hadn’t anticipated a block to guard the possession of rights, which are not his to dole out as he sees fit. He seems not to realize, even now–as his administration muddies up the story with talk of costs and savings–that his Catholic allies’ rejection of his HHS Mandate wasn’t about contraception or sterilization, nor could their approval be regained with a skillful uppercut to the men in the miters. What the HHS Mandate has revealed is that the preservation of the freedom of religion–of the churches rights to be who and what they are and to exercise their missions–is worth going to the mat for, no matter which corner you’re coming from.