CNN’s Jack Cafferty, in his regular "Cafferty File" segment on Thursday’s "The Situation Room," disdainfully criticized the appointment of a birth control skeptic to head a "family planning" agency at the Department of Health and Human Services by President Bush. "The question this hour is -- how much does it matter if the Bush Administration's appointee to head family planning programs has -- (LAUGHS) has been critical of birth control? This stuff is right out of ‘The Twilight Zone.'"
Cafferty’s comments came in response to the appointment of Susan Orr to the post in HHS, and aired just before the quarter-past-the-hour mark, and at the end of the 4 pm hour of "The Situation Room." Normally, "The Cafferty File" airs 5 minutes earlier at about 10 minutes past the hour, but coverage of the bombing in Karachi, Pakistan near the motorcade of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto pushed it back.
Cafferty began his "Question of the Hour" commentary bouncing off the breaking news about the bombing. He was so "taken aback" by this appointment that he read the introductory remark twice. Cafferty then "frowned upon" (easy for him) the fact that Orr’s position is "acting" director of the agency.
JACK CAFFERTY: This is not perhaps that earth-shattering, but it's worth noting. A critic of birth control is President Bush's latest choice to head up family planning programs at the Department of Health and Human Services. Let me just read that again. A critic of birth control is President Bush's latest choice to head up family planning programs at the Department of Health and Human Services. Susan Orr will oversee $283 million in annual grants to provide low-income families and others with things like contraceptive services, counseling, and preventive screenings.
In 2001, when President Bush proposed dropping a requirement that all health insurance plans for government employees cover a wide range of birth control, here's what Orr had to say. This is quoting now from 2001 -- 'We're quite please because fertility is not a disease. It's not a medical necessity that you have it.' Orr was an official with the Family Research Council at the time. Critics say it's just another appointment that truly politicizes family planning. Many were also opposed to the President's last appointee. This was a doctor who worked at a Christian pregnancy counseling group that was opposed to contraception. The Department of Health and Human Services says Orr's experience 'makes her highly qualified to serve as acting director.' Pay close attention to the word 'acting.' Just this week, there was a report on the growing number of agencies which the president has left to be run mostly by acting or interim appointees. In other words, these are officials who don't have to be confirmed by the Senate. So, here's the question -- how much does it matter if the Bush administration's appointee to head family plans programs has been critical of birth control? You can't make this stuff up.
Cafferty's mentioning of critics who say "it's just another appointment that truly politicizes family planning" is nonsensical, since "family planning" and all that encompasses the labeling - contraception, abortion, foreign aid, etc - are all inherently-politicized issues.
Meanwhile, it’s likely that Cafferty's citation of "a report on the growing number of agencies which the president has left to be run mostly by acting or interim appointees" was referring to an article in the New York Times on October 15 entitled "White House Is Leaning on Interim Appointments."
At the end of the hour, Cafferty read some of the viewers’ answers to his "Question of the Hour," and most sounded like the could have been taken off the left-wing blogosphere. Cafferty also included his own mocking commentary in the concluding segment.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour is -- how much does it matter if the Bush administration's appointee to head family planning programs has -- (LAUGHS) has been critical of birth control? This stuff is right out of 'The Twilight Zone.'
Sharon writes from New Jersey, 'Putting an anti-birth control person in charge of family planning is perfect Bush logic: no birth control equals more babies. More babies means more children to deny health benefits to, therefore, leaving more money to pay Halliburton and Blackwater. It all makes perfect sense.'
Donald writes, 'Explain to me how one be against contraception, pro-life, preach abstinence (better put all the 17-year-old boys on one coast, all the 17-year-old girls on the other), veto SCHIP, and watch oil go to over $80 a barrel without doing a thing. Bush may be engaged, but it's not in any part of America that I recognize.'
Bob in Tyrone, Georgia: 'Unfortunately, it does matter a lot now. It is getting difficult to tell the difference between a Muslim-controlled government and our own. Yet another religious zealot trying to tell everyone else that her personal beliefs should control the behavior of all citizens.'
John in Kentucky: 'Jack, it couldn't have come at a better time. This president has failed us in his conservative base on many, many issues. But the one thing he has consistently stood up for is the right to life and the opposition to birth control. This choice shows us he has at least still steadfast on something that conservatives believe in.'
Vikki writes: 'Jack, who needs condoms and the pill anyway? Good Christian Republicans already have birth control. They use call girls, male prostitutes, and anonymous sex in men's bathrooms, which is only a sin when you get caught. Family planning, by virtue of its openness, is always a sin. Madame Orr, the appointee for this job, is just putting sex back into the deep, dank closet where every good American really wants it to be. Put on your flag pin and get with the program, Jack.'
And finally, T. writes: 'It's interesting when you think of the longevity of the Bush marriage. Laura only had one pregnancy producing two children. Could it be that some "family planning" was involved?'
The only "conservative" reply that Cafferty read could be looked at with suspicion, since in reality, the Bush administration hasn’t "consistently stood up for... the right to life and the opposition to birth control." It was only just over a year ago, during the summer of 2006, that the FDA under Bush approved "the morning-after pill" for over-the-counter dispensing, a move that many social conservatives criticized at the time.