CNN Asks Obama Chief of Staff 'You're an Observant Jew,' So No Qualms the President's Violated Religious Liberty?

On CNN's Sunday show State of the Union, anchor Candy Crowley again brought tough questions to a Democrat about President Obama's plan to impose on a burden on Catholic-affiliated schools, hospitals, and charities to subsidize contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients. New chief of staff Jacob Lew was asked if as an observant Jew, "was there anything about this that made you think twice when it first went out?" Lew athletically dodged that question.

Crowley also asied if he could say "with a straight face that the insurance company's going to pick up the cost of this"? Lew dodged that as well.  She didn't quite get to the point of civil libertarians that if a Catholic entity enters into a contract with an insurer, and the premium it pays includes funding for contraceptives, it doesn't matter if the violation of conscience is imposed by Washington through a back door.

While the Orthodox Union congratulated Lew's promotion, Lew wasn't directly asked about the Orthodox Union's opposition to the original Obama policy. Lew insisted throughout that the question was "Do women have the right to contraception?" Having the right to contraceptives is not the same as the right to have your employer buy it for you, but that's the way liberals argue. Here's how the exchange went:

LEW: And on Friday what the president announced was, we think, a very good resolution of the problem. It's gotten support of a wide range of organizations, from Catholic Charities and the Catholic Health Association, to Planned Parenthood. It respects both of these core principles and we think it's a good solution.

CROWLEY: Well, let me -- it did not win the support of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which put out a statement Friday and said, "Today's proposal," -- being the compromise proposal -- "continues to involve needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions and to threaten government coercion of religious people and groups to violate their most deeply held convictions."

You are an observant Jew, I know, was there anything about this that made you think twice when it first went out?

LEW: So you know, I have to say that the solution that we came up with puts no religious institution in the position where it either has to pay for or facilitate the provision of the benefits they find objectionable. If the issue is should women have access to all form of preventive care, including contraception, we believe the answer to that is yes.

CROWLEY: Can you say, though, with a straight face that the insurance company's going to pick up the cost of this?

LEW: You know, I have to tell you, as somebody who has done budgets for a lot of years, usually when people say to me that something doesn't cost money, I ask them how could that be. This is the exception to the rule. If you price two insurance plans, one of them with contraception, the other without, the plan without contraception costs more than the one with it.  So this will not cost the insurance companies money, it will not put religious institutions in a place where they --

CROWLEY: Why, why -- why is that?

LEW: Because the total cost of care for a person is higher without than it is with contraception, so --

CROWLEY: Then why isn't -- why don't health insurance companies everywhere just offer free contraceptive services?

LEW: I actually think there won't be as much resistance to this from insurance companies as people might think because of what I just said. If you look to examples in other states where it's worked, it's worked pretty much the way I've described.

There is an issue here. The issue is do women have a right to contraception? We think the answer is yes. Should religious institutions have their sensibilities protected? The answer's yes. You know, I'm a person of faith. I care deeply that we're a country that respects faith and that respects people's right to have different views. This is a challenge to reconcile two important principles and the president found a way to reconcile those. There are others who don't have the same objective, and they have to speak for themselves.

Crowley pressed Lew into saying this is Obama's final answer, as Regis Philbin might ask:

CROWLEY: As far as the White House is concerned, is this done?

LEW: We think we've put out a pretty solid plan.

CROWLEY: So no more compromising?

LEW: We've put out the plan that reflects where the president intended to go.

CROWLEY: OK. So that means there is room for compromising or is not?

LEW: No. This is our plan.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis