Saturday, February 4, 2012

The troubling return of Ari Fleischer

IT WAS A STROKE of fortune that the Komen Foundation's land mine exploded into a national issue. We can now be dramatically reminded how recklessly invasive politics can stain a highly respected foundation long known for its dedication to fighting breast cancer. It was a hit job on Planned Parenthood that left Komen founder Nancy Brinker falsely improvising damage control by declaring that politics was not involved. All of the evidence, we now know, pointed in the opposite direction.

As I wrote earlier, the political right has been targeting Planned Parenthood for extinction for years, literally changing its name to "the nation's largest abortion provider" - an epithet of bumper sticker potential. The assault reached the boiling point with a right-wing congressman launching a lame investigation, and the recent hiring of a Komen senior vice president - a woman who failed as a Georgia Republican gubernatorial candidate. Her resume doubtless included her long declared animosity toward Planned Parenthood.

Now, the plot thickens as muck with a report by Think Progress that her influential new post with Komen was expedited by Ari Fleischer, former president George Bush's press secretary. (Alas, we can never fully escape the dead-enders from the Bush years.)

Fleischer, a personal foe of PP, interviewed the candidates for Komen "senior vice president for Communications and External Relations", and "drilled" them on what they would do about Planned Parenthood. It was hardly a surprise that Ari's work led to Karen Handel, the conservative Georgia pol.

So if mighty clashes must determine winners and losers, Planned Parenthood received $3 million in fresh contributions within a week from donors offended by Komen's decision to cut it off. Komen lost some of its loyal donors , and Brinker, who had worked so honorably for 30 years in behalf of her foundation's breast cancer grants , was suddenly caught in a miserable situation.

Komen's decision to reverse itself predictably outraged some conservatives, including National Review, which blamed the "retreat" on left-wing "gangsterism". What loose talk!

C'mon. Komen was living in relative peace before now. It's a shame the right-wing pols moved in to claim it as a battering ram. It's not a shame that Planned Parenthood handily won the round. The melee offers PP's opponents a bitter lesson for not considering the rule of unintended consequences. You'd think that at least Ari Fleischer would know that by now.

1 comment:

David Hess said...

Unfortunately, I don't think we' ve heard the last of this matter. Komen's guarded retreat was qualified by noting that it still intended to provide financial support "directly" to organizations that provide on-premises mammograms. Since only a limited number of Planned Parenthood clinics have such services, they refer clients to labs that do. This, by the way, is the same practice of many primary-care doctors as well, who conduct breast exams and refer patients with suspicious symptoms to facilities with mammography equipment. The real issue here is not whether PP clinics do mammograms but whether lower-income women who visit the clinics will get the same low- or no-cost diagnostic opportunity as their well-off or insured sisters.