The Washington Post's may be the best among mainstream U.S. daily newspaper op-ed pages in the U.S. today. Unlike the Examiner, proud of the conservative voices in its opinion pages, the Washington Post prides itself on offering space to diverse points of view, often at odds with its own editorial stance. But by choosing Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) to opine on the Obama administration and mandated contraception in religious ininstitutions, WaPo dropped the ball.
I guess I get why WaPo op-ed mandarins thought Rep. Rosa DeLauro would be a "get." She's a self-avowed "committed Catholic," a female legislator who represents a working class district that's full of Italian-American mass-attending Catholic who has no qualms with the Obama administration's health care birth control mandate. See: she (supposedly) shatters those stereotypes about church-going working class Catholics alienated by Obama over this issue, and she's a woman!
But read along and you'll get nothing novel, no new twist on the debate, no nuanced point of view from those who are loyally Democratic but devoutly Catholic in her constituency. Instead, it's the same old pro-mandate talking points we've heard hammered home from sympathetic media mouths throughout this brouhaha.
Why does the choice of granting DeLauro oped ink stand out as particularly pedestrian on this topic? Because the House Member who represents a neighboring district, also full of working class culturally conservative Catholic voters, Rep. John Larson, has emerged as a key Democrat with qualms about this administration's move. Like DeLauro, Larson is a member of the House Democrats' leadership, but Larson has heard from the religious employers in his district dismayed by the mandate and, in a letter to HHS, has shared their concerns. More telling, Politico reports that the "letter sparked a 'heated exchange' in a House Democratic leadership meeting on Monday between Larson and" DeLauro, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reaffirming her agreement with DeLauro's stance.
Here's another point contributing to why Larson's point of view is more unique - and therefore expanding the debate: unlike other Catholic Democratic critics of the mandate - Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Rep. Dan Lipinski of Illinois - Larson is not pro-life. NARAL rates Larson as firmly "pro-choice." Last week, Larson's office issued a release "Prais(ing) Connecticut Komen Chapter for Standing up for Women's Health."
In this age of curtailed coverage and shrunken page space, WaPo's op-ed page still beats the New York Times', hands down, for a stimulating read and contributing to policy debate, but instead of Rose DeLauro's Pelosi-style talking points, offering some room for John Larson - a pro-choice, rarely dissenting member of the House Democratic leadership - to explain his distinct position on the issue would matter more.