Real Time Reading List

By Allison MacDonald

This week was all Santorum, but without the cleanup. That’s right: Rick and his sweater vest sewed up the primary contests in Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri, putting Mitt Romney’s magic underwear in a twist. President Obama had to go with “Plan B” on his contraception proposal and switched teams on the SuperPAC front just as Prop. 8 was declared unconstitutional in California. Plus, right-wingers criticized Clint Eastwood over a Super Bowl ad, marking the first time in history they weren’t in favor of a cranky old white man. Here are some of the week’s best reads:

Why are we still arguing about contraception in 2012?

All this controversy is over the fact that Obama’s healthcare bill requires Catholic hospitals and institutions that provide healthcare to cover contraceptives. Because why give women birth control when you can deny it to them instead? The sad thing is that really is the Bishop’s take on all this.

Salon’s Irin Carmon argues that instead of hearing politicized rhetoric from the church, we should be talking about how this policy would affect real women, like the woman at Georgetown with polycystic ovarian syndrome who lost an ovary after falling prey to the “pro-life” insurance compromises at her institution.

Key Quote: “It’s also been striking how much the conversation on the right and in many mainstream media forums has been dominated by men arguing about how much of a right they have to deny access to contraception, the responsibility for which, in practice, still overwhelmingly falls on women.”

Also worth noting: despite his recent criticism of the contraceptive coverage, when Romney was Governor of Massachusetts, he embraced virtually the same policy.

The U.S. should move away from employer-based healthcare to avoid these conscience conflicts

Instead of duking out the culture war in the public square, we should reform our healthcare system. The best solution, writes Rammesh Ponnuru, is stop encouraging people to get health coverage through their employers in the first place.

Key Quote: “If people bought their own health insurance with their own money -- rather than relying on their employer or other taxpayers -- they could pick the policies that best fit their expected needs and moral convictions. But instead of moving in this direction, the new health-care law seems likely to make social conflicts more intractable.” 

Is Rick for Real?

However off-putting and retrogressive Rick Santorum may be, he may be here to stay, argues The New Yorker’s John Cassidy. Cassidy thinks Santorum could be a real threat to Romney because of his appeal for rural and Evangelical voters with his religiosity and to others with his “hardscrabble roots and message of economic populism.” Watch out Romney, “Santorum is no longer a fringe candidate.”

Also notable: In his victory speech on Tuesday, Santorum told the crowd: Obama “thinks he’s smarter than you.” Here’s the thing: saying Obama thinks he’s smarter than the average person at a Rick Santorum rally is like saying Michael Phelps can swim faster than someone with one arm. Of course he’s smarter than you. He was the president of the Harvard Law Review! Besides, don’t we want our presidents to be smarter than a crowd at a Santorum rally?