Interpreting Bart Stupak

Deal W. Hudson
Published December 28, 2009

In 1917, Wallace Stevens published “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” a poem now firmly ensconced in every anthology of American poetry. Generations of students have read it as a lesson in perspectivism – how the imagination can see the same thing under a variety of guises.

Bart Stupak (D-MI) is not the subject of anyone’s poem, but already a discernible pattern of Stupak caricatures are forming in the wake of his explicit rejection of the abortion funding “compromise” in the Senate bill and his rather barbed commentson the White House’s pressuring him to drop his objections. Over the next two weeks, these interpretations of Stupak will clash in the media coverage of the health-care bill’s final throes.

Perhaps the most dominant caricature of Stupak will be “Anti-Choice Fanatic.” For example, the Huffington Post’s recent headline, “Stupak Coordinating Anti-Choice Activism with GOP Senate Leadership,” included a link to Politico’s story on alleged e-mails between Stupak’s office and Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). A Google search of Stupak and “anti-choice” yields 190,000 hits.

A rather unfair interpretation of Stupak is as “The Bishops’ Puppet,” but that’s what Cliff Kincaid argues in an otherwise pertinent take on the bishops’ role in the health-care reform. Kincaid views the Stupak Amendment as “a ploy designed to keep the legislation alive,” devised by five lobbyists from the USCCB. If it makes Stupak feel any better, Kincaid casts Cong. John Boehner (R-OH) in the same role – “Boehner got his marching orders as well” from Francis Cardinal George who told him “that the Republicans shouldn’t scuttle the Stupak amendment.”

Probably the most utilized charge against Stupak is that he’s “against women’s health.” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, began banging that drum, arguing (falsely, by the way) that the “Stupak/Pitts amendment would result in a new restriction on women’s access to abortion coverage in private health insurance.” In spite of this claim being proved false by independent investigators, it continues to be repeated in editorials nationwide. For Planned Parenthood, however, facts are less important than promoting its pro-abortion ideology.

Of course, not all the interpretations of Stupak are negative. Among social conservatives, Stupak is a “Pro-Life Warrior,” as named by blogger Stephen Dillard. More than a few preachers have invoked the David vs. Goliath story to describe Stupak’s defiance of the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats. Dillard asks aloud what many are asking in private: “Will Stupak cave like Nelson?”

“Well, call me a cock-eyed optimist, but I truly believe Stupak will stand his ground,” Dillard says. “Like the late (and great) Robert P. Casey, Sr., I am convinced that Stupak is the genuine article. For me, Stupak is the Catholic Politician Who ‘Gets It.'”

The evidence for this is not only his courage in sponsoring the amendment and refusal to accept Nelson’s compromise, but his remarks from an article in the New York Times published on Christmas Day. Stupak was evidently asked about the Catholic Health Association’s surprising endorsement of the Senate health-care bill containing abortion funding. “They don’t hold the same sway,” Stupak said of the CHA.

Stupak “gets it” because he’s not going to hide behind the skirts of Catholic groups who compromise the Church’s teaching on life issues, and who do so without any authority. By dismissing the influence of the CHA, Stupak not only rejects the cover of a lobbying organization with vested interests, but he also defers to the authority of the bishops and their insistence that the health-care bill be stripped of abortion funding.

In the coming weeks, Bart Stupak will be portrayed as everything from a saint to a demon… or just another political hack waiting to make his deal. Who Bart Stupak turns out to be will be the most important factor in this round of the health-care debate.

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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