It seems hard to believe that in 2012, access to contraception would be the issue driving a U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts, but here we are.
Late last week, incumbent Sen. Scott Brown (R) and his main challenger, Elizabeth Warren (D), had competing op-eds on the policy dispute in the Boston Globe. Brown, who has struggled badly to understand the basics of the controversy, continues to be deeply confused.
Most notably, Brown believes he has a trump card to play: his approach is the same as Ted Kennedy's. The Republican senator's op-ed said he simply wants an exemption based on "moral and religious convictions." Brown wrote, "My predecessor, the late Senator Ted Kennedy, believed just as I do." A new Brown campaign radio ad is pushing the same line.
The problem, of course, is that the talking point is simply not true.
Patrick J. Kennedy lashed out at Senator Scott P. Brown of Massachusetts on Sunday, asking him to stop invoking the name of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Mr. Kennedy's father, in a radio advertisement about insurance coverage for contraceptives. [...]
In a letter that the Brown campaign released on Sunday, Patrick Kennedy, a Democrat like his father, wrote: "Providing health care to every American was the work of my father's life. The Blunt Amendment you are supporting is an attack on that cause."
Mr. Kennedy, a former congressman from Rhode Island, wrote that while his father "believed that health care providers should be allowed a conscience exemption from performing any service that conflicted with their faith," he would have never supported "the broad language of the Blunt Amendment that will allow any employer, or even an insurance company, to use vague moral objections as an excuse to refuse to provide health care coverage."
The younger Kennedy added, "I ask that, moving forward, you do not confuse my father's positions with your own."
Even Brown should be able to keep up on the basic details. The far-right proposal he's endorsed allows all private-sector employers to deny any health services that businesses might find morally objectionable, including access to contraception. That bears no resemblance to a narrowly-tailored conscience exemption.
It's exactly why Brown is taking a beating from reporters who know better. The Boston Globe's Yvonne Abraham recently asked, "What is Senator Scott Brown thinking? ... Can it really help Brown to suddenly go all Santorum on us?" The Boston Herald's Margery Eagan added that the senator "has sided with nuts."
That's a lot different than siding with Ted Kennedy. Brown can keep claiming the legendary senator would back him up on his far-right position, but the Republican is either ignorant or deliberately trying to deceive.