Race For The Clusterfuck

« February 2012 »

Memo to the Susan G. Komen Foundation: HOW DID ALL THOSE PINK RIBBONS TASTE?

Some events in American politics can only be truly appreciated with a bit of distance to bring hindsight into sharp focus. And I'm not just saying this to justify being incredibly late in commenting on the whole Komen/Planned Parenthood pontifigurd. I'm not denying that it helps in that regard, but believe me, I followed along while the whole thing was happening, and it makes such a graceful, glorious arc in retrospect.

Basically, it's like they took some old footage of one of those missile tests that go horribly wrong, and the missile spirals out of control and into the sea. And they give the footage to George Lucas, who cleans it up, adds sparkles and rainbows and a soaring John Williams soundtrack, and doesn't actually change the plot at all. And then they released it. In 2-D, without some shitty post-conversion. It's that pretty.

The Susan G. Komen Foundation was the king of Breast Cancer Mountain. If you raced to raise money for breast cancer research, it was one of their races. If you bought something that wouldn't normally be pink, but it was in fact pink, and expected that some of the money would go to fight breast cancer, you were dealing with Komen. Komen here, Komen there, Komen all over America's breasts. But when you were dealing with Komen, who exactly were you dealing with?

For one thing, you were dealing with Karen Handel. Handel has been portrayed as the villain of this whole mess, partly on account of it being her fault, and partly because Komen wants you to believe the hydra only had the one head. Handel was the vice president of public affairs, and more importantly, a rabid, Jesus-freaking blastula-humper. Here's how she described what she did after she resigned:

"Two dozen Catholic bishops were saying not to support Komen. We needed to find some options for moving to neutral ground. I was tasked with doing that. An inordinate amount of staff time was spent trying to manage the controversy. We should be able to focus on our own mission and not be distracted by the controversy of another organization.”

Let's translate that into real English, shall we? Catholic bishops, who, as we've seen in the past couple of weeks, value women's health more highly than anything on earth and wouldn't dream of using their power to achieve conservative political goals, threatened to stop supporting a charity because that charity gave money to Planned Parenthood so that PP could do breast cancer education and screening. Since Planned Parenthood is THE ENEMY, the bishops decided that any friend or associate of THE ENEMY was also an enemy.

"Options for moving to neutral ground" sounds nice, but what Handel came up with was cutting off all grants to Planned Parenthood, under the flimsy premise that Komen would no longer issue grants to anyone "under investigation". And since PP is currently, and is in fact nigh-perpetually, under one politically-motivated bullshit investigation or another? Well, it's a shame, but Komen can't give them any money. There! The bishops are happy, Komen is happy, Penn State is happy because they were still getting Komen money despite their football program being under investigation for child molestation.

The only people not happy? Planned Parenthood and anyone who doesn't think of Planned Parenthood as The Great Satan. A group of people who, it turns out, make up a significant fraction of the support of the Susan G. Komen foundation. And Handel, of course, blames Planned Parenthood for telling all those people what happened.

"We wanted a smooth transition. What happened is nothing short of a disgrace. Cecile Richards put this issue in the press. There was a coordinated effort to get sites like moveon.org and change.org involved. There was an orchestrated, premeditated attempt to put this issue in the press. Talk about betrayal by Planned Parenthood—against an organization that took up for it for years.”

Well, except that you were deliberately ending your "taking up for it", weren't you? You wanted to make a political decision that nobody knew about so that the people who disagreed with your new politics wouldn't get mad. And Planned Parenthood "betrayed" you by ruining your plan. And honestly, how "premeditated" could it have been? They didn't make you take your money away, dumbass.

Now, Karen Handel is a horrible human being. That's established. But she did not act alone. CEO Nancy Brinker is plenty culpable. She put out a now infamous YouTube video attempting to explain the decision away that went over like a bag full of dead squirrels. She spun and hedged and lied and blatantly crisis-managed throughout this whole thing, destroying any lingering shreds of trust anyone might have in Komen. She hired, and listend to, ARI FUCKING FLEISCHER.

Yes, that Ari Fleischer. Former Bush press secretary. Never trust a press secretary, and never, ever, trust one whose job it was to make George W. Bush sound honest and reasonable. Handel may have been the architect, but Brinker signed off on the plans and thought they were an awesome idea.

But the best part about this whole thing? It's that the left took care of its own. You see, this whole thing played out entirely outside the United States Government. This means that Democratic politicians weren't put in the position of defending Planned Parenthood. It's a position they should all revel in, and take to lustily, in an attempt to counter the constant demonization of Planned Parenthood, and by association women's reproductive rights and general health, but when push comes to shove, Democrats are happy to be pushed and shoved and tut-tut about how everyone hates abortion and we should all just get along.

But the Democratic politicians weren't in play here, thank fuck. The public was. And the public decided to send a shitload of money to Planned Parenthood, and leave Komen's bank accounts barren and dusty. And Komen saw what being right-wing shitheads was doing to their public image, and essentially conceded. Oh, sure, technically, it's entirely possible that Komen will never give another dime to Planned Parenthood, but that doesn't matter. What matters is public perception. Who won, and who lost. Who was the hero, and who was the villain. And for once in a rare while, the "baby-killers" came out smelling like a pink rose, and the noble breast cancer charity choked on a pile of pink ribbons.

It's a small victory, but we take what we can get.