Punked

Admit it, it was a brilliant move.
...Obama finally announced what the White House is proposing an accommodation of religiously affiliated employers who don't want to offer birth control coverage as part of their insurance plans. In those situations, the insurance companies will have to reach out directly to employees and offer contraception coverage for free, without going through the employer. Insurance companies are down with the plan, because ... contraception actually saves insurance companies money, since it's cheaper than abortion and far cheaper than childbirth. Because the insurance companies have to reach out to employees directly, there's very little danger of women not getting coverage because they are unaware they're eligible.
HHS Secretary Sibelius and Obama
Obama coaxes the Catholic bishops and conservative Republicans to call for unpopular limits on contraception (used nearly universally by American women) and then finds a way to give the bishops what they want (avoid the taint of giving birth control to their employees) and give women what they want (a cheap, effective and insured way to manage conception). For the price of losing votes from ultra-Cs who wouldn't vote for him anyway, he gets props from millions who would

As I mentioned in my previous post,  regardless of the merits of contraception, the bishops were in a no-win situation. They could not agreed to pay for the Pill, and they couldn't challenge Church teaching either. Turns out that their third option -- threatening to make a political issue out of Obama's health care plan -- blew up in their faces. While they can keep their own hands clean from providing birth control, they lost control of the  ability to prevent their employees from getting free BC from their insurers.

For the bishops, it's a mixed bag. On one hand, they get to keep their place on the track to an archbishopric or a cardinal's hat. But on the other hand (and, oh, how this must sting!) they have lost the ability to directly control the lives of their female employees.

I'm not sure whether the balm is enough to soothe the bruise.

For those bishops who loathe Obama, this must be a bitter pill (yuk!) to swallow and may lead to further efforts to derail his health care plan and his presidency. But the way ahead is perilous. If they take credit for Obama's move, they risk being seen as people who abet evil, as long as they don't have to be involved personally. If they campaign too obviously for the Republicans and against the health care bill, they risk appearing mean-spirited and partisan.

Given Obama's obvious brilliance at out-maneuvering his opponents, the bishops might want to think twice about taking him on again.