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It’s good to be able to appreciate my Democratic Senator, Claire McCaskill, after feeling compelled to scold her in the past; it’s too bad, though, that her good qualities are being thrown into relief so sharply by comparison to the lame behavior of her GOP counterpart, Roy Blunt.

In my last post about McCasikill, I observed that, given her excellent response to the Komen brouhaha and her vote against an FAA authorization bill that contained anti-union provisions, she might be starting to act like a Democrat again after a long period spent wandering around on the right side of Centerville. No sooner said, than she comes through one more time. Here (from the Kansas City Star via the National Journal) is McCaskill’s response to the Obama administration’s new rule that widens access to contraception:

This is an emotional, difficult subject. It’s always one that’s difficult. But if you really believe that reducing abortions are important in this country, which I do, then it doesn’t work to keep putting up barriers to women getting birth control.”

“As someone who believes very much that we should be preventing abortions, I think we should try very hard to give women universal access to birth control without going into their pockets,” she also told reporters this week.

To be sure, the National Journal acknowledges the political expediency which is usually a given with most politicians:

Politically, McCaskill’s positioning makes sense. If she were to take a stand against the president on the issue, she would risk alienating her Democratic base, whom she needs to turn out in strong numbers come the fall.

And it’s absolutely true – Claire has done much to alienate her base and she can’t afford to waffle on progressive fundamentals now. But she’s also a Catholic and it takes guts to signal one’s intellectual independence when the hierarchy is not only up in arms, but is determined to go nuclear. It also, as the writer hints, takes guts to get the President’s back when he comes under sustained fire:

It’s also consistent with McCaskill’s overall strategy, which has been to not run away from the president at every single opportunity.

In Missouri, where Tea Partyesque vilification of Obama began almost as soon as he was elected (although his ratings are now improving), this is not trivial. In fact, the generally fearful strategy that characterizes so many centrist Democrats, would likely have dictated the opposite response.

And in case you think that I’m giving McCaskill too much credit, here’s what her GOP opposite number, Roy Blunt, had to say about requiring that legal contraception be included in women’s preventive healthcare:

The Obama administration’s recent decision is offensive to Americans’ religious rights and freedoms.

In an act of major self-indulgence prompted by my fury at this type of dishonest misdirection, I wrote a massive post yesterday outlining why I think it’s wrong to talk about “religious rights and freedoms” in this context, so I’ll say no more here. But I will note that Blunt’s remarks are no more than the insult that is often added to injury:

Blunt and others said they will try to overturn the regulation. Last year, Blunt introduced a measure that would allow any health insurance plan “to decline coverage of specific items and services that are contrary to the religious beliefs of the sponsor, issuer, or other entity offering the plan, or the purchaser or beneficiary, without penalty.”

Blunt’s bill remains in committee, as does a companion bill in the House. U.S. Reps. Sam Graves and Vicky Hartzler of Missouri, and U.S. Rep Lynn Jenkins of Kansas – all Republicans – are co-sponsors of the bill.

So, when you’re thinking about how pure you want to be come election time, just remember there are folks out there, like Blunt, who want to restrict access to birth control, and there are others, like McCaskill, who have shown that they will stand up to them in order to make sure that we all have easy access to the full-range of preventive medicine.