George Weigel has written a striking analysis of the mindset of the Obama administration, revealed by the ongoing controversy over the HHS mandate.
Now, with the HHS “contraceptive mandate” (which, as noted above, is also a sterilization and abortifacent “mandate”), the administration claims that it is not violating the First Amendment by requiring Catholic institutions to provide “services” that the Catholic Church believes are objectively evil. That bizarre claim may well be another constitutional bridge too far. But the very fact that the administration issued these regulations, and that the White House press secretary blithely dismissed any First Amendment concerns when asked whether there were religious freedom issues involved here, tell us something very important, and very disturbing, about the cast of mind in the Executive Branch.
It is no exaggeration to describe that cast of mind as “soft totalitarianism”: an effort to eliminate the vital role in health care, education, and social service played by the institutions of civil society, unless those institutions become extensions of the state. As my colleague Yuval Levin has pointed out, it’s the same cast of mind that gave us Obamacare (which massively consolidates the health insurance industry into a small number of players who function like public utilities) and the Dodd-Frank financial sector reform (which tries to do to banks what Obamacare did to insurance).