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Showdown at Notre Dame

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By Michelle Malkin  •  May 15, 2009 06:47 PM

An estimated 20,000 protesters are expected this weekend to oppose Catholic Notre Dame’s embrace of abortion militant Barack Obama.

Eighteen were arrested today at the gates of the university.

More than 360,000 have signed a protest petition.

The White House is pooh-poohing the controversy:

The White House has responded to opposition to President Obama’s appearance at the University of Notre Dame, claiming that only “one group” is organizing a boycott and pointing to other groups who support the president’s commencement speech and reception of an honorary degree.

“I think there’s one group organizing a boycott and, as best I can understand it, there are 23 groups that have formed in support of the president’s invitation,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said, according to ABC.

The “one group,” ND Response, is a coalition of 11 pro-life groups including Notre Dame Right to Life, the Notre Dame Law St. Thomas More Society and the Notre Dame College Republicans.

…Gibbs claimed that 97 percent of the students supported the decision. However, ABC reported that this claim misstated an Associated Press story which said that of the 95 Notre Dame seniors who wrote to the student newspaper The Observer, 97 percent were positive.

Gibbs also cited a Pew poll reporting that 50 percent of Catholics supported Notre Dame’s invitation to Obama, while only 28 percent opposed it. However, that poll also reported that 45 percent of those who attend Mass at least weekly disapproved of the decision, while 37 percent approved.

Meantime: More Americans “pro-life” than “pro-choice” since Gallup first started asking the question.

***

Gibbs said today that Obama will “make mention of” the controversy in his commencement address:

“I think the president will obviously make mention of the debate that’s been had,” Gibbs said. “I think the president is somebody who has taught in a university setting, would understand that this is exactly the type of give and take that’s had on college campuses all over the country.”

Obama’s support for abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research puts him at odds with the Catholic Church’s teachings. His invitation to Notre Dame has sparked criticism from at least 74 Catholic bishops and protests which led to arrests Friday, including that of former Republican presidential hopeful Alan Keyes.

While the president will address how his positions on abortion and stem cell research differ from that of the Church, Gibbs noted the president will focus his remarks on the graduates.

“I think you’ll hear him address it, but I think you’ll also have a president and commencement speaker that’s quite cognizant of the fact that this is a commencement ceremony. This is a special occasion for families to celebrate the conferring of degrees in this ceremony and that the president will understand that’s the most important aspect of the day.”

If he truly understood that, he would have turned down the invite.

After Obama speaks on Sunday, he’ll get busy raking in the dough for Dems:

Obama will make two stops in Indiana on Sunday.

He will be in South Bend to deliver the commencement speech at the University of Notre Dame. The second stop will be at the Westin Hotel in Indianapolis for a fundraiser.

At the Westin, he first will headline a Keep Indiana Blue event. Tickets to that event range from $250 to $5,000 and benefit four of Indiana’s five Democratic congressmen: Ellsworth and Reps. Baron Hill, Andre Carson and Joe Donnelly.

The fifth, Rep. Pete Visclosky, is not expected to attend.

Obama then will attend a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee, also at the Westin. Tickets to that event are $15,000 per couple.

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