No per­fect pro-life can­di­dates for 2008

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - MONA CHAREN

Ru­dolph Gi­u­liani, clearly un­com­fort­able with his per­for­mance at the first pres­i­den­tial de­bate of 2008, has elected to jet­ti­son the soft pedal on abor­tion. It wasn’t work­ing. He sounded in­co­her­ent or in­de­ci­sive or dodgy — not the traits the hero of Septem­ber 11, 2001, wanted to project.

So he has em­barked on the risky, but ar­guably un­avoid­able, strat­egy of forthright­ness. Speak­ing in Huntsville, Ala., the for­mer New York City mayor de­clared “ul­ti­mately, there has to be a right to choose” on abor­tion — the open­ing gam­bit of what the New York Times re­ports is a new di­rec­tion for his cam­paign. He will be frank about his pro-choice views and haz­ard the con­se­quences.

It makes the mind reel to con­sider that the Repub­li­can Party, res­o­lutely pro-life since 1980, could nom­i­nate a pro-choice can­di­date. But this is a pe­cu­liar year. Wars have a way of eclips­ing other is­sues, and many Repub­li­can vot­ers are more con­cerned about the grisly plans of ji­hadists world­wide than any­thing else.

Some con­ser­va­tives and Repub­li­cans worry that the pres­i­dent’s low ap­proval rat­ings will dam­age the Repub­li­can “brand” in 2008. This con­cern was car­ried into the Oval Of­fice on May 9 when 11 “mod­er­ate” Repub­li­can mem­bers of Congress warned the pres­i­dent time was run­ning out for progress on Iraq. The more pan­icky Repub­li­can vot­ers be­come about 2008, the bet­ter for Mr. Gi­u­liani, right?

Per­haps. A great deal of the en­ergy in Repub­li­can pri­maries has tra­di­tion­ally come from pro-life and tra­di­tional val­ues con­ser­va­tives. On the other hand, exit polls in 2000 showed that among Repub­li­can pri­mary vot­ers, abor­tion ranked fifth among is­sues im­por­tant to vot­ers (at 6 per­cent). In 1996, it ranked fourth. A re­cent ABC News/Wash­ing­ton Post poll re­veals only 23 per­cent of those lean­ing Repub­li­can say they could not vote for Mr. Gi­u­liani be­cause of his stands on abor­tion and ho­mo­sex­ual rights. That leaves 77 per­cent who could.

It is not clear how that will play out in a state like Iowa, which re­quires or­ga­ni­za­tion and in­spired vol­un­teers. The Des Moines Reg­is­ter’s David Yepsen notes Mr. Gi­u­liani has not done the kind of smallscale, one-on-one events po­lit­i­cal ac­tivists in the state have come to ex­pect. “He gives big speeches and races out of town,” Mr. Yepsen says. Mr. Gi­u­liani may guess, with the front-loaded pri­mary sched­ule next year, the small con­tests in Iowa (Jan. 14) and New Hamp­shire (Jan. 22) may not mat­ter as much and his time would be bet­ter spent in the big states that have sched­uled early pri­maries, like Florida (Jan. 29), and New York, Cal­i­for­nia, New Jer­sey, Ari­zona and oth­ers that are set for Feb. 5.

The Repub­li­can pri­mary voter — as­sum­ing the field of top can­di­dates does not change — faces no per­fect op­tions on the life is­sue. Mitt Rom­ney’s re­cent em­brace of the pro-life la­bel is not en­tirely con­vinc­ing. As a U.S. Se­nate can­di­date in 1994, Mr. Rom­ney boasted there was no dif­fer­ence be­tween his po­si­tion on abor­tion and his op­po­nent’s (Ted Kennedy). When he ran for gov­er­nor of Mas­sachusetts in 2002, Mr. Rom­ney promised to leave the state’s lib­eral abor­tion laws un­touched.

Now Rom­ney urges vot­ers to be­lieve that, “In con­sid­er­ing the is­sue of em­bryo cloning and em­bryo farm­ing, I saw where the harsh logic of abor­tion can lead — to the view of in­no­cent new life as noth­ing more than re­search ma­te­rial or a com­mod­ity to be ex­ploited.” Okaaaay. Maybe it was the philo­soph­i­cal in­sight that the soul is im­ma­nent in the hu­man form at all stages of de­vel­op­ment, or maybe it was the im­mi­nence of the Repub­li­can pri­maries. Who knows? Just re­cently we learned Mrs. Rom­ney (like the Gi­u­lia­nis) has con­trib­uted to Planned Par­ent­hood.

Not even John McCain can boast an ut­terly un­blem­ished record on life. In 2000, when asked what he would do if his daugh­ter were con­sid­er­ing an abor­tion, Mr. McCain said he would con­vene a “fam­ily con­fer­ence.” In 1999, he told the San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle, “I would not sup­port re­peal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X num­ber of women to un­dergo dan­ger­ous and il­le­gal op­er­a­tions.” He clar­i­fied the next day, ex­plain­ing he has al­ways sup­ported the re­peal of Roe. And he points to a 25-year record of pro-life votes in Congress. On the debit side, he sup­ports us­ing em­bryos for stem cell re­search.

In­choate can­di­date Fred Thompson once filled out a ques­tion­naire to the ef­fect that he fa­vored le­gal­ized abor­tion in the first trimester, but he now stands staunchly against abor­tion.

So there we are — no per­fect op­tions.

Mona Charen is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.