Monday, April 16, 2007

Rudy, That was Very Dumb [SK]

From National Review:

Rudy to Pro-Lifers: Get Over It [Rich Lowry]

Wow. Rudy puts a Pete Wilson/Arlen Specter spin on his own candidacy:

Giuliani made his sharpest case for moving beyond social issues this weekend in Iowa, telling The Des Moines Register, "Our party is going to grow, and we are going to win in 2008 if we are a party characterized by what we're for, not if we're a party that's known for what we're against."

Asked about abortion, he said, "Our party has to get beyond issues like that."

Got that pro-life Republicans?

Me: If the GOP selects this guy after quotes like that (not to mention his flip-flopping on tax-funding, etc.), it will just go to show how weak the pro-life influence on the party truly is. Thank God he wasn't around in 1860.

Memo to Fred Thompson--You've just been handed a golden opportunity to energize the pro-life base. Let's see what you do with it.


  1. Did somebody say something about the power of outrage? Shouldn't we be outraged, here, about this guy?

    If we have little influence in the party, I know why. I've been watching it happen for fifteen years and I can tell you about it, detail by detail, compromise by compromise. So now they take us for granted. Should we be surprised? I suppose if we pro-lifers revolt now nobody will notice, but you have to stop being used some time.

  2. Lydia,
    Okay, I'll take the bait.
    Where, exactly, has the party compromised during the last 15 years? I understand your current frustration with Rudy's surge in the polls (I don't like it either), but without some additional evidence, I'm reluctant to say the party as a whole has been on 15 year slide away from principle. (Unless, of course, you mean that some pro-lifers like me will, in certain cases, support GOP pro-aborts in order to keep the rabidly pro-abort Dems out of power--but to say that would be question-begging without first establishing that voting that way constitutes a true moral compromise, a point I'm totally unwilling to concede, as you know from our previous exchanges.)

    Sure, we'll always have our Lincoln Chaffee and Arlen Specter types (and now, Rudy) pressing the envelope, but do you really think the party as a whole has slid into moral compromise?

    Maybe you can convince me you're right, but I'll need some evidence.

    In short, I'm not ready to throw the party overboard just yet. But I share your frustration.

  3. I'm not going to go on and on if you're just going to dismiss it, SK. But what I'll do is give you the sort of broad-brush version, and then if it sounds like the details wouldn't matter to you, we won't bother: Over the past fifteen years the pro-lifers have time and again shown themselves willing not only to vote for but to be very enthusiastic about and work very hard for candidates who have disturbing cracks in their pro-life credentials. Just _one_ example would be Bush's willingness to support abortion in cases of rape and incest, and I believe fund it publically as well. These things were accepted to avoid the "greater evil," and dissenters were told that they must just swallow it. It used to be that they were only told this at the general election stage, and the primary was left for "voting your conscience" and trying to influence the party directly with your real views, but eventually NRLC even started bullying (and I do mean that)its members not to vote for somebody more pro-life at the primary stage. God forbid he should win over somebody more "electable." These demands were cast in tones of great urgency and often contempt for the more "purist" among us. And the Clinton presidency increased the desperateness not to have four more Democrat years. Then, after GWB was elected, he did quite a few things (some of which are not widely known) that were upsetting to his pro-life base, but again in '04 we were told to swallow that and vote for him.

    One other result was that certain issues (like federal funding for aborted fetal tissue research, which Bush provides) literally stopped being discussed in the pro-life press, especially in the official paper of the NRLC. They stopped talking about the badness of certain things if that would embarrass the Bush administration.

    The result is a _pragmatic_ debacle. Ironically, the "purists" who were told they were being unpractical were giving counsel that had a practical point to it: If the party comes to think pro-lifers will accept anything to avoid a "greater evil" they will just go on playing the "lesser evil" card right down to the ground and not give the pro-lifers anything concrete in the way of a pro-life candidate. Pro-lifers were terrified of becoming politically irrelevant so they compromised again and again, with the ironic result that they have become politically irrelevant! Rudy's probable Republican candidacy in '08 is a direct result of the willingness of pro-lifers to swallow things in the past. Now the "moderates" in the Republican party believe we will swallow anything and that they can just "get beyond" (in Rudy's words) the abortion and other life and conservative issues entirely. Let's not fool ourselves: The positions of the presidential candidate mean something about the party.

    I'll say this: At least GWB is a nice guy and wants to do right on some of these things. He was mostly weak, ineffective, and badly advised. But his presidency has been a turning point.

  4. I want to add this: I'm a little puzzled by Jay's repeated posts about outrage. And I realize that you and Jay are two different people. But I find it difficult to understand how to put together the two perspectives. On the one hand we have a contributor who is urging all of us to have stronger _feelings_ of outrage about abortion because "we can end it." On the other hand we have someone who, unless I misjudge you, is seriously considering voting for Rudy Giuliani. In this world, in 2008.

    Where _is_ the outrage? I'm sorry, SK, but if you tell me you're lying awake at night with visions of butchered unborn children dancing in your head, that you are meeting Jay's challenge to _feel_ more outraged, then I'm going to say this: "Better someone with fewer haunted nights and less emotional outrage who wouldn't vote for a total pro-abort like RG at gunpoint."

  5. Lydia,
    You're right I am not Jay and your wrong that I've said I would vote for Rudy in this election cycle. I'm surprised that for all your work with philosophical arguments, you've yet to accurately present my case. Over and over again, I've said only that there could be a possible world where voting for a pro-abort executive candidate could make sense--namely, when doing so would end abortion as we know it. I never said such was the case in this cycle, and you know that.

    I'm going to overlook the angry self-righteous tone of your comments regarding "outrage" and chalk them up to you needing to vent some frustration. Fair enough. But this is out of character for you, Lydia. You are better than that and trust you will be again very soon.

  6. I really just meant exactly what I said--"seriously considering." I didn't mean that you've said you _would_ vote for him. I know you haven't. But I'd be very pleased for you to say you aren't even seriously considering it. Heck, I'll apologize for misreading you if you say openly that you aren't seriously considering it. My impression has been that you just won't say, that you're keeping your options open for the next year and a half and meanwhile talking purely _theoretically_ about how it _could_ be okay to vote for a person like Rudy, etc.

    I've got to say that, if you do realize that the real world isn't even remotely likely to meet the requirements for a world in which, on your view, it would be okay to vote for a guy like this, it would be better to say so. Otherwise all the theoretical talk about "doing the best we can with the vote we have" does rather give the impression that you're *seriously considering* actually voting for RG, and it will (to the extent that your influence reaches) tend to influence other people also seriously to consider it. And I think that would be unfortunate, for practical reasons as well as reaons of principle.

    Frankly, I think we pro-lifers look like fools if we sit around _pondering_ voting for somebody who is basically telling us just to "get over it." And we will be used like fools if we do so. The party leaders themselves are probably wondering what we'll do and how many of us will swallow it in the general election. We should send a consistent and unified message all the way along during this long race.

  7. Well I am Jay!

    Let me say one thing very clearly. I have not now nor ever will advocate emotion in the place of reasoned arguments and well thought out tactics. I have argued and do believe that the latter two aspects are less effective in the absence of emotional outrage and that we need all aspects to win.

    I do believe that we can end legalized abortion and will say so repeatedly because so many people that I talk to act as if this problem is an insurmountable obstacle.

    Finally, the group that I fear is not properly emotionally connected to the plight of the unborn does not include any person who has left their job in church ministry to fully devote themselves to the cause of life. No person who routinely leaves their family to travel to any place that invites them for the purpose of championing the humanity of the unborn need concern themselves that I am accusing them. And philosophers that are so passionate about the unborn that they zealously seek their protection through their voting power and internet advocacy are safe as well. I am making statements about our movement in general and the emotional response as a whole.

    God bless you both.

  8. In addition, the need for solidarity in voting as a special interest group grows as your general political power diminishes. A large diverse and politically active group of pro-lifers can afford to disagree and vote differently. A smaller group needs to have the threat of a solid block that can be jerked away if we are not dealt with fairly. Perhaps we need an honest and accurate assessment of what our movement realy is at the moment. It is the only way to develop actual tactics.

    Who wants to organize that?


  9. I think, Jay, that strong pro-lifers have always been a bigger interest group than our detractors would like to think, but a sufficiently small group that we would do well to work together to a large extent. On the other hand, speaking purely pragmatically, a fragmented pro-life interest group (which I might add will also include people conservative on other issues, like homosexual activism), will send a message to the GOP that will not be sent by a group that is reluctantly "unified" by having its leaders whip in the stragglers with threats of Hillary. That is to say, being unified behind a candidate we all feel sick about will only get us ignored and taken for granted all the more. They'll know they have an absolute lock on the vote of the religious right and can hand us anything they like, so long as the Democrat candidate can somehow be portrayed as "worse." (And pretty soon they'll know we'll accept that on faith, even without much evidence for it.) If a significant number of pro-lifers draw a line at this point, that will at least show that they _will_ lose votes if they give us zilch. In my opinion, we gain _nothing_ strategically by getting unified behind an openly pro-abort candidate, and we gain something strategically (and paradoxically) by being fragmented about such a candidate or even by voting solidly third-party--in any event, by having a noticeable majority of us refuse to vote for such a candidate.

    Probably what would be best at this point strategically would be if the handful of strongly pro-life candidates in the primary race (Brownback and the rest of the few) would get together and decide to throw their weight behind one. Maybe a closed-door meeting with Dr. Dobson? :-) Seriously, if Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, and several other advocacy groups really got together behind one _clearly_ pro-life candidate (so, probably not Romney, about whom too many people have too many questions), that would be a step in the right direction. (No pun intended.) Moreover, it would be good for such groups to make it clear here and now that Giuliani is *not acceptable* and that they will advise the people who listen to them _against_ voting for him should he win the primary.

    I don't say this would work. I do say it's about the only way there is even a chance to get our voice heard at this stage of the game. We have to send a loud and clear message.

  10. Lydia,
    The key problem with your claim is that you present no evidence showing a causal link between pro-lifers sometimes voting for a pro-abort candidate (at the legislative level, for example, to keep the party most likely to advance at least some of our agenda in power) and the party sacrificing it’s key principles. It simply does not follow that because pro-lifers sometimes make a pro-life vote for a pro-abort candidate (as I've explained in earlier posts), the party as a whole is now going to philosophically shift to accept pro-abort candidates in general. You would need to present some empirical evidence to buttress that claim. Maybe you have it, but so far I've not seen it.

    Does it follow, for example, that because pro-abort liberals supported several pro-life DEM candidates in the 06 elections (and hence won control of Congress) that the Democrat party is now sacrificing (or even remotely undermining) it's pro-abort principles? No chance. Rather, the DEMS realized the key thing was to get their party in power, and once that happened, the pro-life DEMS would be marginalized by the pro-abort majority.

  11. SK, I'm talking about trend-lines in the presidential elections and in terms of what we will and won't criticize in an incumbent GOP president. I'm not saying it's some sort of logical truth that any time a few pro-lifers voted for a pro-abort legislator in some isolated election that meant the whole party was going to hell in a handbasket. What I'm saying is that I've watched over a period of years as, at the level of presidential candidates, pro-lifers have accepted a more and more compromised position in their voting. And I've listened to their reasoning, and I've seen how their demands have gradually been watered down. I've seen this both at the level of individuals and at the level of large organizations, most especially the National Right to Life. If I'm listening to it, I assume that the people in the GOP whose business it is to listen are also listening. And the changes in the actual positions of the candidates we are offered is therefore in all probability no coincidence. (Even Bush has tried a few odd things--remember Harriet Meiers?--as trial balloons, only abandoning them _if_ a big stink was made.) Rudy is just a rather larger jump in the same direction we've been going for a long time as far as what we will and won't demand of a presidential candidate.

    You tell me the next time a candidate who is anywhere _near_ being as pro-life as Rudy is pro-abort gets anywhere _near_ the presidential nomination in the Democratic party. It'll be a long wait. Every candidate who has had a snowball's chance has been more strongly pro-abort even (if we can compare these things) than President Bush is pro-life. For example, the GOP candidates always have to swear on a stack of Bibles that they will have no "litmus test" on Roe v. Wade, but the Democrat presidential candidates are always very clear to their base that they _will_ have such a litmus test in the other direction. The Democrat presidential candidates are louder about being "pro-choice" than recent Republican presidential candidates are about being pro-life. In fact, in 2000 we were told _explicitly_ not to worry about the fact that then-Governor Bush hardly ever talked about abortion. We haven't had a president who brought the subject up spontaneously and frequently since Reagan.

    I could go on and on, but the truth is that at the presidential level the Democrats never budge an inch on this issue, but the Republicans have, do, and are continuing to move a dickens of a lot farther than an inch.

    While meanwhile, some pro-life activists refuse to say clearly, "Enough is enough" even to a Rudy Giuliani in prospect.

  12. Lydia,
    My point here is a modest one. Even if the party is sliding irrevocably toward compromise (a point I'm not yet ready to concede just yet), the fact that pro-lifers occasionally make tactical votes for pro-abort candidates is not, at this point, a good explanation for that slide. You would need evidence to make that case--you cannot simply assume it.

    Since you are speculating, allow me to do so as well. If the party is indeed sliding toward compromise, my own hunch (which I cannot yet defend empirically, but can annecdotally) is that pro-lifers have failed to systematically train people to persuasively defend a pro-life worldview. We're great at doing marches, rallies, banquets, golf-tournaments, conventions, etc., but how many Christian schools are we getting into to make pro-life presentations? Who is teaching pro-life apologetics to the next generation of conservative voters? How many churches (laugh) equip the faithful to make a case for life in the public square?

    Bottom line: Intellectually weak lay people elect intellectually weak (and morally questionable) candidates.

    That's the problem as I see it--not the pro-lifer who, for tactical reasons, thoughtfully casts a pro-life vote for a pro-abort GOP candidate in order save lives that would have been lost had the DEMS got control of the chamber.

  13. Oh, one more thing: There are a whole lot more pro-abortion--and _strongly_, _loudly_ pro-abortion--Republicans, at every level (Congress, Governors, state legislatures) than there are pro-life Democrats. Go on out and start counting. And try to compare the specifics. Is Bob Casey, Jr., anything like a pro-life parallel to Arlen Specter? In a pig's eye.

    The Republican party has been very tolerant about this for a long time, actively and unhesitatingly supporting legislative and gubernatorial candidates who were strongly pro-choice, and I still voted for its presidential candidates as long as those candidates stood for what I stood for to a sufficient degree. Now we're considering giving that up, too. The Dems know that their activists wouldn't stand for it at the presidential level. I wish I could say that the Republicans know the same about the pro-life activists. But I don't know it myself.

  14. Lydia,
    I'm off to New Orleans, then Carson City, to speak at several pro-life events, so I'll leave the last word to you.

    One question, though. You write: "I still voted for its [the GOP's]presidential candidates as long as those candidates stood for what I stood for to a sufficient degree."

    Question: Given you believe (as you stated in previous posts the last time we discussed this issue) that it's morally wrong in principle to vote for a pro-abort candidate, how could you ever vote for ANY Republican candidate--even if he is pro-life--when the party he represents sometimes promotes pro-abort candidates? Doesn't that make you a party to promoting immoral acts?

  15. Actually, SK, I suppose I agree _in a way_ that pro-lifers' occasional votes for an openly pro-abort legislative candidate aren't a major causal factor. What I think is a bigger factor is pro-lifers' willingness gradually to compromise and still to do very hard and enthusiastic work grassroots work for somewhat compromised *presidential* candidates, Bush being the major example. I regard our position on the presidency as of prime importance (insofar as pro-life activities are of importance to them at all) to the GOP, more so than our actions in largely isolated legislative races.

    Don't mistake me. I'm not a Bush _hater_. But I think looking at it as coolly and objectively as possible that the behavior of pro-life groups concerning Bush over the course of two elections and two terms of office has sent the wrong message, and that his presidency has been a turning point in the party's attitude toward pro-lifers.

    Maybe the GOP's slide would have taken place anyway. So I don't want to overstate regarding the causal role of our willingness to keep our mouths shut. But if so, if the party was going to ignore us by '08 regardless, then our loyalty didn't earn us anything, either.

    My point is that our best shot at not being ignored would have been to be tougher in our demands over the past eight years. Just to give one example, we should all have squawked a lot louder about Bush's funding aborted fetal tissue research, instead of burying the issue. Only the FRC talked about it. We should have expressed more disapproval when so many of his appointees to crucial positions kept saying, "Roe vs. Wade is the settled law of the land." We should have made a _huge_ stink when no pro-life speaker was on the platform at the party convention in (was it?) '06. I could give more and more examples, more than I care to know. In other words, we should have been louder and more demanding all along the line.

    It may be too late now to be noticed, but now our_only_ shot at being noticed and having influence is to yell very loudly about Rudy and to say in no uncertain terms that we won't have him, won't vote for him, that's flat.

    That's strategic advice, Scott. You can take it or leave it. But I notice so far that you're leaving it, as you apparently have no intention of claiming that apology I promised you if you say that you aren't at all seriously considering voting for Giuliani.

    As for intellectual training, you'll never hear me bad-mouthing it. But I don't think, speaking purely pragmatically, it's what would have made the difference here. Pro-lifers have worked their hearts out to elect the candidates their pro-life leaders told them would overturn Roe v. Wade, would help them, would promote their cause. They couldn't have worked harder if they had been more intellectually able to defend their case. But so far, Roe remains in place, and until that changes, or _at least_ until Carhart is overturned, there is little we can do in the legislative arena. We're all hog-tied by the idea certain people have about "rule of law" and rule of judges. And Bush hasn't helped there, either, with all that "settled law of the land" nonsense!

    I'd love to think more intellectual persuasion and strengthening of the position would help, but I don't see it. We're in more or less a bare-knuckled power game, and we're losing, badly. It would help if we were less gentlemanly and were willing to say, "Heck, no!" occasionally.


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