Sunday, June 17, 2007

Dennis Prager Interviews Rudy Giuliani On Abortion, And Misses The Important Point.

First, I should say that I absolutely love to read, watch, and listen to Dennis Prager, and have since my hair was not gray and his not white. I’ve always been a conservative, and used to listen to conservative talk-radio all day. In the last several years, most of them have come to bore me. Not so Dennis Prager, though I share a basic (mine isn’t just “basic” in any sense, but wholehearted) Christian disposition with some others, but not with the Jewish Prager. His considerations are almost always interesting.

Actually, this interview focused more generally on issues that, unlike Giuliani’s anti-terror, anti-crime, fiscally conservative relative strengths, conservatives might have a problem with. But, Prager lamented that conservatives might not support Giuliani because they did not like his position on things like abortion, despite the fact that a president has no effect relative to abortion, except to nominate judges and sign restrictions like the partial-birth abortion ban.

This is a concern about a simple falsehood, and I will tell you why it is an ill-founded one. You should understand that Prager is not insensitive to the sanctity of pre-born human life. But, I have no personal dislike for Rudy Giuliani and, in fact, rather like him in my superficial knowledge and experience of him. I needn’t dislike him to think that he misunderstands what should be a basic moral and American disposition toward human life, and that, not personal distaste, disqualifies him to serve as the nation’s chief executive, just as the finest lawyer or teacher or any non-surgeon is unqualified to remove a cancerous tumor. An individual who doesn’t understand the respect of human life should not be the chief executive of a nation founded on the confession of creator endowed rights (Declaration Of Independence) and central to its constitution. He looks great relative to many things, and he could be of great value at many tasks.. But interpreting American principles isn't one of them.

Prager declares that no “pro-life” (the parentheses don’t indicate insincerity as much as incompetence) president has ever done anything to stop the practice of abortion. And, he is correct. I am painfully aware of that and have made no secret of it. He also says that he would rather persuade than attempt to coerce, legally. Again, I agree completely. But, he also says that there is nothing a president can do. In light of the fact that he prefers persuasion to legislation, that is rather ironic.

Prager says that, therefore, you should consider a broader range of what is good for the country than merely an abortion position when considering whether to support a president. In fact, he says that if you would withhold your vote based on this single issue, you would have to be “emotionally retarded.” I would not vote for Rudy Giuliani, not because of my conjecture about legal consequences, but because of his demonstrated opacity about the one issue that may be of more gravity than the terrorist threat. I don’t call him evil. I don’t call him ignorant. I don’t call him stupid. I just say that he doesn’t understand what is at stake. And apparently, astute and morally sober as he generally is, Dennis Prager doesn’t, either.

What is at stake is not my feeling good in voting for someone who believes as I do, which is the primary animus that Prager mentions. What is at stake is not my ambitions about the law (not primarily, anyway). What is at stake is not even the specific obstruction of the injustice of the slaughter of tens of millions of human babies, horrible human atrocity though that may be. What is at stake is the dissolution of the moral sense at the foundation of the American creed that gives a special recognition to the integrity of human life, and what I believe is the attendant process of the degradation and ultimate demise of civil society.

A society that digests and assimilates the idea that human life (even its own offspring) is something to be deferred over on the basis of perceived convenience will manifest that selfish pathology in myriad ways in social conduct, and ultimately suffocate ordinary presumptions of civility.

Now, a federalist like me could wish that this long-established diversion of attention to Washington was not so in America, but largely owing to electronic mass-media, it is the case. It would be better if we were more focused and more affected by our state and local affairs. But, that is not the case. And what the president can and should do is constantly and clearly enlighten America about the moral and doctrinal abyss that it is sliding into. Unfortunately, I think the reason that the pro-life presidents that Prager speaks of have had so little effect is as much inability as indisposition.

While I am fervently pro-life and have worked with and contributed to pro-life efforts, I in fact do not favor a pro-life amendment to the US Constitution. I think it is not the province of the US Constitution, any more than is the protection against and prosecution of conventional murder. Such effort would be entirely impracticable and would more than likely be counter-productive. A constitutional amendment seems to be an entirely abstract fantasy, besides. As Prager says, the idea that you can repair a social dysfunction by legislation is a misguided liberal idea. But, like the frog in warming water, we passively have adapted to an ultimately destructive environment. Sadly, it appears to me that a president is best positioned to rap the American consciousness like the distorted picture on an old television set.

Larry Perrault

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