Monday, September 3, 2007

A More Thorough Pro-Life Discussion Of The Constitution, The Candidates, And The Sanctity Of Life

An ardent Republican and a pro-life contact on the Internet, Stephen Maloney has carried on a conversation with me that has often swung around a disagreement about what is practical for the nation with regard to the abortion issue. I think it is important to post this discussion, particularly in light of the fact that he and I are more broadly both conservative and pro-life. Stephen has focused his web site on advocating for the Republican nominee to select Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to be a Vice-Presidential running-mate against a Democratic ticket, especially one headed by Hillary Rodham Clinton. Palin is a moral, resolute, and fresh Republican executive representative whom Stephen feels would greatly strengthen the Republican ticket, especially compared to the other known options, and I agree.


Stephen R. Maloney said...

As you know, I often disagree with you the subject of how Republican candidates "stand" on sanctity of life issues. I believe the differences between Giuliani, Romney, and Huckabee are minimal -- in any sort of practical sense. Giuliani has said that he would appoint "strict constructionist" judges (people like Robert and Alito) to SCOTUS. The effect of that MAY WELL be the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which would immediately send abortion issues back to the states (as per the 10th Amendment). As for Romney, he has said he'd also like to get the issue back to the states (and there are two ways to do that, through the Supreme Court and/or through constitutional amendment). As for Mike Huckabee, a candidate I like a lot, he supports a constitutional amendment (presumably to overturn Roe v. Wade). My reading is that he doesn't want to wait for SCOTUS to overturn Roe, since he believes the wait may be interminable.

That would of course send the abortion issue back to the states -- which is not really that different from Giuliani and Romney. Apparently, it's about the same as the position (positions?) of Senator Thompson.

I've never heard Gov. Huckabee (and he's not alone among the candidates) explain exactly why he believes a constitutional amendment could pass in our lifetimes. The last significant vote on the Human Life Amendment (Hatch-Eagleton) was in 1983. There probably will NEVER be such an amendment, and to pretend otherwise is not helpful.

Given these realities -- not exactly novel ones -- what is the point of squaring the circle when it comes to candidates' stands?

As you know, I've written columns on the absolute necessity of candidates being very candid with people. Candidates know better than most of us what is doable -- and what's not.

So, what exactly is the problem here? I suggest the "problem" in the life discussion relates to a misunderstanding of what it would mean to overturn Roe. It would not mean nearly as much as many people seem to think.

However, there is NO chance currently now for a constitutional amendment overturning Roe. Thus, candidates who propose an amendment to that end are not leveling with people. Mike Huckabee's comment that life begins at conception but doesn't end at birth contains an implicit -- and stern -- criticism of people who are "pro-life" mainly for the purpose of feeling good about themselves. The way I've put it is that we're not pro-life merely for the sake of being pro-life, which would be nothing more than feel-good politics.

I guess my main point is that we should not mis-characterize the practical effect of what seem like (subtle) policy distinctions.

The one question we should ask the candidates is this: How would your proposals create laws that would reduce the number of abortions and increase the number of adoptions? Rhetoric alone is not enough.



As YOU know, this is a more in-depth consideration of possibilities with regard to the abortion issue, than the typical knee-jerk emotional reaction, as will be my response. As you ALSO know, the abortion issue to me is more than just another checklist yes or no measurement of what percentage of "issues" I agree with a candidate on.

Rather, the values of a worldview are arranged like a pyramid, and the respect of human life is at or near the bottom of a good and civilized society, such that the failure to understand them is immediately symptomatic of a weakness in the worldview and the soundness and facility to order the rest of the pyramid. For me, Giuliani, McCain, Romney, AND Thompson evidence such a weakness in ordering essential elements of American principle. It's not a matter of mere personal distaste or hostility. It's the recognition of a personal disability. You can't dig ditches with no legs and you can't lead a misguided culture in the right direction with a philosophical disability.

To try to respond and explain more fully:

The appeal to Giuliani’s intention to appoint “strict constructionist judges” makes no sense. Giuliani is an attorney. What he is saying is that he supposedly respects the intent of The Constitution even though he doesn’t understand it. How do you do that? If Giuliani were a judge himself, he would oppose extending a constitutional protection of life to unborn children. Is he saying he would select a strict constructionist judge even though he himself is not a strict constructionist, or is he saying that strict constructionism does not include a scrupulous respect of human life? If the prior, why in the world would I believe either his intentions or his abilities? If the latter, we have reduced “strict constructionist” to a semantic exercise, assumedly employed by Giuliani to seduce a vital constituency that he has expressed a profound difference with. The bottom-line is that Giuliani talking about “strict constructionism” does not communicate jack-squat to me. He has directly said as much in a debate when he expressed that it would be OK if a “strict constructionist judge” either overruled or upheld Roe vs. Wade. So what is his diction supposed to mean to me?

Romney has shown irregularity in his willingness or ability to interpret what is constitutional. As I’ve said before, in his fervent advocacy for McCain-Feingold, Thompson has evidenced a provincially filtered ability to interpret The Constitution, as have other of his statements and actions. I know that you have said that “money is not speech.” I think that’s silly: if it isn’t speech, who needs it? And, I’m also confident that upon reviewing McCain-Feingold, James Madison or any of the American founders who fought and worked to establish The United States would be scandalized and traumatized.

Mike Huckabee has expressed support for a constitutional amendment banning abortion, And, I have told you that that’s a brief expression that he feels The Constitution respects unborn life, a sentiment with which I agree. But, I have also said that Huckabee is not oblivious to the practical fact that amending The Constitution presents a formidable task, as would be achieving compliance thereafter, especially in the context of 30+ years of sentimental accommodation.

I expect that, as with advancing to Congress the cause of the Fair Tax which would sharply and hugely restrict the power of the same Congress, the most effective thing that Huckabee could do is to communicate and enlighten the importance of the matter DIRECTLY TO THE PEOPLE OF THE NATION.

Particularly because of this, as you also know, I too favor a return of the matter to the states, because a more local consensus should be reflected in law and conscience. That would leave many states to continue to behave in what I believe is an unconstitutional and socially dysfunctional fashion. But 1) the unique particulars of the abortion issue make it practically absurd to presume to regulate it nationally, with the sort of futility and anarchy that attempting to do so would provoke. And 2) the society of the states, individually, would bear the social consequences of heightened or diminished civility.


Stephen R. Maloney said...

Larry: I responded to your comment on my blog as follows:

I'm sitting back (in a way) and watching the various candidates try to work their strategies. In some ways, Fred Thompson has a modern version of Warren G. Harding's "front-porch strategy," where most of his "campaign" appearances took place on his . . . front porch. In my fantasy world, I sometime see Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin struggling for the nomination in 2012 against President Hillary Clinton. That would be an odd struggle for the nomination since both candidates would like each other a lot -- and so there would be no negative ads!!!!!!!! A modern "First." It would be a new era of civility in politics. Candidates might actually discuss issues without fear of being beaten over the head in case they use the "wrong" word. 2008 is a tuogh one for Republicans of whatever political stripe. If it is to be a Mike-Sarah ticket, it probably would be the best one we could put forward.


P.S. The pictures of Sarah, husband Todd, and (youngest) daughter Piper on Adam's site: truly are worth a thousand words. I believe it will be time someday for a first spouse (Todd) who has a beard.

Larry Perrault said...

That smile certainly doesn't hurt Sarah Palin, does it? I'd really like to see a Huckabee-Palin ticket, this year. Huckabee wil fair well in national debate with any of the Democrats. Bidem might drag him through deep foreign policy details, but I'm not thinking Biden will be there.

If Palin is fresh, decent and resolute, she should do well, too. Barack Obama might cut the best image, against her. I think he really isn't too deep. Bt Democrats fon't have to be. In the Illinois Senate race, Obama sat in and smiled with syntactically correct though substantially vacuous rhetoric and a smile, against Alan Ketes, who had intellect, education, and oratory al over Obama. No matter, Obama just needed to sound and look good.

But that strategy woulf ne playing right up against a Palin strength. If she matched him on that score, I don't think hr could compete with her on others.

Thompson is playing to be "the conservative alternative in the air on the media against Giuliani, both of them avoiding the rough and tumble on the ground of going directly at the people.
Romney and Huckabee are going directly at the people with money and ads and a $1000 suit, Huckabee with personal charisma out of the back of an SUV.

Stephen R. Maloney said...

Hi Larry: I believe Giuliani would label himself a strict constructionist. He's certainly not a liberal when it comes to crime, which he proved good at reducing. "Not everything that is good is constitutional, and not everything that is constitutional is good." In general, there is a fair amount of respect for life in the U.S., probably as much as in any other country. I mentioned the African-American lady next door who is about 60 and takes cares of a child, Ali, who's 3 1/2 or so and a baby girl (Monique, Mo-Mo) who's 13-14 months. I told her husband, my buddy, that he and Mary will be taking care of Ali's and Mo-Mo's babies in another 20 years. He said he'd send them over to us -- and I said we'd take them. It was all facetious of course, but I was serious (about us taking them). Since my wife and I have five girls, maybe I could (as a high-school football fan of many years) finally get that tailback I would have liked. I wish our churches/communities would challenge us more to take on some of the responsibilities related to children, born and unborn.

I see Robert and Mary as two people vigorously safeguarding the sanctity of life. Somehow I think the issue is less philosophical than we might believe. We just need more Roberts and Marys.

Larry Perrault said...

No question about it: much of the pretext for government action is opened in the wake of the failure of the Christian church.

I don't think slippery slope arguments always pan out. But, I do think that a culture that assimilates the idea that unborn children, especially OUR OWN OFFSPRING, are subjects of our convenience, is losing a very basic moral sense. It only makes sense that putting self at the center would become a more natural disposition in all of the contexts of heretofore civil life. It will be easier to cheat a businessd partner for what you see as self-interest. It will be easier for a babysitter to pay nore attention to friends, television, and pizza than to caring for your child. It will be easier to neglect the needy and old in preference for your own amusemernt. I think these attitudes are already growing and are even more developed in socialized Europe, where responsibility is the government's not the people's.

Stephen R. Maloney said...

Larry, I wrote a column today about Mike Huckabee's strategy -- and how it discomforts evangelicals (or whatever they are) like the Romans. Mike is trying hard to win the presidency of the United States, and some of his supposed "supporters" won't forgive him for that. A coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers once said, "Moral victories are for losters." The particular man who said that is in fact a moral man.

Have a great weekend.


Stephen R. Maloney said...

Larry and Treva: I have reprinted a comment by Larry on blog and responded at length regarding Larry's comments and my position on the Romans. I refer to both of you and make suggestions about steps you might take.

I wish Treva would reprint my responses. I reprint all of hers. The only comments I don't print are anonymous responses (some of which seem to come from Wisconsin). I would not reprint a comment that's obscene, mainly because it would subject others to material they would find offensive.

Steve Maloney

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