Thursday, August 24, 2006

Bush betrays prolifers

The headline above will take you to an article in the Washington Post about this story, which has been bubbling up for some time.

Will this finally awaken those who were fooled by George Bush?

* George Bush wasn't 100% prolife when he ran in 2000.

* He has done the bare minimum, legislatively and executively.

* "But what about his Supreme Court nominations?" What about them? We don't know how they'll rule, now do we? Even if they rule right, don't forget Harriet Miers. Anyway, Roberts was a stealthy candidate; Miers was chosen, because Roberts wasn't stealthy enough; and he chose Alito after Miers blew up in his face -- he is, we hope, the anti-Kennedy (remember 1987?).

* "But what about baby-killing stem-cell research?" Yeah -- he was the first to allow it to be funded with our tax dollars--didn't you know that? Yes, he did hold the line. Good for him. But now, he's putting baby-killing pills on the street, without even a prescription.

Sorry, but certain folks have this coming: I told you so.*

* Update: that may seem ungracious. The "certain folks" I mean are those who, during the past few years either (a) knew Bush wasn't solid on prolife and minimized it, and (b) those who didn't simply disagree on this subject, but did so aggressively and even abusively. I can't count the number of times I was accused of wrecking all that's good and decent, because I refused to vote for Bush.

To those folks I say: Don't blame me for abortion pills being as free as aspirin--your guy did it. I voted for Paroutka!


Esther said...

Father, I'd like to know more about how you knew this. Is there an earlier post?

Catholic Wife and Mother said...

You may be right, but I still feel betrayed.

As political as I always was, I'm considering joining the ranks of conscientious objectors come election day.

Victor said...

Well, I think this Plan B thing should have been renamed File 13.

That said, I can't see any regrets about having backed Bush versus either of the two men he defeated (or conceivable Democrat he coulda faced). Let's face it -- if Gore or Kerry (or Lieberman or Edwards) had been in charge of FDA appointments, the high schools would be handing out Plan B pills like they were condoms or something.

Father Martin Fox said...


Yes, but here's a key difference:

If Gore or Kerry were doing this, the GOP would have provided much more opposition. With a GOP President doing it, the Republicans in Congress have completely laid down on this (and likely will).

Same with the Medicare prescription giveaway, same with the McCain-Feingold Free Speech Restriction Act, and so forth.

Jay Anderson said...

"If Gore or Kerry were doing this, the GOP would have provided much more opposition."

Which is exactly why I can't see myself supporting a pro-abort/pro-gay/anti-gun Rudy Giuliani for President over a pro-abort/pro-gay/anti-gun Hillary! Clinton. The congressional Republicans would at least oppose Hillary.

But if that's the choice we're given in 2008, a pox on both the GOP's and the Democrats' houses!

Father Barry said...

This sort of thing always becomes difficult for me, Father. Once I get myself into the realm of "political reality," I'm never sure exactly where I am.

I tend to float in Victor's direction, I think. Your caveat is true; GOP resistance to Kerry would definitely have been stronger. But would it have been strong enough to prevent this from happening? I trust guys like Brownback and Santorum - but I dont' trust the GOP on this one. Would still have happened, I think. And as a bonus, we'd have been fighting on many, many more fronts.

Bush was not 100% pro-life when he ran. Anybody who has an evolving position on this sort of thing doesn't realize what's at stake. Or doesn't care. (Which is actualy one thing that makes me very nervous about Romney.)

But at least he is doing the bare minimum. For many of us, it's not an issue of whether Bush was the best GOP candidate. It's whether he was the best option of two. Gore and Kerry would not be doing the bare minimum - they would be doing a lot less. A bare minimum from a guy we want to give is more is not enough. But it is a bare minimum.

Same thing with SCOTUS. At least Roberts and Alito might be good. Larry Tribe would definitely have been bad. Course, then there's always the question of whether or not it's better to have your enemy in front of you, or stabbing you in the back. But I can't imagine that even strong GOP resistance to a President Gore or President Kerry would have stopped this from happening.

So, I don't feel betrayed by Bush because I saw it coming, and "knew what I was getting myself in to" when I voted for him. And I'm definitely not shocked, for the same reason.

But I am greatly saddened.

And I do feel like I'm fighting my way up a slippery slope. Voting for Bush for President did not make me feel like I had compromised my principles. But voting for McCain might. And voting for Guliani almost certainly would.

Father Martin Fox said...

Father Barry:

Travel back with me to yesteryear...when last we had a GOP president, and at that time, a Democrat-controlled Congress.

Then, pro-abortion policy was on the march, and the President was on the defensive. He cast the right vetoes, when we couldn't stop it with a filibuster or, more rarely, with a majority vote.

Then, in 1992, Bill Clinton was elected -- horrors! Now the floodgates will open!

In the first two years of the Clinton administration, here's what they did: they did loosen, slightly, the tax-funding restrictions (for rape and incest); and they got some legislation making it harder to protest at abortion mills. And Clinton did what marginal things he could do to promote abortion. But -- similar to Bush, but in the opposite direction -- that's not much, actually.

Yes, he did name two pro-abortion justices to the Supreme Court. And if you want to make it all about the Supreme Court, then that represents a set-back. I fundamentally disagree that it is, or should, all about the Court, for various reasons.

Well, then came 1994, and for a variety of reasons, the GOP surprised almost everyone and took control of both houses. Everything changed, including on this issue.

Back then, the congressional GOP did fight and stand for things. We had gridlock! (Yea!) The only thing he got, thenceforward on this issue, was nominees, and even there, he got slowed down.

(By the way, I had forgotten that both Clinton justices were confirmed when he had control of the Senate; even then, he got one hardliner, Ginsberg, and one somewhat reasonable guy, Breyer -- reasonable broadly speaking. One wonders what would have happened had he offered a nominee to a GOP Senate...)

One might say, but policy didn't get any better. Actually, it did: it was under Clinton that you started hearing about "partial-birth abortion," and about legislation to outlaw it. Over the course of the next six years, it gained larger majorities, until, on the eve of the 2000 election, we were 2 votes from a veto-proof majority! This is why it passed subsequently, and Bush got to sign it. But the battles under Clinton are part of the story. The legislation was nowhere until it was Clinton-v.-GOP Congress.

My point is, you can't assume that when you change one part of the equation -- who wins the White House -- that the other parts of the picture aren't also changed, significantly.

And yet, that is almost always how people think about this. "Why, what if we had Kerry in there?" someone gasps. But it's just subtract Bush, add Kerry; it's reshuffling the whole picture. The whole dynamic changes, because its all interrelated.

Put it another way: many wonder what happened to the GOP Congress, how come they've gotten fat, lazy and corrupt. A big part of the answer is: Bush. The GOP Congress was far better opposing Clinton, than led by Bush. Bush has done a lot to make the Congress worse, so that a President Kerry is so frightening.

Try a football analogy: if your offense gives points to the other side, while your defense and special teams force turnovers that score points, who do you want on the field to have the best chance of victory? Yes, of course you want a good offense; but if that's not in the cards, you may well do better on defense.

Of course I can't know what policy on abortion would be had Gore won in 2000 (Gore probably did have more, actual voters in Florida, but Bush probably had more, actual votes), but to assume it would have gotten worse is erroneous. In fact, Congress got more and more prolife under Clinton (as did state legislators), and this is not unrelated to it being Clinton) in the White House, as opposed to Bush (Sr.) or Dole. Thus, I think it very reasonable to suppose the upward trajectory would have continued in a Gore presidency.

Many say, but a veto-override is so out of reach. One more trip back to yesteryear: in the Reagan years, and in the first Bush term, Congress frequently had showdowns with the White House to override a veto, and they succeeded actually, as well as succeeding in getting the President to avoid the showdown by caving. That happens when you keep building your majority, over time, as the GOP was doing under Clinton. From this perspective, the GOP won the White House too soon! -- and in my judgment, with the wrong man.

What good was happening with the GOP in Congress was short-circuited. And the rest is history.

Paul, just this guy, you know? said...

People seem to be forgetting that before it was Bush vs. Gore, it was Bush vs. a crowd of other candidates in a Republican primary.

I know I voted for Keyes back then. Does anyone remember why everyone seemed to think that Bush was the only choice?

Father Martin Fox said...


You're absolutely right -- and it gets worse.

In late 1999 and early 2000, Forbes and I think Bauer were both hammering Bush for being unprincipled on the prolife issue, in his support for killing babies because of their parentage ("rape and incest"). Forbes and Bauer were running on the same, no-exceptions stance as the elder Bush did in 1988 and 1992, and Reagan before that.

Do you know who rode to W's rescue -- and attacked Bauer and Forbes for their attacks on Bush?

None other than the National Right to Life Committee! They issued a press statement saying Bush was good enough, and we had to win in November, and these attacks don't help, blather blather.

Father Barry said...

Paul said: I know I voted for Keyes back then. Does anyone remember why everyone seemed to think that Bush was the only choice?

I voted for Keyes as well, in the primary. Loved the man. Still do, in fact - though he's gotten a tad shrill for my tastes.

I have always seen the primary as the place to try and make these changes. (Take the recent election here in CA. I voted for the wonderful Tom McClintock over Ahnuld in the primary. And I was upset/irritated with my friends who votes for the Terminator in the same primary. But when the choise was between Davis and Ahnuld, I went R.)

Perhaps I am falling victim to the "good enough" principle here. But I can't bring myself to say: Let's not vote for Bush, and assure Kerry/Gore the presidency. I don't know that I can get enough of a handle on the interworking pieces of the government to have any idea how a Kerry presidency would impact things. I can't guess at that one.

But I am virtually certain he thinks wrongly about pro-life matters, whereas I am not sure Bush does.

A muddled, muddled time.

(I need some time to think about your football thoughts, Fr. You've given me a lot to chew on. For which I am grateful...)

Victor said...

Father Fox:

Fair point about the congressional GOP acting differently if a President Kerry were to do this. Party loyalty covers a lot of sins in Washington.

But unlike Murray and Mizz Rodham, I'm not sure an oppositional GOP would succeed though, at least on this narrow point. Keep in mind that Joycelyn Elders was actually nominated as surgeon-general. Sure, maybe in the long-run ... after all Mizzelders raised more money and issues and energy for the GOP unwittingly than she did the Democrats wittingly.

Maybe I'm too much of a pessimist, but I think that **as a political matter** contraception is a lost cause for the foreseeable future -- though, hope obviously springs eternal, hence those last four words. I don't think it's a fight pro-lifers should want.

Bush is nothing if not somebody who (at least thinks he) knows which fights are winnable and which are not. I would have been very surprised if he would have risked a major political fight over contraception.

Victor said...

In case it isn't obvious, I am aware that Plan B operates a significant part of the time as a post-conception abortifacient. I still think that *in the public mind* ... which is what is relevant for the point I was making ... that it is contraception not abortion.

joeh said...

A vote for a candidate that has absolutely no chance at winning is not a positive vote. When we go to vote, we have to look at the two people who do have a chance to lead this country. Those two were Bush and Kerry or before that Bush and Gore. The main issue that the president can impact in the pro-life area is in the Supreme Court unless they also have a very core belief in pro life issues and tremendous skill in communications to win hearts in the country. We are blessed when they have both. Not sure how you believe the Supreme Court is not critical when the Supreme Court is the final say on issues that impact the core values in our country. Federal Court issues of any import will end up in this court. They impact not only life issues, but other things such as gay marriage and pornograhpy to name but a few. If Kerry or Gore had been elected, we would now have two more very liberal judges on the Supreme Court and many more in other Federal positions. We would also have billions of federal dollars being spent on embryonic stem cell research.

You seem to have forgotten what it was like when Clinton and the MSM were bashing the congress on every issue making them look like the Taliban. Who thinks today's congress without Newt as its backbone would have stood up to Kerry and the MSM and you have to remember that even with Lewinski hanging onto his zipper Clinton did fall with majorities in both houses.

Father, you cannot equate the congress of the early 90's where the rebels had moxie to the one we see today. Yes, there are things I disagree on with Bush, but simply the thought of Hillary in 08 inspires one to fight. The question is will there be a pro life candidate even as strong as Bush to vote for?

Victor said...

Oh ... yeah, I forgot to make that point. (And I guess this is my most-fundamental disagreement with Padre).

I *do* think that, for a president, abortion (and gay "marriage" and other pelvic matters) is all about the courts, Supreme and not, and thus the nominations he makes. A president and a Congress can nibble at the margins, but as long as Roe and Casey are the law, that has the be the first, second, third and last point.

Father Martin Fox said...


I agree that the president isn't the main player in abortion -- indeed, my comments above are part of my main contention, which is that it's Congress that we should focus on, not the presidency.

That said, I don't agree that the president isn't a major part of the equation; the wrong president, the wrong "our guy" (what we have now) can have a negative effect.

Abortion is not all about the courts: the Life at Conception Act, now pending in Congress, and slated for hearings before a committee headed by Rep. Steve Chabot, would overturn Roe v. Wade precisely as Roe said.

It is little known that in Roe, Blackmun said in the majority opinion, that (I paraphrase): we don't know when personhood begins, and we can't decide that. Were the personhood of the unborn child under the 14th Amendment to be established, the appellant's (i.e., Roe) case "would collapse" (that is a quote). Blackmun said the Court couldn't determine this -- who could?

Well, Congress can, because that's what the 14th Amendment says: Congress shall implement this by appropriate legislation.

Long-shot? Perhaps, but well worth doing in any case, because merely waging the battle -- mobilizing public opinion, getting pols to cosponsor it, getting record votes, and holding them accountable at the next election --all makes for more prolifers in Congress, and those with stiffer spines, as well as identifying and defeating enemies of the unborn and their smooth-talking fellow travelers.

A fight like this clears the way, if not for the Life at Conception Act (and who thought the Berlin Wall would fall?), then for many other useful things.

A President can do a lot, although not so directly. I.e., sure, if this ever reaches his desk, he may well sign it; but don't kid yourself about what he'd do to keep it from ever reaching there. This president, for example, has time after time cast his lot, in primaries, with the wrong people: Specter and Chafee come immediately to mind.

Not saying the courts don't matter; but if you want to control the courts, you have to control Congress. For example, one option presently available is limiting jurisdiction, which has been done from time to time.

On the other hand, anyone who thinks we're going to repeal Roe by stealth is kidding himself. I don't know how Roberts and Alito will vote, I pray and hope they do the right thing; but if they don't, what will we complain about? They were chosen to be stealthy!

Anonymous said...

Why is pro life always defined by "abortion". All life is precious - war, poverty, abortion - ect ect. Lets get it straight. That is our Catholic Tradition.

Father Martin Fox said...


The issues related to the sanctity of newly conceived and pre-born life (abortion, including by high doses of hormone pills, baby-killing "research," cloning, etc.) are not the only "prolife" issues, but they are certainly the salient prolife issue.

This may shock you, but it is true: war and poverty are not intrinsically evil, as such. In given circumstances, war is just and, given no better alternative, necessary. Poverty is not a good, per se, but it is certainly not an intrinsic evil; indeed, Scripture often enjoins us to embrace poverty.

But you can never make similar points about destroying unborn life: it is never in any way acceptable, and in no way sanctifying.

In this country, we do a great deal to alleviate poverty, and a fair amount is being done overseas: there is no supreme law in this country forbidding that, as there is protecting largescale destruction of unborn life.

How many die each day in this country from poverty? Over 4,000 die from abortions, and untold more in "fertility clinics" and through abortifacient drugs.

It's not either-or; it's a question of severity of the threat -- and I do insist that the threats to the unborn do, indeed, represent the gravest threat, for many reasons.

One more very important reason to focus on the threats against the unborn is that it is precisely here that we have the worst corruption of our laws and institutions and morals. (And also for the disabled and elderly.)

I.e., I am unaware of a significant movement that says, of the poor, "let them die"; but that is precisely what is being said of the unborn (including newly conceived embryos), those with anticipated birth defects, the disabled and those in declining health.

Father Barry said...

Fr. Martin:

I was going to point you to my Sunday afternoon response, but I see you've already found it. And responded by giving me even more to think about. Talk about the slippery slope; every time I finishing working through your thoughts, you give me more. I'm not making headway.

(I am enjoying it, though. Thanks!)

Father Martin Fox said...

Father Barry:

You forget -- or may not have known -- that I did this for a living before I entered the seminary.

Father Barry said...

Fr. Martin: You forget -- or may not have known -- that I did this for a living before I entered the seminary.

I remember that. Was one of the things that drew me to your blog in the first place, in fact. And I'm sure it has a great deal to do with your perspective - and with your ability to articulate that perspective.

Still, there are lots of people that did/do this for a living that can't articulate anything like this. So I'm going to have to find at least one other cause. 8-)