Saturday, March 03, 2007

Weekly Standard: throw prolifers under the bus

In this article, the Weekly Standard comes out of the neo-con closet on the abortion issue: time to throw the prolifers under the bus.

The Weekly Standard has promoted itself as a conservative journal, and often publishes articles in that vein. But it's neo-conservative roots are beginning to show.

"Neo-conservatism" is a movement that has its roots in disillusioned liberals, coming out of the culture shock of the late '60s and the '70s, who basically said, "we never thought it would go that far!" They "moved to the right" insofar as they stayed put, while their fellow liberals continued lurching leftward. (The whole "left/right" thing is a questionable paradigm, but it's too familiar, and I don't care to dissect it just now.) In fairness, the neo-cons did move somewhat rightward, but not so much. Just because Ralph Nader called Al Gore a "rightie" doesn't make it so. Look at what they believe.

Neo-cons tended to be more hawkish on foreign policy, in distinction to those they broke ranks with, who really went wobbly on the Cold War; also, they tended not to be rapturous about every latest mutation of the counterculture, nor constantly apologetic for being white, American, heterosexual, middle class, and Western. So there was a basis for them to line up with conservatives and the GOP, particularly in the Democratic Party of McGovern and Jimmy Carter.

That said, the neo-cons were themselves wobbly on issues that have always been essentially conservative. Conservatives really don't like big government; neo-cons say, "eh!" One of the litmus-test issues that, in the past, divided a neo-conservative from a conservative was how you handled Big Labor. Conservatives have little use for the way unionism works under existing laws, as it tends to be compulsory-collectivist, class-warfare-oriented, and it works from a lumpenproletariat mindset that simply can't fathom that workers can really succeed as individuals, so they should shut up and fall in line with the union, for their own good. Neo-conservatives, in the past, have always been embarrassed by the Right to Work issue, and have always tried to have it both ways; maintain the present, conflict-promoting, coercion-imposing labor-law system, but restraining its worst excesses.

Likewise, conservatives don't advocate new government programs to advance conservative objectives; they want less government: as President Reagan said, "government isn't the solution to the problem; government is the problem." Neo-cons went along with that because they agreed with Reagan on the Cold War. This present Bush administration is essentially neo-conservative.

Conservatives derive their views on abortion, pornography, homosexual "marriage" and related issues from religion, in effect, Christianity. (Yes, I know that not all conservatives are Christian, and there's no need that they be; but Christianity remains the source nonetheless. I don't know how athiests who are conservative rationalize this, but probably something like Oriana Fallaci, who was an athiest, and yet essentially identified with Christianity, because she valued Western Civilization, and she considered the latter impossible without the former.)

Neo-cons are of various religious beliefs (it's a nasty crack to try to suggest "neo-con equals Jew," and I don't see it that way), but it sure seems they don't feel as visceral about the so-called "social issues" as conservatives do. Indeed, conservatives don't even like to call them that, since that diminishes their importance. Neo-cons tend to view such issues as more peripheral, where conservatives view them as far more essential. (These terms are not meant as a dichotomy, as if everyone who is some sort of conservative is one of these two categories; there are, in fact, quite a variety among conservatives, including so-called "paleos" and those who tend to be strongly libertarian. And then, of course, you have those who seem to belong to more than one category at once.)

Anyway, I offer all this both to explain what I mean by "neo-conservative," which I don't intend as a pejorative--at least in this article!--and to preface my remarks on the Weakly Standard (oops--how did that extra "a" get in there? Must be this sticky keyboard...).

Now, onto the article itself...

It is all part of the fever that infects more and more folks as elections near: the sense that winning the next election is so supremely important that more and more must be thrown overboard in order to do it. Thus the condescending lectures that are being given these days to various conservative folks that they should just get over their concerns, and get on board the Giuliani (or Romney or McCain or fill in your own name) bandwagon.

It perpetuates the lie -- I'm sorry, that's what it is -- that somehow, the "litmus test" of the 100% prolife position is an albatross for the GOP--that the GOP would be better off if it weren't forced to nominate prolife candidates for president.

Now, it is true that not all professions of support for the prolife cause are equally sincere, and I think there are some signs that prolifers themselves are getting savvier about that. The torpedoing of hapless Harriet Meirs--who may, in fact, have been good on the issue for all we know--shows that, I think. And it is true that prolifers are not immune to the fever I described above, especially when it comes to the presidency--so our current President has gotten something of a pass for not really being 100% prolife (he supports legal abortion for rape and incest).

The article either betrays a laughable credulity on the part of the author, or the author expects his readers to be gullible dolts, when it says, oh, sure, Giuliani is pro-abortion, but he'll choose the kind of judges prolifers want! Hold on, hold on...

First: Giuliani said he'd name justices like Alito and Roberts. Hasn't anyone noticed that these judges have yet to demonstrate they are the kind of judges we hope for, and were promised?

Second: and we're supposed to be impressed that Giuliani says this? What do you expect him to say? "I tend to favor nominees like Ginsberg and Thurgood Marshall." I think if you go back, you will find GOP nominees always say the right things about who they'll nominate as judges--the elder Bush did, so did Reagan. And Reagan has street cred as a conservative--yet of three he named to the high court, two were bad; Bush the elder was 50/50.

So please, how stupid do they think we are? "I'll pick great judges" Oh, well, glad that's settled...

Third: the article sidesteps the question of why Giuliani is pro-abortion. I don't happen to know why he came to that view, but I do know how he justified his support for gun-control: he said, well, it was New York! I.e., he tailored his views so he'd get elected.

Oh, but of course, he'd never do that once he's president...he wouldn't want to get pro-aborts on board with anything he wanted, by trading away a supreme court justice? No, not Giuliani...

Another glaring flaw of the article--it's really insulting, because it is as if the author thinks we're too stupid to notice--is that it suggests that all conservatives have to object to is just this little ole difference, it's not so great, really... I mean, it's not like Giuliani is only a teensy-bit pro-abortion.

Only a few years ago, Giuliani was appearing before the National Abortion Rights Action League, proud to identify with them. "But he hasn't done that lately!" Yeah, I wonder why?

Now, if you read those remarks--yes, they are brief--but they show him rather an advocate of the GOP being "pro choice" on abortion. If he was sincere, that suggests to me he will not be content to be a lonely pro-abort in a sea of prolifers. And of all the things you can assert about Giuliani, the idea that he's going to leave the levers of power unhandled is pretty hard to swallow. If he becomes President, you can bet he'll shape the party as he believes. Of course, he might not have been sincere in those remarks; fine--then don't argue he's sincere in what he promises you, now.

Also, the WS article expects you to be too inattentive to notice that Giuliani is lousy on more than abortion. As noted, he's a gun-grabber.

The idea that he is simultaneously in favor of punching holes in the Second Amendment, and also some sort of libertarian, is more cognitive dissonance than I can endure, but perhaps you are made of sterner stuff.

While I don't for a moment accept his libertarian justification for being "pro-choice," whatever persuasiveness it has evaporates when one comes to guns, and thus his credibility evaporates as well. What some people fail to realize is that the right to own a gun is essentially inseparable from the right to use one in self-defense (i.e., despite the incompetent argumentation of the NRA, gun rights are not essentially about hunting and sports, but about self defense); and that, from the right of self-defense itself.

It is, in fact, a question of self-possession, vs. being a ward of the state. Because gun rights--however distasteful many find the idea--are about your autonomy when it comes to preserving your own life. If someone comes after you with a big, nasty gun, do you have the right -- legally, and morally -- to use an equally big, nasty gun, or even one that is bigger and nastier, to stop that aggression? The answer is, yes you do. No, you may not run around and hurt people with that big, nasty gun; but you have every right--and even a positive duty--to stop someone who aims to rape and kill you and others. And in the real world, you need big, nasty guns to do it. The gun-grabbers say, "let the government do it for you." Well, when you cede control, to government, over the maintenance of your life, what is left of your own liberty? As it happens, the government clearly does not guarantee to arrive in time to stop the thugs from killing you and yours, so the duty to be prepared remains your own. (By the way, there is something rather distasteful about the idea that while the Second Amendment is fine for most folks, it's not for those people in cities. But I guess the NAACP has its hands full with Lacrosse.)

Then you have Giuliani's position on "gay rights"; and where he stands on Right to Work, I'll leave for another day. My point is, the argument that he's otherwise a conservative is untenable. It's a well-used one--Schwarzenegger got the same promotion for awhile, till it became totally laughable (and was no longer needed). (Maybe all we need is to say, no Republicans with unspellable names.)

The Weekly Standard article is one of many showing up here and there, trying to sell conservatives on Giuliani. It reminds me of the scene in A Man for All Seasons, where one of the nobles got irritated with Thomas More (this is a paraphrase): we've all sold out, it wasn't so hard--why do you have to be so prissy?

Who knows what will happen--but my gut is that if Giuliani somehow were to get the nomination, I think the GOP could be in for a big, nasty surprise in November 2008, especially if the Democrats were to decide 2008 were the year to stop being so aggressively pro-abortion (say, they nominated Obama, who seems to be playing a rhetorical game akin to Giuliani's).


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

Great post, Father.

Starting at the back of it, Obama is very pro-abortion. Never mind what he says; his voting records in both the US and Illinois Senates bear this out.

Next, of course you're right in all you say about Giuliani. He's a liberal by most criteria. He's more liberal than Joe Lieberman.

That Giuliani, McCain and Romney have been designated "frontrunners" (And on what basis? Some pundits notion of who can win? I think it's the media's wishful thinking!) merely emphasizes the embarrassment that the media and the GOP power-brokers feel towards the Republican base.

But as I've discussed repeatedly on my own blog, I am only a Republican insofar as the GOP is the pro-life party. If the GOP is going to nominate pro-abortion candidates, then pro-lifers should -- and, I think, will -- abandon the party wholesale.

Better Clinton or Obama than Giuliani. At least with Clinton and Obama, pro-lifers in Congress could fight against the president on life issues without having to be accused of splitting their party.

Abortion should not be an issue in the U.S. at all, much less in the Republican Party. Pro-lifers are right, and the boil-that-dust-speck, pro-death, Moloch-worshiping crowd are wrong. If the GOP won't stand for what's right on the life issues, then what can the party be trusted to stand for? Is there no principle they won't betray if they think they can win an election thereby?

It's an understandable temptation. If they think they can get pro-life voters for a pro-abortion nominee who can also attract pro-abortion voters, then why not nominate a pro-abortion nominee?

We must be ready to show them that they are wrong. Pro-lifers cannot get what they want by supporting a pro-abortion Republican.

Pro-abortion nominees cannot be trusted with the complex issues of government; they don't even know what a person is. How are they to be expected to navigate the complex issues of foreign policy on the world stage, or tax policy, or retirement, or education, or any of the many issues an elected official must master? If they haven't mastered the basics, the life issues, how can we trust their command of the advanced subjects?

But no, rather than join together on the issues that the base cares about, the ruling elites of the party will, as you say, throw us under the bus, and then demand we join with them in a show of "party unity".

"You first," I reply. Let them show party unity by rejecting candidates as "front-runners" who don't support the party's major platform planks.

From under the bus, I don't think I'll be able to see my way clear to support the party.

Nor does this effort in 2007, even if it should ultimately fail and by some act of God actually nominate a Brownback or a Hunter in 2008, serve to instill future trust in the GOP leadership.

I'm thinking it's really time for a truely pro-life political party. If that's not the GOP, I'm sure I won't be the only one to go find a party that will be.

joeh said...

If GOP going pro choice, my vote is lost to them. If they think because the dems put up Clinton that the prolife vote will go to a pro choice republican, they are going to find out how wrong they are. There will be a third party that is pro life or the voter turn out will be lowest ever.

Jeff Miller said...

I find it quite sickening all of this sucking up to Rudy because supposedly "he can win."

That any excuse will be offered to counteract his actual positions. The one about his selecting Judges like Scalia in nonsense. Simply look at his record as Governor when the over-whelming majority of judges he selected were as far from a Scalia as you could get.

Plus the idea that somebody so wrong on so many important issues isn't a major character flaw is crazy. That somebody who can be so wrong on so many things will make the right choices as president is quite flawed.

It is like we are going out of our way of finding our own Clinton. Just look past the glaring character flaws and his sexual escapades because he will be strong on the war on terror.

Anna said...

My only concern about rejecting pro-choice Republicans (which I might do if the Democrats were pro-life), is what happens if we do go third party and allow either Obama or Hilary to win easily.

I don't like that option either.

Anonymous said...

I was a conservative democrat when that meant doesn't anymore of course, so now I'm nothing...mainly because I've firmly decided to be a Catholic.

Even though Rudy showed flashes of brilliant leadership, I cannot vote for him for all the reasons identified here. Same with McCaine, and definitely not Romney, who could have stopped Gay Marriage in Massachusetts if he had actually wanted to. The only canidate I think is even close to what we'd want in a Catholic Politician is Sen Brownback from Kansas. But, in the current environment he's got a snow ball chance in heck of getting the nomination.

Anonymous said...

Neo-cons are partly a carry over from the Vietnam war era. They were young and faced the draft. If the there had been no draft the anti-war protests of that era would resemble the size of today's protests. But with a vested interest in ending the war, their own skin, many became fellow-travelers of the far left for a time. Much of the anti establishment mentality and absolutely no restriction on one's personal life mentality came with them over the years as these mainstreamers identified more and more with the conservative side of the fence, at least financially speaking. That is why, on the "social issues", there is much less enthusiasm for any kind of hardline stand. They tend to be uncomfortable with hardline pro-lifers and tacitly support personal moral freedom absolutists like the ACLU, or at least cannot see the social danger they represent.
Perhaps it is too late, but they will only change position as their imagination is captured by a movement of pro-life that tends to present the abortion industry as anti-civil rights. In the meantime, the emotions of the X and Y generations have been tapped successfully and are the real hope for the future of pro-life in the political arena, in my opinion.
In the interim, the only real check on a Giuliani is a better candidate and grass roots hard work in the primaries. There is no substitute for money in politics, but a lot of little people, working hard, can disrupt things.

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

Anna -
My only concern about rejecting pro-choice Republicans (which I might do if the Democrats were pro-life), is what happens if we do go third party and allow either Obama or Hilary to win easily.

As I've blogged in my own space, Clinton or Obama would be far preferable to a pro-abortion Republican President because neither Clinton nor Obama can sever the link between the pro-life movement and the GOP. A Giuliani could.

Without a major party dependent on pro-life support, the pro-life movement will be largely, if temporarily disenfranchised, and left without a voice.

Even if our party is out of power, we can make progress, as we did in the 90s.

But if we have no party, what then?

Answer: A lot of hard work that we wouldn't have to re-accomplish if not for the ambitious short-sightedness of Giuliani and the neo-cons.

It's not enough to say that the GOP does not deserve the support of pro-life people if it nominates a pro-abortion candidate. True, but not enough.

We must also be clear about the fact that, if the GOP is not to appeal to its own base, then it is destined to be a minority party for the foreseeable future.

Giuliani cannot win; he must not be nominated.

Andrew said...

If the Republicans nominate Rudy we should not vote for them. If even a couple percent of the Republican "base" doesn't vote Republican, they will lose. While in the short term that might be bad, in the long run it will force the Republican Party to remain pro-life. What a lot of Pro-lifers do not realize is that the Republican Party, like the Democratic Party, only really believes in its own power. It, as a political institution, views abortion like it does any other issue. If the party believes that pro-lifers will vote for them regardless, and that they can pick up some "moderate" voters by nominating a pro-abortion candidate, they will do it. Pro-lifers must understand this. We must get over partisan loyalty and view both parties as tools of expediency. Something to think about: seven of the current Supreme Court justices where nominated by Republican presidents, we have had Republican domination of Washington for about ten years, that control being complete for six years, and abortion is still completely legal. Now the Party is thinking about nominating a pro-abortion guy. At some point we have to ask ourselves: Are we a bunch of suckers? Abortion is the only political issue of philosophical substance today in America. People who are philosophically informed and committed to one side have nothing in common with people similarly informed on the other—They have diametrically opposed views of what it means to be a human being and therefore diametrically opposed understandings of law and government. It is a sign of the philosophical shallowness of American political discourse that it is possible for a “pro-life” party to even consider nominating a pro-choice candidate.

Paul said...

The Man for All Seasons reference is spot on: the big business and neo-con wings of the GOP want us to come along with them, "for fellowship." And our response should be, at least if our efforts to negotiate and get pro-life candidates fail, should be the same as More's: "and when you are sent to heaven for following your conscience, and I am sent to hell for not following mine, will you then come with me, for fellowship?"

Giuliani and Romney are jokes, and McCain probably is. My money's on Mike Huckabee from Arkansas -- look into him, he needs more publicity.

Fr. Larry Gearhart said...

Nice critique, Martin.

I personally never assumed Alito and Roberts would be pro-life. I don't count my chickens before they're hatched. Neither do I count my boobies. It remains to be seen where Alito and/or Roberts will come down on the critical decisions, like the constitutional review of the current law banning partial birth abortions.

According to the currently popular nomenclature, I qualify as a paleo-conservative. Personally, I just call myself Roman Catholic. The other labels all have serious shortcomings in describing my positions.

Leticia said...

Am I dreaming, or did the Dems just sweep the last elections by offering some ostensibly pro-life candidates who beat pro-life Republicans? Didn't 'values voters'(code for pro-life) surprise everyone in 2004 by putting the Republicans over the top?
It's truly stunning to see just how short their memories are.
Brownback for president!