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NRLC endorses...Fred Thompson?

It's taken me a little while to get around to blogging this myself. By this time it is no longer the hottest news. But I have to admit to being still astonished, still shaking my head.

As far as I know, this is a first: The National Right to Life Committee is officially endorsing a candidate who has recently (as in, last week) said that he doesn't think abortion should be illegal. Let that sink in for a minute.

News outlets aren't always reporting this very clearly. The major issue is not federalism, nor even a Human Life Amendment. The major issue is criminalizing abortion, even at the state level. This is what he said.

"People ask me hypothetically, you know, OK, it goes back to the states," said Thompson. "Somebody comes up with a bill, and they say we're going to outlaw this, that, or the other. And my response was, I do not think it is a wise thing to criminalize young girls and perhaps their parents as aiders and abettors or perhaps their family physician. And that's what you're talking about. It's not a sense of the Senate. You're talking about potential criminal law."

Well, yes, we are talking about criminal law, Mr. Thompson. What did you think protecting the unborn meant? Making nice noises? Here Thompson makes it very clear that if Roe v. Wade were overturned and the issue returned to the states, he opposes criminalizing abortion--in his words, "outlawing this, that, or the other."

And contrary to the spin given by NRLC's representative in the interview with Kathryn Jean Lopez, Thompson did not merely say that he thinks women should not be put in jail for procuring abortion. He shows sympathy for the doctors, too, and thinks they, too, should not be subject to criminal saction: "Perhaps their family physician" would have his actions criminalized. Heaven forbid! I guess it should be legal to tear children limb from limb, then, so long as you are Marcus Welby, M.D., or a reasonable facsimile.

So why did they do it? Lopez tries her darndest to get an answer to the "why not Romney" question, but she doesn't manage to obtain one. (I'm astonished that it isn't Romney myself, not because I'm a Romney booster, but because I thought Romney had tied it up in late January with Bopp's enthusiastic endorsement.) And Daniel Larison has pointed out the falsity of their claims about Thompson's ability to win both the primary and the general election. So why?

The obvious, and probably the only, answer is this: Once you are the friend of the folks at NRLC, you are their friend forever. This has certainly proved to be the case with George W. Bush. It wasn't all that long ago that NRLC was passionately opposing McCain-Feingold. Yet when Bush signed it--and even became a real fan of "campaign finance reform"--he got not a single complaint. I remember it well. The headline on NRL News was, "Senate passes McCain-Feingold." You really had to comb the article to find a single, wincing mention of the fact that Bush had signed it. And that fact was never once mentioned again. But Bush had been the NRLC's poster boy since he was governor of Texas. They whipped their members unrelentingly in 2000 to get him elected, they were ecstatic when he won, and they weren't about to admit that their beloved candidate had, contrary even to his own campaign promises, betrayed them on an issue that had been so important to them.

Thompson, as we hear over and over, has a 100% voting record with NRLC. How little this really means on, for example, the little matter of whether it should be legal to abort babies, is evident to anyone who thinks about what the Senate really gets to vote on these days when it comes to life issues. It's all about parental consent, embryonic research funding, and the like. Oh, and partial-birth abortion. Fred apparently thinks Marcus shouldn't be allowed to do those, anyway. (But what if a "young girl and her parents" really need one, Fred? Shouldn't they be able to get help from their family doctor?) But a 100% voting record is a 100% voting record, to the NRLC. It's payback time. And Romney hasn't paid in, so he doesn't get paid back.

There is just one other little thing that keeps knocking around in my mind. Thompson's campaign representative has said that there were no "last-minute meetings" with NRLC. But it might depend on how you define "last minute." My mind goes back to the 2000 campaign. NRLC was desperate to elect GWB. But some people were a bit unhappy about the fact that he never talks about abortion. (This is still true, by the way.) Writers for NRL News were contemptuous of this complaint. The articles are not, as far as I know, easily accessible on-line, so you'll have to rely on my memory for this. But the express statement was made that we should support candidates based on NRLC endorsement even if they didn't talk about our issues, because we should understand that there could be "back-channel communications" with NRLC on the subject. That was the exact phrase.

Now, suppose, just suppose, that Fred met with NRLC representatives before that Meet the Press interview and told them something of what he was going to say, checking to make sure it wouldn't lose him the endorsement. This is blatant conjecture. I'm not saying that I believe it. But it would fit. That would be at a minimum several weeks before the endorsement, so he could still claim there hadn't been any last-minute meetings.

I still get NRL News. I'll pay more attention to it over the next few months than I usually do, and we'll see if the phrase "back-channel communications" comes up again. If it does, I think we'll know.

Comments (28)

I was wondering when you'd go after this one. In fact, I've been waiting for your opinion of Pat Robertson's endorsement of Giuliani.

I can't figure Fred's position out. If Roe is overturned, some states might make abortion illegal. Fred doesn't want it illegal. So why overturn Roe? Keeping it in place is the best way to save it from illegality - or, to paraphrase Clinton, to keep it "safe, legal, and common."

I can't figure Fred's position out.

My understanding of Fred's position: "Roe is invalid law, but abortion should be legal".

I think Fred gets to have a lot by taking the position that he does. To the federalists, he can spin himself as the heroic, principled federalist. His idea is that this is why he opposes Roe: Because it takes the issue away from the states. Now, it also just happens that overturning Roe is a huge deal for pro-lifers. Don't get me wrong. It's a huge deal for me. It just isn't enough for me to consider a candidate pro-life. But Fred gets the pro-life endorsement by saying he wants Roe overturned. After all, he's going several notches better than Giuliani by doing so. Giuliani will make faces and say he "hates" abortion, and he'll make noises about appointing "constructivist" justices (yeah, right), but you wouldn't catch him ever saying he thinks Roe should be overturned. So that makes Fred look pretty good by comparison.

And Fred can pick up some of the pro-choice vote, too, because he's made it clear that he doesn't actually think abortion should be criminalized. If you followed the link to the Republican Libertarian blog from my last blog post on the Thompson thing, you would find the blogger there saying, "They can say what they like and call him pro-life if they want, but I know Thompson takes a libertarian line on abortion--that it shouldn't be the government's business." So any pro-choicers who aren't such NARAL die-hards as to think the world will end if Roe is overturned (and there are some who are not such die-hards) will be happy with Thompson, too.

Fred Thompson: Something for everyone.

Curiously enough, Thompson's character on Law and Order was of the exact same opinion as Thompson on Federalism and Roe.

I thought he looked familiar.

I didn't know Kevin watched TV.

I keep telling you, but you won't listen. Conservatism is about power, not about ideals. The *real* elite of this nation preaches ideals to the rubes to get them to vote for them; but when push comes to shove, it's all about doing whatever it takes keep "the right people" running the show, and the golden trough brimming with gelt. Ronnie, Dubya, Fred, Rudy...whoever it takes.

Good post, Lydia.

Rodak: your cynicism grows tiresome. Throwing Reagan in the same category of mediocrities as GWB and Giuliani (and the same category of the "real elite" and the "right people running the show") is not the kind of thing that inspires confidence in your political judgment.

"Throwing Reagan in the same category of mediocrities as GWB ..."

They didn't call Reagan "the Teflon president" for nothing. I would place the Iran-Contra Affair right up there with anything done by tbe G.W. Bush administration, in terms of illegality, and/or immorality. Ditto for Giuliani's conduct as mayor of New York City. Any Reagan acolyte is invited to judge my acumen as a political analsyt and my moral sensibilty by his own at any time. I welcome the comparison.

Regrettably, the Constitution (as amended) does NOT provide a Federal role for the question of abortion. It's a State matter.

By the way, the Constitution also does not provide a "right to privacy," except in the fevered minds of Libertarians and SCOTUS (see Griswold.)

NRLC simply read the Constitutional documents and read Fred's position on the matter and made the correct decision.

NRLC simply read the Constitutional documents and read Fred's position on the matter and made the correct decision.

The correct decision of the NRLC is to endorse an explicitly pro-abortion candidate?

The things people talk themselves into believing never cease to amaze.

Hell, let's throw Lincoln into this cauldron of metiocrities. After all, he suspended habeas corpus.

Perhaps Rodak will someday grant us a glimpse at what he is actually for, politically, as opposed to what he is against, which so far appears to be "everything." Or perhaps he will give us an example of an American statesman he admires.

Yes, Dad29, there is something you don't seem to get here: I never said that Thompson is wrong to suggest that the states regulate abortion. I said he is wrong to think that they should not outlaw it. Get it? Is there something unclear here?

As Bill Luse said, the whole _point_ of overturning Roe v. Wade from a pro-life perspective is to try at that point to get the states to protect the unborn. Certainly, Roe should be overturned as a blatant lie about the meaning of the Constitution and a trampling of states' sovereignty. But that's just the beginning of the story if you believe that it is, you know, wrong to tear up unborn children. Apparently Fred doesn't, or at least doesn't think they should be protected. He's just concerned with the states' rights issue. That should not be enough for the endorsement of the largest pro-life activist group in the country, nor for any pro-life group or individual.

Well, its true the Constitution says nothing about abortion. It does, however say a bit about a person. If you believe that the unborn are not persons, then, yes, the Constitution says nothing about them. If you believe they are, then...

"Or perhaps he will give us an example of an American statesman he admires."

There is *something* admirable about almost any American statesman, if one wants to be fair. That said, politics is not the kind of vocation that the type of person I tend to most admire goes into. Politics is too much involved with deals and compromise, and too little involved with ideals and integrity to instil much admiration in me. I admire saints, primarily; artists, secondarily; and (mostly theoretically) certain types of rebel, revolutionary, or outlaw, based solely on their refusal to allow their freedom to be defined and abridged by a herd mentality (a trait shared by saints and artists).

I admire saints, primarily; artists, secondarily; and (mostly theoretically) certain types of rebel, revolutionary, or outlaw, based solely on their refusal to allow their freedom to be defined and abridged by a herd mentality (a trait shared by saints and artists).


Nietzsche (GM, 3.5):So let's eliminate the artists right away. They do not stand independent of the world and against the world long enough for their evaluations and the changes in those evaluations to merit our interest for their own sake! They have in all ages been valets to a morality or philosophy or religion, quite apart from the fact that, often enough, they unfortunately have been the all-too-adaptable courtiers of groups of their followers and, above all, their patrons and fine-nosed flatterers of old or even newly arriving powers. At the very least, they always need a means of protection, a support, an already established authority. The artist never stands by himself—standing alone contravenes his deepest instincts.

Well, its true the Constitution says nothing about abortion. It does, however say a bit about a person. If you believe that the unborn are not persons, then, yes, the Constitution says nothing about them. If you believe they are, then...

The Constitution says nothing explicitly about the unborn either, though the 14th amendment does explicitly refer to "all persons born" in the U.S. It is no better for Pro-Lifers to twist the text of the Constitution to advance their agenda than it is for Pro-Choicers.

Perseus--
Fritz was envious.

The Constitution says nothing explicitly about the unborn either

Then I guess we ought to assume that the Founders thought them fit for extermination.

Maybe the constitution says something about murder. If it doesn't, it ought to. I should think there'd be a Federal role in condemning it. Better yet, prohibiting it.

The thing is, we don't even have to think about a constitutional amendment or a federal law protecting, say, 40-year-old college professors from being shot to death in the head. The states have laws against murder and take care of that just fine on their own. The whole question of whether the constitution means to include the unborn in the term "persons" seems to me an outgrowth of the idea that everything has to be in the Constitution. Most things aren't. Rape, for example. Which is fine so long as some idiot or knave of a Supreme Court justice doesn't come along and say that the states may not have laws against rape. Moreover, anyone who says he thinks the issue of rape should be legislated at the state level--as, in fact, it presently is--isn't a fine fellow if he then adds that, at the state level, he thinks it shouldn't be criminalized! All of this seems so obvious to me. But that people should consider Thompson pro-life because of what he says about Roe just goes to show how Roe has twisted our whole political process.

I wasn't referring to art. XIV citizenship clause (the only part of that article which uses the term "born"). In that clause, 'born' is used as a way to determine citizenship - "born in the USA" (cue Springstein) - not necessarily personhood.

The Constitution says nothing about murder, rape etc. But it does say that states cannot deny "persons" (sans 'born' qualifier) equal protection of the law. It would seem then, that if murdering a 40 year old person is illegal in a particular state, then murdering unborn persons ought to be as well.

IIRC, RvW held the unborn were not "persons". That conclusion is simply wrong.

It is true most things are not in the Constitution. But "person" is all over the Constitution - I count at least twenty times, not including where it uses the plural term "people". It would seem rather difficult to argue that "person" is not "in the Constitution," and that arguing we should inlcude the unborn in "person" is merely an outgrowth of trying to squeeze everything into the Constitution. If the Cons is all about the relationship of the Government and the People, seems the most important questions to begin with are 'who is the Government' and 'who are the people.'

Go, c matt.

Here is my attempt to say that the 14th Amendment requires states to protect all persons equally, period, even against private violence, if the states protect any persons against some type private wrong.

http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2007/05/a_rad_idea_about_14th_amendmen.html

Very much in your vein, C Matt--if the states have a law against murder (or whatever), they must apply it equally to all persons.

The very long comments thread got into many issues. But I was more or less convinced by Crimson Catholic that it would be at a minimum impractical actually to try to apply this, most of all because one would have to define "wrong" or "harm" very narrowly in order to avoid unleashing the federal judiciary to micromanage all state laws in a really tyrannical and wrongful fashion. (E.g. Suppose the judiciary decided that it was a "harm" not to be allowed to marry whomever one wants to marry and therefore said that states must protect all "persons" against this "harm," including homosexuals. You can see where that is going.)

Of course, _if_ this suggestion of 14th Amendment interp. works, then it _does_ all come down to whether the meaning of the 14th Amendment "persons" includes unborn people. If you are an originalist, this becomes an historical question, either regarding original intent or original understanding, or both. I have seen interesting arguments against that historical thesis, though I don't think the one Perseus brought forward here--concerning "persons born"--is the best, for the reason you give, C Matt: that that clause concerns citizenship, not equal protection. And equal protection, *whatever it means and whatever it includes*, presumably applies to non-citizens as well. E.g. If a state had a law that a non-citizen black person could be murdered without penalty, it would certainly, and rightly, be struck down as unconstitutional. But there are better arguments, most notably that there was some variation in state laws re. abortion at the time of the passage of the 14th amendment, and that unequal protection was never challenged in the courts early on. There was of course much less medical knowledge about unborn children when the 14th amendment was passed than there is now.

It seems to me that there are pragmatic perils for the pro-life cause in a human life amendment. I've mentioned this before. I would worry that some sort of compromise would be set in stone for the entire nation when individual states might pass more protective laws. My own preferred _strategy_, purely as a matter of strategy and prudence, would be to argue for highly protective laws at the state level. But that can be done only if Roe is either overturned or defied. I think the latter should be an option on the table since, as I've often said, Supreme Court diktats on the meaning of the Constitution are not laws, and when they are as egregiously false as this one, the legitimate question arises whether the other branches of government and the state governments have the right to interpret the Constitution for themselves and simply proceed as if the lying interpretation had never been handed down. But I doubt that anyone will have the nerve to try that approach.

I wasn't referring to art. XIV citizenship clause (the only part of that article which uses the term "born"). In that clause, 'born' is used as a way to determine citizenship - "born in the USA" (cue Springstein) - not necessarily personhood.

The Constitution says nothing about murder, rape etc. But it does say that states cannot deny "persons" (sans 'born' qualifier) equal protection of the law. It would seem then, that if murdering a 40 year old person is illegal in a particular state, then murdering unborn persons ought to be as well.


Lydia is right because the two clauses of section 1 of the 14th amendment that mention "persons" were specifically added because the framers of the amendment wanted to provide aliens with certain protections. And as Lydia also points out, some states allowed abortion and no one challenged them on 14th amendment grounds early on.

In any case, my main point was that the Constitution is entirely silent on the unborn and abortion (the mention of persons born in the 14th amendment being the closest that the Constitution gets to the issue, which is not very close at all) is because under our federal system, those subjects (like murder, rape, theft, etc.) were widely understood as falling under the reserved "police powers" of the states. It took a constitutional amendment to ban the practice of slavery across the nation, and so it should likewise take a constitutional amendment to ban the practice of abortion across the nation.

*Note to Lydia: Your suggestion about emphasizing the "protection" part of equal protection of the laws is similar to that of Walter Berns & Michael Zuckert. Essentially, their argument is that the 3 clauses of first section of the 14th amendment are directed mainly at each state's legislative, judicial, and executive branches, respectively. Berns writes:

"...The third [clause] is addressed to the state executives, who are enjoined not to 'deny'--meaning, withhold from--any and every person within the jurisdiction of the state the [equal] protection of the laws. The beneficiaries of this clause are described with greater specificity ('any person within its jurisdiction') because what is required of the state here is affirmative action--it must act to protect anyone who is threatened by private parties--whereas it will have already acted against, and therefore, will have identified the persons entitled to due process.

If the amendment is read in this way, the only substantive clause is the first...it was Congress, not the Court, that was authorized to provide the substance, which it would do by defining privileges and immunities..."

I figured this out by assuming that the embryo is a person. It doesn't matter: NOBODY has the right to use my body without permission, even to save their life. The guy beside me on the subway can't draft me to act as his kidney--and whatr law would give him the right to do so? So why should an unborn entity have more rights than the guy on the subway? It doesn't work and will not work. At last count, more than 80 women have died in a country where medically necessary abortions, such as ectopic pregnancies, could not be started until the fetus died. In Ethiopia, 55% of maternal mortality is from illegal abortions. You have a choice: an embryo vs. a living, breathing woman. An embryo is not a person until you can live in a blueprint without going to the trouble of building the house.

NOBODY has the right to use my body without permission, even to save their life.

Engaging in the sexual act grants permission to any children which result. You may not want the sexual act to morally entail that permission, the taking on of that responsibility: but it does entail that, and much more. It entails the obligation to love, care and provide for any children which result.

Liberal autonomy theory is nonsense: pervasive, inhuman, murderous, and narcissistic nonsense.

You have a choice: an embryo vs. a living, breathing woman.

Yes, I have the choice. What I don't have is the moral right to make it. You libs love begging the question.

The good news is that you concede the embryo's personhood. The bad news is that you consider this particular kind of person a candidate for murder. If you allow it in this case, you'll probably end up allowing it in others.

I don't mean to change the topic, but where did you ppl figure out how to program in HTML?

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