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Robert George (and Yuval Levin) respond to Obama's born-alive claim in the debate

Earlier this week, I linked to an essay by Princeton professor Robert P. George ("Obama's Abortion Extremism") clearly showing that Senator Obama's views on abortion are the most extreme of any presidential candidate in U. S. History. Now, with Yuval Levin, Professor George replies to Obama's misleading defense of his abortion record in Wednesday's debate. Here are some excerpts from the essay:

Obama's latest excuse for opposing the Illinois Born-Alive Infants Protection Act is that the law was ''unnecessary'' because babies surviving abortions were already protected. It won't fly.

In last night's presidential debate, Sen. John McCain finally found an opportunity to confront Sen. Barack Obama on his vote against protecting children who were born alive after an attempted abortion. Obama's response followed the pattern of his approach to this subject throughout the campaign: deny the facts and confuse the issue. He said:

''There was a bill that was put forward before the Illinois Senate that said you have to provide lifesaving treatment and that would have helped to undermine Roe v. Wade. The fact is that there was already a law on the books in Illinois that required providing lifesaving treatment, which is why not only myself but pro-choice Republicans and Democrats voted against it.''

But the facts of the born-alive debate tell a different story...

Obama's case against the bill did not revolve around existing state law, as he seemed to suggest last night. The law Obama referred to in the debate was the Illinois abortion statute enacted in 1975. But at the time of the debate about the Born Alive Act, the Illinois Attorney General had publicly stated that he could not prosecute incidents such as those reported by nurses at Christ Hospital in Chicago and elsewhere (including a baby left to die in soiled linen closet) because the 1975 law was inadequate. It only protected ''viable'' infants-and left the determination of viability up to the ''medical judgment'' of the abortionist who had just failed to kill the baby in the womb. This provision of the law weakened the hand of prosecutors to the vanishing point. That is why the Born Alive Act was necessary-and everybody knew it. Moreover, the Born Alive Act would have had the effect of at least ensuring comfort care to babies whose prospects for long-term survival were dim and who might therefore have been regarded as ''nonviable.'' As Obama and the other legislators knew, without the Born Alive Act these babies could continue to be treated as hospital refuse. That's how the dying baby that Nurse Jill Stanek found in the soiled linen closet got there.

You can read the rest here.

(cross-posted)

Comments (15)

Great post. What is becoming increasingly difficult to understand is how McCain is time and again absolutely unprepared and inept at challenging Obama on points where Obama is clearly weak. Once abortion took center stage in the last debate there was a genuine oppotunity to hit Obama with something of substance that raises disturbing questions in contradiction to Obama's rhetoric about decreasing the need for abortions. His pathetic line about how it is always tragic when a woman HAS to get an abortion. McCain had a very real chance to blow this thing up and change the dynamic of the debate and he weakly referenced the problem with the health exception without explanation for your average American who does not know what he is talking about.

Whatever anyone's opinion about McCain, and there is a lot not to like there, all of us active in pro-life issues know the extreme nature of Obama's position. The problem is that everyone else does not know or understand this. McCain certainly cannot sit back and let people like Robert George do the heavy lifting. George simply will not ever have the exposure and opportunities that McCain just blew in the debates.

That the race is still as close as it is amazes me. Either the polls cannot be trusted, or Obama's is the pretty front runner that struggles to close the deal. He impresses with his speaking ability but he fails to truly inspire the swing voters. For all his flash, they are still hesitant to embrace him. As in sports, it is not good to let a seemingly beaten opponent hang around in striking distance.

"What is becoming increasingly difficult to understand is how McCain is time and again absolutely unprepared and inept at challenging Obama on points where Obama is clearly weak."

I see two possibilities:

McCain is not intelligent enough to beat Obama in a debate. Obama is articulate and very-well educated (which a previous article on the homepage was poking fun at).

The other possibility is that McCain is losing on purpose, which is a good long-term strategy for the Republicans. I feel sorry for the man who will be president for the next 4 years, so many huge problems he will inherit, especially the economic mess. Nothing ruins a politician like a bad economy.

McCain is not intelligent enough to beat Obama in a debate.

That may be the case. Those openings that seem so obvious to us appear to be simply beyond McCain. He just doesn't seem to see them, and they aren't hard to see. It's not like he's being asked to divine an obscure and latent equivocation. Obama leaves himself open in all the right places, like he just drops his left hand and dares McCain to knock him out. And McCain won't throw the accurate but easy punch, but instead guesses, swings wild, and flails about. I wonder, even after all his years as a political warrior, if it turns out that McCain just doesn't have the stomach for the most important political fight of his career. But then again, with all his negative ads, it certainly does look like he's trying. Perhaps in the end he's just inept.

But one thinks, the openings in Obama's defense aren't hard to see for us. Why? Because perhaps we're really convinced on the life issue, and McCain isn't. Perhaps he really doesn't disagree with Obama on the life issue as much as he wants his base to think. In the last debate, he waffled. He wants Roe overturned because it was a "bad decision." He wants the question returned to the states. He's a federalist, he says. Surely he knows that only removes the difficulty by one step. And furthermore, it's not the sort of objection one expects from a true life advocate. It's an objection on jurisprudential grounds--fair enough as far as it goes, but not the true heart of the matter, at least taken by itself. Ron Paul or Huckabee, for instance, wouldn't let it go at the level of jurisprudence, one thinks.

like he just drops his left hand

Actually Obama is a lefty, so it would be the right hand he'd drop (pun intended). Maybe that's the trouble: McCain doesn't know how to fight a southpaw.

Something else to consider. Obama is a lawyer and McCain isn't. I seriously doubt that McCain had any significant education in ethical theory, whereas Obama did. The irony being that Obama while clearly more adroit and clever supports gross immorality. Palin had the same problem with Biden on Sodomite marriage. I think she is a true beliver but she is no lawyer.

That said, I can see the opportunities to pounce but I have had graduate level education in philosophy. And if education has taught me one thing it is that most people neither can nor are willing to think.

An interesting side note relevant to your comment, Perry: Studies found that the more education Nazi's had, the more wiling they were to kill Jews. I see a parallel in the abortion case.

Perry makes a good point. I have a colleague at Notre Dame with whom I have discussed the four debates. She and I have come to the conclusion that we have no ability whatsoever to figure out who "won" them in terms of public perception. Forensically, I thought McCain won the first, and Obama the second and third, and Biden the veep debate. And yet, that analysis is not even in the ball park. Even Peggy Noonan--who loathes Sarah Palin--said "she killed."

I'm convinced that philosophical and legal training (and I have both) makes it nearly impossible to assess debates. People like me look at premises, conclusions, inferences, rebuttals, pithy one-liners, etc. But most people see it as American Idol, political edition. I listen to the lyrics, but most people just want a tune they can dance to. I'm more Firing Line than American Bandstand. That makes me weird and out of touch. Hemlock anyone?

I had considered the true beleiver thing, but McCain took till the the third debate to deliver his best line of "I am not George Bush." It was the second debate before he seemed aware that Obama's claim that the Republicans were solely responsible for the deregulation of the mortgage industry was a little specious.

As to the intellectual superiority of Obama, he has left some fat hanging curve balls out there for McCain. I think that his inability to demolish a clearly weak debater has to be noted. Obama is smoother and more measured, but I am not convinced his performances exhibit an acumen that could not have been overcome with a little prep. And McCain seems to avoid the issues that Obama simply has no credible response to on purpose.

I know that Scott Klusendorf and Bill Craig, two Christians who formally debate quite a bit, have both told me that they are continuously surprised at how unprepared their opponents are come debate time. McCain looks more like he spent the last few months worrying about what color tie to wear and how to stand and how to address the people (my friends)than boning up on policy for the three most important debates of his lifetime. So maybe Perry has a point on that.

Bill Parcels says that sooner or later you are what your record says you are. After three debates I am thinking that inept is probably the right call.

Frank,

Iwas posting as you were and maybe that is true. I have certainly been around a lot more formal debate than most people.

As to Palin. I remember reading a writer from the Slate during the last election that said he listened to the first Kerry/Bush debate on the radio as he was driving home and then ran into the house to catch the second half on TV. He said on the radio Bush was clearly winning, but when he got in and saw the image he asked his wife what he had missed in that couple minutes that turned the debate around. I think Palin came across better in that sense than she did on points.

Ah well, I am comforted that as bad as McCain appears to be doing he still is within striking distance.

People like me look at premises, conclusions, inferences, rebuttals, pithy one-liners, etc. But most people see it as American Idol, political edition. I listen to the lyrics, but most people just want a tune they can dance to. I'm more Firing Line than American Bandstand. That makes me weird and out of touch. Hemlock anyone?

Proof for why we should just go Monarchist: The People -- for all their lack of intellect, deplorable infatuation with a dreadfully mindless pop culture & fickled opinions, so easily swayed by mere demagoguery -- Cannot Be Trusted!


If you believe in a Monarchist government, dial: 1-800-555-0001
If you believe in Democracy still, dial: 1-800-555-GONE
If you believe in Anarchy, dial: 1-800-SCR-EWED
If you believe in Communism/Socialism: Get Out of the Country or go Democrat!

thebyronicman,

That may be the case. Those openings that seem so obvious to us appear to be simply beyond McCain. He just doesn't seem to see them, and they aren't hard to see. It's not like he's being asked to divine an obscure and latent equivocation. Obama leaves himself open in all the right places, like he just drops his left hand and dares McCain to knock him out. And McCain won't throw the accurate but easy punch, but instead guesses, swings wild, and flails about. I wonder, even after all his years as a political warrior, if it turns out that McCain just doesn't have the stomach for the most important political fight of his career. But then again, with all his negative ads, it certainly does look like he's trying. Perhaps in the end he's just inept.

I believe, even with how incredibly charitable you seemed to have put things here, you are being a bit all too generous with those remarks.

With all the off-point responses McCain kept giving, where it seemed he was more interested in regurgitating the same talking points as before than he was in actually answering the subject question put forth to him; I would say that there is something in addition to the ineptitude you rightly bring up here.

Not that Obama was so spectacular and answered several of the same questions on-point -- only that, given current conditions, the onus is on McCain whereas Obama need only perform maintenance on his image amongst an already Pro-Obama populace, if the polls give any real indication.


But one thinks, the openings in Obama's defense aren't hard to see for us. Why? Because perhaps we're really convinced on the life issue, and McCain isn't. Perhaps he really doesn't disagree with Obama on the life issue as much as he wants his base to think. In the last debate, he waffled. He wants Roe overturned because it was a "bad decision." He wants the question returned to the states. He's a federalist, he says. Surely he knows that only removes the difficulty by one step. And furthermore, it's not the sort of objection one expects from a true life advocate. It's an objection on jurisprudential grounds--fair enough as far as it goes, but not the true heart of the matter, at least taken by itself. Ron Paul or Huckabee, for instance, wouldn't let it go at the level of jurisprudence, one thinks.

You couldn't have expressed it any better.

Unfortunately, it may appear that way given the manner in which McCain addressed & answered the questions on abortion.

One might attempt to give a benefit of the doubt where perhaps he may be trying to sound seemingly neutral as to somehow court the votes of the other crowd.

As far as Huckabee is concerned, we're left with the choices we have now.

Yeah, McCain was doing talking points. He put together some talking points on abortion, and he spat them out by rote. But he couldn't improvise and effectively interact with Obama's (attempted) rebuttals. Perhaps Prof. Beckwith is correct, and it is neither as easy as it seems to us, nor as important to Joe Plumber/Sixpack as we think it is, or should be, to engage in real debate and perform realtime logical analysis. Obama and Biden make their lawyerish obfuscations, and the ms press goes on and on about fact-checking--but neither do they seem up to the task of doing even the most elementary analysis (not that McCain would fair any better under such scrutiny than Obama would). Even the expert post-debate t.v. pundits seem to shun attempts at analysis. It's all rather depressing, from an intellectual standpoint.

That being said, McCain seemed to have caught out Obama on the PBA ban exchange with his "health and life of the mother" provision--a provision wide enough to drive 45 million murdered infants through--and for that I give him credit. But he couldn't press home the point, and it seemed to me to have gotten lost in the noise. But perhaps like Prof. Beckwith, what do I know about how to judge these things? It's like American Idol for grown-ups.

thebyronicman,

Do you realize what times we are living in today? And knowing thus, can you really blame the American people given the kinds of programs you typically find on television (not to mention, the poor quality of education in our schools)?

We do not live in the time of the great debates such as in the past where daily programming included such gems as The Advocate, which was a staple of Americana back then (at least, from what I can roughly recall).

Also, what are we really criticizing here: the public's perception of who won or a failure in correctly assessing who actually won based on what one considers an objective analysis of things?

(Need I even mention that an objective evaluation of the debates reveal that, all in all, Obama won -- which even Dr. Beckwith would concur based on his previous comments?)

More to the point, come election day, should the public actually vote for the person who they believe won the debates or, better yet, perform the due diligence actually required of them when electing a person to the highest office in our country?

You see, in my opinion, a candidate might win the debates -- but is that really sufficient enough reason to vote for them???

Need I remind you that there were several villains in the history of humanity who were very skilled in the contest of debate.

Do you realize what times we are living in today?

I'm doing my best to come to terms...

thebyronicman,

If you doubt that McCain was actually regurgitating talking points in the 3rd debate, why don't you compare some of the things he said in the 3rd debate and compare them with some statements he made in the 2nd debate -- almost word for word, you'll find what was virtually the same statement.

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