On Meet the Press , Russert selectively cited Dean's remarks to mischaracterize Dems on abortion

››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

On the December 19 edition of NBC's Meet the Press, moderator Tim Russert mischaracterized remarks former Vermont Governor Howard Dean made on the program a week earlier about the Democratic Party's position on abortion. Russert played a clip from the December 12 Meet the Press, in which Dean suggested that the party "ought to make a home for pro-life Democrats" and have a "respectful dialogue" about the issue. Russert then asked Wall Street Journal national political editor John Harwood if Democrats are "rethinking their position on cultural, moral issues, on abortion?" But immediately preceding the section of the clip of Dean that Russert played, Dean had clearly stated that Democrats should change their "vocabulary" but not their "principles" on abortion, and that the Democrats are "the party of allowing people to make up their own minds about medical treatment."

Russert's video clip of Dean also cut out the middle portion of Dean's answer to Russert's question on abortion. In between the clips Russert aired, Dean had strongly asserted that Democrats who are pro-life should be welcomed into the party because they stand for other core Democratic values: "[T]hey're pro-life not just for unborn children. They're pro-life for investing in children's programs. They're pro-life for helping small children and young families. They're pro-life in making sure adequate medical care happens to children. That's what you so often lack on the Republican side."

From the December 19 edition of Meet the Press:

RUSSERT: Last week, Howard Dean was on this program, the former governor of Vermont. He wants to be chairman of the DNC [Democratic National Committee]. I asked him about pro-life Democrats, and this was his answer.

[videotape, December 12]

DEAN: I have long believed that we ought to make a home for pro-life Democrats. The Democrats that have stuck with us through their -- who are pro-life, through their long period of conviction, are the kind of pro-life people that we ought to have deep respect for. [...] But we can have a respectful dialogue, and we have to stop demagoguing this issue.

RUSSERT: And if you became chairman of the party, you would actively reach out to pro-life Democrats?

DEAN: I have -- in my campaign, supposedly this liberal campaign, we had a number of pro-life people.

[end videotape]

RUSSERT: John Harwood, are Democrats rethinking their position on cultural, moral issues, on abortion?

From the December 12 edition of Meet the Press:

RUSSERT: Let me turn to the issue of abortion. The Newsweek [sic] reports that [Senator] John Kerry went to a Democratic meeting to thank his supporters, and they asked him what he had learned from the past campaign. And he said, "We have to find a different way to deal with the issue of abortion in terms of explaining the Democratic position, and we have to find a way to bring in right-to-life Democrats back into the Democratic Party." Could you conceive of a way the Democratic Party could say to mainstream ethnic voters, "We're a different Democratic Party. We may look at perhaps the whole idea of parental notification in terms of abortion. We may look at banning it in the third trimester." Is there a way the Democrats could change their vocabulary on abortion?

DEAN: We can change our vocabulary, but I don't think we ought to change our principles. The way I think about this is -- and it gets into the gay marriage stuff, too. We're not the party of gay marriage. We're the party of equal rights for all Americans. You know, I signed the first civil unions bill in America, and four years later the most conservative president the United States has seen in my lifetime is now embracing what I signed. We've come a long way. We're not the party of abortion. We're the party of allowing people to make up their own minds about medical treatment. It's just a different way of phrasing it. We have to start framing these issues, not letting them frame the issues.

I have long believed that we ought to make a home for pro-life Democrats. The Democrats that have stuck with us, who are pro-life, through their long period of conviction, are people who are the kind of pro-life people that we ought to have deep respect for. Not only are they pro-life, which, I think, is a moral judgment -- I happen to be strongly pro-choice, as a physician -- but they are pro-life more for moral reasons. They also, if they're in the Democratic Party, are real pro-life. That is, they're pro-life not just for unborn children. They're pro-life for investing in children's programs. They're pro-life for helping small children and young families. They're pro-life in making sure adequate medical care happens to children. That's what you so often lack on the Republican side. They beat the drums about being pro-life but they forget about life after birth. And so I do embrace pro-life Democrats. I think we want them in our party. But we can have a respectful dialogue, and we have to stop demagoguing this issue.

RUSSERT: And if you became chairman of the party, you would actively reach out to pro-life Democrats?

DEAN: I have -- in my campaign, supposedly this liberal campaign, we had a number of pro-life people.

Posted In
Health Care, Reproductive Rights
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