Tucker Carlson falsely accuses Obama of avoiding word "abortion" during ND commencement

››› ››› CHRISTINE SCHWEN

Tucker Carlson falsely asserted that President Obama was "afraid to use the word" "abortion" during his May 17 commencement address at Notre Dame. In fact, Obama used the word several times during the speech.

In a May 18 washingtonpost.com discussion, Fox News contributor Tucker Carlson falsely asserted that President Obama was "afraid to use the word" "abortion" during his May 17 commencement address at the University of Notre Dame. In fact, Obama used the word several times during the speech.

During the discussion, a reader asked Carlson and Air America Radio national correspondent Ana Marie Cox, who was also answering questions: "How do you both think Obama did at Notre Dame yesterday? Do we move forward with a dialogue on abortion or did Obama just say what people at ND wanted to hear?" Carlson replied:

You can't have a real conversation about abortion if you're afraid to use the word.

Pro-choice? Pro-life? Those are slogans designed to obscure rather than illuminate.

The debate is about whether abortion ought to be legal, not about whether you respect "life," whatever that is, or whether you think people ought to have "choices," whatever those may be.

So let's call it what it is. That'd be a good first step. Obama, who's deeply interested in language, knows this but not surprisingly failed to mention it.

In fact, Obama did not "fail[] to mention" the word "abortion" -- he used it several times during the course of his speech.

From President Obama's May 18 commencement address:

OBAMA: The question then -- the question then is, how do we work through these conflicts? Is it possible for us to join hands in common effort? As citizens of a vibrant and varied democracy, how do we engage in vigorous debate? How does each of us remain firm in our principles, and fight for what we consider right, without, as Father John said, demonizing those with just as strongly held convictions on the other side?

And, of course, nowhere do these questions come up more powerfully than on the issue of abortion.

As I considered the controversy surrounding my visit here, I was reminded of an encounter I had during my Senate campaign, one that I describe in a book I wrote called, The Audacity of Hope. And a few days after the Democratic nomination, I received an email from a doctor who told me that, while he voted for me in the Illinois primary, he had a serious concern that might prevent him from voting for me in the general election. He described himself as a Christian who was strongly pro-life -- but that was not what was preventing him potentially from voting for me.

What bothered the doctor was an entry that my campaign staff had posted on my website, an entry that said I would fight, quote, "right-wing ideologues who want to take away a woman's right to choose," unquote. The doctor said he had assumed I was a reasonable person. He supported my policy initiatives to help the poor and to lift up our educational system, but that if I truly believed that every pro-life individual was simply an ideologue, who wanted to inflict suffering on women, then I was not very reasonable. He wrote, "I do not ask at this point that you oppose abortion, only that you speak about this issue in fair-minded words" -- fair-minded words.

After I read the doctor's letter, I wrote back to him and I thanked him. And I didn't change my underlying position, but I did tell my staff to change the words on my website. And I said a prayer that night that I might extend the same presumption of good faith to others that the doctor had extended to me, because when we do that -- when we open up our hearts and our minds to those who may not think precisely like we do or believe precisely what we believe -- that's when we discover at least the possibility of common ground.

That's when we begin to say, "Maybe we won't agree on abortion, but we can still agree that this heart-wrenching decision for any woman is not made casually; it has both moral and spiritual dimensions."

So let us work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions. Let's reduce unintended pregnancies. Let's make adoption more available. Let's provide care and support for women who do carry their children to term. Let's honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded, not only in sound science, but also in clear ethics, as well as respect for the equality of women. Those are things we can do.

Now, understand -- understand, class of 2009, I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion can or should go away, because no matter how much we may want to fudge it -- indeed, while we know that the views of most Americans on the subject are complex and even contradictory -- the fact is that, at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable. Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction. But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature.

[...]

OBAMA: And at the time, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin was the archbishop of Chicago. And for those of you -- for those of you too young to have known him or known of him, he was a kind and good and wise man -- a saintly man. I can still remember him speaking at one of the first organizing meetings I attended on the South Side. He stood as both a lighthouse and a crossroads, unafraid to speak his mind on moral issues ranging from poverty and AIDS and abortion to the death penalty and nuclear war. And yet, he was congenial and gentle in his persuasion, always trying to bring people together, always trying to find common ground. And just before he died, a reporter asked Cardinal Bernardin about this approach to his ministry. And he said, "You can't really get on with preaching the Gospel until you've touched hearts and minds."

From the May 18 washingtonpost.com "Balance of Power" discussion:

Wash, D.C.: How do you both think Obama did at Notre Dame yesterday? Do we move forward with a dialogue on abortion or did Obama just say what people at ND wanted to hear? Thanks.

Tucker Carlson: You can't have a real conversation about abortion if you're afraid to use the word.

Pro-choice? Pro-life? Those are slogans designed to obscure rather than illuminate.

The debate is about whether abortion ought to be legal, not about whether you respect "life," whatever that is, or whether you think people ought to have "choices," whatever those may be.

So let's call it what it is. That'd be a good first step. Obama, who's deeply interested in language, knows this but not surprisingly failed to mention it. Because despite yesterday's rhetoric, he's as hardened an ideologue on this issue as anyone who heckled him.

Posted In
Health Care, Reproductive Rights
Person
Tucker Carlson
Show/Publication
Washingtonpost.com
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