The National Review has attempted to distract from Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) and Rep. Todd Akin's (R-MO) support of the extreme "Sanctity of Human Life Act" -- legislation that equates abortion and contraception to murder -- by neglecting to mention its relevance to Akin's rape comments and falsely asserting potential bans on abortion aren't a concern. But it is the act's radical redefinition of a fertilized egg as a person that Akin was defending with his imaginary claim that "legitimate rape" does not lead to pregnancy, and the fact that voters in conservative states have rejected similar "personhood" laws merely demonstrates how far outside the mainstream Ryan and Akin are.
In their move to distance conservative media from Akin's comments, the editors of the National Review called for Akin to withdraw his candidacy for the U.S. Senate. However, this calculated abandonment of Akin for announcing a right-wing view that the National Review acknowledges, but prefers kept under wraps, ignores the resurgent movement to criminalize all forms of abortion. By omitting the relevance of the Sanctity of Human Life Act to Akin's comments and the editorial's claim that "no state is going to ban abortion in the case of rape even if Roe v. Wade is overruled," the editorial is perpetuating frequent contributor Ramesh Ponnuru's attempts to gloss over Ryan and Akin's hostility to reproductive rights.
Indeed, the National Review's misdirection is even more apparent now that it appears the 2012 Republican platform will once again support a so-called "human life amendment" to the Constitution that would criminalize abortion in all circumstances. Furthermore, not only is the National Review's reassurance on state abortion bans irrelevant if reports on the GOP platform are accurate, it is wholly misrepresentative of recent state efforts to infringe on women's constitutional rights. In fact, conservative-leaning states have seen multiple attempts at "personhood" bills similar to Ryan and Akin's legislation. This fall, Colorado will likely again have a "personhood" ballot initiative presented to its voters, even though the unconstitutional measure just failed in Mississippi and was held "void on its face" in Oklahoma by the state Supreme Court.
Accordingly, it is unsurprising that Akin's apology for becoming "nationally notorious...for saying something stupid" was specifically only for the "words I said" in reference to rape and not for "the heart I hold," wherein presumably all abortion is criminalized pursuant to "personhood" legislation. A radical criminalization that, the National Review fails to mention, could also apply to in-vitro fertilization, stem-cell research, most forms of contraception, and even miscarriage.
Once again, a news organization seems to think the only people of faith who matter are white, conservative people of faith. This time it's Politico:
But it turns out (big surprise) that by "Christian voters," Politico meant "conservative Christian voters."
Though several moderate to conservative evangelical pastors support the president, polls show that a significant percentage of conservative Christians remain skeptical about Obama's sincerity when it comes to the values that he says they share, and many say they doubt his faith. [Emphasis added]
Oh, and it also turns out that Politico meant white Christian voters:
During the 2008 presidential election, voting patterns show Obama won modest but significant swaths of religious voters, winning a higher percentage of Protestant, Catholic and Jewish voters than John Kerry did in 2004.
But according to a recent Pew Research poll, more white evangelicals erroneously believe that Obama is Muslim than those who believe he is Christian, and 42 percent say they don't know what religion he practices at all. [Emphasis added]
That's the only polling data Politico offers in support of its claim that "Christian voters" are abandoning Obama: poll data about white evangelicals. The entire article is about conservative, evangelical voters. (The word "conservative" appears eight times in the article.)
It's like Politico has forgotten that non-whites and non-conservatives can be Christians, too. Which is odd since the photo accompanying the article shows President Obama speaking to what appears to be a largely African-American congregation:
I can only assume Politico's headline writers understood that "Conservative white evangelicals don't like Obama" isn't exactly news, and that understanding led to the conflation of conservative white evangelicals with all Christians.
Meanwhile, here's a recent Pew finding Politico didn't mention:
Most Republicans (57%) see the GOP as friendly to religion, which is little changed from last year (59%). However, the proportion of white evangelicals saying the Republican Party is friendly to religion has slipped, from 53% last year to 46% today.
So, white evangelicals, a core GOP constituency, are "losing faith" in the Republican Party -- but Politico ignores that and runs an article conflating the skepticism of President Obama among white evangelicals with the views of all Christian voters.
I've previously addressed the conflation of "observant Catholics" with "white, non-Hispanic Catholics" by the Washington Post and Ramesh Ponnuru. Also related: Byron York's weird suggestion that President Obama's approval among African Americans doesn't really count.
The problem for Mr. Clinton is that his concern about the dangers of incendiary rhetoric seems to have taken flight during the two terms of the Bush presidency, as well as during his own. Regarding the former, there was, for starters, the 2006 film, The Death of a President, on the assassination of President Bush. Mr. Clinton did not, to my knowledge, condemn the movie in a front-page story in the New York Times or in a major speech.
Ponnuru joins in:
Former president Clinton--who, as Peter Wehner reminds us, didn't raise a peep when liberals were writing novels and making movies about assassinating President Bush--got into the act over the weekend, suggested that today's anti-government rhetoric could encourage bloodshed.
A few facts about The Death of a President make it a pretty lousy comparison. First, it was a British film, not an American one, which undercuts Ponnuru's attempt to equate today's overheated right-wing rhetoric with previous liberal speech. Second, nobody saw it. The movie grossed a meager half a million dollars in the US, and was in theaters for only 14 days. It was utterly insignificant, which goes a long way towards explaining why Bill Clinton didn't bother to condemn it.
By the way, Hillary Clinton did weigh in, calling the movie "despicable" and "absolutely outrageous" and adding "That anyone would even attempt to profit on such a horrible scenario makes me sick."
Currently featured on the front page of the Washington Post's web site:
Richard Cohen's frightened plea for more torture and fewer civil liberties
Dana Milbank's inane column about the purported sexiness of the Budget Director
Ramesh Ponnuru's unsubstantiated claim that President Obama "arguably implied" that voters are "stupid."
An "On Faith" guest post by the American Life League's communications director, who describes feminists as "pro-abortion."
Howard Kurtz's daily exploration of the love lives of the powerful and famous.
And that's just what's linked on the front page -- it doesn't include sports columnist Sally Jenkins' reference to "pro-abortion" feminists, who she mocks as "the 'Dwindling Organizations of Ladies in Lockstep,' otherwise known as DOLL" while criticizing "the group-think, elitism and condescension of the 'National Organization of Fewer and Fewer Women All The Time'" and "'The National Organization for Women Who Only Think Like Us.'" Jenkins concludes with a transparently silly attack on those who criticize CBS's decision to run an anti-choice Super Bowl ad while rejecting an ad for a gay dating service: "CBS owns its broadcast and can run whatever advertising it wants." Yeah ... So? That does not immunize them from criticism for the decisions they make.
I'm really starting to worry there's something in the water over at the Washington Post bulding.
Two posts on National Review Online claimed that President Obama was untruthful when he said that the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC "open[ed] the floodgates for special interests - including foreign corporations - to spend without limit in our elections." In fact, four justices of the Supreme Court agreed that the logic of the decision "would appear to afford the same protection to multinational corporations controlled by foreigners as to individual Americans" to make certain election-related expenditures.
The Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes, National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru, and Power Line's Paul Mirengoff are among the conservatives to recently reject comparisons trumpeted by other right-wing media figures of Sen. Harry Reid's controversial comments about President Obama to former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's past comments in support of Strom Thurmond's 1948 segregationist presidential campaign. Hayes, Ponnuru, and Mirengoff join several civil rights leaders and other media figures in rejecting that comparison.
The Washington Post's Ramesh Ponnuru offers up standard-issue right-wing opposition to "federal funding for abortion":
Americans may be divided about whether and to what extent abortion should be allowed, but for more than three decades there has been a fairly broad consensus that federal money shouldn't pay for it. Pro-lifers regard the Hyde amendment, which bans federal Medicaid funding for most abortions, as the single policy that has done the most to save unborn lives. Some pro-choicers regard it as consistent with their view that the government should stay out of abortion decisions.
The health-care legislation being considered by Congress up-ends this settlement. All of the major bills would offer new subsidies to help people purchase insurance that covers abortion, and those with a public option would authorize a new government-run insurer to cover abortions.
Most Republicans oppose this idea, and so do pro-life Democratic congressmen. They should keep fighting (even though the Democrats will surely be under a lot of pressure to give up). Abortion coverage would almost certainly raise the abortion rate, and would make taxpayers involuntarily complicit in the taking of innocent human life.
The objection to the (even indirect) use of federal funds to pay for abortion on the grounds that "the government should stay out of abortion decisions" is basically dishonest. Does Ponnuru consider Medicaid payments for a trip to the emergency room to fix a broken leg "government involvement in medical decisions"? I'm sure he doesn't. The government refusing to pay for a legal medical procedure is the opposite of the government staying out of the decision.
It's a shame Ponnuru doesn't attempt to reconcile the claim that the government refusing to pay for a legal medical procedure he doesn't like with the standard conservative complaint about "government bureaucrats getting between you and your doctor."
It's also a shame that Ponnuru doesn't explain why it's wrong to make taxpayers "involuntarily" pay for abortion, but it's fine to make them involuntarily pay for the death penalty, or wars of choice.
But mostly it's a shame that the Post doesn't ask him to. If it did, it might prompt an actual thoughtful discussion, rather than a rote regurgitation of broad talking points. It might actually help people understand Ponnuru's position. What he posted sure doesn't -- it doesn't include anything we didn't already know about conservative opposition to federal funding for abortion, and didn't address any of the obvious questions about that opposition. It added absolutely nothing to the discourse.
Remember back in May, when a Gallup poll found a majority of Americans call themselves "pro-life" -- a nine point margin over those calling themselves "pro-choice"? Remember how the media rushed to tout the findings, despite the fact that the poll had glaring flaws that rendered the findings dubious at best?
Well, last week, Gallup released the results of a new poll -- one finding that 47 percent of Americans call themselves "pro-life," just a hair more than the 46 percent who say they are "pro-choice," providing further evidence that the May poll was an outlier.
This would be a good time for Ramesh Ponnuru to acknowledge that I was right when I pointed out the obvious flaws in the May Gallup poll.
Gallup acknowledges that whatever shift towards the "pro-life" label there has been over the past year has occurred among Republicans, and states that it is a reaction to the election of Barack Obama rather than a shift in beliefs:
The source of the latest shift in abortion views -- between 2008 and 2009 -- is clear. The percentage of Republicans (including independents who lean Republican) who call themselves "pro-life" has risen by nearly 10 points over the past year, from 60% to 68% -- perhaps a reaction to the "pro-choice" presidency of Barack Obama -- while there has been essentially no change in the views of Democrats and Democratic leaners.
The new Gallup poll also found that only 18 percent of Americans think abortion should be illegal in all circumstances. But don't expect to hear the media say much about that poll result; they have a lengthy track record of privileging opposition to abortion.
(For the record, I continue to find questions asking people to label themselves "pro-life" or "pro-choice" less illuminating than questions that ask people whether they think abortion should be legal in specific circumstances, for reasons I explained last month.)