Why Pro-Life Presidents Matter

General Bioethics — By on February 21, 2008 at 1:11 am

What if I told you the only significant influence the President has on the economy is in selecting the Chairman of the Federal Reserve?
While the role of the president in “managing the economy” is often overstated, most serious voters would rightly dismiss such a narrow claim as absurd. Yet how often do we hear the similarly daft assertion that the only significant role the president plays in advancing the pro-life agenda is nominating Supreme Court justices?
The fact is that the president has a limited but substantial and broad-based role in protecting life and defending the most vulnerable in society. Here are five examples of why it matters that the president is pro-life:
1. Preserving the Pro-Life Riders — Each year pro-life provisions or “riders” are attached to the annual appropriations bills which prevent public funds from supporting abortions, abortion providers, or abortion promoters. The pro-life riders are attached to funding legislation and typically come up in the appropriations process or Department of Defense reauthorizations. As AdvanceUSA notes, under President Ronald Reagan and the first President Bush, federal regulations were clearly written to prevent recipients of Title X funds from referring for abortions or combining family planning services with abortion services (ex: working at the same location).
Examples of pro-life riders include:

  • The Dickey-Wicker provision which prohibits federal funding for research that harms or destroys human embryos.
  • The Kemp-Kasten Amendment which prevents funding from going to those who support or participate in a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.
  • The Hyde-Weldon provision which offers conscience protections for health care entities that refuse to provide or encourage abortions. It requires federal funds to be withheld from any state that discriminates against a hospital, insurance provider, or individual doctors and nurses for refusing to participate in abortion.
  • The Mexico City Policy, first enacted by Ronald Reagan and later reinstituted by George W. Bush, which prohibits USAID (foreign aid) money from going to any organizations that promote or perform abortions.
  • Other provisions that are more specific include bans on funding for: abortions for federal prisoners, abortion in the District of Columbia, abortions through the Federal Employee Health Benefits program, abortions through Peace Corp, and abortion through the international HIV/AIDS bill.

A pro-life president can threaten to use the veto–as Bush has often done–to prevent the removal of such riders. A pro-choice resident, however, would almost certainly veto any legislation that included these pro-life provisions.
2. Filing of amicus briefs in cases before the judiciary — Where a case may have broader implications, amicus curiae briefs are a way to introduce those concerns, so that the possibly broad legal effects of court decisions will not depend solely on the parties directly involved in the case. Both John Roberts, as a Special Assistant to U.S. Attorney General, and Samuel Alito, as Assistant to the Solicitor General, submitted briefs defending the pro-life cause. Reagan’s Solicitor General Charles Fried also called for Roe to be reversed in a brief. While the briefs themselves rarely decide the outcome of a particular case, they are useful in limiting the scope of a particular legal change or interpretation
3. Issuance of executive orders — Executive orders help direct the operation of officers within the executive branch. They also have the force of law when made in pursuance of certain Acts of Congress, when those acts give the President discretionary powers. For example, on the 4th day of the Clinton presidency, Jan. 23, the 20th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Bill Clinton signed, in a televised Oval Office ceremony, a series of executive orders undoing the pro-life policies of the Reagan-Bush era. The orders repealed the Mexico City policy, repealed prohibition on federally-funded clinics referring for abortion, lifted the ban on military abortions, and lifted the ban on fetal tissue research.
As Carl Bernstein wrote in his book, A Woman in Charge,

“Hillary had pushed unequivocally for the orders, but Bill’s pollster argued that she was dead wrong on the timing of such a hot-button issue; by acting on abortion policy as one of the administration’s first pieces of business, the president and, worse, Hillary, would be perceived as governing from the left. But Hillary regarded the prohibitions in question as a powerful symbol of Reagan-era policies, and an opportunity to declare boldly that the Clinton era had begun. There was an additional appeal: it was fiscally neutral, monetarily cost-free, and not subject to a drawn-out legislative process.” (p. 256)

4. Selection of political appointments — The President fills many political appointments that have a direct and significant impact on the pro-life cause. Examples include Health and Human Services (responsible for enforcing the Hyde Amendment, etc.), the FDA (e.g., approval and regulation of abortifacients), and the State Department (which sends multiple delegates to UN conferences like CEDAW and Population and Development, where the international battle for human dignity is waged).
The Justice Department is another agency that has a key role, specifically in deciding how to defend law cases involving US statutes. For example, Clinton’s Attorney General Janet Reno cleared the way for the nation’s first assisted suicide law by deciding that physicians may provide lethal doses of medicine to terminally ill patients without losing their licenses to write prescriptions. She did so by overturning the position taken by the head of one of her own agencies, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which had said that doctors who prescribe drugs under Oregon’s assisted-suicide law could face severe sanctions.
5. Using the “bully pulpit” — The term “bully pulpit” comes from President Theodore Roosevelt’s reference to the White House as a “bully pulpit,” meaning a wonderful platform (Roosevelt often used the word “bully” as an adjective meaning superb) from which to persuasively advocate an agenda. As Reagan showed, there is simply no better single platform for advocating the pro-life cause than from within the Oval Office.

°°°°°°

Christians have an obligation to the most vulnerable members of our society to elect politicians who have both a robust view of human dignity and the temerity to govern accordingly. We betray this duty when we downplay the role the executive branch in advancing the pro-life cause. Judges and legislators matter; but presidents matter too.



  • http://thebronxblogger.blogspot.com Matthew Goggins

    Joe,
    I don’t share your passion for the pro-life cause, but I think I understand it.
    And I certainly appreciate it.
    I always found Gov. Huckabee to be most sincere and most inspiring when he talked about the equal worth of every human being (even though he couched his argument in theological rhetoric that I would never use myself).
    His attempts to root some of his most important policies in a natural-law understanding of human rights and dignity were a highlight of the presidential campaign.
    Abortion is not a huge concern for me, however. The two biggest issues for me this year are Iraq and McCain-Feingold.
    Iraq, because Senator Obama is at odds with my views, and Senator McCain is not. McCain-Feingold, because if an American citizen can’t run pro-life (or pro-choice) ads thirty days before an election without keeping a phalanx of lawyers at the ready, then all the other issues, including abortion, seem to pale in comparison.
    You can’t fight for what you believe in if the government is going to regulate who gets to say what and when. And I’m concerned that McCain-Feingold would be the proverbial tip of the iceberg if Senator McCain were elected.
    I’m not sure if President Obama would be any better on freedom of speech than President McCain, but it’s hard for me to say that he would be worse.
    When push comes to shove, this Bush Republican could very well end up voting for Obama over McCain. But only if I can trust him to do enough of the right thing in Iraq. He hasn’t demonstrated that yet, but I don’t expect him to tack to the center on Iraq until the final nail is securely driven into Senator Clinton’s coffin.

  • http://johncoleman.typepad.com John

    This is a useful resource, Joe. I am one of those who tends to downplay the importance of the executive branch in these areas. I’ll take a closer look.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    The bulk of abortions happen in marginal situations. By that I mean only a slight change in circumstances would often lead to a decision not to have an abortion rather than to have one.
    For example, take Hillary’s $5,000 ‘baby bonds’ idea and modify it slightly. Make it a $2,500 ‘bounty’ for a live birth to the mother (whether she keeps the baby or gives it up for adoption) and $2,500 for the kid to tap when he turns 18 or 21 or whenever. That combined with universal coverage for prenatal care and delievery would probably cut abortions by 40%. Do I think someone like Obama would entertain a different idea like that? Yes. Do I think McCain would? No, probably not.
    While I’m sure Joe thinks millions of abortions were performed by the Peace Corps during Clinton’s reign of terror only to be stopped by the fortunate election of Bush II who put ‘riders’ back into place and saved the world, I don’t think so.

  • Ludwig

    “Judges and legislators matter; but presidents matter too. ”
    But apparantly,individuals making decisions about their one,unquestionable property (their own bodies) each according to their individual conscience dont matter in the slightest,huh Joe? Abortion is a disgusting practice that i wish did not exist…but the highjacking of woman’s bodies by the state whenever they become pregnant is infinitely worse on every level imaginable.

  • ex-preacher

    The most effective way to reduce the number of abortions is through the increased use of birth control. Why do you think the countries of Western Europe have a far lower abortion rate than the U.S? Because they teach abstinence only? Nope.
    If pro-lifers are serious about wanting to reduce abortions (and not just playing political/religious games) they should insist that politicians emphasize sex education and free or cheap birth control. Right now, a Democratic president is far more likely to encourage comprehensive sex education and accessible birth control. So if you are truly pro-life, vote Democratic.

  • http://tomgrey.motime.com Tom Grey

    Iraq is one, plus the 6 US SC justices over 68 = 7 reasons to vote McCain.
    I do wish Obama was pushing for more support to have live births, and especially to have live births and give the baby up for adoption. I wish all pro-life folk were more supportive of women who had babies and gave them up.
    There are many pro-lifers who had abortions and regret it (like Ms. Roe), but far too few who are public about giving their babies up for adoption.
    Of course, sex education leads to LOTS more sex, so not really fewer abortions. EU provides a more comfy life for single mothers.
    The pro-choice folk like the lie about a women’s ownership of “their own bodies” — but all the cells in YOUR body have YOUR DNA. The Fetal cells in a woman’s pregnant body have different DNA — they are not the woman’s body (and might not even have the same blood type).
    The human fetus is a different body, inside a woman’s body. The questions are when does the human fetus get the human right to life?

  • Loki

    Ludwig:
    “Abortion is a disgusting practice that i wish did not exist…but the highjacking of woman’s bodies by the state whenever they become pregnant is infinitely worse on every level imaginable.”
    The state sometimes has power over people’s bodies in other circumstances; the draft, for instance, when the state can send men’s bodies to foreign nations so they can get shot up by enemy soldiers. We say this is necessary to protect the life our people and our nation. Is protecting a human life so different?

  • http://fromwembleypark.typepad.com Lyn

    This was a very good article. I appreciate the reasonable tone and sound argument on a topic that usually just generates emotion. I wish more practising Christians were involved in the pro-life movement and were more active than the abortion supporters.
    I have always been upset with the pro-choice crutch: it’s the woman’s body so it’s her right. What about her responsibility? It’s wrong to create a living thing and then just kill it for the sake of convenience or because it’s you’re right.
    I really hope more pro-life people read this posting.

  • http://www.byron-harvey.com Byron

    Thanks for pointing out just one of the inconsistencies of the “pro-choice” position, Tom and Loki.
    It seems to me, Joe, that we are going to have to fight AGAINST James Dobson and some of the other right-wingers in order to attempt to protect life in this country. Their determination to insist on rigid ideological purity is a classic case of missing the forest for the trees, and has the effect of a betrayal at this critical time. It’s particularly distressing coming from James Dobson, who should know better.
    The next president will almost certainly appoint one-three justices to the Court, and it’s likely that any/all will be to replace retiring Constitutional DEstructionists. We have to have originalists/constructionists, i.e., people who believe that the actual constitution is the law of the land, on the Court. Before Roe v. Wade is the protection of an immoral practice, it is horrible constitutional law, and we need a president who not only understands this, but determined to rectify it. For his many faults, John McCain at least SAYS he’ll do that, something we’ll never have in a million years from Barack the Wonder Boy…

  • http://mumonno.blogspot.com Mumon

    So it doesn’t matter if the guy’s corrupt (McCain) if he’s got bimbo eruptions (McCain) or if he’s been photographed shooting heroin with Kate Moss and Keith Richards (some people are saying…)
    And if he’s a traitor (McCain)
    Sorry, that pig won’t fly.

  • JohnW

    How about a president who is Pro-life from the womb until the tomb and not just saying he’s against abortion to get the support of religious right voting block?
    Reagan and Bush both say they are pro-life, but did either really do anything about it?

  • http://mumonno.blogspot.com Mumon

    Yeah, we should have a president who didn’t fold under pressure and tell state secrets to our enemies.
    Pro-life means patriotic, first and foremost.

  • Ludwig

    “The state sometimes has power over people’s bodies in other circumstances; the draft, for instance, when the state can send men’s bodies to foreign nations so they can get shot up by enemy soldiers. We say this is necessary to protect the life our people and our nation. Is protecting a human life so different?”
    I dont think you could have come up with a better exemple of a repugnant practice by the State than the draft cuz the people who institute the draft arent going anywhere near a warzone to fight alongside with the poor saps that got drafted to get killed in their place. and btw an embryo aint a human being…its an embryo and the human comes first.

  • Elwood

    ex-preacher,
    I’m sure you understand that pro-lifers view abortion as a fundamental evil – a violation of the right to life of the unborn. Your argument is a little like a genocidal dictator saying, well, if only this ethnic minority stopped moving into my country or stopped having kids, the rate of killing would go down. Not a very attractive “solution” for those who are horrified by the act.
    Beyond that, I assume you are influenced by the Guttmacher study saying that abortion rates were about the same regardless of whether abortion was legal or illegal in countries around the world. The legality of abortion in a country is only one of many factors that would affect the rate of abortion, an important one, to be sure. But the rate would also be affected by economic levels, religious mores, average age of marriage, etc., and yes, even how much sex education and availability of birth control.
    http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/25s3099.html
    The study is also criticized because it uses actual reported numbers of abortions vs. estimates in countries where it is illegal. In the U.S., the year before Roe v. Wade, there were an estimated 1 million. After Roe v. Wade, there were a reported 744,600. Obviously, the estimates can be way off.
    http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08021/850899-152.stm
    What I’d like to see is a study on the LONG TERM rates of abortion in countries that promote and push sex ed and contraception. It’s not hard to believe, that in the short run, pushing birth control will reduce abortion at the beginning. The people who are already having sex at a time when they are not ready to support a child will likely use more contraception in the ensuing few years, reducing the rate of unwanted pregnancies (and abortions) among that limited population. What will then happen, in the longer run, is that more people will have sex before they are ready to give birth. And even with reduced rates of unwanted pregnancy per person in that limited population, that population (people having sex when they aren’t able to support a kid) will have grown much larger, and very possibly increasing the overall number of abortions. As if that was all a nation should care about when pushing birth control. The thing is, there are a host of other problems also introduced to society as a result.
    The one thing that without a doubt reduces unwanted pregnancies, and STD’s, etc, is a delay in the onset of sexual activity. Perhaps when it comes to sex ed in schools or federal money for contraception, etc., we should say we do both or neither. Either leave it up to the parents to talk to their kids at home as they see fit, or else include both abstainance education as well as birth control in the schools. Birth control taught to the exclusion of abstainance education would be the least effective of all.
    I don’t have the numbers to prove this, but I haven’t seen any numbers to disprove it either. Every society where birth control is introduced and pushed ends up with a long-term increase in abortion. My guess is that the abortion rate in the U.S. was lower in 1950 than today. As a result of the sexual revolution, the rate of unwanted pregnancies definitely went up. Likely, abortion rates in the late 60’s/early 70’s were much higher than earlier decades. Did the sexual revolution cause more accessibility of birth control, or did the Pill cause the sexual revolution. Probably a little of both.
    Based on what I’ve seen so far, I don’t think either side has accurate data to base an argument on. So, I’m falling back on logic. You can’t tell me that nationwide legalization of abortion in 1973 caused abortion rates to plummet by 25% in one year- so why should I accept the estimates done by a pro-choice institute with a vested interest in the results of their estimate?

  • oclarki

    Mumon,
    What a small and sad person you are, if you think McCain betrayed his country in the hands of the North Vietnamese. Here is what wikipedia says about his captivity.
    Although McCain was badly wounded, his captors refused to give him medical care unless he gave them military information; they beat and interrogated him, but McCain only offered his name, rank, serial number, and date of birth,[51] Soon thinking he was near death, McCain said he would give them more information if taken to the hospital, hoping he could then put them off once he was treated.[53] A prison doctor came and said it was too late, as McCain was about to die anyway.[51] Only when the North Vietnamese discovered that his father was a top admiral did they give him medical care[51] and announce his capture. At this point, two days after McCain’s plane went down, that event and his status as a POW made the front pages of The New York Times[39] and The Washington Post.[54] Interrogation and beatings resumed in the hospital; McCain gave his ship’s name, squadron’s name, and the attack’s intended target.[55] Further coerced to give the names of his squadron members, he supplied the names of the Green Bay Packers’ offensive line.
    A coward like yourself who has never served has a lot of brass denigrating an American hero. Guess what? Everybody breaks.

  • Elwood

    JohnW,
    They could have done more, but as Joe’s post illustrates, there is a lot that is done behind the scenes that doesn’t get as much pub. The charge that the Republicans don’t deliver and are just using abortion as a wedge issue doesn’t recognize abortion as the long-term fight that it is. 8 years ago, I didn’t hear any politician discuss their desire to see RvW overturned. Now, it’s talked about as a serious possibility. 8 years ago, we didn’t have a partial birth abortion ban. It’s a long hard fight, but there is progress. Some Repubs (and some pro-life Dems) are willing to die on this hill, others are less committed, but still helpful.
    Here are some feminists that certainly think Bush did too much to fight abortion:
    http://feminist.org/news/newsbyte/uswirestory.asp?id=7348
    As a lame duck, Bush vetoed expanded federal funding for a waste of money approach to stem cell research, wisely directing federal money toward research on methods that actually work and actually create cures, adult stem cell research. This was not done just for political purposes. If he was just concerned about popularity or politics, the political move would have been to sign the bill. Sure, it made the base happy, but he didn’t need the base as a lame-duck as much as he needs centrist Congress members to work with him to block extreme left legislation or to pass some of what he can still get through at the end of his term.

  • ex-preacher

    Elwood wrote: “Your argument is a little like a genocidal dictator saying, well, if only this ethnic minority stopped moving into my country or stopped having kids, the rate of killing would go down. Not a very attractive “solution” for those who are horrified by the act.”
    I don’t think this analogy holds up. This isn’t about the government or some genocidal dictator telling anybody what to do with regard to how many children they have or whether to have children. The vast majority of abortions are voluntary and involve ending an unwanted pregnancy. If pro-lifers really believe that fetuses are human beings and that abortion is murder, how can they be opposed to stopping unwanted pregnancies? Isn’t that exactly what you are advocating through abstinence education? What if I said that your proposing abstinence education is like a genocidal dictator telling a minority to stop having sex so they’ll stop having children?
    Elwood wrote: “Beyond that, I assume you are influenced by the Guttmacher study saying that abortion rates were about the same regardless of whether abortion was legal or illegal in countries around the world.”
    No. I have seen that study and I agree that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to know the actual rate of abortion in countries where it is illegal. I’m not using the Guttmacher study at all. I’m using the data from nationmaster.com gathered from the UNHDR that shows the per capita rates of abortion in countries where abortion is legal. In Russia, the #1 country, the rate of abortions per 1,000 people is 19.3. In the U.S., it is 4.1. In France, it is 2.6. In Canada, it is 2.2. In Germany, it is 1.2. Abortion has been legal in all these countries for many years.
    My point is that in countries where comprehensive sex education is the norm and birth control is cheap and accessible, abortion rates are relatively lower than in the U.S. where many schools teach abstinence only and birth control is more difficult to get and/or expensive.
    Another statistic that backs this up is the per capita rate of teenage pregnancy. It is hard to know how many teen pregnancies were planned, but we do know that they happen far more often in the U.S. than in other Western countries. In the U.S. every year, there are 1,671 births to teenagers per 1 million people. In Canada, there are 607 births to teenagers per 1 million. In Germany, there are 351. In the Netherlands, there are 172. Do you suppose that American teenagers are having sex ten times more often than Dutch teenagers? Hmmmmmm.
    I certainly support encouraging abstinence among teenagers and even young unmarried folk. In fact, I don’t know any pro-choice folk who oppose the teaching and encouragement of abstinence. What I oppose is the insistence by many right-wing groups and recent Republican administrations on abstinence-only programs.

  • ex-preacher

    One more thing. I’d be interested to see any proof that the use of the “bully pulpit” by Reagan, Bush or anyone else has affected public opinion on abortion or the actual incidence of abortion. From the poll numbers I have seen, support and opposition numbers on the abortion issue have remained fairly static for more than 30 years. Opposition to abortion did seem did rise slightly during the Clinton years and drop slightly in the Bush years. Why would the pro-life movement actually gain support during the Clinton years and the pro-choice movement gain in the Bush years? I have no idea but I wonder if such idealogical movements gain strength when they are out of power and can rile up “the base.” That’s why Rush Limbaugh flourished under Clinton. It’s hard to get pro-life people all excited about their cause when Reagan is in the White House literally phoning in his speech to the crowd.

  • http://mumonno.blogspot.com Mumon

    oclarki:
    The fact is, John McCain gave up his country, and did not keep to name rank and serial number.
    “Everybody breaks” is no excuse. John McCain is a traitor.
    And a serial womanizer.
    It was unfair of the Republicans in 2002 to claim that McCain had an African-American child out of wedlock.
    But, given the fact that his wife is/was a junkie, why should we not believe that John McCain has slept with Bangladeshi prostitutes? His outbursts of rage would be consistent with syphlitic dementia.
    So, he’s a traitor, he’s corrupt, he’s got so many bimbo eruptions that he makes Bill Clinton look like a choirboy, and he‘s the “family values” party’s candidate?
    Heh.
    Indeed.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Tom
    Of course, sex education leads to LOTS more sex, so not really fewer abortions. EU provides a more comfy life for single mothers.
    Please define lots? Even if this was true, birth control is so effective that you would have to multiply the amount of sex you’re having by a factor of 100 to overwhelm their ability to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. Quite frankly, I don’t think most Americans are up to it! (pun intended).
    More seriously I doubt you have much evidence to back up this assertion. Education probably does modestly reduce abortion since, by definition, reducing unwanted pregnancies means fewer possible abortions. Pro-lifers probably hate to hear the truth but it is Planned Parenthood probably nets out to reducing abortion overall.
    I’m skeptical, though, that much more reduction can happen through education. Once you move beyond the teens I suspect most people already have a rough idea of how things work. I’d still say most remaining abortions happen at the margin, which means only a modest improvement in circumstances (or perception of them) might make the difference. The improvement in income and unemployment at the bottom of the wage scale during Clinton’s years probably contributed to the decline in abortions (another is an aging population…older people don’t have as many abortions as younger people). This is why I say something like Hillary’s ‘baby bonds’ idea would probably stop more abortions than 4 years of McCain.
    Pro-lifers, for the most part, have wedded themselves to both the Republican Party and to ignoring actual abortions and only looking at legal strategies. Why else would someone like Joe cite “abortions through the Peace Corp” as part of his #1 reason to elect a pro-life President?

  • Rob

    “Iraq is one, plus the 6 US SC justices over 68 = 7 reasons to vote McCain.”
    Your math is good, but I see 7 reasons to vote against McCain.

  • Frustrated Christian

    It’s funny. The only pro-choice American President that I know of is Clinton. America has been under the leadership of either a pro-life President or a pro-life Republican majority for 26 out of the last 28 years – and even with this kind of political power they have been unable to do anything about changing Roe v. Wade – it shows you that at the bottom of their hearts the Republican leaders only pay lip service when they need votes.
    First I get fed up with the Democrats, now I’m so fed up with the Republicans – as an Evangelical Christian, I am just not passionate about the politics of this whole thing. It goes to show you at the of the day our world can only be saved one soul at a time. So, lets focus on winning the hearts of our countrymen to Jesus! Don’t waste energy on politics.

  • oclarki

    Mumon,
    You are beneath contempt.

  • http://mumonno.blogspot.com Mumon

    oclarki:
    Sorry you feel that way. But don’t we want a full spectrum moralist and patriot as president? Don’t we want somebody of sound mind and body to be in charge of our nuclear arsenal?
    I know I do.

  • JohnW

    Mumon,
    Your McCain bashing is over the top. The man was held as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and tortured. Have some respect.

  • http://mumonno.blogspot.com Mumon

    JohnW:
    What I’m saying is no different than what the right wing itself has said about John McCain.
    The fact that he’s now their presumptive nominee is no reason why we shouldn’t examine his past in the same way the right wing has examined John Kerry’s past.
    John Kerry wasn’t captured. John McCain was. That contrast can’t be denied, and let’s face it, soldiers who don’t get captured are of more value to the defense of the US than soldiers who do get captured.
    And whether or not McCain made up or embellished his torture stores we don’t really know, now, do we?
    But we do know that unlike Kerry, McCain was captured.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Ahhhh satire.

  • oclarki

    Mumon,
    The man can’t even lift his arms over his head because of what happened to him in Vietnam. He’s probably faking it though. Besides, in 2004 I learned that anyone who has served in combat has absolute moral authority. What did you do during the war?

  • JohnW

    Mumom,
    I don’t support McCain for president either.
    Don’t be a swiftboater though-there is no reason to get down in the gutter like that. His idea of staying in Iraq for a hundred years will be enough to kill his chances of being elected. Plus he’s kind of old too.

  • http://mumonno.blogspot.com Mumon

    Boonton & JohnW:
    Indeed you can google “John McCain is a traitor POW” and you’ll indeed get lots of right wing links about his behavior as a prisoner.
    But, OK, yeah (though I reserve the right to bring this back later…) satire.
    Seriously some clown on the Obama thread started going off about how Obama’s a closet Marxist, which is a stupid thing to say, given that the the right has already swiftboated McCain!
    I was just showing how terribly easy it is.
    Of course, McCain gives us lots of ammunition. It is demonstrably true that he is an adulterer. His Keating 5 years taint him with scandal. Whether or not his outbursts of temper are due to syphlitic dementia, though, well, if Republicans can diagnose Terri Schiavo using a snippet of a few seconds of video (“Her eyes follow a ball!”) can’t I diagnose John McCain with similary flimsiness? Why of course I can, and I will if the right-wing slime machine continues its baseless attack methods.
    The idea that you should vote for a pro-women-dying-from- botched-abortions-president without paying attention to the broader issues is simply, on its face, absurd. It’s yahoos doing that which brought us the disastrous Bush regime, which admittedly did have the side benefit of relegating conservatism to the ash-heap of history.
    But I digress…

  • http://thebronxblogger.blogspot.com Matthew Goggins

    Mumon,
    I would like suggest a different way of approaching and considering John McCain: WWBD, “What would Buddha do?”
    Would the Buddha make anonymous comments in a public forum about a man he doesn’t know?
    Or would the Buddha cultivate a certain detachment while considering the man’s apparent weaknesses, and try to engage him on his own terms?
    Would the Buddha ever accuse a man of betraying his country because he was tortured into signing a false confession?
    Or would the Buddha respect a man who spent many harsh years in captivity and managed to create a new life for himself upon his return to freedom?
    I don’t think we should refrain from being critical of public figures. People with power should, in particular, be closely scrutinized. But the criticism should have some substance.
    Senator McCain is a hero for his service. If he was also a “traitor” is something only McCain can bear witness to, since the crimes you allege happened while he was in strict solitary confinement. For you to be so fixated on this bizarre point only makes you sound very unhinged.
    Please take a step back and re-evaluate what you have been saying. For your sake, for the sake of your own path to enlightenment.
    Peace,
    Matthew

  • jd

    MatthewGoggins:
    Treating Mumon like he’s acquainted with reality and dignity…that’s an approach I haven’t considered in awhile. Maybe I should try that. Maybe I should consider that he respects us in spite of our opinions, that he doesn’t hate evangelicals and conservatives, that he really posts here because he cares what we think.
    Naah. That can’t be right.
    In fact, I think Joe needs to spray this little corner of his blog. It smells.
    But I still respect you, Matthew. You’re a better man than I. ;)

  • jd

    byron
    It seems to me, Joe, that we are going to have to fight AGAINST James Dobson and some of the other right-wingers in order to attempt to protect life in this country. Their determination to insist on rigid ideological purity is a classic case of missing the forest for the trees, and has the effect of a betrayal at this critical time. It’s particularly distressing coming from James Dobson, who should know better.
    I’m not exactly sure where Joe stands on James Dobson, but I have long felt that Joe has never been a one issue man–except on abortion. I think that the very nature of this post says it. I think his support and defense of Mike Huckabee (including that floating cross ad) proves it. His categorical rejection of Rudy also proves it.
    Do you think that Joe would fight “against” James Dobson? Maybe, but not on the abortion issue.
    I am against abortion. I don’t understand anyone fighting for something so ugly. It’s hard to imagine anyone saying to their child someday, with pride: “I was a leader in the fight for the right of a woman to kill a living fetus.”
    However, maybe because the procedure has been around for so long, I have learned to live with it. I will never understand those who fight FOR it. As an adoptive parent, there is no such thing as an unwanted pregnancy; the phrase itself is a slap in my face.

  • http://mumonno.blogspot.com Mumon

    Matthew Goggins :
    Within Buddhism there is a vast amount of words written on upaya, or as it is usually translated, skillful means.
    As I noted above (and see my past writings on the subject), I obviously do not believe that McCain is a traitor because of what happened in Vietnam – his support of George W. Bush and McCain’s overall moral culpability in Vietnam are other matters.
    What I do believe though is that the greater evil is not if I satirize how the right swiftboats the left, but the very fact that the right swiftboats the left and demagogues issues such as Terri Schiavo, and perpetrates great falsehoods regarding the issue.
    It is, in fact this cornucopia of lies that gives lie to the very point of Carter’s post in the first place. The idea that a pro-women-dying-from-botched-abortions president is somehow a more moral person than a pro-legalized abortion president is given lie by the current regime, who has exceeded the worst of all of his six predecessors combined.
    Please wrap your head around that for a bit: the present Resident has a war that is making Vietnam look like a walk in the park (watch the “surge is working” rhetoric fade this summer), he has tanked the economy worse than Ford or Nixon, he’s kicked the middle class in the teeth worse than Reagan, and this week’s events in Belgrade are showing the US to be more incompetent in that region than, say we were in Tehran in Carter’s time.
    And how did such an awful, incompetent, mendacious choice of presidents get there? In part because of cheating at the ballot box, to be sure, but also because of cheerleaders such as Joe Carter nodding and winking and not denouncing swiftboating but instead saying what a grand thing it would be to elect a pro-women-dying-from-botched abortions president.
    Those who, out of self-avowed moral convictions as “evangelicals” or “Christians” who supported such behavior must bear culpability for what has followed.
    Zygotes are not the same thing morally as born people, and those who have been deluded along these lines bear responsibility for the horrors that such thinking has unleased upon America and the world. Sure, there’s no effective federally funded embryonic stem cell research. And for that we got “Nobody could have predicted” 9/11, “Nobody could have predicted” the New Orleans levees would break, “Nobody could have predicted” that the housing bubble would burst, and “Nobody could have predicted” that Iraq would become a quagmire.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Indeed you can google “John McCain is a traitor POW” and you’ll indeed get lots of right wing links about his behavior as a prisoner.
    Fair point, but the crowd here has never argued in those terms even during the period when it seemed like he didn’t have the nomination locked up and there were people opposed to him here. The worst thing I recall seeing here were the people who accused McCain of being ‘pro-amnesty’.

  • http://tomgrey.motime.com Tom Grey

    “birth control is so effective that you would have to multiply the amount of sex you’re having by a factor of 100 to overwhelm their ability to prevent an unplanned pregnancy.”
    Sorry — the clinics are full of women who “used” birth control, but forgot to use it…
    The real world failure of birth control is based on failure to use it correctly (missing a few days pills, not using a condom that night…).
    With abortion as the convenient back-stop birth control, to avoid the inconvenience of unwanted pregnancy and becoming a mother.
    There was an Atlantic article maybe 15 years ago on looking at Sex Ed and the changes in sex behavior. I believe Sex Ed increases sex, and earlier, and with more cases of careless birth control.
    If you have some double-blind studies that show different results, or even less scientific studies, I’d be interested in such facts. Until then, I keep my beliefs.

  • Elwood

    Mumon,
    Wait a minute, you mean Bush was responsible for my house value sky-rocketing over the last ten years?
    Well, I’ll be. How about that?

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Tom
    Sorry — the clinics are full of women who “used” birth control, but forgot to use it…
    If you don’t use birth control and you get pregnant it wasn’t the birth control that failed but the person. If a cop leaves his bullet proof vest at home one day and takes a bullet is that counted as a failure of the vest?
    Besides, the pill, patches and implantable devices are not so easily forgotten as condoms.
    With abortion as the convenient back-stop birth control, to avoid the inconvenience of unwanted pregnancy and becoming a mother.
    The fact remains if 100 people are using birth control 80%, 70% or even 50% correctly you are going to have fewer unplanned pregnancies and you can’t have an abortion without a pregnancy.
    There was an Atlantic article maybe 15 years ago on looking at Sex Ed and the changes in sex behavior. I believe Sex Ed increases sex, and earlier, and with more cases of careless birth control.
    To be honest I doubt education does much in either direction. People love to have the illusion of control and imagine they can effect massive changes in behavior by ‘education’ programs. This goes for the right as well as the left, as the recent studies showing abstinance ‘education’ and chastity promise makers seem to achieve the same or higher STD rates as non-pledgers.

  • ex-preacher

    I’m still waiting for Elwood or Tom or anyone else to explain why abortion rates and teen birth rates are so much lower in Western Europe than in the U.S. They have comprehensive sex ed, cheap (or free) and easy access to birth control, and they’re a bunch of liberal secularists to boot. Perhaps the way to lower our abortion rate (if that’s what you really care about) is to follow their example.

  • http://mumonno.blogspot.com Mumon

    Elwood:
    Don’t worry. Either you’ll soon be upside down, or you won’t be able to sell without a real fire-sale-going-out-of-business price.
    And you might need to, since the credit crunch is tanking the economy big-time, and if you’ve got a job, well, you might not have one soon enough.
    Been to any department stores lately? I hear even Wal-Mart looks like a ghost-town in many places.

  • http://thebronxblogger.blogspot.com Matthew Goggins

    Mumon,
    I love satire, satire is great. But what exactly is the target of your satire?
    “Right-wing groups” who are swift-boating Senator McCain? These “groups” appear to isolated remnants of the old POW-MIA activists who felt betrayed by Senator McCain’s efforts to normalize relations with Vietnam while they were still desperately grasping for hope that their loved ones and comrades could still be found.
    But the way you wrote your satire, you seemed to be making Sen. McCain the target, much more than anyone else. Perhaps it’s just hard to pull off satire in an effective way, but maybe Sen. McCain really was your target, at least subconsciously.
    As for Terri Schiavo, my wife is a liberal Democrat and a physician, I am a libertarian-leaning atheist, and we both were appalled at what the state courts in Florida were trying to allow, and ultimately did allow. As for the Republicans in the House and the Senate who passed extraordinary legislation to forestall Terri’s death by dehydration (it took several weeks, for she was not on life support), it seemed to me that they weren’t demagoguing anything.
    It seemed to me they were taking desperate measures in order to do the right thing as they saw it. And far from benefiting politically, the Republicans seemed to have payed a stiff political price for trying to save Ms. Schiavo.
    My point is, you seem to have such a low threshold for defining “demagoguery” and “lies”, that it is very hard to take your argument as seriously as it might deserve. Disagreement with Mumon does not automatically constitute a crime against humanity, my friend.
    Voltaire was a great playwright and satirist, but he too experienced a similar problem of reflexively demonizing folks who in no way deserved to be demonized. He’s dead now, so he can’t change, but you can still prove yourself better than Voltaire, if you’ve got a mind to.
    Thanks for exchanging comments,
    Matthew

  • http://mumonno.blogspot.com Mumon

    Matthew:
    I was critiquing swiftboating that was going on against Obama, which itself gave rise to the appalling actions of these “pro-life” people.
    Let’s not mince words: Terri Schiavo was essentially brain dead, except for that portion of her brain that kept the heart beating and breathing. There was no conscious activity. Period. That person was basically dead in the same sense that those who are near death and have their organs harvested from them was dead. Dead.
    To equate a dead person with a human person is the ultimate devaluation of life, and hammers home the indisputable fact that all the “pro-life” rhetoric is simply a lie.
    I cannot demonize these folks and those who support them; they have done it to themselves.

  • http://thebronxblogger.blogspot.com Matthew Goggins

    Mumon,
    Thanks for your latest. I wish I could say that we are making progress in understanding each other and appreciating each other’s positions, but I’m not sure that is the case.
    Here’s my reaction to your comment:
    I was critiquing swiftboating that was going on against Obama, which itself gave rise to the appalling actions of these “pro-life” people.
    Who is swift-boating Obama? What appalling actions followed the swiftboating? Please explain.
    Terri Schiavo was essentially brain dead, except for that portion of her brain that kept the heart beating and breathing.
    I agree that what you say is possible.
    However, reasonable people disagreed and continue to disagree about whether it actually is true or not. The only fact that both sides agreed upon was that she had suffered terrible brain damage. The exact nature of the damage was a matter of contention.
    There was no conscious activity. Period. That person was basically dead in the same sense that those who are near death and have their organs harvested from them was dead. Dead.
    Again, I agree that it is possible that you are right. However, I also think it is possible that you are wrong. Wrong.
    To equate a dead person with a human person is the ultimate devaluation of life …
    If anyone was equating a “dead” person with a live human person, it was out of error, not out of dishonesty.
    … and hammers home the indisputable fact that all the “pro-life” rhetoric is simply a lie.
    As you can probably see for yourself, this sentence doesn’t make any sense at all. In case you don’t see it, though, let me give you a few hints:
    … and hammers home the indisputable fact that all the “pro-life” rhetoric is simply a lie.
    Do you stand by what you write? Or is this more satire? If so, who are you satirizing here?
    I cannot demonize these folks and those who support them; they have done it to themselves.
    So, not only are pro-life people demons — anyone who supports pro-life people is a demon too.
    Well, you’re entitled to your opinions. I don’t know anyone who would agree with you, and that includes some of the most rabid pro-choice partisans you’d ever meet.
    You are truly a minority of one.
    Good night, and thanks again, amigo,
    Matthew

  • jd

    Matthew:
    I know that swift-boating has come to be a pejorative, but it’s completely undeserved. Kerry couldn’t refute any of the claims the swift-boaters made, and in fact, had to admit that he was not truthful with regard to his Christmas in Cambodia. The swift-boaters were all men who were deeply offended by the notion of John Kerry being commander-in-chief. There was no other motive. The leader of the group, John O’Neill, was a lifelong Democrat.
    I doubt the above is news to you, but I wanted to point out how dishonest the conventional wisdom can be. Even we conservatives can be forced to play the game.

  • Mike Toreno

    jd, I think the problem with your argument is that there is such a thing as reality, and events that did and did not happen. The world exists outside of your perceptions and assertions. Your stupidity causes you to believe untruths and to disbelieve truths based on your desire to promote the interests of the group of which you see yourself as a member, but in the reality that exists outside of your perceptions, the truth remains unchanged. Similarly, your dishonesty leads you to assert falsehoods based on group identification.
    Your stupidity, dishonesty, and general worthlessness notwithstanding, the claims made by the Swift Boat Liars were false, beginning with the claim “I served with John Kerry,” made by people who had never served with John Kerry. When you say that Kerry couldn’t refute any of the claims, you mean that he couldn’t refute them to your satisfaction. But that is only because you don’t care about truth or falsehood, only group identification. John Kerry is not a member of your “group” (a group primarily made up of lying, worthless, freeloading pieces of garbage); therefore, any aspersion against him would be accepted by you without question.
    Your claim that John O’Neill was a lifelong Democrat flies in the face of the fact that O’Neill was a stooge enlisted by Nixon to try to discredit Kerry’s arguments. O’Neill made numerous false arguments against Kerry’s point of view, and got pwned by Kerry on numerous occasions, discrediting himself rather than Kerry. This led O’Neill to a lifelong personal resentment against Kerry based on the fact that Kerry had proven himself to be a better man than O’Neill. Thus, O’Neill took out his resentment by orchestrating a campaign of lies. Your stupidity and dishonesty causes you to believe and promote these lies, but they are nonetheless lies.

  • Mumon’s mom

    Mike Toreano,
    Do the words “the group of which you see yourself as a member” have to appear in every one of your posts? What is it with you and group identification? It’s strange and your single minded obsession with it strikes me as evidence of a mental disorder.

  • http://thebronxblogger.blogspot.com Matthew Goggins

    Jd,
    The problem with the swift-boaters is that the mainstream media and most of the political elites had tacitly agreed to give Senator Kerry a pass on his anti-war grandstanding and anything else associated with Vietnam. John O’Neill and his fellow veterans were reluctant to take on this status quo, but felt that the prospect of a President Kerry was forcing their hand.
    I generally share your highly positive evaluation of the swift-boaters. However, they did sell more than they were able to deliver. I say this as a proud owner of O’Neill’s book, “Unfit for Command”.
    If I had to judge the overall accuracy of their accusations, they were only batting .700 or .800, in my opinion. But that’s not so bad for events occurring 30 years in the past on the other side of the world in the fog of a crazy war.
    On the other hand, Senator Kerry’s stonewalling and misstatements were generally pretty pathetic.
    On the other other hand, I agree with Mumon that “swift-boating” is a dangerous weapon which can be used indiscriminately by people with insufficient scruples. It should only be used on very special, very deserving targets.
    Unless Senator Obama were some kind of criminal (say, like Senator Clinton or her husband), I would not like to see anyone “swift-boating” him. Of course, it’s a free country, so anyone can do as they d–m well please, but that would be my preference.

  • Mike Toreno

    Matt, in response to your 41 above, it was clear what was the target of Mumon’s satire – namely, the propensity of wingnuts to smear anyone they disfavor, with the most outrageous and scurrilous calumny. The problem is not that it’s hard to pull off satire, the problem is that you are too stupid to recognize it.
    What you want to do is to promote the right-wing line, essentially based on an argument from authority, with yourself as the authority. Who cares if you and your wife were appalled at the actions of the Florida courts in the Schiavo case? You are stupid and dishonest. Now, your stupidity and dishonesty doesn’t in and of itself preclude you from being correct on one issue or another, but in order to persuade people that what you say is true, you are going to have to come up with some evidence other than your emotional response, because your emotional response is irrelevant.
    The fact is that Terri Schiavo was in a persistent vegetative state, and had no conscious responses. The fact is that a substantial proportion of her cerebral cortex had been replaced by liquid. The fact is, that someone with a brain in that state has no consciousness.
    And as for the Republican acts, the fact that it “seems to you” that they weren’t demagoguing anything is irrelevant, because you are – as noted above – stupid and dishonest.
    Bill Frist made a long-distance diagnosis of Terri Schiavo based on a videotape. Now, it may appear to you that such an act wasn’t demagoguery, but to a non-stupid, non-dishonest person, it is. As for the fact that it didn’t help them politically, what matters is that they took actions with the intent to benefit politically. The fact that they miscalculated and failed to achieve their objective doesn’t make their actions honest or sincere.
    As for your evaluation of the Swift Boat Liars, again, you ask us to accept your evaluation of what happened. The problem with the Swift Boat Liars isn’t that “the political and media elites had decided to give Senator Kerry a pass on his anti-war grandstanding”, the problem is that they were liars. They lied about having served with him, they lied about treating his wounds, they lied about whether he had come under fire.
    And what is this with anti-war “grandstanding”? What you mean is that Kerry expressed himself in a way that you don’t approve of, in support of a position that you don’t agree with. He wasn’t “grandstanding”. You pursue the typical wingnut path, that of shaking your head sadly about the incivility of your political opponents, who don’t confine themselves to modes of expression that you approve of.
    But of course, John Kerry had no obligation to let you define what he should and shouldn’t say. Please forgive me if I don’t accept the proposition that we should accept you – a stupid and dishonest person – as an arbiter of correct and incorrect political expression in America.
    And even if we were to accept the word of you – a stupid and dishonest person – that Senator Kerry was in fact “grandstanding” when he opposed the Vietnam war, please explain how that entitles his political opponents to lie about his actions.

  • http://mumonno.blogspot.lcom Mumon

    I can’t add much to what Mike Toreno wrote, other than to note that ignorance is intimately related to evil.
    These “pro-life” people see nothing wrong with making apologies for a regime that equates to the dead to the living, a regime that imprisons people because they’re Democrats (Don Siegelman), and that equates zygotes to born people, well, folks that’s just evil.

  • http://thebronxblogger.blogspot.com Matthew Goggins

    Mumon,
    Well, I gave up on Mr. Toreno a couple of comment threads ago, but I’m still disappointed in you, Mumon.
    If Gov. Siegelman was prosecuted for being a Democrat, and there’s seems to be some evidence for that, then I agree that that would be evil.
    But this “equating zygotes to born people” business — I understand what you’re driving at (Boonton has argued for your side quite eloquently in past comment threads), but your use of the word “evil” is so over the top it’s beyond ridiculous.
    Shooting abortion doctors — yes, that’s evil.
    Writing letters to the editor or supporting pro-life politicians — no, that’s not evil.
    Equating the two, while decrying false equations in the same breath — I don’t understand why your head doesn’t explode from the unintentional irony.
    In comment 41 I wrote, “Disagreement with Mumon does not automatically constitute a crime against humanity, my friend.” I thought you would agree and back down a little from your rhetorical excess, but I was wrong.
    Were you bitten by a pro-life Rottweiler when you were five years old? What gives?
    And I still would like to know who’s swiftboating Senator Obama, and what “appalling actions” took place as a result. Seriously, what the heck are you talking about, dude?
    Good night,
    Matthew

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    “By all the criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from the moment of conception.” – Dr. Gordon, Chairman of the Dept. of Genetics at the Mayo Clinic.
    It is no longer the woman’s body that we are discussing. There is another person involved. Abortion is the ending of a human life. Which means that abortion is murder! Or do all of these pro-abortion people want to change the definition of murder too? Why not just say that parents have the “right” to kill their children until they are 18. I mean, that would really help ya through those terrible teen years, right?
    We actually have the ability to REALLY help woman in a crisis pregnancy situation, and what does our society tell the mother-to-be to do? Society tells her to kill her pre-born baby. As if that will solve all of her problems.
    Well…NEWSFLASH…it just makes her situation worse. Women have been destroyed by abortion for too many years. Mothers are not meant to kill their children in a normal, loving society. Women deserve so much better, and their children deserve what our country promises as the first RIGHT: the right to LIFE.

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