Monday, June 04, 2007

Why Giuliani (and Romney) won't do for pro-lifers

George Will writes about the appeal of Rudy Giuliani to social conservatives, in spite of his positions that go against them. He writes:

So, last year, perhaps a million women and their doctors committed murder. However much a person deplores abortion and embraces that legal logic, nobody believes that either the legislation or the constitutional amendment that Republican platforms have praised will be passed. Hence the sterility of today's abortion debate. And hence the inclination of some social conservatives to focus on limiting abortion by changing the culture, and their willingness to evaluate candidates by criteria unrelated to abortion.

This social conservative gets off the bus at the last comma there. I am committed to ending abortion, and that this will include government action, but I am coming to the realization that doing so means more than just electing candidates who check the "pro-life" box on the form. That's where this "changing the culture" stuff comes in.

Part of "changing the culture" is choosing leaders. And for me, at least, choosing a leader who embraces war, capital punishment, and torture of detainees moves the culture in the wrong direction.

Which is why it is my opinion, that in spite of being "pro-life," and having a record completely consistent with pro-life values, George W. Bush has done more to hurt the pro-life position than help it. He has given evidence to all those inclined to believe that pro-lifers only care about people until their born. He claims to be pro-life, but has exercised zero leadership on this score, focusing instead on things like the war in Iraq and privatizing social security, which calls our seriousness into question. And his polarizing style, which some conservatives are now getting a taste of in the immigration debate, turns people away who might have grown sympathetic to pro-life arguments.

Given that, why would we want to elect a president who seems to share all these negative qualities, but doesn't even pretend to be pro-life? If we're now concerned mostly about culture, what would electing such a leader from what used to be the pro-life party do to the culture?

Some say that as long as Giuliani is functionally pro-life, i.e. appointing "strict constructionist" judges, which we're supposed to trust is secret code word for "inclined to overturn Roe v. Wade, it doesn't matter. The same argument is made for those who are concerned that Mitt Romney's recent change of heart on this issue has more to do with electoral calculation than person conviction.

But, as this president has shown, the presidency is more than just checking the right box when confronted with a problem. The president sets the agenda, and chooses which battles to fight. I have no reason to believe that either Giuliani or Romney would actively work for the unborn. They may make the right calls when given no choice, but my suspicion is that they would avoid the issue as much as possible.

The message this sends to those inclined to dislike the pro-choice movement is that we're not that serious about the issue. Yeah, we'd like to elect a president who's pro-life, but that candidate need not make it a priority. The important thing is sticking it to the pro-choicers.

Looking at the field, the candidate most likely to bring about the cultural transformation needed is Obama. Yes, I know, his position is indistinguishable from the other candidates, including his recent criticism of the Supreme Court for not finding a right to partial birth abortion in the Constitution. But it is my opinion that we've ridden this current political structure as far as it can take us, and it's not far enough. Even if a President Giuliani or President Romney nominates and confirms a Supreme Court justice who becomes part of a majority to overturn Roe v. Wade, it would be a hollow victory indeed, and be greeted with an enormous backlash.

Ending abortion will require a cultural and political transformation. Such a transformation will require a leader unsatisfied with the current politics, and courageous enough to change it.

Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney seem to be fine with today's politics (it got them where they are), even if it means that evils like abortion and torture continue. So long as they get to be president.

That won't do.