The bogus ‘war on women’

Some people are getting a lot of traction out of this. In spite of its contrivance as an election year strategy. 

Which became a trendy meme parroted in media. Take the Economist, for example, which is lamentable since it’s usually so much more sensible. Lexington ran this column.

It is also a mistake to assume that women’s preferences are driven only by hot-button issues such as abortion and contraception, which Mr Santorum has driven so unhelpfully up the news agenda. Polls show that women lean towards the Democrats for many other reasons. They are, for instance, likelier to believe in activist government and stronger regulation. On abortion, it turns out, men and women have similar attitudes. Just over half of both sexes think it should be legal in all or most cases, and about 43% think it should be illegal in all or most cases.

There’s so much wrong with that paragraph, better to just let it stand on its own.

Yet it is hard to believe that the Republicans’ problem with women has not been aggravated by Mr Santorum’s obsession with who is doing what to whom in the bedroom, or by Mr Romney’s promise to defund Planned Parenthood, the organisation on which millions of poor women depend for family planning (including abortion), or by the antics of Republican state legislatures. In recent months newspapers have carried startling reports about Republican-governed states pushing women who seek early abortions to have a probe inserted into their vaginas, in order to provide an image of the unborn child, in the hope that the picture will change their minds.

So let’s see… One shot aims to ridicule, simplify and demonize Sen. Santorum. So would the equal and opposite be true by saying that Mr. Obama has an obsession with contraception and abortion? Rhetorical question… Another shot, this one at Mr. Romney, overlooks the decades long serious efforts in Congress to stop throwing hefty sums of taxpayer funds at the highly profitable abortion giant Planned Parenthood, portrayed here as the salvation of millions of poor women looking for benevolent family planning, whatever that term has come to mean, in addition to the ultimate extreme of abortion, which means no family and no planning.

Then there’s the rest of that paragraph, those “startling reports about Republican-governed states pushing women who seek early abortions to have a probe inserted into their vaginas,  in order to provide an image of the unborn child, in the hope that the picture will change their minds.” Besides the obvious partisan political nature of the shot, there’s the crassness and dishonesty of the rest of it. A few points…One: Exactly how does the abortionist go about the business of eliminating that “unborn child” without a far more violating instrument into the woman? Two: Some state laws, like one proposed in Illinois for instance, aim to offer women the option to see an ultrasound, which she may choose or decline, which may be done non-invasively. And Three: The reason is to provide women fully informed consent, so they, you know, can make a choice. Who benefits if they can’t change their minds? Who’s trying to avoid giving women a choice to make up their minds?

And what is this “politics of women” business? What does it mean? Who does it speak for? Are feminists okay with Lexington’s derogatory remarks here? Kudos for getting two things right, “the snake pit of politics” that targeted Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin for sexist media coverage. Right on, there. But perhaps Lexington isn’t familiar with Susan B. Anthony women in politics.

As long as media beat this drum, there are fortunately other voices to meet the challenge, willing to parse truth from nonsense.

New Hampshire Republican senator Kelly Ayotte, who endorsed Romney and campaigned with him before the Granite State’s GOP primary, stresses in an interview that Romney’s message will ultimately prove appealing to women.

The issues that matter most to women voters are also the issues that play to Romney’s strength, Ayotte notes. Above all, she says, women are concerned about the unemployment rate: They want to make sure they and their families have good jobs. Like everyone else, women want a strong economy. The other top two issues Ayotte lists for women: gas prices and the debt…

Ayotte pushes back against the Democratic notion that the GOP is waging a “war on women,” as supposedly evident in the party’s position on various issues, such as opposition to the requirement that employers at religious institutions provide insurance coverage for birth control, including sterilization and abortion-inducing pills.
 
“They make a mistake when they think women are a monolithic group,” Ayotte says. “Women have diverse opinions on these issues.” She points to a USA Today/Gallup poll of battleground states in which women ranked government policies on birth control as the sixth most important issue to them this election, behind health care, gas prices, unemployment, the national debt/deficit, and international affairs. Democrats want to push the “war on women” storyline because they think it will work well for them, Ayotte says. “But at the end of the day, women have very different opinions, and they’re going to vote on a broad array of issues.”
 
Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway agrees that Democrats’ strong push on their liberal social policies could backfire. “It presupposes that women care, discuss, and vote only according to those issues,” she says, referring to contraception and abortion. That premise, she adds, “insults women.”

Yes it does. Colleen Carroll Campbell puts it this way:

In honor of Women’s History Month, I’d like to make a request of America’s political and media elites on behalf of America’s women: Stop lumping us together.

To be more specific: Stop telling us “what women want” in the next president, which political stands are sure-fire winners (or losers) of “the women’s vote” and what constitutes “the women’s view” in debates over everything from the morality of abortion to the limits of government and the best path to national prosperity.

While you’re at it, please stop quoting a handful of self-appointed “women’s advocates” as if they were proxies for all 156 million Americans who carry two X chromosomes. Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards no more represents my views than Sarah Palin represents hers. And I think I can speak for all women in saying that no single woman or women’s group speaks for us all.

And while we’re at it, please stop lumping us into identity politics altogether. Just who does that benefit?

The emergence of social moral issues

The media don’t quite know how to handle this.

GOP presidential candidates are talking, and more boldly, about the sanctity of life, the definition of marriage, human dignity and ‘rights endowed by the Creator’, especially in their debates. Partially because they’re being prodded by media moderators.

Shortly after last weekend’s ABC debate, some top stories on my news aggregator recounted a particularly odd and persistent exchange between questioner George Stephanopoulos and candidate Mitt Romney. That story disappeared quickly and was replaced by boilerplate rundowns of the debate and especially from the angle of who was attacking whom on stage over political and business track records. Where did that story go?

It turned up here, which is pretty thorough in describing the snip and then publishing the video and transcript.

During Saturday’s Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire, hosted by ABC, co-moderator George Stephanopoulos bizarrely pressed candidate Mitt Romney on whether the former Massachusetts governor believes the U.S. Supreme Court should overturn a 1965 ruling that a constitutional right to privacy bars states from banning contraception.

And that’s the key to what should be the focus whenever this topic is raised. Whether it’s intended as a ‘gotcha’ question or whatever. NRO’s Kathryn Jean Lopez brings clarity to the media distortions and confusion.

The problem with the headlines is that they are untrue.

What Santorum has said is that the Supreme Court’s 1965 decision in Griswold v. Connecticut — which dealt with a case that was a Planned Parenthood official’s stunt — was a bad precedent and bad law. It created a constitutional right for married persons to use contraceptives. Writing for the majority, Justice William O. Douglas declared that ”specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance,” and that “various [of these] guarantees create zones of privacy.” That would be the basis for the Roe decision eight years later, which relied on a similar constitutional stretch.

All of which provides another opportunity to point to this critical understanding of Roe as bad law and wrongly-decided law. Let’s just look at the first three ‘pro-choice scholars’ quoted here:

Laurence Tribe — Harvard Law School. Lawyer for Al Gore in 2000.
“One of the most curious things about Roe is that, behind its own verbal smokescreen, the substantive judgment on which it rests is nowhere to be found.”
“The Supreme Court, 1972 Term—Foreword: Toward a Model of Roles in the Due Process of Life and Law,” 87 Harvard Law Review 1, 7 (1973).

Ruth Bader Ginsburg — Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court
“Roe, I believe, would have been more acceptable as a judicial decision if it had not gone beyond a ruling on the extreme statute before the court. … Heavy-handed judicial intervention was difficult to justify and appears to have provoked, not resolved, conflict.”
North Carolina Law Review, 1985

Edward Lazarus — Former clerk to Harry Blackmun.
“As a matter of constitutional interpretation and judicial method, Roe borders on the indefensible. I say this as someone utterly committed to the right to choose, as someone who believes such a right has grounding elsewhere in the Constitution instead of where Roe placed it, and as someone who loved Roe’s author like a grandfather.” ….
“What, exactly, is the problem with Roe? The problem, I believe, is that it has little connection to the Constitutional right it purportedly interpreted. A constitutional right to privacy broad enough to include abortion has no meaningful foundation in constitutional text, history, or precedent – at least, it does not if those sources are fairly described and reasonably faithfully followed.”

Let’s have this debate. But let it be honest, respectful, and open to core beliefs and truths.

Santorum on O’Reilly

Actually it was the reverse. Fox News host Bill O’Reilly really got on Republican candidate Rick Santorum about his campaign and views and likelihood of success going forward. The day after he was victorious in Iowa.

It’s one thing to ask the tough questions, Santorum and the rest of the field should be used to that or get used to it fast from now on. It’s another to step outside the ‘No Spin Zone’ and pitch the zingers O’Reilly snapped off at Santorum to elicit the responses he was looking for, sometimes without letting the candidate finish his answer. It was O’Reilly-like, and I listened to it again before saying anything.

Here’s what I saw and heard…

O’Reilly was testy from the start. Fair enough to say that’s an impression rather than a fact, but that’s my impression, and I’m neutral on the candidates at this point. It was just a surprisingly terse host in this interview.

O’Reilly starts by asking Santorum: ‘Who are you going to take from in New Hampshire? You’ve got 10 percent now, who are you going to take from?’ in order to rise in the polls. Santorum did his best responding about raising support and resources.

O’Reilly: ‘Are you ready to be demonized? Now it’s a national race, and you’re going to be portrayed as an extremist. And some of your positions are out of the mainstream. You know, 98 percent of Americans think contraception is fine, that states have the right to legislate that.’

Santorum: ‘As you know as a Catholic…’ and he starts to refer to that shared understanding of birth control. 

O’Reilly interrupts: ‘But the majority of Catholics don’t follow that, it’s like the meat on Fridays thing, it’s not that Jesus said it, it’s not a dogma, it’s a doctrine made by man. I’m not justifying it or and I’m not giving my opinion about it one way or the other. I’m just pointing out they’re going to come after you on that, and they’re going to come after you on gays in the military. And they’re going to come after you on gay marriage, on a marriage license that’s already given. You would have them rescind it. All I’m saying is I’m not debating the issue with you. I’m not debating the issue with you, I’m not saying you’re right or wrong. I’m just saying this is going to be put to you, that you’re an extremist, out of the mainstream. How are you going to reply to that? You want to rescind a license that’s already given? That’s a big deal.’

Santorum says defining marriage as between a man and a woman is not extreme.

O’Reilly asks if passing a constitutional amendment defining marraige would be in the forefront of a Santorum administration.

Santorum: ‘As you know Bill, if you’ve been following me out on the trail, I haven’t been talking a lot about this although I strongly believe in it. What I’ve been talking about as I did last night in my acceptance speech, where I didn’t talk about this issue, I talked about getting this economy going. I talked about my grandfather, and coming here for freedom. This is the fundamental issue in this campaign, whether government is going to be big and obtrusive and telling people how to manage their lives, or they’re going to support the values of faith and family that allow government to be limited, that allow our economy to be strong. Those are things I talked about. I did across Iowa and I will here in New Hampshire and…’

O’Reilly interrupts: ‘Alright you’re going to de-emphasize the controversial social stuff, and then get into the smaller government stuff, more self-reliance and the economy stuff. Okay.’ Santorum shakes his head.

After some questions about judges and the Ninth Circuit, O’Reilly wraps up saying: ‘We hope you’ll come on again, and congratulations on the Iowa deal…’

Wherever this goes from here, it may have been a high point last night in Santorum’s candidacy. But it was one of the less than high points in O’Reilly’s professional reign.

That interview was poorly handled. ‘Word of the Day’? Don’t be tendentious, Mr. O’Reilly.

So Rick Santorum wins Iowa

The truth is, virtually no one saw that coming. Media have largely overlooked or discounted the conservative Republican candidate whose values were easier to marginalize than engage. “You ask me what motivates me,” he said late in his remarks onstage at the end of the night. “It’s the dignity of each and every human life.”

Those paying attention knew that. Like the National Review Online editors who ran Santorum’s commentary explaining his worldview. Late in the piece he summarizes:

I have become a radical believer in every person’s human dignity. It is the driver of my worldview, and therefore in conclusion I believe:

Every person, whether the baby in utero, my little girl Bella with her challenges, or the AIDS orphan in the inner city, has inherent dignity, and we must do all we can to preserve and respect that dignity.

Government has to be strong enough to protect human life, but limited enough to never exploit it.

As our founders recognized religion as an “indispensable support” to the health of society and necessary for the understanding of human life, government should never inhibit or discourage its role in the public square.

My greatest concern is that we are at a crossroads of deep consequence regarding the role of government in the lives of the American people. Without correcting course, the road we are on will lead to the further devaluation of the inherent dignity of our citizens and their ability to live in freedom and safety. I am committed to doing everything possible to respect and protect that dignity, and opposing and reversing any policies and programs that undermine it.

NRO editor Kathryn Jean Lopez knows Santorum well, interviewed him before and posted this just before the Iowa caucuses, saying voters there “see in him something of what they’d like to see (again) in Washington.”

He’s on the road to New Hampshire now, and we’ll be hearing plenty more about him in the immediate days ahead. Which means attention, one way or another, on the guiding principle of human dignity. This should be good.