During last night’s debate I finally had that illuminating moment. That sparkling minute of time when independent and undecided voters - like myself - finally find something in one of the candidates they can point to and say ‘Yes. That, right there! That’s what I’m looking for in my next President! Thank you!’
Oddly, the moment had nothing to do with the economy, the war in Iraq (have we come up with a name for this yet? Something catchy?) or anything regarding foreign policy.
The issue was abortion. Yes, that tried and true polarizing topic that boils the blood of religious conservatives everywhere (unless it’s their own family that’s involved) and raises the passions of left wing liberals who are ready to defend it to the death. Get it? To the death? Abortion? No? Too much?
First, I need to be up front. I did not watch the entire debate as the Phillies – Dodgers game was on and I do have priorities in life. I was flipping back and forth, but luckily caught the abortion topic. And I will be eternally grateful.
The question came from Bill Schieffer (who did a fantastic job from what I saw) and involved the appointment of Supreme Court Justices during their potential Presidential term. I’ve scrounged up the transcript from here and will put their EXACT answers below. I want to make sure we have everything in context then will get to my point. Excerpts from the debate will be in red to differentiate them from my inane, uneducated comments.
Schieffer: ‘Senator McCain, you believe Roe v. Wade should be overturned. Senator Obama, you believe it shouldn’t. Could either of you ever nominate someone to the Supreme Court who disagrees with you on this issue? Senator McCain?’
Note: The answer is obviously a resounding NO to this question, but let’s wade through all the politispeak and figure out where each stands on this.
McCain: ‘I would never and have never in all the years I’ve been there imposed a litmus test on any nominee to the court. That’s not appropriate to do.’
Note: I have no idea what he means by ‘in all my years’ as he’s never been President nor had to appoint a nominee to the Supreme Court. I am simply assuming he means during the entire nomination and approval process. But I can’t swear to that.
Schieffer: ‘But you don’t want Roe v. Wade to be overturned?’
Note: I love how Schieffer doesn’t allow them to talk around the question he’s asking. He makes them answer it so the public knows exactly where they stand on an issue. He did this most of the night (from what I saw).
McCain: ‘I thought it was a bad decision. I think there were a lot of decisions that were bad. I think that decisions should rest in the hands of the states. I'm a federalist. And I believe strongly that we should have nominees to the United States Supreme Court based on their qualifications rather than any litmus test.
Now, let me say that there was a time a few years ago when the United States Senate was about to blow up. Republicans wanted to have just a majority vote to confirm a judge and the Democrats were blocking in an unprecedented fashion.
We got together seven Republicans, seven Democrats. You were offered a chance to join. You chose not to because you were afraid of the appointment of, quote, "conservative judges."
I voted for Justice Breyer and Justice Ginsburg. Not because I agreed with their ideology, but because I thought they were qualified and that elections have consequences when presidents are nominated. This is a very important issue we're talking about.
Senator Obama voted against Justice Breyer and Justice Roberts on the grounds that they didn't meet his ideological standards. That's not the way we should judge these nominees. Elections have consequences. They should be judged on their qualifications. And so that's what I will do.
I will find the best people in the world -- in the United States of America who have a history of strict adherence to the Constitution. And not legislating from the bench.’
Note: When McCain says ‘I think there were a lot of decisions that were bad’ is he referring to Supreme Court decisions or decisions in general. Like invading Iraq or running for President?
SCHIEFFER: But even if it was someone -- even someone who had a history of being for abortion rights, you would consider them?
MCCAIN: I would consider anyone in their qualifications. I do not believe that someone who has supported Roe v. Wade that would be part of those qualifications. But I certainly would not impose any litmus test.
Note: This is utter bullshit. Of course a judge’s stance on Roe v Wade is going to influence McCain’s decision on who to appoint. To state otherwise is insulting.
Now it’s Obama’s turn.
OBAMA: Well, I think it's true that we shouldn't apply a strict litmus test and the most important thing in any judge is their capacity to provide fairness and justice to the American people.
And it is true that this is going to be, I think, one of the most consequential decisions of the next president. It is very likely that one of us will be making at least one and probably more than one appointments and Roe versus Wade probably hangs in the balance.
Now I would not provide a litmus test. But I am somebody who believes that Roe versus Wade was rightly decided. I think that abortion is a very difficult issue and it is a moral issue and one that I think good people on both sides can disagree on.
But what ultimately I believe is that women in consultation with their families, their doctors, their religious advisers, are in the best position to make this decision. And I think that the Constitution has a right to privacy in it that shouldn't be subject to state referendum, any more than our First Amendment rights are subject to state referendum, any more than many of the other rights that we have should be subject to popular vote.’
I want to stress a certain statement included in here that made me take notice: ‘and it is a moral issue and one that I think good people on both sides can disagree on.’
Hold on! What’s this? Are we getting a thoughtful, intelligent answer to a difficult question? Why, indeed we are. Not only is it dignified, but allows for opposing views on one of the most explosive topics in our society. ‘Good people on both sides.’
In one little statement, Obama has taken a step towards some form of compromise. In one little statement, Obama has conceded that this is an issue people will NEVER agree on. We can’t force our own beliefs down other people’s throats. It can’t – and never has – worked that way. (Please refer to Iraq War for clarification).
More importantly, Obama is not insulting one side or the other. There are ‘good people on both sides’. And he’s right. There are. So polarizing and emotional this topic has become a lot of people have lost sight of that. Abortion foes have been portrayed as maniacal, bible thumping bullies who picket outside family planning clinics in an attempt to scare away already frightened and confused young women, even girls who are looking for help.
The abortion foes (sorry, Pro Life Advocates) have painted women who get abortions as lazy, ignorant sluts who should suck it up and become a parent like everyone else. Of course, they are also the same people that don’t want birth control available in high schools, so basically don’t have sex until you’re married and figure it out on your own. Just like the old days.
Life is never so black and white. Bush and his administration have tried to paint the world in such broad strokes with disastrous results. ‘You’re either with us or against us’ has fueled more heartache and misery than any other social philosophy since World War II.
What’s critical to me is that our next President be one of tolerance, compromise and flexibility. You know, what Bush said he was going to be. Only actually act that way. While McCain uses the opportunity of abortion to attack Obama’s Senate voting record Obama uses it to extend a hand in each direction. In a deft, simple sentence Obama portrayed himself as a unifying force.
Since he’s now got my vote, I’ll give him the last word. One sentence got my attention, but it’s this next statement that clinched the deal. You can’t help but wonder if Sarah Palin adopted (pun intended) a similar stance whether her daughter would now be pregnant.
‘The last point I want to make on the issue of abortion. This is an issue that -- look, it divides us. And in some ways, it may be difficult to -- to reconcile the two views.
But there surely is some common ground when both those who believe in choice and those who are opposed to abortion can come together and say, "We should try to prevent unintended pregnancies by providing appropriate education to our youth, communicating that sexuality is sacred and that they should not be engaged in cavalier activity, and providing options for adoption, and helping single mothers if they want to choose to keep the baby."’
Today’s distraction: Who was present at the very first Democratic Debate at South Carolina State University? You have three minutes to get them all. I got 4 and a big frown face for my efforts.