A Not Inexhaustible Supply of Credibility
Please Forgive the Double Negative.
By Leon H Wolf Posted in 2008 | Andrew Bacevich | Douglas Kmiec | Men who have become teenage girls | Obama | Ross Douthat — Comments (34) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
Ross Douthat over at the Atlantic has been doing a fantastic job recently of documenting a somewhat curious phenomenon - ostensible pro-lifers who have, for one reason or another, elected to support Barack Obama. (More here, here, and here). Ross is a more talented and patient writer than I am, so I would encourage you all to read the entirety of his pieces, but if you want the general flavor, Douthat chronicles (with polite consternation) the fact that a number of conservative commentators have overtly decided that the war in Iraq is a greater evil than abortion, and have decided to cast their votes appropriately.
Ross's points are all very well-taken, but I believe that the basic message he is sending should be stated with more clarity and force, which I intend to do below the fold.
There are, of course, many reasons why the average voter is pro-life. Some find abortion "icky," some are pro-life because of their parents, some believe that there's a command in the Bible somewhere that states "thou shalt not commit abortion"; the list goes on and on. The phenomenon we are dealing with, however, does not deal with the "average voter." Kmiec, Bacevich, Larison, et al, are allegedly thinking men. Their stock and trade, to some degree, lies in thinking, writing, and commenting about politics. Such men, if they are going to call themselves pro-lifers, should understand that there is ultimately but one reason to oppose abortion from a public policy standpoint: that it represents the unjust taking of a human life. This necessarily entails a belief that the unborn human is entitled, by its inherent qualities as a human life form, to all the same legal protections as born humans.
With this in mind, let us examine the positions of Kmiec, Bacevich, et al. Let us assume, arguendo, that the Iraq War is indeed an unjust war, and that every life lost in it represents a life unjustly taken. It then follows that the total count of lives unjustly taken including coalition casualties, civilian casualties and Iraqi armed forces casualties is somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000. Even if you are inclined to believe the grossly inflated figures of the Lancet survey, three years of occupation in Iraq led to a total of approximately 650,000 excess deaths. These are, without a doubt, extremely troubling numbers, especially to one who believes (as Kmiec, Bacevich, et al do) that the Iraq war is an unjust one.
However, it remains a basic fact in this country that abortion (to an intellectually honest pro-lifer) represents the unjust taking of approximately 1.2 million lives each and every year. Or, for perspective, somewhere between 5 and 6 million lives unjustly taken since the start of the Iraq War. Of course, numbers do not tell the whole story - respect for life is not a numbers-counting game. It is true that in some limited circumstances, one kind of unjust life-taking may be more injurious to the fabric of a society than another, despite involving less lives taken. However, in this case, it is virtually impossible for a conservative to imagine anything that could be more destructive to the fabric of society as a whole than the real and symbolic destruction of the family unit and family responsibilities that abortion represents. An unjust war might say that we have poor judgment, are overly aggressive, are greedy, or whatever your personal conspiracy theory leads you to believe about why we entered the war. The specter of legalized abortion in this country says that we as a society are okay with parents legally killing their children en masse.
The only explanation for Kmiec/Bacevich's abdication of reason that I can credit is the fact that there have been hundreds and thousands of mass media stories over the last four years about the number of people killed in Iraq, and almost no stories during that same time period about the number of people killed by abortion. This explanation is sufficient to explain why the average voter considers Iraq to be a more important issue than abortion - it should not be sufficient to explain why individuals of allegedly deep thought and insight should be so easily swayed. Bacevich at least has an excuse for not being entirely rational in this case, having tragically lost a son in Iraq. No one - including myself - will begrudge Bacevich his grieving, or his anger at the source of his loss. As far as Kmiec - who less than four months ago was telling us all to vote for Mitt Romney - I can fathom no explanation or excuse whatsoever for his apparent willingness to cast his vote according to the whims of a pop-star besotted teenage girl.
Political pundits and leaders (particularly conservative ones) are not appointed to their positions as leaders of public opinion. They earn them through years of thoughtful and well-reasoned commentary - through proving, time and again, that thoughtfulness and rationality will win out in their commentary over glamour and emotion. By deciding to endorse a man who appears more and more by the day to be a pathological liar, and a greater supporter of abortion on demand than even Bill Clinton, Kmiec and his ilk deserve to lose whatever credibility with the pro-life voting public that they have built up over the years.
Let us not suppose any longer that these men really have ever been convicted pro-lifers, or that they have ever thought through why they were pro-life, or why it was important to be pro-life in the first place. If they had, they would not have been so easily swayed by a silver-tongued liberal who has flatly confessed his open antagonism to the pro-life cause, and voted according to the same during his time in public office. When future elections come around, and these individuals tell us who we should vote for, let us not suppose any longer that they are telling us that they have vetted the candidate's pro-life beliefs and found them satisfactory - we should instead understand that they have found that the candidate pleases them emotionally in some way, and nothing more. Which ultimately means that their opinion should be given no weight at all, unless a given subset of voters is especially concerned with which candidate emotionally pleases Douglas Kmiec or Andrew Bacevich.
Credibility is earned, and not given. And a true pro-lifer should understand that siding with an enabler of what pro-lifers consider to be mass infanticide will destroy all your credibility with pro-lifers in an instant, and that this credibility may never be re-earned. Kmiec and Bacevich have actively asked for this fate. We should be happy to give it to them.