Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Giuliani & Abortion

Philo -

First off, while you are right that Sean Hannity injected the name 'Scalia' into the discussion during the interview last night, it is one that Giuliani has mentioned before as his idea of a good justice. For example, he told the South Carolina GOP the other day that he thought Scalia was the right pick for Chief Justice. And while I cannot find a specific cite, it is reported that he has said before that as President, he would pick justices in the 'Scalia mold.'

With regard to abortion more broadly, my comments were essentially on Giuliani's explanation of his views and how they are likely to be received politically. I think that all things being equal, he can probably win the nomination and Presidency while espousing the view that regulation of abortion is a state matter, but that he may support some federal restrictions (eg, partial-birth abortion). There's a logical inconsistency there of course, but politics and the crafting of public policy is rife with such inconsistencies.

Now to the substance of the question.

Leaving all other questions aside for a moment, I want a President who will help enact policies that dramatically reduce abortions. Experience shows that electing Presidents who identify themselves as pro-lifers has accomplished little in this regard. Reagan, Bush 41, and Bush 43 were all elected as pro-lifers. Yet the only tangible result has been a Supreme Court more willing to contemplate restrictions - an important victory, but a relatively small one. With this track record, a President Giuliani would need do little more than nominate strict constructionist judges to do as well as (or better than) Reagan and his successors. Indeed, considering that Souter, Kennedy, and O'Connor are among the nominees of those Presidents, you could argue that the bar for justices is pretty low.

Is Giuliani likely to clear this hurdle? Well, one day after he declared, the jury is (unsurprisingly) still out. I think it very likely that his statement on the Partial Birth Abortion ban is a misspeak; that he expects the ban to be upheld, and thinks it ought to be. With regard to an exception for the life of the mother, I see no reason to think he meant other than what he said. Clearly, such an exception could be crafted too broadly for my taste, but he did not state support for an exception for the health of the mother. If he had, I would regard it as a 'red flag.'

And as far as his unwillingness to say that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided, I wish that he had stated such a view. However, there could be several reasons for that. It might be because he thinks it correctly decided (unlikely), or because he thinks it was wrongly decided but supports the abortion-on-demand regime as it exists (I hope not). It could also be because he regards such an unequivocal statement as politically unwise - not an uncommon view.

Is this initial statement sloppy, inconsistent, and otherwise less than ideal? Clearly. Will I continue to watch closely what the Mayor says on the subject? Absolutely. But I don't see any 'deal breakers' in here. And looking at the glass half full, I see no reason that he cannot be at least 'as good' on abortion as other recent Republican Presidents have been. Heck, only Nixon could go to China. Maybe it will take a 'moderate' Republican to accomplish things that conservatives could not, for fear of being portrayed as extremists.

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