Regarding the May 17 Obama speech on abortion, Tucker Carlson said, the very next day:
You can't have a real conversation about abortion if you're afraid to use the word.
Pro-choice? Pro-life? Those are slogans designed to obscure rather than illuminate.
The debate is about whether abortion ought to be legal, not about whether you respect "life," whatever that is, or whether you think people ought to have "choices," whatever those may be.
So let's call it what it is. That'd be a good first step. Obama, who's deeply interested in language, knows this but not surprisingly failed to mention it.
In the speech, the one given at Notre Dame:
The question then -- the question then is, how do we work through these conflicts? Is it possible for us to join hands in common effort? As citizens of a vibrant and varied democracy, how do we engage in vigorous debate? How does each of us remain firm in our principles, and fight for what we consider right, without, as Father John said, demonizing those with just as strongly held convictions on the other side?Exhibit 2a:
And, of course, nowhere do these questions come up more powerfully than on the issue of abortion.
As I considered the controversy surrounding my visit here, I was reminded of an encounter I had during my Senate campaign, one that I describe in a book I wrote called, The Audacity of Hope. And a few days after the Democratic nomination, I received an email from a doctor who told me that, while he voted for me in the Illinois primary, he had a serious concern that might prevent him from voting for me in the general election. He described himself as a Christian who was strongly pro-life -- but that was not what was preventing him potentially from voting for me.
What bothered the doctor was an entry that my campaign staff had posted on my website, an entry that said I would fight, quote, "right-wing ideologues who want to take away a woman's right to choose," unquote. The doctor said he had assumed I was a reasonable person. He supported my policy initiatives to help the poor and to lift up our educational system, but that if I truly believed that every pro-life individual was simply an ideologue, who wanted to inflict suffering on women, then I was not very reasonable. He wrote, "I do not ask at this point that you oppose abortion, only that you speak about this issue in fair-minded words" -- fair-minded words.
After I read the doctor's letter, I wrote back to him and I thanked him. And I didn't change my underlying position, but I did tell my staff to change the words on my website. And I said a prayer that night that I might extend the same presumption of good faith to others that the doctor had extended to me, because when we do that -- when we open up our hearts and our minds to those who may not think precisely like we do or believe precisely what we believe -- that's when we discover at least the possibility of common ground.
That's when we begin to say, "Maybe we won't agree on abortion, but we can still agree that this heart-wrenching decision for any woman is not made casually; it has both moral and spiritual dimensions."
So let us work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions. Let's reduce unintended pregnancies. Let's make adoption more available. Let's provide care and support for women who do carry their children to term. Let's honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded, not only in sound science, but also in clear ethics, as well as respect for the equality of women. Those are things we can do.
Now, understand -- understand, class of 2009, I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion can or should go away, because no matter how much we may want to fudge it -- indeed, while we know that the views of most Americans on the subject are complex and even contradictory -- the fact is that, at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable. Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction. But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature.
OBAMA: And at the time, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin was the archbishop of Chicago. And for those of you -- for those of you too young to have known him or known of him, he was a kind and good and wise man -- a saintly man. I can still remember him speaking at one of the first organizing meetings I attended on the South Side. He stood as both a lighthouse and a crossroads, unafraid to speak his mind on moral issues ranging from poverty and AIDS and abortion to the death penalty and nuclear war. And yet, he was congenial and gentle in his persuasion, always trying to bring people together, always trying to find common ground. And just before he died, a reporter asked Cardinal Bernardin about this approach to his ministry. And he said, "You can't really get on with preaching the Gospel until you've touched hearts and minds."
From Michael Rubin, of The National Review, regarding Obama's speech in Cairo:
Obama abandons DemocracyExhibit 2b:
Obama studiously avoids the word democracy. Instead, he declared, "That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people." Dictators of the world, relax: Stage a spontaneous demonstration to demonstrate popular adulation; don't worry about those pesky votes.
From the speech:
The fourth issue that I will address is democracy. (Applause.)Exhibit 3a:
[He went on to mention it three more times: but the believers believe what they will believe.]
Sean Hannity, on a comment Obama made regarding the Muslim population of the US:
All right. So we're not a Christian nation, but we're a Muslim nation?Exhibit 3b:
The Obama words to which he referred:
“And one of the points I want to make is, is that if you actually took the number of Muslim Americans, we’d be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world,” Mr. Obama said. “And so there’s got to be a better dialogue and a better understanding between the two peoples.”(Okay, turns out we'd be #35 out of about 105. So "largest" is questionable, perhaps. But not the point he was making, which, in obvious context, most clearly was NOT that we are a Muslim nation.)
So here's the question: what in gods' names motivates these people to say things that are, even as the words pass their lips and enter the atmosphere, falsified? Like oxidation kills pathogens. Instantly revealed to be untrue. What is conceivably up with that??? There are only so many possible explanations.
I don't know the Rubin guy; I've seen Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity. Hannity is clearly a man of limited intellectual means; Carlson is remarkably clueless sometimes, but I don't sense an idiot, the way I do with Hannity. And, as a writer on NRO, I'll give Rubin a pass. So, with only one of the three undeniably dumb as an anvil, I don't think it flies to say they're just too stupid to know the meaning of words.
Might it be that they are so convinced of their rightness in all things that they simply hear what they want to hear? False processing of information based on some sort of observer bias? Plausible. But I know of no counterpart on the left. Sure, there are people of liberal views who are over the top. Me, sometimes, included. But I don't know of any who regularly simply spout demonstrable falsehoods. Me, always, included.
So it seems most likely that they are willfully saying things they know to be untrue. I'll give them, in other words, enough credit to assume they know the basics of English language. Obama's thoughts are often complex, but his words generally up don't require looking. Which raises the most fundamental and troubling questions: why do they do it, and what does it say of their imagined audience?
Here it seems there are only two options, neither of which speak well for them or their intended audience. Either they think people are too dumb or lazy to notice, or they believe the truth won't matter to them. Between those two options, I find myself unable to choose. Blogging here has left me with data that strongly support both conclusions: we've seen studies that show facts don't matter to conservatives, and we see proof of that in the comment threads to nearly all my posts. I'll not go so far as to call any of my readers bereft of neurons, but it's hard to deny many seem unable to follow a thought or to provide either relevant arguments or factual support.
Right wing talkers and writers simply lie to their audiences. (I didn't even give Limbaugh/Gingrich/Cheney (D and L) examples. Where's the challenge in that?) As far as I can tell, the only ones who point it out are people on the left (and, sadly, rarely the mainstream -- incorrectly characterized as "liberal" -- media); the right happily eats it up, swallows it whole like the sea lions I see from my home, snarfing salmon.
For the life of me, I simply can't fathom it. It's like talking to an alien. It's an unfair fight; and, given a proclivity to stick to facts, it puts liberals at a distinct disadvantage. And it's not the political equivalent of "taking a knife to a gunfight:" it's way worse -- assuming the goal isn't to kill the opponents. It defines extremism, in an important way. If one side will say and their followers believe anything, how do you have meaningful dialogue?
One expects it of Osama bin Laden. But these guys?
Which, of course, is exactly why I feel so hopeless.