Obama and Henry Clay

After all that fuss, which was much more anti-Notre Dame than anti-Obama, it seemed only fair to read what Obama had to say there. As I waded through his sonorous and high-sounding phrases, about "joining hands in common effort" and "discovering at least the possibility of common ground", I was reminded of the eloquent but futile oratory of Henry Clay

This kind of rhetorical whitewash tries to cover the fact that some controversies have absolutely no common ground. One of these is genocide, an outdoor sport that has devoted fans, in Rwanda and Dafur and the Balkans, to this very day. There is no common ground, no possibility of earnest debate or mutual respect, between the advocates and opponents of genocide. It either is murder or it isn't, and if it is, then no trace of it can be tolerated. The same is true about abortion.

And in case Mr. Obama has forgotten, the same was true a couple of centuries ago about the issue of slavery. Its opponents were rightly called "abolitionists". They were not satisfied with mitigating or restricting slavery; the wanted this "peculiar institution" wiped off the face of the earth.

Two hundred years ago, when our country was tearing itself apart over this issue, the statistics were roughly the same as they are now with regard to abortion. One quarter insisted on its necessity, one quarter was adamantly opposed to it, and the middle half were mildly pro or con and amenable to debate and compromise.

Both the slave owners and the abolitionists totally rejected compromise and vowed to fight until slavery was either completely protected (e.g. by a "Freedom of Slavery Act" or FOSA) or absolutely abolished. The attempted compromises, in 1820 and 1850, tended to exacerbate rather than defuse the violence on both sides that led to the Civil War.

Foremost among the compromisers was Henry Clay, who was famous for his eloquence on the subject. For example:

"Let him who elevates himself above humanity . . . say, if he pleases, "I will never compromise"; but let no one who is not above the frailties of our common nature disdain compromise."

But Clay's pleas were disingenuous, not to say hypocritical. He was a Kentucky slave owner who, when a slave sued him for her freedom, had her arrested and re-enslaved with her family.

The analogy between slavery then and abortion now is, I think, obvious. It could be argued that there's a difference between the moral gravity of the two issues. I would heartily agree. However badly the slaves were treated, most of them were allowed to live. They weren't just torn apart and killed en masse. I never heard of 60,000,000 slaves being murdered.

I also contend that Obama, for all his eloquence and high-sounding oratory, is reminiscent of Clay, both in futility and insincerity. Let me propose a simple thought-experiment. If we were to put Mr. Obama into a time machine and transport him back 160 years, which side of the slavery issue would he be on? Would he advocate searching for common ground and compromise? Really?
After all that fuss, which was much more anti-Notre Dame than anti-Obama, it seemed only fair to read what Obama had to say there. As I waded through his sonorous and high-sounding phrases, about "joining hands in common effort" and "discovering at least the possibility of common ground", I was reminded of the eloquent but futile oratory of Henry Clay

This kind of rhetorical whitewash tries to cover the fact that some controversies have absolutely no common ground. One of these is genocide, an outdoor sport that has devoted fans, in Rwanda and Dafur and the Balkans, to this very day. There is no common ground, no possibility of earnest debate or mutual respect, between the advocates and opponents of genocide. It either is murder or it isn't, and if it is, then no trace of it can be tolerated. The same is true about abortion.

And in case Mr. Obama has forgotten, the same was true a couple of centuries ago about the issue of slavery. Its opponents were rightly called "abolitionists". They were not satisfied with mitigating or restricting slavery; the wanted this "peculiar institution" wiped off the face of the earth.

Two hundred years ago, when our country was tearing itself apart over this issue, the statistics were roughly the same as they are now with regard to abortion. One quarter insisted on its necessity, one quarter was adamantly opposed to it, and the middle half were mildly pro or con and amenable to debate and compromise.

Both the slave owners and the abolitionists totally rejected compromise and vowed to fight until slavery was either completely protected (e.g. by a "Freedom of Slavery Act" or FOSA) or absolutely abolished. The attempted compromises, in 1820 and 1850, tended to exacerbate rather than defuse the violence on both sides that led to the Civil War.

Foremost among the compromisers was Henry Clay, who was famous for his eloquence on the subject. For example:

"Let him who elevates himself above humanity . . . say, if he pleases, "I will never compromise"; but let no one who is not above the frailties of our common nature disdain compromise."

But Clay's pleas were disingenuous, not to say hypocritical. He was a Kentucky slave owner who, when a slave sued him for her freedom, had her arrested and re-enslaved with her family.

The analogy between slavery then and abortion now is, I think, obvious. It could be argued that there's a difference between the moral gravity of the two issues. I would heartily agree. However badly the slaves were treated, most of them were allowed to live. They weren't just torn apart and killed en masse. I never heard of 60,000,000 slaves being murdered.

I also contend that Obama, for all his eloquence and high-sounding oratory, is reminiscent of Clay, both in futility and insincerity. Let me propose a simple thought-experiment. If we were to put Mr. Obama into a time machine and transport him back 160 years, which side of the slavery issue would he be on? Would he advocate searching for common ground and compromise? Really?