When Barack Obama Stands Firm
In times past, both Presidents Truman and Reagan took principled stands that resulted in global stability and lives saved. Specificlally, two determined anti-communist presidents confronted the Soviet Union in such an aggressive manner that it disturbed even their closest advisors. The Berlin Airlift looked impossible in 1948, as did the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) in 1983. Nearly everybody – opponents, advisors, the media and the public – thought these policies were beyond the nation’s capabilities. And they were proved wrong.
Communism is still a threat, but we are between epochs of expanding communist empires. The largest communist country today is a regional military power at best, serving more as a vacation destination for the first family than a reason for duck and cover practice in American classrooms. Can a political leader today, in the absence of an aggressive external threat, make a grand, independent stand as Truman and Reagan did? Could Obama?
As president, Barack Obama has signed two bold policy initiatives: the Stimulus and ObamaCare. These are bold in the sense of their trillion-dollar price tags. But both were passed by super-majorities of Obama's own party. They are principled, as they were both Democrat Party priorities but were absent any political risk.
While president, Obama has not yet stood apart from his party or advisors. To find an example of daring leadership on the part of Obama, you have to go back to his days in the Illinois State Senate.
Barack Obama and his fellow Illinois Democrats fought three battles over three years to defeat a controversial bill that had zero Democrat support at the national level. What was this legislation that Obama blocked with a total of four votes over three years?
Illinois Senate Bill 1095 was named the Born Alive Infant Protection Act (BAIPA). It was modeled after the federal version that was introduced in 2000. The BAIPA legislation was triggered by the 1999 revelation by Jill Stanek, a labor and delivery nurse at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Illinois, that infants born alive after failed abortions were being “shelved” and left to die. Ms. Stanek, who had witnessed this procedure, was terminated in 2001 for going public. After her termination, Christ Hospital continued the shelving procedure.
The goal of BAIPA was to fill the gap so that the surviving child of an abortion would receive the immediate care and legal protections all other newborns receive. These children were supposed to be dead, yet they survived. BAIPA was the law introduced to protect these abortion survivors.
This is where Illinois Senator Obama’s fearless three-year stand on principle began. Illinois Senate Bill 1095 was introduced in February 2001. Senator Obama, sitting on the Judiciary Committee, voted “No,” and the bill later failed to pass the Democrat-controlled House. "We at Planned Parenthood view those as leadership votes," said the abortion company's Illinois president and CEO, Pam Sutherland.
The bill, now 1662, was reintroduced by the Republican-controlled Senate in January 2002. It received two “No” votes by Senator Obama – his committee vote in March and his vote on the Senate floor in April. The bill failed in the Democrat House. Obama explained his “No” votes this way: “What we are doing here is to create one more burden on women, and I can’t support that.”
Later that year the Federal BAIPA was signed into law by President George W. Bush.
The third Illinois BAIPA bill, now 1082, was introduced in February 2003 in a Democrat-controlled Senate. This time Senator Obama was the chairman of the committee where he voted “Yes” in favor of adopting the federal BAIPA language, making the Illinois bill an exact copy of the federal law. Later that same day Senator Obama voted “No” on the bill, and it failed again in the Democrat House.
Senator Obama explained, “...physicians are already required to use life-saving measures when fetuses are born alive during abortions.” He further elaborated in a 2006 USA Today op-ed: “I can’t impose my religious views on another.” In all, Senator Obama offered ten reasons for his BAIPA opposition.
The Illinois BAIPA bill was signed into law one year after Obama left the Illinois Senate for the U.S. Senate.
President Truman ignored critics who said the Berlin Airlift could not be done. He saved a city of 2.1 million from sure starvation or from Soviet rule. President Reagan ignored those who said the science would not support his Strategic Defense Initiative objectives. His stand hastened the end of the Cold War and freed hundreds of millions.
The defiance of Truman and Reagan demonstrated moral strength and clarity. Obama’s principled stand in the Illinois Senate did not.
The result of Obama’s audacious three-year opposition to BAIPA led to more suffering and death of America’s most vulnerable. He stood firm against both his critics who yelled “infanticide” and the Democrats on the national stage who he aspired to join. Not a single Democrat in the US Senate voted against the federal BAIPA bill. The U.S. Senate passed the bill with a vote of 98-0 in July, 2002.
Brave and principled is not enough. It is time for America to choose politicians who will lead with core moral values.
Karl was adopted in Illinois in the mid-'60s. He blogs at Ushanka.us.