May 3, 2008
Obama's Stealth Pro-Abortion Stance
"The dog that didn't bark" is the central clue in the Sherlock Holmes story, "Silver Blaze." This oddly quiet watchdog's silence told Holmes that the horse-theft was an inside job - pulled off by the horse's trainer. The canine guardian who was supposed to sound an alarm - but who instead didn't make a noise - was the final clue that fingered the guilty culprit.
Today's "dog that didn't bark" is none other than the political media. For more than a month now, the media has effectively covered up a potentially damning statement made by Senator Barack Obama. No trivial matter, his single sentence, if widely known, could be the "deal killer" that destroys Obama's quest for the American Presidency. It was March 28th when he answered a Pennsylvania voter's question at a campaign whistle-stop, yet four weeks later, this potentially explosive "stealth position" remains less widely known than Senator Obama's taste for waffles.
The issue is abortion which - along with Social Security - has long been a deadly "third rail" in American politics. In spite of 35 years under Roe v. Wade, Americans remain deeply conflicted over the abortion issue - their opinions are nuanced and variable, often depending on case-by-case circumstances. Politically, any position favoring on-demand abortion has been potentially deadly. Then, in the early 1990s, President Clinton popularized a low-risk pro-abortion position - abortions should be "safe, legal ... and rare." This artful sophistry, with the emphasis on "rare," seemed acceptable to the majority of Americans.
However, going beyond "rare" to justify "convenience" abortions remains politically unacceptable. For example, the "Roe at 30" ABC/Washington Post study found "57 percent (of Americans) oppose abortion solely to end an unwanted pregnancy - ‘if the mother is unmarried and does not want the baby."
Other recent studies find more than 65 percent of Americans oppose convenience abortions.
Americans clearly do not favor abortion on demand. Since Clinton first articulated "safe, legal ... and rare," no prominent pro-abortion politician has dared go further, and none has risked advocating on demand "convenience abortions." That is, none dared until Senator Obama demolished "safe, legal ... and rare" during a Pennsylvania whistle-stop more than four weeks ago - an action that, to date, the media has chosen to ignore, along with Obama's several rather shocking conclusions.
In response to a Pennsylvania voter's question about elementary school sex education, Obama said:
"Look, I got two daughters - nine years old and six years old. I am going to teach them first about values and morals, but if they make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby."
This makes two things clear. First, Senator Obama supports abortion on demand -- even "convenience" abortions -- for minors, including his own daughters; and second, Obama considers babies a "punishment" he'd rather spare his daughters, even if those daughters have to abort Obama's own unborn grandchildren to avoid that particular "punishment."
That unguardedly candid public statement is political dynamite -- or it would be, if the media had reported on it. Instead, four weeks later, America remains widely unaware of Senator Obama's explosive position favoring on-demand convenience abortions for minors, or his equally explosive view of babies as a "punishment."
Senator Clinton can be forgiven for not raising the subject -- while she's dutifully stuck to her husband's "safe, legal ... and rare" formulation, she knows her feminist base agrees with Senator Obama. Her late primary hurdles have been high enough without challenging her base.
Senator McCain -- who continues to steer clear of anything that might smack of a personal attack -- has also refrained from commenting; and from his position, that too makes a kind of sense. Unless he prefers to face Hillary in November, raising the "on-demand convenience abortions for minors" issue will have more power in reaching Independents during the general election, four months from now.
However, the media has no such excuse. Their job is to dig out the controversies and challenge the candidates -- in short, to report the news. Instead, perhaps recognizing the divisive nature of Obama's abortion stance, the media has become the dog that didn't bark. In his controversially-direct questioning of Senator Obama during the recent debate, ABC's George Stephanopolous avoided the abortion-on-demand question entirely. Just this past Sunday, in an often hard-hitting 36-minute interview, Fox News' Chris Wallace -- though he asked Obama about partial birth abortion - completely avoided the more controversial "on-demand convenience abortion."
Earlier in the campaign, Saturday Night Live accurately and effectively lampooned the media for being "in the tank" for Senator Obama. Now, on the abortion issue, political reporters are not only in the tank, they are AWOL.
Even the talk radio community -- as well as conservative columnists and online bloggers -- have been remarkably silent. Obama's position - advocating on-demand convenience abortions, even for minors -- is explosive, especially for conservative talkers' and bloggers' largely pro-family, anti-abortion audiences. The idea of children being a "punishment" pours gasoline on an open flame. By personalizing this, by speaking about his own daughters - and by speaking approvingly of them possibly aborting his own future grandchildren - Senator Obama's position becomes even less defensible ... and far more explosive.
Yet the media's silence echoes like the dog that didn't bark.
Ned Barnett owns Barnett Marketing Communications in Las Vegas. He's advised candidates and issues campaigns for 35 years, and blogs at: http://barnettonpolitics.blogspot.com/