Tuesday, April 01, 2008

No Foolin’ – Finally, an Honest Politician … Obama Comes Clean on Abortion

Ned Barnett © 2008

I think President Bill Clinton said it first – “America needs to keep abortion safe, legal and rare.” Hillary has parroted this position many times – when debating Rick Lazio in her first run for the Senate, and many times since then. Other Democrats who support “choice” echo this Clintonian sophistry, a “safe” way for pro-abortion Democrats to appear reasonable to the significant majority of Americans who oppose abortion except – in some cases – when there is a legitimate threat to the life of the mother.

However, Barack Obama has – if nothing else – made a name for himself for stepping away from the “conventional wisdom” and “status quo” of American Presidential politics. He’s taken controversial stances – for example, eschewing an American flag lapel pin and refusing to acknowledge the Star Spangled Banner would herald a death-knell for other politicians, but seem to leave Barack Obama unmoved and undamaged. Even in the case of his histrionic and hate-filled pastor, Senator Obama seems to have weathered the storm. Perhaps that is why he felt free to make a bold statement about abortion – one far outside the mainstream of American political thought – and in doing so, reveal a much more subtle strategy.

Here’s what Senator Obama said last Saturday in response to a question about elementary school sex education – another position he supports at risk of stepping outside the mainstream:

“Look, I got two daughters,” he said, “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.”

He also said:

“I don't want them punished with an STD at age 16, so it doesn't make sense to not give them information."

This is a clear and bold statement – Barack Obama supports abortion on demand, even for minors, for no more compelling reason than convenience. This is a far cry from the standard-issue formulation of “safe, legal and rare.” He wants no restrictions on abortion for women of any age, and – while it could be argued that other Democratic candidates share this view – he’s the only serious candidate for President to ever cross the line from reluctantly making abortions accessible to making them as common as soft drinks or breath mints – and with no more moral concern than flushing a toilet.

Why would a serious candidate for President make such a bald-faced and controversial statement – especially a candidate who has, so far, remained focused and on-message throughout a long and hard-fought campaign. Senator Obama is many things, but he’s not a loose cannon. While Senator McCain is always on the record and seems to revel in unscripted discussions with reporters who’ve hitched a ride on his straight-talk express, Candidate Obama seems as carefully scripted as he is carefully groomed. He’s always ready for the cameras, and he always knows what he wants to say.

So this comment must be intentional – and as such, it must be part of a larger strategy.

Here it is: Senator Obama has succeeded in stripping away more than a few feminists from their reflexive knee-jerk support of America’s first serious female presidential candidate – Hillary Clinton. However, as the campaign has tightened on the road to Pennsylvania, Senator Clinton’s troops have been arm-twisting feminists – especially women who are also “super-delegates.” Feminist leader/supporters such as Emily’s List have been publicly calling to task women who have abandoned Hillary Clinton for Barack Obama. As the campaign has tightened up, and based on this bold defense of abortion-on-demand, Senator Obama has clearly made the strategic decision to try to peel off some of Senator Clinton’s feminist support by becoming the first “national” candidate to advocate abortion-on-demand for women, even under-aged women, who want an abortion for no purpose more noble than “convenience.”

For feminists – who’ve long been frustrated by supporters who publicly downplay their support (what they say in private is far more supportive, of course, but their reluctance to go public tends to marginalize the more permissive feminists) – are being courted by Senator Obama and his key super-delegate recruiters. By adopting a strategy of publicly defending the most radically-permissive position on abortions, Senator Obama has given his recruiters potent ammunition: “if the Senator is willing to take this bold public position during a contested campaign, think of the bills he’ll sign and the Supreme Court justices he’ll nominate.”

This was not a tactical error – though it won’t happen, Senator Obama could decisively lose all the primaries between now and the convention and still go to that convention with a majority of elected delegates … and once he has the nomination, and with the feminists firmly in his corner, he’ll have three months to pendulum back toward the mainstream American view on abortion.

Senator Obama’s abortion/feminist strategy parallels other key niche-market strategies Candidate Obama has already used with effect – for instance, the Senator has carefully made this public comment for essentially the same reason that Michelle Obama took such a harsh public view of America in January. Ms. Obama’s comments – “the first time I’ve been proud of America” and “America is a mean country” cemented the link between the Ivy League-educated Obamas with poor working-class blacks and other minorities … and anyone else who feels disenfranchised. She made these comments at a time when Senator Obama needed to peel away some of Senator Clinton’s core strength among blue-collar Democrats, and to pick up some of those who’d supported populist-message millionaire Senator John Edwards. This strategy is explored in more detail here: http://barnettonpolitics.blogspot.com/2008/02/campaign-strategy-watch-ms-obamas-real.html

Bottom line: The Obamas know that, with the nomination in hand, they’ll have months to move back to the center and away from Ms. Obama’s hard-nosed statements on “mean America” and Senator Obama’s statements advocating convenience abortions – on-demand – for even under-aged women. So far, this is a winning strategy – and one that Senator Clinton cannot fight, since in private she’s long held the same position on abortion that Senator Obama has now articulated in public.

Remember, you heard it here first!