"I should probably just shut up about Mourdock's Moment and let votes come my way without standing in the way. I have nothing to gain and at least a little to lose by speaking my mind.
But I'd be a lousy man and I wouldn't sleep tonight if I were to withhold my thoughts on this. So, I must defend Mr. Mourdock, at least in this one little way.
You probably don't know how hard it is to stand up before cameras in this tense situation and try to say what you mean, and not say anything stupid. To do this with a clock ticking, and only a minute to be specific, clear and intelligible, is apparently impossible.
All of us slipped now and then.
God Knows that I certainly said things I wish I could retract, and didn't say much of what I'd meant to. In a minute, I could only formulate a thought and start to articulate it before the timekeeper's red STOP sign came up.
I want people to vote for me, of course. But I sure don't want anybody to vote for me based upon Mourdock's supposed gaffe for at least a couple of reasons:
1. That sort of hair-trigger reactive politics is a fair-sized chunk of flaw in human behavior that makes politics so inevitable, ugly and dangerous.
2. I understand what he meant, and... well...
I personally know women who'd been raped, and had abortions. While I don't personally know any women who'd been raped and bore the child, I've certainly heard plenty of stories of such women. And the only regrets I've heard are from the former group. I know many women who didn't have abortions were blessed beyond their hopes by their beautiful child – a child who was, after all, innocent of the brutality of her or his conception.
Everybody who knows me knows that my core philosophy of anti-aggression flows into a pro-life stance as well. While I insist upon constitutionality in my politics, and understand that most of the abortion debate should properly be argued at the state level, my personal feelings are far more like... Mr. Mourdock's.
While I would not unconstitutionally craft federal policy in this matter, I do agree with Mr. Mourdock that, if you have any notion of a deity at all, then God's Mercy could be seen in the birth of a child. No matter what else may have happened up to that point.
I'm sorry if that offends people who might have come my way by way of Mourdock's words. But I don't want anybody to vote for me under false premises or hasty judgments.
I've got to stand on my principles; which means I've got to defend my principles all the time. No matter how those chips may fall."
So I had to write to this man of honor and thank him!
The Wall Street Journal is also defending Richard Mourdock thusly:
It is his Democratic opponent who is engaging in Akin-style sophistry.
Gallup also found that 77% thought abortion should be legal at least "under certain" circumstances, whereas only 20% thought it should be "illegal in all" circumstances. Thus pro-abortion liberal Democrats are ever on the lookout for Republican office-seekers who seem to be among that 20%, in hopes of winning votes from the plurality who are "pro-life" but with qualifications.
Such an opportunity arose in Indiana last night, in a debate between Richard Mourdock, the GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, and his Democratic opponent, Rep. Joe Donnelly. Mourdock was asked the hypothetical question of whether it should be legal to abort a child conceived in rape. National Review's Katrina Trinko quotes his answer: "I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."
Inevitably Mourdock has been likened to Rep. Todd Akin, the Missouri Senate nominee, who was disowned by most fellow Republicans after he attempted to answer the question in August. Trinko rejects the comparison:
I'm not sure why Mourdock thought it would be helpful to bring up God in this context; personally, as someone pro-life and religious, I think when talking about something as painful as pregnancy in the case of rape, it's best to talk about how the unborn child is a human being, regardless of the horrific circumstances of conception, and leave aside politically irrelevant speculation about what God does and doesn't do.
But nor do I see his comment being equal to Akin's. Akin, asked about abortion in the cases of rape, responded, "If it's legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." That comment was offensive because it implied there was illegitimate rape, and suggested (erroneously) that almost never would a raped woman become pregnant.Republicans seem to agree. Although some, including Mitt Romney, have made clear they do not share Mourdock's view, the Hill reports that Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, chairman of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, is vigorously defending him. Cornyn was quick to drop Akin.
Is Mourdock's comment less offensive than Akin's? Probably, though it is a subjective question. Some may be offended by what they see as Mourdock's presumptuousness in inferring God's will--or by his mentioning God at all. And in our neighborhood at least, there are lots of people who are offended that anyone, especially a man, would disagree with their opinion on abortion.
As an analytical matter, however, Mourdock's statement is entirely defensible, whereas Akin's is sophistry. And it turns out that Mourdock's Democratic opponent, in seeking to capitalize on the remark, is engaging in Akin-style sophistry.
Mourdock gave a straightforward and thoughtful answer, if an impolitic one, to the question that was posed, one that made clear he appreciates its (albeit only hypothetical) moral gravity. Akin, by contrast, attempted to avoid the question by arguing that it was irrelevant.
That argument was unsound because it was based on an unfounded empirical premise, one that is generally understood to be false--namely that rape never causes pregnancy, or does so with such infrequency as to constitute a negligible problem. (There is some evidence, though it is far from conclusive, that this is the opposite of the truth: As the Washington Post reported in August, "one provocative study" in 2003 "found that a single act of rape was more than twice as likely to result in pregnancy than [sic] an act of consensual sex.")
Largely lost amid the hubbub over Akin's Orwellian phrase "legitimate rape" was its logical centrality to his flawed argument. He evidently knew there were counterexamples that would disprove his premise, so he resorted to the "No-True-Scotsman Move," described by the philosopher Anthony Flew in his 1975 book, "Thinking About Thinking: Or, Do I Sincerely Want to Be Right?":
Imagine Hamish McDonald, a Scotsman, sitting down with his Glasgow Morning Herald and seeing an article about how the "Brighton Sex Maniac Strikes Again." Hamish is shocked and declares that "No Scotsman would do such a thing." The next day he sits down to read his Glasgow Morning Herald again; and, this time, finds an article about an Aberdeen man whose brutal actions make the Brighton sex maniac seem almost gentlemanly. This fact shows that Hamish was wrong in his opinion but is he going to admit this? Not likely. This time he says, "No true Scotsman would do such a thing." . . .
The No-true-Scotsman Move . . . is an attempt to evade falsification: a piece of sleight of mind replaces a logically contingent by a logically necessary proposition.In Akin's formulation, the fact of pregnancy rules out the possibility of a "legitimate rape," thus disposing of the whole difficult question by pretending through "sleight of mind" that it does not exist.
Donnelly, seeking to capitalize on the kerfuffle, "put out a statement attacking Mourdock," the Hill reports:
"I think rape is a heinous and violent crime in every instance," Donnelly said in the statement. "The God I believe in and the God I know most Hoosiers believe in does not intend for rape to happen--ever. What Mr. Mourdock said is shocking, and it is stunning that he would be so disrespectful to survivors of rape."Donnelly is engaging in some sleazy innuendo here. Mourdock's assertion about what "God intended" clearly referred to conception ("when life begins"), not rape.
But what's interesting about Donnelly's statement is that he claims to agree with Mourdock's central premises: that God exists, and that unborn children are human beings worthy of legal protection (or, as the Hill puts it, Donnelly "is also against abortion rights"). Donnelly differs from Mourdock only in reaching the opposite conclusion on the specific question of a rape exception.
That position could be coherently defended on various grounds. One might, for example, conceive of abortion in such cases as akin to justifiable homicide. Or one might offer a purely pragmatic argument: that abortion is wrong in all cases, but only a law with such exceptions is politically attainable.
Donnelly, however, is as dismissive of the question as Akin. He professes a belief in God yet appears never to have grappled with the problem of evil. Surely "the God . . . most Hoosiers believe in" is omnipresent, yet he is somehow AWOL, in Donnelly's theodicy, anytime a woman is raped.
As a matter of practical politics, this may sink Richard Mourdock--though on this subject, we are particularly skeptical of the instincts of coastal elites, including our own. Middle American attitudes toward abortion are very different from those where we live. Even Akin has defied media predictions by keeping the Missouri race a "toss up" in the Senate rankings at RealClearPolitics.com and elsewhere.
But it does Mourdock an injustice to lump his thoughtful response to the question in with Akin's specious one. And it would be a shame if Donnelly made it to the Senate by making an argument that is as unsound as Akin's and demagogic to boot.
A Sorry Display
You could have seen this one coming. The press's so-called fact checkers are continuing to call Mitt Romney a liar for repeating, in Monday's debate, his assertion that President Obama began his term with an "apology tour."
Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post asserts that "the claim that Obama is an apologist for America actually began to take shape shortly after he became president." After giving some examples cited by the president's critics, Kessler then asserts: "In none of these cases does Obama actually use a word at all similar to 'apologize.' "
Note how silly this "rebuttal" is in light of the first sentence of Kessler's own that we quoted in the preceding paragraph. In that sentence, Kessler does use a word similar to "apologize"--"apologist"--but he uses it wrongly. An apologist, as per Merriam-Webster, is "one who speaks or writes in defense of someone or something." That's exactly the opposite of how Romney and other Republicans are characterizing Obama.
In any case, you don't have to use the word "apology" to apologize. Blogger Jeryl Bier has an ingenious illustration of the point, playing off this Obama quote:
While the United States has done much to promote peace and prosperity in the hemisphere, we have at times been disengaged, and at times we sought to dictate our terms. . . . So I'm here to launch a new chapter of engagement that will be sustained throughout my administration. The United States will be willing to acknowledge past errors where those errors have been made.Bier asks us to "re-imagine that statement in another context":
Barack: Michelle, . . . I have at times been disengaged, and at times I sought to dictate my terms. . . . So I'm here to launch a new chapter of engagement that will be sustained throughout our marriage. I will be willing to acknowledge past errors where those errors have been made.
Michelle: Thank you, Honey, I appreciate the apology.
Barack: I didn't apologize.Bier thinks "most wives" would expect an apologizing husband to adopt a more supplicatory tone. But there's no doubt that his intent in the imaginary dialogue is to satisfy her demand for an apology, and a denial that he apologized would be totally out of place.
Two Papers in One!
- "The first step in restoring real stability to the economy is to lower the debt levels through what the researchers call "orderly debt reduction." An example of that would be mortgage modifications. The second and more important step is to reduce income inequality by raising wages, possibly by strengthening collective bargaining. Income inequality and high household debt are not the only explanations of the financial crisis. But the researchers make a compelling case that greater equality and lower debt could make future crises less likely."--editorial, New York Times, May
- "The causes of income stagnation are varied and lack the political simplicity of calls to bring down the deficit or avert another Wall Street meltdown. They cannot be quickly remedied through legislation from Washington. The biggest causes, according to interviews with economists over the last several months, are not the issues that dominate the political debate."--David Leonhardt column, New York Times, Oct. 24
More links at the site, if you are interested? Anyway, Richard Mourdock is not advocating rape, he is simply saying that all human life is precious and we must NOT make the baby pay the penalty for rape by sentencing that innocent life to death! Abortion is baby-killing, period! Long lines of couples waiting for babies to adopt would agree. Have the child and give him or her away if you do not want that baby but do not inflict capital punishment on our unborn citizens!