There’s a splendid line in The Queen, the film about how the royal family responded to the death of Princess Diana in 1997, where the new Prime Minister Tony Blair (played pitch perfect by Michael Sheen) turns savagely on his press assistant Alastair Campbell and says, “When you get it wrong, you really get it wrong!”
The line comes immediately to mind when seeing the latest issue of The Economist, whose coverage and analysis I have praised here several times before. But this week’s first “leader,” as the Brits call their unsigned house editorials, about political gridlock in the U.S. goes off the rails by endorsing the usual disingenuous lefty clichés. About the inability of the two parties to reach an agreement to defuse Obama’s debt bomb, The Economist says “The right is mostly to blame.”
That’s pretty rich. Let’s see how this works: Obama and the Pelosi-Reid Congress pass a $1 trillion spending bill and Obamacare, both of which ratchet up the size of government from roughly 21 percent of GDP to about 25 percent of GDP, and it’s the fault of the right for saying no to more taxes?
But The Economist really gets it wrong in the sequel: “Ronald Reagan, a divorcee who did little for the pro-life lobby and raised taxes when he had to, would never be nominated today.”
Sigh. When The Economist gets it wrong, they really get it wrong. Just go back to the tape and ask the pro-abortion community in the 1980s about whether the Reagan administration took no steps to promote the pro-life cause. Anyone remember the fuss over the “squeal rule,” where the administration attempted to require parental notification for any minors seeking an abortion at any federally funded (that is, Planned Parenthood) clinic? You’d have thought the dark night of fascism had arrived. And of course the pro-abortionists rushed to court to get a federal judge to block the measure. And how about the “baby doe” regs, which required hospitals to guarantee medical treatment to infants born handicapped, in an effort to stop the rare and unspoken practice of de facto infanticide whereby hospitals allow deformed newborns to die. Go back and read the breathless New York Times editorials of the time and what the media said then about Reagan “doing little” for the pro-life cause. I’ll bet if I look long enough in the archives I’ll find a few arched eyebrows at The Economist. But life is too short to waste time twitting twits at that level of detail.
To be sure, two of Reagan’s Supreme Court nominees failed to deliver as expected (though we forget that O’Connor’s first opinion on an abortion case in 1983, a dissent, argued strongly against Roe v. Wade), which accounts for much of the disappointment of the time. But as the pro-life community came to learn, the role of public persuasion had been neglected. In this respect, don’t forget Reagan’s 1984 book, Abortion and the Conscience of a Nation. Reagan’s political advisers were nervous about publishing such a book so close to his re-election campaign. Reagan replied: “I might not be re-elected. We’re going with it now.” Reagan was the first sitting president to publish a book, and seldom has any president since Lincoln spoken so openly and forcefully about such a contentious moral issue. He was just as direct and unequivocal as Lincoln: “Make no mistake, abortion-on-demand is not a right granted by the Constitution.” Roe was an act of “raw judicial power,” Reagan said, comparable to Dred Scott: “This is not the first time our country has been divided by a Supreme Court decision that denied the value of certain human lives.” Some of Reagan’s language was bracing: “The abortionist who reassembles the arms and legs of a tiny baby to make sure all its parts have been torn from its mother’s body can hardly doubt whether it is a human being.” The media said such a controversial article by a sitting president was “rare” and “unusual.”
Are any of the supposedly more extreme Republican candidates, even Rick Santorum, speaking this way today about abortion?
I’ve already linked before to my Commentary magazine article last month that disposes of the other distortion The Economist passes along—Reagan “raised taxes when he had to”—so I won’t belabor that point again here. But the last claim is the real howler: Reagan “would never be nominated today.” This is so ludicrous it is beyond stupid.
The truth of course is exactly the opposite. Most Democratic champions of the previous two generations could not be nominated today, like Harry Truman and JFK, because they aren’t far enough left for today’s Democrats. In 1972 George McGovern had two pro-life Catholic running mates (Thomas Eagleton and then Sargent Shriver), and in 1976 Shriver ran in the primaries. As we know, by 1992 Democrats wouldn’t allow a pro-life speaker at their national convention.
But remember the media meme: it’s Republicans who are extremists. Rinse and repeat.