Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

E. J. Dionne’s continuing descent into irrelevancy

Here’s Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne’s latest rant, entitled "The true values of the day." Beginning with a quotation from Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, a proponent of liberation theology, Dionne basically argues that unless you support the Democratic social welfare agenda, you’re Scrooge. There’s of course no room at his inn for any argument that there are other ways of promoting the general welfare, i.e., by reasonable means of encouraging economic growth (tax cuts, free trade, and reducing regulatory burdens come to mind) and by supporting the efforts of faith-based and community groups.

Dionne makes a lot of a talk given by the other Kerrey, the former Nebraska Senator and current president of New School University, the transcript of which you can find here. Dionne’s favorite point by the man he calls "President Kerrey" is this one:

[O]n January 1, the quotas on American textile and apparel are going to go off, and over a 12-month period, 3 or 4 million jobs that are currently paying $8 to $10 an hour are going bye-bye unless those jobs are protected. Now, I hazard to guess that most of those individuals will move into the ranks of poverty. They’ll move to minimum wage jobs, which is 20 or 30 percent under poverty today. They’ll move into poverty – and I don’t have the statistics on this, but I’ll bet you the number of abortions in America has gone up over the last three years, and I’ll bet you that those 3 or 4 million people that are out of work – if it’s a young woman who gets pregnant and says, I don’t have health insurance anymore; I can’t – it’s expensive to raise a baby right today – that they’re more likely to choose an abortion even if Bush appoints anti-Roe v. Wade justices that overturn it, because they’re going to make what I consider to be a tragic choice out of economic necessity.

Dionne himself cites an op-ed written by Notre Dame’s Mark W. Roche. Here’s the money quote from Roche:

During the eight years of the Reagan presidency, the number of legal abortions increased by more than 5 percent; during the eight years of the Clinton presidency, the number dropped by 36 percent. The overall abortion rate (calculated as the number of abortions per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44) was more or less stable during the Reagan years, but during the Clinton presidency it dropped by 11 percent.

There are many reasons for this shift. Yet surely the traditional Democratic concern with the social safety net makes it easier for pregnant women to make responsible decisions and for young life to flourish; among the most economically disadvantaged, abortion rates have always been and remain the highest. The world’s lowest abortion rates are in Belgium and the Netherlands, where abortion is legal but where the welfare state is strong. Latin America, where almost all abortions are illegal, has one of the highest rates in the world.

And here’s the absolutely devasting response by Robert P. George and Gerard V. Bradley:

The truth is that Clinton and the Democrats cannot fairly be credited for the decline in the abortion rate in the 1990s. All that Clinton can legitimately claim on this score is that he generated a voter backlash resulting in a Republican takeover of Congress in 1994. Thus, he unwittingly paved the way for actions that have indeed had a positive effect on both the rate of abortions and our national debate. Above all, by raising the issue of partial-birth abortion and enacting a ban on this horrific practice (a ban twice vetoed by Clinton himself — a veto upheld only because of near Democratic unanimity in its support in the Senate) the Republicans placed the focus on the victim of abortion, and awakened the conscience of many Americans to the homicidal nature of the practice.

At the very same time, technological developments — above all prenatal sonography — vividly revealed to Americans, including expecting parents and grandparents, the beautiful and undeniably human life of the child in the womb. Clinton didn’t invent the sonogram, nor did he join the pro-life effort to save babies by distributing sonographic equipment as widely as possible.

Clinton’s efforts on abortion were in an entirely different direction. He supported a so called Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) that would have overturned even modest state restrictions on abortion, and proposed federal taxpayer funding of abortions via his wife’s planned nationalization of the health-care system.

And then there’s the issue of equipment for the troops in Iraq. Here’s Dionne:

In Iraq, young men and women serving their country complain of equipment shortages and wonder why their leaders didn’t send enough troops in the first place. Could it be that acknowledging the true cost of the Iraqi invasion at the outset might have endangered all those tax cuts -- and might have reduced support for the war? Isn’t that a question of values?

Here’s one response. Here’s another. Of course, there are issues about the size and configuration of our armed forces, but, as the Weekly Standard has shown, it’s possible to discuss them sanely and rationally.

Shouldn’t a columnist of Dionne’s stature take the time to dig a little and think a little, rather than just parroting discredited liberal talking points?

Update:

Here’s something else E. J. Dionne won’t read.

Now go spend time with your family! Merry Christmas!

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