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Obama speaks at Notre Dame, Mary Ann Glendon does not

Here is the letter Harvard Law professor, prominent Catholic public intellectual, and former Ambassador to the Holy See Mary Ann Glendon wrote, declining to accept the Laestare Medal and share the dais with Barack Obama.

The President has responded, first through a spokesman and, indirectly, at last night's press conference. Here's what he said last night:

You know, the -- my view on -- on abortion, I think, has been very consistent. I think abortion is a moral issue and an ethical issue. I think that those who are pro-choice make a mistake when they -- if they suggest -- and I don't want create straw men here, but I think there are some who suggest that this is simply an issue about women's freedom and that there's no other considerations. I think, look, this is an issue that people have to wrestle with, and families and individual women have to wrestle with.

The reason I'm pro-choice is because I don't think women take that -- that position casually. I think that they struggle with these decisions each and every day, and I think they are in a better position to make these decisions, ultimately, than members of Congress or -- or a president of the United States, in consultation with their families, with their doctors, with their clergy.

So -- so that's -- that's been my consistent position.

The other thing that I said consistently during the campaign is, I would like to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies that result in women feeling compelled to get an abortion or at least considering getting an abortion, particularly if we can reduce the number of teen pregnancies, which has started to spike up again.

And so I've got a task force within the Domestic Policy Council in the West Wing of the White House that is working with groups both in the pro-choice camp and in the pro-life camp to see if we can arrive at some consensus on that.

Now, the Freedom of Choice Act is not my highest legislative priority. I believe that women should have the right to choose, but I think that the most important thing we can do to tamp down some of the -- the anger surrounding this issue is to focus on those areas that we can agree on. And that's -- that's where I'm going to focus.

This is about as good a statement as you're going to get from someone who is essentially pro-choice and certainly capable of framing it differently, in a way that abortion rights groups find more congenial. But I also note that there are plenty of moral issues on which he thinks it's entirely appropriate for government to take a stand and to legislate, even though there is deep disagreement.

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Discussions - 8 Comments

Rhetorically, President Obama was very strong last night, and genuinely reassuring on a number of fronts. And it looked as if he's moved beyond his telepromter training wheels.

We'll see if his talk on not wanting to own GM and various banks amounts to any action. However, his indicating a willingness to indefintely put off a vote on the Freedom of Choice act is a substantial move of political civility that social cons like myself cannot dismiss as mere window dressing.

On the ticky side that Joe is alert to, note the reframing of the Clinton line about wanting to reduce the number of abortions,("safe, legal, and rare") to reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies that that result in women "feeling compelled to get an abortion or at least considering getting an abortion." With the Clintons, pro-lifers could ask, "now what IS it about the procedure that makes you want to make it rare," but Obama has his little verbal fence to protect him from that. MAKE FEELINGS OF BEING COMPELLED TO DO SOMETHING RARER: VOTE DEMOCRATIC.

But in sum, last night the Obama of the campaign appeared to be back, as he and his staff have apparently weathered the storms of the their tough transition that made President Obama look weak, unprepared, etc.; they have learned a thing or two.

And kudos to Mary Ann Glendon!

I agreed that Obama had a very strong night and that he's blowing his opposition away. But the Freedom of Choice Act can wait until partisan anger subsides--that's not at all reassuring if you think about it. And I expected nothing less of Mary Ann Glendon.

Mary Ann Glendon, a Woman for All Seasons.

Joe, I think that's a pretty incomprehensible defense of a pro-choice stance. Again, why does he want to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies if pro-choice is constitutional, legal, and morally defensible? What are those "other considerations?" Human life? If so, supporting FOCA might be a violation of a basic and inalienable right under the Declaration of Independence. He always tries to appear more "reasonable" but admitting the "complexities" involved, but then has policies that hardly pay attention to those complexities. Why doesn't he just stand up and proudly state his principle of pro-choice? Is he unsure about the morality of his position, or is scared to alienate some voters? Have some courage of his convictions rather than this muddled, incomprehensible message above.

His press conference was mostly okay. He is very likeable in that setting. I don't think that this press conference helped him as much as the one during the stimulus debate (which reveresed the momentum in a debate the Democrats were losing), but Obama is on a winning streak in Congress so its not like he needs to really move the ball. I think he is vulnerable on the detainee treatment issue if the GOP is smart and nimble - hey anything can happen. If the Justice Department or Congress go after people who impemented the program for complying with approved procedures, Obama will be politically vulnerable. The contrast between the kinder treatment of Al Qaeda terrorists (whatever you do, no walling them) and the hunting of the interrogators could be a major political headache if Republicans can prevent Obama from deflecting the heat onto Eric holder and Nancy Pelosi

His first act for babies: opening new abortion clinics overseas and expanding taxpayer-funded abortions to other countries.

His first act for terrorists: closing detention centers overseas and bringing them to the safety of America and under the protection of American courts.

If we called waterboarding "partial birth interrogation", he'd support it.

Oh, please, Knippenberg and Lawler. It's SPIN.

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