The Pro-Life Movement

Recently (May 31, 2009) a man shot and killed George Tiller in the midst of a church service. Tiller was one of the few doctors in America that performed partial birth abortions and he was also consistently in the center of the abortion debate. Because Tiller was such a high-profile person in the abortion services community, and he was shot dead in a church, there has been a lot of media attention paid to the event. This attention has revealed something very telling about the current pro-life movement – we are failing miserably.

Before justifying such a claim I want to state some of my background assumptions via a quick argument seeking to establish that both Tiller’s killing and abortions are immoral. I will then explain why I think the pro-life movement is failing. Finally, I will conclude by presenting the strategy that I think the pro-life movement should endorse and demonstrate what that strategy looks like in action by arguing for the truth of some of the premises in the following argument.

  1. Personhood begins at conception. That means from the earliest stage of pregnancy we are dealing with a human person and should treat him or her accordingly.
  2. The unjustified killing of a human person is morally wrong.
  3. Almost all abortions are instances of unjustifiably killing a human person.
  4. Therefore, almost all abortions are morally wrong.

Though this is slightly off topic, I should point out that according to the above argument the killing of George Tiller was morally wrong. I am perfectly content with such a view since I take all instances of vigilantism as being morally inappropriate. On my view, killing Tiller is not just morally wrong but also pragmatically wrong. If one wants to see abortion more highly restricted (or eliminated altogether), killing abortionists won’t help that matter. If anything, it makes it more unlikely.

With the above argument in mind, I want to describe why I think the pro-life movement is failing and what should be done to correct it. First, why it is failing. I take as a representative sample of media coverage a recent column on the BBC News website (Anti-abortion and violence in the US). In this column, author Nick Triggle notes what he takes to be the general tenor of the abortion debate in the US. First he notes that quite-popular President Obama “was heckled by anti-abortion activists over his decision earlier this year to lift restrictions on funding for abortion.” He then notes that such heckling and protests are quite common in the US and its commonplace is, at least, partly attributable to the “hundreds of religious stations across the country.” He continues, “the level of involvement of religious groups” is vastly different in the US than in the UK. Finally, and most tellingly, he says “With half the US population regular church-goers, everything from sexual abstinence and euthanasia campaigns to the abortion debate has been dominated by religious groups.”

Now I don’t have a problem with Triggle’s article. In fact, I think his analysis is spot on. What I do have a problem with is that the pro-life movement has allowed itself to be branded as a religious movement. If you go to any number of websites that have reported on Tiller’s killing and look at just a few of the comments you’ll see a frequent theme. You’ll see many pro-choice supporters accusing “pro-lifers” as being close-minded and trying to force their religious beliefs on the rest of America. Sadly, the responses by those same pro-lifers support such an idea.

But don’t get me wrong; I am proud that most people in the pro-life movement are Christians. That religious groups are the primary reason this is still an issue in America today is a good thing. That means we are still fighting for the oppressed and willing to defend the defenseless. However, we do not live in a world that accepts our authority as their authority. Religious groups cannot make a religious argument to convince the world that abortion is morally wrong. We must give them arguments with premises that they can accept on their own terms. We can’t allow the fact that the pro-life movement is dominated by “religious groups” to become a fact that the pro-life argument is a religious argument.

There is simply no need to give a religious argument for the immorality of abortion. Of course, these types of arguments are available, but they will only convince those that already accept that religion as true and authoritative. Most in America today do not (even many of those that refer to themselves as Christians) accept Christianity as true and authoritative. Here one might ask what type of argument should we give, if not a religious argument. What would a non-religious argument look like? Here is an example of one, very simple, argument that all religious and non-religious people can use to make the case for the life of the unborn.

  1. Either the unborn are human persons or not.
  2. If the unborn are not human persons, then no justification for an abortion is needed (just like we don’t need justifying reasons for removing tonsils).
  3. If the unborn are human persons, then the justification typically given for an abortion will never be morally adequate (just because an individual is too busy or too poor to take care of another human person does not mean that individual is justified in killing that human person).

This focuses the debate on the thing that matters most. Are the unborn human persons? I believe they are, but not even that belief depends upon a religious assumption. Why think the unborn are human persons? This can be boiled down to one general idea.

  • The location of a thing is never a morally salient feature of that thing.

If one should think of a newborn as a human person, then there is no good reason to not think of a pre-born as a human person. Frankly, it is absurd to think that a few inches determine the moral status of a person. To believe that the fetus is magically transformed from non-person to person by traveling down the birth canal is rationally unacceptable. The fetus just prior to birth is just as much a human as the infant just after birth. Its location is irrelevant.

Further, there are no good reasons to cut off personhood at some earlier point in the pregnancy either. Distinctions based upon trimester are purely arbitrary ways for people to refer to general stages of development. Almost everything that a person needs to develop into a grown human being is present from conception. The only additional things needed are external. They are 1) an appropriate environment and 2) to not be killed. But this is just as true for you and me as it is for the unborn. If you kill me, then I will obviously not continue grow as a human being. But even if you just remove me from an environment conducive to my continued growth (e.g. by stripping off my clothes and placing me outside during an Alaskan winter), then I too will die. That the unborn depends upon the appropriate environment to live does not mean it is not a human person. If you don’t kill me, then I will continue to grow as a human person grows. If you don’t kill the unborn, they will do the same.

Now of course much more can be said in favor of the pro-life position. This is intended to be a very rough and ready type of argument that, for our purposes, simply demonstrates how the pro-life movement should advance its cause. You should notice that nothing I have said against the morality of abortion has depended upon a religious argument. Not once did I appeal to the Bible or to church teaching. If the pro-life movement begins to advance these types of arguments, then we will have a much greater shot at convincing the general public that abortion is morally wrong. Even if that does not result in Roe being overturned (though I in fact think it could), it will prevent a great number of women from choosing to have an abortion. But as long as the pro-life movement relies upon religious arguments we will continue to be marginalized in the public sphere. Our arguments are compelling and their arguments are not. In order to progress the pro-life agenda we must use the compelling arguments and not ones that rely upon a religious text that a vast number of Americans don’t accept as authoritative.

If you’d like more resources for developing this type of argument I’ll make two recommendations. The first is Stand to Reason’s Bio Ethics page. At STR’s page you’ll find a wealth of good reasoning about the abortion issue (as well as many of today’s other pressing ethical issues). The second is Life Training Institute, which is run by Scott Klusendorf, a former member of Stand to Reason. (I’m indebted to Greg Koukl of STR and Klusendorf for the formulation of the above argument.) Klusendorf just published a book dealing with the abortion issue called, The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture (this links to the book’s website). You can get his book from that site or from Amazon at The Case for Life.

Three Thoughts on the AIG Bonuses

I don’t have a degree in economics or law, but there are three things about the nationwide AIG bonuses outrage that have to be recognized.
  1. Whoever authored the bill allowing the bonuses to be paid is to blame the most – not the people accepting the bonuses. If there is a legally binding contract that says they get the money, then they should get. That’s how contracts work. If you’ve got a huge carrot (several million dollars of ‘bail out’ money), then you use that carrot to get what you want (removal of huge bonuses). But this has to happen before all terms are settled upon. In fact, removing the bonuses just becomes one of those terms. You don’t, after you realize you screwed up the negotiations, make a moral issue out of people following through on a contract all parties agreed to and then ‘legislate’ that moral issue because you look like a fool.
  2. What you especially can’t do is void such a legally binding contract. If you do, what reason would companies have to begin investing in our economy? They’d be quite aware that even legally binding contracts aren’t actually binding if the government is involved. The last thing you want to do is provide disincentives for future investment.
  3. Since just voiding the contracts (or that part of them) isn’t a good option there’s now a push to tax 90% of those bonuses. This option is just as bad as the previous one because the same disincentive for future investment remains. If the government is able to retroactively enact taxes on whatever the current ruling party wants, then why should anyone think their projected bottom dollar for their business will be the actual bottom dollar? If it’s determined that your company was too successful, then the government can just increase your taxes going backwards. If the proposal was to raise taxes on all 2010 bonuses, then this is much less problematic. Enacting retro-active taxes on people that are not politically popular is a very bad precedent to set. (And I know the AIG issue is related to personal bonuses, but there’s no in-principle way of keeping the two apart.)

In sum, voiding the contracts or levying huge taxes are both bad options and send a very bad signal to the business world. What the economy needs now are businesses willing to invest their capital, but both of these actions will make execs that much more hesitant to do so.

The federal government should have required that AIG not pay these huge bonuses as part of the terms of the bail out. But now is too late to demand the bonuses not be paid. Handling this before the bail out terms were settled would have been acceptable because both parties would have agreed that re-working the contract is in both of their interests (and this is precisely what happened concerning the auto-industry). Now that there is a valid contract one party can’t decide to renege to save face politically.

I’m Pissed at Brian McLaren and Donald Miller and You Should Be Too

During the presidential election campaign popular Christian authors/speakers Brian McLaren and Donald Miller endorsed Barack Obama. They specifically argued that their endorsement was consistent with their opposition to abortion. For those not familiar with these names, you may be familiar with some of their books. McLaren is the author of A Generous Orthodoxy, A New Kind of Christian, and more recently Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope. Miller is probably best known from his book Blue Like Jazz.

Brian McLaren outlines his case that voting for Obama is a step in the right direction for those opposed to abortion here. The basic idea is this: the only way McCain could help the cause is if he were able to appoint more conservative judges. That, at best, would overturn Roe vs. Wade which would only push the issue back to the states. Because most states don’t have a majority of people opposed to abortion, it would remain legal. He concludes his case by saying, “But in regards to abortion along with many other issues, we are convinced – firmly, thoughtfully, and enthusiastically convinced – that casting our vote for Obama is a step in the right direction, fully consistent with our desire to celebrate the sacredness of life and improve the moral health of our nation and world.”

Miller’s case can be found here and is very similar to McLaren’s. Overturning the Roe vs. Wade case is unlikely and won’t be as helpful as pro-lifers think. In addition, Obama supports the 95/10 initiative that “aims to reduce the number of abortions that take place in this country by 95% within 10 years.” While recognizing Obama’s promise to the National Organization for Women that he would repeal Bush’s executive order banning late-term abortions, Miller concludes that Obama “will accomplish more than John McCain” on the abortion issue and that Obama has proposed the only “realistic strategy that can move us around the cultural impasse that is breathing hate and anger into the Christian community.”

My evidence that McLaren and Miller influenced many Christian voters is only anecdotal. Prior to the election I noticed a number of my former classmates at two Christian universities joining Facebook groups endorsing Obama even though I also knew these same former students were opposed to abortion. I also saw several articles by main stream presses arguing that the abortion issue is no longer important – and several cited McLaren and/or Miller (I’ve since tried to locate these but can’t find them. I’ll update this post if I do). Anecdotal evidence can only go so far, but given McLaren & Miller’s popularity it seems reasonable to assume that many Christians were indeed influenced by them.

So why am I pissed at these two men for their support of Barack Obama? Because less than 72 hours in office President Obama has decided that the U.S. government will remove restrictions on the federal government funding oversees groups that provide abortion services (http://tinyurl.com/ajrwfh). In 1984 Ronald Reagan instituted a policy that prohibited foreign groups that provide abortion services from receiving funding from the U.S. government. This was the U.S. policy until 1993 when President Clinton rescinded it, but was re-instituted by President George W. Bush.

President Obama felt that one of the first things he had to do as president was increase funding for foreign groups that provide abortions. Groups that find abortion to be a morally acceptable method of “family planning” will now have more resources to provide this service. How, in the words of McLaren, is this a “step in the right direction” that is “consistent with [his] desire to celebrate the sacredness of life”? I’d like to ask Miller how this is part of a “realistic strategy” that will make progress on the abortion issue.

To me it seems that McLaren and Miller are to the left of many Christians in the U.S. They have tired of the “Conservative Right” and in their zeal to elect a left-minded candidate, they were duped into thinking Obama’s policies are actually going to make progress on the abortion issue. They then went on to give really bad arguments that convinced many to vote for Obama because he was the real pro-life candidate. Within 72 hours they’ve been proven wrong. And if we keep in mind President Obama’s promise to Planned Parenthood that the first thing he’d do as president is “sign the Freedom of Choice Act” then they’ll be proven wrong again. (Note: The Freedom of Choice Act would remove state laws that currently limit/prohibit abortions of any kind.) These are at least two changes that will hurt the pro-life cause and were/would be ordered directly by the president that McLaren and Miller endorsed.

If you care about the pro-life cause, then I think you should do two things. Express to McLaren and Miller your anger that they endorsed a candidate hurting the pro-life cause. Perhaps they will recognize their mistake and use their popularity to pressure President Obama into not signing the Freedom of Choice Act. Second, you should contact your Congressmen about your displeasure concerning President Obama’s recent executive order allowing tax dollars to fund abortions in foreign countries and your desire that he not sign FOCA.

Fallacious Reasoning and Support for a Canadian Coalition

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I live in Toronto, Canada. This means I get double the dose of politics, which in turn means I get to stick my nose in twice as much stuff.

Approximately seven weeks ago the Canadian people went to the polls to elect a new government. Because there are three main Canadian parties and one dedicated to the interests of Quebec, the likelihood of any one party winning a majority is small. There are a total of 308 ridings and the Conservatives were hoping to win enough new seats so they could have a majority government. They did win more seats (19), but not enough to have a majority. Here is how the election broke down by seats won and percentage of seats available.

  • Conservatives:    143  46.4%
  • Liberals:               76    24.7%
  • Bloc Québécois:  50   16.2%
  • New Democrats: 37    12%
  • Independent:       2      0.7%

Since the Conservatives have the most number of seats, they are the ruling party. In the last week, for various reasons (which don’t really matter for my purposes here), the leaders of the Liberals, the Bloc Québécois, and the New Democrats decided that they were unhappy with the Conservative government and wanted to form a coalition that would unseat Harper and have the head of the Liberal government as Prime Minister (currently Stephane Dion). Because the combination of these three governments would give the coalition 165 seats as opposed to the Conservatives 143, the coalition could oust the Conservatives and take over.

With that background in mind we can see how many people are reasoning fallaciously concerning the proposed coalition government. The leaders of the coalition parties (and many of their supporters) seem to be reasoning this way:

  1. Canadians voted that the Liberals should have 76 seats.
  2. Canadians voted that the Bloc should have 50 seats.
  3. Canadians voted that the NDP should have 37 seats.
  4. So, Canadians voted that the Liberals, the Bloc, and the NDP should have 165 seats.
  5. Canadians voted that the Conservatives should have 143 seats.
  6. Therefore, if the Liberals, the Bloc, and the NDP form together, more Canadians voted for that coalition than for the Conservatives.

So what is wrong with this reasoning? Why is it fallacious? I mean it’s true that more Canadians voted for these parties individually than for the Conservatives, so it must mean that more Canadians would want a ruling party to be formed from these individual parties than for the Conservative party. As we’ll soon see, this is the Fallacy of Composition.

People commit the fallacy of composition when they assume that what is true of the parts must be true of the whole. We can easily see why this is fallacious with a common example.

  1. It is true that parts of my body are invisible to the naked eye.
  2. Therefore, my body as a whole is invisible to the naked eye.

Here is another example that plenty of sports writers are guilty of committing.

  1. Team A is better at every postition than Team B.
  2. Therefore, Team A as a whole is better than Team B.

Both of these are examples of fallacious reasoning. It is obvious that there are parts of my body that can’t be seen with the naked eye, but it’s also obvious that my body as a whole can be seen with the naked eye. What about the second example? Well, it might be true that Team A has bettter players at every position than Team B, but Team A might not practice very much together or might have more selfish players at every position. Either case would make it reasonable to think that as a whole Team B is better (e.g. the 1980 U.S. hockey team).

Okay, so how does the relate to the recently formed coalition government in Canada. If people assume that because more Canadians voted for parts of the coalition that more people voted for the whole coaltion, then they are reasoning fallaciously. Many people that voted for one of the coalition parties individually might be quite unhappy with what results by combining them altogether. If, for example, I care about issue X and voted for the Liberal party because of their committment to issue X, but in order to form the coalition the Liberals had to give up issue X, then that might be enough to lead me to not vote for the coalition at all. After all, the issue I really care about was just given up by the Liberal leader. If these types of scenarious weren’t plausible, then why have separate parties to begin with? There must be at least a few issues that separate the parties, but if those are the ones I care about then why would I continue to support a group of leaders that just gave up on that issue?

The only way we can know for sure if more people want to have a coalition of Liberals, Bloc Québécois, and New Democrats running Parliament and not the Conservatives is if there were an election with these two options. Of course that would never happen because as soon as an election is called each party would go back to trying to win votes for their own party. Keep in mind that it may be true that more Canadians want a coalition government, but we can’t know that from the fact that more Canadians voted for the three parties individually than for the Conservatives.

As an American, I find this whole thing really fascinating. It is also interesting to see that American politicians don’t have a corner on the ‘bad reasoning’ market.

What Obama Said about Meeting Without Preconditions

In the last two debates McCain and Palin said Obama was naive for saying he would meet with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea without preconditions. Obama and Biden have responded by saying that those remarks were taken out of context and that Obama said he would seek high level, non presidential, diplomacy. Well thank God for the internet.

The USA Today has the relevant quotes from the Obama conference call in which these remarks were made (you can read it here). During this conference call Obama said, “If I sit down with the leader in Iran, I will send him a strong message that Israel is our friend, that we will assist in their security and that we don’t find nuclear weapons acceptable… That’s not going to be a propaganda coup for the president of Iran.”

Here Obama said he would meet with Iran and that doing so would not be a coup for the president of Iran. I don’t know how else to take “If I sit down with the leader of Iran.” I’m not sure how “I” can be misconstrued. In light of this the question he is asked,

“Would you be willing to separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, meet with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?” To this question Obama responded, “I would.”

Feel free to read the linked article and see everything in context and then make your own honest decision as to whether or not Obama meant he himself would meet with these leaders or if he would have high level diplomats do it.

If he misspoke, that’s fine, but come out and admit it as misspeak. But please don’t insult my intelligence by saying he was referring to high level diplomats.

A Tale of Two Obama Endorsements

I recently read on an Economist blog that the Matthew 25 Network (www.matthew25.org) has decided to endorse Barack Obama. This group’s name is a nod to Matthew 25: 35-40. The portion of this passage on their website is “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink… ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these my brethren, you did for me.”

I was immediately interested in learning more about this organization because I thought it odd that a seemingly Christian group would be so proud to announce that they have decided to endorse someone with such a pro-abortion record. Their website states that their values are “promoting life with dignity, caring for the least of these, strengthening and supporting families, stewardship of God’s creation, working for peace and justice at home and abroad and promoting the common good.”

I guess it’s just not clear to me how Obama fits that profile, at least with his record on abortion. How exactly does supporting the legality of abortion promote life with dignity for the unborn? Wouldn’t an unborn child be “the least of these”? After searching around a bit more, the Matthew 25 Network was just launched as a Federal Political Action Committee (PAC). Contrary to appearance, this is not some Christian non-profit working on the behalf of some Christian cause. This is a political organization launched with the sole purpose of endorsing Obama.

Now there are plenty of other groups that have endorsed Obama (e.g. Hamas, Moveon.org). One of the groups I would like to draw attention to is NARAL Pro-Choice America (www.prochoiceamerica.org/elections/statements/obama.html). This organization, unlike Matthew 25 Network, has existed for some time and has an agenda besides just endorsing Obama. This group was founded in 1968 as the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws. After those laws were indeed repealed, they changed their name to National Abortion Rights Action League, then to National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. And now they are NARAL Pro-Choice America.

What I find interesting is the reason why NARAL chose to endorse Obama. NARAL scores politicians on their pro-choice voting record and in 2005, 2006, and 2007 Obama scored a 100%. That means that in three years Obama has never voted against one of the leading abortion-rights group’s agenda. On their website they even have quotes from Obama that, to them, justify their decision to endorse him. (In one of his quotes he even brags that he’s scored a 100% with both NARAL and Planned Parenthood.)

So what is the point of comparing these two groups. The point is this. One group was formed as a PAC with the sole purpose of having a Christian-sounding group endorse Obama. They have no other agenda. The other group clearly has an agenda and has had it for a long time. This agenda is counter to Christianity at a variety of levels, but this group believes that Obama is the best person to further that agenda.

Does a group’s decision to endorse Obama mean he agrees with that group? Of course not, but it should make someone stop and think about why such a group would want Obama to be president. The fact that he’s never voted against their agenda should at least make Christians and non-Christian anti-abortionists stop and think about the ramifications of him becoming president. This is especially true since the appointment of another Supreme Court Justice is highly likely in the next term and several of the more recent high profile cases have been decided 5-4.

Bush Lied, People Died

Bashing President Bush is all the rage these days. This is especially true if you 1) live in a college town, 2) insist on only buying Fair Trade, or 3) ride a bicycle to work. (I’m sure there are good explanations for the larger number of Bush-bashers in these groups, but I’ll leave it up to you to seek them.)

What is the justification for the wonderful slogan we see in the picture above? Well, according to the report of the Select Committee on Intelligence there isn’t much justification for this claim. What is surprising is that the committee chairman, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va) is one of the individuals leading the “Bush Lied, People Died” crusade.

Fred Hiatt of the Washington Post recently wrote a column describing how this catchy phrase is a farce. What I find humorous is that he uses the report that Rockefellar oversaw to make his case. You can link to his article if you’d like to read in more detail, but I’m going to just present some of its highlights. Below you’ll find one of the things that people think Bush lied about, and then see what the committee actually found concerning that allegation.

1) Bush lied about Iraq’s nuclear weapons program.

  • Committee findings: Bush’s statements were “generally substantiated by intelligence community estimates.”

2) Bush lied about Iraq’s biological weapons, their production capabilities, and their mobile labarotories.

  • Committee findings: Bush’s statements were “substantiated by intelligence information.”

3) Bush lied about Iraq’s possession of chemical weapons.

  • Committee findings: Bush’s statements were “substantiated by intelligence information.”

4) Bush lied about Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction.

  • Committee findings: Bush’s statements were “generally substantiated by intelligence information.”

5) Bush lied about Iraq’s possession of ballistic missiles.

  • Committee findings: Bush’s statements were “generally substantiated by available intelligence.”

6) Bush lied about Iraq’s possession of unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to deliver WMDs.

  • Committee findings: Bush’s statements were “generally substantiated by intelligence information.”

7) Bush lied about Iraq’s involvement with terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda.

  • Committee findings: Bush’s statements were “substantiated by intelligence information.”

There is a big difference between being wrong about something and lying about something. We now know that Bush was wrong about much (if not all) of the above, but so was the intelligence community. Bush relied on the gathered intelligence and made his decision based upon that. That is a far cry from lying about it. So, you may ask, what did the committee chairman think about this intelligence at the time it was gathered? I’m glad you asked.

Hiatt quotes committee chairman Rockefeller as saying in October 2002 “There has been some debate over how ‘imminent’ a threat Iraq poses. I do believe Iraq poses an imminent threat. I also believe after September 11, that question is increasingly outdated… To insist on further evidence could put some of our fellow Americans at risk. Can we afford to take that chance? I do not think we can.”

This is from the person now leading the “Bush Lied, People Died” campaign (although he does it less boldly). This is from the committee chairman whose own report just stated that Bush’s claims about Iraq and their intentions were accurate, given the intelligence gathered at the time. Rockefeller had access to the same intelligence that Bush had and came to the same conclusion as Bush. So why isn’t there “Rockefeller Lied, People Died” stickers too? I’d like to think because it’s not as catchy, but I’m pretty sure that’s not it.

I’m sure this report won’t cause the eminent philosopher Peter Singer to retract any of his arguments against Bush in his The President of Good and Evil: the Ethics of George W. Bush. Here is a sample quote from Singer, “There can hardly be a more grave charge against the president of the United States and his administration than that he misled the world, in order to start a war that killed thousands of people, including at least 3,000 civilians, and maimed and wounded, or made homeless, tens of thousands more” (my emphasis). You are correct, Mr. Singer, there is no graver charge against a president. But since we now know he did not intentionally mislead anyone, perhaps that is a charge you should drop.

I know that this report won’t stop any of our bike riding, free trade buying, college student friends from proclaiming from the mountaintops how evil of a person President Bush is. But it will be fun to watch those same people squirm when they realize how weak their case against Bush actually is.

Summary Thoughts on Clinton & Obama

Hillary Clinton recently sent an email out to her campaign staff and supporters announcing that she will formally concede to Barack Obama. Today you will hear all the political talk shows discuss whether or not Obama will, or should, nominate Clinton as VP. I’d like to make two brief comments about Clinton’s email and Obama’s upcoming decision about his running mate.

First, one of the things that haunted Clinton this entire race was that many people did not feel like they knew what her own position was on various issues. Instead, it seems as if Clinton was willing to change her position according to whatever the current polls revealed about the people she was going to visit next. Now this is probably over exaggerated by the media, but I’m starting to think that the media is right. For example, in the email she sent out this morning Clinton writes,

“I know as I continue my lifelong work for a stronger America and a better world, I will turn to you for the support, the strength, and the commitment that you have shown me in the past 16 months. And I will always keep faith with the issues and causes that are important to you.”

Notice that she doesn’t say she will keep faith with the issues important to her, but the issues important to you. I think people want to vote for someone that truly believes in the things they believe in and not someone that will just support those things just because it will win an election.

On to Obama. Obama’s message this entire campaign is “Change You Can Believe In.” For this reason alone he cannot have Clinton as his VP. It’d be great for many reasons, but you cannot convince anyone you are about change when you have a Clinton as VP. The Clintons are as entrenched in traditional politics as anyone. If you are running on the platform of change then stay clear of the Clintons. Accept their support and say how great they have been and then move on to some governor that most people don’t know.

Obama’s “Change” platform still might be a difficult sell, even if he avoids Clinton as his running mate. I think John McCain is going to point out over and over the fact that Obama has almost never voted against his own party. How can Obama be about change if he just does what all the other Democrats do? Sure it will be a change from a Republican president to a Democratic one, but that would have happened with Clinton. Obama’s message is that politics is broken and he is the guy to fix it. He is going to have to do a great job explaining why he is about change but has always just done what his Democratic colleagues do.

It is interesting that Obama’s opponent seems to be more about change than he is. McCain has continuously “crossed the aisle” to work with Democrats and has been pummeled by right-wing talk show hosts for it. Many of these issues are what made me not want McCain as the nominee, but nevertheless, he seems much more willing to depart from traditional Republican stances than Obama is from traditional Democratic ones.

Do I think any of this will matter? No I don’t. In fact, I think Obama is going to win because he will successfully link McCain to Bush, the media loves him, he’s a great speaker, and people feel good about themselves when they vote for him. The thought of a young, black politician with almost no experience (compared to others) becoming President is about as close to achieving the “American dream” as one could get.

The Morality of Sweatshop Labor

Many are aware about large companies making use of sweatshop labor in the production of their clothes, electronics, etc.

Many also find this practice to be morally reprehensible. To those that do, I recommend you take a few minutes to read this short piece by Benjamin Powell.

If you think that his analysis is right, that doesn’t mean that we should stop working for even better conditions. But it does mean that a complete cessation of sweatshops would cause things to be worse for those employed there than they currently are now. We have to make sure that our efforts to better their lives, don’t end up making things worse (which not having a job, or having a worse job, would do).

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic, and Powell’s article.

(And a big heads up to Anthony Bradley of the Acton Institute for first making me aware of this article. You can read Bradley’s thoughts about the article here.)

Romney and Obama on Religion

When Mitt Romney’s presidential bid first began to pick up steam, there was a lot of worry about his ties to the Mormon church. Would Romney’s religious beliefs influence his policies as president? Would the things he learned from the Mormon church influence how he thinks about the world? How could such a smart man attend a church that has certain beliefs that, to many, seem outrageous? Does the Mormon Church’s somewhat questionable past regarding African-Americans indicate that Romney might be hiding his true thoughts about blacks?

These questions, along with many others, were continually raised by political pundits over and over. These were questions that Romney was forced to answer at just about every turn. He took them so seriously that he gave an entire speech on the relationship between his faith and his politics (click here to link to a video of that speech).

If it was acceptable to bring up all these issues concerning Mitt Romney, why is it not acceptable to do the same concerning Barack Obama? Below is a video clip of Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s pastor for over 20 years, preaching a sermon that, at the least, demands that Obama answer the same questions, with the same forthrightness, as Romney.

As you watch this short 3 minute video keep in mind the following: this is the man that has been Obama’s pastor for over 20 years. This is the man that Obama prayed with before announcing his nomination just over a year ago. This is the man that baptized Obama’s two daughters. This is the man that Obama considers his spiritual advisor.

If Obama had attended this church 20 years ago and left after a short time, I think this would be a non-issue. But, Obama attended this church, pastored by this man, 20 years ago and has continued to attend it. And keep in mind, Obama is only 46 years old. Wright has had an influence on Obama for just about half of his life. I don’t think it is fair to expect any person to endorse everything his pastor says over 20 years. But can we reasonably believe that every Sunday afternoon, Obama would sit down with his family and disagree with what their pastor has said? For 20 years?

If I’m right, then every American should demand that Obama answer every question we have about this issue. Am I right about this? Is it fair to compare this to Romney? Will the Obama-loving media turn our questions about this into our being racist?  Can we still believe Obama’s rhetoric about moving beyond race? Does this at least give us reasons to question his judgment?

How would America in general, and the media in particular, respond if John McCain even had a friend that expressed these ideas directed toward black people? What if it was someone he voluntary associated himself with for over 20 years?

(In case you think this is an isolated incident, peruse some of the related videos on YouTube’s site. You’ll see that Wright thought 9/11 was a punishment for not America’s sins, but for “white-America’s sins” and that instead of singing ‘God bless America’, he thinks we should sing ‘God damn America’.)