The Spectacle Blog

Buckley and Born Alive

By on 10.16.08 | 7:27PM

In the war in ideas, you have some room for hedging. I don't actually find it shocking that Christopher Buckley went to Obama given the way he identifies Obama's strengths. If you're into intellectual-ish things, you've got to find Obama interesting in some way. It takes smarts to rise as quickly as Obama has, and our society tends to glorify youth while forgiving its excesses. Obama's refreshing because he's young, he "doesn't look like other presidents on our currency" (whatever that means), and he's not frightening to behold on a television set for the next four years. Even if some of his policies would be (natch). He writes well, which would get Petrarch's endorsement.

You also can't look at Christopher and say he's stupid, or even reckless. His upbringing, let alone his genes, are imbued with traits of a chess player, that is to think a few plays ahead. It's hard for me to think he'd operate any other way. He has made us laugh with his writing because he "gets it." I know that his father did not plan out novels ahead of time. He would have a general idea, perhaps, but he'd go wherever the writing took him. Christopher, Bill once told me admiringly, knew where things were headed from the very beginning. Everything Bill told me about Christopher, by the way, was admiring.

I don't want this to read like I think his was a calculating, scheming fellow trying to get himself some press. It's actually the opposite.

I wonder whether abortion played into his decision at all. Whether he wrestled with the idea that Obama's simply not pro-life. Or remotely pro-life, in that way that some moderates might think that partial-birth abortion is icky.

Perhaps Christopher isn't actually pro-life, or maybe he believes that the issue isn't so black and white. He did, at one point, support Ron Paul, which I take to mean that he found Paul's pro-life message  in addition to the other properly conservative views.

Or perhaps he thinks that Obama is malleable, which I take to be a complete mistake. Maybe there's concern that McCain might not actually appoint pro-life judges. Even if his position papers suggest he would, there's always that maverick tendency which sometimes hurts Republican efforts in the legal arena.

We may not know. But given his statements so far, I take it that Christopher is omitting that from consideration. I'm hardly a single-issue voter, but a new publication, called "The Public Discourse," from the thoughtful Witherspoon Institute has a way of twisting my arm a little. Professor Robert P. George and Yuval Levin look at Obama's response to the debate last night about his stance on infants surviving abortion.

Obama had responded that the law was simply a reiteration of a law that had already passed, just that it didn't have the right provisions for his tastes. George and Levin write that the previous law Obama said worked just fine...

... only protected ''viable'' infants-and left the determination of viability up to the ''medical judgment'' of the abortionist who had just failed to kill the baby in the womb. This provision of the law weakened the hand of prosecutors to the vanishing point. That is why the Born Alive Act [the one Obama voted against --ed.] was necessary - and everybody knew it. Moreover, the Born Alive Act would have had the effect of at least ensuring comfort care to babies whose prospects for long-term survival were dim and who might therefore have been regarded as ''nonviable.'' As Obama and the other legislators knew, without the Born Alive Act these babies could continue to be treated as hospital refuse. That's how the dying baby that Nurse Jill Stanek found in the soiled linen closet got there.

Obama mischaracterized his own earlier position. When he was dealing with this question in the Illinois State Senate, he argued not that the existing law did everything the newly proposed measure would do. No, he saw the born-alive bill as "placing too much of a burden" on the practitioners of abortion, because the doctor might be challenged on whether a fetus was unviable. But look at the wording here:

'As I understand it,'' Obama said during the floor debate, ''this puts the burden on the attending physician who has determined, since they were performing this procedure, that, in fact, this is a nonviable fetus; that if that fetus, or child - however way you want to describe it - is now outside the mother's womb and the doctor continues to think that it's nonviable but there's, let's say, movement or some indication that, in fact, they're not just coming out limp and dead, that, in fact, they would then have to call a second physician to monitor and check off and make sure that this is not a live child that could be saved.'

Emphasis mine. "However you want to describe it"? Really?

He voted against it anyway, even as a neutrality clause that lifted this burden was inserted in the bill. By contrast, those who were against it on these grounds moved in favor of it.

If you're pro-life, it's an important enough issue that it can (and should) decide your vote. If you're pro-choice, it's, well, murky territory anyway where it's rare for such a clear delineation between right and wrong exists. Yet here you have it.

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