At the very moment Democrats are claiming to distance themselves from abortion, they run back towards it by making Howard Dean — a former doctor for Planned Parenthood — their public face. Though the press almost never mentions it, Dean did an OB/GYN rotation for Planned Parenthood in the 1970s and later served as an executive board member of Planned Parenthood New England, meaning that he directly oversaw the largest abortion provider in the region. Were the Democrats sincerely moving to the middle on abortion, selecting a former overseer of abortion would have been the last thing to do.
Now they have managed to lash themselves to abortion even tighter by turning a Planned Parenthood alumnus and mascot — Dean received the organization’s Margaret Sanger award — into the party’s chief spokesman. Yes, like Hillary Clinton, Dean will try and call a few audibles on his old colleagues and friends at Planned Parenthood. But that won’t work. In politics, past is prologue and perception.
Dean will repeat his line, “We’re not the party of abortion,” but who will believe him? After all, he said last year that he represents the “Democratic wing of the Democratic party,” by which he obviously meant the pro-abortion wing of the party, such a point of pride to him during the primaries that he retailed stories about referring teens for abortion back in his days as a pediatrician.
Who came up with the idea of “$5 copay” abortions? Dr. Dean. Vermont had the highest rate of abortion in the country under him, averaging 359 abortions for every 1,000 live births. Vermont pro-lifers laugh aloud at the media’s lazy description of Dean as a moderate willing to make overtures to pro-lifers. That’s not the Howard Dean they remember. On a radio talk show, Dean once referred to pro-lifers in the state as common criminals. He was so pro-abortion he concocted a macabre scheme to let low-income “mothers” claim their unborn children for eligibility in his “Dr. Dynasaur” program, then once they were eligible he gave them state monies with which to abort that same child.
Short of elevating an outright abortionist to head up the Democratic party, Howard Dean is about as bad a choice as the Democrats could make to serve their purported goal of appealing to Middle America. Choosing a former Planned Parenthood doctor and board member to woo the Red States is the equivalent of the Republican National Committee selecting Jerry Falwell to court coastal elites.
Even the manner in which Dean maneuvered into the DNC chair illustrates his contempt for Middle America: he had to torpedo the campaign of Hoosier Democrat Tim Roemer through a smear campaign that raked up Roemer’s cautious pro-life voting record as well as other innocuous votes. “One day I received by messenger a dirty and smudged envelope with no return address,” reports Ryan Lizza of the New Republic. “Inside were five pages of anti-Roemer opposition research about his positions on everything from Israel and abortion to labor and Social Security.”
Dean’s bloggers spent days devouring Roemer. Stung, Roemer struggled through an interview with George Stephanopoulos, reports Lizza, “defensively responding to bloggers he had clearly never heard of, like MyDD.com and the Washington Monthly‘s Kevin Drum. ‘The bloggers, the Internet is a very, very useful tool for us to communicate with voters, ideas. I’m very excited about it, but it can also misinterpret a vote,’ he complained.”
Lizza reports that Roemer “never recovered.” At a DNC candidate forum, Roemer “rose, and glaring at Dean and candidate Simon Rosenberg, lashed out at the ‘secret e-mails’ that were circulating about him.” At another candidate forum, Roemer said, “We shouldn’t let a special interest group decide our view on choice.” The pro-Dean crowd hissed.
Even tepidly pro-life views are contemptible to Dean Democrats. Nancy Keenan, the new president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, spoke out of school recently when she chided John Kerry for his “judgmental” comments about abortion. (Kerry had merely rolled out his old cop-out position that he was “personally opposed” to abortion but wouldn’t impose that view on anyone else.) What Keenan blurted out is what Dean Democrats really think: anyone who questions abortion is “judgmental” and unworthy of Democratic leadership status.
After they drove him out of the DNC race, Roemer said Democrats were “losing ground with some of our core constituencies on values and faith issues. If we do not have a serious conversation within our party about how to reach out to those who are leaving us, we will be doomed to minority party status.”
The conversation, Mr. Roemer, has already been held. It ended with a hiss.
George Neumayr is executive editor of The American Spectator.