Re-launched, but still slightly under construction. :-)

Monday, May 07, 2007

Putting on my serious face

Ten leading candidates for the Republican nomination for president in 2008 held their first debate of the race, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California. When asked if they would call for repeal of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide, only one candidate said he would not. Who is he?

Tommy Thompson
Rudolph Giuliani
Mitt Romney
John McCain

This quiz on troubles me on several different levels. I'm not interested in the debate on abortion. That is not why I posted this. So shut up before you even start.

My problem is with the wording of the question. First, I didn't get a chance to watch the debate, because Grey's Anatomy had a two-hour special. I'm sorry, but John McCain's "Hey! I'm still alive! Vote for me, okay? It's my freaking turn!" act can't compare with that Meredith chick finally getting the slap across the face that she has so long deserved.

So, my point, is that I don't know if this was the exact wording of the question posed to the candidates, or if this was simply the wording MSNBC used when they composed this quiz. But the wording, by whomever, shows (in my opinion) one of the problems with the debate about abortion.

First, it doesn't matter which one of the candidates would call for repeal of Roe v. Wade. It was a Supreme Court decision, and not a law. Only laws passed by the legislature can be repealed. It cannot be overturned by a higher court, so it cannot be appealed either. The only thing that can happen is that the Supreme Court could reverse its decision in a future ruling. It hasn't happened, but it's not as though it couldn't. I think Giuliani said he wouldn't call for repeal because, as a former U.S. Attorney, he understood this. As talking chimpanzees, most other politicians do not.

Second, the Roe v. Wade decision did not legalize abortion nationwide. It said, simply, that it was not the place of the federal government to legislate on this issue. It left the decision up to the states. Most people cite Justice Sandra Day O'Conner's insistence that the question of abortion's legality is one of an issue of privacy covered by the Fourth Amendment. But that opinion has long been debated. What has not been as hotly debated - probably because it's less politically expedient - is whether or not the issue does or does not fall under the parameters of federal authority.

My point - and I do have one - is that the question is loaded. Whether it was asked of the candidates with this particular phrasing, or whether it was written in this way by MSNBC when posting this quiz, it exemplifies how easily the zeitgeist (thanks, A.W.!) can be corrupted by political speechifying. And that's an insult to Americans who can understand these issues when media whores aren't jockeying for camera time and sound bites with their facile understanding of the issues at hand.


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