Carol Platt Liebau: Hillary's Preemptive Abortion Attack

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Hillary's Preemptive Abortion Attack

Steve Chapman notes rightly that public sentiment against abortion has continued to grow -- especially among young people.

Given all this, it's noteworthy that Hillary Clinton would try to attack Barack Obama on the grounds that he's insufficiently zealous about abortion rights. In fact, that's hardly the case, as this Newsweek piece notes; , the "evidence" Clinton amasses suggests not that Illinois Democrats were weak pro-choicers -- rather, that they knew how damagingly anti-life they would look to normal voters if they voted against certain bills rather than just "present."

Obama has a bullet-proof defense against the charge that he's insufficiently pro-choice, of course. His opposition to the Infants Born Alive bill in Illinois, which would have protected babies who survived induced labor abortions, seems about as pro-abortion as one could get.

It's doubtful, though, that Obama will go touting the vote, given that even Barbara Boxer had no problem with a federal bill that was similar in wording (and which passed the Senate 98-0). It would hardly impress his cadre of young voters (or most other Americans, for that matter) if it trickled into the mainstream. Hillary Clinton knows that normal Americans are nowhere near as pro-choice as the Dem base, of course, which is why she's tried to have it both ways a bit over the past few years -- it was part of her "general election" strategy.

Given all this, it might seem somewhat amazing that she's the one criticizing him for being insufficiently pro-choice. But here's why she may be doing it. Obviously, it's essential for a Democrat to hold the influential pro-choice part of his or her base -- being a pro-life Democrat would come off as well as say, being an atheist Republican (see this for an example of how completely pro-choice politicians have to toe the line). Given that abortion issues generally seem to lack salience in this election cycle for ordinary voters, Hillary's efforts to "find common ground" with pro-lifers isn't as likely to be helpful to her in the general either as she hoped, or as Barack's (and his wife's) full-throated support for abortion rights could be in a primary that turned out to be much tougher than Hillary expected.

Don't they say that the best defense is a good offense?


Blogger stackja1945 said...

Carol, pro-choicers should ask the baby first.

2:58 PM  

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