The pickle and the fickle

Commentary by Judie Brown

It has always amazed me to watch the pandering that goes on as men and women find the power of the presidency so alluring that they can no longer resist the temptation to run. I guess politics has always been that way and perhaps that is why, even when it comes to abortion, there are instant conversions the like of which we rarely see at any other time.

For a long time, for example, Senator Ted Kennedy was solidly pro-life. In 1971 he declared that the legalization of abortion was not in accordance with the value our civilization places on human life. Many thought Kennedy was actually saying abortion was immoral and unacceptable. Kennedy maintained that position through 1976, but then had a change of heart. His dedication to civilization's abhorrence of abortion fell away as he embraced the power brokers on the liberal left. Somehow his principles took a bad turn.

Most recently we have seen that same sort of problem as Congressman Dennis Kucinich evolves into another in the long line of Democratic presidential hopefuls. Five years ago Kucinich was given a 90 percent rating by the pro-life movement's political experts; but today he is solidly in the pro-abortion camp.

What makes such things happen? Perhaps it's the same dynamic that causes people like Mitt Romney to have conversions in the other direction. As I see it, the lure of political one-upmanship can confuse the mind and soften one's desire to remain consistent.

Whether it's Romney's alleged conversion to pro-life hero or Senator John McCain's desire to downplay abortion and woo the right anyway, this is a sad commentary on what it takes to run for the highest elected office in the land. It is no longer a platform that breeds statesmen and heroic figures, but rather it has become a trough that is occupied by those with big bucks, squishy consciences and bright white teeth. It would seem the smile counts for more these days than integrity, at least when it comes to political posturing.

Prior to his election as Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger wrote a doctrinal note on Catholics in political life. In that wonderful document he explained, "When political activity comes up against moral principles that do not admit of exception, compromise or derogation, the Catholic commitment becomes more evident and laden with responsibility."

To my mind, that would seem to be an excellent mantra for anyone to embrace regardless of religious persuasion. After all, when one discusses abortion in the public square, one is not discussing a political issue in which a middle ground can be claimed; slicing a preborn baby in half is not an option. A thinking person should be able to eloquently define his position, if he is sincerely pro-life, without giving a thought to the consequences of his stated position. But that is anathema to the political process today.

Be it Kennedy, Kucinich or Romney, politics makes strange bedfellows and engenders outlandish contortions of the gray matter as well. Perhaps this is why there are so many instant conversions during a presidential political season. But if that is so, what does it say about the state of our nation?

A renegade Democrat who is not running for the presidency told a pro-life audience that the nation was not producing enough people any longer. "We're too few because too many of our babies have been killed," he said, "over 45 million since Roe v. Wade in 1973."

He went on to tell his friendly audience that this is why Social Security, among other things, is in trouble today. And of course, he is correct, but he is not a presidential contender. Can you imagine what he might have said to that friendly pro-life audience if he had been?

Senator Sam Brownback, another presidential contender who does have pro-life credentials that go back further than 30 seconds before he announced his candidacy, recently told the editorial board of the Kansas City Star that he thinks the Constitution already guarantees the preborn a right to life so he does not support a human life amendment. Contrast that with a questionnaire he completed in July of last year in which he said that he would support a human life amendment that contained exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.

This is perhaps the best example I can give of the pickle these fickle politicians create for themselves when they toss out consistency for the sake of political gain. What does it profit a man, I would ask, if he gains the most powerful position in America at the expense of his principles?

Don't get me wrong. I am not criticizing Brownback, Romney, Kucinich or even Hillary Clinton. But we as a nation have forgotten how to expect greatness out of the men and women seeking public office. We have failed to expect consistency and have settled for a mediocre political system that in many respects renders the parties nearly equal in all the areas that matter most to the furtherance of our society, starting with the right of every innocent preborn person to be born.

You can call me a cynic or a crusty older woman who really doesn't understand the requirements of successful political posturing. You can call me anything you wish but I have to tell you, when I look at the situation facing the voters in 2008, and I consider a headline like the one in the Los Angeles Times, which read "Kucinich, other abortion-issue converts viewed with suspicion," it nearly makes me physically ill.

Somehow the system we call democracy has failed the most defenseless citizens in the land. It has relegated an act of murder to nothing more than an "issue." It has relegated the genuinely pro-life candidate who will not condone a single act of abortion to the category of loser, and it has denied one of the founding principles of this once great nation. We are no longer able to say that we believe that each human being in our midst has a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We have condemned too many of them to death to even suggest we believe that.

Perhaps that is why abortion-issue converts don't even have to be serious. They aren't fickle. We are.

Release issued: 14 Mar 07