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Speaking Bush's mind
by John Young
Waco Tribune-Herald
May 6, 2003

Did Sept. 11 change your opinion about abortion rights?

I didn't think so.

I needed to check, however, because Karen Hughes thinks it may have. And what she thinks often manifests itself in what George Bush does.

Recently commenting on the then-pending the March for Women's Lives in Washington, the presidential adviser said attitudes have swung against abortion rights since Sept. 11.

In defending that claim, she made a clumsy and indirect comparison between the Sept. 11 attackers and those who don't want government banning abortion. It ended with, "our enemies in the terror network . . . don't value any life, not even the innocent and not even their own."

That was some response to a question from CNN's Wolf Blitzer about people marching to keep government out of women's personal medical decisions.

To say the least, it is stunning for someone speaking for the president to link two such matters. One expects it from a Jerry Falwell or Randall Terry. They would throw in "holocaust" for good measure.

We are in a period, unfortunately, when deeply held differences cannot be argued on their own merits.

If one questions the revolving-pretext invasion of Iraq, as half of Americans now do, one is (1) soft on terrorism; (2) indifferent to freedom; (3) not "supporting our troops."

And the propaganda wheel keeps spinning. One who opposes government-mandated gestation for pregnant women is anti-life, by Hughes' parsing.

Of course, the citizens on the mall were not just marching for abortion rights. They also were marching for holistic policies about helping women control their reproductive destinies without ever having to face unwanted pregnancies. Except for preaching abstinence, these are policies the Bush administration steadfastly obstructs.

For one who ran as a uniter from Texas, a presumed centrist, Bush has trended like a political snowplow at just about every turn.

Regardless of what he might say in his defense as a unifying force, those who speak for him consistently strive to make every American political issue an "us vs. them" matter. Is there any "us" left?

Recently Vice President Dick Cheney sought a venue for what he called a major foreign policy speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Mo. It turned out to be blatantly political "Kerry-bashing," in the words of Westminster College President Fletcher Lamkin.

Lamkin was so disappointed that Cheney chose to use his campus as a campaign prop (that, of course, and the American flag), that he then invited Kerry to speak at Westminster.

From John Ashcroft's assertions that critics of the Patriot Act are soft on terrorism to the claim that proponents of embryonic stem-cell research which could save millions of lives somehow are anti-life, this administration's rhetorical gall seems boundless.

This brings us back to the subject that caused Karen Hughes to juxtapose abortion rights and terrorism.

She probably would be flummoxed to meet with members of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. Its president, Rev. Carlton Veazey, asked, "Why can't you be religious and prayerfully pro-choice?" when interviewed on PBS's "Now With Bill Moyers." Of course you can be prayerful and pro-choice. To assert otherwise is demagoguery to the extreme. Millions of Americans, including God-fearing types, fear what would happen if government took away women's reproductive rights. They remember the way things were when such freedoms were denied.

A president who is a uniter would acknowledge that vast sea of Americans. He would denounce someone who compared their values to those of people who fly jetliners into skyscrapers.

Posted: May 14, 2004


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