Friday, December 30, 2011

Rick Perry Changes His Mind on Abortion and Federal Interference with States

The Signs of Desperation Just Keep Coming

With the Iowa Caucuses coming soon the desperation of some candidates is beginning to drive their campaigns.  Newt Gingrich has abandoned his “be nice” strategy in part because that only works if one is the front runner and in larger part because that is just not Newt. 

The most desperate of the candidates appears to be Texas Gov. Rick Perry.  Mr. Perry was once the presumed front runner, based on his alleged ability to unite fiscal and social conservatives.  But it turned out that Mr. Perry knew little or nothing about national issues, and his stance on immigration, that he would not imprison and torture children who were in the country illegally, ran afoul the strident stand of many Republicans.

Like all desperate politicians, Mr. Perry has decided to become even more extreme in his views.  He has decided, for example, that he would ban all abortions, even those that women might want when they had been the victim of rape or incest.

Assuredly, the Texas governor has never been a moderate on the issue. But until recently, he had said an abortion might be justifiable in cases of rape or incest or if the mother’s life was in danger.

Tuesday, in the last leg of a four-stop bus trip across southwestern Iowa, Perry was asked a question by a local pastor about his abortion views, noting that the candidate had recently signed a pledge to oppose abortion in every situation and asking whether he had changed his mind.

Perry replied that he had. “You’re seeing a transformation,” he said. Recently watching an antiabortion film had persuaded him to alter his view, he said.

 As far as the numbers are concerned, this is not a major issues as the number of abortions resulting from rape or incest must be very small.  But it does say a lot about Mr. Perry.  First of all the change is very convenient (has any transformation of any politician, Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative ever happened when it did not benefit the politician's electoral chances?)

The transformation, such as it is, comes at a particularly opportune time. With a week to go until the Jan. 3 caucuses, Perry is trying to court the social conservatives here who have yet to coalesce around a single candidate as they did for Mike Huckabee four years ago. And Perry has watched as Rick Santorum, an unyielding opponent of abortion rights, has picked up endorsements in the last week from key evangelical leaders in the state.

Which just says that Mr. Perry, having seen the lack of consistency not hurt Mr. Romney has decided that he too can jettison his beliefs when he thinks that will help him politically.

But more important is what this says about Mr. Perry.  Consider the implications of this for a rape victim.  The woman has suffered an agonizingly horrific experience, one that no male can ever understand.  Now with Mr. Perry’s position the victim is again victimized.  She must carry the rapist’s child to full term.  She must endure 9 months of the reminder of the attack.  And after the child is born she may have to endure sharing the custody of the child with the rapist, after all Conservatives are strong believers in parental rights and some surely believe that after the rapist has left prison he has the right to his parental rights including visitation and maybe even joint custody.

That any person could contemplate putting a woman through such an experience for purely political gain says much about that person.  It certainly says he or she is not enough of a decent human being to be considered for public office.

On a second issue, state’s rights Mr. Perry has been a long time advocate of a limited role for the Federal government.  In his view the Feds should defer to the states, and not interfere with state’s activities where states have been given the authority to act under the Constitution.

So it is a little surprising, (but not much given the hypocrisy of politicians) that Mr. Perry has now decided to enlist the Federal government to fight the state of Virginia, whose ballot rules prevented Mr. Perry from getting on the Republican primary ballot.

And while Perry was touring Iowa, his campaign filed suit in federal court in Virginia challenging that state’s decision to keep him off its primary ballot for failing to comply with the strict requirements for signatures. Newt Gingrich also failed to make the ballot.

"We believe that the Virginia provisions unconstitutionally restrict the rights of candidates and voters by severely restricting access to the ballot, and we hope to have those provisions overturned or modified to provide greater ballot access to Virginia voters and the candidates seeking to earn their support," Perry’s communications director, Ray Sullivan, said in a statement.

Mr. Perry has apparently learned what almost everyone else has, particularly minorities and others who have had their rights denied by state and local governments.  This is that the Federal government’s role in part is as protector of rights and the sometimes states can abrogate those rights. 

Welcome to reality, Mr. Perry.  We know it took you a long time to get here, but still, glad you finally made it.  And just a word of advice, next time think before you take a position, you will find it a new and rewarding experience.

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