Fred Thompson is Pro-Choice

I've said all along that Fred Thompson's pro-life credentials were shaky. Now he's admitted it in an interview with Tim Russert on Meet The Press this weekend. The exchange meanders quite a bit - here is the full transcript if you want to read it for yourself. The abortion part begins at the bottom of page 3.

The upshot is that Thompson sees abortion as a "states rights" issue. He says he wants Roe vs. Wade overturned, but he doesn't want the states to outlaw abortion. He opposes the GOP platform, which has called for Human Life Amendment to the Constitution since the Reagan years. Thompson nevertheless maintains that he is "pro-life" because he will do what he can as president to keep the federal government out of it.

It got really weird when Russert pinned down Thompson about when life begins.

MR. RUSSERT: So while you believe that life begins at conception, the taking of a human life?

MR. THOMPSON: Yes, I, I, I, I do.

MR. RUSSERT: You would allow abortion to be performed in states if chosen by states for people who think otherwise?

MR. THOMPSON: I do not think that you can have a, a, a law that would be effective and that would be the right thing to do, as I say, in terms of potentially—you can’t have a law that cuts off an age group or something like that, which potentially would take young, young girls in extreme situations and say, basically, we’re going to put them in jail to do that. I just don’t think that that’s the right thing to do. It cannot change the way I feel about it morally, but legally and practically, I’ve got to recognize that fact. It is a dilemma that I’m not totally comfortable with, but that’s the best I can do in resolving it in my own mind.

Follow this, if you can. Thompson says he is pro-life, but he has to be forced into admitting the obvious fact that an unborn child is actually a living person, but he still would oppose the federal government doing anything to help anyone kill this living person, but he wants the Supreme Court to make it easier for states to outlaw this act, but he personally hopes the states will keep it legal so young girls in "extreme situations" won't get put in jail. Sound confusing? Here's the summary: he is pro-choice.

In fact, this whole "state's rights" argument was settled quite convincingly by the Civil War. Thompson is making the same argument that Southern slaveholders did prior to 1865. The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution says that "no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law."

Allowing doctors to kill children for whatever reason the mom thinks is sufficient does not even remotely qualify as "due process of law." If Fred Thompson thinks life begins at conception - as he told Russert - his constitutional duty as president will be to defend it from the time of conception. He just said on national TV that he intend to ignore his oath of office.

Moreover, if Thompson loves federalism so much he'll have to take some radically unpopular positions as president. Since the national government, in his view, has no business stopping abortion, it must also has no business building highways, regulating drugs, helping with disaster relief, imposing safety standards for toys, and a zillion other things. To be consistent with the stand he takes on abortion he'll have to dismantle about half the federal government. This wouldn't be such a bad thing, but Thompson won't do it. Why? Because he doesn't really believe in federalism. He is using the concept as a convenient dodge to have it both ways on abortion. He cites federalism when it helps him, and ignores it when it doesn't. He's a typical politician, in other words.

As a purely political matter, this is probably a smart position for Thompson to take. He's seen Giuliani get ahead in the polls by saying he is personally against abortion but won't do anything to stop it. Both of them know that most voters won't look very deeply into their positions, so the goal is to stay vague and be all things to all people. It may work well enough to put one of them in the White House. We'll know in a year.

Now it is quite true that there is little the president can directly do about abortion, other than appointing judges who will, we hope, return the issue to the states to decide. I think it matters that the president is pro-life because it tells us other things about the way he will govern. As noted above, Thompson admits that a fetus is a living person - but he still wants to let such persons be killed without due process of law. What other categories of people will he refuse to protect? Which other parts of the Constitution is he prepared to ignore?

Since making prudent judgments about these things is a big part of being president, we need someone who holds the right principles. Fred Thompson clearly does not.

More from Lydia at What's Wrong with the World.

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