Commentary Magazine


Topic: Wendy Davis

2014’s Most Cringe-Inducing Moment

Yesterday when writing about Kentucky Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes’s bizarre attempt to avoid admitting that she voted for Barack Obama for president, I expressed the hope that the Democrat and her political consultants would come up with a more coherent answer than her previous attempts to dodge the question. Those hopes were misplaced. At her sole debate with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Grimes doubled down on her refusal to say she had voted for Obama. In doing so, she may toss away whatever is left of her own hopes for upsetting her Republican opponent. But she also gave us what is likely to be the most cringe-inducing moment of American politics in 2014 and will, no doubt, give future political historians plenty of fodder for analysis of what makes seemingly smart people do dumb things.

Read More

Yesterday when writing about Kentucky Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes’s bizarre attempt to avoid admitting that she voted for Barack Obama for president, I expressed the hope that the Democrat and her political consultants would come up with a more coherent answer than her previous attempts to dodge the question. Those hopes were misplaced. At her sole debate with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Grimes doubled down on her refusal to say she had voted for Obama. In doing so, she may toss away whatever is left of her own hopes for upsetting her Republican opponent. But she also gave us what is likely to be the most cringe-inducing moment of American politics in 2014 and will, no doubt, give future political historians plenty of fodder for analysis of what makes seemingly smart people do dumb things.

As Fox News’s Chris Stirewalt wrote yesterday, Grimes’ position on her vote for Obama puts her in the running for what he dubbed the Todd Akin Prize for the worst political gaffe of this election cycle. Akin produced a whopper of historic proportions in 2012 when he produced a strange and ignorant theory about rape and pregnancy that not only ensured that he would fail to topple a vulnerable Claire McCaskill in the Missouri Senate race but also hurt Republicans around the nation who suffered from guilt by association with Akin. Stirewalt believes Texas Democrat Wendy Davis is the favorite for the 2014 prize because of her astoundingly bad judgment in releasing an attack ad that drew attention to her opponent’s being confined to a wheelchair. He also gives honorable mention to Iowa Democrat Bruce Braley for mocking the state’s Senator Charles Grassley for only being “an Iowa farmer.”

But I think Grimes has the edge here. Grimes was an Obama-supporting delegate to the 2012 Democratic National Convention. But her sanctimonious cant about ballot box privacy after having already said she voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2008 presidential primaries is both absurd and an indication that she thinks voters are idiots. Yet it also, like Akin’s gaffe, speaks to a national trend that affects other elections. Like many other Democrats running for office in 2014, Grimes’s biggest problem is the head of her party, not her opponent.

Running away from an unpopular incumbent president is an age-old problem for politicians, but there are ways to finesse the issue. Yet instead of addressing it honestly and saying she voted her principles, Grimes believes not saying the words that everyone knows is the truth (unless, as our John Podhoretz speculated on Twitter yesterday, that she didn’t vote at all!) will be enough to deceive the public. While it may be no more stupid than deriding farmers in Iowa or attacking a man in a wheelchair, it nevertheless made a moment that had to leave even some of her sternest critics feeling embarrassed for her.

What makes supposedly smart people do such stupid things?

We can blame Grimes’s political consultants or her father, a former politician who is widely believed to be the person calling the shots in her campaign. But I think what wins her the Akin Prize is actually the polar opposite of what led to his blunder. Akin blabbed his moronic theory that pregnancy can’t result from a rape because he had such confidence in his beliefs that he didn’t know enough to show some caution when discussing a delicate topic. But Grimes is so afraid of being attacked that she cannot bring herself to admit a fact that is not really in dispute. While Akin showed naïve arrogance as well as stupidity, Grimes demonstrated a lack of guts that is equally fatal. While McConnell is not perfect and had his own difficult moments in last night’s debate when discussing ObamaCare, he can never be accused of lacking the courage of his convictions. If Grimes’s silly willingness to bet her political future on this point induces a degree of pity, we should also be glad if it ensures that the ranks of Senate cowards won’t be increased.

Read Less

Dems’ Texas Fantasies Don’t Add Up

Triumphalism comes naturally to liberals since they tend to conceive of history as the story of the inevitable triumph of progressive ideas over reactionary conservatism. But while those hopes have often been short-circuited since Americans realize that some of what falls under the progressive rubric is counter-productive to the cause of liberty, this mindset is influencing commentary about the future of Texas. Although the Lone Star State is deep red now, Democrats are sure this is about to change thanks to demographics. But those counting on Texas turning blue shouldn’t be holding their breath.

Read More

Triumphalism comes naturally to liberals since they tend to conceive of history as the story of the inevitable triumph of progressive ideas over reactionary conservatism. But while those hopes have often been short-circuited since Americans realize that some of what falls under the progressive rubric is counter-productive to the cause of liberty, this mindset is influencing commentary about the future of Texas. Although the Lone Star State is deep red now, Democrats are sure this is about to change thanks to demographics. But those counting on Texas turning blue shouldn’t be holding their breath.

In today’s New York Times, we get a new version of Democratic optimism with an op-ed by liberal author Richard Parker who asserts that it’s not just the growing number of Hispanics that will transform Texas politics. According to Parker, the shift in the political balance of power has as much to do with the increasing influence of cities as it does to ethnicity. He argues that the growing dominance of urban voters will play just as decisive a role in bringing the Democrats back to power in Austin. He thinks the ability of President Obama to win all of Texas’s big urban counties and cities in 2012 should interest us just as much as the fact that a majority of Texans will likely be of Hispanic origin in 10-20 years. Since even in Texas people who live in cities tend to be more liberal on both economics and social issues, it stands to reason that the growth of these cities heralds the inevitable end of the GOP stranglehold on Texas politics. This leads him to think that not only does Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis—a national favorite of liberals but a heavy underdog in Texas—have a shot at winning this year but that she or a successor is likely to be victorious four years from now.

But like the assumptions about Hispanics paving the way for Texas turning purple, if not blue, this thesis may not be correct.

Ironically on the same day that Parker’s essay appeared, Politico published a piece by conservative author Wayne Thorburn that argues that liberal triumphalism about Texas is mostly wishful thinking.

Thorburn doesn’t dispute that the number of Hispanics is going up from the 37.6 percent of Texas residents reported by the 2010 census. But he points out that a lot of the assumptions about Texas Hispanics are not backed up by the facts.

The first big problem for Democrats is that a sizable percentage of the 10 million Texans classified as Hispanic are not eligible to vote. Parker writes that one million of them are “undocumented non-citizens”—a politically correct way of saying they are illegal immigrants. A large number of other Hispanics are either green card holders who may eventually become citizens or those who hold student visas. Of those who are entitled to vote, only 38.8 percent are registered as opposed to more than 61 percent of the white population.

If that doesn’t sober up Democrats, they should also take into account the fact that Texas Hispanics are less likely to vote for Democrats than those living in deep-blue states like California or New York. Mitt Romney may have only gotten 27 percent of the national Hispanic vote in 2012 but he got approximately ten percent more in Texas. Urban voters may be more likely to be more liberal on social issues but Hispanics, especially those in Texas, appear to be socially conservative and that has helped the GOP hold onto a bigger share of their vote than elsewhere.

All these factors should enable Republicans to go on winning in Texas even if their margins may be diminished.

But the main point here isn’t just about Hispanic voters. It’s that all formulas that assume that voters will behave in exactly the way they have previously are inherently suspect.

Liberals like Parker assume that being urban means being liberal just as others assume Hispanic identity means a vote for the Democrats. Those assumptions are based on past experience and are therefore sound. But what he and anyone else who makes blanket assumptions about Texas or any other state must take into account is the fact that candidates, parties, and ideas still matter more than ethnicity or where you live.

After all, Texas was once part of the solid Democratic south. It changed not because of any demographic shift but because the Democrats’ shift to the left in the 1960s and ’70s rendered them vulnerable to a GOP that had become more identified with support of a strong national defense and hostility to big government than their rivals. That’s why Ronald Reagan swept Texas and it’s the same reason why a Republican Hispanic by the name of Ted Cruz won election to the U.S. Senate there in a landslide (including 40 percent of the Hispanic vote) in 2012.

It is possible that Democrats could pull some future upsets if they nominate candidates who are more conservative than their national party. But the rise of Wendy Davis to national prominence on the back of her abortion filibuster in the state legislature illustrates the conundrum at the heart of Parker’s assumptions. Davis is exactly the kind of candidate who is likely to engender enthusiasm in liberal urban centers like Austin. But amid a multitude of problems that have plagued her gubernatorial run is the fact that she has little appeal to a Hispanic population that doesn’t view abortion as favorably as other Democrats. Nor is there any reason to assume that Hispanic Democrats like the Castro brothers are going to have the traction to flip moderate swing voters.

Demographic determinism may be heady stuff for political scientists but in real life politics isn’t science. Until Democrats learn that lesson and start trying to appeal to conservatives, their Texas scenarios will remain fantasies.

Read Less

Wendy Davis’s Abortion Flip Disaster

In recent weeks, Texas Democrat Wendy Davis has been struggling to get her gubernatorial campaign back on track. After rocketing to stardom last year for her 13-hour filibuster in the Texas State Senate to stop a bill limiting late-term abortions, Davis became the idol of liberals and their great hope to lead a Democratic revival in the Lone Star State. But while Democrats and feminists saw her as the new voice of abortion-rights advocacy, her campaign strategists preferred to emphasize her life story as a someone who rose from being a single mother in living in a trailer park and then worked her way through college and law school. But the publication last month of Dallas Morning News feature that revealed that Davis was not quite the self-starter she claimed to be revealed the perils of running on a mythical Horatio Alger story.

Along with tales of a troubled and possibly incompetent staff, Davis’ long shot run for Austin seemed in trouble. But as bad as all that seemed, the latest news about Davis should not only brand her as a hypocrite but further dampen the enthusiasm of her national audience. As the Dallas Morning News reports, Davis now says she supports the very same ban on abortions that she filibustered: 

Wendy Davis said Tuesday that she would have supported a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, if the law adequately deferred to a woman and her doctor.

Davis, a Fort Worth senator and the likely Democratic nominee for governor, told The Dallas Morning News’ editorial board that less than one-half of 1 percent of Texas abortions occur after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Most of those were in cases where fetal abnormalities were evident or there were grave risks to the health of the woman.

“I would line up with most people in Texas who would prefer that that’s not something that happens outside of those two arenas,” Davis said.

While Davis tried to explain her famous filibuster by claiming that the Texas bill she temporarily stopped didn’t provide enough exceptions to the ban to account for risks to the health of women, that isn’t true. The bill had the same exceptions that Davis said she wanted. While there was a difference of opinion about the tougher safety standards for abortion clinics that was part of the legislation (provisions that protected the health of women), there was little question that the real issue here was late-term abortion. By claiming now to be in favor of such a ban in a vain effort to curry favor with moderate Texas voters, Davis has trashed her own brand. If Texans were not already questioning her authenticity after learning more about her personal history, they know understand that even on her signature issue, she’s as phony as three dollar bill.

Read More

In recent weeks, Texas Democrat Wendy Davis has been struggling to get her gubernatorial campaign back on track. After rocketing to stardom last year for her 13-hour filibuster in the Texas State Senate to stop a bill limiting late-term abortions, Davis became the idol of liberals and their great hope to lead a Democratic revival in the Lone Star State. But while Democrats and feminists saw her as the new voice of abortion-rights advocacy, her campaign strategists preferred to emphasize her life story as a someone who rose from being a single mother in living in a trailer park and then worked her way through college and law school. But the publication last month of Dallas Morning News feature that revealed that Davis was not quite the self-starter she claimed to be revealed the perils of running on a mythical Horatio Alger story.

Along with tales of a troubled and possibly incompetent staff, Davis’ long shot run for Austin seemed in trouble. But as bad as all that seemed, the latest news about Davis should not only brand her as a hypocrite but further dampen the enthusiasm of her national audience. As the Dallas Morning News reports, Davis now says she supports the very same ban on abortions that she filibustered: 

Wendy Davis said Tuesday that she would have supported a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, if the law adequately deferred to a woman and her doctor.

Davis, a Fort Worth senator and the likely Democratic nominee for governor, told The Dallas Morning News’ editorial board that less than one-half of 1 percent of Texas abortions occur after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Most of those were in cases where fetal abnormalities were evident or there were grave risks to the health of the woman.

“I would line up with most people in Texas who would prefer that that’s not something that happens outside of those two arenas,” Davis said.

While Davis tried to explain her famous filibuster by claiming that the Texas bill she temporarily stopped didn’t provide enough exceptions to the ban to account for risks to the health of women, that isn’t true. The bill had the same exceptions that Davis said she wanted. While there was a difference of opinion about the tougher safety standards for abortion clinics that was part of the legislation (provisions that protected the health of women), there was little question that the real issue here was late-term abortion. By claiming now to be in favor of such a ban in a vain effort to curry favor with moderate Texas voters, Davis has trashed her own brand. If Texans were not already questioning her authenticity after learning more about her personal history, they know understand that even on her signature issue, she’s as phony as three dollar bill.

This cynical pivot on abortion shouldn’t surprise those who have followed Davis’s career closely. As even the sympathetic profile in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine reveals, the Texas state senator is a cool customer who has built her career on pragmatism and is nothing like the supermom or the liberal ideologue that her fans loved. Though the national discussion about her filibuster that was fueled by the glowing stories about Davis that were broadcast and published by the liberal mainstream media portrayed her as a lone figure standing up against dark forces of intolerance, her latest comments about the issue reveal that she understands what most Americans are thinking about abortion.

Nationwide efforts to ban late-term abortions are not driven by pro-life fanaticism but by the recognition by the majority of Americans that once a fetus is viable, the line between abortion and infanticide has been erased. Just as important, the conditions and practices at clinics that perform such procedures have come under greater scrutiny since the Kermit Gosnell murder case in Philadelphia last year. Davis’s effort to avoid being labeled as the champion of such procedures is an understandable attempt to be seen as part of the mainstream rather than as a symbol of liberal extremism.

But the problem for Davis is that this maneuver will now be seen as just another example of her dishonesty. Voters understand that a women who would fib about working her way up on her own when, in fact, she was put through college and law school by the financial support of an older second husband whom she discarded once he had paid off her debts, is someone who is liable to say or do anything to get ahead. The Times Magazine profile, which provides a breathless account of the filibuster, also reveals that Davis sent an envoy to her ex-husband last fall to persuade him to keep quiet about the details of their marriage and divorce. Unfortunately for her, he hasn’t complied and the portrait of the candidate that has emerged from his interviews has been devastating. When asked about his ex-wife’s attempts to portray herself as a more dutiful mother than she actually was, Jeff Davis, who emptied a retirement account to put Wendy through Harvard Law and then gave her a no-show job at his company to give her a salary, wearily responded to Times writer Robert Draper, “print the legend,” the classic line from the movie “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.”

Perhaps liberals would still like Davis’s career to be portrayed in the manner of the hero of that film whose fictional exploits were deemed more important than the truth, but Davis’s flip flop on late-term abortion puts a neat bow on the story line of her mendacity. Wendy Davis’s campaign was built on the idea that she was different from other politicians. But it turns out that not only does her personal life show her to be a typical Type A political animal that will exploit anyone to get ahead, she’s even willing to fudge on the issue that made her a star. That’s a formula almost certain to return her to a well-deserved obscurity after November.

Read Less

Left Goes After Wendy Davis’s Ex-Husband

On the campaign trail in October 2008, Barack Obama walked through the Ohio neighborhood of Joe Wurzelbacher, who would soon be known as Joe the Plumber. Joe asked the presidential candidate about taxes, and the two got into a bizarrely famous discussion. That fame transferred to Joe himself. When the New York Times reported on it, the paper insisted that Joe, “like other celebrities, found himself under scrutiny.” Well, not exactly. But what the Times wrote next only looks more unhinged with the passage of time:

Turns out that “Joe the Plumber,” as he became nationally known when Senator John McCain made him a theme at Wednesday night’s third and final presidential debate, may run a plumbing business but he is not a licensed plumber. His full name is Samuel J. Wurzelbacher. And he owes a bit in back taxes.

The premise of his question to Mr. Obama about taxes may also be flawed, according to tax analysts.

An Obama supporter and Ohio public official even launched a creepy and unsanctioned search into Wurzelbacher’s personal records. He asked Obama a question, you see.

It’s not uncommon for anyone–public official or not–who is viewed as posing a risk to an up-and-coming liberal political star to find themselves the target of a smear campaign, or worse. And so it was perhaps only a matter of time before Wendy Davis’s ex-husband, Jeff Davis, got dragged through the mud. Davis, you’ll remember, is the pro-abortion extremist running for governor of Texas. She has been lionized by the liberal press, but then it turned out that she had fudged details of her personal story, which she had used to rise to prominence.

Read More

On the campaign trail in October 2008, Barack Obama walked through the Ohio neighborhood of Joe Wurzelbacher, who would soon be known as Joe the Plumber. Joe asked the presidential candidate about taxes, and the two got into a bizarrely famous discussion. That fame transferred to Joe himself. When the New York Times reported on it, the paper insisted that Joe, “like other celebrities, found himself under scrutiny.” Well, not exactly. But what the Times wrote next only looks more unhinged with the passage of time:

Turns out that “Joe the Plumber,” as he became nationally known when Senator John McCain made him a theme at Wednesday night’s third and final presidential debate, may run a plumbing business but he is not a licensed plumber. His full name is Samuel J. Wurzelbacher. And he owes a bit in back taxes.

The premise of his question to Mr. Obama about taxes may also be flawed, according to tax analysts.

An Obama supporter and Ohio public official even launched a creepy and unsanctioned search into Wurzelbacher’s personal records. He asked Obama a question, you see.

It’s not uncommon for anyone–public official or not–who is viewed as posing a risk to an up-and-coming liberal political star to find themselves the target of a smear campaign, or worse. And so it was perhaps only a matter of time before Wendy Davis’s ex-husband, Jeff Davis, got dragged through the mud. Davis, you’ll remember, is the pro-abortion extremist running for governor of Texas. She has been lionized by the liberal press, but then it turned out that she had fudged details of her personal story, which she had used to rise to prominence.

Though she portrayed herself as a struggling single mother, the Dallas Morning News pointed out that her ex-husband had in fact helped put her through school, cashed in his 401(k) for her, took care of the kids while she was away, and opened doors for her politically. Once she finished school and had those connections, she divorced him. When she was called on the dishonesty, she responded exactly as would be expected: she and her supporters made false accusations of her opponent, including of sexism.

But it was only going to get worse for her ex-husband, and now it has. Politico is running with a magazine piece by Liza Mundy defending Davis. Most of the article is mendacious–it consists of setting ablaze a field of straw men. But then she aims at Jeff Davis:

While she has been portrayed as the materialistic beneficiary of a duped husband, let me offer another plausible interpretation: At some point Jeff Davis astutely realized he had married a woman who aimed to do more than answer phones and serve salads. He saw that it would be not just in her interest, but his, if he facilitated her advance. He helped her go to law school not only out of the goodness of his heart but because he was betting on her economic prospects, as women have long bet on the prospects of men. How many hundreds of thousands of American women worked to put a husband through law or med school? Did we criticize the men who benefited? Jeff Davis did for his spouse what wives have long done for husbands: He invested in her—their—future.

When Mundy says “let me offer another plausible interpretation,” what she is saying is she’s about to speculate without evidence that Jeff Davis had ulterior motives when he made great sacrifices for his family. Later, she says, “Just who was financially benefiting from whom?” She’s just asking questions, right? Just inviting the political world to join her in baseless speculation to tear down the name of a private individual so that a politician can have her career elevated by standing on the ruins of the reputation she’s hoping to raze. Harmless liberal fun, right?

She’s not done:

In short, what seems to have happened is what happened in a number of marriages of her generation: Over time, their roles swapped and Wendy Davis became the spouse with higher-octane aspirations. For many couples, this is destabilizing; it may have been for Wendy and Jeff Davis.

So, Jeff Davis, according to Mundy’s theory, was selfishly invested in Wendy Davis’s success and then decided he didn’t appreciate her walking through the doors he opened? This is not a very coherent attack. The truth is, Wendy Davis’s personal story should not be held against her. What she’s being judged for is not telling the truth. Attacking her ex-husband for supporting Wendy Davis and being a conscientious father is in poor taste, and doing so while claiming personal attacks on Wendy Davis to be out of bounds is plainly hypocritical.

Read Less

American Liberalism’s Necessary Fictions

Wendy Davis is not handling her latest controversy very well, but she’s been nothing if not completely predictable. After it was revealed that she fudged details of her biography on her way to liberal stardom, she followed her party’s playbook to the letter. Anyone who followed other recent liberal campaigns knew exactly what was coming next. Rather than simply admit that she misled the public on her personal story, she was almost certain to follow Elizabeth Warren’s example.

When it was revealed that Warren had claimed dubious minority status to take advantage of affirmative action on her way to tenure at Harvard Law, she immediately did two things: she blamed the campaign of her opponent, Scott Brown, and she shamefully accused Brown of sexism, complaining that a female candidate such as herself could never get a fair shake from someone like Brown.

Davis was clearly paying attention. First she absurdly blamed her GOP opponent, Greg Abbott. Then she hit Abbott on identity politics: “I’m not surprised that the Abbott campaign would resort to attacking the story of a single mother who worked hard to get ahead.” Of course, the news was broken by the Dallas Morning News, not the Abbott campaign. And the only “story of a single mother” anyone was criticizing was the part that was made up. But if the facts mattered to Davis, we wouldn’t be having this conversation in the first place.

Nonetheless, to a certain extent you can’t really blame Davis. After all, Elizabeth Warren is now a wealthy, powerful senator. Her biographical creativity helped her get ahead and never caught up to her. And it isn’t as if Warren wrote the playbook; she merely copied it. There’s no question Barack Obama’s back story is both inspiring and in its own way quintessentially American—a living case for American exceptionalism and social progress. But adoring biographer David Maraniss then revealed that Obama’s autobiography consisted of made-up personalities who inspired made-up epiphanies: Obama wrote not so much a memoir as a piece of historical fiction loosely based on the person Obama thought his fellow liberals wanted him to be. As Andrew Ferguson wrote in his review of Maraniss’s book:

Read More

Wendy Davis is not handling her latest controversy very well, but she’s been nothing if not completely predictable. After it was revealed that she fudged details of her biography on her way to liberal stardom, she followed her party’s playbook to the letter. Anyone who followed other recent liberal campaigns knew exactly what was coming next. Rather than simply admit that she misled the public on her personal story, she was almost certain to follow Elizabeth Warren’s example.

When it was revealed that Warren had claimed dubious minority status to take advantage of affirmative action on her way to tenure at Harvard Law, she immediately did two things: she blamed the campaign of her opponent, Scott Brown, and she shamefully accused Brown of sexism, complaining that a female candidate such as herself could never get a fair shake from someone like Brown.

Davis was clearly paying attention. First she absurdly blamed her GOP opponent, Greg Abbott. Then she hit Abbott on identity politics: “I’m not surprised that the Abbott campaign would resort to attacking the story of a single mother who worked hard to get ahead.” Of course, the news was broken by the Dallas Morning News, not the Abbott campaign. And the only “story of a single mother” anyone was criticizing was the part that was made up. But if the facts mattered to Davis, we wouldn’t be having this conversation in the first place.

Nonetheless, to a certain extent you can’t really blame Davis. After all, Elizabeth Warren is now a wealthy, powerful senator. Her biographical creativity helped her get ahead and never caught up to her. And it isn’t as if Warren wrote the playbook; she merely copied it. There’s no question Barack Obama’s back story is both inspiring and in its own way quintessentially American—a living case for American exceptionalism and social progress. But adoring biographer David Maraniss then revealed that Obama’s autobiography consisted of made-up personalities who inspired made-up epiphanies: Obama wrote not so much a memoir as a piece of historical fiction loosely based on the person Obama thought his fellow liberals wanted him to be. As Andrew Ferguson wrote in his review of Maraniss’s book:

Obama himself drops hints of this in Dreams. He writes in his introduction that the dialogue in the book is only an “approximation” of real conversations. Some of the characters, “for the sake of compression,” are “composites”; the names of others have been changed. All of this is offered to the reader as acceptable literary license, and it is, certainly by the standards of the early 1990s, back in the day when publishers flooded bookstores with memoirs of angst-ridden youth and there were still bookstores to flood. Yet the epiphany-per-page ratio in Obama’s memoir is very high. The book derives its power from the reader’s understanding that the events described were factual at least in the essentials. Maraniss demonstrates something else: The writer who would later use the power of his life story to become a plausible public man was making it up, to an alarming extent.

Ferguson reviewed the many such examples and noted: “Obama wasn’t just inventing himself; he was inventing himself inventing himself. It made for a story, anyway.” It certainly did. What it amounted to was that Obama basically took the measure of his fellow American liberals and judged them to be idiots. He was exactly who he said he was and honestly rendered his cultural and political outlook. But he also understood that to Democrats, your opinion is only valid if it matches a certain biography.

In part this is because modern liberalism is so intellectually conformist. Elizabeth Warren’s opinions are a dime a dozen, especially in a place like Harvard. But her opinions took on a sudden value when her employers could pretend she was a minority. So she did, and they did, and everybody won (except, of course, the actual minority whose opportunity she likely snagged).

Wendy Davis understands this all too well. Her pro-abortion extremism, so out of step with the country and especially her state of Texas, is the standard Democratic line. But—as with Warren—the party wants to be able to avoid talking about the issues and instead push a bogus narrative consisting of false accusations and character assassination. For that, Davis—or, rather, the person Davis has claimed to be—was perfect.

And it also explains the outrage these politicians display when being exposed. Like method acting, the necessary fictions are integrated into their everyday selves. “It’s not a lie if you believe it,” George Costanza said, presaging the future of American liberalism.

Read Less

Can Democrats Win on Abortion in 2014? Not Necessarily.

Pro-life activists are streaming into Washington for tomorrow’s annual March for Life on the Mall marking the anniversary of the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Weather permitting, Republicans will be out in force to join the pro-lifers, while liberals continue to hope the issue will work in their favor this year as it did two years ago. After successfully persuading many voters that the GOP was waging a “war on women” in 2012, many Democrats believe the issue could help stave off an electoral disaster in this year’s midterm elections. As the New York Times reports, both parties traditionally look to abortion to help mobilize their bases, but for Democrats it has become a rallying cry to convince women that their freedom depends on turning out to defeat conservative Republicans.

Are they right? Given the impact that Missouri senatorial candidate Todd Akin’s ignorant comments on abortion and rape had not only on his own losing race in 2012 but on the entire GOP that year, it’s hard to argue with the conclusion that the faux war on women meme was a big winner for Democrats. The demonization of Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinielli that helped him lose the women’s vote in November also points to the way liberals have manipulated abortion to their advantage. But the assumption that the Democrats can play this card again this year may be wrong. Moreover, Democrats may also be underestimating conservatives’ capacity to present the issue in a way that will help boost their turnout and diminish sympathy for candidates who march under the pro-choice banner.

Read More

Pro-life activists are streaming into Washington for tomorrow’s annual March for Life on the Mall marking the anniversary of the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Weather permitting, Republicans will be out in force to join the pro-lifers, while liberals continue to hope the issue will work in their favor this year as it did two years ago. After successfully persuading many voters that the GOP was waging a “war on women” in 2012, many Democrats believe the issue could help stave off an electoral disaster in this year’s midterm elections. As the New York Times reports, both parties traditionally look to abortion to help mobilize their bases, but for Democrats it has become a rallying cry to convince women that their freedom depends on turning out to defeat conservative Republicans.

Are they right? Given the impact that Missouri senatorial candidate Todd Akin’s ignorant comments on abortion and rape had not only on his own losing race in 2012 but on the entire GOP that year, it’s hard to argue with the conclusion that the faux war on women meme was a big winner for Democrats. The demonization of Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinielli that helped him lose the women’s vote in November also points to the way liberals have manipulated abortion to their advantage. But the assumption that the Democrats can play this card again this year may be wrong. Moreover, Democrats may also be underestimating conservatives’ capacity to present the issue in a way that will help boost their turnout and diminish sympathy for candidates who march under the pro-choice banner.

The electoral facts of life on abortion have always been focused on each party’s base and not the political center. It’s a litmus test for single issue voters on both ends of the spectrum. But most Americans don’t base their ballot choices solely on the issue of abortion.

Polls have consistently shown that the majority doesn’t want to overturn Roe v. Wade or to criminalize abortion. But they also demonstrate that a clear majority approves of significant restrictions on the practice, such as requiring parental consent and enacting bans on late-term procedures. The latter point is a crucial weakness for liberals because the advances in medical science, particularly sonograms, since the court ruled on Roe in 1973 make such abortions look more like infanticide than a woman exercising her “right to choose.” Last year’s gruesome Kermit Gosnell murder trial in Philadelphia opened the eyes of many Americans who had never understood exactly what late-term abortion meant or the possibility that such horrors involving the slaughter of babies born alive as a result of botched procedures might be more common than they had realized or than the liberal media had ever sought to inform them.

Thus, messaging is the key to whether the discussion of abortion can stampede voters away from Republicans or, as the GOP hopes, help boost their turnout in a year in which Democrats can no longer count on President Obama’s coattails. That’s why GOP gaffes such as the one committed by Akin are fatal to Republicans and tarnish the national image of conservatives. But the notion that Democrats can keep their stranglehold on the women’s vote ignores the way sonograms and the Gosnell case influence public opinion on late-term abortion. Though Wendy Davis vaulted to national liberal stardom last year on the strength of a filibuster against a bill that banned late-term abortions after 20 weeks—the period after which most fetuses become viable outside the womb—if the GOP can focus its candidates on this issue, it is by no means a foregone conclusion that it will work against them. Republicans also think they have another, related winning issue in the attempts to push back against the ObamaCare mandate forcing employers to pay for abortion and/or requiring the use of public funds to pay for them.

As long as Democrats can portray Republicans as troglodytes who think, as Akin did, that women’s bodies magically protect them from pregnancy in cases of rape, they are on firm ground to pursue their war on women theme. But if Republicans can manage to stay on message on late-term procedures and the impact of ObamaCare, there’s every reason to believe widespread concerns over  abortion will attract more voters to their candidates.

Read Less

Why a Feminist Heroine Revised Her Bio

Has there ever been a more meteoric rise to national political prominence than that of Wendy Davis? A year ago Davis was so obscure a Democratic Texas state senator that even savvy liberal Beltway pundits couldn’t have picked her out of a police lineup. But her June 25 filibuster of a bill limiting late-term abortions and imposing more rigorous safety standards on clinics catapulted her to superstardom in the national liberal media. The legislation she managed to stop that day eventually passed (and has, despite the expectations of many liberals, largely survived judicial scrutiny) but Davis’s stand had already made her a heroine to a national media that was all too happy to celebrate her act as heroic even though they treated filibusters conducted by conservative Republican senators like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz in Washington last year as a foolish waste of time.

Indeed, Democrats could scarcely believe their luck when they learned Davis was not only a photogenic blonde whose pink sneakers became an icon for abortion-rights supporters but also had a biography that sounded like political gold. Thanks to the values of the liberal media, soon the nation learned that she was a former single teenaged mother who, by dint of old-fashioned guts, smarts and gumption, had worked her way through college and then through Harvard Law School before turning to politics. With that kind of background and the notoriety the filibuster gave her, it’s little wonder that she became a darling of national liberal political donors such as Emily’s List and the almost certain Democratic nominee in the 2014 governor’s race.

But it turns out the true account of her life doesn’t exactly match up to the story she’s been selling while raising money for her campaign. As the Dallas Morning News reported in a story published over the weekend, “facts have been blurred” in order to make her seem more sympathetic. Davis conveniently omitted some details that are germane to her tale of poverty and valorous self-sufficiency. According to the Morning News:

In an extensive interview last week, Davis acknowledged some chronological errors and incomplete details in what she and her aides have said about her life.

“My language should be tighter,” she said. “I’m learning about using broader, looser language. I need to be more focused on the detail.”

That sounds like typical backtracking from a politician caught fibbing. If it doesn’t deflate her boomlet, it was exactly what Democrats, who were hoping that Davis could take advantage of feminist fervor and changing demographics to give Texas Republicans a fight, didn’t want to hear.

Read More

Has there ever been a more meteoric rise to national political prominence than that of Wendy Davis? A year ago Davis was so obscure a Democratic Texas state senator that even savvy liberal Beltway pundits couldn’t have picked her out of a police lineup. But her June 25 filibuster of a bill limiting late-term abortions and imposing more rigorous safety standards on clinics catapulted her to superstardom in the national liberal media. The legislation she managed to stop that day eventually passed (and has, despite the expectations of many liberals, largely survived judicial scrutiny) but Davis’s stand had already made her a heroine to a national media that was all too happy to celebrate her act as heroic even though they treated filibusters conducted by conservative Republican senators like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz in Washington last year as a foolish waste of time.

Indeed, Democrats could scarcely believe their luck when they learned Davis was not only a photogenic blonde whose pink sneakers became an icon for abortion-rights supporters but also had a biography that sounded like political gold. Thanks to the values of the liberal media, soon the nation learned that she was a former single teenaged mother who, by dint of old-fashioned guts, smarts and gumption, had worked her way through college and then through Harvard Law School before turning to politics. With that kind of background and the notoriety the filibuster gave her, it’s little wonder that she became a darling of national liberal political donors such as Emily’s List and the almost certain Democratic nominee in the 2014 governor’s race.

But it turns out the true account of her life doesn’t exactly match up to the story she’s been selling while raising money for her campaign. As the Dallas Morning News reported in a story published over the weekend, “facts have been blurred” in order to make her seem more sympathetic. Davis conveniently omitted some details that are germane to her tale of poverty and valorous self-sufficiency. According to the Morning News:

In an extensive interview last week, Davis acknowledged some chronological errors and incomplete details in what she and her aides have said about her life.

“My language should be tighter,” she said. “I’m learning about using broader, looser language. I need to be more focused on the detail.”

That sounds like typical backtracking from a politician caught fibbing. If it doesn’t deflate her boomlet, it was exactly what Democrats, who were hoping that Davis could take advantage of feminist fervor and changing demographics to give Texas Republicans a fight, didn’t want to hear.

It is true she was a single, divorced mother who went on to be the first in her family to graduate college. But not only did she fudge some dates (she was divorced at 21, not 19), the true story is that her second husband paid her college tuition and then, to enable her to attend Harvard Law School, he emptied his 401(k) account and took out a loan. He also took full care of her child by her first husband and the one they had together, while she was in Cambridge, Massachusetts for three years alone. She left her husband to divorce him immediately after he’d paid off her law school debts. He sought and was granted custody of both his stepdaughter and daughter after the divorce. 

Over time, the Davises’ marriage was strained. In November 2003, Wendy Davis moved out.

Jeff Davis said that was right around the time the final payment on their Harvard Law School loan was due. “It was ironic,” he said. “I made the last payment, and it was the next day she left.”

Wendy Davis said that as a lawyer, she contributed too. …

In his initial divorce filing, Jeff Davis said the marriage had failed, citing adultery on her part and conflicts that the couple could not overcome. The final court decree makes no mention of infidelity, granting the divorce solely “on the ground of insupportability.”

Amber was 21 and in college. Dru was in ninth grade. Jeff Davis was awarded parental custody. Wendy Davis was ordered to pay $1,200 a month in child support.

“She did the right thing,” he said. “She said, ‘I think you’re right; you’ll make a good, nurturing father. While I’ve been a good mother, it’s not a good time for me right now.’”

These new details don’t paint the state senator in the best light. But neither do they disqualify her for high office. She’s a bright, hard-working woman who came from a modest background and went on to build a successful career. In that sense, she could viewed as a role model to young people. But when the “blurred details” are included in her biography, what we see is not a feminist heroine who persevered despite the disadvantages of being a young mother struggling against poverty and patriarchy. Instead, she comes across very much like the stereotypical male politician who exploited a helpful spouse and then sacrificed his wife and children on the altar of ambition. How many male governors, senators, or members of the House fit that description? One shudders to think.

The point here is not what we think about Davis’s life. The details of her divorces and how she made the jump from single mother to Harvard-educated lawyer/legislator aren’t relevant to the question of who should be governor of Texas or whether we agree with her stand on abortion. But they do tell us she isn’t a 21st century feminist version of Horatio Alger, a ruse that materially aided her rise from obscurity.

As with most such fibs, it was entirely unnecessary and now, rather than an asset, her fabricated bio will become a GOP talking point in a race in which polls already put her well behind her Republican opponent, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. The unvarnished facts about her life posed no impediment to her political future but, with a little editing, they were made to tell a slightly different, but far more compelling story than the one about Jeff Davis paying for her education and then being dumped along with the kids.

The fact that Wendy Davis should turn out to be, like countless male politicians, a trimmer when it comes to the truth about her life, isn’t terribly surprising, especially when you consider how disingenuous many of her arguments about late-term abortion were in her celebrated filibuster. But it should serve as a reminder to true believers of all political stripes that when politicians seem too good to be true, it’s usually because they are.

Read Less

Late-Term Abortion Still the Issue in Texas

Abortion-rights activists are celebrating this afternoon in the wake of the news that a federal court has struck down a provision of a controversial Texas law. This seems like sweet revenge for the many liberals (especially those in the media) who applauded State Senator Wendy Davis’s filibuster of the first attempt by Republicans to get a controversial bill through the Texas legislature. Unlike fellow Texan Ted Cruz, whose anti-ObamaCare filibuster was widely reviled in the mainstream media, Davis’s attempt to obstruct the bill imposing new regulations on abortion clinics and restrictions on late-term abortion made her a national star and a likely Democratic candidate for governor. Any chipping away at the legislation, which was eventually passed when the legislature reconvened in Austin, is going to be treated as a victory for the pro-choice side of the abortion debate.

But those cheering this development should take a deep breath. Federal District Court Judge Lee Yeakel ruled the bill’s provision demanding that all doctors performing abortions in Texas have admitting privileges at hospitals was an unreasonable restriction of abortion rights. But the main parts of the legislation remain in place. Texas abortion clinics are still required to meet the health standards required of all ambulatory surgery centers. More importantly, the ban on abortions after 20 weeks—the point where modern medical science has largely rendered fetuses viable outside the womb—is also unchallenged. As such, the key issues involved in the debate about the Texas law are still on the table.

Read More

Abortion-rights activists are celebrating this afternoon in the wake of the news that a federal court has struck down a provision of a controversial Texas law. This seems like sweet revenge for the many liberals (especially those in the media) who applauded State Senator Wendy Davis’s filibuster of the first attempt by Republicans to get a controversial bill through the Texas legislature. Unlike fellow Texan Ted Cruz, whose anti-ObamaCare filibuster was widely reviled in the mainstream media, Davis’s attempt to obstruct the bill imposing new regulations on abortion clinics and restrictions on late-term abortion made her a national star and a likely Democratic candidate for governor. Any chipping away at the legislation, which was eventually passed when the legislature reconvened in Austin, is going to be treated as a victory for the pro-choice side of the abortion debate.

But those cheering this development should take a deep breath. Federal District Court Judge Lee Yeakel ruled the bill’s provision demanding that all doctors performing abortions in Texas have admitting privileges at hospitals was an unreasonable restriction of abortion rights. But the main parts of the legislation remain in place. Texas abortion clinics are still required to meet the health standards required of all ambulatory surgery centers. More importantly, the ban on abortions after 20 weeks—the point where modern medical science has largely rendered fetuses viable outside the womb—is also unchallenged. As such, the key issues involved in the debate about the Texas law are still on the table.

Critics of the Texas law are not off base when they claim that it is an attempt to make abortions more difficult to obtain. Rather than trying to overturn the Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide, pro-lifers have cleverly refocused their efforts in recent years on issues where they can count on the support of most Americans. While support for first-term abortion is still a mainstream political reality, groups like NARAL and Planned Parenthood that have become the political engines of the pro-choice side have been slow to realize that late-term abortions are a very different thing in the eyes of most Americans. Once a healthy fetus is old enough to survive on its own, abortion becomes less a matter of a “choice” than infanticide. Moreover, the Gosnell case and other similar instances of abortion clinic horrors have brought into focus the way that industry clearly requires the sort of regulation that will bring it into line with the standards hospitals and other health-care providers are expected to meet.

The Texas law’s hospital admission provision may well have been excessive since qualified doctors practicing medicine could well do so without being affiliated with a hospital. But the key issues here are stopping late-term abortions and making the people who own abortion clinics—generally a highly profitable business—assure the public that they are not harboring more Gosnells. Nothing in the Texas decision changes that. That means that while Wendy Davis’s fans may be encouraged today, they need to remember that the important aspects of the Texas law they have tried so hard to trash remains in place. More than that, they should comprehend that the growing understanding of the barbarity of late-term abortion means they are on the wrong side of history as well as morality.

Read Less

Cruz Waits for the Wendy Davis Treatment

Those of us paying attention this morning woke up to somewhat surprising political news: Ted Cruz was still talking, seventeen hours and counting after taking the Senate floor. One would have to be paying attention, as news of Cruz’s stand (it’s not technically a filibuster) hasn’t made the top of the news anywhere nationwide. A Texan senator has taken over the floor of the nation’s most powerful legislative body and that sound you hear is crickets from some corners of the media, derision from others. Compare this coverage to that of another Texan senator, this one a female state senator protesting late-term abortion restrictions, for yet another example of why the public’s trust in the media has plummeted. 

The filibuster undertaken by Wendy Davis and the floor speech of Ted Cruz are remarkably similar in their futility. Not a single legislature or informed observer actually expected either of the stunts to achieve anything tangible. They were planned for one reason: publicity. For Wendy Davis, it worked, catapulting her onto the national stage, setting the groundwork for the unknown state senator’s run for the governor’s mansion. The actual contents of Davis’s speech weren’t reported with nearly as much enthusiasm as her shoe choice, however. Given the grotesque nature of what Davis was fighting to protect (abortion via dismemberment of viable human beings capable of feeling pain), it’s understandable that the media chose to focus on fashion first and foremost. The inherent sexism of this choice was lost on a media cheering the rise of a woman in a male-dominated profession. 

Read More

Those of us paying attention this morning woke up to somewhat surprising political news: Ted Cruz was still talking, seventeen hours and counting after taking the Senate floor. One would have to be paying attention, as news of Cruz’s stand (it’s not technically a filibuster) hasn’t made the top of the news anywhere nationwide. A Texan senator has taken over the floor of the nation’s most powerful legislative body and that sound you hear is crickets from some corners of the media, derision from others. Compare this coverage to that of another Texan senator, this one a female state senator protesting late-term abortion restrictions, for yet another example of why the public’s trust in the media has plummeted. 

The filibuster undertaken by Wendy Davis and the floor speech of Ted Cruz are remarkably similar in their futility. Not a single legislature or informed observer actually expected either of the stunts to achieve anything tangible. They were planned for one reason: publicity. For Wendy Davis, it worked, catapulting her onto the national stage, setting the groundwork for the unknown state senator’s run for the governor’s mansion. The actual contents of Davis’s speech weren’t reported with nearly as much enthusiasm as her shoe choice, however. Given the grotesque nature of what Davis was fighting to protect (abortion via dismemberment of viable human beings capable of feeling pain), it’s understandable that the media chose to focus on fashion first and foremost. The inherent sexism of this choice was lost on a media cheering the rise of a woman in a male-dominated profession. 

It remains to be seen how much Cruz will profit from his stunt. Already a darling of his base, the Tea Party, Cruz is unlikely to gain much in the way of more notoriety, given the lack of media coverage. 

This morning, at around 7, Cruz discussed how the media should be covering his speech. He chided the impulse to discuss it in terms of Cruz’s possible presidential political ambitions and instead asked that the substance of his speech be the focus. A reporter for Politico, Ginger Gibson, tweeted that that was why reporters “mock” Cruz, a sitting U.S. senator. Gibson, rather unprofessionally, shed light on the usually unspoken impulses of her and her colleagues, who apparently demand reverence from the politicians they cover. Gibson was more than happy to contribute an evenhanded and favorable piece on Wendy Davis for Politico (one of several dozen the site ran on the state senator), which would indicate that she has no similar qualms about Davis’s level of respect for reporters’ integrity or professionalism. Davis, however, has no reason to heap scorn on how reporters do their jobs; she can rely on fair and usually favorable coverage from a media that holds her positions in higher esteem than those of conservatives. 

What we’ve learned here is a lesson everyone in the mainstream media and Washington already knows: When politicians play the game and fight for liberal causes, they are rewarded by their equally liberal friends in the press. What makes Cruz and his fellow conservatives the target of reporters’ scorn is their politics, not their lack of reverence for a profession that saw fit to obsess about the shoe choice of a woman who was fighting for access to a procedure so abhorrent that all but four countries in the world have made it illegal. 

Read Less

Glamorizing Abortion

Last month a Texas state senator shot to fame filibustering a draconian GOP-sponsored bill that would have severely hindered abortion rights in the state by closing some clinics and outlawing certain procedures. She did it in pink running shoes before changing into Reed Krakoff pumps for a Vogue photo shoot about the filibuster. That senator was of course Wendy Davis, and the description above is how reporters in the liberal media framed Davis’s 11-hour standoff against the Republican majority of the Texas legislature.

The majority of Americans, even those who otherwise identify as pro-choice, were uncomfortable with the “rights” that Davis was so enthusiastically defending, according to poll after poll. Despite the narrative that this bill endangered abortion as a whole, it’s clear that Americans see the distinction between first-trimester abortion and what Davis was fighting for: late-term termination of fetuses that have the capability of experiencing pain and surviving outside the womb. At the time Jonathan explained:

I have one question for those insisting that this is the only possible interpretation of what happened yesterday: Doesn’t anybody remember the Gosnell case? After what we saw happen in Philadelphia, no matter whether you favor abortion rights or oppose them, how can any measure that is aimed at preventing late term abortions (which are already illegal in most parts of the country after 24 weeks) and ensuring the places where they occur will be prepared to deal with medical emergencies including live births be dismissed so cavalierly?

Read More

Last month a Texas state senator shot to fame filibustering a draconian GOP-sponsored bill that would have severely hindered abortion rights in the state by closing some clinics and outlawing certain procedures. She did it in pink running shoes before changing into Reed Krakoff pumps for a Vogue photo shoot about the filibuster. That senator was of course Wendy Davis, and the description above is how reporters in the liberal media framed Davis’s 11-hour standoff against the Republican majority of the Texas legislature.

The majority of Americans, even those who otherwise identify as pro-choice, were uncomfortable with the “rights” that Davis was so enthusiastically defending, according to poll after poll. Despite the narrative that this bill endangered abortion as a whole, it’s clear that Americans see the distinction between first-trimester abortion and what Davis was fighting for: late-term termination of fetuses that have the capability of experiencing pain and surviving outside the womb. At the time Jonathan explained:

I have one question for those insisting that this is the only possible interpretation of what happened yesterday: Doesn’t anybody remember the Gosnell case? After what we saw happen in Philadelphia, no matter whether you favor abortion rights or oppose them, how can any measure that is aimed at preventing late term abortions (which are already illegal in most parts of the country after 24 weeks) and ensuring the places where they occur will be prepared to deal with medical emergencies including live births be dismissed so cavalierly?

The narrative formed about Davis from the start centered not on her extreme position on abortion, but instead on her attractive appearance and pink sneakers. A recently published profile in Vogue discusses her looks at length, to the exclusion of the policy that she spent 11 hours defending in her now famous sneakers. In just the first paragraph of the piece, Vogue describes the woman in the image accompanying the text as “a stunning blonde, petite at five feet four inches and barefoot in 7 for All Mankind jeans and barely there makeup.” 

RedState blogger Erick Erickson found himself in quite a bit of hot water this week after referring to Davis as “Abortion Barbie” on his Twitter feed. Liberals are outraged at the comparison between the “stunning blonde” (as Vogue describes her) and the iconic doll known for her attractive blonde looks. The New Yorker‘s Amy Davidson explains that the outrage stems from the assumption that by calling Davis “Abortion Barbie,” Erickson was really demeaning her intelligence. While Erickson’s tweet explains that Davis didn’t understand the facts of the Kermit Gosnell case (which is accurate), he in no way insinuates that is due to stupidity. Davidson seems to believe that implying that someone is a “Barbie,” a doll that has been marketed as a doctor, pilot, architect, and computer engineer, is an insult to intelligence verses a physical descriptor of a thin, attractive blonde woman who favors the color pink. 

The manufactured outrage surrounding Erickson’s comments, with no mention of the shallowness of Vogue‘s treatment of a sitting state senator in a state as large and influential as Texas, speaks volumes to just how committed the left really is to feminism, and how desperate they are to defend what they truly value: abortion, of any kind, on-demand. While Vogue can dwell on Davis’s physical appearance to the exclusion of all else, her detractors are vilified for doing the same. One can understand why Vogue would take this angle: it’s far more preferable to talk about Davis’s fashion choices (which are discussed at length throughout the piece) verses what she was made famous defending: subpar standards at clinics that perform major medical procedures on women and the dismemberment of fetuses who have been scientifically proven to feel pain. The Vogue/Erickson controversy is yet another example how the left insists on having its cake and eating it too, not to mention how the media continues to allow them to get away with it.

Read Less

What Davis Doesn’t Know About Gosnell

For months, most of the mainstream media treated the Kermit Gosnell murder case as if it was as significant as a suburban traffic court dispute. Only in the waning days of the trial of the Philadelphia doctor for the murder of infants born alive as a result of botched abortions did the topic attract much coverage. Yet even then, few journalists chose to think seriously about the implications of a case that raised serious questions about the quality of care and possibly illegal practices at clinics, especially those that specialized in the kind of late-term abortions that Gosnell performed. That unwillingness to address the core issues at the heart of this story would have important political consequences.

The Gosnell coverage deficit and refusal to think about what late-term abortion in this country actually means would dictate the subsequent media treatment of the battle in the Texas legislature over abortion. While the conservatives who proposed a ban on the procedure after 20 weeks were directly influenced by the Gosnell horrors, the mainstream liberal media saw only an attack on the right to abortion on demand and responded accordingly. Thus, when a heretofore-obscure Texas state senator staged a filibuster that successfully prevented (at least for a while) passage of the late term ban, overnight she was turned into a liberal national heroine with no one in her vast cheering section ever pausing to ask what she thought about Gosnell. Nor did they ask about the argument that since medical science now made most such babies viable outside the womb, perhaps the ban was a defense of human rights rather than an attack on women.

Thanks to the Weekly Standard’s John McCormack, we now have an answer to that question. But it appears neither Davis, who appears to be using her status as the pro-abortion champion as a platform to run for governor of Texas, nor her supporters who have responded angrily to the Standard’s chutzpah, have actually given a serious thought to Gosnell or have the slightest understanding of what it means.

McCormack cornered Davis at the National Press Club where she was taking yet another bow from the media for her role in defending the right to abort infants that would likely survive outside the womb:

Read More

For months, most of the mainstream media treated the Kermit Gosnell murder case as if it was as significant as a suburban traffic court dispute. Only in the waning days of the trial of the Philadelphia doctor for the murder of infants born alive as a result of botched abortions did the topic attract much coverage. Yet even then, few journalists chose to think seriously about the implications of a case that raised serious questions about the quality of care and possibly illegal practices at clinics, especially those that specialized in the kind of late-term abortions that Gosnell performed. That unwillingness to address the core issues at the heart of this story would have important political consequences.

The Gosnell coverage deficit and refusal to think about what late-term abortion in this country actually means would dictate the subsequent media treatment of the battle in the Texas legislature over abortion. While the conservatives who proposed a ban on the procedure after 20 weeks were directly influenced by the Gosnell horrors, the mainstream liberal media saw only an attack on the right to abortion on demand and responded accordingly. Thus, when a heretofore-obscure Texas state senator staged a filibuster that successfully prevented (at least for a while) passage of the late term ban, overnight she was turned into a liberal national heroine with no one in her vast cheering section ever pausing to ask what she thought about Gosnell. Nor did they ask about the argument that since medical science now made most such babies viable outside the womb, perhaps the ban was a defense of human rights rather than an attack on women.

Thanks to the Weekly Standard’s John McCormack, we now have an answer to that question. But it appears neither Davis, who appears to be using her status as the pro-abortion champion as a platform to run for governor of Texas, nor her supporters who have responded angrily to the Standard’s chutzpah, have actually given a serious thought to Gosnell or have the slightest understanding of what it means.

McCormack cornered Davis at the National Press Club where she was taking yet another bow from the media for her role in defending the right to abort infants that would likely survive outside the womb:

THE WEEKLY STANDARD: The supporters of these bans, they argue that there really isn’t much of a difference between what happened in that Philadelphia case with abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell [killing born-alive infants] 23 weeks into pregnancy and legal late-term abortions at 23 weeks. What is the difference between those two, between legal abortion at 23 weeks and what Gosnell did? Do you see a distinction between those two [acts]?

SEN. WENDY DAVIS: I don’t know what happened in the Gosnell case. But I do know that it happened in an ambulatory surgical center. And in Texas changing our clinics to that standard obviously isn’t going to make a difference. The state of the law obviously has to assure that doctors are providing safe procedures for women and that proper oversight by the health and human services department is being given. It sounds as though there was a huge gap in that oversight, and no one can defend that. But that’s not the landscape of what’s happening in Texas. 

As McCormack later pointed out, the one thing Davis claimed to know about Gosnell was actually wrong. Gosnell was not operating an ambulatory surgical center, just an ordinary abortion mill that was known for being willing to violate the Pennsylvania law that prohibited late-term abortions. That’s significant because the Texas law she sought to filibuster required clinics in the state to conform to the standards of care at such facilities.

But the main point here is that, like the liberal media, Davis thinks the Gosnell case is irrelevant to the question of whether states should demand that the loose regulatory regime that currently applies to abortion clinics should be changed to require them to be as good as ambulatory surgical centers or whether viable 20+ week babies should be allowed to aborted. Rather than ponder whether such atrocities are occurring elsewhere under the guise of legality, they prefer to grandstand on the issue and claim defending dangerous late-term procedures that often border on, if not cross over into, infanticide is the same as protecting the right to perform abortions in the first trimester.

As McCormack also noted, Davis doesn’t recognize any limits on abortion and, like many others in the pro-choice community, pretends that the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision protected all abortions, including late-term procedures, a position that is patently false.

Predictably, the Standard has been attacked by the left for even raising the question of Gosnell to Davis. In doing so, Media Matters repeated the liberal talking point that what Davis was doing in Texas was protecting the right to legal abortion while what Gosnell was doing was illegal. It quoted former New York columnists as saying that the issue with Gosnell was making abortion accessible and safe. But this is based on the myth that women went to Gosnell because they had no alternatives. In fact, his clinic was located in the middle of Philadelphia, where other clinics, including one run by Planned Parenthood, were available.

It is no small irony that abortion advocates claim that they want the procedure to be safe while simultaneously dismissing the idea that their clinics should have high health standards. While the assertion that all but five clinics in Texas would be closed by the regulations is almost certainly false, it still begs the question of why Davis and her supporters are so adamant about opposing improving facilities at what are well known to be highly profitable businesses.

The fact remains that those like Davis who seek to oppose all restrictions on abortion, even a reasonable one such as a ban after the point of viability is reached, are the real extremists on the issue. Gosnell is relevant to her celebrity because it is built on a willful desire to allow potential atrocities to continue undisturbed and a blind refusal to contemplate the moral and ethical issues behind late-term abortion. That so many in the media still seek to stifle such a discussion is nothing less than a disgrace.

Read Less

On Abortion, It’s Liberals vs. Public Opinion

If pro-abortion activist Wendy Davis was seeking to move the polls on public attitudes toward abortion and her own political fortunes, she seems to have succeeded–though surely not in the direction she intended. After Davis’s media blitz, Texas voters still made clear they’d vote against her for governor. And now the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll confirms what has been the case all along: Davis and the Democrats hold extremist views on abortion.

The Post reports: “By a margin of 56 to 27 percent, more Americans say they’d prefer to impose limits on abortions after the first 20 weeks of pregnancy rather than the 24-week mark established under current law, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.” That 20-week mark was the subject of the restrictive abortion bill that Davis worked so hard to stop in Texas–though the Texas bill also sought to upgrade health facilities for women, which Davis also strenuously opposed.

The media, which tends to be far more pro-abortion than the rest of the country, has tried to cloak that extremism with spin. In the case of Davis’s poll numbers, they were forced to argue that “Wendy Davis won’t be the next governor but could help Democrats win the larger political war.” In the writeup of the new abortion poll, the Post adds:

Read More

If pro-abortion activist Wendy Davis was seeking to move the polls on public attitudes toward abortion and her own political fortunes, she seems to have succeeded–though surely not in the direction she intended. After Davis’s media blitz, Texas voters still made clear they’d vote against her for governor. And now the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll confirms what has been the case all along: Davis and the Democrats hold extremist views on abortion.

The Post reports: “By a margin of 56 to 27 percent, more Americans say they’d prefer to impose limits on abortions after the first 20 weeks of pregnancy rather than the 24-week mark established under current law, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.” That 20-week mark was the subject of the restrictive abortion bill that Davis worked so hard to stop in Texas–though the Texas bill also sought to upgrade health facilities for women, which Davis also strenuously opposed.

The media, which tends to be far more pro-abortion than the rest of the country, has tried to cloak that extremism with spin. In the case of Davis’s poll numbers, they were forced to argue that “Wendy Davis won’t be the next governor but could help Democrats win the larger political war.” In the writeup of the new abortion poll, the Post adds:

More broadly, overall support for legal abortion remains stable, with 55 percent saying abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 41 percent say it should be illegal in most or all cases. That finding is similar to a 2012 Post-ABC poll and surveys in recent years.

Pro-abortion activists may see that as a silver lining, but it’s not much out of step with the rest of the poll. Most abortions take place before the 20-week mark, which means a bill restricting abortion after that point would still mean abortion in most cases would be left in place. An additional ten percent of respondents didn’t think the 20-week restrictions would go far enough, making the Wendy Davis Democrats true outliers in public opinion.

The real silver lining for the left, if there is one, would be this part of the poll:

By more than a 2 to 1 margin — 66 to 30 percent — Americans say they prefer that abortion laws be decided for all states on the basis of the U.S. Constitution, rather than a state-by-state approach. This applies to both hardcore abortion rights supporters and opponents: 73 percent of those who say abortion should always be legal want a national rule, as do 72 percent of those who say it should be illegal in all cases.

A majority of Americans want a national abortion standard subject to Supreme Court approval of its constitutionality. This is where the left has some success. When American voters disapprove of liberal culture-war stands, the courts can often be counted on to legislate from the bench, especially when pressured by the administration and the media to get in line. The high court has already established precedent inventing a right to abort children in the Constitution, so getting national law to conform with popular opinion would be an uphill slog.

The other interesting aspect of the poll is the support for abortion, or opposition to the abortion facility regulations, that didn’t come from the self-identified liberal end of the spectrum:

Meanwhile a Columbus, Ohio, resident who asked that he only be identified by his first name, Robert, and described himself as “a conservative Republican” who backs abortion rights, said he did not understand why politicians were seeking to rewrite the nation’s abortion laws.

“I would really prefer that government focus on fiscal issues, and stay out of the social issues,” he said.

And Milo Shield, a professor at Augsburg College who lives in Prescott, Wis., said he also supports abortion access without restrictions until the 24th week of pregnancy. He questioned Wisconsin’s new law requiring hospital admitting privileges for abortion doctors, which Planned Parenthood said could shutter two of its four clinics in the state.

“There doesn’t seem to be data about whether it makes a difference to have a doctor present or hospital admitting privileges,” said Shield, who considers himself a libertarian and does not affiliate with either party. “I don’t know what Wisconsin’s rationale was. It’s like creationism — it’s shrouded in science, but not science-based.”

The second commenter here identifies as a libertarian, and the earlier comment was from a “conservative Republican” who expressed a fairly libertarian attitude by telling the government to focus on fiscal issues “and stay out of the social issues.” The libertarian approval of unrestricted abortion is something I find baffling. The science is pretty clear: the unborn child is the same human person before and after birth. Any policy approach that gives some people less value and fewer rights than others doesn’t strike me as particularly “libertarian.”

But it does get at a point encountered often in political discussions: people just aren’t that comfortable talking about abortion, at least to the extent they are usually comfortable talking about, say, taxes. The media plays a role in this, casting opposition to abortion as part of a “war on women,” a shameful smear that is simply not supported by the polling but which is intended to foreclose debate precisely because Americans side with conservatives on this issue more than Democrats, and certainly more than abortion absolutists on the left.

Read Less

Will Late-Term Abortion Fight Go National?

If you relied on the fawning media coverage of Texas legislator Wendy Davis and her filibuster of a bill restricting abortion in Texas, you’d never know what it was Davis was actually taking a stand against. The Texas legislature proposed a bill that would have forced abortion clinics to upgrade their facilities to further protect the health and safety of the women who use them, and it would have tailored the state’s abortion laws according to public opinion.

That helps explain why Davis resolutely refused to say what she was doing. In interviews she would avoid uttering the word “abortion” and was sometimes helped in this Orwellian quest by the rather embarrassing journalists from major networks who mostly asked her about her shoes. But then a funny thing happened: pollsters went out to take the temperature of the public on the issue, and the results revealed the vast canyon between the elite media and the American public on abortion–a divide which is stark on many issues, but perhaps none more so than this one.

And it’s throwing a wrench in the Democrats’ plans to “turn Texas blue,” reports Politico. Democrats were hoping to enlist Texas Hispanics in the effort, but there is an obstacle:

Read More

If you relied on the fawning media coverage of Texas legislator Wendy Davis and her filibuster of a bill restricting abortion in Texas, you’d never know what it was Davis was actually taking a stand against. The Texas legislature proposed a bill that would have forced abortion clinics to upgrade their facilities to further protect the health and safety of the women who use them, and it would have tailored the state’s abortion laws according to public opinion.

That helps explain why Davis resolutely refused to say what she was doing. In interviews she would avoid uttering the word “abortion” and was sometimes helped in this Orwellian quest by the rather embarrassing journalists from major networks who mostly asked her about her shoes. But then a funny thing happened: pollsters went out to take the temperature of the public on the issue, and the results revealed the vast canyon between the elite media and the American public on abortion–a divide which is stark on many issues, but perhaps none more so than this one.

And it’s throwing a wrench in the Democrats’ plans to “turn Texas blue,” reports Politico. Democrats were hoping to enlist Texas Hispanics in the effort, but there is an obstacle:

On the surface, at least, the polls don’t look promising for a party that’s basking in the national spotlight because of a fight over abortion rights. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that 53 percent of Hispanic Catholics say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. That’s a lower percentage than white evangelical Protestants and Mormons, but it’s higher than all other religious voting groups, including white Catholics, white mainline Protestants, black Protestants, and Jews.

And Steve Munisteri, the chairman of the Texas Republican Party, cited a poll by the Wilson Perkins Allen research firm that found a 2-1 “pro-life” margin among the state’s Hispanic voters. The poll, conducted for the state GOP, showed that 62 percent of Texas Hispanics who voted in the 2012 election described themselves as pro-life while just 32 percent called themselves pro-choice, according to Chris Perkins, the pollster who worked on the survey.

It turns out that Texans don’t vote based on the color and style of Wendy Davis’s sneakers. The Politico story quotes liberal activists saying that they kind of knew that already and preferred to conduct their Hispanic outreach without emphasizing the national Democratic Party’s uncontained enthusiasm for abortion. The Democrats’ position on abortion conflicts with Hispanics’ religious belief, and it also conflicts with basic biology. Hispanics in Texas are more pro-life and pro-science than most Democrats, but, Politico adds, “The fight was forced upon them, they say, when Gov. Rick Perry added the anti-abortion bill to last month’s special session and revived it in a second special session that started July 1.”

No one is actually forced to defend unsafe, unlimited and unregulated abortion; Texas Democrats are merely following the national party’s lead. As for the religious aspect, it could not have helped Democrats that their supporters showed up to chant “hail Satan” in Austin. But the Politico story includes this revealing bit of strategy from the left: “Some Democratic strategists say the key to winning over Latinos is to avoid focusing too much on any one issue — especially abortion.” Democrats seem to understand that if voters ever figure out the true aims of American liberalism, they’ll run in the other direction.

The mainstream media obviously didn’t get that memo. Journalists seem eager to nationalize this debate, and they may get their wish. Marco Rubio is reportedly on the cusp of sponsoring a Senate bill that would limit late-term abortion:

Anti-abortion groups have asked Rubio to take the lead, and while his office says no final decision has been made, the senator is expected to sign on this week after returning from a family vacation.

The bill, which has zero chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate, would make exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother — but not for cases when a mother’s health is deemed in danger.

The most common reason to propose legislation that won’t pass is to get everyone on record about it. Congressional Republicans will keep proposing bills to repeal ObamaCare to make a point about the bill’s continued unpopularity. If Rubio wants the Senate to vote on a bill restricting late-term abortion, it’s because he thinks he’s on the side of the public–and Democrats aren’t.

The other possibility is that Rubio is trying to get back in the good graces of conservative primary voters after incurring their wrath by backing comprehensive immigration reform. This may give him something of an edge over his rivals by being the public face of the pro-life movement, but it won’t make too much of a difference. Rick Santorum will still be more associated with opposition to abortion than any newcomers, and the other prospective 2016 GOP candidates in the Senate will vote for the bill anyway.

In all likelihood, Rubio is reading the national polls and thinks Democrats have more to lose from a vote on abortion than Republicans. But Rubio better be prepared for the waves of hostility from the media if he takes up this fight. If you’re on the side of life, you don’t get asked about your shoes.

Read Less

Texas Filibuster Ignores Gosnell Lessons

Liberals have a new folk heroine today. Texas State Senator Wendy Davis is the idol of the left after her 11-hour filibuster in the Texas legislature helped derail a bill that sought to restrict late-term abortions and enforce new health regulations for clinics that perform the procedure. As far as Davis was concerned, the legislation that would have banned (with some exceptions) abortions after 20 weeks was nothing less than an attack on a woman’s right to choose and had to be stopped at all costs. A crowd of supporters that had thronged to the Austin statehouse agreed with the Fort Worth Democrat and their demonstration disrupted the proceedings long enough to prevent the bill’s passage before time ran out on the legislature’s session. The president of the United States also applauded the spectacle. As the Washington Post noted, President Obama took time out from his African tour to tweet about the Austin dustup in a post that read, “Something special is happening in Austin tonight” and added the hashtag #StandWithWendy.

As far as the mainstream liberal media is concerned, not only is Davis the winner of the exchange but the attempt to pass the bill is yet another example of the extremism driving Republicans these days. The GOP legislators who sponsored the bills are, we are told, just another bunch of Todd Akins who will, if unhindered, doom the Republicans to perpetual defeat as an enlightened America rejects their unhinged efforts to impinge on the freedom of women.

But I have one question for those insisting that this is the only possible interpretation of what happened yesterday: Doesn’t anybody remember the Gosnell case? After what we saw happen in Philadelphia, no matter whether you favor abortion rights or oppose them, how can any measure that is aimed at preventing late term abortions (which are already illegal in most parts of the country after 24 weeks) and ensuring the places where they occur will be prepared to deal with medical emergencies including live births be dismissed so cavalierly?

Read More

Liberals have a new folk heroine today. Texas State Senator Wendy Davis is the idol of the left after her 11-hour filibuster in the Texas legislature helped derail a bill that sought to restrict late-term abortions and enforce new health regulations for clinics that perform the procedure. As far as Davis was concerned, the legislation that would have banned (with some exceptions) abortions after 20 weeks was nothing less than an attack on a woman’s right to choose and had to be stopped at all costs. A crowd of supporters that had thronged to the Austin statehouse agreed with the Fort Worth Democrat and their demonstration disrupted the proceedings long enough to prevent the bill’s passage before time ran out on the legislature’s session. The president of the United States also applauded the spectacle. As the Washington Post noted, President Obama took time out from his African tour to tweet about the Austin dustup in a post that read, “Something special is happening in Austin tonight” and added the hashtag #StandWithWendy.

As far as the mainstream liberal media is concerned, not only is Davis the winner of the exchange but the attempt to pass the bill is yet another example of the extremism driving Republicans these days. The GOP legislators who sponsored the bills are, we are told, just another bunch of Todd Akins who will, if unhindered, doom the Republicans to perpetual defeat as an enlightened America rejects their unhinged efforts to impinge on the freedom of women.

But I have one question for those insisting that this is the only possible interpretation of what happened yesterday: Doesn’t anybody remember the Gosnell case? After what we saw happen in Philadelphia, no matter whether you favor abortion rights or oppose them, how can any measure that is aimed at preventing late term abortions (which are already illegal in most parts of the country after 24 weeks) and ensuring the places where they occur will be prepared to deal with medical emergencies including live births be dismissed so cavalierly?

It is likely true that many of those who supported the Texas bills were motivated by a desire to chip away at abortion rights. But, like the battle over background checks for gun purchases, you don’t have to be against the Second Amendment to understand that some gun regulations are sensible and even necessary. In this day and age when medical science has made it possible for babies born after 20 weeks to often survive outside the womb, the discussion about late term abortions can’t be conducted in absolute terms about choice in the way they once were.

Exceptions to this provision are possible due to health concerns or other problems (something the Texas bill took into account), but as the evidence in the Gosnell case showed, the line between a permissible abortion and infanticide can become very hazy at that late stage. The willingness of the pro-abortion rights community to embrace such procedures and to view any limits on them as a threat to all women is no different from the way the National Rifle Association views background checks as the thin edge of the wedge that threatens to take away all Second Amendment rights.

More to the point, the main argument of Davis and the chorus that is echoing her points in the media today is that the impact of the bill’s new health regulations would have closed down every abortion clinic in Texas and thus created a de facto ban. This is almost certainly an exaggeration, as it is likely that some clinics in Texas already meet the standards set by the state for hospital-style surgical centers and that doctors who work there should have admitting privileges to local hospitals or could do so without going out of business. Indeed, we would certainly hope that Planned Parenthood clinics–which we are assured provide the best care for women–would already do so.

But if that is not currently the case with most clinics in Texas, then the question should be: why not? Rather than flaying those seeking to require these standards and questioning their motives, those who truly care about the health of women should be asking the owners of these clinics why they are operating without being prepared to assure the safety of their patients.

If the Gosnell case—in which Dr. Kermit Gosnell, an otherwise respected and experienced Philadelphia physician and clinic owner was found to have murdered live infants who were the result of botched late-term abortions and to have operated a facility that did not meet even the most minimal health standards—should have taught us anything it is that abortion providers need to be held accountable and to be required to be prepared to assure the safety of those who make use of their services.

Amid the cheers Senator Davis is hearing today, there ought to be someone asking whether she or her highly-placed supporters really believe the American people think there is something extreme about opposing the abortion of a healthy baby that has been in the womb for 21 weeks or in demanding that those who perform such procedures be able—unlike Gosnell—to give assurances about the health of the mother.

It needs to be repeated that you don’t need to oppose abortion in the early stages of pregnancy—something most Americans don’t wish to be made illegal—to understand that a defense of late-term abortion or inadequate clinics is not about women’s health or constitutional rights.

Some on the left feared that the Gosnell case might discredit the pro-choice cause and that is almost certainly what caused most of the media to initially ignore the story and then to downplay or minimize it once they did notice it. If this country can have a discussion about late-term abortions of healthy fetuses and inadequate clinics without Gosnell being mentioned—as was the case with almost every account of the Texas filibuster—then it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the Gosnell case and the awful lessons that must be drawn from it about the state of the abortion industry have already been forgotten.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.