to Life Endorses
“The most prominent anti-abortion advocacy group in the country has
picked a candidate in the 2008 presidential race. It’s Fred
Thompson, the former senator from Tennessee.”
This was a carefully thought-out decision, based (as we’ll discuss below) on three criteria. At the heart of the NRLC board’s decision-making was the critically important conclusion that Sen. Thompson was the pro-life Republican candidate most likely to defeat pro-abortion Republican Rudy Giuliani for the party’s presidential nomination and to defeat whichever pro-abortionist the Democrats select.
The national media understood that NRLC’s endorsement of Sen. Thompson is of major significance as the race for the GOP’s presidential nomination gets going in earnest. Let me cite just four examples.
NBC’s Matt Lauer describes this as “a key endorsement,” radio talk host Laura Ingraham called it a “huge boost,” CBN’s David Brody labeled the endorsement a “big prize, a very big prize,” while the Boston Globe wrote that it’s “Thompson’s biggest endorsement since his late entry into the race in September.”
At its well-attended National Press Club press conference, David N. O’Steen, Ph.D., NRLC’s executive director, explained to reporters how this endorsement is different in size and scope from other recent endorsements.
“Every candidate has received endorsements from some individuals, and that’s to be expected,” Dr. O’Steen said. “But this is the first endorsement in the Republican race from a major, grassroots, pro-life organization.”
He amplified the distinction by noting, “When National Right to Life speaks, we’re not speaking as a Washington group,” alluding to NRLC’s 50 state organizations and about 3,000 local chapters.
For his part, Sen. Thompson released a statement, which read, “I’m deeply appreciative for the past support by the National Right to Life Committee-PAC in my Senate campaigns, and today I am blessed and grateful to have received their endorsement for President of the United States. In supporting me, those who have worked tirelessly to defend life are supporting a consistent conservative who has stood with them yesterday, who stands with them today, and will stand with them tomorrow.”
Dr. O’Steen used the press conference to explain the basis on which the NRLC board overwhelmingly endorsed Thompson. The tri-part criteria were (1) the position of candidates on the life issues, (2) their records on the life issues, and (3) and their ability to win.
Thompson had what Dr. O’Steen described as a “strong, consistent pro-life record throughout his political career.” To put this in perspective, it was not only that Thompson opposes abortion and has repeatedly stated that he believes that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and must be reversed.
Nor was it only that during his eight years in the United States
Senate, he always opposed using tax dollars to promote or pay for
abortion and supported many pro-life measures such as parental
notice and consent.
In their remarks Dr. O’Steen and Co-Executive Director Darla St.
Martin highlighted another characteristic of Thompson which is
absolutely pivotal in the fight to pass life-affirming legislation
and which played a major role in the decision. The votes of some
senators and congressmen can be an almost day-to-day question.
When it came to the issue of electability, a couple of reporters asked about recent polls taken in early caucus and primary states. This was answered in two ways.
First, Thompson entered the race in September and his organization continues to grow, both in the early states and those that come later in January and the first week of February.
Second, as Dr. O’Steen observed, because there is a de facto national primary February 5, the early states may not shape the dynamics of the nomination process to the extent they have in the past. A look at the overwhelming majority of the national polls taken since Thompson announced his candidacy reveals that Thompson has run second only to pro-abortion candidate Giuliani for the Republican nomination.
There are pro-lifers who favor one or the other of several pro-life Republican candidates. NRLC’s endorsement of Sen. Thompson met with the understandable response that many people are happy, but some are not—and passionately so.
However a handful, for reasons of their own, suggested there are other considerations. But, in fact, there were none, and to suggest otherwise is not only untrue but maliciously so. The decision was straightforward and in harmony with NRLC’s guiding light—we don’t just want to make a statement; we want to make a difference in advancing the cause of life.
Criticism (and caricatures) of any candidate will always receive far more attention than clarifications of what he or she meant. For example, Mr. Thompson has repeatedly stated his total opposition to Roe v. Wade, a breathtakingly arrogant decision that gutted the abortion statutes of all 50 states.
What about a Human Life Amendment (HLA)? The Republican Party’s platform calls for an HLA to the Constitution. An HLA is one tool to win protection for unborn babies. But it would require a two-thirds vote in the Senate and in the House and ratification by three-fourths of the states.
Between 25 and 30 senators would need to be replaced to reach that two-thirds figure, not something that is likely to take place for some time. And sometimes it is overlooked that if an HLA were to be passed out of Congress and ratified by three-fourths of the states, unborn babies would still not automatically be protected. Protective legislation would have to be passed in each state. Thompson has stated unequivocally that he would not change the party’s platform position on an HLA. Ratification of an HLA remains a long-term NRLC goal.
But babies are dying in the here and now. NRLC’s emphasis, like Thompson’s, is on what the next President can accomplish. Thompson has stated repeatedly that he believes the only way Roe v. Wade is likely to be overturned in the foreseeable future is by the confirmation of justices who do not believe there are parts of the Constitution written in invisible ink. Thompson says he would nominate justices who interpret the Constitution according to its actual text.
Thompson has also stated that he believes decisions about a
patient’s lifesaving care should be made by the patient or his or
her family. He has also made clear that when the patient wants
treatment, or in cases where the patient’s wishes are unknown, if
their families want life-sustaining treatment, that treatment should
Commitment, record, and the ability to win underlie NRLC’s decision to endorse Thompson. But the endorsement does not occur in a vacuum.
Whoever is the Democratic presidential nominee, he or she will be joined at the hip to NARAL, EMILY’s List, and Planned Parenthood. The nominee will dutifully espouse “moderation” during the campaign and then, should they be elected president, march in lockstep with the most radical pro-abortion organizations.
On the Republican side, there is the undeniable fact that at this
point in time pro-abortion Rudy Giuliani is the leader among
Republicans. But as I have argued many times in NRL News, the case
made for Republicans to nominate the former mayor of New York is
remarkable unpersuasive, and, in fact, has everything backwards.
While she remains the frontrunner, Sen. Clinton’s nomination is by
no means inevitable. She is in a highly competitive contest with
Senator Obama and former Senator Edwards in Iowa. And even if she is
the standard bearer for Democrats, in head-to-head match-ups polls
show Fred Thompson faring well against Sen. Clinton.
First, the linchpin of the coalition that has powered the Republicans to victory in five of the last seven presidential elections—opposition to abortion—would be loosened. Goodbye to millions of “Reagan Democrats.”
Second, a number of Southern states would be in play for the first time in recent memory. Sen. Clinton is, after all, the former First Lady of Arkansas and is working assiduously at cultivating her image as a “moderate.” My friends from south of the Mason-Dixon line just roll their eyes when asked what would happen if someone like Giuliani was the GOP nominee.
In that vein Ron Elving, the senior Washington editor for NPR News, observed, “So you take a savvy outfit like the National Right to Life Committee, pretty much the General Motors of the right to life movement, and what they are worried about is preserving the … coalition … which has pretty much won five of the last seven presidential elections, including the last two.”
Everyone knows what is at stake. Pro-life President George W. Bush’s second term ends in 2008 and in less than a year we will elect his successor.
He or she will either work hand in glove with a Movement whose goal is to save unborn babies from death and destruction and their mothers from remorse and guilt, or they will throw their lot in with a philosophy whose core tenet is that there are never enough abortions, never sufficient misery, and never a reason to help women choose life. The choice is that stark.
In the months to come NRLC’s endorsement of Thompson may well come to be seen as the decisive action which shook up the race for the Republican presidential nomination. It is a simple statement of historical fact that millions and millions of pro-life Americans look to NRLC for guidance on these crucial questions, which is the reason why presidential candidates who are pro-life have always enjoyed an advantage among the voters for whom abortion is the single most important issue.
And NRLC’s counsel to its supporters—and to all pro-lifers of good
will—is to unite behind Fred Thompson.