By Dave Andrusko


Fooling No One

"Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) has begun targeting swing voters and disaffected Republicans in an effort to expand the election battleground, a strategy that includes emphasizing centrist themes on the campaign trail while privately reassuring liberal constituencies he is committed to their core issues."

Washington Post, May 23

Pick your metaphor: brain freeze; foot in mouth disease; failing to engage the brain before putting mouth into gear, etc., etc. Nary a week goes by that presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry doesn't say something so addlepated that it mystifies even his most loyal supporters.

I didn't really think all that much about Kerry's flip-flop-flip on abortion and Supreme Court nominees until I read the opening paragraph from a story that appeared in the Washington Post.

What are Post writers Jim VandeHei and Dan Balz saying? Pretty much what President Bush has been saying all along about Kerry. The junior senator will say anything in a oafish effort to find voters. This includes, but is not limited to, abandoning supposedly carved-in-stone positions, and then denying he has done anything of the sort when he somersaults back to his original position.

Please understand that no one on the face of the earth really believes that there are any conditions under which Kerry would nominate to the Supreme Court a justice who'd not pledged allegiance to Roe v. Wade. Kerry not only has promised as much on numerous occasions, last year he also told a meeting of Democratic Party leaders, "I am prepared to filibuster, if necessary, any Supreme Court nominee who would turn back the clock on a woman's right to choose or the constitutional right to privacy....The test is basic - - any person who thinks it's his or her job to push an extreme political agenda rather than to interpret the law should not be a Supreme Court justice."

Yet Kerry set off a mid-size storm when he told Ron Fournier of the Associated Press that he might, just might, nominate an anti-Roe justice, were he to become President. (The headline to the story was, "Kerry Open to Anti-Abortion Judges.")

Here's what was asked, and Kerry's response.

"Asked if they [potential nominees] must agree with his abortion-rights views, he quickly added, 'I will not appoint somebody with a 5-4 court who's about to undo Roe v. Wade. I've said that before.'

"'But that doesn't mean that if that's not the balance of the court I wouldn't be prepared ultimately to appoint somebody to some court who has a different point of view. I voted for Judge [Antonin] Scalia.'"

Buried in the double negatives was the following too-cute-by-half suggestion: he might name an anti-Roe justice if, after doing so, the Court still maintained a majority of pro-Roe justices.

Kerry's trademark position on issues is here today, gone tomorrow, and back here again the day after. But in this case, we didn't even have to wait until the next news cycle before Kerry was flopping on his flip. No sooner had he boasted about voting for Justice Scalia as a sign of his flexibility than Kerry said that vote had been a "mistake"!

The next day - - without saying so, of course - - Kerry tacitly admitted that his original venture into fair-mindedness had also been a mistake. In a statement issued by his campaign, Kerry intoned, "I want to make myself clear. I believe that a woman's right to choose is a constitutional right. I will not appoint anyone to the Supreme Court who will undo that right."

Much ado about nothing? In one sense, obviously yes. Kerry's joined at the hip to the Abortion Establishment.

But, in another sense, it means a lot. Reading the Washington Post analysis, this clumsily launched trial balloon is part and parcel of an audacious strategy of reinventing himself, again. It is based on the truism that most people don't tune into politics until just a few weeks before the election.

For instance, if having Edward Kennedy as your point man carries a lot of obvious baggage among the 90% of the population who find the man to be a viciously partisan, way out of the mainstream hack, well, just put him in cold storage for a while. Never mind that the non-partisan National Journal has concluded that you have a voting record even more liberal than Kennedy's.

If ordinary people's teeth grind when they hear what is described in the Post story as your "bombastic sound bites," try to curb your natural urge to lecture, scold, and admonish. Never mind that you are an elitist snob who thinks you are, on your worst day, at least four and a half times smarter than just about anyone else on the face of the planet.

If most people have trouble with you making 400% support for abortion on demand a litmus test for appointment to the nation's highest court, then suggest in a muddled mess of a sentence that there might be an occasion when an anti-Roe justice might slip through. Never mind that this is patently false and discouragingly cynical.

Kerry is counting on late-arriving interest in presidential politics and short attention spans to make it possible for him to sound middle-of-the-road on the stump while giving private assurances to the likes of NARAL and Planned Parenthood that he buys into their whole agenda. What a guy. What a profile in courage.

It's up to pro-lifers to make sure that the American people know that there's a reason NARAL's Elizabeth Cavendish said, "This is not a time when we're going to pounce on John Kerry." They shouldn't. He is their champion, just as President George W. Bush is ours.

Dave Andrusko can be reached at dandrusko@nrlc.org