Andrew Sullivan’s misplaced praise for me — but two outta three ain’t bad 

I regularly disagree with blogger Andrew Sullivan, but not today, when he calls me an “honest right-leaning writer.” Sullivan is linking to a Blogging Heads discussion between Reason Magazine’s Matt Welch and me, and here are the points he credits to us (I’ve enumerated them):

  1. “had John McCain been elected in 2008, domestic policy largely look the way it does now, healthcare excepted, and that our foreign policy would likely be far worse.”
  2. They’re also concerned, as the Dish is,  that if Republicans retake the House, especially under current leadership, the K Street faction will coopt them”
  3. “or else they’ll take up social issues because the real fiscal choices are way too hard for them to win re-election on.”

I’ll take the first two cheers from Sullivan (I’ve written about the K Street faction here and here), but not really the third.

Sullivan makes a good point in (3), that Republicans are likely to avoid to real fiscal conservatism, because they’re not really into difficult spending cuts (read Phil Klein break down GOP Fiscal Fantasyland at AmSpec). And Republicans do often use non-fiscal issues, such as immigration and gays, as political distractions (as do Dems).

But I don’t go around wishing Congress would ignore “social issues” broadly.

Specifically, I don’t believe the issue of abortion is just a distraction.

It’s something I’ve noticed since I followed local politics in high school, how one side claims its view a-political and that its opponents are political. That happens in abortion, where folks claim politics shouldn’t even be involved. Maybe that’s true: maybe the criminal justice system should handle abortions similar to how it handles other homicides, with the legislative branch basically staying out of it — but somehow I doubt that’s what most folks mean when they say abortion shouldn’t be a political issue.

Look, I believe that a person is a person even if she’s very small, not well developed, located inside of her mother’s womb, and dependent on her mother for sustenance. If the law refuses to protect these people from violence while it does protect others, that’s political.

I’ll go even further: we subsidize abortion, and federal law provides special protection for abortion clinics. That’s political. And of single-issue groups contributing to congressional campaigns, pro-choice groups vastly outspend pro-life groups. So, they’re even more political than my side.

Here’s my caveat: Republicans do often use abortion as a distraction insofar as they run on the issue and then do nothing about it.

But at the heart of the issue here is an ontological question: is an unborn baby a person? It’s not an easy question to settle. I know many good moral folks who disagree with me. But you’re burying your head in the sand if you dismiss as trivial a practice that amounts — in the view of much of the country — to the deliberate taking of innocent life.

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Timothy P. Carney

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