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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Phoning It In

At today’s March for Life, the annual anti-abortion event in Washington marking the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the guest of honor, the President of the United States, was a no-show. He did phone in with a message that was broadcast to the half-frozen marchers, in which he trotted out the usual code-talk about his support for a “culture of life” and his contrived and largely symbolic legislative agenda aimed at gnawing at the far corners of the right to choose.
As my colleague The Moose pointed out today, anyone listening in who didn’t have an anti-abortion decoder ring might have thought all the talk about compassion and the need to protect the weak and the vulnerable referred to a broader agenda of helping women and children after, not just before, the moment of birth.
But today’s anti-abortion marchers know exactly what Bush was alluding to, and thus they probably didn’t mind that he characteristically refused to come out and say he shared their fervent desire to re-criminalize abortion, much less the fact that he chose to share the moment next to a fireplace in Camp David rather than braving the elements in his sometimes workplace of Washington, DC.
They’ll forgive Bush another phoned-in quasi-commitment to their cause so long as he shows up live and in person when a Supreme Court opening appears, which could happen very soon. At that point, the game will be over, the Code won’t suffice, and all the contrived and symbolic gestures will become meaningless, because one issue will be unavoidably front and center: does Roe v. Wade stand, or does it fall? Then Bush will no longer be able to stay all warm and toasty as the political winds whirl around the contending forces on this issue.

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