The Los Angeles Times published an article today designed to persuade the unsophisticated reader that if the President appoints a strict-constructionist conservative Supreme Court justice to the Supreme Court Roe v. Wade will be in danger, and the result will split the Republican Party along pro-life and pro-choice Republicans.
The whole premise of the article is false, and the article is clearly designed to build public sentiment against a conservative appointee by using the emotional issue of abortion.
While I could spend hours every day pointing out the bias inherent in articles in the LA Times, I thought it worthwhile to take a look at this one article. I was prompted to do so by someone who is close to me who read the article and was convinced, after doing so, that the end of abortion-on-demand was at hand. They were convinced that a conservative appointment by the President should be opposed because of that one issue. One should not underestimate how emotional the left is about the possibility of losing the “right” to have an abortion.
I am not going to get into the moral issues relating to Roe v. Wade, nor am I going to discuss the fact that it is bad law, or that Justice Blackmun and the writers of the majority opinion in that case, used flawed reasoning and no legal arguments to support a finding that the Constitution somehow provides a “right to privacy” and further, that “right” to privacy includes the right to abortion.
Instead, I am going to discuss how the Los Angeles Times uses that emotional issue to persuade readers to its point of view.
To start with, let’s look at the headline, “If Ax Falls On Roe, It May Also Split GOP”
Really? How does Mr. Wallsten, the staff writer of the article, know that? How familiar is he with the GOP that he can, without equivocation, make that statement?
Let’s move on.
The first sentence of the article designed to alarm readers is,
“Social conservatives relish the idea that Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s resignation from the Supreme Court has them one step closer the their goal of outlawing abortion.(italics added)
Reading that sentence an uninformed reader would conclude:
1) That social conservatives must be a large and influential part of the Republican Party.
2) That their goal is to outlaw abortion.
The first is clearly untrue.
With respect to the second conclusion, there are some social conservatives who probably do have that as a goal, however it isn’t their only goal, and in most cases is not their most important goal.
The most important goal of social conservatives and, in fact, of all conservatives, is to have Justices serving on the Supreme Court who will look to the text of the Constitution and the intent of the Framers when deciding a Constitutional question. Conservatives do not want Justices who substitute their personal beliefs, values and policies for those enumerated in the Constitution. That is the reason that conservatives want conservative Justices. The issue is not about abortion. It is about the Constitution and the Republic. You wouldn’t get that from that sentence in the article.
The third sentence is:
But the political irony that few on either side readily acknowledge – but many are pondering – is that Roe’s demise could transform American elections by crippling the conservative political majority that opposes abortion and by giving new life to hobbled liberals who support the ruling’s preservation.(Italics added)
Who is pondering this? Why is the demise of Roe even being considered at this time? Even if the President appointed a conservative strict-constructionist Scalia or Thomas-type of Justice, Roe would not be overturned, nor could it be with the makeup of the present court. Further it would be extremely difficult to overturn Roe even if the whole court was conservative because of the doctrine of Stare Decisis.
If this is not an issue now, why is the Los Angeles Times raising it as an issue?
Exactly. It is a red-herring being used to arouse frightened pro-choice citizens against supporting the appointment of conservative Justices.
Finally, by the third paragraph, the Times concedes,
That the 32 year old landmark decision could be overturned seems a distant probability.
Right. So what is the point of this article?
Further in the article:
But social conservatives say O’Connor’s departure offers the first chance in decades to reshape the court’s ideological makeup. Kennedy is considered a swing vote, and Stevens’ age – he is 85 – gives conservatives hope that the end of Roe is close at hand.
The first sentence is true. The second is blatantly false. The impression that Mr. Wallsten must have is that conservatives are sitting at home hopefully waiting, waiting, waiting until Roe can be overturned. Here is a reality check, Mr. Wallsten. They aren’t. Abortion is not the issue it once was.
The concern that conservatives have is much larger than abortion. The concern is that if more activist liberal judges are appointed, the citizens of this country and their representatives will be disenfranchised and the Republic will be endangered. We aren’t as concerned, Mr. Wallsten, about abortion as we are about a court which sets itself up as a third house of Congress.
The article continues:
During his reelection campaign last fall, the president referred repeatedly to a “culture of life,” and he thrilled religious conservatives during a campaign debate when he described the 1857 Dred Scott decision affirming slavery as an example of a bad court opinion.
Boy, where do I begin?
The President’s reference to a “culture of life” was to contrast the radical Muslim “culture of death” and had nothing to do with abortion. You wouldn’t know that by reading that sentence which infers that the President was referring to pro-life advocates.
Further, the statement that the President thrilled religious conservatives when he described the 1857 Dred Scott decision affirming slavery as a bad court opinion is probably accurate. At least I hope that statement thrilled religious conservatives.
I would think that every American, religious, secular, conservative or liberal would be thrilled that our President considers the Dred Scott decision a bad opinion. I won’t go into the details, but the majority of the Supreme court led by Chief Justice Taney using distorted and incorrect reasoning found that slaves were not citizens of the United States and were not persons entitled to the rights provided by the Bill of Rights. They further inaccurately found that Congress did not have the right to ban slavery in the territories acquired in the Louisiana Purchase despite the clear authority for it to do so in Article IV of the Constitution. It was clearly a bad court opinion. It was the first egregious example of an activist court that read into the Constitution language that wasn’t there.
I can’t imagine any American who wouldn’t be thrilled by the President’s declaration, but the writer wants you to believe that the President’s statement is in some way nefarious.
But Bush – aware of the need to attract votes from women and moderates – has stopped short of endorsing Roe’s reversal.
This sentence is equivalent to saying “But Bush – aware of the need to attract votes from women and moderates – has stopped short of endorsing sodomy or murder.” The implication is that President Bush wants to endorse Roe’s reversal but doesn’t do it because he wants to attract votes from certain constituencies. Does Mr. Wallsten know this to be true? Has the President said he wants to endorse Roe’s reversal, but doesn’t do it because of fear of losing votes. No. Mr. Wallsten is making it up. He wants to present a point-of-view and doesn’t mind imagining what is in the President’s mind.
In fact, later in the article we do have a quote of the what the President has to say on Roe:
Bush told Danish television last week that although he believed abortion should be illegal except in cases of rape and incest or when a mother’s life was at risk, he understood that the nation was not ready for Roe to go away. “I’m a realist as well,” Bush said.
Wait a minute. I thought the President said he would endorse Roe’s reversal but for fear of losing votes. In this statement it looks like he is saying his personal preference would be to have limitations on abortion, but that he is a realist and understands that isn’t going to happen. Somewhat different than the implication in the earlier sentence.
I could go on with the article, but I think I have made my point. It is a piece of irresponsible journalism, designed to sway public opinion against the appointment of conservative judges by using the emotional abortion issue in an article filled with false innuendo and misleading statements.
I remember the Los Angeles Times of my youth, under the Chandler family, as being one of the great papers in the country. It is now, under the Chicago Tribune, a leftist rag.