I haven't been posting here, partly because busy, and partly because in recent months most of what I'd be posting about is how much of a douchebag Barack Obama is, and it's both dispiriting and, at some point, tiresome, to have to post about that. Two things today though have roused me to the point where I actually commented on other people's blogs (a rare occurrence, for me), so I thought I might as well post those links, and my comments, here.
First up, Digby -- whose opinion, and trenchant writing style, I normally hold in the highest respect, but who I think is mistaken in this particular blog post -- writes:
[The future composition of the Supreme Court] is one reason why I'll vote for Obama enthusiastically. A President McCain will throw the wingnut zealots the most reactionary, federalist society hack he can find, like bloody bloody meat to a piranha tank. He doesn't care about anything but paying off his rich friends and making war. Whatever our problems might be with Obama we know that he won't do that.Anyone who's been following Obama's statements about recent Court decisions and about abortion (one major issue on which the Court defines the law of the land), as well as his general philosophy about selecting judges, knows that this isn't as reassuring as Digby makes out; Obama, indeed, probably won't nominate conservative Christian judges to placate "the wingnut zealots," since they aren't his base, but he may very well nominate precisely such judges out of genuine conviction. As I commented on Digby's post:
I actually, and regretfully, think that Obama will indeed nominate judges of the Roberts stamp to the SCOTUS. I agree that McCain is worse than Obama on pretty much every other issue -- but I'm actually not so sure that he is worse than Obama on this one. I agree with those who say "we know nothing of the sort."
What DO we know? We know that McCain runs hard to the right in order to get elected, but that when he's not preoccupied with succeeding George Bush he actually is willing to consider some moderate positions. His alliance with the Christian right is a very very uncomfortable one, and I don't see him (unlike Bush) as someone who simply can't wait to get some more gun-toting right-wing Christian zealots onto the bench. Once safely elected, he might -- MIGHT -- actually nominate justices he thinks are qualified rather than ones who espouse a hard right ideology.
Obama, on the other hand, has shown that he'll tack left when expedient to get the Democratic nomination, but that his real inclinations are much further to the right. His completely gratuitous (and therefore, probably not purely "political") public statements agreeing with the Scalia-Thomas-Alito wing of the SCOTUS in the recent decisions on gun control (he thinks there should be less) and the death penalty (he thinks there should be more), together with his public statements that "in the 5% of cases when the law isn't clear," judges should be free to make ideological decisions, signal that he might well seek to appoint justices in the Scalia/Alito mold to the Court.
Especially troubling are his statements rejecting the mental health exception for late-term abortions. As Shakespeare's Sister points out, these remarks -- which he has repeatedly affirmed -- signal his CLEAR DISSENT from the law of the land as embodied in the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions (which have been enshrined in law now for 35 years). Assuming that he also follows through on his remarks about appointing judges who are not only qualified but who will interpret the law in a way that is consistent with his political positions, we are looking at a strong likelihood that he will appoint judges WHO ARE READY TO OVERTURN ROE V. WADE -- or at least the "mental health" provision of the law, which is the thin end of the wedge that anti-abortion groups have been fighting for decades to insert into the legal protections for abortion, and would be celebrated as a huge victory for the "pro-life" lobby.
In short, Obama has given a number of clear signals that can be interpreted as telling us that he will appoint justices to re-examine Roe, curtail the protections of the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 8th Amendments, and make "activist" rulings. McCain might do the same thing (or worse) -- but he also might not, especially since the issues on which the Court typically rules (or on which we fear its rulings) are actually not especially dear to McCain's heart. We just don't know, but either way, it's not looking good -- especially for women.
The second thing that made my blood pressure go up today is Hendrik Hertzberg's latest column in the New Yorker (and I say this with no little regret, because I used to have quite a thing for Hendrik Hertzberg back in the day). Hat tip to my friend Ben, who drew my attention to the column (though I would have read it eventually anyway, when the hard copy of the magazine arrives in my box). Hertzberg goes through the list of the "flip-flops" Obama has been (rightfully) accused of committing in recent weeks, and takes it upon himself to "score" which are "substantial," which "trivial," and which so negligible (from Hertzberg's point of view as a privileged white male member of the New York chatterazzi) as to be "nonexistent." Funny how different things look when you're actually a member of the group that stands to suffer as a result of these "nonexistent" shifts in position. (To be fair, what HH probably means is that the abortion "flip-flop" isn't really a flip-flop as it is consistent with Obama's long-held conservative views. BUT inasmuch as it is NOT consistent with the Democratic platform on abortion for the last 35 years, it is still reasonable to regard it as a "flip-flop." If Obama's position was at odds with the accepted doctrine of his own party, he had a moral responsibility to make that clear during the primary season, when he was asking for the right to represent the party in the general election.)
As I commented at Ben's blog,
Yeah, I have to say, reluctantly, that HH is not my boyfriend anymore. His high-water-mark was 2004, for me. He is ABSOLUTELY DEAD WRONG (and teeth-grindingly patronizing) when he says:
The same week, Obama said he didn’t think that “mental distress” alone was sufficient justification for a late-term abortion…..The leading reproductive-rights group, NARal Pro-Choice America, defended him, pointing out that his views are fully consistent with Roe v. Wade. Flip-flop category: nonexistent.
As ABC’s legal correspondent notes, Obama’s opposition to a mental health exception for late-term abortions is NOT “fully consistent with Roe v. Wade”:
In 1973, when the Court issued Roe and Doe — on the same day — it sided with the abortion rights groups and said states could not interfere with a doctor’s medical judgment on whether an abortion was necessary.
“[M]edical judgment may be exercised in the light of all factors–physical, emotional , psychological, familial, and the woman’s age–relevant to the well- being of the patient,” said the Supreme Court in Doe, which was a companion case to Roe. “All these factors may relate to health . This allows the attending physician the room he needs to make his best medical judgment.”
Obama’s comments that he does not support mental health exceptions in so-called post-viability abortions (after 22 weeks) is squarely at odds with that holding, which remains the law of the land today.
(Via Shakespeare's Sister.)
Obama’s right-wing, patriarchal stance on abortion is not only SQUARELY AT ODDS with the law of the land as embodied in the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions (which have been enshrined in law now for 35 years); it’s also yet another slap in the face to women from a campaign that has repeatedly used or condoned misogynistic language (first against Hillary Clinton, and now as used by Bernie Mac); refused to acknowledge the existence or dignity of gay people; and employed patriarchal notions about “pastor and family” to diminish women’s moral autonomy and enforce outdated notions about marriage and the nuclear family. Obama is no friend to women, as he’s made all too clear.
The big problem with dismissing “mental distress” as a justification for abortion is, of course, that it is precisely the “mental and emotional health” exception that allows women to abort foetuses that, because of severe fetal abnormalities (e.g. no brain) cannot survive outside the womb. In many such cases, the continuation of the pregnancy poses no known physical threat to the mother; it can be a toss-up whether it would be physically safer for her to carry the child to term and deliver it naturally, or have the late-term abortion, which is a bit more surgically invasive than an early abortion. But forcing a woman to go on carrying — perhaps for four or five months — a child that will either be born dead or will die within minutes of birth is the height of cruelty. I mean, what kind of monster would make a woman go on gestating her dead child? Who would condemn a woman to four or five months of suspended grief, of waking up in the middle of the night and feeling the baby kick, only to remember that it is doomed and will never see the light of day or suckle at her breast? That she will go through who knows how many hours of labor only to lay the tiny body in its coffin?
THAT is why we have the mental health exception, and I’m sure it’s been explained to Barack Obama — which means that, in rejecting “mental distress” as a reason to end a pregnancy, he is choosing to be a monster.
And so is sexist douchebag Hendrik Hertzberg, for saying it’s no big deal.