Let’s talk about two issues that no one wants to discuss in Presidential politics, particularly in the Republican Party—abortion and religion.
First, abortion. Rudy Giuliani says that “abortion is morally wrong, but a woman should have the right to choose”, and that he would appoint strict constructionist judges, presumably to render decisions that would ultimately restrict, if not eliminate, abortion rights. Let’s apply his approach to an analogous moral and public policy crisis in our nation’s history, that of slavery. Imagine this response – I’m personally opposed to slavery, but if someone wants to own slaves, I will support their right to do so, or if a state votes to legalize slavery, that’s their sovereign right to do so. (Come to think of it, this is very close to the position of Stephen Douglas in the famous Lincoln/Douglas debates of 1858). Abraham Lincoln had an answer for this perverse thinking—no one has a right to commit a wrong. And he publicly and forcefully condemned the notorious Supreme Court decision upholding slavery in Dred Scot vs. Sanford. Rudy, you need a better answer to this question. And, by the way, we should also be asking all the candidates how, if elected, they will respond to any future Congressional moves to expand federal funding for abortion, embryonic-destructive research, or cloning.
Now, religion. Here we involve the Mitt Romney campaign. The last time I saw a poll on the issue, about 36% of people say that his Mormon faith will preclude their voting for him. Meanwhile, he has continued to move up in the Republican primary polling and appears to be a competitive candidate for the nomination. Does this mean that he should stage a major speech to address the issue of his faith, just as John Kennedy was compelled to do to explain his Catholic faith in 1960? Some say this is critical to his chances. I would advise otherwise. Romney doesn’t need a “Kennedy speech” on his religious views; he needs to allow his faith to drive a candid conversation with the voters on the relevant questions about who we are. Radical doctrines of separation of church and state in the decades since Kennedy’s speech have gone much too far in dictating the removal of faith-based convictions from the public square, to the point where any political views that are informed by religious conviction are unwelcome and the very expression of moral truths are verboten. Romney can engage in a teaching moment and begin to turn this around, and it will not only be refreshing, but its boldness will be politically profitable for him.