Melinda Henneberger's latest online column for Newsweek is noteworthy for two primary reasons: her matter-of-fact identification with other pro-lifers, which is refreshing, and her absolutely clear belief that George W. Bush has played pro-lifers for fools. Henneberger argues that Harriet Miers is "a staunch Bush loyalist, but not an ideologue" and that her convictions about abortion are obscure. Henneberger does not address Miers' challenge of the American Bar Association's pro-choice policy, or the concerned sounds already coming from pro-Roe advocacy groups.
The column is a persuasive argument that Roe v. Wade is unlikely to be reversed in the near future, but how many pro-life voters would believe that their preferred long-term future depends largely on a metanoia moment for Supreme Court justices?
Here are Henneberger's more persuasive moments as she tries to prove Bush's priorities:
Among pro-lifers, I have long held the minority view that Bush never had the slightest intention of packing the Supreme Court with justices who would seek to overturn the 1973 decision legalizing abortion. Karl Rove would throw himself in front of a train before he let that happen.
So where did I get my inside intel on this?
There have been several not-so-subtle signals from Bush himself. When asked, during his first campaign, whether he thought the decision should be overturned, he said the country was not ready.
At a news conference in Iowa in 2000, he was asked whether he would counsel a friend or relative who had been raped to have an abortion. He answered, "It would be up to her."
And here are her weaker paragraphs:
All the president's talk about a "culture of life" might even have been sincere up to a point, of course; doesn't everybody think they're for a culture of life?
And it certainly did the trick for him. Many people I know -- most of them pro-life Catholics who oppose the war and much of the rest of Bush's domestic agenda -- felt obligated to vote for the president on this one issue.
So will social conservatives now admit they've been had? Probably not.
As that passage demonstrates, many journalists seem incapable of referring to a culture of life without using scare quotes on first reference -- so, no, not every person believes in a culture of life. To some people, including another Newsweek columnist, it is an empty suit of a phrase that hides scary legislative plans (anything that would hinder the right to unrestricted abortion or a host of issues involving euthanasia).
It's entirely too early for anyone to predict how Miers would rule as a justice, should the Senate consent to her nomination. As a social conservative, I agree with Henneberger that my fellow travelers are unlikely to "now admit they've been had" -- because I am not yet convinced we've been had.