Praying the Post

Reading the newspaper with a cup of coffee in one hand and a rosary in the other.

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Wednesday, January 29, 2003
A sop to the far left

In his review of the State of the Union speech, Tom Shales refers to what he saw as "a sop to the far right, a call for an end to 'partial-birth abortions.'"

Yes, Shales is a TV critic. (Just think about that for a moment. A grown man whose job is to write about what he sees on television.) As such, he should be treated more with compassion than with austerity.

But in a CNN/USA Today Gallup Poll taken two and a half weeks ago, seventy percent of respondents favored a law against partial-birth abortions, and eighty-four percent thought abortion should be illegal in the third trimester.

It may be that the "far right" was happier to hear the president's call than the other 65% of the country who support him on this, but to refer to it as a "sop to the far right" is itself a sop to the far left.

I don't think I'm exaggerating. Look at the sentence it appears in:
Not by nature a gifted public speaker, Bush did well for the most part, warming up himself and the crowd with a semi-ambitious domestic agenda (with, as a sop to the far right, a call for an end to "partial-birth abortions"), then changing to a more somber and urgent tone as he enumerated Saddam Hussein's offenses against humanity.
This is only one of two references to specific domestic policies mentioned in the speech. (The other, an equally if less literally parenthetical reference, is in the middle of this sentence: "What people are likely to remember, and to be talking about this morning, are not the domestic programs Bush advocated -- including reform of the nation's chaotic health care system -- but the warrior words from the second half of the speech, a speech that ran a nearly Clintonian hour in duration.")

What purpose, then, can Shale's aside have, beyond a private snort of derision at an opinion shared by seven out of ten Americans?

The extremists on the abortion debate are overwhelmingly on the abortion rights side.