Politics & Policy

A Kerry-League Play

Tom Daschle tries to have it both ways on abortion and marriage.

Is everyone pro-life now? That’s what some Democrats would have you believe right before November 2. Take Tom Daschle. The senate minority leader, not unlike his fellow pro-abortion Catholic colleague John Kerry, is running rings around his record, trying to deny his abortion-industry-approved Senate career.

Daschle, currently running for reelection in South Dakota in a mighty-tight race against Republican John Thune, has reinvented himself as a pro-life, pro-marriage candidate. Why would the Senate Minority Leader, with a well-known record, want to pretend to be something he’s not?

To keep his seat, of course. And it’s something he’s done before. But who does he think he’s fooling?

Thanks to the work of the Ave Maria List, Daschle is not going to get away with his chameleon act. In an ad now running on South Dakota airwaves, the pro-life, Catholic political-action committee asks:

What’s happened to Tom Daschle? When Tom Daschle ran for Congress, he sent a letter to South Dakota voters. He called abortion an abhorrent practice. Strong words. Tom Daschle sent another letter; not many South Dakota voters got this one. In this letter he urged people to support and send money to the largest pro-abortion group, NARAL. Tom Daschle even sent $10,000 in campaign funds to another pro-abortion group. Still, Tom Daschle tries to claim he’s pro-life even though his voting record and actions in Washington prove he’s not. Tom Daschle has changed and it’s time for South Dakota voters to make a change of their own.

Daschle isn’t even sophisticated about his inconsistencies. About that fundraising letter, there is no question. He wrote:

Rarely has so much been at stake for a woman’s right to choose in a U.S. Senate Election…. Anti-choice forces are organizing and mobilizing right now to defeat champions of reproductive rights, champions like Missouri Senator Jean Carnahan. The U.S. Senate’s pro-choice leadership cannot afford to lose an ally like Senator Carnahan. So, we must succeed in getting out the pro-choice vote in this and other key states where pro-choice leadership could be lost. Because Jean Carnahan is serving as an appointed Senator in place of her late husband, Mel Carnahan, Missouri’s current governor could be forced to immediately swear-in Jim Talent, a strongly anti-choice conservative. As the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate, I’ve stood up for a woman’s right to choose, and the pro-choice leadership of the Senate has made a difference by safeguarding women’s rights from the anti-choice agenda of the Bush administration. Please give to NARAL today, so NARAL can mobilize the resources to get out the pro-choice vote on Election Day.

Daschle’s current spin? “I regret the interpretation of the letter.” He claims, “That letter was not intended to be a fund-raiser for NARAL whatsoever.” Uh-huh.

This, as the Ave Maria List points out, is not Daschle’s first pro-life dance. Like others–including Al Gore, but not John Kerry–Tom Daschle has run as a pro-lifer. As Jon Lauck points out on his blog, in 1986 Daschle wrote in a letter to a pastor that he was “unalterably opposed to abortion on demand.” In 1978, running for Congress, he called abortion an “abhorrent practice.” But Daschle’s flip-flops are transparent–his position is what he needs it to be in any given election year to win the votes. Principled leadership!

The Daschle campaign is also trying to claim that the contributions of his political-action committee (DASHPAC) to EMILY’S List should not be interpreted as support for abortion–even though EMILY’S List is committed to electing female candidates who support abortion. The PAC’s defense is that they are trying to elect Democrats; EMILY’S List does that, so they got funds. The folks at the Ave Maria List are asking Daschle to release the video of a speech he gave to EMILY’S List, but there are no indications he will. Got something to hide, Senator?

Daschle is also trying to convince South Dakota voters that he is pro-marriage (the actual man-and-woman kind). But what he doesn’t want South Dakotans to remember is that just this summer he blocked a procedural vote that would have brought a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage to a vote–to a vote.. In his state, polling shows that a majority of voters are against gay marriage. Daschle is running ads trying to make South Dakotans forget all that, but John Thune and ads put out by “You’re Fired” (a conservative 527) (seen here) are reminding people of his actual Senate record.

Again, Daschle reminds you a bit of John Kerry, who says he is against gay marriage, skipped the procedural vote on the amendment, and told the Advocate this month: “I have my view, and my view is my view. I can’t tell you in 20 years or whenever, if someone made a persuasive argument, the world changes. You know, George Bush just changed his mind on a national security director, and he changed his mind on raiding Social Security, and he changed his mind on homeland security. So I don’t predict the future. What I tell you is that my position is what it is.” How’s that for taking all sides of an issue?

All of this South Dakota deceit from Daschle gives a lot of credence to Republican John Thune’s contention: “Daschle has been running around saying, ‘I’m against same-sex marriage….’ Well, put up or shut up. This was his opportunity [the procedural vote] to do that and he clearly went against the prevailing view of the people of South Dakota.”

And let’s not forget that Tom Daschle is Senate Minority Leader. Translation: Head bully, keeping George W. Bush’s judicial nominees from getting hearings. Sean Rushton of the Committee for Justice says, “When it comes to the judiciary, Tom Daschle stands with plaintiffs’ attorneys, the abortion industry, and the radical environmentalists, against judges who will interpret the law as written, not pioneer social policy from the bench.” That’s liberal activist judges–the ones who will write gay marriage into the law and halt abortion restrictions, as we have seen most clearly in Massachusetts. But South Dakotans are to believe he is pro-life and pro-marriage.

Tom Daschle’s strategy seems to be to lie and hope for the best. John Kerry, likewise, is expected to give his personal summa nonsensical theologica this weekend, explaining in a speech how one can be an apple and an orange at the same time–Catholic and have a perfect abortion-advocacy voting record in the Senate. Good luck, guys. Meanwhile, bloggers and groups such as the Ave Maria List are going to be pounding at dishonesty right on through to Election Day. The Ave Maria List has set up a detailed website with all the 411, where South Dakotans can see primary documents and videos for themselves. Unfortunately for Tom Daschle and John Kerry–and fortunately for voters–there’s a whole world wide web out there and their records are all over it.

Kathryn Jean Lopez is the editor of National Review Online.


The Latest