Bench Memos

Re: Biden’s Abortion Idiocies

I don’t mean to divert attention from Joe Biden’s more scandalous misstatements and deceptions in last week’s vice presidential debate, including his (ludicrously parsed-after-the-fact) claim that the Obama administration somehow didn’t know that the American consulate in Benghazi had requested increased security and his assertion that the HHS contraceptive mandate doesn’t apply to Catholic (or other religious) institutions. But in the interest of comprehensiveness, I’ll follow up on my post about Biden’s much more routine mendacities on abortion and Roe v. Wade:

1. Imagine, say, that, in a debate exchange on the Second Amendment, Paul Ryan had contended that President Obama is “likely to appoint justices like Ginsburg who would ban handgun ownership.” I find it difficult to believe that articles discussing the exchange would fail to point out that the contention badly misstates Ginsburg’s position—which, of course, is merely that the Second Amendment allows such bans, not that the Constitution requires them—and that it’s farfetched that any justice appointed by Obama would vote to “ban handgun ownership.” Factchecker columns would surely slam Ryan’s hypothetical misstatement.

Yet somehow articles assessing the abortion exchange (see these examples from the Washington Post and AP) simply repeat, and pass over without comment, Biden’s equivalent false claim that a President Romney is “likely to appoint someone like Scalia … that would outlaw abortion.” If any factcheckers have called Biden out on that, I’ve missed it (though, again, I acknowledge that factcheckers would have their columns full of other Biden falsehoods).

2. Biden claimed in the debate that Obama had “no litmus test” on abortion in selecting Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan but instead “picked people who had an open mind.” But, as the Washington Post reported during the Sotomayor process, in the face of concerns from “liberal groups” about Sotomayor’s “scant record on abortion rights,” the White House press secretary “indicated that the White House is nonetheless sure she agrees with the constitutional underpinnings of Roe v. Wade.” So much for picking her because she “had an open mind.”

Further, the article notes, Obama as a presidential candidate had promised that he “would not appoint somebody who doesn’t believe in the right to privacy”—the code-phrase routinely used to mean embrace of Roe. (So far as I’m aware, no one on the Left was ever concerned that Kagan might have “an open mind” on Roe.)


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