If you want to understand just how potent the issue of abortion can be in this campaign, take a look at this segment from Hannity & Colmes last night. Sean Hannity laid out for Bob Beckel — in a specific, careful, calm way – the fact that Barack Obama opposed legislation protecting children who had survived an abortion attempt. (For more on this issue, go here, here, and here).
In response, Beckel’s head began to explode.
Beckel seemed quite unfamiliar with the specifics of the issue (for example, he asserted existing Illinois law protected children who survived an abortion attempt, even though the state attorney general said it did not; that reality is what launched the national debate in the first place). Beckel therefore decided to go on the offensive. Enraged, he said that while he knew Republicans would go low, even he didn’t think they would go this low. Why don’t conservatives go back to accusing Obama of being a Muslim, Beckel shouted, rather than accusing him of supporting infanticide? What Republicans were doing was “obscene and disgraceful.” Alan Colmes decided to join the festivities as well; he said what Republicans were saying about Obama was “outrageous and insulting.”
In fact, it’s not. Regardless of what Obama’s personal beliefs on the matter are, he voted against legislation that would have protected the rights of children who survived an attempted abortion. That fact is so stunning, and the implications so brutal, that Beckel and Colmes simply could not process it. They assumed it had to be impossible. But it’s not only possible, it’s true. Obama cast the vote he did. And it’s clear from last night’s exchange that Democrats understand how explosive this issue can be.
It doesn’t help matters, of course, that Obama’s story is falling apart. Obama has been insisting that if the wording of the Illinois Born-Alive Infant Protection legislation had been similar to the wording of federal legislation, he would have voted for the legislation. But as the Washington Post reports today, “Obama aides acknowledged yesterday that the wording of the state and federal bills was virtually identical.”
It’s worth noting as well that the effort by the New York Times to provide a political life-raft to Obama on this issue has been taken apart by my colleague Yuval Levin here.
While a state senator in Illinois, Barack Obama cast the most extreme vote imaginable on abortion, worse even than supporting partial-birth abortion. Children who had been targeted for abortion but were born alive were still not safe; in Barack Obama’s America, they still do not possess rights or the protection of the law. Obama’s effort to explain his vote away is in the process of collapsing. And the gap between him and McCain continues to close. For the first time in this campaign, Obama is on the defensive, a bit rattled, and worried. He has reason to be.