The Corner

George Will’s Logic

Usually passages from his columns have the tightness of a syllogism, but I couldn’t follow his logic today. He is talking about abortion, and why Republican voters might not mind Giuliani’s position on it. And then he runs off on what seems to me to be a barely related tangent:

Writing in The New Republic, Thomas B. Edsall notes that in the late 1980s voters by a 51-42 margin believed that “school boards ought to have the right to fire teachers who are known homosexuals.’’ Today voters disagree, 66-28. In 1987, voters were evenly divided on the question whether “AIDS might be God’s punishment for immoral sexual behavior.’’ Today voters disagree, 72-23.

And the relevance of these data is. . . ? The issues that Edsall cited weren’t highly politically salient issues back then–social conservatives at the time enthusiastically supported a president who had supported the right of gays to teach in public schools–and they are even less so now. Abortion was a higher-salience issue then and remains one now. So to further Will’s case, as far as I can figure out what it is, it would have to be shown that attitudes toward abortion have grown markedly more pro-choice during the last twenty years. But the numbers don’t support that conclusion.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.