McCain’s Veepstakes As He Revives Maverick Image

Scott Swenson

The GOP Veepstakes are more interesting given that Sen. McCain has finally decided to revive his maverick image. Is anti-choice heroine Gov. Sarah Palin the answer?

For the sexual and reproductive health community, the most interesting veepstakes is not the choice now facing Sen. Barack Obama as the Democratic nominee for President of the United States but the choice that Sen. John McCain might make to motivate the social conservative base of the Republican Party.

Last night McCain attempted to revive his image as a maverick in a speech critical of President Bush, staged near New Orleans to highlight the tragic failure of the Bush Administration to respond to Hurricane Katrina. In an effort to moderate his image after being forced to run to the right in the primaries, McCain wants to sound like a centrist and paint his opponent as liberal and out of touch. In his speech last night McCain said,

My opponent believes government has all the answers to every problem, and government should take our resources and make our decisions for us. That type of government doesn’t trust Americans to know what is right and what is best in their own interests — its the attitude of politicians who are sure of themselves but have little faith in the wisdom, decency, and common sense of free people.

 

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But McCain’s faith in free people doesn’t apply to women’s reproductive freedom. While he may attempt to pivot to the center rhetorically, it is increasingly clear he must find a way to placate social conservatives who’ve never really trusted him in spite of his consistent anti-choice voting record, and pledge to appoint "strict-constructionists" (a.k.a. anti-choice activist judges) to the U.S. Supreme Court.

One potential veep mentioned with increasing frequency is Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK). In the warped and insular world that is "pro-life" politics, her selection is also seen as an effort to make a play for disgruntled female supporters of Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Really?

Anti-choice McCain, with an anti-choice Palin, no matter how young and attractive she may be, would stand for policies so far removed from the reality of the women who loyally supported Sen. Clinton, as to reduce the Palin nomination to the status of political novelty. Palin’s policies would be offensive to the vast majority of Clinton supporters, as well as moderates and independents. Her selection would be a telling move that McCain failed to solidify his base, and like the nomination of Geraldine Ferraro in 1984, would be historic for the GOP, but ultimately signal a lack of confidence in their general election strategy.

Palin is a young, attractive, mother of five including a recently born baby with Downs Syndrome. A heroine of the "pro-life" movement, she could give disaffected social conservative voters reason to rally.

The American Spectator describes Palin:

She’s young being only
44 (two years behind Senator Obama), she is widely known to despise
government corruption. She defeated a horribly entrenched and corrupt
Republican political machine in Alaska. She has a son in the U.S.
military. She’s strongly pro-life, belonging, in fact, to Feminists for
Life. Gov. Palin could become the Republican Party’s Segolene
Royal, the French Socialist Party’s glamorous leader known for her
heels and political bite. She is the perfect antidote to Sen. Obama’s
cheap thrills, and would help rejuvenate conservatism.

 

The Washington Times said of Palin,

And her presence could highlight Mr. Obama’s extremist abortion views on whether certain lives are worth living.

 

Indeed, a McCain-Palin ticket would make this election a clear referendum on nearly a generation of divisive politics on reproductive health issues. Palin could also help put a kinder-gentler face on anti-choicers, as well as breathe new life into a GOP race that has seemed stale from the start.

But no matter how attractive the packaging, it will only serve to move the GOP further to the extremes of their ideological base. In an election of seismic proportions, a McCain-Palin ticket would add one more important dimension to the change that is taking place, once and for all allowing us to demonstrate at the polls that Americans embrace pro-choice values, and reject the divisiveness of the anti-choice community that has defined the rise, and perhaps fall, of the conservative era now passing. 

News Politics

Missouri ‘Witch Hunt Hearings’ Modeled on Anti-Choice Congressional Crusade

Christine Grimaldi

Missouri state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) said the Missouri General Assembly's "witch hunt hearings" were "closely modeled" on those in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, she drew parallels between Republicans' special investigative bodies—the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Missouri Senate’s Committee on the Sanctity of Life.

Congressional Republicans are responsible for perpetuating widely discredited and often inflammatory allegations about fetal tissue and abortion care practices for a year and counting. Their actions may have charted the course for at least one Republican-controlled state legislature to advance an anti-choice agenda based on a fabricated market in aborted “baby body parts.”

“They say that a lot in Missouri,” state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) told Rewire in an interview at the Democratic National Convention last month.

Newman is a longtime abortion rights advocate who proposed legislation that would subject firearms purchases to the same types of restrictions, including mandatory waiting periods, as abortion care. Her district includes the University of Missouri, which ended a 26-year relationship with Planned Parenthood as anti-choice state lawmakers ramped up their inquiries in the legislature.

Newman said the Missouri General Assembly’s “witch hunt hearings” were “closely modeled” on those in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, she drew parallels between Republicans’ special investigative bodies—the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Missouri Senate’s Committee on the Sanctity of Life. Both formed last year in response to videos from the anti-choice front group the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) accusing Planned Parenthood of profiting from fetal tissue donations. Both released reports last month condemning the reproductive health-care provider even though Missouri’s attorney general, among officials in 13 states to date, and three congressional investigations all previously found no evidence of wrongdoing.

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Missouri state Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R), the chair of the committee, and his colleagues alleged that the report potentially contradicted the attorney general’s findings. Schaefer’s refusal to confront evidence to the contrary aligned with how Newman described his leadership of the committee.

“It was based on what was going on in Congress, but then Kurt Schaefer took it a step further,” Newman said.

As Schaefer waged an ultimately unsuccessful campaign in the Missouri Republican attorney general primary, the once moderate Republican “felt he needed to jump on the extreme [anti-choice] bandwagon,” she said.

Schaefer in April sought to punish the head of Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis affiliate with fines and jail time for protecting patient documents he had subpoenaed. The state senate suspended contempt proceedings against Mary Kogut, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, reaching an agreement before the end of the month, according to news reports.

Newman speculated that Schaefer’s threats thwarted an omnibus abortion bill (HB 1953, SB 644) from proceeding before the end of the 2016 legislative session in May, despite Republican majorities in the Missouri house and senate.

“I think it was part of the compromise that they came up with Planned Parenthood, when they realized their backs [were] against the wall, because she was not, obviously, going to illegally turn over medical records.” Newman said of her Republican colleagues.

Republicans on the select panel in Washington have frequently made similar complaints, and threats, in their pursuit of subpoenas.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), the chair of the select panel, in May pledged “to pursue all means necessary” to obtain documents from the tissue procurement company targeted in the CMP videos. In June, she told a conservative crowd at the faith-based Road to Majority conference that she planned to start contempt of Congress proceedings after little cooperation from “middle men” and their suppliers—“big abortion.” By July, Blackburn seemingly walked back that pledge in front of reporters at a press conference where she unveiled the select panel’s interim report.

The investigations share another common denominator: a lack of transparency about how much money they have cost taxpayers.

“The excuse that’s come back from leadership, both [in the] House and the Senate, is that not everybody has turned in their expense reports,” Newman said. Republicans have used “every stalling tactic” to rebuff inquiries from her and reporters in the state, she said.

Congressional Republicans with varying degrees of oversight over the select panel—Blackburn, House Speaker Paul Ryan (WI), and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (MI)—all declined to answer Rewire’s funding questions. Rewire confirmed with a high-ranking GOP aide that Republicans budgeted $1.2 million for the investigation through the end of the year.

Blackburn is expected to resume the panel’s activities after Congress returns from recess in early September. Schaeffer and his fellow Republicans on the committee indicated in their report that an investigation could continue in the 2017 legislative session, which begins in January.

Analysis Politics

Timeline: Donald Trump’s Shifting Position on Abortion Rights

Ally Boguhn

Trump’s murky position on abortion has caused an uproar this election season as conservatives grapple with a Republican nominee whose stance on the issue has varied over time. Join Rewire for a look back at the business mogul's changing views on abortion.

For much of the 2016 election cycle, Donald Trump’s seemingly ever-changing position on reproductive health care and abortion rights has continued to draw scrutiny.

Trump was “totally pro-choice” in 1999, but “pro-life” by 2011. He wanted to shut down the government to defund Planned Parenthood in August 2015, but claimed “you can’t go around and say that” about such measures two months later. He thinks Planned Parenthood does “very good work” but wants to see it lose all of its funding as long as it offers abortion care. And, perhaps most notoriously, in late March of this year Trump took multiple stances over the course of just a few hours on whether those who have abortions should be punished if it became illegal.

With the hesitancy of anti-choice groups to fully embrace Trump—and with pro-choice organizations like Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and EMILY’s List all backing his opponent, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton—it is likely his stance on abortion will remain a key election issue moving into November.

Join Rewire for a look back at the business mogul’s changing views on abortion.

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