But his speech should leave pro-lifers optimistic, because it illustrates the transformation of the abortion debate over the past 15 years. Put simply, defenders of the Roe regime seem incapable of making a case for themselves, and when they reach for the vocabulary of American liberal democracy in an effort to make some kind of argument, they end up closer to the case for their opponents....I wish I could agree completely with Levin's take but I fear Obama's inability to make a solid argument in favor of legal abortion (as opposed to merely stating and re-stating his position) is more of a syndrome of politicians talking to a national audience (regardless of their position on abortion) than of specifically pro-choice politicans.
But the striking thing about his speech, and indeed about the contemporary abortion debate more generally, is the absence of a passionate case from conviction for the Roe regime and for abortion itself. The closest thing to it is the case Obama put at the core of his speech: a defensive case for civility without a substantive position.
There is of course great virtue in civility, but when one side to a dispute argues exclusively for civility, it is often because it understands itself at least implicitly to be on the losing side of the substantive debate. That increasingly seems to be the state of abortion-rights advocates in America, and it is surely part of the reason for the gains abortion opponents have made in public opinion in recent years.
For example, I've seen Sam Brownback make a few prolife speeches to prolife audiences that were forcefully prolife but that same force and the argument behind it (noting the humanity of unborn and how intentionally killing unborn humans is wrong) seem to be rather diminished when I see him on a nationally televised show.
William McGurn provides his thoughts on Obama's appearance at Notre Dame.
We cannot blame the president for this one. During his campaign for president, Mr. Obama spoke honestly about the aggressive pro-choice agenda he intended to pursue -- as he assured Planned Parenthood, he was "about playing offense," not defense -- and his actions have been consistent with that pledge. If only our nation's premier Catholic university were as forthright in advancing its principles as Mr. Obama has been for his.
In a letter to Notre Dame's Class of 2009, the university's president, the Rev. John Jenkins, stated that the honors for Mr. Obama do not indicate any "ambiguity" about Notre Dame's commitment to Catholic teaching on the sanctity of human life. The reality is that it was this ambiguity that the White House was counting on; this ambiguity that was furthered by the adoring reaction to Mr. Obama's visit; and this ambiguity that disheartens those working for an America that respects the dignity of life inside the womb.
Ramesh Ponnuru's take (which I tend to agree with) is here.
Pro-lifers often get annoyed when they see politicians with hard-line records in favor of legal and subsidized abortion talk, as Obama did, about how much he wants to reduce abortion. But that type of rhetoric, however little follow-through it generates, is itself a concession to the moral and political force of the pro-life case. The more politicians who favor unrestricted, subsidized abortion talk about what a tragedy it is, the more they undermine their own premises. If it's such a terrible thing, why fund it? Why not allow states to try different methods of discouraging it, including restrictions?
Obama has handled the politics of abortion deftly. He is doing the best he can from a position of weakness.
I'm with David Limbaugh. I don't get it either. I don't understand how people can blindly believe someone whose rhetoric hardly ever matches their actions. I guess they just either don't pay any attention to his actions or like this actions so much they can look past his deceptions.
With due respect to the millions who adore President Barack Obama, I just don't understand what causes people to hear only his lofty rhetoric and appeals for unity while turning a deaf ear to his polarizing language and actions, for example, on the subject of abortion.