While it is good to see that Personhood USA is providing at least some accountability for at least one of the five anti-personhood Republican presidential candidates whom they allowed to sign their personhood pledge, the softball questions lobbed by host Steve Deace to the other four candidates during their “Presidential Prolife Forum” only confirms suspicions that Personhood USA has fallen into the compromised “lesser evil” approach to presidential politics, and has determined to apply only gentle pressure (if that, but certainly not the promised accountability) to mainstream Republican candidates in whom they have placed their trust for an end to abortion in America.
On Thursday, December 22, Ron Paul became the fifth presidential candidate to sign Personhood USA’s candidate pledge. Paul also attached a statement of his own, effectively explaining away his “commitment” to personhood. On Monday, December 26, Personhood USA released an open letter to Ron Paul asking for further clarification, and threatening to publicly reject his pledge if Paul could not provide satisfactory answers to Personhood USA’s questions. Ron Paul has responded to Personhood USA; but at this time, the issue does not seem to be settled.
Of significance to the apparent partiality with which Personhood USA is treating the other four candidates who have signed their pledge is the rigor of their demands on Ron Paul. Personhood USA, rightly, asked some very tough questions of Paul, in their open letter, and set a high personhood standard for the congressman to live up to. But such a high standard and difficult questions for the other four candidates who have signed the Personhood Pledge were conspicuously missing from the Presidential Prolife Forum, held by Personhood USA, hosted by Steve Deace on December 27, broadcast live on Deace’s nationally syndicated radio show, and still available for listening or download on Deace‘s website, or on Personhood USA's site. One has to wonder why these four, more mainstream Republican candidates--Bachmann, Santorum, Gingrich, and Perry--are receiving special treatment and more freedom to express their anti-personhood views without being called to account by Personhood USA.
At the beginning of the call, Personhood USA president Keith Mason expressed his excitement to have an opportunity to “really understand where the candidates are on life”--something one would think Mason would do before putting the name and credibility of his organization behind these politicians’ candidacies. In spite of Personhood USA’s past insistence that they, as a non-profit organization, do not endorse candidates, Mason also verbalized his eagerness to “really help support” the candidates who have signed Personhood USA’s pledge. And regardless of the fact that all four candidates still hold positions contrary to personhood, Mason described them as “championing life”. Ron Paul, rightly, did not receive such accolades from Personhood USA’s president. One has to wonder why the partiality toward the other four signers of the pledge.
In his opening statement, Texas governor Rick Perry pointed to his support for informed consent laws. In spite of the fact that support for such laws reveals a lack of understanding of the personhood principles, Perry continues to tout them as evidence of his supposedly strong stance on life. Personhood USA never asked him to renounce his support of such legislation, or to try to explain how they are consistent with personhood. In fact, the inconsistency between the two positions was never brought up at all.
Perry also declared, “For me, this is not about politics. It’s about protecting human life.” And yet he has never shown a willingness to jeopardize his political career in order to provide equal protection for even a single unborn child in Texas, much less anywhere else in America. Personhood USA never questioned the fact that his statement was inconsistent with his past actions.
During the question and answer segment with Perry, Deace asked, if federal personhood legislation were passed by Congress, and struck down by the Supreme Court, “would you enforce the unalienable right to life, or the court’s opinion, as the law?” Perry, somewhat vaguely and dismissively, replied, “Well, obviously, you would enforce the right to life opinion.” He then went on to talk about the need for more pro-life judges on the Supreme Court. Deace and Mason (the only ones allowed to directly interact with the candidates) failed to ask what should be an obvious follow-up question for any personhood pro-life interviewer: If Perry would side with the unalienable right to life, over the opinion of nine black-robed tyrants--then why is he is not doing so now? The 14th Amendment, which Perry says he believes applies equally to unborn persons, is law. Roe v. Wade is a court opinion. Why is Perry not using his office to uphold the 14th Amendment, as he has sworn to do, if he believes it applies to the unborn. This inconsistency was, again, not addressed. Instead, Mason voiced his pleasure that “the pro-life movement is focusing more on the fundamental goal of the pro-life movement, which is personhood for all human beings,” perhaps thus betraying his false impression that personhood is a “goal” to be attained, rather than, as it is in reality, a self-evident truth to be acknowledged.
Mason also tossed a softball question to Perry, asking whether he had changed his mind about allowing exceptions for rape and incest. Perry explained that his views have, in fact, changed “over the last few weeks”. Apparently a man who says he has been personhood pro-life for only “a few weeks”, but who still holds anti-personhood, pro-regulation views now qualifies to receive the “support” of Personhood USA for the highest office in the land.
Like Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann also stated that life “is a not check-the-box thing for me. This is the core of my conviction. This is what I would literally die for.” Deace and Mason failed to ask her, why then, has she not been willing to put her political career (much less her physical life) on the line to do all within the power of her office to demand and provide equal protection for the unborn. Why has she--indeed, why does she still--support legislation that actually denies them equal protection?
Michele Bachmann praised the Hyde Amendment, and said that, as president, “I will veto any congressional attempt to provide federal funding of abortion”. She voiced her opposition to Obama Care, inaccurately claiming that “Obama Care, for the first time in the history of the country, funds tax-payer funded abortion.” Personhood USA failed to point out that the Hyde Amendment itself explicitly allows federal funding for abortion in certain cases. Mason and Deace, did not even bring this up--much less did they require Bachmann to give account for her actions in voting for, and continuing to laud a bill that allows federal funding of abortion.
When asked what she would do to stop chemical abortion, Bachmann’s only answer was to direct attention to Obama. She displayed no understanding of the duty of either the office for which she is running, or of the office which she currently holds, in protecting the unborn equally and without condition. Apparently, Personhood USA requires no such understanding from candidates that they “support”.
Deace again asked, if personhood legislation were to pass Congress, and be struck down by the courts, how would a President Bachmann respond. Bachmann replied, “…the Supreme Court doesn’t make the law of the land; it’s the Congress and the President of the United States who do.” She went on to state that the legislative and executive branches need to “reclaim that authority.” Bachmann was not asked, why then, since Roe is not law, is she not already using the power of her seat in Congress to demand and provide equal protection for all persons.
Former Senator Santorum introduced himself with a passionate statement that we concede ground when we say that we “believe” life begins at conception--that life at conception is not something to be “believed” or rejected at our whim, but that it is a scientific fact--and that life must, therefore, be protected from that point. Santorum was not asked why, if he knows the unborn are persons, would he ever support pro-choice candidates, like Arlen Specter, who would allow living human beings to be murdered with the consent of their mothers. (Later, as his show continued, Deace said the reason this question was not asked was because it was submitted by a member of the Bachmann campaign; but that he wished he could have found someone to ask the question, who was unaffiliated with any of the campaigns. Let it be known that true personhood pro-lifers did try to ask this question; but Deace and Mason denied them the opportunity.)
Santorum voiced his support for personhood, but allowed that “incrementalism has its place”. Neither Deace nor Mason asked the former senator to clarify, or took the time to point out, either to Santorum or to their listening audience, that compromised incrementalism is in direct opposition to the personhood of the unborn, and has no place in the policies of a signer of a true personhood pledge.
When Deace asked the same question about personhood legislation being overturned by the Court, Santorum said that if that were to happen, he would continue to fight for personhood by working toward other personhood legislation, or a personhood amendment to the Constitution, or through executive orders, or regulations--that he would “challenge the court, and give them opportunities to find the error of their ways, and come to a resolution where all the branches of government can agree”--an answer that obviously betrays Santorum’s judicial activist views. Neither Mason nor Deace took time to ask Santorum how that view would accord with his sworn duty as president to execute the 14th Amendment’s protection of all innocent life. Instead, they ate up precious interview time with a bizarre question about foreign policy--almost as if they were trying to find anything to talk about, other than Santorum’s inconsistencies with personhood.
Former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich incorrectly stated that “in the 14th Amendment it says very specifically, ‘Congress shall define what is a person.’” (If you read it for yourself--which apparently Speaker Gingrich is betting against--you will find that the 14th Amendment says no such thing.) Mason and Deace failed to point out Gingrich’s inaccuracy with regard to the content of the Constitution, or the inconsistency of his position with personhood. If the Congress has the right to “define what is a person”, then they have the power to define “person” in such a way as to exclude the unborn (or blacks, or the elderly, or any other group) from receiving the benefits of personhood. On the other hand, personhood, as expressed by the Founders, in the Declaration of Independence, means the right to life comes from God and is unalienable--not that it comes from Congress, and can be taken away by Congress, based on their definition of “what is a person”. Apparently, Deace and Mason either do not understand this vital difference, or do not consider it relevant when discussing personhood with a candidate who has signed a personhood pledge.
Gingrich went on to talk academically about the processes by which the executive and legislative branches can reign in an out-of-control judiciary. He discussed this as though it were an advanced, scholarly concept, that he has just recently been able to grasp himself, and that is still up for debate--not as a basic feature of our form of government, formerly understood by every fifth grader in America. But Mason and Deace did not consider it appropriate to ask how a man who spent decades in Congress, but who is just now discovering the checks and balances written into the Constitution, could be trusted to exercise the office of President of the United States.
Gingrich also clearly expressed his approval of a compromised, incremental approach to ending abortion, by which he and others would consent to the murder of some children, in order to attempt to save others. This was not even addressed at all.
Mason concluded the Tele-Townhall with an appeal to the listeners to “vote for the candidate they thought was best”--completely overlooking the fact (or even the possibility) that not a single one of the candidates on the call met a minimum criteria of understanding and willingness to do the duty of protecting all persons equally, as they have all sworn to do, and would swear to do again as president. Such appeals make it clear that Personhood USA has abandoned their former principled personhood stance, has thrown out any non-negotiable minimum standard, and has adopted, in its place, the morally relativistic approach of supporting who they consider to be the lesser evil. In effect, they have become another Republican apologist organization, selling out their credibility with anyone who truly understands and is committed to personhood, in exchange for a seat at the GOP table. This fully explains why Deace and Mason would look the other way as these four mainstream Republican candidates expressed views that are completely at odds with their signatures on the Personhood USA pledge, even as they hold Ron Paul to a higher standard.
Do not misunderstand: Ron Paul is no personhood pro-lifer. But neither are Bachmann, Santorum, Gingrich, or Perry. They just happen to be more aligned with the typical establishment Republican talking points. The fact that Personhood USA did such a thorough and principled critique of Ron Paul’s position demonstrates their understanding of the personhood principles, and takes away ignorance as an excuse for not holding the other four candidates to the same high standard. Their oversight of the candidates’ anti-personhood positions can now be seen as nothing but intentional, hypocritical, and deceptive. Despite Personhood USA’s promises that all signers of their pledge would be held accountable, their treatment of these four candidates demonstrates that they never intended to do any such thing, but only to give them political cover as they continue to play the same anti-personhood games with the lives of the unborn that false pro-life Republicans have been playing for decades.