Further confusing matters is a statement Bartoshevich made during a press conference this afternoon. In it, she suggested that McCain--who only two weeks ago told pastor Rick Warren of California’s Saddleback Church that “as president of the United States, I will be a pro-life president and this presidency will have pro-life policies”--is in fact an abortion moderate who would not even try to overturn Roe v. Wade if elected to the White House. Apparently, McCain surrogates such as failed former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina have been suggesting the very same thing, that McCain is really a friend of women when it comes to maintaining rights over their own bodies.
But it’s bullshit, according to Sarah Blustain, senior editor of The New Republic. In a comprehensive TNR piece, Blustain writes:
The right has been twisted in knots for years over whether McCain respects “life” enough to earn its support. And, among Democrats and pro-choicers, the confusion is even greater. Poll after poll shows them unclear on McCain’s positions. Planned Parenthood’s president Cecile Richards says that, even after McCain secured the Republican nomination this year, long-time Planned Parenthood supporters she met with didn’t know the candidate’s position on Roe v. Wade. McCain’s maverick reputation and his calculated political meanderings on choice add up to one thing: The public thinks McCain just might be a moderate on abortion.Again, the full New Republic report is here.
The fact that he’s not could matter a great deal in the election. According to one poll, about half of all women voters backing McCain said they were pro-choice, including 36 percent who say they strongly support Roe. More importantly, these women voters think that McCain might agree with them on abortion. The same research found that “more than seven in ten pro-choice McCain supporters ... have yet to learn that McCain’s position on abortion is directly at odds with their own.” And the issue is not that they don’t care. One June poll found that, when Democratic women voters in twelve battleground states learned McCain’s position on abortion, Obama gained twelve points among them.
McCain’s views may matter especially to Hillary Clinton supporters, many of whom are pro-choice; according to syndicated columnist Froma Harrop, “[T]hey’ll want to know this: Would McCain stock the Supreme Court with foes of Roe v. Wade?” But, she writes, “The answer is unclear but probably ‘no.’ While McCain has positioned himself as ‘pro-life’ during this campaign, his statements over the years show considerable latitude on the issue.”
That, however, is simply not true. There is no “latitude” in McCain’s position on abortion. Interviews with dozens of people who have dealt with him on the issue--pro-choice and pro-life activists, Hill staffers, McCain confidants, pollsters, and staffers--along with a two-and-a-half-decade-long perfectly anti-abortion voting record, make that clear. And his record on related issues, like contraception, is no better. “I think it is outrageous that people give him a pass, as they gave George W. Bush a pass,” reflects [former Arizona Planned Parenthood exec Gloria] Feldt. “John McCain will be that and worse.”
It puzzles me that any self-respecting woman, or anybody who believed in Hillary Clinton’s vision of America, could think to vote for somebody like McCain--an out-of-touch, anger-management-challenged, adulterous and wife-insulting politician who is willing to say anything, change almost any position he’s ever taken, in order to be elected president of the United States. The nation deserves far better than that. McCain is trying to fool women and other voters into thinking he’s somebody other than he really is, and bruiting about the names of unlikely pro-choice running mates such as Joe Lieberman and Tom Ridge is part of that cynical scheme.
I’m only hoping that, in the end, these supposed “McCain Democrats” will realize that the aged Arizona senator does not share their values, and will cast their ballots instead for the significantly more thoughtful and moderate Barack Obama. The United States has paid the price of Bush’s incompetence and calcified ideology for the last eight more years. We need to begin turning things around again, before it’s no longer possible.
READ MORE: “The Blind Leading the Blind,” by Steve Benen (Political Animal); “Abortion Contortion,” by Dahlia Lithwick (Slate); “Sen. McCain’s Record on Choice” (NARAL).