Little by little, the most hysterical charges against Sarah Palin are tumbling to the ground, but not the fury, the hatred. What you suspect is that these emotions mostly derive from an issue that refuses to go away and continues to divide America as surely as it has since at least 1973, the year the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade.
That issue is abortion, of course, and it’s especially grating to many in the pro-choice crowd that here’s a woman — a woman! — who does not get it that the killing of fetuses is a precious right and that any restrictions of almost any kind are mere tactical advances in the war to squash it.
The cry in a number of commentaries has been that Palin wishes to "police" the bodies of other women, although sometimes the issue is approached sideways as writers let you know that having five children is just too many, that there is absolutely nothing praiseworthy in giving birth to a Down syndrome child and that they are shocked at Palin’s unmarried daughter being pregnant.
There have, of course, been other, non-abortion complaints contending that Palin is nowhere near fit for high office, many of them suspect from the get-go, and many of them now being laid to rest, as in a Newsweek fact-check article available online.
Palin sought to ban books in the Wasilla, Alaska, library when she was mayor of the town, it’s said. Well, no, she didn’t. She was a member of the Alaskan Independence Party that advocated secession from the United States, it’s said. Well, no, she wasn’t. She urged the teaching of creationism in public schools, it’s said. Well, no, she didn’t.
As is constantly repeated on TV, it is indeed true that the Alaska Legislature is investigating whether the governor unethically fired the state’s public safety commissioner because he wouldn’t get rid of a state cop who had once been married to Palin’s sister. But read up on this, and you encounter some interesting complications, such as an allegation that the patrolman had threatened to kill Palin’s father, his use of a Taser on his own son, a long list of reprimands he has received from his department and the fact that no one says Palin herself ever asked the commissioner to fire him.
Inexperience may be a real issue for Palin, but no more so than for Barack Obama, who has never done anything so publicly important as Palin has in taking on all kinds of interests in reformulating how to push ahead with a natural gas pipeline that will immensely benefit the United States when completed. Enthusiasm for Obama derives from his intelligence and eloquence, I would guess, but also, of course, from his various liberal enthusiasms, not the least of which is his stand on abortion rights.
Obama does not just favor these rights, but has in fact gone further than 98 U.S. senators on the issue. That’s the number who voted in favor of a bill affording protection to infants born after botched abortions. No U.S. senator voted against the bill, but Obama, as a state senator in Illinois, voted in committee to defeat a measure that was virtually the same.
His reasoning apparently was that law already stood in the way of babies in Illinois being deprived of their lives and that the bill would open the door for legal efforts to negate abortion rights generally. He may have been right on the first matter, although some dispute it, but was definitely wrong on the second; the legislation specifically said that there was no intent to affect other abortion laws.
As for Palin wanting to "police" women’s bodies, the actual power of a John McCain administration to affect the issue would be pretty much limited to the appointment — with Senate concurrence — of Supreme Court justices who might whittle away at Roe v. Wade, a decision that is constitutionally suspect. The consequence would be to let states have more freedom in writing abortion laws, and while some would almost surely opt for more restrictions, others wouldn’t.
To some people, however, this legislative freedom itself would be an outrage — and an outrage sufficient to permit any calumny against Sarah Palin.
(Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado. He can be reached at SpeaktoJay(at)aol.com.)