Wife-beating is out (let's hope), but wife-blaming is in — in some circles, that is. Consider GOP presidential-nomination front-runner Mitt Romney's move last week, blaming his wife for writing a check to pro-choice women's health provider Planned Parenthood. C'mon, Mitt.
The check was written from the joint checking account controlled by you and by Mrs. Romney. And all one need do is head over to YouTube.com and watch the 2002 video of the telegenic Romneys (Mitt and Ann) proclaiming to a Boston TV interviewer their joint support for a woman's right to determine her own biological future. Ah, Internet video is a wondrous thing, leaving little doubt of the 180-degree whipsaw turn the former Massachusetts governor has taken on abortion rights.
That was 2002. This is 2007. In the inconveniently intervening five years, Mitt Romney has stopped running for governor of one of the (if not THE) bluest states in the nation and has started to run for the GOP presidential nomination — that selection controlled by the nation's reddest of conservative voters. No wonder he was pro-abortion rights then and is anti-abortion rights now.
Would that Romney were the only wife-blamer on the GOP primary circuit. Before clearing his own record this past weekend, and admitting he supports abortion rights, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani let it be known that his half-dozen or so contributions to Planned Parenthood were made jointly with ex-wife Donna Hanover. C'mon, Rudy. Americans know you cannot win the New York mayoral race as an anti-choice candidate any more easily than persuading the College of Cardinals to elect you pope as a pro-choice candidate. Not in this day and age. Not in Blue Nue Yawk.
Besides, Americans no longer fall for the "I'm anti-abortion but pro-choice Republican women should support me because my wife is pro-choice" routine. That little ditty was performed and perfected by both George Bushes. Wives Barbara and Laura let slip in clearly conniving interviews that they were vaguely pro-choice, as if either woman took the slightest interest in or held any sway on matters of policy. And look where that got pro-choice Republican women: with an anti-choice White House and Supreme Court and a limiting of abortion rights.
The question is, now that he has come out and come clean as a pro-choice Republican, his professed abhorrence and hate of abortion notwithstanding, does Giuliani have a shot at winning the presidential nomination? My view is no, unless there's been a dispiriting of mythic proportions among grass-roots conservative religious Republican primary voters. And that is not outside the bounds of possibility.
Can George W. Bush's spectacular failure in Iraq, his " big government" (read that spendthrift) conservatism, his embrace of the atavistic wing of American politics, have so turned off mainstream voters that even uber-conservative primary voters are willing to let a moderate slip through?
Stranger things have happened. But not in Bush's or Reagan's reversioned religiously dominated Republican Party. And not in the last two or three decades.
Phyllis Schlafly, prominent conservative anti-abortion attack dog, is widely quoted as saying that as soon as Republican primary voters begin to see through the fog of the crowded GOP field, they'll turn on Giuliani. As conservative as he may be on fiscal, judicial and other issues, Schlafly says the average GOP primary voter has yet to divine Giuliani's position on abortion rights. And once those voters understand he's pro-choice, Schlafly says, they will run as fast as Kansans fleeing an oncoming twister. I'd like to think she's wrong. But I think she's dead-on.
(Bonnie Erbe is a TV host and columnist. E-mail bonnieerbe(at)CompuServe.com.)