The EFM Feature

Further to my last post, check out Kate O’Bierne in the January 29 National Review on pro-life converts. Despite what some might have you believe, Senator Brownback is one himself. So, as we have said often, was the late President Reagan:

In 1967, Gov. Ronald Reagan signed a liberal abortion law, declaring, “I’m fully sympathetic with attempts to liberalize the outdated abortion law now on the books in California.” Reagan later changed his mind and expressed regret for signing a measure that saw more abortions performed in California than in any other state before Roe v. Wade. He became a committed pro-life politician and backed the first pro-life plank in the Republican platform. George W. Bush ran as a pro-choice politician in his 1978 congressional campaign, but held pro-life views when he ran for the governorship of Texas in 1994. His father too once favored abortion rights, but took a pro-life position in the 1980 presidential campaign.
When Sam Brownback was running in a GOP congressional primary in 1994, he initially rebuffed a pro-life group’s endorsement, according to a recent account in The New Republic. In that article, a former president of Kansans for Life recalls that Brownback was “unfamiliar with the anti-abortion lexicon” 20 years after Roe v. Wade, and that Brownback described himself as “more in line with the view of Nancy Kassebaum,” the state’s pro-choice junior GOP senator. But Brownback wound up facing a primary challenger who, as the article puts it, “was about as pro-life as you could get without earning yourself a restraining order.” Prior to the race, Brownback had never had to defend his abortion views; but by Primary Day he was on the record as an abortion opponent. The article plausibly asserts that Brownback, who has formed a presidential exploratory committee, “is closing in on a decade as the leading social conservative in the U.S. Senate” (though Rick Santorum also has a claim to that title).
Although the experiences of three presidents and Sam Brownback strongly support the argument that genuine conversions happen, and that pro-life converts remain faithful, Mitt Romney’s change of heart has been met in some conservative quarters with hostile skepticism.

She also has kind words for a blog you may have read:

For example, although Romney has won praise for defending traditional marriage following the court decision that legalized same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, some of his conservative critics argue that he could have ignored the court and prohibited the issuance of marriage licenses to homosexual couples. He is also faulted for appointing two gay-rights activists, both former prosecutors, to local criminal courts. But Evangelicals for Mitt, a website that has convincingly defended Romney’s record on social issues, argues that he was bound by the court’s marriage decision, and points out that in Massachusetts a council wholly composed of Democrats must approve all judicial nominees.

We have faced some criticism for noting President Reagan’s status as a convert on this issue–largely from those who also seem unaware that Senator Brownback, like every other politician in the world, has shifted over the years. But the uncomfortable reality for this camp is that by their logic, conservatives should not have supported the former governor of California in his 1976 primary challenge to the late President Ford. After all, as O’Bierne reminds us, Reagan was only nine years removed from signing an incredibly liberal abortion law and pronouncing himself “fully sympathetic” with it. We’re told it’s apples and oranges, but is that really a major improvement over Governor Romney’s statements four years ago that he would not touch–that is, would not make more restrictive or permissive–Massachusetts’ abortion laws?
I yield to no one in my love for President Reagan. I’ve got a bust of him in my office and two portraits of him waiting to be hung, not to mention (just ask my wife, who packed them) more Reagan biographies than any one man should own. But it’s silly to pretend that he was not the convert that he was–or that evangelicals should never support another one. Far better to have as president a passionate and eloquent convert (like Reagan) than…well, pick your poison. Senator Brownback, who shifted his position longer ago but isn’t one tenth the communicator of Governor Romney? Senator McCain, who called people like us “agents of intolerance”? Mayor Giuliani, who’s for partial-birth abortion? Hillary, who will win if we don’t nominate a candidate who can make other converts? You do the math.
UPDATE: The bride adds, “And unpacked them!” Hey, whatever–I put the bookshelf together.

About Charles Mitchell

EFM's resident Yankee, Charles Mitchell, works in the non-profit arena in his native Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Charissa, live near the state capital of Harrisburg with their daughter, Adeline, and are members of a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America.

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