The Culture Wars

Repubs and Dems fight for the conservative base

WASHINGTON, D.C.—With all eyes on the upcoming election in Iraq, the right-wing politicos here are buckling down for a hard slog ahead in the culture wars. This morning the right was dissecting the views of Hillary Clinton, whom they hate above all others, and whom they both hope and fear will be the Democratic candidate next time around. Hillary has alarmed conservatives by appearing to move toward their own positions on certain cultural matters, decrying, for example, abortion as "sad, even tragic," which they take as a signal that the Democratic Party will now move to the center-right on the issue in an effort to start building a conservative culture-base. She also has raised eyebrows with kind words for religion, and for taking a tough position against illegal aliens.

"I think what we're seeing is, at least rhetorically, the attempt of the ultimate makeover," Gary Bauer, president of the American Values organization and a former Republican candidate for president, told The Washington Times. "She clearly wants to sit in the Oval Office. She's a bright lady, and I think she watched her party throw everything, including the kitchen sink, at the president and still lose. She's made her own calculation that values in the broadest sense of the word was the reason for that loss."

The week began nicely with the president taking a good swat at Roe v. Wade on Monday. He said he would support legislation requiring abortion doctors to inform every patient with an unborn child at least 20 weeks old of the possible pain the child might suffer and offer anethesia. He also said he would support legislation banning adults from helping pregnant teens cross state lines to get an abortion. "The America of our dreams, where every child is welcomed . . . in life and protected in law, may still be some ways away," Bush said in a phone call to March for Life prez Nellie Gray."But even from the far side of the river, Nellie, we can see its glimmerings."

He complimented the pro-lifers for being nice and polite while "engaged in one of America's most contentious issues." He said, "A true culture of life cannot be sustained solely by changing laws. We need, most of all, to change hearts."

The politicians view this last statement as evidence of Bush's reluctance to go at Roe v. Wade head on. Instead he will follow the "incremental" course, biding his time until four Supreme Court justices retire or die, giving him the opportunity to change the court to his liking, and then, perhaps, tackle the 1973 ruling. In the meantime, he will keep picking at abortion with laws and regulations wherever and whenever he gets the chance.

During his first term, Bush signed the partial-birth abortion ban, which gave unborn fetuses victim status equal to those who are injured or killed in violent crimes. He curtailed federal funding for stem cell research. Bush also supported his brother Jeb, governor of Florida, for stopping the removal of a feeding tube from Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman who has long been in a coma. A Florida court overturned the governor's ban earlier this week.

Bush's slackened pace on banning abortion and pushing other Christian values has made some on the right rebellious. Hearing the president's go-slow remarks Monday, pro-life activist Stephen Peroutka told The Washington Times, "That's a tough thing to say to 4,000 babies who will be aborted tomorrow—that this is not the right time to outlaw abortion. When is the right time—when public opinion polls say it's the right time?" Other traditional-values advocates are peeved with the president for backing off the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Claiming he doesn't have the votes for passage is giving up too easily according to Sadie Fields, president of the Georgia Christian Coalition. She wants Bush to quit pussyfooting, call down the Republican senate leaders, and tell them, "This is something I want, and you set about to make sure that happens."

"Nothing is more threatening to the foundation of our country than the radical homosexual agenda and its assault on marriage and the family," said Fields. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, was also critical of the president and has joined Paul Weyerich, James Dobson, and Jerry Falwell—all members of the religious-right coalition known as the Arlington Group—in writing a letter to Karl Rove complaining that same-sex marriage is a winning issue, and that moving away from it narrows his base of support.

 
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