St. Louis Oracle

St. Louis-based political forecasting plus commentary on politics and events from a grassroots veteran with a mature, progressive anti-establishment perspective.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Claire the pro-lifer?

Waffles for breakfast this morning. That's what Sunday morning television viewers got while watching Sen. Jim Talent and State Auditor Claire McCaskill field Tim Russert’s questions on today’s Meet the Press. Both candidates waffled like they were impersonating John Kerry.

For me, the most startling revelation was McCaskill’s statement that she would support a ban on partial birth abortion as long as it exempted abortions to save the life of the mother. Put in context, that’s a more radical anti-abortion position that President Bush, Sen. Kit Bond or even her opponent, Sen. Jim Talent, all of whom would also exempt abortions of pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. It was apparently no slip of the tongue, because Russert specifically repeated the condition for the exemption, protect the life of the mother, and Claire repeated her support for such a ban.

The accepted pro-choice position for partial birth abortion is that the bill must exempt abortions necessary to protect the health of the mother. The difference between “life” and “health” is huge. The “health” exception is a hole in the ban that you can drive a Mac truck through. Subject to subjective interpretation, it makes getting an abortion as easy as getting out of jury duty for medical reasons. An exemption based on saving the mother’s “life” is more objective and much tougher. All but the most radical pro-lifers accept the “life” exception, and all but the most radical pro-choicers accept an illusory ban with the “health” exemption.

Russert’s prepared questions were tough and incisive, and made each candidate happiest when the other was being questioned. But he did miss one important follow-up opportunity. The program’s first question covered the Mark Foley sex scandal and allowed both candidates to claim how they wouldn’t have tolerated it. But later, McCaskill discussed how she thought Bill Clinton was a “great president” but that she wouldn’t want him anywhere near her daughter. So, if Foley was effective in his legislative duties (and I don’t know whether he was or not), would McCaskill have let him continue, just nowhere near her son?

Talent also did lots of waffling. He hemmed and hawed and hemmed and hawed some more when Russert painted him into a corner by asking Talent if he thought Bush was a great president, after having mentioned Bush’s frequent fundraising for Talent and Talent’s 94% pro-Bush voting record. Talent’s attempt to stress “the other 6%” wasn’t very effective. He would have been better off pointing out how statistically misleading the 94% figure is, because the majority of issues are really consensus based. His predecessor, Sen. Jean Carnahan (D), had a 73% Bush support record, so only about one vote in five is any different than with a Democrat in the chair. I don’t have the numbers, but I bet even Missouri’s most progressive representatives, Lacy Clay and Emmanuel Cleaver, support Bush a majority of the time when you count all the same issues.

Talent also muffed an opportunity when Russert questioned him about his 3-month-old statement that things in Iraq were going well. I thought the senator would respond that things in Iraq were going better three months ago than they are now, but he didn’t.

The real point about the Iraq war, that we shouldn’t have gone there to begin with and that withdrawal should take place now, not be phased over two years, never came up with these two contestants.

Of course, both candidates did a lot better than I would have done under similar fire. But their performances did highlight what the corporate media don’t want you to know - that’s there’s not all that much difference between the two, except maybe four years of seniority.

I’m happy there are other choices, notably Progressive candidate Lydia Lewis.


Blogger Travis Reems said...


I think the distinction McCaskill was drawing was not that President Clinton was effective where Representative Foley might or might not have been, but that Foley's illegal behavior of sending pornographic material to and preying upon under age pages violated not only our senses of decency, morals and ethics, but also the law, where President Clinton's foibles were limited to activities with a consenting adult.

October 10, 2006 at 4:32 PM  
Blogger St. Louis Oracle said...

As for me, I think Clinton's work to popularize oral sex between 20-something ladies and guys my age was the highlight of his presidency!

But seriously, the Clinton and Foley situations are more parallel than you realize. In D.C., the age of consent is 16, so as creepy as it was, it wouldn't have been criminal even if Foley had actually nailed the kid. Yes, as a practical matter, the public regards a 40-something congressman hitting on a 16-year-old page more or less under his supervision as inappropriate, but that same public also regarded a 50-something President of the United States hitting on an (albeitly flirtatious) intern more or less under his supervision as inappropriate. Also, as much as partisan Democrats tried to pass off the Clinton impeachment as "just about sex," the fact is that Clinton was impeached for obstruction of justice via his perjury in the Paula Jones case deposition, not the sexual behavior that was the subject matter of the perjured testimony.

My point was Claire's questionable double standard: feigned outrage over the Foley situation while considering Clinton a great president when not hitting on her daughter.

October 10, 2006 at 9:12 PM  
Anonymous Clark said...

Oracle, you're really reaching here.

You're completely glossing over the distinction between partial birth abortion and abortion in general. Partial birth abortion usually refers to a late term abortion, and that's something that pro-choice supporters are not at all in agreement on. Claire's position on abortion is that it is a right for all women, and can only be restricted in late term situations. Even then, the life of the mother takes precedence.

October 13, 2006 at 7:05 PM  
Blogger Doug Duckworth said...

Even if Clarie is pro-choice in all situations, she is going to stick to a more conservative position as she needs rural voters, especially the Assembly of God whackos from Springfield. While Springfield is the bastion of the GOP in Missouri, she might actually pick up a few votes since many Americans are generally upset with the Republican Party. By appealing more conservative on certian key issues this could happen.

October 18, 2006 at 8:50 PM  

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