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Bob Casey's Speech Mattered

For 16 years, Republicans seeking the votes of right-to-lifers have made a huge deal about the fact that the late Pennsylvania Gov. Robert Casey, a strong abortion opponent, was not invited to speak at the 1992 Democratic National Convention that first nominated Bill Clinton. The issues surrounding Casey’s non-appearance were more complicated than is ever allowed by the Republican critics, but never mind: I thought it would have been better if Casey had spoken.

And now, the Democrats have made up for that moment. Sen. Robert Casey Jr., who shares his father’s anti-abortion views, spoke last night and made a note of the import of his being on the podium. "I'm honored to stand before you as Governor Bob Casey's son and a proud supporter of Barack Obama," the senator said. "Barack Obama and I have an honest disagreement on the issue of abortion. But the fact that I'm speaking here tonight is testament to Barack's ability to show respect for the views of people who may disagree with him."

But this is not good enough for my friend Mike Gerson, who said he was “deeply disappointed” with Casey’s speech because “he didn't actually make any pro-life arguments or appeal to pro-life voters.”

Funny, isn’t it, that when pro-choice Republicans such as Rudy Giuliani and Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke to the 2004 Republican Convention, I don't recall anyone criticizing them for not talkinga bout abortion. They used their speeches to lace into John Kerry and the Democrats. And their speaking roles were interpreted as a token of the G.O.P.’s commitment to a “big tent.” That served President Bush’s interests. But now that Obama has met a standard the conservatives set after the 1992 episode, conservatives are moving the bar higher.

Come on, Mike, you can argue what you want to about the speech, but can’t you at least acknowledge that Casey’s appearance before the Democratic convention on Tuesday was a big deal?

By E.J. Dionne  | August 27, 2008; 1:43 PM ET
Categories:  Dionne  | Tags:  E.J. Dionne  
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what's a bob casey?

Posted by: jrzshor | August 27, 2008 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the first paragraph.

This sort of debate has been going on in local and state Democratic parties for years--just not getting national attention.

There is one topic that the "pro-lifers" don't want to discuss: the well being of children after birth. Catholic Charities helping foster kids, organizations which provide well-baby care, etc.

Anyone whose family has welcomed a premature or nearly premature (27 weeks is the cutoff, I believe) child into the family knows that can sometimes involve extra medical care.

But where are the "pro-lifers" on what happens to such children if the family doesn't have excellent health care coverage? Where are they on nutrition programs for all mothers and children? Where are they on the Family Leave laws which allow parents time to care for such a fragile newborn without worrying about their jobs?

There is a difference between anti-abortion (the folks who have nothing better to do than carry signs and argue slogans) and pro-life, the folks who actually care what happens to kids after they are born. Perhaps young Bob Casey is the second and those in the first category are angry he isn't sloganeering.

Posted by: GHDEL | August 27, 2008 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Wait a second! Discredited GOP hack Gerson says that he found the Democratic convention disappointing? I may die of unsurprise.

Posted by: ibc | August 27, 2008 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Wait a minute--Michael Gerson is your friend?

You really need to raise your standards a little bitty, E.J. People might talk.

Posted by: Buck Thrust | August 27, 2008 3:51 PM | Report abuse

EJ, the point of being a conservative is to be as rigidly partisan as possible. Their response to their eroding credibility is to be even more rigid. Gerson has been trying to find the impossible--wiggle room--because he senses quite rightly that his version of pinched, narrow, venomous partisanship gives him very little time left to make a living being pinched and narrow. It's time has run out.

Posted by: DFC | August 27, 2008 6:37 PM | Report abuse

I agree that the inclusion of Casey, Jr., on the Democratic convention's program is significant and encouraging, but "hope" for a more reasonable party statement--not the insulting-to-the-intelligence- lack-luster thing they've got now--tends to fade in the light of Senator Obama's extremist's position on abortion. To not even support rendering medical help to a fetal survivor of a problematic abortion goes to some place beyond liberal and conservative ideas--some place quite cold and inhumane.

Posted by: R.L., expat in the Middle East | August 27, 2008 6:48 PM | Report abuse

WHAT I'D LIKE TO HEAR in Barrack Obama's speech: . .

100% of all our electricity produced by renewables in 10 years. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

1) It will boost our economy with cheap energy,
2) help decrease global-warming,
3) help decrease our involvement in the madness of the Middle East,
4) help decrease the strong arming Russia,
5) help decrease financial support to terrorist,
6) and it will leave some resources for our grandchildren.

Posted by: Coldcomfort | August 28, 2008 12:28 AM | Report abuse

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