August 12, 2005

NARAL Withdraws Misleading/False Anti-Roberts Ad

WASHINGTON - After a week of protests by conservatives, an abortion rights group said Thursday night it is withdrawing a television advertisement linking Supreme Court nominee John Roberts to violent anti-abortion activists. "We regret that many people have misconstrued our recent advertisement about Mr. Roberts' record," said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. "Unfortunately, the debate over that advertisement has become a distraction from the serious discussion we hoped to have with the American public," she said in a letter Thursday to Sen. Arlen Specter R-Pa., who had urged the group to withdraw the ad. .... Keenan's response said the group will replace the ad with one that "examines Mr. Roberts' record on several points, including his advocacy for overturning Roe v. Wade, his statement questioning the right to privacy and his arguments against using a federal civil rights law to protect women and their doctors and nurses from those who use blockades and intimidation."
Although, the idea that this ad was intended to provoke a serious discussion is laughable. It was a political bomb - pure and simple - intended to cause controversy and mislead the public into believing that Judge Roberts is or supports violent extremists. Shame on NARAL.

The Washington Post is of the opinion that NARAL's intended to mislead the public into believing that John Roberts supported abortion clinic bombers:

In releasing the ad, Nancy Keenan, NARAL's president, said in a statement that she wanted "to be very clear that we are not suggesting Mr. Roberts condones or supports clinic violence." That's funny, because the ad does precisely that. It opens with the scene of a bombed clinic -- a clinic attacked years after the case in question -- and then shows a victim of the bombing. An announcer intones that "Supreme Court nominee John Roberts filed court briefs supporting violent fringe groups and a convicted clinic bomber." It closes with the announcer telling viewers that "America can't afford a justice whose ideology leads him to excuse violence against other Americans." A reasonable viewer can only conclude that Judge Roberts -- who served as deputy solicitor general in the administration of George H.W. Bush -- had somehow justified or defended a clinic bombing...NARAL is certainly within its rights to disagree with the position the government took in the case. But the impression it creates with this ad is not an argument but a smear-- a smear that will do less to discredit Judge Roberts than it will the organization that created it.
It is clear that NARAL will oppose any nominee that Bush chooses. From NARAL's web site:
Given President Bush’s unwavering commitment to choosing far-right nominees, and his overarching goal of overturning Roe, we have every reason to believe that any judge he nominates will oppose the right to choose. We believe he will use one of two strategies. President Bush may nominate a judge with a clear anti-choice record. But his team knows that the American majority is pro-choice, and will fight an extreme nominee. So it’s quite possible he will nominate a stealth candidate – one without a clear record on privacy and choice, but who opposes choice nonetheless, making it even more difficult to fight.
So, in NARAL's view, any nominee will be an extemist nominee - even if they do not have the evidence to prove it. In that case, they will categorize the nominee (like they are doing with Roberts) as a "stealth" nominee.

Here is the reality: we have a Republican president. No Republican president will nominate a pro-choice person to the Supreme Court. It would essentially alienate the Republican base, which is largely pro-life.The Boston Globe agrees:
If NARAL wants to oppose Roberts because it fears he may become part of an antiabortion majority, that is its prerogative, though it's highly unrealistic for liberals to expect that they are going to get a nominee who explicitly commits to supporting abortions rights. Further, if NARAL wants to assert that Roberts's arguments back then helped deprive abortion clinics of an important legal tool against the protests and blockades of the time, that would be accurate.

But it is fundamentally wrong to portray Roberts as man who has excused violence against other Americans or who somehow offered legal support in a clinic bombing case. And that's the impression this ad obviously tries to create. Factcheck.org calls it guilt by association. Character assassination might be more apt.
If the Democrats wanted a pro-choice judicial nominee, the Democrats should have picked a better presidential nominee than John Kerry - someone who actually could have won. Yet, the Democrats lost that election. With the victory, the Republicans gained the right to nominate the next Supreme Court Justice. If the Democrats had won, the Republicans would not be expecting that the Democrats nominate the next Antonin Scalia. Why should Democrats expect Bush to nominate the next Ruth Bader Ginsburg? However, this does not mean that a pro life nominee would necessary vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. Many judges, including John Roberts, are of the opinion that Roe v. Wade is established precedent.

As someone who is pro-choice, I find that this ad did nothing but undermine the pro-choice position or, at the very least, destroyed much of the credibility of NARAL. You are not doing any of us any favors...

John Roberts does not appear to be an anti-abortion extremist. Remember the story of the boy who cried wolf. If you claim that every person Bush nominates is an extremist, pretty soon no one will listen to NARAL and NARAL will become merely background noise. Here is some advice: Go take a valium... maybe two. Get some rest. Come back when you are ready for an honest and serious debate about whether John Roberts is right for the job.
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