Life’s hardest decisions are exactly that; hard, gut-wrenching dilemmas with no pure 100% answer. Rick Warren subtly and unobtrusively laid one of those dilemmas in Barack Obama’s lap during The Saddleback Summit on Saturday Night. Rev. Warren asked Senator Obama when he believed human life began. Barack Obama answered that it was above his pay grade. This delightfully ambiguous phrase can mean several things.
p>Perhaps the person is tacitly admitting she/he has been asked a question that is outside his/her realm of knowledge. At first glance, this is not an unreasonable response from Senator Obama. He trained as a lawyer and then worked as a politician. If you want to understand the scientific angle of the question email the Harvard bio department. To get a moral take, speak with The Pope or The Dali Lama.
In the US Senate, this answer isn’t totally as obnoxious as it sounds. An entire Senate Subcommittee exists that knows which doctors, scientists and ethicists to bring into the hearing room, if the US Senate ever really needs to know the point of sentience for a new human being. So if Barack Obama were running for reelection to the US Senate, this wouldn’t be too bad of a gaffe.
The problem with Senator Obama’s answer is that he is running for President, not Senator. Harry Truman was no nuclear physicist, but the US Air Force wasn’t going to ask Robert Oppenheimer whether they should drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. That was the President’s pay grade; whether Harry Truman had a clue how an A-Bomb worked or not.
The person is stating that he/she is not able to influence where this goes, even if they give a firm reply, and should therefore stay out of the path of any flying shrapnel. Looking at Barack Obama’s answer from this angle makes it seem even more morally feckless. Senators have significant impact on several aspects of abortion politics.
Every time Senator Obama votes on a Supreme Court Justice, he hires another individual to make decisions that determine how wide-spread abortion will be. Presumably, a wise and careful Senator will only hire a USSC Justice that favors abortion rights in the confidence that the pregnancy gets terminated well before the developing baby can be considered human.
If Senator Obama were a morally careful man, he would proceed to choose pro-abortion Federal Judges based on a clear idea of when a developing baby became a human being. Even Senator Barbara Boxer, a politician who represents as pro-abortion a view point as you can have, without being in favor of shooting live offspring, drew the line at killing babies who survived a failed abortion attempt.
Senator Obama’s prior record in the Illinois State Legislature makes it clear that he has no problem of killing children who make it out of the mother’s body alive in a failed abortion attempt. He has voted in the past to have these children snuffed. Perhaps the Senator believes life really begins at 40? His public record on the issue thus far leave it somewhat up to debate.
Assuming Barack Obama becomes President Barack Obama, his power to steer the direction of abortion policy in American becomes vastly greater. He no longer votes whether to hire Federal Judges or not. He appoints them. In modern judicial politics, this means he is settling the direction a vast swath of cases on profoundly controversial issues like Private Gun Ownership, Abortion, and Civil Rights.
Presidents don’t decide these issues piecemeal, on a case-by-case basis. They do, however, profoundly influence the direction in which the debate moves. When a president appoints Conservative judges, the Right has the ball on all social issues that go before the Federal Courts. Likewise for the Left.
President Obama would have partial ownership of the controversial decisions his appointments made. Otherwise, no one would really care whether Scooter Libby released data about the CIA career of Valerie Plame. They’d all want something else for Fitzmas. If the president partially owns the decision, guess whose pay grade it falls under?
A final reason to hate Barack Obama’s answer is that it disavows responsibility, without giving up any decision-making power. Senator Obama disavowed moral knowledge of what he was doing, but doesn’t show any inclination of being willing to safeguard innocent human children from being terminated in error.
Personally, I was raised with the adage that if “I layed her in the bed; I’d better come up with the bread.” My Dad was telling me in his uniquely undiplomatic fashion that any girl I got pregnant was carrying a human being whose wellbeing I would be held morally accountable for. Assuming I was totally unsure when human offspring became human beings, I’d still take the same approach. Just not knowing doesn’t confer moral absolution.
Serious adults know what they don’t know. They then go a step further and understand the potential moral consequences of their epistemological blind spots. Moral serious adults go this one further. They hedge against the moral risks that could stem from their lack of knowledge.
Thus, someone as unsure on whether abortion kills a human being as Barack Obama claims to be cannot be morally serious when he votes against every presumable restriction that could be placed on abortion. I don’t claim to be morally perfect, but claiming to lack the knowledge of when a human offspring qualified as a human being is not an adequate moral basis to support abortion.
Every US President I can think in recent years has made decisions that led to loss of human life. It comes with the job. It defines the pay grade. The decision of whether to allow more or fewer abortions from a position of feckless and care free ignorance shows a cynical callousness to whether people needlessly die or not. If that’s how Senator Obama sees the world, the office of POTUS should be way above Barack Obama’s pay grade.
Cross-Posted At: THE MINORITY REPORT