FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
Carly Fiorina and life issues: unanswered questions.
From the diaries by Erick.
Is Carly Fiorina pro-life? The question has come to the fore of late, as she publicly contemplates a candidacy for United States Senate against Barbara Boxer — and as her opponent for the California Republicans’ nomination in that race, Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, has publicly questioned her pro-life credentials. (Full disclosure: I’m a member of the DeVore campaign, so read the following with Reagan’s appropriated Russian dictum to “trust, but verify,” in mind.) An examination of the Fiorina record on this topic reveals worrying inconsistencies.
Any review of Fiorina’s pro-life convictions must acknowledge that for the past 20 months, when pressed on the issue, she has declared herself “pro-life.” This is laudable, and as it should be: the Republican Party is the natural political home for the majority of Americans who do not believe in the Democratic agenda of unrestricted abortion-on-demand, and so it makes sense that a would-be Republican nominee for office would endorse that point of view.
Unfortunately, it is all too easy to question the depth of Fiorina’s commitment to the pro-life cause. These questions range from the legitimate to the ungenerous. Among the latter would be noting, as many have, that Fiorina never uttered a public word on the topic, nor lent any support to pro-life activism, before embarking upon her political career. Indeed, pre-2008 media reports on Fiorina almost uniformly describe her as “pro-choice” — for example, this 2004 San Jose Mercury-News piece, in which “Republican insiders said Fiorina [is] moderate and pro-choice.” Like the father welcoming the prodigal son, we should laud the turn to what’s right. We should also note what it signifies: if Carly Fiorina says she is pro-life now, that is at minimum evidence of a California Republican base that embraces a conservativism and compassion that do it profound credit.
Legitimate questions about Fiorina’s pro-life credentials arise from her activism as a McCain-campaign spokesperson in the 2008 election. (Readers may recall that she served as our party nominee’s surrogate until a series of foot-in-mouth moments forced the campaign to withdraw her from public view.) During this period, concurrent with her first-ever public pronouncements of “pro-life” sympathies, Carly Fiorina was dispatched by the McCain campaign to court a series of pro-abortion audiences. The record of these appearances is, to be charitable, deeply strange for an avowed pro-lifer.
A short sampling of events, gleaned from a quick survey of press from that period, is as follows:
In June 2008, Fiorina assured a group of politically active women (reported in some outlets to have been discontented Clinton supporters) in Columbus, Ohio, that John McCain “has never signed on to efforts to overturn Roe vs. Wade.” Why would a pro-lifer regard this as a positive attribute to be touted? Why would a pro-lifer sign on as a surrogate for that sort of candidate? In August 2008, Fiorina stood next to one Debra Bartoshevich, a Hillary Clinton partisan, at a press conference, and did not correct Bartoshevich when she said, “Going back to 1999, John McCain did an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle saying that overturning Roe v. Wade would not make any sense, because then women would have to have illegal abortions.” Why would a pro-lifer stand on stage and remain silent when the candidate for whom she speaks is portrayed as pro-abortion?
In September 2008, Fiorina used the phrase, “reproductive rights,” “at a tea in Minneapolis for business women attending the Republican National Convention,” to describe the ability to secure an abortion. It is quite possible to read too much into a turn of phrase — yet veteran pro-life activists know well that “reproductive rights” is emphatically not how the push for abortion-on-demand is described on our side. It’s a curious error, and a red flag to those invested in the movement.
It seems fairly clear that Carly Fiorina was asked to deliver the message to some groups that John McCain was not particularly pro-life. For whatever reason, the McCain campaign viewed her as a good and trustworthy carrier of this message. We are therefore presented with the strange spectacle, in 2008 and since, of Fiorina proclaiming her pro-life sentiments for the first time, even as she amassed a record of publicly delivering a series of cues to the contrary.
We are left with the question of what to make of this. Was Carly Fiorina simply being a good soldier and demonstrating poor judgment? Or was she giving a wink and a nod to her actual, as opposed to her stated, views? Charity demands we assume the former — even if it is not the mark of a presumptive United States Senator. Being personally pro-life, of course, is not the same as being actively and meaningfully pro-life in the public square. After all, even Jerry Brown is “personally pro-life.”
Pro-lifers should congratulate Carly Fiorina for her belief in the sanctity of life. But if she wants to claim it as a credit to her electoral ambitions, she has a long road ahead — and some explaining to do about the road behind.