The spectacle may have reached a new height (or low) last week in South Carolina when Senator Joe Biden of Delaware used the Democratic debate to denounce the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the ban on partial-birth abortion. Lining up with all seven of his rivals, Biden declared, “The truth of the matter is that this decision was intellectually dishonest. I think it is a rare procedure that should only be available when the woman's life and health is at stake. But, what this court did is it took that decision, and it said -- put a Trojan horse in -- through dishonest reasoning, laid the groundwork for undoing Roe v. Wade. That's the danger of this decision. Not the specific procedure, but the rationale offered to justify, I think, the next step they're going to try to take.”
“Intellectually dishonest,” indeed. The Supreme Court did not reason in its ruling about the essential holding in Roe v. Wade. Instead, it deferred to the reasoning of the United States Congress about the lack of medical need for and brutality of the partial-birth abortion procedure, which involves the partial delivery and subsequent killing of the child in mid- or late pregnancy. It was Congress that intellectually reasoned about this reality, and it was a bipartisan majority in Congress, including Joe Biden, that voted for the ban. Here then was Biden, with no change in the facts or the law before him, hitting the Supreme Court not only for agreeing with him, but for deferring to the branch of government of which he is a member. The only explanation for this change of heart is the same one that explains the chameleon’s change of color. Biden wants to have the same political hue as his blue state rivals for the 2008 nomination.
Maybe the same thing would have happened if the presidential campaign were shorter and candidates ran on their records, take them or leave them. Then again, maybe not.. Our country could use the clarifying messages of candidates like Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan, telling us where they stand. In the meantime, we are all learning something about the competitors as they fold, spindle, and sometimes even mutilate their own pasts. I can hear the opening statements now, “Let me distort my own record so you don’t have to!”