Let's stipulate that people, and particularly politicians, can get into trouble by attempting to speak for God. But that's not the moral of the story regarding Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock.
Responding to a question about abortion, Mourdock offered a grieved response -- his voice breaking a bit -- on the matter of which exceptions he favored. His Democratic opponent, Joe Donnelly, also pro-life, said that he would permit abortions in cases of rape, incest and to save the life of the mother. Mourdock said he had "struggled with it . . . for a long time," but had come to the conclusion that "life is a gift from God." Unfortunately, he didn't stop there. He added that "even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."
That was sufficient for the Democrats and their eager Dobermans in the press to salivate and pounce. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, head of the Democratic National Committee, fulminated, "Richard Mourdock's rape comments are outrageous and demeaning to women. Unfortunately, they've become part and parcel of the modern Republican Party's platform toward women's health as Congressional Republicans like Paul Ryan have worked to outlaw all abortions and even narrow the definition of rape."
The Associated Press headline said "God at Work When Rape Leads to Pregnancy" and the Atlantic screamed "Republican Senate Candidate Says Rape Pregnancies Are a 'Gift from God.'" There was much more along those lines.
Mourdock clarified a day later, saying "God creates life, and that was my point. God does not want rape, and by no means was I suggesting that he does. Rape is a horrible thing, and for anyone to twist my words otherwise is absurd and sick."
But absurd is what the Democrats do. The Democratic Party is in the caricature business. Just consider Barack Obama's stock description of Mitt Romney: "He's running around the country saying he has a five-point plan. But he really has a one-point plan: Folks at the top get to play by a different set of rules than you do. They get to pay lower taxes than you do and use offshore accounts. Or they can invest in a company, bankrupt it, fire the workers, take away their pensions, ship the jobs overseas and still make money doing it."
It's getting hard to tell who's the lower demagogue -- Mr. Obama or Ms. Wasserman Schultz.
Mr. Mourdock chose his words poorly while attempting something dangerous -- to grapple with a serious moral question in a political debate. People wonder why politicians are so guarded and rehearsed. Well, this is why. One stray word and you become fodder for the demagoguery machine.
The very fact that a couple of ill-chosen words by pro-life candidates have become lightning rods this election season betrays the overwhelming bias of the press on this issue. Most Americans consider themselves to be pro-life. The pro-life posture is accordingly the mainstream view. An August CNN survey found that 52 percent say abortion should be illegal in all (15 percent) or most (37 percent) circumstances. A May Gallup survey found that more women call themselves pro-life (46 percent) than pro-choice (44 percent). But the press allies with the Democrats to smear pro-life candidates as "extremists."
Abortions that are the result of rape amount to fewer than 1 percent of all abortions. Yet the press treats these rare exceptions as central. What goes virtually unreported are the doctrinaire positions of liberal Democrats: They oppose waiting periods, parental notification, limits on sex selection abortions, restrictions on late-term or "partial birth" abortions, and laws protecting the lives of babies "accidentally" born alive following botched late term abortions. Has there ever been a political debate in which the pro-choice candidate was challenged about his or her positions on those questions?
It's obviously a ghastly thing for a woman to be raped and to find herself pregnant as a consequence. What Mourdock was saying, if inartfully, was that the child so conceived is innocent, and doesn't deserve to die because of the crime of his or her father. He understands that this is a tough issue. It makes everyone horribly uncomfortable. But the liberal answer -- abort the child or else be accused of approving of rape -- is a slimy abuse of tragedy and a disgrace to civil discourse.