William F. Buckley
The debasement of people high and low who reach out for political recognition is the most solemn rebuke to democracy. In the blizzard of protests against Ralph Nader's decision to run for president, the vector of the complaints is the damage his candidacy could effect on the Democratic contender. But at least Nader is able to reply that by his emphasis on saving the spotted owl, or whatever, he maximizes pressure on the Democrats to co-opt his programs. But what is to be thought of the debasement not only of politics, but of religion, by John Kerry?

His pursuit of the pro-choice voter is so assiduous as to bring into question his intellectual sanity. John Kerry is a Catholic who, he frequently says, opposes abortion but is in favor of the rights of dissenters from his position to have abortions and to advocate a higher incidence of them. That position by Catholic politicians ("I am personally opposed to it, but others aren't, and I respect their rights to their positions") is hardly novel. Teddy Kennedy and Mario Cuomo come to mind, famous expositors of the imputed obligation to transcend private opinions in the service of public consensus.

But Kerry has gone what in better days would have been universally held to be one bridge too far. In a speech last year to the NARAL Pro-Choice America Dinner, he gave an intellectually suicidal summary of his views.

He began by saying that "there is no overturning of Roe v. Wade." He went on: "There is no outlawing of a procedure necessary to save a woman's life or health." That statement of course begs the question on which the entire Congress and the state legislatures and the Supreme Court have been stalled for years, namely, Is the invocation of "health," if made by the woman alone, conclusive in authorizing abortion? If so, Roe v. Wade, which did not authorize willful third-trimester abortions, stands to be revised as the Roe-Wade-Kerry decision.

Kerry continued: "There (shall be) no more cutbacks on population control efforts around the world." This endorses abortion Chinese-style. Too many people? Too few abortions.

But the eye-popper was still to come: "We need to honestly and confidently and candidly take this issue out to the country and we need to speak up and be proud of what we stand for."

But Kerry says he personally opposes abortion. Where is he exhibiting his pride in what he stands for? Whom has he counseled against abortion? A nun somewhere, out of earshot?


William F. Buckley

William F. Buckley, Jr. is editor-at-large of National Review, the prolific author of Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography.

Be the first to read William Buckley's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com delivered each morning to your inbox.