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Santorum's Right on Civil Rights, Obama's Wrong

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Someone seeking to measure former Sen. Rick Santorum's leadership qualities compared to President Barack Obama's would do well to note that Santorum acknowledges the fundamental principle at the foundation of our republic and applies it with intellectual honesty and moral courage to the policy positions he takes, while President Obama does neither.

The Declaration of Independence states the principle: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

In a 2008 campaign forum, Obama turned his back on this principle when asked a simple question by Pastor Rick Warren: "At what point does a baby get human rights, in your view?"

For someone who acknowledges that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights, this is a no-brainer: Every baby gets the same human rights at the moment God creates him.

Then-Republican presidential candidate John McCain had no problem answering Warren's question. "At the moment of conception," he said.

Obama's answer was evasive yet revelatory. "Well, you know," he said, "I think that whether you're looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade."

In a nation where lawmakers universally held it "above their pay grade" to determine when humans get human rights, making laws to protect life and liberty would be an arbitrary exercise. That is the way it is today in the People's Republic of China, where individuals are deemed to serve the interests of the state, not the other way around.

When Obama served in the Illinois Senate, he was the principal opponent of a bill that would have defined every baby born alive in that state as a "person" under the U.S. Constitution. The bill would have applied even to babies who survived a late-term abortion procedure in which a mother is induced to deliver a live baby who is then deliberately left alone to die without treatment or comforting.

Obama didn't want to concede such a baby was a "person" because that would logically suggest that the same baby left peacefully in the womb must also be a "person" -- and thus, born or unborn, was entitled to the human rights protected by our Constitution.

"(T)he Equal Protection Clause does not allow someone to kill a child, and if this is a child, then this would be an anti-abortion statute," Obama explained.

Obama answer to Warren served the same strategic aim as his objection to calling all born babies "persons": Both were expedient tactics intended to protect what Obama knows is the ultimately untenable legal justification for killing unborn children.

Obama's answer to Warren said on its face: Some humans have human rights, some humans do not.

When I recently interviewed Rick Santorum on my Web-based program "Online With Terry Jeffrey," Santorum's statements on the right to life had the opposite strategic aim of Obama's: Santorum wanted to expose the untenable legal justification for killing unborn children.

Santorum told me he believed both slavery and abortion were evils that at different times in our history had wrongfully been legalized even though they blatantly violated the natural law acknowledged in the Declaration.

He said he agreed with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s argument in his Letter from the Birmingham Jail that a just law is a law that comports with the natural law or the law of God, and an unjust law is one that doesn't -- and that segregation laws were unjust because they violated the natural law.

It was in this context that I asked Santorum a question about whether human beings have a right to life from conception. He gave an answer wholly consistent with the principle of the Declaration.

"Every person, every child conceived in the womb has a right to life from the moment of conception," said Santorum. "Why? Because they are human, genetically human, at the moment of conception ... so it's a human life."

Santorum then rebutted Obama's answer to Rick Warren. "When Barack Obama is asked, you know, is a child in the womb a human life? (He says,) 'Oh, well, that's above my pay grade,'" said Santorum.

"I don't think you'll find a biologist in the world who will say that that is not a human life," said Santorum. "The question is -- and this is what Barack Obama didn't want to answer -- is that human life a person under the Constitution? And Barack Obama says no. Well, if that person, human life, is not a person, then I find it almost remarkable for a black man to say: No, we are going to decide who are people and who are not people."

Politico and the National Journal both quickly posted headlines accusing Santorum of playing the "race card" on Obama. He did not. What Santorum did was act like a leader by stating the plain truth about the greatest civil rights issue of our time, knowing full well it would anger powerful forces in our political and media elites that want to keep it legal to kill unborn babies.

Think how much good Obama could do if he spoke up for the rights of the most defenseless of all human beings with half the passion and candor of Rick Santorum.

And that, of course, is precisely what presidents are paid to do.

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