Saturday, June 23, 2007

More on the Anti-Abortion Concern Troll

Yesterday's Wanker of the Day, Melinda Henneberger, has already been well and suitably chastised by other bloggers for being hopelessly wrong about Democrats and abortion. I won't repeat what they said. Instead, I'll focus on a passage that raised a red flag for me:

Over 18 months, I traveled to 20 states listening to women of all ages, races, tax brackets and points of view speak at length on the issues they care about heading into ’08. They convinced me that the conventional wisdom was wrong about the last presidential contest, that Democrats did not lose support among women because “security moms” saw President Bush as the better protector against terrorism. What first-time defectors mentioned most often was abortion.1
When columnists talk about public opinion based on people they talked to, it's nearly always bullshit...but there's also something missing here, something missing from the whole piece: what Melinda Henneberger thinks.

So I looked around.

Her bio gives a clue: undergrad at Notre Dame, graduate study at a Catholic university in Belgium. Still, lots of people go to Catholic schools who don't buy the whole ideology.

There's another clue in a 2005 column in which she expresses support for a fictional candidate because he "stands up to the NARAL purity patrol" (and isn't 'purity' a curious word to use, one more commonly used (without irony) by the hardcore anti-choicers).

A pre-election piece from 2004 shows she was singing the same tune back then:
The Democrats are likely to lose the Catholic vote in November—and John Kerry could well lose the election as a result. It’s about abortion, stupid. And “choice,” make no mistake, is killing the Democratic Party.
But still nothing about how she feels about abortion.

Finally, back in the good old days of Terri Schiavo, we get the answer:
If it is above our pay grade to opt to terminate life in the womb—and, for the record, I think it is—then it is also wrong to decide when inconveniently comatose spouses or brutal murderers should be “terminated.’’ Either life and death is up to us or it is not. [emphasis added]
So it turns out that the columnist who thinks the Democrats' pro-choice position is hurting the party, who presents this as objective advice based on empirical observation, who does not mention her own position on the issue, is in fact anti-choice. And the column is doubly wankerrific: it's hopelessly wrong and dishonest.

Color me shocked.

This, of course, is how it's done in the exciting fast-paced world of professional columnizing. David Broder goes out among the Common Folk and finds a deep yearning for bipartisan compromise. Tom Friedman takes a taxi and learns that globalization is a force for good. And Melinda Henneberger talks--no, 'listens'--to women and discovers, amazingly, that they agree with her on abortion. They go out with an agenda and 'hear' whatever confirms it.

And even though the self-serving nature of their 'observations' is laughably transparent, they all maintain the fiction that they are doing no more than reporting the facts. That's what makes them wankers. Anybody can be wrong (and yeah, it takes a lot to be as wrong as often as Broder...but still); being wrong and dishonest, though, is the province of the completely useless tool.

1Note the carefully limited sampling there: 'first-time defectors'. Interview female 'first-time defectors' from the Republican party, and the odds are pretty good that they'll mention the party's stand against abortion as the motivating force.

Update: Welcome, Digby readers, and thanks for dropping by! While you're here, take a moment to look around; our other contributors have posted a lot of great stuff here as well. And come back anytime.

Other Update: Fixed a couple of missing links; big thank you to Matt Weiner for pointing them out.