January 24, 2008

This week saw the last “March of Life” of Bush’s presidency, as thousands of opponents of abortion rights gathered just a few blocks from the White House, as they do every year, to protest on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. As with every other year, Bush showed his solidarity with the crowd’s cause by picking up the phone and telling them what a great job they’re doing. The invitation to appear in person was, of course, ignored.

Some have noticed the Republican record of snubs.

The annual March for Life has come and gone. One of its more bizarre qualities is the way GOP presidents participate: by recorded message or telephone hook-up, but never in person. This began during Ronald Reagan’s presidency when some advisors did not want a photo beamed around the world of Reagan addressing the crowd, but those same advisors knew they had to at least acknowledge the role that pro-life forces played in Reagan’s 1980 victory. Reagan could look out the window of the Oval Office and see that marchers, as could every president since, but the phone connection has remained the means of participation. Even George W. Bush, who will never face another election and seems plenty unconcerned about the political fallout of other decisions, could not manage to emerge from his office to address the crowd in person. […]

At some point, pro-life groups need to challenge those whose disembodied voices fill their ears every January. This bizarre “telephone hook-up” is, in both the literal and figurative senses of the phrase, lip service to the cause. The loyal pro-life members of the GOP coalition deserve more, to say nothing of the unborn.

Of the pro-life Republican candidates, John McCain sent a letter, Mitt Romney issued a press release, Mike Huckabee was in Georgia, and Ron Paul (who opposes abortion rights despite his libertarianism) didn’t communicate with the crowd, though he did announce an endorsement from Norma McCorvey.

In response to all of this, Kevin Drum asked, “[W]hy do the pro-life forces put up with this?”

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