I’m going to vote for Tim Kaine, the ex-Democratic Governor of Virginia running against George Allen, the Republican trying to regain the seat he lost in 2006 to James Webb. After the slimy, dishonest campaign Allen ran against Webb ( full disclosure: I went to law school with the Senator, and know him personally. A more honorable, courageous, principled man doesn’t walk the earth), Allen lost any chance of a vote from me forever, and it wouldn’t matter if his opponent was a toilet brush.
Nonetheless, Kaine’s ads are making me think he’s only a step or two above toilet brush level. Especially outrageous is this line, from a “war on women” ad “approved” by Tim Kaine, intoned by an announcer as the camera shows a woman:
“Allen would take away her Constitutional rights by reversing Roe v. Wade.”
Even counting “v.” as a word, this inexcusable statement includes four misrepresentations in just twelve words, an impressive total, though I’m sure Bill Clinton has topped it at one point of another. Let’s see:
- By definition and process, a Senator can’t single-handedly “take away” Constitutional rights. He would have to be joined by a majority of the Senate in passing a law, and a majority of the House would have to agree, and then the President would have to sign the bill. Even then, if the Supreme Court found that a law took away a Constitutional right, it would have to strike the law down. If, on the other hand, the Court ruled that there wasn’t such a right in the Constitution, then neither Allen nor anyone else could be accused of taking that right away. It’s there, or it isn’t. Only an Amendment can take away an existing right.
- Nor can Allen reverse Roe v. Wade, no matter how much he wants to or tries. Senators don’t reverse Supreme Court decisions; only the Supreme Court can do that. So to say he would do what he can’t possibly do is an outright lie.
- Even if Allen could reverse Roe, which he can’t, doing so wouldn’t take away a right. Roe itself was case that found a right to abortion in the “unenumerated rights” in the 9th Amendment. If it’s reversed, that will mean that a Supreme Court decided that the original decision was wrong: there never was a right, and the case was wrongly decided. The right will not have been taken away; it never existed in the first place.
- Most of all, however, the use of “would” is deceitful. Would is the past tense of will, yet it is colloquially used in place of will. Saying someone would do something may be taken to mean he will, but Allen can’t do any of the things the ad says he would do. It really means he would if he could, but that meaning is hidden by the context. Why should anyone care what Allen would do, if there is no chance that electing him to the Senate will in fact allow him to do it? And how can it be fairly stated that Allen would do something that he presumably knows isn’t within the power of the office he is seeking? The statement that George Allen, if elected, would reverse Roe (if it wasn’t impossible) is as honest as saying that he would flap his wings and fly to Mars (if he had them) or that he would turn Michelle Obama into a turnip (if he acquired magical powers.) It is dishonest and also misleading: how many of the civics-challenged Virginian who see this ad will think that Senators can reverse court rulings? My guess, based on close up experiences with Virginia schools: Too many.
My favorite biased “fact-check” site that is really a partisan site pretending to be objective, PolitiFact, tries to excuse the ad by noting that “there’s strong evidence that Allen would vote to confirm an anti-Roe nominee to the court if given an opportunity.” Well,
- If the judge nominated is qualified, every Senator should vote for him or her. It’s not supposed to be a political judgment.
- The fact that the nominated judge didn’t agree with Roe wouldn’t mean that this was the reason Allen would vote to confirm him.
- The fact that the nominated judge didn’t agree with Roe wouldn’t mean that he or she would necessarily vote to overturn it. The tradition of the Court is stare decisus, meaning that a previous decision by the Court is presumed to stand except in extraordinary circumstances.
- If the hypothetical judge were nominated to replace another conservative judge, Allen’s vote for his or her confirmation would probably have no effect on Roe at all.
- No matter how you look at it, and how much PolitiFact is conditioned to make excuses for Democrats, by no stretch of the imagination is voting for a judge nominated to the Supreme Court the equivalent of “reversing Roe v. Wade.“
Tim Kaine has approved an ad that is unfair to Allen, lies to voters, and helps contribute to public ignorance.
Maybe I’ll just write in “Toilet Brush” for U.S. Senator…
[Post Script: What should the ad have said, if it was intended to be fair and honest? “George Allen opposes abortion in many instances.”]
Graphic: How to be a germaphobe