UPDATED: Scott Walker: How Pro-Life is He?
His campaign hires leave pro-life leaders suspicious.
UPDATE: Since this story was published on Feb. 11, Gov. Scott Walker dropped a key campaign aide because of unpalatable positions. Unfortunately, that person was not his pro-choice campaign manager, Rick Wiley. It was campaign strategist Liz Mair, whom Walker dismissed in part because she Tweeted remarks perceived as anti-ethanol. (Iowa’s powerful caucuses may forever guarantee crony capitalism for farm states, it seems.) Mair also Tweeted things about immigration and other issues that put her outside the conservative mainstream, so Walker is probably better off without her. But we have to ask: Is it more important for Republican candidates to be seen as pro-corn than pro-life?
Did you remember to mark Ronald Reagan’s birthday? I did, by taking another look at his landmark Abortion and the Conscience of a Nation — the first time a sitting president published a book on such a crucial moral issue. The book was a brave and principled assertion of the rights of unborn children, by the president who brought pro-lifers in from the cold.
I also remembered, ruefully, how Reagan wasted a “gimme” open Supreme Court appointment on the pro-choice mediocrity Sandra Day O’Connor — a slot which came up in 1981, while Republicans still ran the U.S. Senate and could easily have confirmed a brilliant constitutional purist such as Robert Bork. That decision, few now remember, was the result of a hasty campaign promise Reagan had made to appoint a woman to the Supreme Court.
Pro-Life President, Pro-Choice Staffers
Who was it that, behind the scenes, convinced Ronald Reagan to make such a politically useless promise? Who conned him into picking O’Connor, instead of a solidly pro-life woman jurist?
We will never know which suited shark from K Street whispered in Reagan’s ear, but we do know one thing: O’Connor was and remained a deciding vote in favor of keeping the killing of unborn children legal. And she made it to the court because someone convinced Ronald Reagan that she was pro-life, when she wasn’t.
I had started volunteering for candidate Reagan in 1976, when I was just 12 years old, and he was still just a California governor. I had already been ringing doorbells for New York’s once vibrant Right to Life Party, and it filled me with hope that a serious contender for the Republican nomination was challenging the party’s dominant pro-choice establishment.
Pro-Life Base, Pro-Choice Establishment
Indeed the embrace of abortion, as a misguided extension of individual rights that would have horrified John Locke, has long prevailed in Republican establishment circles. Presidents Nixon and Ford were both pro-choice. Sen. Prescott Bush (George H.W.’s father) was a leader in Planned Parenthood, and his son long held a pro-choice position. His supporters and partisans, whom Reagan zealots pejoratively called “Bushies,” worked hard to defuse and dissolve pro-life initiatives from deep behind the scenes.
I wonder how many other Republican junk appointments, such as Anthony Kennedy and David Souter, can be traced to quiet, pro-choice staffers working in the shadows to frustrate the will of millions of pro-life voters.
The Pro-Choice Wink
So pardon me for being a little bit paranoid about how supposedly pro-life Republican candidates are likely to act in office. The pro-life movement has its greatest possible leverage over a candidate during the campaign; once in office, he will be under enormous pressure from powerful, wealthy pro-choicers to fudge on this “divisive” issue, and betray the pro-life voters who counted on him.
So if a candidate during the primary campaign starts to wink at pro-choicers, or nudge them to let them know that he really isn’t their enemy, we know very well how he will likely govern if elected. He’s like a groom who flirts with the waitress at the wedding rehearsal dinner. The man is flat out going to cheat.
Walker’s Credibility Gap
For this reason I am deeply worried about an otherwise exciting candidate, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. To his credit, he faced down Wisconsin’s public employee unions — which is the next best thing to personally curing civic cancer. He is smart, savvy and skilled. But is he really pro-life — as he claims?
The biggest red flag is Rick Wiley, who will fill the all-important role of campaign manager if Walker announces for president. Who else has Wiley worked for? Rudolph Giuliani and Kay Bailey Hutchinson — two of the most prominent (and politically inept) pro-choice Republicans in recent years. In 2004, Wiley shut down the pro-life phone banks in Wisconsin that had been calling on behalf of President George W. Bush, as a former RNC field staffer told me.
Another national pro-life leader suggested to me what pro-lifers can take away from Wiley’s track record: “Every person I worked with at the RNC who worked for Giuliani was personally pro-abortion, so [Wiley] is as well.” Perhaps this leader is wrong, and Wiley simply chooses again and again to work for candidates whom he disagrees with on an issue of life and death.
But what would we think if Wiley had worked for, say, David Duke on two occasions? Might we think that he shared Duke’s views? Or else that he was so phenomenally cynical that he just didn’t care? Is Walker equally cynical? Or is he secretly ambivalent about abortion — and trying to send a signal to pro-choice donors that he will be “flexible” on the issue once in office?
Wiley isn’t the first shaky appointment Walker has made. For his re-election bid as governor, Walker hired as spokeswoman Alleigh Marre, who had in 2011 declared, “I’m a Republican, and I support Planned Parenthood, a woman’s right to choose, access to STD testing, birth control, etc.” Marre has also worked for pro-choice two-time loser Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts.
Gary Bauer warned in The Daily Caller: “On abortion in particular it appears that Walker has been intimidated, or at least somewhat cowed, by those who insist that Republicans should keep quiet. These days, Walker’s position seems to be, ‘Sure, I’m pro-life, but I’d rather not talk about it.’”
At a time when pro-choicers will not even restrict late term abortions of babies who feel pain, or selective abortions of unborn baby girls, does Walker have the political and moral courage to stand in the gap on this issue?
The next few weeks may answer this question. Pro-life leaders are planning to demand that Walker decisively demonstrate his commitment to the unborn. If he does not purge his campaign of questionable personnel — the kind who will whisper names like “O’Connor” and “Souter” in his ear — then his credibility gap on the issue of life will only widen.