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Monday, June 20, 2011

Romney and a Pledge on Abortion

As our textbook repeatedly emphasizes in a boxed feature, pledges and promises are a significant element of American politics. ABC reports on a pledge concerning the abortion issue:

Republican presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and Herman Cain have announced that they won't sign the Susan B. Anthony's List Pro-Life Presidential Pledge, which five other Republican contenders --Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty and Rick Santorum -- agreed to sign.

Romney announced his decision in an oped today on the National Review's website. He called the pledge "overly broad" and said signing it could have "unintended consequences."

"It is one thing to end federal funding for an organization like Planned Parenthood; it is entirely another to end all federal funding for thousands of hospitals across America," Romney wrote. "That is precisely what the pledge would demand and require of a president who signed it."

At The Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin is highly critical of the pledge:

Romney and the other candidates are being used as fundraising tools for whipping up the base. Whoever doesn’t hop to the tune of these groups had better watch out.Mailers go out, funds are raised and the accusations of squishiness fly. Whether or not you think Romney is solid on abortion, his willingness to sign this or that pledge is irrelevant. If this gamesmanship — send an extreme and nebulous pledge and vilify whoever doesn’t sign it — is all these groups have to offer, maybe they need to rethink their mission. And the scramble to best all others in the “purity” game in not one that redounds to the Republican Party’s benefit.
Judge for yourself what is going on here. But don’t confuse a candidate’s position on any issue with his willingness to sign a pledge. Real presidential leadership isn’t demonstrated by succumbing to the entreaties of this or that group whose allegiances and decision-making process are not transparent. My hunch is these groups’ ability to sway voters in this manner is diminishing, just as the power of endorsement s by other politicians is fading. That, I think, is all to the good.