Mitt Romney has received criticism for refusing to sign the Susan B. Anthony List's (SBL) pledge on abortion. Here is the actual wording of the pledge:
I PLEDGE that I will only support candidates for President who are committed to protecting Life. I demand that any candidate I support commit to these positions:FIRST, to nominate to the U.S. federal bench judges who are committed to restraint and applying the original meaning of the Constitution, not legislating from the bench;SECOND, to select only pro-life appointees for relevant Cabinet and Executive Branch positions, in particular the head of National Institutes of Health, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Health & Human Services;THIRD, to advance pro-life legislation to permanently end all taxpayer funding of abortion in all domestic and international spending programs, and defund Planned Parenthood and all other contractors and recipients of federal funds with affiliates that perform or fund abortions;FOURTH, advance and sign into law a Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to protect unborn children who are capable of feeling pain from abortion.
As a result of the uproar over not signing the pledge, Mitt Romney released a statement why he didn't sign the pledge:
I am pro-life and believe that abortion should be limited to only instances of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.I support the reversal of Roe v. Wade, because it is bad law and bad medicine. Roe was a misguided ruling that was a result of a small group of activist federal judges legislating from the bench.I support the Hyde Amendment, which broadly bars the use of federal funds for abortions. And as president, I will support efforts to prohibit federal funding for any organization like Planned Parenthood, which primarily performs abortions or offers abortion-related services.I will reinstate the Mexico City Policy to ensure that nongovernmental organizations that receive funding from America refrain from performing or promoting abortion services, as a method of family planning, in other countries. This includes ending American funding for any United Nations or other foreign assistance program that promotes or performs abortions on women around the world.I will advocate for and support a Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to protect unborn children who are capable of feeling pain from abortion.And perhaps most importantly, I will only appoint judges who adhere to the Constitution and the laws as they are written, not as they want them to be written.As much as I share the goals of the Susan B. Anthony List, its well-meaning pledge is overly broad and would have unintended consequences. That is why I could not sign it. 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. That is precisely what the pledge would demand and require of a president who signed it.The pledge also unduly burdens a president’s ability to appoint the most qualified individuals to a broad array of key positions in the federal government. I would expect every one of my appointees to carry out my policies on abortion and every other issue, irrespective of their personal views.If I have the opportunity to serve as our nation’s next president, I commit to doing everything in my power to cultivate, promote, and support a culture of life in America.
The group responded to Mitt Romney's statement by saying that Mitt Romney's refusal to sign the pledge raises more questions about him than it provides answers about him.
The truth is, ladies and gentlemen, is that this whole affair raises more questions about the SBA. Why is the SBA so angry about Mitt Romney's refusal for signing the document but not others? Why did the SBA give contradictory interpretations of their pledge both publicly and privately? Did the SBA coach some candidates but not others on the meaning of the pledge? Why did the SBA refuse to rewrite their pledge after it was clear that the document was poorly written and very flawed?
One of the reasons why the SBA is upset with Mitt Romney's refusal to sign the document is because he doesn't think that the SBA should be dictating who he should select and not select in his administration. Yet, contained in SBA's response is an admission that they want to restrict the President's right to select qualified people who will serve in the "relevant Cabinet and Executive Branch positions, in particular the head of National Institutes of Health, the Department of Health & Human Services, and the Department of Justice." Here's their admission:
He seems to indicate that he wants the freedom to nominate pro-abortion candidates for key cabinet positions such as Attorney General or Secretary of Health and Human Services. This is precisely what we want to rule out and it is unacceptable.
Given this admission by the SBA, signing the pledge is a lose-lose situation for any candidate. If he signs it, he'll get attacked by the left for being a candidate who is willing to take orders from an extreme right wing special interest group and how the social conservatives are imposing their religious views on the country. If he does sign it, he will make some social conservative unhappy if the signer of the pledge doesn't do exactly what they want.
There's another reason why this is a lose-lose situation for any candidate who signs this pledge. Consider this: if a candidate doesn't follow the pledge, how will the organization enforce the breach of the pledge?
The answer is that there's nothing they can do except use it as a weapon to attack the candidate if they don't go along with their views.
And that's what we're seeing in this dumb controversy with Mitt Romney. Its not like he agreed to the pledge and then abandoned it. He didn't sign it and now he's getting attacked for refusing to sign it.
Mitt's refusal to sign the document reveals how arbitrary SBA's criticism of 2012 candidates can be. Jennifer Rubin, writing for the Washington Post, points out that the SBA was quietly giving various campaigns interpretations on their pledge that was not consistent in their public interpretation of the pledge and as a result were being selective about which candidate they upset with:
I asked repeatedly during expansive back-and-forth e-mail exchanges on Saturday why Cain was excluded. After multiple inquiries in which other information was provided but my query about Cain was not addressed, a SBA spokesman e-mailed, “Cain disagrees on advancing a federal fetal pain bill.” That seemed to be fine with the group.But it turns out that not all candidates were treated fairly. When I asked about these two issues, Rick Santorum’s spokesman said that his campaign got an “interpretation” from SBA that the funding language applied to only abortion providers, not other entities or affiliated entities. Was this in writing? No. Whom did the candidate talk to? No answer.I asked SBA why it gave a different explanation of its pledge to only one campaign. A spokesman said, “ Campaigns who had questions got clarification.” But if the pledge was not interpreted the same for all candidates, would the group reissue it? Not exactly. An SBA spokesman said that with its clarification “Romney et al. can sign without fear.” But SBA is going to unleash its grass roots.( “Our grass roots will be encouraging them to sign.”) However, since SBA is not going to redo the statement, candidates would be expected to sign a pledge with language that doesn’t mean what it says. And did the group mean to include every executive branch appointment must be filled by a pro-life person or just Cabinet officials? Ya got me.
As a result, Jennifer Rubin realized that the SBA was not being upfront about the interpretation of the pledge to the media or to the various political campaigns who signed it. They deny that the pledge was poorly written and the language was too broad and yet the SBA was interpreting it differently when communicating with the various campaigns privately. But we now know that the SBA is arbitrarily interpreting its own pledge depending on which candidate they're talking to.
One blogger thinks that the private communications that the SBA made with the other 2012 candidates was not just an innocent inquiry over the meaning of the pledge but that the SBA was intentionally coaching the campaigns on what the pledge was supposed to mean:
They even went so far as to give “tips” to the other candidates, explaining what the pledge’s verbiage “was supposed to mean,” as opposed to what it really said. That sort of assistance that was never offered to the Romney campaign, according to what an SBA spokesperson told the Washington Post.
Regardless of how you interpret the facts, one thing is clear: the SBA was not being honest about how they were publicly and privately interpreting the language of their own pledge.
This led Jennifer Rubin to wonder why the SBA choose to club Mitt Romney but not Herman Cain for not signing the pledge. Despite the SBA's denial that they purposefully targeting Mitt Romney, she couldn't get a credible explanation for why they were only irate with Romney:
I spoke to Dannenfelser by phone Sunday morning. Why did she issue a statement criticizing Romney but not Herman Cain? “No one asked about Cain,” she said. (The result, however, was that only one was the target of a pointed public statement.) But she assured me that both Cain and Romney would be the focus of grass-roots efforts to get the candidates to sign the pledge. She insisted that in conversations with Romney adviser Peter Flaherty she explained that the pledge — despite clear written language on defunding providers to the contrary — didn’t extend beyond abortion providers. In the end she said that the two sides “agreed to disagree.”As a reminder, the Tim Pawlenty camp also thought the language meant what it said: “Advance pro-life legislation to permanently end all taxpayer funding of abortion in all domestic and international spending programs, and defund Planned Parenthood and all other contractors and recipients of federal funds with affiliates that perform or fund abortions” [emphasis added].
For some reason, the SBA is upset with Mitt Romney for not signing the pledge. They're also upset with Mitt Romney because he claims that they pledge would call for him to end all federal funding for thousands of hospitals across America simply because they are following the law with respect to abortion. Tim Pawlenty read the pledge and came to the same conclusion that Mitt did.
The SBA denies that the proper interpretation of their pledge and they're angry with Mitt Romney for pointing it out but not angry at Tim Pawlenty for coming to the same conclusion. The only conclusion I can come up with is that the SBA is at least happy that T-Paw signed the pledge but are dismayed that Mitt didn't.
In the end, the only people who got hurt in this controversy is the SBA. The fact that Mitt Romney refused to sign the pledge shouldn't come as a surprise. The pledge was poorly written and could be broadly interpreted enough to have unintended consequences.
They're also mad at Mitt because he doesn't agree that the SBA should have the ability to say who he will pick in his administration even though the SBA has admitted that is what they want.
In comparing Mitt Romney's statement with SBA's pledge, Mitt Romney is a much better commitment to the pro-life cause than the SBA's. His pledge was clear, consistent, and restrained. The SBA's pledge has major flaws that should have been addressed before any candidate signed it. Instead, many of the candidates signed it despite the fact that the SBA hasn't been consistent about the meaning of their own pledge.
The fact that some people signed this pledge without reading the fine print or verifying the significance of the terms of the pledge reveals that that the candidate is not only dumb for signing it, but that they don't possess the heuvos to come out with their own position on abortion.
Unlike Mitt Romney who came out and stated what his beliefs are, all the other candidates will explain their position on abortion by simply point to the SBA pledge. They're stuck with the SBA pledge now. Any candidate who gives further clarification what their position on abortion is has to do it without contradicting or offending the SBA.
Any leader who is willing to let a special interest group dictate who will or will not serve in their presidential administration is not a leader worth voting for because it boxes the candidate in both in on the campaign trail and in the presidency. By agreeing to this pledge, the candidate is essentially admitting that they are as rigid in their thinking and inflexible in their actions as the S.B.A. group.
The conservative website, Red State, which is no fan of Mitt Romney, has made this very same point:
Look, I understand SBA List’s motivation here but their execution was way off, in my opinion, and I think the candidates that rushed to sign this pledge, politicians all, have locked themselves into bad policy right from the get go… if they think this wont come back to haunt them, should they win the White House, they have another thing coming. Of course, they have the option of doing what most politicians do once they get elected and ignore the pledge but that’s not going to win them any points either.
The only loser in this stupid controversy is the SBA. They wrote a poorly written pledge and refused to redraft it. They look stupid since they can't even be consistent on the meaning of their own pledge that they put out for candidates to sign. Not only that, it doesn't look good for them if there is even a hint of suspicion or possibility that they're coaching some candidates but not others on the interpretation of the pledge.
Furthermore, the SBA is attempting to have an influence on the decisions that the next President of the United States makes with regards to decisions about who they hire in their administration, who they will select as the next Supreme Court justice and which laws they will support. The American people will not stand for a group with that much influence over a President nor will they allow such a candidate to ever enter office who is capable of being used by a special interest group in this manner. As a result, the SBA's influence has become diminished as a result of this stupid controversy that is of their own making.
In the end, Mitt Romney did the right thing by not signing the pledge. He gave the American people a more clearly written and better commitment to the pro-life cause that is unencumbered by special interest groups. Its his own personal declaration of his beliefs and positions about abortion. The American people now have a choice. They can either support a candidate whose positions on abortion is not their own but is that of a special interest group or they can support a candidate who beliefs are his own.
Which candidate would you choose to be a leader: the one who thinks for themselves or the one that lets others do the thinking for them?