If there’s one thing I hate, it’s politics.
That may make my career choice seem pretty stupid since I’m a journalist who writes about politics and politicians full-time. But what I really hate is the lying and obfuscation rather than a robust discussion of ideas.
Two of the country’s top politicians recently demonstrated what I dislike so much when they engaged in a classic obfuscate-off.
Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul hold extremely opposing views on abortion. Paul believes in no abortions ever and Wasserman Schultz believes in no prohibitions on abortions ever.
All well and good for each respective side. But when either is asked about his/her view on the subject he/she doesn’t answer, instead pointing out how the other is hedging on the subject.
Again, it’s perfectly fine to point out your opponent’s refusal to answer a direct question, but not so much when you refuse to answer a direct question while doing so.
The whole Debbie/Rand situation started when Paul, the freshman senator from Kentucky, announced his candidacy for president earlier this month.
Paul has a libertarian background inherited from his father, former Rep. Ron Paul. But he was elected senator as part of the conservative tea party wing of the GOP. Libertarians are usually pro-choice while social conservatives are pro-life, so people wonder where Paul stands.
In the past, Paul has voted for bills that would cut abortions, some that included exemptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother, and some that did not include any exemptions.
The day after announcing his candidacy, Paul was asked by the press if he believes human life begins at conception. The DNC had representatives present, so Paul, calling it a “gotcha question,” turned the tables on them.
“Why don’t we ask the DNC: Is it OK to kill a 7-pound baby in the uterus?” he said. “You go back and go ask Debbie Wasserman Schultz if she’s OK with killing a 7-pound baby that’s just not born yet. Ask her when life begins, and ask Debbie when she’s willing to protect life. When you get an answer from Debbie, come back to me.”
Wasserman Shultz wasn’t shy to reply, quickly shooting back with, “Here’s an answer. I support letting women and their doctors make this decision without government getting involved. Period. End of story. Now your turn, Sen. Paul.”
It wasn’t really an answer. She was just sticking to her own talking points while accusing Paul of doing the same.
It’s a bit like if you report a bank robbery to the cops when the only reason you witnessed it is that you were robbing the liquor store across the street.
Though reporters from the mainstream and conservative media continued asking Paul about whether he supports a complete ban on abortion with no exemptions, Paul repeated his line that he has voted for bills with and without exemptions.
That means he’s OK with no exemptions. So he should just say so.
But he’s running for president, and the first rule of running for anything is to straddle the fence.
“The thing is about abortion — and about a lot of things — is that I think people get tied up in all these details of, sort of, you’re this or this or that, or you’re hard and fast [on] one thing or the other,” was Paul’s reply to the Associated Press one day after his announcement.
But lest you think Wasserman Schultz is any clearer, listen to what she told Fox News Channel’s Megyn Kelly: “I’ll speak for myself: A woman’s right to make her own decisions about her body should be between her and her doctor. And that, in terms of personal liberty, we definitely have a different opinion, Rand Paul and I do.”
That sounds pretty clear, but doesn’t specifically shoot down Paul’s claim that the Democratic Party supports abortion up to the moment of birth. Kelly noted that though the majority of the public supports abortion rights, about 80 percent don’t favor it in the third trimester, and more than 60 percent oppose it in the second trimester.
Wasserman Schultz already knew that. That’s why she gives an answer to satisfy her base, but attempts to placate swing voters, too.
“We’ve been very clear. There’s no ambivalence here,” she told Megyn Kelly. “That decision is best left not to government, but between a woman and her doctor. I can’t tell you a specific date and time past which … in all cases are certain that that choice shouldn’t be made. That decision is very unique and individual to the woman, and should be in consultation with her conscience and her God and her doctor.”
So she says the decision is only between a woman and her doctor and her God, but can’t give a “specific date” past which “in all cases” such a choice should be disallowed by the government.
Those are two contradictory answers, yet she claims the DNC has been “very clear” and has “no ambivalence.”
Madame, your answer is the very definition of ambivalence.
Earlier the same day, Wasserman Schultz told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, “Would Rand Paul let a woman die because she’s carrying a baby, or is he going to let her make that choice with her doctor?”
So there are not answers from anyone here, just questions on the most heart-wrenching examples for either side: Would you kill a 7-pound baby? Would you let a woman die?
Wasserman Schultz protested to Megyn Kelly that Paul isn’t being completely forthcoming, and Kelly ceded the point, but added, “I have you tonight,” so it was her who was being pressed.
Despite the rightward lean of Fox News, Kelly and Wasserman Shultz had a friendly exchange, with the DNC chair ending the conversation urging Paul to “answer the darn question.”
The DNC chair should do likewise.