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Duped at Notre Dame

Barack Obama says he wants abortion to be safe, legal, and rare, while doing everything in his power to advance it.

11:15 AM, May 18, 2009 • By PAUL KENGOR
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As Ronald Reagan spoke that day, he was laying out a multi-layered assault to win the Cold War, done through a group of key advisers: Bill Clark, Bill Casey, Cap Weinberger, Ed Meese, Jean Kirkpatrick, Richard Pipes. There was economic warfare. There was the aiding of rebels and freedom fighters from Poland to Afghanistan to Nicaragua. There was a rhetorical war to expose the inherent immorality of the Soviet system. There were crucial alliances, with Margaret Thatcher, with Pope John Paul II. There was peace through strength, from the 600-ship Navy to Pershing IIs to SDI. There were actual, official NSDDs, produced under Bill Clark's tutelage at the NSC, which articulated a formal policy of undermining Soviet communism and bringing "political pluralism" to Eastern Europe and the USSR itself.

My point with these examples--which is far from a comprehensive list--is that when Ronald Reagan spoke at Notre Dame on May 17, 1981, he was deadly serious about pursuing a course that would seek to achieve the goal he set forth in the speech: to dispatch communism to the ash-heap of history.

For Barack Obama, on the other hand, there is no such list for the goal that he articulated on abortion. Quite the contrary, beginning with his co-sponsorship of the so-called Freedom of Choice Act--which would abolish most of the few restrictions on abortion--or with promises he made to Planned Parenthood in July 2007 to require abortion coverage in his national health care plan--or, earlier, votes against the Born Alive Infants' Protection Act as a state senator in Illinois--Obama has done, or has promised to do, many things that would radically expand abortion to levels where it has never gone before in American history.

In a July 2007 speech, Obama described Planned Parenthood as a "safety-net provider." He believes that abortion services constitute a "safety net," and views abortion as a fundamental human right, one that he would like to sanctify with taxpayer funding. If Barack Obama got everything he ever wanted on abortion, we would face taxpayer funding of unlimited, unrestricted abortion at all stages of pregnancy at home and abroad.

That would not reduce the number of abortions.

Like many pro-choice politicians, Barack Obama says he wants abortion to be safe, legal, and rare, while doing everything in his power to advance it. He pays lip service to these canards when he needs political cover. Not surprisingly, that's what he did at Notre Dame on Sunday. Shame on Father Jenkins, the trustees, and the faculty, for giving Obama a podium--and honorary degree--to make fools of a sea of undergraduates at America's most celebrated Catholic college.

It would be like Ronald Reagan at Notre Dame saying that he wanted to take down Soviet communism while simultaneously subsidizing it with taxpayer dollars throughout Eastern Europe and the USSR. It would be like Reagan calling on Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall while sending in cement trucks and rolls of barbed wire.

What was done by the American president at Notre Dame on May 17, 2009, as opposed to what was done by the American president at Notre Dame on May 17, 1981, was not fact but farce, not history but dupery. And yet again, the Religious Left has offered up itself in the ignominious role of sucker.

Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College. His latest books include The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (HarperPerennial, 2007) and The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007).