Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Party of Death

Ramesh Ponnuru, in his book Party of Death, opens with a description of a dream he had about Hillary Clinton. It was not that kind of dream; instead, it was about her upcoming run for president. In Ponnuru’s dream, Hillary opines that abortion is a terrible thing, and the goal of all people should be to reduce the numbers of abortions, and provide assistance for poor mothers and their children. She then proposes to throw abortion policy back to the States, and allow legislatures to restrict or allow abortion as suits their constituents. Ponnuru awoke, thinking such a speech would make Clinton the next president.

Is that dream likely to come true? Maybe; Ponnuru makes a compelling case that abortion, when framed as the killing of innocents, is a political loser. He also shows that incremental restrictions on abortion are political winners. So, would the senator from New York make such a speech? Who knows? She is likely to say anything, and might stumble onto the winning Ponnuru combination on abortion.

Reading Ponnuru’s clear prose is a joy. He effortlessly demolishes the framework of arguments that the “Party of Death,” has constructed to bolster the conjured “right” to an abortion. Ponnuru is particularly devastating to the more than 400 historians who drafted a voluminous amicus brief purporting to show that anti-abortion laws are “an aberration from an American tradition” that the decision in Roe vs Wade restored. The brief bolstered Blackmun’s otherwise flimsy rationale for finding the right to abortion in the constitution. The brief was cited by Ronald Dworkin, Laurence Tribe and George Will as authoritative history.

Ramesh Ponnuru’s conclusion about this brief is a little different. “It was fraudulent. [It] is a case study in the academic betrayal of truth.” And his opinion of the authors is equally contemptuous: “They put their scholarly authority behind lies.” In a thirteen-page chapter with 53 footnotes, many of which come from other works written by the briefs’ authors, Ponnuru completely discredits this alleged historical brief. 400-1 and Ponnuru dominates. He barely breaks a sweat.

Reading Ponnuru’s outstanding book reminded me of a recent dream of my own. I am a big fan of Michael Medved’s radio show. I especially enjoy his willingness to bring on any liberal commentator, espousing any argument, in order to expose the illogic, fallacies and frauds that characterize their arguments. In my dream, Medved was debating with something that looked like a Ted Kennedy-shaped helium-filled piñata that the radio host hit with a broomstick every time Medved made an unanswerable argument. It did not take long before the gas bag was beaten to the ground. Nonetheless, beaten and deflated, it kept yammering on. With Party of Death, Ponnuru has administered the Medved treatment to those who would argue in support of abortion, euthanasia and embryonic stem cell research. Will those deflated opponents learn from their defeat and make the Clinton speech of Ponnuru’s dream? Or will they continue yammering their tired, discredited arguments as does the Ted Kennedy piñata in mine?