In the world of movies and television shows, producers rely on the viewers’ “willing suspension of disbelief” to draw and maintain large followings. Shows like “24” – arguably one of the greatest shows on TV today – employ this practice by which the audience willingly suppresses its natural desire to reject fanciful premises often used in these productions in order to be entertained by the show.
In 1956, noted psychologist Leon Festinger coined the term “cognitive dissonance” to define the condition that results whenever an individual attempts to hold two incompatible, if not contradictory, thoughts at the same time even in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary. Many leading pro-life groups, especially the Vitae Caring Foundation, have conducted extensive research that has consistently demonstrated the prevalence of this condition among self-described pro-choicers who recognize the humanity of the pre-born child in the womb, but nonetheless vote pro-abortion virtually without fail.
In spite of this wealth of psychological knowledge, the recent endorsement of former Gov. Mitt Romney for president by James Bopp Jr. – best known for his work as general counsel of the National Right to Life Committee, or NRLC – may require a new term altogether. Bopp’s endorsement stated: “Mitt Romney has stood side-by-side with those seeking to protect the weakest and most innocent of our society … he has acted to protect the sanctity of life. [His] record on fundamental life issues is one of not just words but action. I am proud to count myself among his supporters.”
The terms intellectually dishonest, disingenuous, willing suspension of disbelief and/or cognitive dissonance just don’t seem to adequately describe the magnitude of Bopp’s betrayal – even combined.
By virtually any political observer’s account, it is a stretch to consider Mitt Romney pro-life. After all, this is the same man who once boasted in 1994, “I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country. I have since … 1970. … You will not see me wavering on that.”
Of course, Romney now maintains that he has enjoyed a road-to-Damascus experience and is now pro-life – conveniently, just in time for 2008 … but more on that later. This endorsement would hardly raise an eyebrow if it were just the typical posturing of a political campaign. That’s not to say this wasn’t a decidedly political move, which it most certainly was. But the truly troubling part of this endorsement is who gave it and what he represents to the pro-life movement at large.
One look at Bopp’s long and distinguished career – as general counsel of Focus on the Family and NRLC, and a client list that includes Catholic Answers, Christian Broadcasting Network, the Gerard Health Foundation, Priests for Life and the Traditional Values Coalition, among others – begs the question of how someone so involved in the pro-life, pro-family movement could so readily ignore far more qualified, more stable candidates to jump on the bandwagon of an unknown quantity at best.
The annual March for Life was held in Washington, D.C., a few weeks ago. Neither Romney nor any representative was anywhere to be found – newfound conversion notwithstanding. Conversely, stalwart defenders of the dignity of the pre-born, like fellow presidential hopefuls Sen. Sam Brownback and Rep. Duncan Hunter, were there as they have been for several years running.
To the Romney camp’s credit, they seem to clearly recognize that they lack credibility with the conservative base. Unfortunately, they’ve opted to close that gap by spreading around barrels of cash to purchase those bona fides by hiring people who do possess said standing, apparently giving them such lofty titles as “Special Adviser on Life Issues.” The possibility that Bopp may be receiving payment for his advisory services would readily explain his gushing endorsement, which both defies fact and logic, but it does not excuse it.
Far be it from me to question Romney’s Saul-to-Paul experience regarding the pro-life cause; if true, it would be wonderful news. But a president of the United States this change does not make.
To take the biblical analogy further, Paul did not readily or easily ascend to a leadership role in the early church. First, Paul was sent to Ananias to be healed and taught the faith. Then he labored for years to prove the validity and sincerity of his conversion. To that end, if Romney truly wants to help the pro-life movement, he should spend the next several years dedicating his time, talent and treasure to enacting real change at the state and/or federal level in whatever capacity he can that doesn’t include running for the highest office in the country.
Frankly, hasn’t the presidency of George W. Bush – replete with federally funded embryo-destructive stem cell research, Harriet Miers nomination and over-the-counter status for the abortifacient Plan B – demonstrated that if the pro-life movement wants to end abortion, it needs to be just as demanding and discerning as their pro-abortion counterparts?
Kate Michelman, Cecile Richards and company will never compromise on their 100 percent pro-abortion stance when considering candidates. For example in the recent Virginia gubernatorial race, NARAL refused to endorse Tim Kaine, an openly pro-abortion candidate, because he believed that parents should know if their underage daughters were seeking the invasive surgical abortion procedure. The pro-abortion movement is so ardent that they fight tooth and nail in every state that tries to approve “Choose Life” license plates for fear that such a simple message on the back of cars might lead to mass pro-life conversions.
Conversely, one of the most respected heavyweight legal champions of the pro-life movement – who has made a career and a living off the $10 donations made to nonprofits by retirees who want nothing more than the rights of the pre-born to be protected – trips over himself to endorse and defend a candidate who has consistently governed in favor of the pro-death, pro-homosexual movement, who still favors embryo-destructive stem cell research and who does not support passage of the Human Life Amendment.
As for Bopp’s support of Romney and his status as a paid campaign consultant: Shouldn’t such a detail be made public to those who would otherwise trust such an endorsement as a heartfelt expression of someone concerned with the best interest of the pro-life movement, rather than a politically expedient offering awarded to the highest bidder?
Such information might better inform the public how much weight they should give Bopp’s support of Romney. And it also might illuminate what such a betrayal costs: 10, 20 or perhaps 30 pieces of silver?
Editor’s note: Following the publication of this column, James Bopp Jr. said he is a volunteer and not a paid campaign consultant for the Romney campaign.
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Joseph Giganti is the founder of Veritas Media Group Inc., a Washington, D.C., area political and media consulting firm. He has worked on numerous state and federal election campaigns, including serving as national media strategist for Alan Keyes’ 2000 presidential campaign.