The Blind Leading The Blind

THE BLIND LEADING THE BLIND.... We talked earlier about Wisconsin nurse Debra Bartoshevich, a former Clinton delegate who is now appearing in McCain campaign ads. It's hard not to wonder what on earth she's thinking.

This afternoon, however, we actually got a better sense of the answer. At a Denver press conference this afternoon organized by Republicans, Bartoschevich, who claims to be a pro-choice Democrat, was asked about her concerns about reproductive rights under another pro-life Republican president.

"Going back to 1999, John McCain did an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle saying that overturning Roe v. Wade would not make any sense, because then women would have to have illegal abortions," Bartoschevich said.

This is surprisingly helpful. I've wondered why a pro-choice Democrat who cares about women's rights would even consider a conservative Republican with an abysmal record on women's rights. It turns out, the answer is pretty straightforward: she's terribly confused.

McCain did, in fact, say in 1999, that he "would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade." It was a reversal from his previous position, and soon after, McCain reversed right back, denounced Roe, vowed to overturn it, and assured voters he would lead an exclusively pro-life administration, arguably slightly to the right of Bush/Cheney.

Indeed, Sarah Blustain had a great item in The New Republic recently, explaining just how serious a "zealot" McCain is on the issue of reproductive rights.

During his political career, McCain has participated in 130 reproductive health-related votes on Capitol Hill; of these, he voted with the anti-abortion camp in 125. McCain has consistently backed rights for the unborn, voting to cover fetuses under the State Children's Health Insurance Program and supporting the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which allowed a "child in utero" to be recognized as a legal victim of a crime. He has voted in favor of the global gag rule, which prevents U.S. funds from going to international family-planning clinics that use their own money to perform abortions, offer information about abortion, or take a pro-choice stand.


There's a reason McCain has a zero rating from Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America. The 1999 quote was just a cheap ploy, intended to make McCain appear reasonable. He's not -- when it comes to women's rights, he's nothing short of a nightmare.

Last week, Slate's Dahlia Lithwick had an excellent item, explaining that a key component of McCain's campaign strategy is fooling women into thinking he's not a staunch opponent of reproductive rights. Lithwick argued if McCain can "keep [voters] in the dark," he might "snooker voters into thinking that his abortion views are centrist," when that's obviously not the case.

As of this afternoon, the scheme appears to actually have fooled a couple of Democrats, who regrettably don't know better.

But here's a fun little test, to see who's right. Ask the McCain campaign if Bartoschevich was accurately describing John McCain's current position on abortion rights. It's a straightforward proposition: she said McCain believes "overturning Roe v. Wade would not make any sense." Does McCain and his team agree with this assessment? Or is Bartoschevich & Co. under a false impression?

We're waiting.

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