Swift-boating Barack Obama III
Bill Long 9/10/08
On Creationism, Exploring for Oil, Abortion
1. Creationism. This word is fairly new in our American language. While the older version of creationism, which one might call "anti-evolution" thinking, was caricatured and dismissed in Arthur Miller's play Inherit the Wind, which itself was based on the Scopes trial in Dayton, TN in 1925, the newer version wants to characterize itself in a positive light. Modern creationism, if I can use the term, sees itself as teaching a positive message: that the "theistic hypothesis" (God started it all off; probably just like it says in Gen. 1) is really compatible with latest scientific discoveries and, indeed, helps to explain lots of wonderful intricacies which evolution simply (and weakly) explains by "natural selection." Leading creationists these days have Ph.D's from respectable universities and don't really want to be perceived as a sort of "lunatic fringe." They long for respectability.
But there is a fatal flaw to their reasoning, and this should be the subject of the attack on Palin. Does she believe that the theory of creationism, that God is the source of creation, should be taught in public school science curricula? It is a simple question, but it gets right to the heart of the issue. It is a good question for three reasons: (1) it gets right to "God in the public space" issue; (2) it deals with the content of science curriculum; and (3) it gives the opportunity for the D's to show that she is quite out of the "mainstream."
Creationism ought not to be taught in science curricula because it is an explanation of the world's origins that isn't subject to testing and confirmation or disproof. Of course evolution is a "theory," in the sense that it isn't provable, but it is certainly testable, and some day a better naturalistic explanation of development may arise. But if you allow the notion that the (Christian/Jewish) God lies behind the creation of the universe, in a science class, you need to allow other possible "divine" explanations of the world's origin in that same class. You will have to let in Native American explanations, Greek philosophical explanations, and even the view of the Orphics that we all came out of some primeval egg. After all, if God is brought into the science classroom, you can't just limit it to one God.
Most Americans know that bringing the Christian God into the public school science classroom is instinctively not right. There is just too much diversity in America for that; there is also the sense that such a practice would undermine scientific categories of explanation. Sarah Palin needs to be smoked out on that one, because I think she believes in the teaching of creationism in a public school science classroom.
2. Drilling for the Arctic oil. This might seem to be a dangerous issue to broach for two reasons: (1) Palin is the Governor of Alaska and arguably should know more about this issue than anyone (and therefore develop a "reasonable" position) and (2) Obama has come out in sympathy with "offshore drilling" to increase supplies of domestic oil. But the issue needs to be broached head-on because it has to do with energy policy, a subject that has continually been "put off" from America's agenda ever since it first became highlighted through the oil embargo of 1973-74. Even GW Bush has repeatedly stated that America needs to get rid of its dependence on foreign oil. I think for him it was a throwaway line, but he said it nevertheless. The Obama campaign needs to exploit her position in two ways: (a) by making a sensible case for development of alternative energy sources; (b) by showing what environmental dangers are involved in efforts to exploit this oil. They might also talk about the issue in terms of "pork politics" for the state of Alaska. Under (b), all the D's need to do is to show polluted waters of Prince Edward Sound. If "Willy Horton" was the image used effectively by R's in the 1988 campaign against Michael Dukakis, a spewing oil pipe or tanker can be the "D's" equivalent in 2008.
3. Abortion. No one really likes the idea of abortion, but the issue has great symbolic importance in America for lots of people. The D's, recognizing how they had to downplay the issue in the late 1990s, wanted to make it "safe, legal and rare," but still "legal." I think the majority of Americans still want it to be legal, even with some restrictions. However, the election of the McCain-Palin ticket will most likely lead to doing away with abortion rights. Why? Certainly not because VP Sarah Palin will issue a "mini-executive order" outlawing it, but because they will get to appoint new Justices to the Supreme Court and the Court can quite easily consider a case that would be a direct attack on the 1973 case Roe v. Wade.
Except for Justices Alito and Thomas, and Chief Justice Roberts (all very conservative and all 60 or under), it is not a youthful court anymore. The "four liberals," who would vote to protect abortion rights, are 88 (Stevens), 75 (Ginsburg), 70 (Breyer) and 69 (next week; Souter). The other conservative justices are 72 (Scalia) and 72 (Kennedy). Thus, the chances are very good that the next President will get at least two if not three appointments in the next four-year term. An anti-abortion ticket will be under considerable pressure to appoint a future Justice who shares that philosophy. And, the next Justice out the door is probably Justice Stevens, one of the Court's most liberal members.
I think there would be considerable social upheaval if the 1973 decision Roe v. Wade is overturned at this point. Like the right to burn the American flag or watch pornography, the right to an abortion is one of those things that one should grant in America, because of our broad tolerance for choice and individual expression/freedom, though one must consider chosing this option, like the other two, as a sort of "lesser of evils" approach.
Sarah Palin needs to be "smoked out" on her approach to abortion. Though it might give her an occasion to speak about her four month-old son, Trig, that is Ok. She will speak about him anyway. She needs to be exposed not only as one who is out of the mainstream on her approach to abortion (does she believe, for example, that abortions are legitimate in any circumstances?), but who would, with John McCain, want to appoint an "anti-Roe v. Wade" Justice to the Supreme Court.
By focusing on issues with substance, though easy to understand by the electorate, the D's will be able to show that Sarah Palin is not only inexperienced, but also that she is well out of the mainstream of American life on these (and perhaps other) issues. If the D's approach her correctly, she will soon be "palin' " in comparison to McCain...