Well, it's finally over. President Obama gave the commencement address at Notre Dame, where the administration welcomed, coddled, and lauded him despite his pro-abortion voting record. Personally, I'm rather sick of the story. My immediate impulse is sympathy with the student body whose special day has been tainted by controversy. I know what it is like when your college president invites a media firestorm by messing with religious identity.
Of course I am also dismayed that a Catholic University's president make a decision protested by 70+ of the country's bishops. Mary Ann Glendon gets major points in my book for turning down the Latare Medal, thereby refusing to be a pawn in ND President Fr. Jenkins' Catholic identity fiasco. Being the token pro-lifer on the dais, responsible for balancing out whatever the President said, would have been a burden, not an honor.
By and large, President Obama did what he does best - he said lots of pretty, comforting, even inspiring things in the hopes that people would like him. He plugged his usual agenda of "Let's all lend a hand and be one big happy family." Literally: "In short, we must find a way to live together as one human family. " I find it patronizing that he calls embryonic stem-cell research opponents "admirable," not daring to clarify that he also thinks we are "wrong."
His arguements reinforced my impression that pandering is what Obama does best. Even if he disagrees with you, he'll reword his campaign website to make it seem better. He'll promise NARAL he'll sign FOCA the minute he's in office, and then put that bill on the back burner. (If a politician did that to the Pro-Life movement he'd never hear the end of it.) I was reminded of what good old Professor Tiefel's catch-phrase: "No one gives up a good word!" Obama know this, too. That's why he called for "Open hearts. Open minds. Fair minded words." Who could disagree with such pretty, comforting statements? You don't know exactly what they mean, but they sure sound better than "hard-hearted" and "unfair."
People on both sides of the ND controversy chose their words carefully, too. The NYT's icky commencement article decided that "heckler" was the best word for those who disagreed with our pretty, comforting leader. Those bloody images of mutilated infants outside campus? They were only "fetus pictures." Sounds nearly sterile.
A few of these "hecklers" opted for forceful words, telling Obama exactly what they thought of him. "Stop killing our children!" Did calling a spade a spade rattle the President's conscience? Maybe. I liked American Papist's Twitter observation that he has never seen Obama look less happy than when giving that speech.
At times I wonder if such forceful moral condemnation is effective. Moral outrage at abortion is so often repeated, it has become commonplace. To most Americans, abortion is something they rarely encounter directly, so cries of "baby killer" do seem like hysterical caricatures. I don't know how someone could see one of those bloody baby pictures and not be disgusted by abortion, but apparently they can. Does the Pro-Life movement need to expand its vocabulary?
The way I see it, revulsion at President Obama's fluffy doublespeak about the Golden Rule and fairness is blinding Pro-Lifers to potential progress. Obama's proposals are not all junk; what's wrong with "making adoption more available, and providing care and support for women who do carry their child to term"? If Roe v. Wade were overturned tomorrow, the cultural, moral, and economic issues that lead women to abortion would still exist. If we want women to choose life, we need to make adopting a child or obtaining maternal medical care less difficult. Let's encourage America to embrace loving solutions to the challenges of pregnancy. We are Pro-Life, not just anti-death.