Wednesday, January 29, 2014
What Candidates Don't Say Counts
One of the benefits of democracy in America is that just about anybody can participate.
Of course, one of the perils of democracy in America is that, well, just about anybody can participate.
Consider, for example, the political scene down here in bright, sunny Texas this week. On the one hand, we have Wendy Davis, a Fort Worth lawyer and the nation's newest pro-abortion activist, who's running as a liberal Democrat for governor. And on the other hand, we have four male right-wing WASPs vying for the post of lieutenant governor, arguably the most powerful elected office in Texas, decrying a judge's verdict in the case of unborn baby Muñoz last week.
They believe the hospital should have been forced to keep a brain-dead mother on life support until her fetus reached the stage where it might have been viable outside of the womb.
I'm not an expert on politics - and, frankly, I wouldn't boast about it if I was - but I imagine the chances of another state having such contrasting partisan activity for the same election cycle are fairly remote. But even if they're not, it's because of the same reason they exist here in Texas: just about anybody can participate in the political process.
And when anybody can participate in the political process, it means that we need to listen not only to what politicians say, but what they don't say.
Unfortunately, many voters don't do that.
For example, consider the speech gubernatorial candidate Davis gave to an appreciatively liberal crowd last night down in our state capital, Austin. She's been mostly silent in public after the Dallas Morning News published an expose of her inaccurate personal data that she's been shilling, portraying herself as a pull-herself-up-by-her-own-bootstraps divorcee livin' in a mobile home and somehow gettin' through law school.
Harvard Law School, that is.
The Morning News simply went to one of her ex-husbands to get his side of things, and we all learned that he paid at least half - if not more - of both her undergraduate and graduate studies. And then he divorced her, claiming infidelity on her part, and she agreed to pay him child support so she could concentrate on growing her law practice.
Well, last night, Davis took to the podium to set the record straight. But did she? She took issue with conservatives who've apparently claimed that she "abandoned" her two daughters when she moved to Massachusetts to attend Harvard Law (a term, BTW, that I intentionally never used when I wrote about it). Nevertheless, while she points out that her whole family decided it would be easier for the girls to return to Fort Worth after her first semester up North, she not once mentions her divorce from Jeff Davis, her second husband and father of her second daughter, in which the allegation of her infidelity was changed to "insupportability"- whatever that means. Or that she agreed to leave her second-born with Jeff, and pay him child support.
And, oh yeah: Did she really tell him, "it’s not a good time for me right now" to be a mother?
We still don't know for sure, since she conveniently chose not to address that part of the story discovered by the Morning News. I won't go so far as to say she "abandoned" that aspect of the criticisms being levied against her, but she's certainly picking and choosing the things she wants to defend. And getting away with it.
Will voters in her liberal fan base notice?
It's almost a guarantee that conservative voters won't notice what the four guys running for lieutenant governor missed as they held their first debate Monday night. In their eagerness to capture some political capital from the tragic ordeal of Marlise Muñoz and her unborn child, each candidate gushed about how wrong the judicial decision was that allowed the life support systems for Mrs. Muñoz to be turned off.
For the record, these four guys are the incumbent lieutenant governor, David Dewhurst; State Senator Dan Patrick of Houston; Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson; and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples. In turn, these men upheld the standard pro-life mantra about "life is so precious," without acknowledging what doctors had certified in documents presented to the court before its verdict. Those doctors had certified that not only was Mrs. Muñoz brain-dead, but all the evidence they could glean from her womb indicated that her fetus was, too.
If pro-lifers are OK with admitting the mother is brain-dead, why the bitterness over declaring her fetus brain-dead as well?
"There is nothing more precious than the life of a baby in the womb," Senator Patrick rhapsodized, as if completely missing the agony being experienced by the Muñoz family. "Whenever we have the opportunity to preserve life, we should."
Which, of course, is true. I believe that. But this was not the typical, garden-variety abortion some pro-life activists have, by omitting the facts, portrayed the Muñoz case as being.
So let's review those facts, shall we? Mrs. Muñoz fell onto her kitchen floor. We don't know how she fell, and the extent of any injuries her fall might have inflicted on her fetus. We don't know how long both Mrs. Muñoz and her fetus were deprived of oxygen. Doctors could detect severe physical deformities in the fetus, including findings that led doctors to believe the fetus was ultimately brain-dead.
What other decision could the judge have made in this case? Especially since none of these candidates ever bothered to offer to write a check to pay for all of the artificial life support that would have been required to sustain Mrs. Muñoz's brain-dead corpse until the fetus might be viable outside of the womb? Isn't that disgusting to even try and imagine? All of this pomposity and pontificating just to win some votes from pro-lifers who haven't bothered to read the newspaper and learn these basic facts for themselves?
All four of these candidates vowed to re-write the Texas statute they claimed wasn't clear, and allowed the judge to, apparently, err on the side of death in the Muñoz case. And, yes, maybe the law could be tweaked, so that another family in the Lone Star State doesn't have to endure what the Muñoz family did. Another fact, however, is that such cases are so exceedingly rare, there is practically no way to set legal precedents for them. Sometimes, doctors simply have to go with what they know, instead of what politicians would like them to do. And when they don't have all of the information that onlookers would prefer them to have, so the rest of us can decide whether what they do is moral or not, we're simply going to expect that what we don't know can't hurt us?
Remember, folks, the Muñoz case was never about convenience, or safe sex, or fear of the unknown, or any of the conventional reasons why people seek to terminate the life they've created, which is why we pro-lifers advocate for the unborn child at risk. We've even since learned that Mr. Muñoz had named his little baby, believed now to have possibly been a girl. What kind of father does that if he's wanting the fetus to be arbitrarily terminated?
Unfortunately, the sound bites successfully regurgitated by the four candidates for lieutenant governor Monday night exclude all of that. After all, conservatives can ignore facts just like liberals can. It's all about whipping the party faithful into action. It's about votes, pandering to least common denominators, and making the quickest, easiest sell possible. Speak to the facts as you see them, and as you can spin them. Ignore the rest.
It's going to be a long election year in Texas, y'all.