Pundit Central

A Partial-Birth Election?

Issue 1 is the Supreme Court’s decision on partially external (“partial birth”) abortion. Issue 2 is Bill Clinton’s influence on the presidential race.

Most pundits agree that the Supreme Court’s invalidation of a Nebraska law outlawing partially external abortion is momentous. Juan Williams ( Fox News Sunday) applauds the decision, arguing that the court correctly put a mother’s health above a fetus’ life. Bill O’Reilly (FNS) says that the “health” issue is bogus: The state statutes outlawing the procedure already make exceptions for the life of the mother, but making an exception for “health,” as the court did, invites doctors to fabricate excuses to get around the ban. Lawrence Kudlow ( The McLaughlin Group) says that the decision ignores states’ rights. Robert Novak (CNN’s Capital Gang), taking a cue from Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent, compares the majority decision to Dred Scott, the 19th-century case that forced runaway slaves to be returned to their owners.

Most pundits think Bush will benefit from the court’s abortion decision. Some–such as Mara Liasson (FNS) and Rich Lowry (CNN’s Late Edition)–say the decision will anger conservatives and make them more likely to vote for Bush. A corollary argument–put forth by George F. Will (ABC’s This Week) and George Stephanopoulos (TW)–holds that the court’s provocation of pro-lifers will make them so desperate to have a Republican in the White House that Bush will no longer need to pander to them. Yet another corollary–argued by Kate O’Beirne (CG)–says that partially external abortion divides Democrats more than Republicans. Eleanor Clift (TMG), however, says the closeness of the decision (5-4) will cause more pro-choice activists to vote for Gore. And Al Hunt reminds that three of the five members of the majority said they would uphold a more tightly written ban of the procedure. Looking at the larger picture, Stuart Taylor Jr. (NBC’s Meet the Press) argues that while a President George W. Bush may appoint several justices, these appointments will probably not be able to tilt the court against Roe vs. Wade, which currently has the support of six justices.

A couple of chat shows run polls that show a narrowing presidential race: a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll has Bush up 44 to 40, while a Newsweek poll has Bush and Gore in a dead heat. Several programs air clips from a pro-Gore speech given by Bill Clinton to Democratic supporters on Friday. Mara Liasson (FNS), Juan Williams (FNS), and Susan Page (LE) argue that Bill Clinton can help raise money and energize the Democratic base, something Gore has had trouble with. George Stephanopoulos (TW), however, fears that Clinton may drive moderates into the hands of Bush and may hog air time at the Democratic Convention. Al Hunt (MTP) and Bob Woodward (MTP) agree that the Arkansas disbarment lawsuit against Clinton will not affect the race, since voters have already made up their mind about the president. 

A Synergy Too Far

On LE, host Wolf Blitzer shows a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll to frame his political interviews. So what’s the problem? Well, the poll he uses was taken June 23 to 25, and it shows Bush with a commanding 50-to-38 lead over Gore. Yet polls taken in the last several days suggest a much narrower race (see above). Is June 25 really the most recent poll CNN has? And if so, is CNN so afraid to credit competing news organizations with current polls that it’s willing to give viewers outdated news?

Last Words

WOLF BLITZER (LE): You were once a vice presidential running mate. What should George W. Bush be looking for right now in his very important decision [about] who’s going to be his No. 2?

FMR. SEN. BOB DOLE: … I think Bush should be looking for somebody who should be president and somebody who should help–could help him. I still think [Pennsylvania Gov.] Tom Ridge would be a good choice, that’s my view. …

BLITZER: And what about Mrs. Dole?

DOLE: Well, she’d be a great choice. Again, I think she would be, uh, but again, she’s in a state, North Carolina, that Bush probably feels already looks pretty good. He may want to go to Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, because if he can break one of those states and do as well in the South as he is in the West and Rocky Mountains, he’s going to win. …

BLITZER: Sounds like it’s unlikely you think he’s going to pick Mrs. Dole.

DOLE: Well, there’s no gender gap. Well, there’s no gender gap. I think that’s a–you know–we suffer from a gender gap. I don’t see that right now. Of course the heavy artillery hasn’t come down yet. But–

BLITZER: Has she been called by Dick Cheney, who’s supervising the selection process?

DOLE: Well, I think, I’m not at liberty to say. I don’t want to–don’t want to get into a big, long weekend at home.