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Monday: The Standard

What is it about this video that has spiked our stats and spooked the left blogosphere?

Yesterday, Digby, who really should know better, wrote the most ridiculous post about right wing framing and the phrase “safe, legal and rare”.  It was so illogical, so twisted, that it could only have been suggested by some very pushy Democratic party loyalists who are freaked out that their lightbringer is not measuring up in the area of reproductive rights for women.

I can almost see them now with their fingers stuck in their ears and hear them shouting.  “La-la-la, she’s not all that.  La-la-la- Third Way, Third Way, Third Way!”

Yeah, it was the Third Way detail in her post that was the dead giveaway.  Someone is very worried that the above video is going to make Hillary Clinton look good at Barack Obama’s expense.  And a small minority of the party has the official position that they hate Bill and Hillary Clinton for, er, *something*.  We’re just not sure what, the target keeps moving.  But for sure, someone is pissed that there will be a lot more women who didn’t know that video existed until last week who will be kicking themselves for voting for the dude in 2008.

And as long as we’re on the topic of the Third Way, why don’t we take a look at this graph of where exactly our most recent presidents are on the liberal-conservative spectrum.  This is from a recent Paul Krugman blog post:

I didn’t have to see this graph to know where Obama stood in relation to Clinton.  Let’s not forget that Clinton put up with eight. long. years. of relentless special prosecutor investigations and was blindsided by movement conservativism.  He learned from his mistakes.  It’s too bad Obama didn’t learn from Clinton’s mistakes.  Never in my wildest dreams could I see Clinton doing what Obama has done.  For damn sure he wouldn’t have squandered two years of having a filibuster proof majority of his own party in Congress during a major economic crisis.  And from what I can tell of Hillary’s voting record and public statements, she’s even more to the left than her husband. (And that, my friends, is why she didn’t get the nomination in 2008.  With almost a guarantee of a filibuster proof Congress, she was too much of a threat to the finance guys) So, all you people screaming about the Clintons being Third Way while defending Obama’s Republican positions can stuff a sock in it.

The party faithful could respond to this in one of two ways.  They could go to Obama and say, “See this video?  See what Hillary did here?  Do it like that from now on or we aren’t going to vote for you.”  Or they could slime her and try to ruin her reputation again by accusing her of right wing meme framing.  They have chosen the latter.

Let’s look for the briefest of moments at the utterly nonsensical idea that “safe, legal and rare” is some kind of acknowledgement of a right wing frame.  To those of us who remember history as it actually happened, “safe, legal and rare” meant that abortions should be unnecessary.  The idea is that if you provide low cost contraceptives, make them easily available and educate people about their sexuality and good family planning, you will reduce the number of people facing unwanted pregnancies.  Of course, accidents do still happen even under the best of circumstances so abortions need to be safe and legal.  But if we do everything right up front on the prevention end of things, abortions will be rare.

How is this a right wing frame of the abortion argument?  I’m not religious in any way shape or form.  I have relatives who are batshit crazy and inflexible about abortion.  I’m talking about foaming at the mouth, fetus romantics whose position I think is about as far from sane as it is humanly possible to go.  In fact, I don’t agree with them on so many things it’s not even funny.  Their framing of the abortion issue is completely divorced from reality.  And as far as I can see, “safe, legal and rare” is not anywhere near the same frame that they’re living in.

BUT, the idea that we must reject “safe, legal and rare” because it is too far right is going to play right into the hands of the right wing nutcases.  Because they’re going to say that to the left, abortion is a picnic at the local clinic.  It’s no big deal.  Now, I’ve never had an abortion but I’ve had friends and roommates who have and no matter how relieved they were afterwards, an abortion was definitely not a picnic.  Some people wrestle with the ethics of abortion before they have one, some just want to get it over with but in neither case was it a day at the beach.  To denigrate a perfectly respectable idea like “safe, legal and rare” cheapens the seriousness of abortion.

Just for kicks, I looked up the abortion laws of some of the world’s most progressive countries like Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland.  In most of them, you can get an abortion on demand up to 12 weeks.  It’s probably a medical abortion at that point.  After 12 weeks, most of those countries make you get approval from a committee or a couple of doctors and there is a cut off unless there’s something wrong with the fetus or the mother.  That’s because after a certain point, there is a gray area about viability and if you’ve dithered past three months, you’re starting to push it.  Dithering suggests uncertainty.  So there’s hoop jumping.  But then again, in Scandanavian countries, the social insurance system is so good that having a baby is less likely to ruin your life if you’re not quite ready for it.

Then again, the health insurance in these countries is good so getting contraceptives is not a problem.  In Finland, expectant mothers get a baby box filled with all kinds of clothing and baby essentials and it also comes with a six pack of condoms and lube.  Isn’t that thoughtful of the Finnish government?  THAT is the epitome of “safe, legal and rare”. I look forward to the day when conservatives in Congress have a shit fit over whether to include the lube in the American Baby Boxes. Safe, legal and rare means responsibility.  How does a lefty reasonably argue against that?

Well, a lefty can’t *reasonably* argue against it.  Political operatives who are worried about the viability of their candidate can though.  They must be really nervous about the wimmin’s vote if they’re asking Digby to push the idea that the socially and medically responsible position “safe, legal and rare” is some kind of right wing meme.  I’m a lefty and “safe, legal and rare” seems like the de facto position to me and always has even before I ever heard the phrase.

What I can’t understand is how attacking Bill and Hillary Clinton and “safe, legal and rare” is supposed to make Obama’s non-defense of reproductive rights better.  The problem isn’t with the Clintons.  It’s Obama who’s not setting a standard.  I mean, you could successfully trash two of your most loyal party members who will slavishly campaign for you in the homestretch and they’ll be doing it for a dude who doesn’t share their values- at all.

The Obama loyalists have to explain why they are so devoted to this guy.  Why are they willing to ruin the credibility of two people they depend on to defend a guy who really *does* buy into the right wing memes.  It’s almost like the Democratic operatives are attacking their greatest strength and projecting their own conservative right wing values onto the Clintons.  They’re the ones who are so enveloped in the right wing frame that they can’t tell when they’re unquestioning support of Obama’s weak position on reproductive rights is seriously out of step with their own party base and most women in this country.  We’re supposed to turn our backs on a principled defense of reproductive rights so that we don’t embarrass Obama for not having any principles at all in this regard? How the hell does that make any sense?  Remember it was OBAMA who said that a woman who was contemplating an abortion should get the consent of her family and pastor, as if she wasn’t capable of making this decision on her own.  That’s what Digby is defending when she attacks the Clintons on his behalf.  Does Digby really want to do that?  Wouldn’t it be better for women if Digby refused to play along?  Yes, it won’t look good for Obama but the election is still eight months away.  The party has time to figure this out.  But giving in to the right wing on contraception and abortion is not the way to retain your women voters.

Well, anyway, the video has struck a chord.  Yep, and that’s good.  It’s set the standard for the passionate and principled defense of reproductive rights.  It’s grounded in reality while still acknowledging that people’s opinions on morality may differ.  Obama’s crew should adopt it instead of criticizing it.  Wanna see it again with a shorter blah-blah-blah from Chris Smith?  Let’s watch together, shall we? (This one has a better ending)