Catholics for Kerry

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Democrats Rethinking Abortion Stance

[The key here is that Democrats are owning the message and not allowing Republicans smears. The idea is to let the Party's abortion stance actually reflect what Democrats think and not our opponents misrepresentations and lies. The Party defends its pro-choice stance, but also is a big tent allowing anti-abortion people and most importantly, the point remains that pro-choice is not pro-abortion]

Democratic Leadership Rethinking Abortion

Thu Dec 23, 7:55 AM ET

By Peter Wallsten and Mary Curtius Times Staff Writers

WASHINGTON — After long defining itself as an undisputed defender of abortion rights, the Democratic Party is suddenly locked in an internal struggle over whether to redefine its position to appeal to a broader array of voters.

The fight is a central theme of the contest to head the Democratic National Committee (news - web sites), particularly between two leading candidates: former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (news - web sites), who supports abortion rights, and former Indiana Rep. Tim Roemer, an abortion foe who argues that the party cannot rebound from its losses in the November election unless it shows more tolerance on one of society's most emotional conflicts.

Roemer is running with the encouragement of the party's two highest-ranking members of Congress, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco and incoming Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada. Dean, a former presidential candidate, is popular with the party's liberal wing.

If Roemer were to succeed Terry McAuliffe as Democratic chairman in the Feb. 10 vote, the party long viewed as the guardian of abortion rights would suddenly have two antiabortion advocates at its helm. Reid, too, opposes abortion and once voted for a nonbinding resolution opposing Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion.

Party leaders say their support for preserving the landmark ruling will not change. But they are looking at ways to soften the hard line, such as promoting adoption and embracing parental notification requirements for minors and bans on late-term abortions. Their thinking reflects a sense among strategists that Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry and the party's congressional candidates lost votes because the GOP conveyed a more compelling message on social issues.

But in opening a discussion about new appeals to abortion opponents, party leaders are moving into uncertain terrain. Abortion rights activists are critical pillars of the Democratic Party, providing money and grass-roots energy. Some of them say they are concerned that Democratic leaders are entertaining any changes to the party's approach to abortion.

A senior official of one of the nation's largest abortion rights groups said she would be concerned if the party were to choose Roemer to head the Democratic National Committee.

"We want people who are pro-choice. Of course I would be disappointed," said the official, who asked that her name be withheld because of her close alliance with party officials.

Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood (news - web sites) Federation of America, said Democratic strategists who were pushing for the abortion discussion had misconstrued the results of the November election by overstating the strength of "values" voters.

She said the party should remain committed to the "women of America, and their health and their lives and their rights."

Feldt said she had spoken to Kerry and Roemer on Wednesday, and that both had sought to allay her concerns. Both assured her that the party was not changing its stance on abortion, but merely wanted to be more "inclusive."

The debate among Democrats comes at a time when abortion rights supporters are feeling particularly vulnerable. Congress passed a ban on what critics call "partial-birth" abortion last year that Bush signed into law. Last month, abortion opponents were emboldened when four conservative Republicans were elected to the Senate. Also, anticipated retirements from the Supreme Court could give Bush the chance to nominate justices that would tilt the court against Roe vs. Wade.

The race for Democratic Party chairman remains wide open among Dean, Roemer and several other contenders, including longtime operative Harold M. Ickes, New Democrat Network head Simon Rosenberg and South Carolina political strategist Donald L. Fowler Jr. The field of candidates is likely to remain in flux until days before the February vote.

In an interview, Roemer said he would not try to change the minds of abortion rights supporters. But he also said he would encourage the party to eliminate its "moral blind spot" when it comes to late-term abortions.

"We should be talking more about adoption as an alternative, and working with our churches to sponsor some of those adoptions," Roemer said Wednesday from his Washington office. He said he was calling 40 to 50 delegates a day to make his pitch. Most of all, he said, he thinks that abortion opponents would be more comfortable if the party talked about the issue in a more open-minded manner.

"We must be able to campaign in 50 states, not just the blue states or 20 states," said Roemer, referring to the most Democratic-leaning states.

Dean declined through a spokeswoman to talk about the issue, but earlier this month he signaled that he would maintain the party's defense of abortion rights, telling NBC's Tim Russert: "We can change our vocabulary, but I don't think we ought to change our principles."

Votes will be cast by 447 members of the Democratic National Committee, many of whom are among the party's most liberal members. These members are thought to be friendly to Dean and less receptive to Roemer. But the former Indiana congressman is getting attention amid reports that Pelosi and Reid urged him to run.

Roemer has also highlighted his service on the independent panel investigating the government's response to the Sept. 11 attacks, saying that credential builds his appeal to security-minded voters. He noted that he was an elected official from Indiana, a "red state" where Democrats want to make gains.

A Pelosi spokesman said the House Democratic leader liked Roemer because of his national security credentials. But a senior Democratic congressional aide said Pelosi also thought that Roemer's stance on abortion could be an additional benefit.

"She is pro-choice and very staunchly pro-choice," the aide said of Pelosi. But at the same time, the aide said, "she supports showing that this is a big-tent party."

In the presidential election, Kerry, a Catholic, said he personally opposed abortion but did not believe in imposing that belief on others. He said he would not appoint antiabortion judges to the bench.

But after his election loss, the Massachusetts senator concluded that the party needed to rethink its stance. Addressing supporters at a meeting held by the AFL-CIO, Kerry said he discovered during trips through Pennsylvania that many union members were also abortion opponents and that the party needed to rethink how it could appeal to those voters, Kerry spokesman David Wade said.

On the other side of the debate, Wendy Wright, senior policy director for Conservative Women for America, which opposes abortion, said she thought it would be "very smart" for Democrats to elect Roemer chairman of the party.

"It would make sense for Democrats as a whole to recognize that Americans want protections for women and unborn children, want sensible regulations in place, instead of forbidding the law to recognize that an unborn child is a human being," Wright said. "To not pass legislation just to keep the abortion lobby happy is nonsensical, and it appears that some Democrats have recognized that."

Wright said it was too early to know whether Democrats would change their votes on upcoming antiabortion legislation, or would only change the way they speak of abortion. She said the comments of some party leaders led her to believe that "it would just be changing of wording, just trying to repackage in order to be more appealing — really, to trick people."

Some local Democratic leaders said they would be open to an antiabortion chairman under the right circumstances, but that it would be difficult to envision those circumstances.

"That would be a very large philosophical mountain for me to climb," said Mitch Ceasar, a Broward County, Fla., lawyer who is a voting member of the party's national committee.

Ceasar said he took note of Roemer's abortion stance when he received a letter recently from him. He said he was surprised to learn that abortion was an issue in the contest to succeed McAuliffe. "It never occurred to me before his candidacy," Ceasar said. "I never wondered whether Terry McAuliffe was pro-choice or not."

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Kerry Calls For Different Abortion Speak from Democrats

[Democrats have done a good job stressing their belief that a free and just society should be a pro-choice society. The failure of communication compounded by the lies and hypocrisy of the Right is that Democrats have not communicated clearly that we do not like nor approve of abortion, we actually do want to reduce and solve the abortion problem and that pro-life and pro-choice are not mutually exclusive.]
Anxiety Over Abortion
Pro-choice Democrats eye a more restrictive approach to abortion as one way to gain ground at the polls

By Debra Rosenberg

Dec. 20 issue - The week after Thanksgiving, dozens of Democratic Party loyalists gathered at AFL-CIO headquarters for a closed-door confab on the election. John Kerry dropped by to thank members of the liberal 527 coalition America Votes. When Ellen Malcolm, president of the pro-choice political network EMILY's List, asked about the future direction of the party, Kerry tackled one of the Democrats' core tenets: abortion rights. He told the group they needed new ways to make people understand they didn't like abortion. Democrats also needed to welcome more pro-life candidates into the party, he said. "There was a gasp in the room," says Nancy Keenan, the new president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

It might have sounded shocking, but John Kerry isn't alone in taking a new look at how the party is handling the explosive topic of abortion. As Democratic strategists and lawmakers quietly discuss how to straddle the nation's Red-Blue divide, abortion has become a prime target. "The issue and the message need to be completely rethought," says one strategist. Along with gay marriage, abortion is at the epicenter of the culture wars, another example used by Republicans to highlight the Democrats' supposed moral relativism. Polls show that most Americans support legal abortion, yet they also favor some restrictions, particularly after the first trimester. Strategists say that's where many Democrats are, too—the public just doesn't know it. With pro-life Sen. Harry Reid newly installed as Senate minority leader, Democrats are eager to show off their big tent.

No one's suggesting that the party abandon its pro-choice roots. With George W. Bush expected to nominate as many as three presumably pro-life Supreme Court justices this term, advocates worry that the right to an abortion is more imperiled than it's been in decades. But as a step toward ultimately preserving that basic right, some Democrats now favor embracing common-sense restrictions on it. One possible initiative: a bill banning third-trimester abortions with broad exceptions for the life and health of the mother.

Democratic lawmakers have found themselves boxed in by a pro-choice orthodoxy that fears the slippery slope—the idea that allowing even the smallest limitation on abortion only paves the way for outlawing it altogether. As a result, most Democrats opposed popular measures like "Laci and Conner's Law"—which makes it a separate federal crime to kill a fetus—and a ban on the gruesome procedure called partial-birth abortion.

A small group of pro-choice Democrats—mostly from Red States—bucked that trend, voting for one or both measures. Still, the issue is so thorny that nearly every lawmaker contacted by NEWSWEEK declined to discuss those votes or the topic in general. But a handful of those senators—including Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, Arkansas Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor, and Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh—have joined a new progressive advocacy group, Third Way, that hopes to move the party to the center on a number of cultural issues, including abortion. The effort is headed by a team of strategists who helped the Dems find middle ground on gun safety.

It's clear that challenging the old orthodoxy won't be easy. Many advocates blame Kerry for not talking about abortion enough—especially the fate of the Supreme Court. "He did not help the cause," says Planned Parenthood president Gloria Feldt. Other pro-choicers worry that changing gears on abortion will look like flip-flopping. "If we try to be fake Republicans, that's not going to work," says Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette, co-chair of the House pro-choice caucus. "It would be a cynical political move." But some moderate pro-choicers already have voting records to back up their convictions. That's proof, strategists say, that they don't have to choose between values and votes.

© 2004 Newsweek, Inc.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Via Common Ground Common Sense

Former U.S. presidential candidate, Senator John Kerry (news - web sites) (D-MA), lays flowers on the casket of U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Dimitrios Gavriel during his military funeral at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington DC, December 2, 2004. Gavriel, from Haverhill, Massachusetts, died November 19 while fighting in Al Anbar Province in Iraq (news - web sites) and his funeral is the 99th 'Operation Iraqi Freedom' funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. REUTERS/Jason Reed

Penelope Gavriel (bottom L) kisses the U.S. flag that draped the casket of her son, Lance Cpl. Dimitrios Gavriel, as U.S. Senators' Ted Kennedy (2nd-L), D-MA, and John Kerry (news - web sites) ®, D-MA, stand alongside other family members during his honor guard funeral at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington DC, December 2, 2004. Gavriel, from Haverhill, Massachusetts, died November 19 while fighting in Al Anbar Province in Iraq (news - web sites). REUTERS/Jason Reed REUTERS

Former U.S. presidential candidate, Senator John Kerry (news - web sites) (D-MA) hugs an unidentified member of U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Dimitrios Gavriel's family during his military funeral at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington DC, December 2, 2004. Gavriel, from Haverhill, Massachusetts, died November 19 while fighting in Al Anbar Province in Iraq (news - web sites), and his funeral was the 99th 'Operation Iraqi Freedom' funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. REUTERS/Jason Reed

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Kerry Plans "Thank You" Visit to New Hampshire

WASHINGTON - Defeated Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John F. Kerry [related, bio] plans to visit New Hampshire this weekend to thank supporters - a visit that could stoke speculation about his 2008 plans.

However, Kerry (D-Mass.) aides yesterday downplayed the Saturday trip to Manchester, N.H., saying it was solely an opportunity for the Bay State senator to meet privately with volunteers who worked hard on his unsuccessful 2004 White House bid.

``It's doing the work of thanking people,'' said Kerry spokesman David Wade. ``It's the kind of thing that too many politicians forget to do.'' The press will not be invited, Wade said.

Kerry aides insisted the senator was not seeking to fuel speculation about his political future with the visit to the Granite State, which hosts the nation's first primary.

``It's got nothing to do with 2008,'' Wade said.

Kerry has expressed his hope to remain a major voice in the Democratic Party. Some supporters, including his brother Cam, have said it is possible he could run again for president in 2008. While Kerry has not ruled out such a run, most political analysts consider a Kerry 2008 presidential candidacy highly unlikely.

Edwards Staying on Stage

By Jim Schlosser, Staff Writer
News & Record

GREENSBORO — Sen. John Edwards can insist mightily — as he did repeatedly Tuesday — that he isn't giving any thought about whether he'll run for high office again.

Why, then, the fuss over the flags?

For 45 minutes before the boyish, blue-suited Edwards entered the auditorium of the Greensboro Historical Museum for a farewell town meeting with constituents, his aides furled, unfurled and kept repositioning five American flags and a North Carolina flag on the stage.

They'd move one flag forward, another backward. They twisted coat hangers and placed them inside two flags to make the fabric lean a certain way.

An aide picked a place on the floor in front of the stage and marked it with white tape. This is where Edwards needed to stand for the flags to be centered in the background.

The aides then changed their minds and moved the tape to the second step leading up to the stage.

One aide went to the back of the auditorium and folded his hands as if it were a camera lens. He squinted through his fingers and called for some more minute shifting of the flags.

The young staffers fretted about the lighting, worried it might be too harsh. Audio concerned them, too. It didn't sound "clean" enough.

Wait a minute. Don't these people know the election is over? Edwards, who sacrificed his Senate seat to be Democrat John Kerry's running mate, need not worry anymore how he looks in front of a crowd.

Unless, he's already running for president in 2008.

Edwards said no decision about what's next for him will come until his wife, Elizabeth, is well again. The day after the election, she received a diagnosis of breast cancer. She has responded to the cancer challenge as she did other crises, with toughness, Edwards said.

"We are going to beat this. We feel very good and optimistic about that," Edwards said to applause.

But constituents and reporters persisted in asking what's up for him now that his Senate term is ending. How does he stay in the public eye without a public office?

Plenty of ways, he said. He could do so through a public policy institution or think tank, by making speeches in the United States and aboard, by working in a university setting or by associating himself with a foundation that shares his concerns.

Those concerns include jobs, health care and fighting for "the kind of people I grew up with," Edwards said of his boyhood in Robbins in Moore County, where he played football on Friday nights and went to church on Sundays.

One of his former teachers at North Moore High School, Eva Rae Clark, drove from Davidson County to see him Tuesday.

Edwards did offer one firm answer about his future.

"I don't have any plans to practice law," he said of the profession that made him wealthy and earned him a reputation for shrewd maneuvers in the courtroom.

He also said he didn't take it personally that voters in his home state went for the Republican Bush-Cheney ticket.

"We were running against a popular incumbent," he said of President Bush.

There was speculation during the campaign season that Edwards may have had trouble winning re-election to the Senate had he chosen to do so. By North Carolina standards, his voting record tended to be liberal.

"I would have won re-election as a senator," he replied firmly when asked how he would have done.

Arriving 45 minutes late, Edwards spoke to an audience that filled the 150-seat auditorium and had people standing along the walls.

Greensboro was a stop in a three-day state tour to thank people for their support and to hear concerns that he'll pass on to Richard Burr, who won Edwards' Senate seat.

His loudest applause, except when he declared that Kerry "would have made a great president," came when he said: "The fight is not over. Not only is the fight not over, I'm not through fighting."

After answering questions from the audience, Edwards stood in front of the stage as people filed by to ask for an autograph and to be photographed with him.

"I can't tell you how proud I am of you," Terri Battle of Greensboro told him. "I cried all day that Wednesday. We need you so much up there."

"I'm sick you and John Kerry lost," Victoria Topkins of Greensboro said to him. "It just makes me sick."

Angie Smits of Greensboro said she attended because of her friendship with Elizabeth Edwards, whom she met 10 years ago during an Internet chat-room discussion of UNC basketball.

"She can do a very in-depth analysis of the game," Smits said of the senator's wife.

Few people probably know of Elizabeth Edwards' love of basketball or, for that matter, that her husband played on the freshman football team at Clemson University before he transferred to N.C. State, where he didn't play football.

Was he better than his soon-to-be successor, Burr, who played football for Wake Forest University? Like a good politician, Edwards dodged the question.

"I didn't know," Edwards said, "Richard played football."

Contact Jim Schlosser at 373-7081 or