Wendy Davis's Pay Grade
So Wendy Davis fudged some key details of her bio. It doesn't speak well of her honesty or trustworthiness, but as far as politics goes it's a misdemeanor, not a felony. Politicians get caught embellishing their resumes all the time, and in far more egregious ways. Overstating his service in Vietnam didn’t stop Richard Blumenthal from becoming a senator from Connecticut. Nor did claiming dubious Native American heritage cost Elizabeth Warren the Senate election two years ago in Massachusetts. The list goes on.
And, as my colleague Carl Cannon wrote on Sunday, Davis didn’t shower herself in glory with her reaction to the story. Instead of making a contrite acknowledgement—she wouldn’t have necessarily needed to apologize—and then moving on, she and her surrogates chose to lash out repeatedly at her Republican opponent, Greg Abbott, claiming he was behind the unflattering revelations. She even went so far as to publicly castigate Abbott – a paraplegic who’s been confined to a wheel chair since the age of 26 – for not having “walked a day in my shoes.” I bet those pink sneakers don’t taste nearly as good as they look.
Of more concern to the voters of Texas, however, and far more damaging to Davis’s candidacy, should be the question she refused to answer this week. On Monday, during a television interview in which she was doing damage control on the embroidered bio story, television anchorman Jorge Ramos asked Davis a basic question:
Ramos: “When does life start? When does a human being become one?”
Davis: “You know, the Supreme Court of course has answered this decision, in terms of what our protections are.”
With that thin contrivance, Davis launched into a more expansive non-answer about wanting to keep women safe and decrease the number of abortions in America.
It called to mind then-Sen. Barack Obama’s exchange with pastor Rick Warren at the Saddleback Forum in 2008:
Warren: At what point does a baby get human rights, in your view?
Obama: Well, you know, I think that, whether you’re looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, uh, is above my pay grade.
Like most pro-choice Democrats, Barack Obama didn’t want to answer this question directly, because he couldn’t. The logic of supporting abortion doesn’t allow for answers to such nettlesome questions, which is why abortion-rights proponents are always quick to shift the discussion, as Davis did, to broader issues like women’s health, or to employ focus-group-tested euphemisms such as “reproductive rights.”
Obama was roundly ridiculed at the time for his “pay grade” dodge, but in his defense it can be said that abortion wasn’t a signature issue of his campaign and he was doing his best to minimize the issue in a high profile setting and move on.
The same cannot be said of Davis. Her entire political raison d’etre is her staunch support of abortion rights. And not just abortion rights in a general sense: Last June she stood on the floor of the Texas legislature for 11 hours arguing in support of a woman’s right to abort her baby after 20 weeks. That is a position well outside the mainstream, as Democrats often say of Republicans, and it is certainly outside the sensibilities of most Texas voters.
Yet, despite being hailed by Democrats and members of the media as a feminist role model and a woman of courage who stood up to “speak truth to power,” Davis essentially refused to address the question of when life begins.
Fudging details of her resume is one thing. What is far worse is being too cowardly to give a straight answer, let alone a thoughtful one, to a straightforward question that goes to the heart of a matter she has made the signature issue of her political life.