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Sunday, October 26, 2008

McCain in the Membrane: A Southern Fishwrapper Keeps Its Head in the Sand

When I picked our copy of the The Birmingham News off the driveway this morning, I noticed a front-page promo that indicated the paper was making an endorsement in the presidential race.

For just a moment, a bizarre thought crossed my mind: "Given that descendants of William F. Buckley and Barry Goldwater recently endorsed Democrat Barack Obama for president, is it possible that our sorry excuse for a local newspaper might actually show some forward thinking for a change?"

Answer? Nah.

As I should have known, the News endorsed Republican John McCain--and used some remarkable "logic" in the process.

The News concedes that the idea of an Obama presidency might be "thrilling." And it admits that Obama was right about the signature issue of the past eight years--the war in Iraq.

"To Obama's great credit, he opposed the Iraq invasion while McCain, and this editorial board, supported it. He was right, and we were wrong."

But the News then says that it endorses McCain largely because of his support for the surge, which "paved the way for a real 'Mission Accomplished' years after the fact."

Let me see if I have this straight: The News admits the war in Iraq never should have started. But it endorses McCain because of his support for a strategy that never should have been needed in the first place? Makes lots of sense.

The News is so desperate to endorse a Republican, one who has run one of the worst campaigns in memory, that it pulls out two of conservatism's favorite bogeymen--unions and Roe v. Wade.

An Obama presidency might actually help unions prosper, the News fears. This kind of garbage actually has traction here in the Deep South, and that is rich with irony.

Our region is noted for its passion for college football, an activity that usually takes place on Saturdays. Stadiums across the South are packed on fall Saturdays, and why is that? Well, it's largely because Saturday is an off day for many people. And that's because we have a five-day work week. And we have a five-day work week because of unions.

If Republicans had their way, and we'd never had unions, we would all be working seven days a week for as many hours as management demanded. College football, if it existed at all, would be played on vacant sandlots.

And of course, the News has to be worried about Roe. Let's see, we've got the biggest foreign-policy screwup in our nation's history and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and the News is worried about the right of women to make their own health-care decisions?

Here's a thought for editors of the News and other conservatives who obsess about Roe: Abortion is not a problem in our country; it's a symptom of a problem.

The problem is unwanted pregnancy. That is what leads to the vast majority of abortions. And what leads to unwanted pregnancy? The vast majority of women who seek abortions are unmarried. So by definition, unwanted pregnancy is driven largely by sex outside of marriage.

And who pushes for most sex outside of marriage? I'm going to take a wild guess and say guys/dudes/fellows/hombres. And when's the last time you heard a conservative talk about the responsibility that guys have for the abortion problem?

Regardless of what happens with Roe, the abortion problem is always going to be with us as long as guys behave in sexually irresponsible ways. The key to reducing the abortion rate to almost zero is to teach guys to take responsibility for the ramifications of their sexual behavior.

So The Birmingham News calls itself a "pro life newspaper" and bases its presidential endorsement partly on that issue. That, of course, is an easy thing to do.

Actually doing something about unwanted pregnancy is not so easy. The News and its conservative brethren evidently don't want to make the effort.

Meanwhile, the News missed a chance to make a bold statement about a New South. Imagine the largest newspaper in the "Heart of Dixie" endorsing a black man for president, a black man who clearly is the best choice in these perilous times.

But the News, as usual, chose to look backward--rather than making a bold statement about the future of our region.

That's unfortunate.

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