Via the Weekly Standard and the Federalist, lots of buzz among social conservatives about this exchange yesterday afternoon. The soundbite in isolation isn’t dramatic — Roe is, tragically, the law of the land and we do live with it — but the context makes it more ominous. A libertarian stood up at a town hall and told him point blank that he’s looking for a president who’s a fiscal conservative and who’s also “not a threat to a woman’s right to control her own body.” Translation: You won’t come after Roe, will you? To which Kasich replied, hey, it’s the law of the land and we live with it. Gulp. Meanwhile, when CNN asked him about abortion four days ago, he dismissed their questions by insisting that the GOP spends “too much” time on the issue when there are other important problems like infant mortality and the environment to focus on. He said this, mind you, at a moment when the Planned Parenthood sting videos are consuming conservative media. Second look at Jeb?
Depending upon how well disposed you are to Kasich (which probably isn’t much, given his role as the Huntsman in the 2016 race), you could view this as a case of a guy who’s actually solidly pro-life trying to weasel out of a tough question from a pro-choicer. He doesn’t reassure the questioner, after all, that he’d leave Roe alone; all he says is that we’re living with it, which is a pretty vacant statement of intention. In fact, when reporters cornered him afterward, he revised what he said this way:
After the town hall meeting, Kasich told reporters he had signed abortion restrictions in Ohio.
“It’s the law of the land until it changes,” he said.
He has indeed signed abortion restrictions as governor. Per the Standard, “Kasich has overseen a drop in his state’s abortion rate to all-time lows, signing into law a budget that defunded Planned Parenthood in his state and a ban on abortions performed after the fetus can be viable outside the womb.” That’s encouraging even though yesterday’s soundbite isn’t. So how damning this is depends, really, on your own personal reading of the Kasich tea leaves. Is Sean Davis right that this amounts to Kasich signaling a Mitch Daniels-esque “truce” with Democrats on social issues once he’s elected president? Or, in his attempt to consolidate moderates, is he actually trying to disguise the fact that he’d firmly oppose abortion as president so that the centrist voters he needs right now don’t get cold feet? You tell me.
Exit quotation via Davis: “Kasich tells Obamacare opponents they’re going to hell, but won’t tell an abortion supporter that he thinks Roe v. Wade was wrong.”