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The Tally Ho

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

LA Times: Trope Correct

As a follow up to Trope's post below I am posting an article from Peter Wallsten of the Los Angeles Times titled Abortion Foes Call Bush's Dred Scott Reference Perfectly Clear.
WASHINGTON — President Bush left many viewers mystified last week when, answering a question in his debate with Democratic challenger John F. Kerry, he invoked the 1857 Dred Scott decision that upheld slavery.

The answer seemed to be reaching far back in history to answer the question about what kind of Supreme Court justice Bush would appoint. But to Christian conservatives who have long viewed the Scott decision as a parallel to the 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling legalizing abortion, the president's historical reference was perfectly logical — and his message was clear.

Bush, some felt, was giving a subtle nod to the belief of abortion foes, including Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, that just as the high court denied rights to blacks in the Scott case it also shirked the rights of the unborn in Roe, which many conservatives call the Dred Scott case of the modern era.

"It was a poignant moment, a very special gourmet, filet mignon dinner," said the Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, a prominent conservative advocacy group based in Washington. "Everyone knows the Dred Scott decision and you don't have to stretch your mind at all. When he said that, it made it very clear that the '73 decision was faulty because what it said was that unborn persons in a legal sense have no civil rights."

Sheldon, who said he confers frequently with Bush and his senior campaign advisors on outreach to religious conservatives, though not in this instance, credited the use of Dred Scott with raising the abortion issue to "a very high level" and "back to the front burner."...

...Bush campaign spokesman Scott Stanzel said Tuesday that the president did not intend to draw a parallel between the slavery and abortion cases, but that he was merely giving voters an example of a case in which he felt the court erred.

But Bush has a history of using language with special meaning to religious conservatives, a critical portion of his base that senior strategists have said will assure his reelection only if they turn out in larger numbers than in 2000.

Bush himself is an evangelical Christian, and his speeches are frequently sprinkled with phrases that sound merely poetic to many, but to others sound a more spiritual theme.

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