This Capitol Review also appeared at HumanEvents.com.
It’s hard to imagine anyone in Colorado touting rookie Gov. Bill Ritter as vice presidential timber. Yet 2,000 miles away, locked in the surrealism of the Beltway, Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson has done just that.
Oblivious to Ritter’s indecisiveness on fulfilling major campaign promises, Gerson thinks Ritter stands out because he is “authentically pro-life.”
Perhaps Gerson’s evangelical background inspired him to search for a pro-life running mate for Sen. Barack Obama, whose record is so callous he even voted to deny protection to infants who are born alive after a failed abortion.
However, in his search for a principled, pro-life Democrat — much less someone competent to be one heartbeat away from the Oval Office — Gerson badly missed the target.
Ritter has done nothing noteworthy in 17 months as governor — except, apparently, to double-cross Denver Post publisher Dean Singleton, thereby drawing a rare front-page editorial rebuke. Colorado pollster and former state Democrat chairman Floyd Ciruli recently observed in the Rocky Mountain News that Ritter’s approval rating lags 19 points behind another western Democrat, Montana’s Brian Schweitzer. Ciruli’s explanation detailed Ritter’s assorted missteps, quagmires and controversies.
Even five minutes on a search engine would produce sufficient evidence of Ritter ineffectiveness. Five minutes more would reveal that Ritter’s pro-life authenticity is a self-made myth that foreshadowed, to anyone who cared to consider it, the much broader indecisiveness and lack of conviction that haunts him as governor.
In a fawning 2006 election profile, the Post detailed candidate Ritter’s meeting with “50 women supporting abortion rights.” Reporter Miles Moffeit then extols Ritter’s supposed courage: “But he never budged on his position.”
“It wouldn’t have been authentic,” Ritter righteously proclaimed.
Most people who ponder the abortion issue eventually reach a conclusion based on a fundamental belief: either the unborn child’s humanity entitles her to certain legal presumptions that preclude or mitigate against abortion or the unborn child is not considered fully a person and isn’t entitled to legal protection before birth.
It is logically indefensible to simultaneously acknowledge to the sanctity of unborn life but refuse to expend political capital in its defense.
Yet that is precisely what Ritter has done — all the while saying he is “personally opposed to abortion.” Ritter failed even the most simple pro-life test — opposing taxpayer funding of abortion — when he restored funding for Planned Parenthood, defying a state constitutional amendment that prohibits direct or indirect funding of abortions.
He signed a bill requiring Catholic hospitals to provide emergency contraceptives, trampling their conscientious objections. He said he will not seek to appoint judges who support the right to life and that he has no anti-abortion legislation on his agenda.
If Roe v. Wade is reversed while he is governor, Ritter makes it clear that he will veto a bill that is too restrictive — i.e., he would err on the side of allowing too many abortions rather than err on the side of saving too many lives.
Such abject servitude to political expediency would hardly be lauded as courageous or authentic if it guided policy on civil rights or the environment.
It is difficult to imagine an authentic reason for opposing abortion if not for the belief that it wrongfully takes a life. But once abortion is seen in those terms, it’s even more difficult to imagine that a person of integrity would compromise it — even for the prize of becoming governor.
Yet that seems the most plausible explanation for Bill Ritter’s ascendancy.
Abortion supporters were plenty willing to cast their vote for a pro-life Democrat so long as they knew he didn’t really mean it. Ritter has rewarded their faith. In 2008, Colorado NARAL scored 100 percent at the state legislature.
Once a politician trades for political gain what he knows to be right on an issue as fundamental as human life, it’s hard to imagine anything he won’t compromise. With no discernible core beliefs — except the desire to be governor — Ritter is understandably indecisive.
Would a principled leader with any foresight allow his fellow Democrats to stick their necks out by bulldozing through the legislature a re-write of Colorado’s key labor law only to hang them out to dry when he vetoed the bill?
Would he then anger his business allies when he hoped no one would notice by issuing an executive order to unionize state workers?
Would he use his bully pulpit to talk about the need to create universal health care coverage, to “keep college affordable” and to “build the best transportation network in the nation” and then produce only inaction and half-measures?
Given Gerson’s conservative credentials, perhaps he was hoping to entice the Obama campaign into a costly faux pas. Whatever the case, anyone who scratches beneath the surface will quickly realize that Colorado’s governor has yet to measure up to his current job. For Bill Ritter, a promotion is out of the question.