Once upon a time there was a news anchor and a candidate…
News Anchor: Senator, you’ve stated your view on abortion on many occasions; would you mind restating it for our viewers?
Candidate: I’d be honored to do so. As I’ve indicated, time and again, I support the right to life and oppose abortion because I believe that human life is sacrosanct, that we have a sacred duty to protect all human life, regardless of the stage of human development.
News Anchor: When you say “stage of human development,” Senator, you are including fetuses?
Candidate: Before I answer that, let me clarify that what we’re talking about isn’t about an as yet indistinct group of cells that a biologist calls a fetus. Let’s be clear, a fetus is an unborn boy or girl, and it is one or the other the instant an egg is fertilized. The DNA in that little boy or girl is exactly the same as it is when they’re seven, or seventeen or seventy, which is why I believe life begins at conception.
News Anchor: And your strong belief in the sanctity of life is founded in your Christian faith?
News Anchor: Is it fair to say, given your belief that life begins with conception, there are many stages of development in the life of a human?
News Anchor: You’ve just implied, for example, that a seven-year-old girl is at a stage in the ladder of human development, isn’t that correct?
Candidate: I’m not sure where this is going, but yes, childhood is a stage in the development of a human’s life. Adolescence, young adulthood, the elderly are all stages in the development of human life.
News Anchor: Thank you for clarifying that. I’d like you to clarify something else. It is a matter of public record that you have voted on numerous occasions to support military action in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Candidate: I’m one of this country’s strongest advocates for using our power to stand up for democracy and freedom around the world.
News Anchor: I think our viewers would concur with that assertion.
Candidate: Thank you.
News Anchor: Given your strong understanding of the military, I’m sure you know that in every war or other military action, including the ones you have publicly supported with your words and votes, hundreds, even thousands, of innocent noncombatants—who, I might note, represent all developmental stages in human life—die as the direct or indirect result of the actions you have supported.
Candidate: Collateral damage is one of the unfortunate consequences of war.
News Anchor: You’ve just stated that human life is sacrosanct, that we have a sacred duty to protect all life regardless of the stage of human development. Are the lives of innocents killed by actions that you have supported not sacrosanct?
Candidate: I’m not saying that. Those lives are sacred, but there are times, unfortunate as they may be, when people die in the defense of democracy and freedom.
News Anchor: So are you saying that we have a sacred duty to protect the life of a fetus, but we do not have a sacred duty to protect the lives of innocents caught in the crossfire of war?
Candidate: It’s an entirely different issue.
News Anchor: But there didn’t seem to be any ambiguity in your assertion that we have a sacred duty to protect all human life. Are you saying that a fetus within the womb of an American woman is more important than the life of an Iraqi six-year-old, who is killed by an American airstrike that you supported with your votes and words?
Candidate: I’m not saying that.
News Anchor: Let me change the subject slightly. When you were governor, you were an outspoken supporter of capital punishment. Is the life of a convicted murderer less sacrosanct than that of a fetus?
Candidate: I would say so, yes. Someone who takes another’s life deserves to feel the wrath of the State.
News Anchor: You’ve also stated that you’re proud to have never voted for anything at the state or federal level that supports what you have referred to as “a welfare state,” including, as you’ve stated, support for the Affordable Care Act.
Candidate: Very proud of those votes. Obamacare and welfare are lynchpins of the Entitlement Nation, the welfare state that Liberals have created. Most Americans work hard for what they earn, and it’s time we stopped asking those Americans to support those who don’t seem willing to pull their fair share of the load.
News Anchor: Let’s focus on those Americans who you would characterize as not “willing to pull their fair share of the load.”
News Anchor: Is it fair to say that you’re referring to those people generally characterized as being poor?
Candidate: Well, not all poor folks exploit entitlement programs.
News Anchor: But most do?
Candidate: A significant number.
News Anchor: Are you aware that the life expectancy of an American child living in poverty is appreciably less than that of a middle class American child?
Candidate: I am.
News Anchor: But you oppose providing support that would possibly add years to the lives of not just poor children but to all persons who are unable to access the quality of life available to the majority of advantaged Americans.
Candidate: I’m opposed to placing that responsibility on the backs of hard-working Americans.
News Anchor: On whose backs would you place that responsibility?
Candidate: Look, the problem with the poor is, they just need to decide not to be poor, and if they did, then there’d be no need to answer that question. It’s their responsibility.
News Anchor: (Looks down, pauses and then returns her attention back to the candidate) When you say that all life deserves protection, aren’t you equivocating?
Candidate: My views are consistent, clear and defensible.
News Anchor: But aren’t you asserting that under certain circumstances—war, capital punishment, and poverty being three—human life is not worth protecting.
Candidate: I’m not saying that.
News Anchor: But your support of military action and capital punishment, and your opposition to the welfare state, support outcomes that you clearly know will not protect human life. Doesn’t that indicate you believe not all humans’ lives are sacrosanct, that influential persons—perhaps yourself being one—have the ability to determine the types of lives that we don’t have to be concerned about protecting?
Candidate: You’re totally distorting what I’m saying. You began by asking me about abortion. My views about abortion are clear, and most people understand that abortion is totally different from those other situations because an unborn human boy or girl is defenseless and needs our protection.
News Anchor: Isn’t a six-year-old Iraqi child confronted by an errant, thousand-pound bomb, or a very sick child whose parents cannot afford health care, just as defenseless as a fetus?
Candidate: Frankly, I don’t intend to respond any further to this line of questioning, (stands) which seems to me to be nothing more than badgering from someone who is clearly attempting to make some kind of misguided, Liberal-leaning point (leaves the set).
News Anchor: (Closeup on anchor as she turns toward the camera) Thank you, Senator. I appreciate your taking the time to make your views on the sanctity of human life quite clear to our viewers. And now, let’s take a look at today’s weather across the nation…
As a retired career educator, there is a special place in my heart for children, for the sanctity of life, and for the right of every woman right to make reproductive choices. Spending a great number of hours in drive time to and from work over the years, my radio station of choice was the local NPR affiliate, and there were two interviews with then Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum—one on Fresh Air (8/30/04); the other on Morning Edition (8/4/05)—that resonated with me and kept returning to my conscious mind as the years went on. In early 2016, as the presidential primary campaigns began to ramp up, Santorum’s responses to questions about abortion reminded me of two key takeaways from his earlier NPR interviews: 1) life begins at conception, and 2) all life should be respected, honored and protected at all stages of life. Those takeaways prompted me to create and post (on my then Educational Follies blog) the above, totally fictitious account of a TV news anchor’s interview with a senatorial candidate. “Once Upon a Time …” (c) 2016 Jeff Lee Byrem
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