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August 11, 2005
NARAL Retreats, Blames ... Pretty Much Everyone

After getting criticism for its smear job on Supreme Court nominee John Roberts from even pro-choice politicians, NARAL withdrew its advertisement from circulation this evening. Instead of acknowledging their incredible failure in judgment, NARAL preferred to blame everyone else for failing to recognize their genius:

After a week of protests by conservatives, an abortion rights group said Thursday night it is withdrawing a television advertisement linking Supreme Court nominee John Roberts to violent anti-abortion activists.

"We regret that many people have misconstrued our recent advertisement about Mr. Roberts' record," said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

"Unfortunately, the debate over that advertisement has become a distraction from the serious discussion we hoped to have with the American public," she said in a letter Thursday to Sen. Arlen Specter (news, bio, voting record), R-Pa., who had urged the group to withdraw the ad.

Specter, himself an abortion-rights supporter as well as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee that will question Roberts next month, earlier Thursday had called the ad "blatantly untrue and unfair."

The NARAL ad criticizes Roberts and links him with violent anti-abortion protesters because of the anti-abortion briefs he worked on as a government lawyer.

They wanted to have a "serious discussion" by setting up a false premise in its advertising? That would have been one neat trick. Of course they're lying again, just as their ad lied about Roberts and they lied to the Washington Post about buying ad time on Fox News Channel for the spot. What's one more lie once the die has been cast?

NARAL says they'll have more advertisements to replace the one they pulled. Why? No one will believe what they have to say now. NARAL blew their credibility with this foolish and fraudulent campaign.

The biggest winner in this move is CNN. They no longer have to defend themselves for running the ad. The collective sigh in Atlanta may have been audible in Washington DC.

UPDATE: Timothy Goddard argues that the big losers are Democrats who want to cast themselves as moderates, noting that not a single major Democratic figure openly opposed the content of the ad. Slightly behind them: pro-life Republicans who missed an opportunity to flash some love to the base. A well-argued post and a good point, especially about underestimating the timing of the political cycle.

UPDATE II: The Washington Post editorial board underestimated the political cycle, too, but stakes out its normal moderate position by labeling the NARAL ad a smear:

In releasing the ad, Nancy Keenan, NARAL's president, said in a statement that she wanted "to be very clear that we are not suggesting Mr. Roberts condones or supports clinic violence." That's funny, because the ad does precisely that. It opens with the scene of a bombed clinic -- a clinic attacked years after the case in question -- and then shows a victim of the bombing. An announcer intones that "Supreme Court nominee John Roberts filed court briefs supporting violent fringe groups and a convicted clinic bomber." It closes with the announcer telling viewers that "America can't afford a justice whose ideology leads him to excuse violence against other Americans." A reasonable viewer can only conclude that Judge Roberts -- who served as deputy solicitor general in the administration of George H.W. Bush -- had somehow justified or defended a clinic bombing. ...

The administration's stance in the case and others like it was, while aggressive and controversial, not extreme or legally untenable. Indeed, it prevailed at the Supreme Court on a 6-to-3 vote. In no sense did the brief defend clinic violence, much less bombings. Indeed, Judge Roberts began his oral argument by describing the conduct of the protesters as "tortious" and emphasizing that it was illegal under state law. The question in the case was whether federal law at that time provided additional grounds for legal action. Arguing that it did not is not the same as excusing clinic bombings.

NARAL is certainly within its rights to disagree with the position the government took in the case. But the impression it creates with this ad is not an argument but a smear-- a smear that will do less to discredit Judge Roberts than it will the organization that created it.

CQ reader Cayute Kitt notes that NARAL still has the ad on its site, even though it retracted it from airing on television. The smear continues ...

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 11, 2005 9:56 PM

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