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In “Secret Lives of the Presidents,” New York Times writer Timothy Egan airs some private political views of former presidents, and wonders aloud, “What if they had been honest?” Let’s take a look inside Egan’s alternate history:
What if Bill Clinton had openly announced, as he later did to his biographer, that Al Gore was “blowing” the 2000 election by refusing to allow Clinton to campaign for him? Maybe George W. Bush would never be president!
What if Bush had openly announced, as he did privately to his speech-writer, that his “heart was never into” banning gay marriage? Maybe gay people could be married!
And what if Richard Nixon had openly announced, as he did to his Oval Office tapes, that he thought abortion was okay “when you have a black and a white”? Maybe . . . Barack Obama‘s mom would have aborted him, and “the world’s most famous mixed-race man” would never have even existed!
It sure is fun to “wonder.” But pretending to pinpoint the precise political conditions that would have convinced a dead woman to have aborted her pregnancy 48 years ago instead of carry it to term is both dishonest and offensive.
Even if Nixon had announced that interracial couples would be free to abort their fetuses with impunity, why would that have convinced a white woman in a relationship with a black man to do such a thing? Why would anyone have cared what Richard Nixon thought, anyway? When Barack Obama was in the womb, Richard Nixon was already a lame-duck Vice President. And Nixon didn’t record his thoughts on interracial abortions until 1973, when Barack Obama was 12 years old. What is Egan even talking about?
The larger question is: why are commentators so quick to assume that Obama’s mother would have been interested in having an abortion at all, under any circumstances, ever?
Egan isn’t the first to jump down the rabbit-hole of Obama’s non-abortion history. In July, Republican Kansas Rep. Todd Tiahrt suggested that if Barack Obama’s mother had been offered “financial incentives” to have an abortion, then Obama may have been aborted and we would never have had a president who supported abortion. Wrap your mind around that one, liberals!
The speculation over Obama’s mother’s what-if-abortion is not a fun exercise in how even the smallest actions decisions can affect human history. It is, however, obviously racist (in his anti-abortion screed, Tiahrt also wondered aloud whether Clarence Thomas would have been aborted), and patently anti-choice.
Obama’s mother isn’t around to say, “I never would have had an abortion,” or, “I would have had an abortion if I could have afforded it,” or, “I would have had an abortion if Richard Nixon had been president over a decade before he was actually president, and had broadcast his racist Oval Office tapes over the radio in my first trimester.” This doesn’t seem to matter to the “What if” abortion set. When these commentators claim to know whether a dead lady they’ve never met would have had an abortion half a century ago, and why, they are saying that the mother’s opinion is unimportant to the discussion of abortion. They are robbing her of her ability to choose. In this case, commentators are posthumously robbing Obama’s mother of her ability to choose an abortion she never had, which just goes to show how seriously they take the whole “choice” thing.