Paul-Johnson 2012: The Libertarians’ Best-Case Scenario

Now that I’ve dismissed the idea of Gary Johnson having much success as the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate, another possibility occurs to me. It seems to me that, if you’re an LP supporter, the best-case scenario is that Ron Paul runs as the LP’s presidential candidate with Johnson in the veep slot. That, I confess, would be a formidable ticket.

(I actually think Johnson-Paul would be a stronger ticket, but I don’t think that’s likely given Paul’s relative level of support. However, if Paul takes seriously his “personhood” pledge, that might preclude him from running with pro-choice Johnson.)

But how would that play out in the election? I predict it would play out roughly as the last governor’s race in Colorado played out. Due to a fluke, the frontrunner GOP candidate lost the nomination (after getting caught up in plagiarism charges). The man left for the job was Dan Maes, an inexperienced, incompetent bungler. Thus, Tom Tancredo entered the race with the bizarre Constitution Party. (I reluctantly pulled the lever for Tancredo, but in retrospect I think that was a mistake.) What happened? Maes and Tancredo beat the crap out of each other, leaving John Hickenlooper (a decent Democrat) to easily walk away with over half of the popular vote.

I think roughly the same thing would happen if the LP candidate actually got any traction. The Republican candidate would of necessity start spending resources trashing the LP candidate, who would respond in turn. In a battle between the Libertarian and Republican candidates to convince voters that the other guy is a total bastard, both sides would win. Given Paul’s newsletters, his foreign policy statements, the bizarre figures of the LP, Romneycare, etcetera, there’s more than enough mud to go around!

The most likely outcome is that Obama would walk away with an easy victory, stronger than ever.

And, to the extent that the LP gained any traction, that would serve to convince most Americans that, on the whole, Libertarians are totally crazy.

Moreover, the fight between the LP and the GOP might cost the latter important seats in Congress, leaving Obama with relatively stronger support there. (I’ve suggested elsewhere that the least-bad possible outcome in 2012 might well be an Obama victory with a strong GOP in Congress.)

Again, elsewhere I will argue that the LP is not worth supporting simply because of the ideas it promotes, and that is the most important issue. But, just on the level of partisan political strategy, I just don’t see how promoting a strong LP ticket (if such is possible) could accomplish anything but destruction.

The Delusional Gary Johnson

I will write about the ideological problems with supporting Gary Johnson’s run with the Libertarian Party elsewhere. Here, I concern myself with an easy question: does supporting Johnson’s LP run make strategic sense even on the basic level of partisan politics?

If you think Johnson has a serious chance of becoming president on the LP ticket, you are simply delusional. Any rational person can convince himself that is the case merely by answering the following questions.

1. How many current members of Congress won on the LP ticket?

2. How many members of Congress has the LP elected, ever?

3. How many governors has the LP elected, ever?

4. How many Libertarians currently serve in any state legislature?

5. How many LP presidential candidates have won more than one percent of the popular vote?

6. How many electoral votes has an LP presidential candidate received, ever?

Here are the answers:

1. Zero.
2. Zero.
3. Zero.
4. Zero.
5. One. In 1980, Ed Clark won 1.1 percent of the popular vote.
6. One. In 1972 John Hospers got a single electoral vote.

Ah, but some readers are thinking, Gary Johnson actually was a real politician; he served for eight years as governor of New Mexico. I agree that raises the possibility of him earning more votes as an LP candidate than previous candidates have earned. But he could earn many times the previous totals and still lose very badly.

I was active in the Colorado LP for several years. I served on the state LP board. I attended national LP conventions. I even ran as a candidate once. My experience suggests there are two types of LP candidates for mid- to high-level positions. Realistic ones whose reasons for running do not include winning, and delusional ones who think that this time, by golly, they’re going to take it all the way. A couple candidates I knew spent ridiculous amounts of their own money running. And guess what. They still got blown out of the water come election day. You have a far better chance earning your first million through Amway than you do winning a major election as a Libertarian candidate.

Ah, but others are thinking, even if Johnson doesn’t win, voting for him will lodge a protest. As I will argue elsewhere, lodging a protest vote that promotes the LP is incredibly counterproductive from the standpoint of advancing a rights-protecting government. But let’s table that matter for the moment and just talk electoral tactics.

If you want to register a protest vote, an undervote is nearly as effective as a third-party vote. I simply did not vote in the last presidential election, and I may do the same in 2012, depending on the GOP nominee. (I absolutely will not vote for Paul, Gingrich, Santorum, Perry, or Bachmann.) If a vote for the LP candidate were merely a protest vote (which, I emphasize, is not the case), then the strategic advantage of voting LP versus voting for nobody (or a write-in) would be negligible.

And actually spending any time or money promoting Johnson’s campaign, given all the alternate ways one could spend time and money, would be at best practically worthless.

But of course one’s broader political strategies must account for ideology. It’s not like anybody who might support Johnson might instead support an overt Communist as a “protest vote.” Clearly promoting the right ideas is the paramount strategic concern. I grant that, if you think that supporting Johnson as an LP candidate would advance the right ideas, then supporting him might offer some minuscule strategic advantage. At this point, I encourage readers merely to contemplate the possibility that supporting Johnson as a Libertarian would instead promote very bad ideas, a case I intend to make elsewhere.

Update: See the next post in the series, “Paul-Johnson 2012: The Libertarians’ Best-Case Scenario.”

Joey Bunch Misstates Gun Statistics in Denver Post

[Update 6:31 pm: The Denver Post has issued a revised correction for the online article in question.]

[Update December 29: Joey Bunch related that he takes responsibility for the mistake and apologizes for his initial reaction. For my part, I am satisfied with the way the Post has handled the issue.]

In their article for today’s Denver PostJoey Bunch and Kieran Nicholson claim, “More than 500 children in the United States die in gun accidents each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a 2007 report, which estimated 1.7 million children live in homes where guns are kept.” However, there seems to be no factual basis for that claim.

As Bunch is listed as first author and his contact information appears below the article, I contacted him to see where he got his figures. Unfortunately, in a series of emails (see below) he flatly refused to provide me with a citation. Apparently that is because no such citation exists.

CDC provides a search page for reviewing mortality statistics. The results for unintentional firearm deaths for 2007, ages zero through seventeen, is 112. Notice that the anti-gun Brady Campaign reports comparable figures. (Of the estimated 2,436,652 deaths in the U.S. in 2009, a total of 588 for all age groups resulted from “accidental discharge of firearms.” Final figures for 2007 show a total of 613 deaths. Please see pages 19 and 39 of the linked CDC report, and notice that I provided an actual citation for my claim.) To get figures as high as Bunch claims, one has to look at decades-old data. (Note that, in this article, I am concerned only with Bunch’s factual claims. I will address the “big picture” issues elsewhere.)

So how did Bunch get from 112 to “more than 500?” I don’t really know, given he refused to tell me. I do have a guess, however. A top Google hit for “kids die guns” is a 2008 article from MomLogic. That article includes the same numbers as Bunch uses — “more than 500” and “1.7 million households.” My guess is that Bunch cribbed these figures (from this web site or a comparable one) without bothering to verify them or even review their meaning.

Here’s what MomLogic has to say: “More than 500 children die annually from accidental gunshots. … Last year, a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found more than 1.7 million children live in homes with loaded and unlocked guns.”

What is similar between this article and Bunch’s article is that both include the same year for the CDC claim (2007), both include the phrase “more than 500 children,” and both include the phrase, “1.7 million children live in homes.” One important detail to notice is that the MomLogic article does not cite the CDC for the “more than 500” claim. Also notice the important qualifier in the MomLogic article about the 1.7 million households: these are “homes with loaded and unlocked guns.” Bunch offers no such qualifier, rendering his statement wildly inaccurate. (Neither MomLogic nor Bunch actually cite a specific CDC publication.)

I did find some support for the claim about 1.7 million households, but this comes not from CDC but from the American Academy of Pediatrics. (Perhaps there was some association between CDC and the Academy.) (Update: As USA Today relates, the authors of the study did have a direct relationship to the CDC.) That 2005 article states, “Findings indicate that ~1.69 million (95% confidence interval: 1.57-1.82 million) children and youth in the United States <18 years old are living with loaded and unlocked household firearms.” USA Today offered a popular summary of the study. However, the study is based on survey data, so its conclusions are suspect. (Please notice again my actual citations.)

At this point, then, the Denver Post either needs to come up with an actual citation supporting Bunch’s claim, or else issue a correction.

And, in general, I encourage reporters to a) actually have real citations backing up their claims (see also my write-up of a 2008 incident), and b) make those citations available to those who ask for them. Anything less constitutes journalistic negligence.

Following is today’s email exchange between Bunch and me:

Ari: Dear Mr. Bunch, You write: “More than 500 children in the United States die in gun accidents each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a 2007 report.” Please send [me] your citation for that claim. Thanks, -Ari

Joey: CDC. I cited my source.

Ari: I see that you wrote down CDC in your article. The problem is that when I look at the CDC web page, I find very different numbers than the ones you claim. So what I’m asking you for is the actual citation for a specific document that backs up your statement. Please provide that, and stop being coy. Thanks, -Ari

Joey: It took me all of about 3 minutes to find that report. With all due respect, Ari, you’re a columnist for a competing newspaper, do your own work.

Ari: Joey, If you found it, then please *send me the cite*. The fact that I write for the Grand Junction Free Press (hardly a competitor to the Post) is entirely irrelevant. I did my own work, as I mentioned, and I found different figures. So now, again, I ask you to back up your claim with a specific citation. Thanks, -Ari

Joey: I told you the name of the report and the year it came out. Would you like me to print it out and drive it to your house? I’ll pick up coffee and doughnuts on the way. Good luck with your story, Ari.

Ari: No, I would would like you send me the link to the relevant document, or, if the document is not available online, the title and authors of the printed document. That will be trivially easy for you to accomplish, so please, again, send me the citation. Thanks, -Ari

Joey: I do freelance work sometimes. I’ll send you a bill for research, and when it’s paid I’ll spend my time doing your work. Failing that, you could call the CDC and ask them to send it for you. There could be a per-page fee for that, however. Have a nice day.

Ari: Dear Mr. Bunch, According to your own claims, you’ve *already done the work*, and it took you “all of about three minutes.” If you’ve already done the work, and found the citation that informs your article, then it will take you about ten seconds to send me the relevant link (or title with authors). As a writer for the Denver Post, you have a responsibility, both to your readers and to the owners and managers of the paper, to back up your factual claims with specific citations. Please do so at this time, and please stop acting so evasive and frankly unprofessional. Thanks, -Ari

Joey: One more time and the last time I’m saying it: do your own work. You work for a newspaper. You are a journalist. Do your own work. Conversation over.

Update: Apparently the conversation is not yet over. After I sent an email to several representatives of the Denver Post linking to this write-up, Bunch again responded, claiming (among other things), “I told you the name of the report.” I wrote back noting that he has not, in fact, provided me with the title of the report or anything like a verifiable citation. I will update this article when and if Bunch provides me with an actual citation to the alleged report in question.

Update: Kevin Dale, news director for the Denver Post, states via email, “We are correcting the statistics. Page 2 in tomorrow’s paper. We’ll be correcting the online story shortly. Thanks for bringing it to our attention. We take our accuracy very seriously indeed.”

Update 5:03 pm: I sent a follow-up email to Dale:

Dear Mr. Dale,

Thank you for promptly following through on the matter of the claimed gun statistics published in today’s Denver Post.

Unfortunately, the Denver Post’s online “correction” also is in error [as of the time of this update].

The “correction” states that in 2007, 138 children died due to “fatal shooting accidents.” But that figure is for ages 0 through 19. Last time I checked, the legal age of adulthood is 18. Therefore, the correct figure is for ages 0 through 17, which is 112 (as I mentioned in my write-up). (While the figures vary only slightly in this case, I still think the Post ought to get its basic facts straight.)

I invite you to see for yourself here:

Moreover, the online article continues to falsely state, “The CDC also estimated 1.7 million children live in homes where guns are kept.” The Post’s claim here is wildly inaccurate. The figure actually pertains to children “living with loaded and unlocked household firearms.” The number of children living in homes “where guns are kept” is many times that amount.

Again, I invite you to see for yourself here:

(Anyway, that article relies on survey data, which are notoriously unreliable in these matters.)

Thank you for your attention to this matter.
-Ari Armstrong

Update 6:31 pm: The Denver Post has issued a revised correction for the online article in question.

The Tragedy of Fatal Hazards for Children

A single death due to an unintentional firearm discharge is one too many. When the victim is a child, the heartbreak can run especially deep.

But is the death of a child due to an unintentional firearm discharge any more or less tragic than the death of a child due to a car wreck or drowning? To think reasonably about the problem, we must put the dangers we face in context.

Earlier today the Denver Post falsely claimed that, based on recent figures, “more than 500 children in the United States die in gun accidents each year.” The actual figure for 2007, as the Post acknowledged in a correction, is 112 (as I reviewed at length earlier today). And yet, while I think journalists should strive to report the facts accurately, at a certain level the precise numbers are not the most important issue. What is most important is that each of these deaths, whatever their total number, represents a profound tragedy, a life forever snuffed out.

And yet life is full of risks. All sorts of things, not just firearms, can be hazardous if abused, both to adults and children. Obviously the proper goal is to reduce all deaths due to unintentional injury to as close to zero as feasible, everything else equal. The problem is that trying to force down the number of unintentional injuries can result in offsetting harms. For example, there is a very simple way to reduce the number of auto fatalities to zero: ban all automobiles. Yet obviously that would severely harm people in other ways. The same goes for firearms.

The fact is that firearms are useful for self-defense. Forcibly taking people’s guns away, or forcing people to render their guns inoperable for self-defense, would increase the numbers of home invasions, murders, and other crimes.

The Post rightly reports the general problem of gun fatalities in its related stories. In the case of the 2007 figures, the context for the statistics is a story about two 5-year-old children fatally shot in Colorado. In one case, a three-year-old shot a five-year-old with a “family friend’s gun.” In the other case, a child shot herself with her father’s gun. Those stories are painfully tragic to read about; obviously the families involved will never fully recover.

The Post includes some relevant context: in the first case the gun’s owner may be charged with “child abuse resulting in death and criminal negligence.” When the debate about gun laws raged in Colorado several years back, I rightly pointed out that general child-abuse laws already on the books account for all instances of needlessly putting a child in danger.

Notably, the Post has also pointed out the drowning statistics in stories related to drownings. For example, in 2009 the Post‘s Kieran Nicholsonwrote, “In 2005, there were 3,582 unintentional drownings in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” In another short story, the Post related, “The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated 319 children younger than 5 died in pool and spa incidents in 2005.”

Obviously the magnitude of the problem does matter. If ten-thousand children died every year in spas or by firearms, that would be an enormously more pressing problem. In the case of firearms, various anti-gun activists have skewed the figures for partisan political purposes. For obvious reasons, news reporters should be careful not to fall for such claims.

Even when reporters get their basic facts straight, readers ought to bear in mind the general context that, of necessity, is not included in a particular news story.

According to, “Fatal gun accidents involving children (aged 0-14) also fell significantly, from 495 in 1975, to under 250 in 1995.” Again, the figure for all minors for 2007 was 112. The fact that unintentional shootings have fallen dramatically, even as gun ownership has risen, is a very good thing.

Using the CDC’s clever search function, we can compare deaths from different sources. For 2007, a total of 7,931 children age zero to seventeen died of unintentional injury. So the deaths involving firearms represents 1.4 percent of the total. When parents are evaluating risks, that’s a relevant figure.

Let’s check out the numbers of unintentional deaths by various other causes (same year and age group):

Firearms: 112
Drowning: 901
Fall: 123
Fire/Burn: 497
Poisoning: 398
Suffocation: 1,239
Transportation Related, Overall: 4,264

Again, the point is not that news reporters are obligated to provide such context when writing their reports; they are not. But readers should bear in mind that news reports generally do not include all the relevant context.

Parents should take reasonable precautions to prevent unintentional injuries, whatever their cause. Part of this means that gun owners should take precautions not to let any unauthorized or irresponsible person gain access to a firearm. As a group, U.S. gun owners have made great strides in curbing the numbers of unintentional gun deaths. Obviously, some small fraction of gun owners need to do better.

What About Colorado’s Millions of Other Tax Scofflaws?

Today the Denver Post lambasted Douglas Bruce, citing his “reckless and brazen” evasion of state taxes. Recently Bruce was convicted on multiple charges.

I have no doubt that Bruce a) organized his finances in ridiculously convoluted ways (as he seems to be able to do nothing simply), b) agitated virtually every politician, bureaucrat, and leftist ideologue in the state, and c) gravely erred by representing himself in court. Whether he’s actually technically guilty of violating the state’s tax laws, I could not say definitively without studying his case more carefully. What is obvious is that, on the moral level, what’s he’s actually “guilty” of is daring to spend his own money in politically unapproved ways.

But there’s a deeper point here that practically everybody else seems to be ignoring: the large majority of Colorado residents are likely in violation of the state’s use-tax laws. I wrote about this matter earlier in the year. My guess is that millions of Coloradans are tax scofflaws. So, in the broader sense, obviously Bruce’s prosecution is selective; the state simply ignores millions (or at least hundreds of thousands) of cases of (generally unwitting) tax evasion every year.

Here’s the comment I sent over to a couple members of the Post‘s editorial board: “Fair enough regarding Doug Bruce, though the prosecution still smells of political retribution. However, my guess is that well over 80 percent of those currently piling on Doug Bruce are in violation of the state’s use-tax requirements. I’d actually be curious to learn what fraction of the Denver Post editorial board is in compliance with the use-tax laws. I personally think it’s a problem that probably the overwhelming majority of Colorado residents are in violation of the tax law, but apparently this is not the sort of story the Post regards as interesting.”

Update: Curtis Hubbard, the editorial page editor of the Denver Post, informs me that he did in fact address the use tax less than two weeks ago! Somehow I missed that article. He correctly points out that most people don’t pay it and that the state doesn’t enforce it. However, his solution to the problem is to force out-of-state online retailers to collect the tax and remit it to the state. I have a rather different idea for how to equalize the treatment between in-state and out-of-state businesses:repeal the sales tax for in-state businesses (even if done in a revenue-neutral way by increasing other tax rates).

‘Twas the Night before They Occupied the North Pole

The following article by Linn and Ari Armstrong originally was published by Grand Junction Free Press.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has found a new place to protest. But instead of camping out in tents they “community organize” from hastily-constructed igloos. Participants call it “Occupy the North Pole,” or ONoP for short. Their primary target: Santa Claus.

We contacted Invidia Elf, declared ONoP’s spokesperson by unanimous uptwinkles, to discuss the group’s goals. Following is her statement.

“We’re sick and tired of that so-called Jolly Old Elf reaping all the benefits of Christmas magic. While Santa lives in his grand Christmas castle, 99 percent of elves live in tiny huts or workers’ quarters. Some elves in the wood-toy construction department have even had to set up triple bunk beds due to lack of space.

“Santa owns 60 percent of the North Pole’s developed property, and he controls 80 percent of the Pole’s wealth. Nearly the entire North Pole economy is based on the production of Christmas toys, and who controls that entire enterprise? You guessed it: Santa Claus. He’s nothing but a Robber Baron monopolist.

“I won’t even get into Santa’s dietary habits. He eats more calories every day in cookies and milk alone than most elves eat all week. And his clothes! How many fluffy red tailored suits does the man actually need?

“Don’t even get me started on Mrs. Claus, dashing around in her fancy, stainless-steel sleigh like the Queen of the town. She even gets her own chauffeur. Did you know it takes a whole division of elves just to tend the reindeer? The Clauses’ barn alone is ten times the size of an average elf house, and it consumes fifteen times the electricity.

“Santa himself doesn’t actually do any work; he merely oversees and directs all the work of thousands of other elves. We’re the ones who do the real work around here, and I say it’s about time we got to call the shots. It’s high time to subject the means of production of Christmas toys to a more democratic process.

“A ‘living elf wage?’ Ha! There’s no law whatsoever setting wage standards. Sure, we don’t have the unemployment problem you have in America, but at least there workers are protected by laws that force employers to spend more on wages. Did you know that until about a decade ago a new elf employee got paid only room and board? Not even a stipend!

“I tried to unionize the workers a while back, but Santa said ‘Ho Ho Ho Merry Christmas’ and everybody started feeling all cheery again. It’s like a Jedi mind trick or something. A lot of these elves don’t even know how bad they’ve got it; they’re deluded into thinking they live a wonderful life. It’s just a good thing I’m here to educate them.

“The Nog Party? What a bunch of drooling dwarves. Laughably, they think it’s a good thing if some people get super rich; it’s like they think their so-called ‘free market’ is guided by invisible magic or something. We know what’s in their nog! But here in the real world people have to fight for their lick of the candy cane.

“Oh, sure, Santa spends most of his time making toys to give away. But does he give to everyone equally according to their need? No. Instead, there he sits in his office, day after day, going through his list not just once but twice, checking to see who’s naughty and who’s nice. And if for no good reason he puts you on the naughty list? Too bad for you! You get nothing but coal.

“It’s not the naughty kids’ fault. They were not born with the same advantages of nice kids. Why should the nice kids get all the rewards? They already have plenty. Instead, Santa should give the naughty kids most of the gifts to help make up for their disadvantages in life.

“Santa delivers free toys to all the (nice) children of the world, but he does that only one day a year! Here’s Santa, the most magical elf of all time, this guy who’s been building up his powers for centuries, and all he can manage is a single day of holiday bliss? You’d think Santa could have worked himself up to delivering gifts at least two days a year.

“Just this last winter Santa took a trip with the missus to the Caribbean. Do you know how many times I’ve relaxed on Caribbean beaches sipping pina coladas? That’s right: none. Santa has more inborn ability than fifty other elves together, so what’s he doing taking all that time off? ONoP demands that, henceforth, each elf contribute according to his ability, as decided by a democratic process.”

To us, it seems an awful lot like Invidia is attacking Santa for his virtues.

We called up Santa for a reply, but all he said was, “Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas! And to all a good night!”

The Case for Abortion Rights

The latest issue of The Objective Standard has published an article on abortion rights by Diana Hsieh and me, “The Assault on Abortion Rights Undermines All Our Liberties.” While this article updates the discussion about the anti-abortion movement, it offers the basic, timeless case for abortion rights.I’ll offer a brief synopsis here.

The first part describes the modern abortion movement, which is basically divided into those who want to immediately declare the “personhood” of zygotes and fetuses from the moment of conception, and those who push for marginal restrictions on abortion.

The second main part discusses why abortion is important for millions of women. Some women need to get an abortion for reasons of health, rape or incest, or serious fetal deformity. Many more women justifiably seek an abortion because, due to their finances, family situation, emotional stability, or goals in life, they are simply not prepared for motherhood. Abortion bans would severely harm the lives and well-being of many women (and their doctors and supporters).

Then the paper address “The Moral Basis of Abortion Rights.” (Diana deserves the lion’s share of the credit for this section.) The basic idea is that individual rights apply in a social context, not to a being contained wholly within the body of another.

The final section ties abortion rights to all our other rights. Abortion bans negate a woman’s right to control her own body. Restrictions on abortion necessarily infringe rights of property, contract, and speech. Moreover, because restrictions on abortion obviously are rooted in sectarian faith, they open the door to more sectarian-based laws and to endless sectarian conflict.

I invite you to read the entire article. See also my follow-up post about Newt Gingrich’s anti-abortion zealotry.

Tebowmania Article Published in Denver Post

The Denver Post published a recent op-ed of mine, “Tebowmania isn’t just for Christians.”

In this article I try to make sense of the overt religion of Bronco’s football star quarterback, Tim Tebow. On the surface, there’s much about this that seems odd. What if, I ask, “a star football player were as vocal about his Muslim, Hindu, or Scientologist beliefs?” And does God really care about who wins football games?

But, listening to some of Tebow’s comments during a recent game, I got a better sense of what religion does for him. I conclude that “what Tebow is able to do remarkably well is keep a sense of perspective about the game and his play,” and he uses religion for that end.

Read the entire article!

Campaign Finance Rules: Collected Testimony

As I’ve reviewed, Colorado’s Secretary of State Scott Gessler held a meeting December 15 to discuss his office’s rules pertaining to the campaign finance laws.

Gessler’s office has published all the written testimony submitted on the matter.

I’ve also published video of several people who, while overall supportive of Gessler’s proposed rule changes, nevertheless criticize the broader scope of campaign finance controls. Following are the remarks of Diana Hsieh, Paul Hsieh, Matt Arnold, and me.

If you want to get an idea of why I was a bit fired up, check out this video clip of State Senator John Morse:

Newt’s Nutty Abortion Stance

Today two articles came out slamming Newt Gingrich for embracing the hard-line anti-abortion “personhood” movement.

Paul Hsieh wrote the first for Pajamas Media. He emphasizes the fact that Gingrich’s proposals would ban the birth control pill and IUD. He writes, “If Gingrich (or any other ‘personhood’ supporter) wins the 2012 GOP nomination, the future legality of birth control pills and IUDs would immediately become a national political issue, to the detriment of the Republicans. Just as the ‘personhood’ issue tipped the swing state of Colorado in favor of the Democrats in 2010, it could also tip a few critical swing states in favor of Obama in 2012.”

I wrote the other article for The Objective Standard. Like Paul, I discuss the strategic foolishness of Republicans embracing the “personhood” movement, referencing Ken Buck’s loss of a U.S. Senate Seat. I also discuss Gingrich’s comments regarding birth control.

One additional point I make is that Gingrich’s proposals would subject women who get abortion to severe criminal penalties:

If, as Personhood USA asserts, a zygote is a person with the same right to life as a born infant or adult, then any action that intentionally kills a zygote, embryo, or fetus constitutes murder, as a representative of the organization emphasizedduring a November news conference. By the logic of the position and in accordance with existing murder statutes, abortion would be legally prosecuted as murder. Any doctor or husband who assisted in an abortion would be prosecuted as an accessory to murder. A Canadian anti-abortion group forthrightly argues that women who get abortions should face severe prison sentences. A Colorado supporter of Personhood USA explicitly calls for the death penalty for women who get abortions.

For a more detailed discussion of the issue, see the essay by Diana Hsieh and me, “The Assault on Abortion Rights Undermines All Our Liberties.”