Liberty vs. Leviathan

Chronicling Liberty's battle against Leviathan

Bearing false witness

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.  Exodus 20:16

It’s no secret that Rick Santorum is trying to win the social conservative voting bloc. It’s also no secret that he realizes Ron Paul stands in his way and thus has to be neutralized.  One of the recent tactics Santorum has employed in this quest is the classic ploy of distorting an opponent’s record.

Last week we saw that Santorum was unequivocally wrong when he stated that Paul “…doesn’t vote for anything restricting abortion on a federal level…”  To paraphrase Reagan, “Well, he’s done it again.”  In the recent South Carolina GOP CNN Debate Santorum claimed that Paul’s pro-life voting record, as scored by the National Right to Life Committee, was 50 percent, no better than Harry Reid’s.

From the debate:

Congressman Paul has a National Right to Life voting record of 50 percent, which is pretty much what Harry Reid’s National Right to Life voting record is. So for — to go out and say that, you know, you’re someone who stands up for the right to life, you repeatedly vote against bills on a federal level to promote the right to life, and you say that this is an individual personal decision or state decision. Life should be protected, and you should have the willingness to stand up on a federal level and any level of government and protect what our — excuse me — what our declaration protects, which is the right of our Creator to life, and that is a federal issue, not a state issue.

You can hear it in this video at the 1:50 mark:

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Fifty percent didn’t sound right so I did a little checking.  Here are the NRLC scores of Paul and Santorum for all the Congressional sessions for which NRLC has scores.  (For the sake of argument let’s assume the NLRC score is the standard for evaluating a person’s commitment to the pro-life cause, I don’t, but we’ll assume it).

Congressional Paul Santorum
Session Score % Votes Score % Votes
105   (1997) 95 20 100 15
106   (1999) 75 19 / 20 100 9
107   (2001) 81 16 100 2 / 3
108   (2003) 72 11 100 11
109   (2005) 55 9 / 11 100 4
110   (2007) 80 5 / 7 x x
111   (2009) 100 5 / 6 x x
112   (2011) 100 6 / 7 x x

Here are a few things to notice:

  • The only time Paul had a score near 50 was six or seven years ago during the 109th Session.
  • Paul has received a score of 100 for the current session and the previous session.
  • Except for the 108th Session Paul cast  more votes than Santorum in each session thus more opportunity to cast a vote deemed unfriendly to NRLC.
  • Santorum has had no votes since 2006.  That’s because he was not re-elected, many believe due to his support of abortion proponent Arlen Specter in Specter’s 2004 campaign.

Now, let’s look at that 109th Session score in detail.  First the number itself then how it was calculated.

Why did Santorum cite 50 percent and not 55?  I’m willing to give Santorum the benefit of the doubt and chalk the inaccuracy up to sloppy rounding or poor prep from his aides.  He can not, however, be excused for citing this score from three sessions ago while omitting Paul’s 100 percent score from the current and previous sessions.   Pointing out that Paul had this rating in 2006 would have been fair.  Attributing this score to Paul today is not.  It’s a blatant misrepresentation of fact and Santorum is wrong to try to get by with it.

Even if Santorum is wrong in citing this score as a current score, through the eyes of a social conservative it still doesn’t look good for Paul to have such a low score smack in the middle of all the others.  So why is it so low?

Let’s break down the votes NRLC tracked during the 109th Session.  Representatives were tracked and scored on eleven votes during the session.  Paul did not vote on two of those, voted “with” the NRLC on five and “against” the NRLC on 4, thus the 55 percent (5/9 = .55)

So what were those issues upon which Paul voted “against” the NRLC?  Using the NRLC score card numbering system Paul voted “against” the NRLC on votes 2, 3, 4 and 10.  Each of these votes was on either the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act or an amendment to this bill.  (In short, the bill made a federal crime of an adult transporting a minor across state lines in order to procure an abortion and avoid state laws requiring parental participation in an abortion decision.)

This reveals at least two flaws in using a political action committee’s evaluation of a candidate when making decisions about who to support.

First, Paul was penalized for voting several times on the same bill.  If tracked by bill Paul would have had a score of  80 (4 bills “with” and 1 “against”).

Second, the NRLC scoring system only takes into account the vote, not the reasoning behind the vote.  With just a little effort one learns that Paul thought the intent of the bill was “laudable” but also flawed and unconstitutional:

Mr. Speaker, in the name of a truly laudable cause (preventing abortion and protecting parental rights), today the Congress could potentially move our Nation one step closer to a national police state by further expanding the list of Federal crimes and usurping power from the States to adequately address the issue of parental rights and family law…

…Should parents be involved in decisions regarding the health of their children? Absolutely. Should the law respect parents’ rights to not have their children taken across State lines for contemptible purposes? Absolutely. Can a State pass an enforceable statute to prohibit taking minors across State lines to avoid laws requiring the involvement of parents in abortion decisions? Absolutely. But when asked if there exists constitutional authority for the Federal criminalizing of just such an action the answer is absolutely not.

This federalizing may have the effect of nationalizing a law with criminal penalties which may be less than those desired by some States. To the extent the Federal and State laws could co-exist, the necessity for a Federal law is undermined and an important bill of rights protection is virtually obliterated. Concurrent jurisdiction crimes erode the right of citizens to be free of double jeopardy.

So in this case, Paul supported the intentions behind the bill, but he disagreed with the method being proposed to bring those intentions to life.  And his disagreement was based on the Constitution and the oath he took to uphold the Constitution, not on his allegiance to a PAC or party.

One final point.  To compare Paul’s 55 percent score with Harry Reid’s 50 percent is disingenuous.  Reid cast four votes.  Two of those were “with” the NRLC, the two votes he cast for the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, the act that Paul warned would increase the scope of the Federal government.  Reid voted “against” the NRLC on the same issues Paul voted “with” the NRLC, the ones that would have authorized funding to pro-abortion organizations.  The common theme in Reid’s vote is an increase in the scope of government.  The theme in Paul’s votes is one of keeping the scope of government contained within the confines of the Constitution.

When one looks beyond the sound bites, it’s easy to see that Ron Paul is a pro-life candidate.  The disagreement Santorum and the NLRC have with Paul is not based on differing views on the sanctity of life and the evil of abortion.  The disagreement is based on their differing views on strategy and on the role a Constitutionally constrained Federal government has in making laws restricting abortion.  Santorum should admit as much, acknowledge that Paul is pro-life (2005, 2007, 2009, 2011 among others) and stop bearing false witness.

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