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National Right To Life Executive Director David O’Steen defends the Thompson endorsement.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007
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HH: We open this hour with David N. O’Steen. He is the executive director of the National Right To Life Committee. David, welcome, it’s great to have you on the program.

DO’S: Great to be had on the program, appreciate you’re calling me.

HH: Now David, you guys have endorsed Fred Thompson. Can you tell us what the process is, to be president, to get that endorsement, and what it represents?

DO’S: Well, our organization’s been studying the candidates really since January. In January, the board of National Right To Life, made up of 58 members representing 50 states and about 3,000 chapters across the country, took a neutrality position, to study the candidates, study their positions, listen to what they said. And we had a forum at the National Right To Life Convention in June, several candidates came, and Fred Thompson, who then was not a candidate, sent a video message to the convention in which he made a very strong statement opposing the kind of embryonic, the kind of stem cell research that kills human embryos, embryonic stem cell research, but supporting the kind of stem cell research that harms no one, adult stem cell research, and is producing treatments today. And we continued watching the candidates. We saw through the year that in the majority, overwhelming majority of national polls, Senator Thompson, former Senator Thompson, ran second to Rudy Giuliani, who has maintained his pro-abortion position, he’s been consistent with that. We looked at the records, and Senator Thompson had a consistent pro-life record throughout his political career. National Right To Life had met with him before he ran for the Senate in 1994, he took a strong pro-life position then. Our political action committee supported him in 1994, we supported him for re-election. He never disappointed us.

HH: What was the vote on the committee, Mr. O’Steen?

DO’S: I’m not at liberty to talk about the specifics. They met in the executive session, but it was overwhelming.

HH: Okay, and obviously, the question that arises in some minds, like mine, I’m pro-life, is on Sunday last, Fred Thompson came out against the Human Life Amendment. And a couple of days later, you guys endorse him. Does the Human Life Amendment not matter to National Right To Life anymore?

DO’S: He didn’t actually come out against the Human Life Amendment. What he said…

HH: Oh yeah. David, yes he did.

DO’S: He was asked…

HH: David, he came out against, he said no, he doesn’t endorse it.

DO’S: Well, that wasn’t my understanding. He was asked…

HH: Wait, wait. David…do I have the tape? Do I have the tape ready? No, I don’t have the tape. David, everybody in America saw that, and their jaw dropped. Don’t…don’t…

DO’S: I watched the show. I watched the show.

HH: So did I, and everybody knows he didn’t endorse the amendment.

DO’S: Well, read the quote of what he said. No, he didn’t endorse the amendment, but he was asked…

HH: Okay, so are you guys dropping the amendment?

DO’S: He was asked could he run on a platform promising a Human Life Amendment banning all abortions. Those were the words.

HH: David, he did not endorse the amendment. Does the National Right To Life…

DO’S: No, no, he didn’t endorse it. But what you said is he came out against it. There’s the distinction.

HH: Well, that’s the same…David, David, this audience is very sophisticated. They don’t like double talk. He’s not where Huckabee is, he’s not where Romney is endorsing the amendment. What I’m trying to get to is why do you guys not care about that?

DO’S: Well, wait a minute, I didn’t want to talk about other candidates specifically.

HH: Well, come on.

DO’S: Look at the history of other candidates. I said he’s had a consistent pro-life position.

HH: Are you saying Huckabee’s not consistently pro-life?

DO’S: What did you say?

HH: Are you saying Huckabee’s not consistently pro-life?

DO’S: No, I’m not saying…I wasn’t talking about Huckabee. You were mentioning other candidates. I mean, you…

HH: But Huckabee is…

DO’S: Huckabee has been pro-life, yes. He’s pro-life.

HH: And he’s for the amendment. So why would you guys not go with him?

DO’S: Well, I’ll tell you, we’re also looking at what we view as electability.

HH: You don’t think Mike Huckabee is electable?

DO’S: Well, in the polls we’ve been watching, in the national polls, Fred Thompson has in the majority of them run second, Mike Huckabee hasn’t.

HH: David, have you been watching…David O’Steen is my guest from the National Right To Life Committee. Have you been watching the recent polls? Fred Thompson’s falling like a rock.

DO’S: Well, he’s running strong in South Carolina. The last national Real Clear Politics average I saw showed him running second to Rudy Giuliani.

HH: He’s got 6% in Iowa, and less than that, I think, in New Hampshire in the CBS poll released yesterday.

DO’S: But he’s running strong in Nevada and South Carolina. As I said, you know, everyone can look at polls, and the last Real Clear Politics average I saw, he was running second to Rudy Giuliani.

HH: All right, let’s go back…again, that’s bad data on your guys’ part, but I can’t substitute data. I’m just concerned about the Human Life Amendment. You guys could endorse who you want. I just think it was shocking that the group that has led the pro-life movement for the last thirty years has endorsed a candidate who won’t endorse the Human Life Amendment. I mean, I’m just shocked by that.

DO’S: Well, remember, he came back in South Carolina, and said he would not seek to change the platform. But let’s talk about it for a moment. You’d have to change 25-30 votes in the U.S. Senate, defeat 25-30 pro-abortion candidates, or pro-abortion Senators, to get a Human Life Amendment.

HH: So you’re giving up.

DO’S: So…no, we didn’t say we’re giving up, but there’s not going to be a Human Life Amendment in the next presidency.

HH: Well, there’s certainly not going to be a president talking as though it matters. I mean, doesn’t that matter to have a president like Reagan and a president like George W. Bush to at least…

DO’S: Fred Thompson has stated that he believes Roe should be reversed, that he will appoint the kind of judges that will interpret the Constitution according to its text, and we know abortion is not in the text of the Constitution.

HH: Yeah, I know all that stuff.

DO’S: He’s got a strong…

HH: We talk about that stuff every day. That’s why I’m surprised. We talk about that on the show day in and day out, David, and for the National Right To Life, I mean, I like Romney, I like Giuliani, I like Huckabee, I like Fred Thompson. But for the National Right To Life Committee to come out for someone who does not endorse the Human Life Amendment, that just leaves me dumbfounded. What’s the reaction been among your membership?

DO’S: What he has said is that he’s going to work on the things that he can affect in the next presidency.

HH: Again, I go back to the issue about how is your membership reacting, because I think pro-life voters across the country are stunned by your decision.

DO’S: Well, I wouldn’t agree with that. I think this is a person, if you look at his record, if you’ll examine the records of all the candidates, and where they’ve been, not what they’ve said, we’re interested in what they do and have done, not what they have said, and I agreed with you that Mike Huckabee has a strong pro-life record.

HH: Do you think Mitt Romney governed as a pro-life governor? Did he stop stem cell research in Massachusetts to the best of his ability?

DO’S: Well, I did not want to get into other candidates, but Fred Thompson has been pro-life throughout his whole political career.

HH: Well, I know Mitt Romney changed his mind. Do we not care about that? Don’t we want people to change their minds?

DO’S: We certainly encourage people to change their minds. But I think it also counts for someone, for instance, in his last Senate term, that cast 21 pro-life votes.

HH: Yeah, but not for the amendment. Now let me put on a Mike Huckabee hat for a second.

DO’S: Well, actually, he got a chance to vote on Roe V. Wade. No, not on an amendment, but he got a chance to vote on Roe V. Wade, and he voted against Roe V. Wade, because it was a sense of the Senate resolution, that the pro-abortionists put up, and yes, that means something.

HH: Why…if sense of the Senate resolutions, which have no binding impact, matter to you folks, why wouldn’t the Human…

DO’S: But it puts people on record, and you’re talking about putting…what you’re arguing for is something that’s not going to occur in the next four years, not going to occur, highly unlikely, in the next eight years.

HH: I’m arguing about leadership on the issue.

DO’S: So…

HH: I’m arguing that you guys want my money, and the money of people who are pro-life, to lead the pro-life campaign nationally, and you endorse a fellow who will not endorse the Human Life Amendment, which I think undermines the complete argument for protecting the unborn. If you’re not willing to put that in the Constitution, I think you killed the argument. I think you just absolutely blew it up.

DO’S: Of course we’re willing, but I believe the majority of people supporting National Right To Life want us to make a difference, not a statement. Fred Thompson will make a difference.

HH: Fred Thompson isn’t going to get out of South Carolina, David. That’s the other thing. It’s just a reality check here.

DO’S: Well, now that’s a political judgment whether he’ll go or not, but that isn’t what you’re arguing with me.

HH: Well, yeah, I’m arguing about the wisdom and the prudential judgment of a very important organization in a very important election, dodging an important choice between Huckabee and Romney so as to unite the conservative movement. You know, I had Jim Bopp on this program last week. Obviously, Jim’s been your general counsel forever, right?

DO’S: Right.

HH: And he’s a Romney supporter, right?

DO’S: Yes, he is.

HH: And he cares about the Human Life Amendment, right?

DO’S: I guess he does.

HH: Well, who in your organization defeated his arguments? What was that…

DO’S: Again, look at the long term record.

HH: And look at A) the Human Life Amendment, and B) that he can’t win. I mean…

DO’S: You think there’ll be a Human Life Amendment in the next four years? Do you think a president will effect the Human Life Amendment in the next…

HH: I think a president matters a great deal. One who truly believes in protecting the unborn has to be in favor of the Human Life Amendment.

DO’S: Well now, you can’t take away from Fred Thompson truly believing in protecting the unborn.

HH: Yes, I can. If you’re not for the Constitutional amendment, you’re not with the pro-life movement in the way that presidents need to be with the pro-life movement.

DO’S: I’ve never seen him say, and you argued with this, that he wasn’t for it. He said he’ll work on the things where he can make a difference.

HH: David…

DO’S: And where we’re going to make a difference is getting the right kind of judges. We’re interested in making a difference, not a statement.

HH: Actually, I think…you know, I’m glad you came on, but I’m not persuaded that you guys just weren’t being too cute, and you tried to avoid a tough choice, and you seriously undermined the Human Life Amendment. If you guys, if Fred Thompson got the nomination, he’s not going to, that would mean that every future presidential candidate could campaign on other than the Human Life Amendment, and get your endorsement down the road, because you guys don’t care about it. You just don’t care.

DO’S: Well, remember, the goal is to protect unborn children. The Human Life Amendment is one possible tool. So is reversing Roe through the courts. Reversing Roe through the courts is much more likely.

HH: Will reversing Roe…

DO’S: It sounds like you would prefer a candidate that gave you words on a Human Life Amendment, didn’t have a long term pro-life record, and wasn’t necessarily committed to pro-life judges or committed on stem cell research.

HH: I want a candidate who will change minds. I want a candidate who will change minds, and you can’t change a mind if you don’t agree with the underlying principle, the principle that’s in the amendment. David O’Steen, I appreciate your making time for us, and come back again from National Right To Life.

End of interview.

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