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When a “No Sign” is a Bad Sign

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As the GOP primary race heats up, the latest bump in the road for some of the candidates is the Susan B. Anthony (SBA) List’s pro-life pledge. Mitt Romney and Herman Cain have both refused to sign it.

So why not? One of Romney’s key objections, based on his National Review article, seems to be his belief that the pledge would limit his ability to choose cabinet members and officials for his administration should he win the presidency.  SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser clarified to me – and the wording of the pledge is unmistakable – that the pledge applies only to “relevant Cabinet and Executive Branch positions,” such as department heads and cabinet officials only in agencies with direct impact on abortion policy.  Do we really want a president to appoint another Health and Human Services Secretary like Kathleen Sebelius, who was discredited from the start as an ardent abortion supporter with close ties to the late George Tiller, a notorious late-term abortionist? No, we certainly don’t.

I understand pledges may not mean much when it comes right down to it, but Mitt Romney especially stood to gain a lot with a show of support for basic pro-life principles. Many social conservatives view his candidacy with skepticism because he was against pro-life freedom before he was for it.  Not to sign the pledge is a strategic error on his part if he means to solidify his support among pro-life Americans, a number that is growing.

Another sticking point is RomneyCare.  Mitt Romney says the state Supreme Court forced him to cover abortions and pay for it with taxpayer money.  But, a principled pro-life governor would not have surrendered to pragmatism.  He would have found a way around the problem.  This is exactly what tripped up the not-pro-life-after-all former Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Michigan) when he caved on ObamaCare on exactly the same pro-life issue.  He chose universal coverage over the lives of the unborn.

In short, conservatives find it hard to trust Romney’s pro-life protestations.  Any candidate who claims to be pro-life should be willing to commit publicly to appointing pro-life officials to the relevant federal positions.  By the same token, fiscal conservatives would never trust a candidate who was willing to appoint a tax-and-spend Treasury Secretary.  Defense hawks would never trust a candidate who they suspected might appoint a Code Pink Defense Secretary.  Bottom line:  Romney lost a great opportunity.  I wish him well, but he should have thought this one through.  In fact, every candidate in both parties should.