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August 07, 2008


I'd say the jury is still out as to whether this is or is not a myth.

Casey gave his account of why he was not permitted to speak. Carville and Begala gave a different account. All of them had first-hand knowledge of the event. But all of them also had reason to dissemble about it. Accordingly, there's no particular reason why we should favor Carville's and Begala's explanation over Casey's. (That's especially salient since truthfulness is not the quality that first comes to mind when one thinks about Carville and Begala.)

Then we have the matter of other anti-choice politicians speaking at the 1992 Convention. But none of these people spoke about abortion to the Convention, as it appears that Casey may have planned to do. None of them had made opposition to abortion a key part of their political life, as Casey had. None of them had pushed through their legislatures laws that placed restrictions on abortion, as Casey had (and had defended the Pennsylvania restrictions all the way to the Supreme Court, where the Pennsylvania law was largely upheld just weeks before the Convention in a decision that enraged pro-choice advocates).

Pro-life speakers at Democratic conventions in subsequent years similarly didn't, to the best of my recollection, speak about the issue, and in any event the Party surely learned a lesson from the 1992 controversy about the downside of seeming to muzzle pro-life speakers.

An interesting footnote is the role that Begala and Carville played in Casey's election as governor in 1986. From Wikipedia:

After a decade practicing law, Casey made a fourth bid for governor in 1986, billing himself as the "real Bob Casey" to distinguish himself and make light of the mistaken identity follies of the past. Dubbed "the three-time loss from Holy Cross" by detractors, Casey hired James Carville and Paul Begala to his campaign staff, two then-generally unknown political strategists.

Unlike his three previous tries, Casey won the Democratic primary, defeating Philadelphia district attorney (and future governor) Ed Rendell. He then faced Thornburgh's lieutenant governor, William Scranton III in the general election. The race was considered too close to call until the week before the election, when the Casey campaign staff, led by Carville, launched the now infamous "guru ad" which attacked Scranton's practice of transcendental meditation. The ad campaign depicted Scranton as a "dope smoking hippie," complete with 1960s-era pictures of the lieutenant governor wearing long hair, a beard, and tie-dyed clothing. Casey defeated Scranton by a margin of 79,000 votes.


As you note, Bob Casey was far more of an anti-woman extremist than other anti-choice Democrats, and he planned to explicitly speak against his own party's platform and its nominee's official campaign position, at the convention. When would any party put up a speaker who not only refuses to endorse their nominee, but openly opposes the platform, openly opposes the nominee's positions, and planned to work against them at the official party convention? What possible crime is it against Bob Casey that he wasn't allowed to use his own party's nominating convention to endorse a plank of the Republican platform in opposition to his party? This incident - and its continual distorted retelling ever since - are merely evidence of Casey's extremism and jerk-like attitude. What's incomprehensible is not that an extremist jerk would not be allowed to derail the party convention, but that he would even imagine he would be invited to do so, let alone that he was entitled to.

It's a matter of semantics whether his lack of an invitation to speak against his own party was due to "abortion" or "failure to support the candidate [due to abortion]". The point is that he was deliberately intending to undercut his own party at their official convention. The result would have been the same if he'd done the same regarding any other issue. And, as you also note, there were many anti-choice speakers on the platform who simply did not aggrandize their pet causes by sabotaging their party. In the end, it wasn't abortion that did Bob Casey in - it was the fact that he was a jerk and a saboteur. Abortion was simply his reason for being so.

As for who needs a lesson: the party didn't "learn" about "muzzling" anti-choice convention speakers in 1992. There were eight ant-choice speakers on the roster at the convention in 1992 - the year Casey whines he was denied a speaking slot for being anti-choice.

The real question is why anti-choice zealots who openly work against their own party platform and its nominee haven't learned their lesson since 1992.

I endorse Rob's comment and would like to echo some points:

1. Having a pro-life speaker talk about some other issue is hardly the same as denying Casey a spot to talk about his pro-life views.

2. Clinton was trailing both Bush and Perot prior to the Dem convention in 1992. Do you suppose Begala and Carville wanted to have Casey speak and generate headlines such as "Pro-Life Governor Causes Uproar At Dem Convention"? Ultimately, the Dems were hailed for staging a brilliant show that resuscitated Clinton. Mission Accomplished!

3. Do you suppose Begala and Carville would step forward and admit that Casey was muzzled, or do you suppose they would try to spin it?

4. Is it possible that Casey's non-endorsement of Clinton was linked to Clinton's position on abortion? If so, saying Casey was denied a spot because of his non-endorsement is a bit cute.

Nat Hentoff, writing in TNR, wrote that Casey was exiled for his abortion views back in 2000. A snippet:

Casey was not asked to speak. In fact, he and his Pennsylvania delegation were exiled to the farthest reaches of Madison Square Garden--because Casey was pro-life. It didn't matter that, under his leadership, state contracts to minority- and women-owned firms had increased more than 1,500 percent in five years, or that he had appointed more female Cabinet members than any Democratic governor in the country, or that he had appointed the first black woman ever to sit on a state Supreme Court. Ron Brown, chief convention organizer and the Democratic Party's symbol of minority inclusion, told Casey, "Your views are out of line with those of most Americans."

Casey had the misfortune of being present during a great shift in the Democratic Party. A mere six years earlier, on September 26, 1986, then-Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas had assured the head of his state's chapter of the National Right to Life Committee, "I am opposed to abortion and to government funding of abortion." But, by the early '90s, the Democrats, seeking the votes of upper-middle-class Republican women, were de-emphasizing economic protection and stressing cultural libertarianism. And, just to make sure everyone got the message, Democratic strategists invited Kathy Taylor, a pro-choice Pennsylvania Republican who had helped defeat Casey's progressive tax reforms, to the New York convention. She appeared onstage pledging the National Abortion Rights Action League's allegiance to the Clinton-Gore team.

I have no trouble understanding why Begala and Carville would prefer to spin this. I am very hazy as to what Casey gets from his spin - maybe a bit of promotion for his cause?

This did not strike me as a tough call back in 2005.

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