Businesswoman Carly Fiorina made her debut on the main candidate stage Wednesday for CNN’s Republican Presidential Debate. She made the most of the opportunity, showing herself to be well-versed in the substance of many issues.
It wasn’t just an intellectual policy performance, though. She brought real passion to discussions that often wither on the page. Such moments provide the true measure of a candidate.
Fiorina had a number of good moments last night. Perhaps the most telling was her discussion of the controversy surrounding investigative videos of Planned Parenthood and the group’s alleged harvesting of baby organs from abortions.
As regards Planned Parenthood, anyone who has watched this videotape, I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, it’s heart beating, it’s legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain. This is about the character of our nation, and if we will not stand up in and force President Obama to veto this bill, shame on us.
This is the best articulation of the entire argument to defund Planned Parenthood in the upcoming fight over new government spending authority.
By the end of September, Congress must pass legislation to continue to fund government operations. Conservatives, including many in Congress, want to block the $500 million a year Planned Parenthood receives from taxpayers as a condition to keep the governments’ checkbooks open.
Republicans in Congress, especially Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, openly lament that President Obama will simply veto legislation containing a Planned Parenthood defunding provision and argue that it is a fight for another day.
McConnell, and many national Republicans, will simply not engage in a political fight unless they are assured of the outcome in the end.
One ought not engage in fights solely because they are winnable. One engages in fights because they are important.
The proper response to the issues raised in the Planned Parenthood videos is not a debate about whether or not the organization should receive taxpayers support, but whether or not it should be shut down as a criminal operation. Fiorina is right to say the issue goes to the “character of our nation.” The fact that Republican leaders in Congress don’t understand this is a large reason outsider candidates are dominating the Republican nomination battle.
Several times during the debate last night, Fiorina mentioned the importance, and need, of challenging any status quo, whether it be in business or government.
Republican leaders in Congress are so obsessed with the legislative status quo of whip counts, parliamentary rules and procedures that they have lost the script for why they became lawmakers in the first place. The mere possibility that a taxpayer-funded organization is operating a baby chop-shop, ought to steel the spine of any Republican for a legislative and political fight. Some issues are indeed more important than any short-term political or tactical advantage.
There are some issues that do indeed define who we are as a people and a nation. If we aren’t willing to take a stand on these issues, what is the point of even being in the political or policy game.
President Obama may very well veto any government spending plan that blocks funds for Planned Parenthood. Fine.
Before he even gets to wield his veto pen, however, Democrats in Congress will have to all line-up on the question. They will have to go on record defending the actions revealed in the investigative videos. That vote will be on display, allowing voters to render their ultimate judgement.
Barack Obama, in vetoing the spending plan and, effectively, shutting down government, will have to articulate why keeping taxpayer funding flowing to a potentially criminal organization is a fight he’s willing to make.
The media may have to actually cover the allegations unearthed by the videos, if only to explain to viewers why the government is suspending many of its operations.
For these reasons, among others, the Republicans in Congress are actually wrong on the politics of a fight over Planned Parenthood funding. As Fiorina powerfully articulated Wednesday, though, the politics of the issue are really beside the point.
The best Presidents represent the character of the nation. Fiorina was one of the only candidates on stage Wednesday that seemed to understand that. It will probably help her in the polls. If she immediately fades away from the Presidential contest, though, her candidacy has already served a critically important function, for which we should all be thankful.
Elections matter. They allow us to debate and to define who we are as a people and which values will guide us in our affairs. We fight for these values, and engage in politics and elections for a reason. And, that reason compels us at times to fight even if we know we may lose.
Some issues are simply too important to leave to politicians. That was the essence of Fiorina’s pitch last night. Regardless of what happens in the nomination contest, let’s pray that message got through.