Ponnuru Digs In

Ramesh Ponnuru argues that Robert P. George does indeed see a moral difference between the killing of an adult human being and the killing of a fetus, and so I am being unfair. Just read what I posted two days ago from George:

"I am personally opposed to killing abortionists. However, inasmuch as my personal opposition to this practice is rooted in a sectarian (Catholic) religious belief in the sanctity of human life, I am unwilling to impose it on others who may, as a matter of conscience, take a different view."

It seems to me that for this piece of irony to work, you logically have to assume the moral equivalence of murdering an abortionist with murdering a fetus. Which is to say, the premise of the cutesy quote I cite disproves Ponnuru's point. And any honest reader of George would conclude that he uncategorically regards abortion as the moral equivalent of murdering an adult. How could he not? This is the same Robert P. George who has called abortion "the unjust killing of innocent human beings who, as a matter of right, are entitled to the equal protection of the laws." Ponnuru's only argument is that George once argued that, in the theocon future paradise, it might not be appropriate to charge abortionists with "first degree murder," just murder of a lesser sort. But that is a prudential, legal judgment, not a moral one, a distinction George himself often makes. On the moral equivalence of abortion and murder, George has always been admirably forthright. He has written, for example, that for an adult human being,

"there was no stage at which he existed but was not yet a person."

In fact, the entire edifice of George's work, which I have just finished re-reading, is absolute on the matter of the full human personhood even of a zygote.

As for masturbation, it is simply a matter of record that George believes, as Ponnuru does, that the government has in principle an obligation and right to police the private sexual lives of all its citizens to prevent them from sliding into "immorality." His view of the power of the state in this regard is extreme, and is mitigated again only by prudential considerations. As George once put it,

"'Secret' vices have a way of not staying secret. There may be good prudential reasons not to attack them with the full force of the law ... but that is not to say that, as a matter of principle, the law may not forbid them." [His italics.]

As for noting Hadley Arkes' contribution, all I can say is that it struck me as an admirably frank admission that many theoconservatives have decided to hide their actual beliefs and objectives behind a Straussian facade of moderation. Ponnuru is upset - hysterical, actually, - when someone has the gall to rip off that facade. Of course, I do not know whether Ponnuru's hysteria and deflection is rooted in malicious lying, indifference to the truth, incompetence in figuring out the truth, or some combination of these things. Readers need not know the answer to that question to conclude that he has something to hide. Maybe this new bill introduced in South Dakota will help elucidate matters further. Somehow, I doubt Ponnuru will be in opposition.