Using Gosnell to Snip at Obama, or the Press? – UPDATED

“If these children are being born alive, I have confidence that a doctor…”

That is part of State Senator Barack Obama’s argument, in 2003, as to why he would not support any sort of legislation insuring medical care for babies delivered during botched abortions. More completely, he said:

I think it’s important to understand that this issue ultimately is about abortion and not live births. Because if these children are being born alive, I, at least, have confidence that a doctor who is in that room is going to make sure that they’re looked after.

You can listen to the argument on the floor of the Illinois State Senate here. “Looked after” is one of those vague statements that can mean anything, isn’t it?

Why am I bringing this up, now? Wasn’t all this covered, if not in the mainstream press, then at least back in 2008 when Bill McGurn and RCP and Andrew McCarthy and Ed Morrissey and I and many others online looked into it?

I can hear someone out there thinking, “Anchoress, you’re just trying to taint Obama with a Gosnell brush!”

Well, no, I’m not. This isn’t actually about Barack Obama. It’s about the press’ ability to ignore anything it doesn’t want to discuss, whatever the reason. That does touch on the Gosnell story, right enough.

It wasn’t my idea to suddenly bring up Obama’s thoughts on what ought to happen when an infant manages to survive an abortion attempt. It was actually Robert P. George, over at First Things, noting this Washington Post Fact Check which, in September of 2012 finally looked at the state “born alive” legislation and Obama’s remarks on the issue in 2003 and 2008 and found:

The evidence suggests we could have awarded Four Pinocchios to the former Illinois senator for his comments to the Christian Broadcasting Network, but that interview is several years old now, and it’s not the focus of this particular column. The president’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment on the matter of whether Obama’s 2008 comments on the Christian Broadcasting Network contradicted his 2003 vote against Illinois’s Born-Alive Infants Protection bill.

Emphasis mine. In 2012, the WaPo admitted that if they’d actually bothered to do any research on Barack Obama in 2008, they “could have” noted his untruth. But they didn’t and it was years ago, and by September 2012, it was clear to anyone with eyes that Obama would be re-elected, so it was safe to finally bring up the subject.

And of course, back in early September of 2012, news junkies like me didn’t even see that fact-check — I would have noted it, if I had — because we were busy wondering about the weird, disjointed and contradictory stories and explanations coming at us regarding Benghazi and the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens, as well as the barely-reported-on attack at Camp Bastion. Seems a time of profound distraction and obfuscation was a good time to finally cover the not-difficult-to-research Born Alive story and create some plausible deniability so that, down the road, the WaPo could in fact say, “see? We covered it. A little late, but we covered it!”

But I must note that even as they “covered” it…they did not illustrate the Four Pinocchios they “could have” awarded to Obama. The subject is “covered” but buried discretely and with no long-nosed wooden boys to help a reader find it.

Do you know what’s odd? I just realized that on the Gosnell story, I wrote a post giving the press some prompts on questions it could be asking. Seems I did that in September 2012 about Benghazi, too:

1) If no one gave an order to “stand down” who gave the order to “go save”?
2) If no one gave an order to “go save” just what exactly did the President, the Sec State and the Sec Defense do while they watched Benghazi burn over seven hours. There must be some paper trail, somewhere, that shows us that responsible action was taken, yes?
3) Did they all just vote “present?”
4) Why would you go to the UN, and lie about what happened in Benghazi to the whole world, even as your own spokespeople were admitting that the situation there had nothing to do with a damn video?
5) Was this a gun-running operation? Or some kind of October political theatrical gone bad?
5) People in your administration lied to the public. Should not a few resignations be on the president’s desk? Why isn’t the president asking for them?
6) Does lying not matter any more?

I really do hope that 2013 is the year the press takes a look at itself and understands why so few trust them, or why their motives are so often no merely questioned, but assumed. Can mainstream media folk break the habit they appear to have gotten into (perhaps all unwittingly) of only covering stories that play to a narrative, and downplaying/burying anything that does not fit? I really would like to believe that we still have a free and unencumbered press, willing to ask difficult questions regardless of who is in office, or what policies a story touches upon.

If we do not, the country is basically over.

But I want to believe.

Ed Morrissey:
Did Conservative Media miss Gosnell, too?
Melinda Henneburger Why Hasn’t Gosnell Been Page One?
John Fund: The Media after Gosnell
RCP: “What do you have to do to make Page 1?
NBCPhilly: Gosnell Trial Enters Fifth Week
WaPo: We just found out about it!
Jay Nordlinger: Editors are the Deciders

First Hand Account of Gosnell Trial
Front Row at the Horror
Death for Gosnell, or Mercy?

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Helen

    The country is basically over. The West is basically over. Look at the reaction to the death of Margaret Thacher.

  • Adam

    Thank you. I decided over the weekend that the upsetting thing on the press angle is not that the press ignored this story, it’s that the press ignores SO MANY stories when it suits them. Maybe they do it consciously, maybe unconsciously, maybe a mix of each depending on what level of control they’re at. (Individual bloggers probably have a selective bias problem; senior editors are probably actively killing stories.) I appreciate that people like Megan McArdle and David Weigel are briefly looking in the mirror and spotting a blemish, but I’d love to grab them by the shoulders and remind them that they’re COVERED with blemish and we’ve been screaming about it for years.

    Seriously, the mass conservative complaint since 2009 has been “Why do conservatives get yelled at for X, but liberals do X and you say nothing?” How much crap did the mass media give President Bush over police statism, illegal war operations, and Guantanamo Bay, and where have those voices gone of late? How often does a Republican politican get derailed over an off-color comment about rape or race, yet it’s ignored when a Democrat does it? Why was there a call for a mass boycott over Rush Limbaugh’s comments on Sandra Fluke, but Bill Maher’s identical comments were given a pass? (Stanley Fish wrote a column celebrating the media’s double standards. It’s horrifying to read, if you haven’t:

    I’m sure we could post all day about the “Do as I say, not as I do” standard of the press. I am so very upset with them for what they have done. I hope that I can come to share in your hope that the press will begin to wake up. Lord Jesus, help me with that.

  • Tess

    The country is over. The press will never look into anything that hurts The One. The MSM is nothing more than a propaganda organ of this administration. They are coordinating new stories. Makes you wonder what other stories they are not reporting…

  • Strife

    This is the same Barack Obama who had this to say about doctors during the ObamaCare debate:

    “… doctors would rather take out tonsils than treat a sore throat because it pays better” and “… doctors would rather cut off legs for $50,000 than take care of a diabetic before it got to this point.”

    So Obama doesn’t trust those evil money-grabbing physicians with our limbs and organs, and yet, he has complete confidence in these macabre ghouls when it comes to the innocent lives of the most helpless class of human-beings among us – the newborn.

    Hence: Legs and tonsils are vital components and must be strictly regulated, whereas pregnancy is an unfortunate foreign disease of the human body that needs to be “treated” at all costs without any additional over-site whatsoever.

    “Let all the babies be born. Then let us drown those we do not like.” – G.K.Chesterton

  • Roz Smith

    I lost faith in the press back in the late 60s when I was in my early teens. That’s when I saw first hand that the truth didn’t matter in a story that involved some of my mother’s closest friends. It was about race and radical politics, so of course a group of patriotic middle aged suburban white women just had to be the bad guys. While the media has gotten worse, at least there are ways today for the little guy to get their side of the story into wide circulation. Gosnell has become part of the national conversation because the social media allowed the coverage to spread beyond the Philly papers.

  • Joe Odegaard

    “…punished with a baby.” —Obama.

  • Romulus

    I am waiting for the day when Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four will itself disappear down the memory hole. Can’t be far off now.

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  • asdf

    Put a fork in it. When the left finally legalizes all those unregistered Democrats–illegal aliens—they will have a vote-proof majority. Not that they really care about honest elections; they managed to steal the last election without them. You’ll still have a choice of course, a choice between socialist, trotskyite, maoist and fabian socialist. But you will no longer be a free human.

    Someone once said that’s it’s easy to vote marxists in, but impossible to vote them out. How true. They always take advantage of the traditions of open societies; like viruses infesting a host. Once you accept their lies and vote them in, you never regain your freedom.

    The republic is dead; Congress is obsolete, the Supreme Court powerless, and the Bill of Rights history. The government is composed of wealthy attorneys feeding at the public trough; it’s called fascism.

    The state is now in the proces of establishing a religion and killing off its competitors. Today, Catholicism is virtually illegal; the final noose is tightening, but the bishops insist on playing by the marquess of Queensbury rules. They have deceived themselves that there is yet time to turn it around, but there’s not. Marxism can’t abide competition; the church will be destroyed as it has been in so many other marxist nations.

    If you want to know where we’re headed, look at the EU, which is nothing but a giant marxist state parading about in a fig leaf of “demoncratic” pretensions—it even has a hammer and sickle on its official banner. The only way to retrieve our freedoms now will require doing things most of us consider to be unthinkable.

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  • LadyBird

    For my country: “Lord, I have cried to you, hear me.”
    Psalm 140

  • Adam

    …aaaaaaaand here’s Amanda Marcotte at Slate trying to explain women going to Gosnell as the fault of pro-lifers:

    I take at least some comfort in knowing that even as far as Slate goes, Marcotte is considered extreme and rediculous in her positions. The comment thread that follows shows that a lot of the readers don’t take her position seriously. Nonetheless, after a weekend of the press feeling guilty over not covering the story, they’ll now try to blame the substantive part of it on, well, us. Marcotte’s article is just an early sign of it. (Pray for her!)

  • karen

    Do you think this story will be buried again because of the bombing in Boston?

  • Teresa

    I concluded the country was over after the election in 2008. The election in 2012 confirmed my suspicions. As for the press don’t expect them to do any extensive reporting on Gosnell. Journalism died a long time ago. I feel sorry for all those young people out there. They will never experience this country as it once was warts and all.

  • LisaB

    Elizabeth, I’ve been thinking of your post all day. It threw me into a fit of despair and I’ve been praying all day to overcome that despair. Psalm 94 was helpful. To despair is to sin! Alternative media got the message out! Hope is a virtue – not a slogan!!!!

    I’m a scifi fan of Pournelle’s and read his blog, this is a quote from a letter he received that also echoed my feelings.

    I will not despair! I want to, but I refuse to! Despair is the surrender of the spirit in the face of adversity. It is the suicide of the soul. I deny myself the right to despair! I owe too much to the past and the future of mankind to succumb to it.

    I will invert the placidity of despair into cold and thinking action. I will turn my hand and mind to limiting the effects of the coming crisis. I will work to preserve and protect what I can. I will warn those who will still listen; especially the young. I will enter the Wilderness Years unbowed. I will live long enough to see this version of the Easy Path die. I will make this the decade when Socialism died.

    I will not despair.

  • karen

    Do you think this story will be buried again because of the bombing in Boston? It seemed like it was getting through in the news and then all coverage moved to Boston. I understand that what happened there is news but I think it will be very easy for the media to move on.

  • Adam


    Yes…but then, that’s the nature of news. Big new story trumps old story. One of my worries of late is that the media will basically do some public navel-gazing over this–how could we miss this? Aren’t we awful?–and then go back to their regular reporting. Oh, they’ll cover the Gosnell trial, but it’ll be pushed down to a 2nd- or 3rd- tier headline. From what we’ve heard, Gosnell appears to be pretty guilty, so what’s left to cover? (Caveat: I am a lawyer, so the reality is that the trial needs to continue and he needs to be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Let the justice system play out.)

    We do need the media to keep questioning itself, though. My advice to you is to get yourself on message boards and Disqus (which, sorry, I’ve never been able to get working) and keep on these people. Ask the bloggers and the media outlets: hey, how come you’re not still covering the Gosnell trial? Hey, remember how you admitted that your biases caused you to miss that? What else are you selectively not covering? Hey, how come abortion was bad there buy OK elsewhere?

    I’ve seen people asking deep, honest philosophical questions of Ann Althouse over at her blog for years now. My hope is that the illusions of her pro-abortion stance will crack at some point, as she actually does read her comments. If her stance on abortion was so solid, I’d think that she wouldn’t keep bringing it up.

  • Placido

    “but I want to believe”

    That ship sailed fifty years ago, and now we do not share a common morality, or even a common language, with the men and women of the press.

  • Vinie Thompson

    Back at the beginning of Iraq war in 2003, there was a major scandal involving Saddam’s bribing of the Western Press during the “Oil for Food” UN program, which quickly fell into a black hole. I have always wondered if a few well placed bribes among fellow travelers would not enhance “good coverage” and spike or downplay “bad coverage”.

    I think we may see an admission at a deathbed or St. Paul conversion due to Gosnell’s case & Obama’s failed administration. It’s tough to keep a secret forever.

  • Vinie Thompson

    Back at the beginning of Iraq war in 2003, there was a major scandal involving Saddam’s bribing of the Western Press during the “Oil for Food” UN program, which quickly fell into a black hole. I have always wondered if a few well placed bribes among fellow travelers would not enhance “good coverage” and spike or downplay “bad coverage”.