A merica’s two great political worlds — left and right, liberal and conservative — are truly big places, each filled with millions of people. Many of these people are sensible, some are malicious, and a few are truly nutty. So as a conservative, if you choose to write about “the Left,” you can always find something crazy or purely spiteful to hold up as exemplary.
The reverse holds true, too, of course. That’s one reason why you see so many articles in progressive publications about obscure GOP state legislators who say batty things. The latter have no power and no influence in the larger conservative movement, but they’re irresistible clickbait, and if you can somehow make the argument that they’re revealing what polite conservatives really believe but are too afraid to say in public — well then you’ve got something to sell the cocooned progressive masses.
It’s the responsibility of fair and serious people not to overstate the influence of fringe voices on the other side. Doing so mischaracterizes the opposition, contributes to negative polarization, and only makes it more likely that bad ideas will worm their way into the public consciousness.
But if serious people on the other side elevate terrible thoughts and ideas? Well, in that event, you have to respond.
Take, for example, the decision of Slate and the New York Times to publish pieces attacking Donald Trump’s decision to honor adoptive parents Ryan and Rebecca Holets during his State of the Union address:
President Trump honors Albuquerque, New Mexico, police officer Ryan Holets who, with his wife, adopted the baby of a homeless woman addicted to heroin: “Ryan and Rebecca, you embody the goodness of our nation” #SOTU https://t.co/qqeomf3rg1 https://t.co/SpbK89TD27
— CNN (@CNN) January 31, 2018
I saw this as a beautiful moment in the speech. As an adoptive parent myself, I found myself tearing up at the Holets’s story. Adoptive families have many such remarkable stories. Some choose to keep them relatively private. Some share them widely. I know many adoptive families who feel a special burden to share their stories — in part to encourage others to adopt and in part to lovingly and accurately communicate the challenges of adoption. It’s a marvelous, beautiful process — but it’s a process that a person should understand in its fullness beforehand.
Christina Cauterucci in Slate and Jennifer Weiner in the New York Times , however, chose to view the moment in a remarkably different manner. They heard Trump’s roughly one-minute tribute to the Holets family and saw proof (in Cauterucci’s words) that the GOP “treats women as mere tools of reproduction.”
“To Republicans,” Cauterucci argues, “Hope Holets’ biological mother is merely the villain in the story of a heroic cop.” She goes on to complain that Trump failed to mention the baby’s mother. She concludes her piece with this breathtaking comment: “All that was left in Trump’s teleprompter was a jarringly incomplete, characteristically GOP anecdote that tossed the pregnant woman aside once the baby was born.”
Weiner went even farther in the New York Times , using the story to directly attack the pro-life community. “Donald Trump,” she says, “told us exactly who the modern-day abortion opponents are — and exactly what they think of women.”
There is no erasure here — only a loving mother and a loving family, and the decision of a president to honor one of the most profoundly beautiful acts imaginable.
According to Weiner — citing, yes, some unknown GOP state representatives — the pro-life movement thinks of a pregnant mom as a mere “host.” She says that in order to win hearts and minds to their side, abortion opponents are forced “to simply take the woman out of the story, to erase her from the picture, or to characterize her as nothing more than the place that ‘pre-born baby’ happens to reside.”
With a dramatic flourish she writes, “Those of us who support the right to abortion cannot let women be pushed to the margins, erased and unnamed.”
It’s interesting that Weiner wrote those words. There is nothing that erases or leaves “unnamed” a woman more than abortion. By the hundreds of thousands, abortionists erase from existence little girls — little girls who never get even the privilege of a name before they’re murdered in the womb. Abortion opponents labor mightily to keep women from being erased. They labor mightily to give every girl a name.
Look at the picture of the Holets family. Two of the three people in that memorable image are female: Rebecca Holets and Baby Hope. Without Rebecca’s decision to adopt, Hope might not be alive. And, incidentally, Hope’s birth mother, Crystal Champ, might not be alive either. Far from “discarding” her, the Holets family has started a GoFundMe campaign to help her, as both Cauterucci and Weiner acknowledge. She has now, according to some reports , been clean for slightly more than one month, and Weiner even reports that she’s been offered a scholarship by a rehab facility.
Why, then, should it follow that Trump had a moral obligation publicly name Champ and chronicle her life story? Doesn’t the opposite seem just as likely? Would Champ, at such a fragile stage in her recovery, have welcomed the public attention brought by a presidential mention? She’s talked to the media before, but that’s a different thing entirely.
Demonstrating her ignorance (or perhaps conveniently forgetting her knowledge to score a political point), Weiner actually called Champ’s short bout of sobriety a “happy ending.” Yet anyone who knows an addict knows that short bouts of sobriety are common. Champ isn’t out of the woods yet, and even Weiner acknowledges that her “previous attempts to get clean all ended in failure.” So why the assumption that a presidential mention is a moral imperative?
Given the fragility of an addict’s life, I can easily imagine a horrific counter-narrative. Trump mentions the mom, he touts the “happy ending,” and ten days Champ, overwhelmed by media attention and the resulting seismic change in her life, is found dead, a needle in her arm. The headlines blare: “Donald Trump used an addict as a prop. Now she’s dead.”
At the end of the day, we’re left with the strangest possible complaint: The GOP is somehow tossing a pregnant woman aside if the president of the United States doesn’t mention her name during the State of the Union address. Never mind that she’s not been tossed aside. Never mind that she’s actually being helped. Never mind that there’s no evidence that the adoptive family on the screen has been anything but sacrificially loving to baby and mother. If Donald Trump doesn’t mention her, then the GOP must believe she doesn’t exist.
Even worse, we now know that serious people believe Weiner’s and Cauterucci’s critique of this moment deserves consideration at the highest level of American discourse. In fact, it’s likely that some of these serious people find are convinced by said critique. If so, cultural hatred has swallowed their good sense. There is no erasure here — only a loving mother and a loving family, and the decision of a president to honor one of the most profoundly beautiful acts imaginable. You’d have to be a furious partisan to find anything worth hating about that.
— David French is a senior writer for National Review , a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and an attorney.