A lanky fellow behind a pair of wire-framed glasses scraped the patio floor with the toe of his boot. Through 20 minutes of observation and eavesdropping I was looking for a particular Texan and he was the man.
“I understand you are from Waco?” I said. “That so?”
“I’m from Billings, Montana,” I said. “The newspaper I work for and the one you work for have something in common.”
“I know,” he said.
Then he went his way and I went mine. We never spoke again. The thing Waco had in common with Billings (where I worked at the Gazette in those old days) was never mentioned in the meetings, bull sessions and drinking bouts that filled the next four days.
The Texan and I were both columnists, two of a hundred or so gathered at a resort in Phoenix for the National Newspaper Columnist Association.
The NNCA (sounds like a college athletic league) was started by a pair of ink-stained wretches from the Louisville (Kentucky) Courier-Journal. The organization’s purpose was to give its members awards and to con their bosses out of winter vacations to warm places.
During that time the nation’s news wires sizzled with a debate over abortion. Comic strip writer/artist Gary Trudeau began a strip satirizing the subject for the Sunday color comics.
Editors across the nation scurried to protect the sensitivities of their readers. Newsroom bosses in Billings and Waco chose to pull the strips. The 1,498 other editors chose to do nothing at all.
That was then. This is now. Now Texas has passed a law requiring Texas women to undergo an ultrasound before receiving an abortion.
Trudeau’s strips satirizing the law ran last week in papers across the United States.
Many editors substituted a six-strip re-run in place of the abortion commentary. Some ran the controversial strip only online.
A raft of dailies ran the controversial satire. Needless to say, the Waco (Texas) Tribune and the Billings (Mont.) Gazette were not among them.
As the old saw says: “What goes around, goes around and around.”
The battle between conservatives and women has broken out afresh. For weeks, President Obama, Democratic activists and their friends in the media have relentlessly pushed the idea that Republicans have launched a “war on women.”
Mitt Romney, desperate to prove his conservative bona fides, has declared war on Planned Parenthood, vowing to strip the nation’s largest family planning service of federal funding. Opposition to abortion is the subtext of Romney’s attack, but the organization plays an even greater role in American society by helping to prevent unwanted pregnancies — and that bugs many conservatives, too.
Romney’s vow to yank federal funding (which subsidizes Planned Parenthood’s reproductive health services, not abortions) is Romney’s way of showing the GOP base that he is hostile to everything Planned Parenthood stands for — including sex without the dangers of disease and accidental procreation.
Romney has no corner on this trick. Talking to the conservative base while facing a mainstream audience is a bit like ventriloquism. You can see the lips moving but have no idea what the brain’s doing.
Rick Santorum used this dodge in Puerto Rico where he told residents that federal law would force them to adopt English as their official language if they applied for statehood. There is no such federal law.
Santorum used the same “nod, nod, wink, wink” in a history lecture last week. Santorum painted a picture of the founding fathers making certain that every American soul enjoyed the rights God gave them.
If that’s so, God was a bit stingy with some folks. Women, Indians and Blacks – more than half the country’s population – were guaranteed nothing.