While minor scuffles between the Democratic presidential hopefuls have been big news over the past few days, the American public has been mostly insulated from the near brawls between the Republican hopefuls. Sunday's ABC Presidential Forum in Des Moines, however, has begun to drag some of the GOP carnage into the spotlight.
"Virtually nothing in that ad is true," said former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney when confronted with the text of an automated attack phone call concerning the issue of abortion paid for by Brownback for President, highlighting what appear to be inconsistencies with the politician's stance. "The single word I'd use would be 'desperate' or perhaps 'negative.'"
Text of Automated Phone Call
"Hello, this is an urgent alert for pro-life Iowa Republican voters. The Straw Poll is coming up in a few weeks and Mitt Romney is telling Iowans he's firmly pro-life. Nothing could be further from the truth. As late as 2005, Mitt Romney pledged to support and uphold pro-abortion policies and passed taxpayer funding of abortions in Massachusetts. His wife Ann has contributed money to Planned Parenthood. Mitt told the National Abortion Rights Action League that 'you need someone like me in Washington.' Romney still supports life-destructive embryonic stem cell research and he still opposes the Human Life Amendment which is part of the Republican Party's platform. Stand up for life and say no to Romney. This call has been paid for by Brownback for President."
ABC's George Stephanopoulos pressed Romney to specifically state what in the ad was untrue. In response, Romney stated, "I am pro-life. That's the truth." He went on to add that "the best way to learn about someone is not by asking their opponent, but ask them."
During the forum Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback said he stands by the text of the automated call.
"That's a truthful ad," said Brownback. "That's what campaigns are about — getting the truth out, expressing the differences between the candidates."
Before the discussion had ended, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Arizona Sen. John McCain and former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson had their say as well.
"I believe the best way we can have common ground in this debate that you're hearing is if we put our emphasis on reducing abortions and increasing the number of adoptions, which is something I did as mayor of New York City," Giuliani said. "But I think, ultimately, that decision that has to be made is one government shouldn't make. Ultimately, the woman should make that with her conscience and with her doctor."
The former mayor received a limited round of applause for his views on the subject.
"Every year the Republican Party both at the state level in Iowa and nationally comes out very avidly and passionately on being pro-life," said Thompson. "I think any candidate that is pro-choice is going to have difficulty with the party faithful and those individuals who have come to the district, state and national meetings and have avowed time and time again that this party, the Republican Party, is a party of pro-life."
Thompson went on to say that being so "tied up in one issue" is preventing a national discussion on larger issues that affect all Americans such as health care.
In contrast, however, McCain, when asked by Stephanopoulos if focusing on one thing was distracting from issues of national security, said he would not agree that discussions on abortion are distracting from other needed conversations.
"I think the respect and commitment to the rights of the unborn is something I fought for and it has a lot to do with national security," McCain said. "It says very much what kind of a country we are and our respect for human life whether it be here in the United States or in China or Bangladesh or the Congo or any place else in the world. So I think it is connected."
On Monday the Brownback team continued to pound Romney on the abortion issue. A press release arrived at roughly 4 p.m. containing a link to the Brownback blog and another link to a newly created video on YouTube. The video features Brownback as a talking head, voicing his displeasure not only with Romney refusing to own up to the assertions in the original robo-call, but also with "name calling."
"You can call somebody a name, but facts are more stubborn," says Brownback in the video.
So, what are the facts? According to Tahman Bradley of the ABC News fact check, there was more than one step outside the lines of "truthiness" during the forum. Bradley says that Giuliani may have crossed the line when highlighting his accomplishments in increasing adoptions.
A review of an official New York City document conducted by Factcheck.org looking at adoptions over a ten-year span shows that although Giuliani increased adoptions at a rate higher than his predecessor David Dinkins, adoptions under Giuliani declined five out of the last six years he was in office. Perhaps the former mayor is overstating his accomplishments just a bit. Depends on how you look at it.
Romney also appears to have veered left during his assertion that he has not been in favor of taxpayer funded abortion.
But according to an article published by the Boston Globe dated March 25, 2005, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood indicates that Romney said he "professed support for state funding of abortion services for low-income women" when answering a Planned Parenthood questionnaire.
Only days remain for things to heat up for the Iowa Republican Party fund-raiser known as the Ames Straw Poll. If we all sit quietly, we'll probably be able to hear the Bic lighters flicking.