LA Times Writer Whacks Columnist for 'Shivving' Sebelius Over Abortion

Los Angeles Times media critic Tim Rutten, in his latest column titled "The rebirth of abortion," voiced his dismay that social conservatives are reviving the issue of abortion in the 2008 presidential campaign. "If there's one issue that epitomizes the culture wars that have so deeply divided American politics over the last eight years, it's abortion. That's why those who benefited most from those wars are desperate to revive abortion's single-issue virulence in this presidential cycle." He continued that "some on the right think they see an opportunity to hammer once more on the abortion wedge."

Rutten also launched an attack one key member of the so-called "hard cultural right:" Robert Novak. At one point, Rutten suggested that if Novak used a phrase like "abortion industry" to describe abortionists and their supporters, it would be legitimate to use a term like "under the sway of neo-fascist clericism" to describe Novak and his pro-life fellow travelers.

According to Rutten's liberal view, "abortion was the centerpiece of a grand strategy" of the "the GOP's hard cultural right" that would "link traditionally minded Roman Catholics and socially conservative evangelical Protestants in a great coalition of the religious right that would paint the electoral map ruby red, cementing the Rust Belt and the Sun Belt into a permanent Republican majority."

The columnist then launched his attack on Novak, who criticized Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius for her pro-abortion stance in a recent column (see Tim Graham's earlier NewsBusters post on this). Novak cited "substantial evidence she [Sebelius] has been involved in what pro-life advocates term 'laundering' abortion industry money for distribution to Kansas Democrats." Some pundits (as Rutten noted) think Sebelius is a potential vice presidential pick for Barack Obama.

Rutten cried foul in response to Novak's column. He first charged that the source of Novak's "substantial evidence" was Operation Rescue, an organization that automatically brings up images of rabid right-wingers in the liberal mind. "[A]ccording to Novak channeling Operation Rescue, a Wichita doctor who performs abortions contributed $120,000 two years ago to the Democratic Governors Assn. The governors have since distributed $200,000 to a Kansas political action fund controlled by Sebelius. Given the strictures of the campaign reporting laws -- and the fact that the DGA has also given millions to other political action funds -- that doesn't seem like much of a laundering operation."

Rutten labeled Novak's criticism as a "guilt by association" attack, then tried to do the same to Novak:

Novak is a relatively recent convert to Catholicism, and the priest who helped him into the church is Father C. John McCloskey, who also has been instrumental in obtaining the conversions of, among others, Alfred Regnery, the country's foremost publisher of extreme right-wing literature; Lewis Lehrman, the former New York gubernatorial candidate and conservative think-tank impresario; former GOP presidential hopeful Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas; and economist and CNBC host Lawrence Kudlow.

McCloskey also happens to be a priest of the ultra-conservative and secretive -- some would say sinister -- Catholic organization Opus Dei. You don't have to buy into Dan Brown's preposterous caricature of Opus Dei in The Da Vinci Code to know that it really never has fallen all that far from its roots in Francisco Franco's Spain.

Hey, if Rutten played the Operation Rescue card, he might as well play the Opus Dei card as well to play on liberals' fear of religious conservatives.

Both earlier in his column and at the conclusion, Rutten tried to cast doubt on Novak's assertion of the existence of an "abortion industry." After he revealed that Novak supposedly got his scoop from Operation Rescue, he wrote "Putting aside the question of whether there's anything like an 'abortion industry....'" He went back to this once he played the Opus Dei card against Novak: "So, does that make Novak's rhetorical shivving of Sebelius part of a right-wing plot to bring the United States under the sway of neo-fascist clericism? Of course not; it's an absurd and rather vicious notion, but no more so than the implication that Sebelius -- or by extension, Obama -- is in the pay of something called 'the abortion industry.'"

Rutten may object to the term "abortion industry," since it is a bit of a loaded term, but what would one call a sector that makes hundreds of millions of profit, just as Planned Parenthood alone reported it did in its last annual report?

Also, as much as Rutten tries to brush it aside, both Sebelius and Obama do have the backing of the pro-aborts. Earlier in May, NARAL endorsed Obama (much to the dismay of certain pro-abortion backers of Hillary Clinton). NARAL also gave high marks to Sebelius, who labeled her as a "pro-choice candidate" during her 2006 reelection campaign. Oddly enough, NARAL's rating of Sebelius (or any of the state governors for that matter) does not appear on their current states' ratings page. The May 24 Google cache of NARAL's Web site, however, shows that it had been listed before, but has since been removed.

Matthew Balan is a news analyst for the Media Research Center.  This article first appeared on MRC's NewsBusters blog.