The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

It’s Wednesday, October 19th, 2022.

I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

We Have Been Warned: President Biden Brazenly Promises that Support for Abortion Will Be His First Priority if Voters Give Him a Democratic Congress

Sometimes the biggest news in terms of worldview doesn’t make the biggest headlines, or garner the greatest amount of attention. Yesterday morning the White House put out a statement saying that the President of the United States would be speaking to the issue of abortion later in the day, and there was a tantalizing if alarming statement made by the White House, and that was that the president would be stating that he would make abortion, and specifically the legislative codification of the Roe v. Wade decision, his absolute top legislative priority if indeed Democrats maintain their majority, a very thin majority, in the Senate, and their majority in the House.

The President said that if voters elect Democrats in terms of the upcoming midterm elections that he will single-handedly address to Congress legislation that would codify Roe v. Wade, that would declare nationwide, by federal legislation, a so-called woman’s right to an abortion, and the White House said that the President would make clear this is his greatest, first, it is his primary legislative agenda.

Now there’s a big story behind that, especially when you consider the fact that that president is none other than Joe Biden, who was not ardently pro-abortion, at least in terms of the political positions he articulated when he was running for the Senate, when he was in the Senate for about three decades, and even on some issues when he was vice president of the United States to President Barack Obama. To state the matter clearly, it’s not just that Joe Biden changed, more fundamentally the Democratic Party changed, it has become the party of abortion, and in order to gain the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, Joe Biden had to become the candidate of abortion, and he appears to have converted to that position with enthusiasm.

The President spoke yesterday just after noon in the Howard Theater there in Washington DC, and he was speaking to a group of Democratic party leaders and donors. That was not accidental. The President made the statement saying that on January 22nd, 1973 he was a freshman in the Senate, he was surprised by Roe v. Wade, and he went on to say, “Nearly 50 years later, on June 24th of this year, the court issued the Dobbs decision, and all across the country,” he said, “Starting in my house, women,” he implies here, “lost the fundamental right.”

Now just consider that for a moment, there’s a lot of language, it’s just a few words, but trust me, there’s a lot there. For one thing, what the President didn’t say to these democratic leaders, office holders and donors is the fact that he was by no means enthusiastic in his response to Roe v. Wade in 1973, he was a staunch defender even throughout his Senate career of what was known as the Hyde Amendment, that measure is still in effect, it has to be put into every spending bill in the United States Congress, that measure prevents the American taxpayer from being coerced into paying for abortions through federal programs.

But nonetheless, President Biden wasn’t speaking about his background here, in truth, to tell the Democrats where to go look at his record, he doesn’t want them to do that, but instead he wanted to make very clear that the Democrats see a great political advantage right now on running for the issue of abortion, on the issue of abortion, as the party of abortion. They have become the party of abortion because they can’t right now be the party of much of anything else.

The President and the Democrats surely don’t want to be talking about rising prices and inflation, they don’t want to be talking about very significant increases in fuel costs, they don’t want to be talking about, well just about anything than abortion right now. And it’s interesting that even the mainstream media have caught on to the fact that the Democrats are now being pretty much upfront about the fact that they see an opportunity in the issue of abortion because of the Dobbs decision handed down by the Supreme Court back in June of this year.

But we need to take a closer look at the president’s actual language here because it is representative of and indicative of the kind of language coming from so many Democratic leaders. This tells us a great deal not only about the worldview and the political strategy that is revealed here, but also about what the Democratic candidates, and the Democratic president of the United States, thinks about the American voter, and thinks about human rights, or legal rights, constitutional rights.In that opening statement that I shared with you, the president said that when the Dobbs decision was handed down on June 24th of this year, he said that women lost a fundamental right, he said the fundamental right, he means to an abortion. Now, let’s consider that for a moment, you’re talking about a right. Now, how in the world do we know what rights are? How do we know who has rights and how do we know what those rights would specifically be?

Well, let’s think about it for a moment. As you look at the Constitution, even the text of the Constitution could not be ratified without what became known as the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The Bill of Rights was absolutely necessary in order to say to Americans, who had been fighting for their liberty, and wanted a government that would respect and protect their liberties, they wanted to say, okay, these are the rights that are constitutionally protected. Now to be sure, they did not say these are the only rights that Congress may later decide have to be affirmed and protected, but nonetheless they said these are the rights that are necessary for a sufficient number of the states to ratify the Constitution of the United States.

But you’ll notice that language also, going back to the Declaration of Independence, grounded those rights in nature and nature’s God. In other words, there was a divine, there was a, here’s a big word for you, ontological basis for those rights, that is to say in being, not just in some kind of idea, but actually in the beingness of the universe, and of course that gets back to the Creator. There was an attempt to describe those rights in terms of natural rights, but quite frankly, there was no way to explain so-called natural rights without some kind of supernatural origin.

But when the president talked about abortion in the comments that he made yesterday introducing his concerns, he spoke of the loss of a fundamental right. Now, what’s a fundamental right? Well, you understand the word fundamental, it’s similar to foundational, it’s a fundament, it’s absolutely basic. You can’t have other rights if you don’t have this right. And that raises the huge issue, well how in the world did something like what you would claim to be a woman’s right to an abortion, how did it become a fundamental right when the Supreme Court of the United States apparently had never recognized it as any kind of right at all until 1973, which means just three years short of 200 years? At least it was 197 years from the American Revolution.

Now you look at the President’s comments, and we should just assume that he means what he says here, he actually seems to claim that there’s a fundamental right that the Supreme Court found in 1973 and that the Supreme Court in 2022 unfound, but it’s basically that the Supreme Court made it in the year 1973, made it out of whole cloth, of course the Constitution doesn’t mention abortion, and the framers of the Constitution had no such thing in mind as abortion. And so the conservative majority on the court in the Dobbs decision this year, they didn’t so much unmake the right as they said, explicitly in the text of their decision, “This was never a rightly identified and supported and constitutionally argued right in the first place, it was simply the invention of the majority of the court in 1973.”

The majority, writing in 2022, went so far as to say outright that the court had erred in 1973. It didn’t say in 1973 the court said, “Yes, there’s a right,” in 2022 we say, “No, we’re just going to change our mind.” No, this was a constitutional textual argument with an historical context, and in that historical context it’s a truly radical claim to suddenly go back to 1973 and say, that right is not only one the court declared in 1973 as a woman’s right, it is a fundamental right.

But wait just a minute, maybe the president was saying more and less here than we might understand it first. Maybe what he’s saying, and I think this is really the argument, maybe what he’s saying is that abortion as a symbol of sexual and personal autonomy is so central to the experiment and the ideology, the worldview of the left, that they simply fundamentally cannot conceive of a world worth living in in which abortion is not declared to be a woman’s right. And that right, by the way, in the current argument made by this president, and by the leaders of his party, a right that should be acknowledged virtually, if not entirely, without restriction of any kind.

Speaking to the democratic leaders yesterday, the president said that after the Dobbs decision came down, “I signed an order and my administration took a number of actions to protect the access to reproductive healthcare, including emergency medical care, to protect a woman’s right to travel from a state that prohibits abortion to a state that allows it, and to protect the privacy of sensitive health information preventing states,” I’m quoting the president here directly, “From tracking women who are seeking help, because that’s what some will do.” But then he said, “As I said in the Dobbs decision, we’re fighting a battle in the courts as well, but as I’ve said in the Dobbs decision,” the president said he’d made a statement then and he wants to make it again, and he claimed the only sure way to stop these extremist laws, and he goes on to say “is for Congress to pass a law.”

In other words, he’s calling for Congress to pass a law that, in his words, would codify Roe v. Wade, or guarantee what he calls a woman’s right to reproductive health. But understand that the legislation the president and the Democrats are talking about, and the model legislation they have already introduced, is not just a replacement for and a codification of Roe v. Wade, it is a far more radical proposal that basically would legalize abortion at any point in pregnancy for any reason, or for no reason at all, with virtually no restrictions whatsoever. That’s even more radical than Roe v. Wade.

The political dimension of this was absolutely transparent because the president then got to this, “Right now we’re short a handful of votes, if you care about the right to choose, then you’ve got to vote, that’s why in these midterm elections it’s so critical to elect more Democratic senators to the United States Senate and more Democrats to keep control of the House of Representatives.” Bare knuckle politics, and we’re in a political season, that’s what you should expect, but in this case, it’s bare knuckle politics that is using the bare fact of abortion in order to try to push a partisan interest.

And again, we’re not putting words in their mouths, it is exactly what Democratic strategists and leaders have said in their own words. But here’s where it gets really, really important again, the president said that if the voters will elect more Democrats to Congress, he said, “If we do that, here’s the promise I make to you and the American people. The first bill that I will send to the Congress will be to codify Roe v. Wade.” Let me just insert here, that is not what the legislation would actually do, it would do far more, “And when Congress passes it, I’ll sign it in January, 50 years after Roe was first decided the law of the land.”

The White House transcript has applause repeatedly put in brackets or parenthesis. In the official transcript there is no doubt that the Democratic crowd liked what President Biden was saying. He went on, “And together we’ll restore the right to choose for every woman in every state in America, so vote, you’ve got to get out to vote, we can do this if we vote.”

Part II

From ‘Abortion is Wrong from the Moment of Conception’ to Abortion on Demand: The Evolution of Joe Biden on Abortion

Now as we’re thinking about how moral change happens, we could look at Joe Biden, the politician, and now the president as a classic example on the left, on the pro-abortion side of how this happens. For example, Joe Biden was elected from Delaware to the United States Senate in 1972. He was a very, very young man. He was an explicitly identified Roman Catholic. And remember, this is the year before Roe v. Wade was decided, and the issue of abortion was not so much front end center, and it was just largely assumed that Roman Catholic politicians were pro-life and anti-abortion because of official Catholic teaching then, and by the way, now.

And speaking of Roman Catholicism, it is really important to recognize that there is a very significant number of Roman Catholic politicians who are standing in direct contradiction to the official dogmatic teaching of the Roman Catholic Church on the issue of abortion. But going back to the Kennedy dynasty, and the 1960s, with the advent of birth control and with abortion on the horizon, in the 1960s and the 1970s the Roman Catholic Kennedy dynasty was trying to find a way to be, and the formula came down to this, personally and religiously opposed to abortion, but nonetheless fulfilling a political responsibility.

That allowed persons, by the time you get to 1984, when another Roman Catholic politician, that would be Governor Mario Cuomo of the state of New York, went to the Bastion of Catholicism in the United States, the University of Notre Dame, and gave a famous, or infamous, speech in which he declared that, “The role of a Roman Catholic political figure could be described on the one hand as personally opposed to abortion, but on the other hand politically responsible to uphold abortion rights.” If you see that as unstable and contradictory you would be right, but nonetheless, that allowed a good number of Roman Catholic politicians, past, present, and future.

But right now we’re talking about Joe Biden, the Roman Catholic President of the United States who is now so ardently pro-abortion, at least throughout much of his political career, he put the emphasis on being personally opposed to abortion. For example, in 1986, that’s not ancient history, a long time ago, but that’s 1986, when he had already been in the Senate for 14 years, Joe Biden told the Catholic diocese newspaper, “Abortion is wrong from the moment of conception.” That was Joe Biden, “Abortion is wrong from the moment of conception.” Now you’ll notice that’s light years away from what he’s saying now. As a matter of fact, that Joe Biden now does not want you to know what Joe Biden said then, in 1986. By the way, in 1986 when he said that abortion is wrong from the moment of a conception, Joe Biden was right.

20 years later in 2006, when Senator Biden was still very much in the United States Senate, he told CNN that he was a man of courage because he stood in the middle on the issue of abortion. He said, “I do not vote for federal funding for abortion, I voted against partial birth abortion to limit it, and I vote for no restrictions on a woman’s right to be able to have an abortion under Roe v. Wade. I made everybody angry,” said Senator Biden, “I made the right angry because I won’t support a constitutional amendment or limitations on a woman’s right to exercise their constitutional right as defined by Roe v. Wade, and I made the women’s groups and others very angry because I won’t support public funding and I won’t support partial birth.” Well now he won’t talk about the Joe Biden who existed then.

In sum, the President’s speech yesterday was vintage democratic politics in the new absolutely radical pro-abortion age. The Democratic Party is now moving left, and its left is so much in control that the left is moving further left. On the issue of abortion, the President says that what he demands is a bill that would codify Roe v. Wade, but the actual legislation he’s talking about goes much further than codifying Roe v. Wade, it would basically allow for abortion and would forbid government to put any restriction on abortion nationwide all the way up until the moment of birth. They don’t want to talk about that, but in truth they just can’t deny that it’s the essence and the substance of the legislation they now propose. Don’t buy it for a minute when they say they’re merely codifying Roe v. Wade.

But wait just a minute, remember what even codifying Roe v. Wade would mean? It would mean basically abortion on demand under most circumstances in all states. Over time it would mean millions and millions of abortions in the United States, so be very clear, the mere codification of Roe v. Wade is an absolute moral, legislative and cultural disaster.

The reversal of Roe v. Wade is what the pro-life movement had to work for for a half century, it is absolutely necessary, it’s mandatory, it’s urgent that the pro-life movement not get confused now and understand that the reversal of Roe v. Wade was not the final victory, it just won the right to take the pro-life legislative agenda and efforts to save unborn life into all 50 states, and that’s exactly what President Biden and the Democratic Party want to prevent by federal legislation. What they lost in the Dobbs decision they hope to gain, and more, with the legislation. And get this, this is what’s so important, the legislation that the President has requested, demanded, and now promised to the American people that he will sign with relish and flourish if indeed an adequate number of Democrats are elected in the midterm elections to the House and to the Senate.

Christians, I just hope you’re listening to this, because President Joe Biden yesterday, speaking to representatives of the Democratic National Committee, made very clear what the moral consequences of the midterm elections will be, nothing less than a matter of life and death. Don’t take it from me, take it from the president of the United States.

Part III

‘The Fact That We Elect Judges is Idiotic and Utterly Perverse’: The Left Argues We Should Leave the Choosing of Judges to Professionals — Wait, Where Have We Heard That Before?

But while we’re talking about the midterm elections, and our Christian stewardship and responsibility, I want to remind you of what many other people in America do well clearly understand, and that is that it’s not just governorships, it is not just seats in the Senate and in the house, it is ultimately a number of other races that will decide issues absolutely core and central to the Christian conscience, and some of those elections will take place locally, and some will take place in states having to do with judicial elections, and some people just don’t like that kind of democratic participation, little D, as in the operations of democratic constitutional self-government.

One of those who doesn’t like it is Paul Waldman, a columnist for The Washington Post, and yesterday he offered an editorial comment with a headline, “Judicial elections are a time bomb that could blow up our democracy.” Now wait just a minute, if we’re talking about blowing up the democracy, maybe we better know what we’re talking about. First of all, by the way, the use of the word democracy here is in a generalized sense. The United States, in terms of our constitutional government, is a constitutional republic, it’s not a mass democracy. We don’t decide things by means of just asking the American people to vote on every issue of legislation. If you’re actually talking about a parliament or a Congress, a House or a Senate and an elected president to the United States, you are not talking about direct democracy, that would be unwieldy if you had 200 people, not to mention something over 300 million.

But nonetheless, in our constitutional republic, in especially some of our states, you have several judicial positions, all the way up to the state Supreme Courts that are elected by voters, and Paul Waldman thinks that’s a bad idea. As a matter of fact, he speaks even more frankly. Waldman writes, “Federal judges are appointed by the president, but we hold elections at the state, county and local level for people who will sit on the bench and decide what the law is. While some states hold only retention elections for high courts, in which judges are appointed but then face an up or down vote to hold their seats, only seven states have no judicial elections at all.”

Now, he quickly gets to his point, and he gets there graphically, he writes, “There’s almost no other country where they do things this way, aside from a couple of minor exceptions such as elections for Canton level judgeships in Switzerland,” he says, “In nearly every other democracy on earth people would find the idea of having judges run for their offices self-evidently idiotic.”

Now, why would he write that? What’s actually going on here? Well, what’s going on here is the fact that the left, and those who favor the administrative state, and those who want to see a bureaucratic government replace any kind of real democratic influence coming from voters, no, what you see here is the idea that we should leave the law, and we should leave, of course, other sectors of government as well, but the law in this case specifically to professionals, and when you’re talking about professions you’re talking about self-regulating professions. So in other words, only lawyers and judges know who should make a good lawyer or judge, the rest of us have no business sticking our nose into this at all.

You’ll notice the condescension here, Paul Waldman is saying, who do voters think they are deciding who will judge over them? No, he wants voters simply to trust, citizens merely to trust professionals who know what we need because we are incompetent to know what we need when it comes to those who will sit on the court.

But as you look at this article you understand the bottom line very quickly, and that is this, in states such as Montana right now, where there’s a pretty fierce election centered on the state Supreme Court there in Montana, the fact is that there are pro-lifers and there are conservatives, and there are Republicans as well as Democrats, and there are liberals, and there are more pro-abortionists who are fighting over who will be elected to sit on the state Supreme Court, or at least who be continued in office, or who might replace the one who’s in office now. It is one of those situations not only in Montana, but elsewhere, in which you have people like Paul Waldman saying, “It’s just wrong for the public to have a voice, much less to decide this, all this should be left to professionals.” Now, where have you heard that before?

By the way, you need to flip these questions when you see them, frankly, coming from any side in this political debate, especially in an electoral season, you need to ask yourself the question, what would this look like if we flipped the question? So let’s take Paul Waldman’s words here, he says, “Judicial elections aren’t new, what has changed is that almost everyone has stopped pretending that the courts are anything but political actors. Eight years ago,” he said, “it was a minor scandal when an Ohio Supreme Court Justice said, ‘I am a Republican and you should vote for me,’ he said, ‘to keep the Ohio Supreme Court conservative,'” but Waldman says, “But today it’ll be nothing more than stating the obvious.”

He concludes, “Here’s what ought to be obvious but isn’t, the fact that we elect judges at all is utterly perverse.” So it was idiotic a few paragraphs ago, now it is perverse. But I want us to look at Paul Waldman’s statement, because it actually reveals something I don’t think he meant to say. He says, “Judicial elections aren’t new, what has changed is that almost everyone has stopped pretending that the courts are anything but political actors.” He writes that it’s wrong for conservatives thus to intentionally elect conservative judges to sit on the courts. But you flip the question and it’s obvious, given the structure of his argument, that he would have no protest with liberal voters supporting liberal judges to sit on the court, and here’s where Christians need to understand, there is no neutrality.

There may be those who even have convinced themselves that they’re somewhere in the middle and they’re not committed to one side or the other, but quite frankly, the one point of Paul Waldman’s analysis that’s absolutely right is the fact that it is now no longer intellectually honest to pretend that judicial elections will not have consequences and that there are worldview dimensions that we know upfront and shouldn’t deny that we know. And we as voters have priorities when it comes to choosing or electing judges, and we also should be unembarrassed to say, here are the criteria we apply.

By the way, conservatives, one of the criteria we should apply is that someone should be skilled and scholarly and understanding and wise and just and righteous when it comes to understanding the law, the judging of the law, and the application of the law. That’s not too much to ask, even for our own candidates, the candidates we support. But wait just a minute, especially for our own candidates, the candidates we support, because we, after all, are those, let’s remind ourselves, who do know what’s at stake, and honestly know why we vote as we vote.

And oddly enough, you might say ironically enough, President Joe Biden and Washington Post colonist Paul Waldman have helped us today to understand how this works, and, well, that’s something.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’m speaking to you today from the historic city in the United States that calls itself the Cradle of Liberty, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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