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How to be a Hack, Fred Hiatt Edition

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Above: Now that’s how you compromise on abortion policy!

Today, the editorial board of the Washington Post honors the memory of David Broder with a pitch-perfect parody of Both Sides Doitism.  The thesis: the Republicans holding the nomination of Loretta Lynch hostage to try to leverage Democrats into accepting restrictions on abortion in an anti-sex trafficking bill shows that Democrats are the obstructionist party now. How could anyone possibly defend such a transparently nonsensical assertion?  Behold:

DEMOCRATS WHO have been filibustering the Senate’s consideration of legislation to combat human trafficking cited concerns with language they claimed would greatly expand the reach of Hyde Amendment restrictions on abortion.

You have to love the wording here. Democrats are merely “claiming” that the language would extend the reach of the Hyde Amendment, implying that there’s a dispute about the facts and Democrats might be making it up. A more accurate way of writing this would be “Democrats oppose this version of the bill because it would extend the reach of the Hyde Amendment.” But the way the editorial is worded does demonstrate a skill that’s important to learn. It’s what separates us from the animals! Except the weasel.

This skill is also evident in the next sentence:

But when John Cornyn (R-Tex.), chief sponsor of the trafficking bill and Senate majority whip, offered a compromise that would seem to answer their stated objections, it was rejected out of hand.

You have to like the “would seem” wording. You might think from this that the new version of the bill removes the abortion restrictions, so Democrats now have no reason to oppose the bill. But you would be wrong.

Perhaps Democrats thought they could score political points, or maybe they didn’t want to anger their traditional allies in the abortion rights lobby.

Now we’ve reached the heart of the matter. This is pure, distilled multiple times anti-abortion-rights contrarianism of the kind you don’t see quite as much anymore but must be due for a comeback. As always, the central premise is that Democrats can’t possibly have any principled reason for defending hysterical women and their silly reproductive rights; they must be caving to the immensely powerful abortion rights lobby which is preventing them from addressing real priorities. (Needless to say, similar aspersions are not cast on the motives of Republicans cynically using a bill about sex trafficking to both obstruct an executive branch nomination and try to restrict abortion rights. “Pro-lifers” are always assumed to be operating from a plane of the highest principle, even when their positions are a moral, legal, and intellectual shambles.)

Either way, it became depressingly clear that what they weren’t thinking about was the needs of vulnerable people, mostly young women and girls, who are the victims of sex trafficking.

Yes, if you really care about women who have been coerced into sex work, one way of demonstrating that is being indifferent about restrictions intended to make it more difficult for them to end unwanted pregnancies that have a high likelihood of being the result of sex they did not consent to. This isn’t just recycling brain-dead turn-of-the-century abortion contrarianism — they’re taking it to a new level.

The piece goes on to argue that newly amended language would merely preserve the status quo. But if this is true, why can’t the provision simply be stricken from the language altogether? Leahy’s objections to the new language are perfectly reasonable.  They also argue that Republicans are wrong to hold the Lynch nomination hostage…because it gives Democrats an excuse.

This is also great:

There is, as we wrote earlier this week, a reasonable way for the two sides to compromise on the trafficking bill, but both sides need to be reasonable. Sadly, that was not the case for Senate Democrats this week.

There is a compromise out there that would work. Republicans aren’t actually offering this compromise, but nonetheless Democrats should agree to the bill anyway or they’re the obstructionists. I can’t explain High Broderism any better than that, ladies and gentlemen.

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