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A White House race without an anti-abortion candidate?


You don’t see it so much in the cities of our state. But in rural western Iowa, the pro-life movement is visible and highly animated. Almost every day for the past few weeks on U.S. Highway 30, in the center of our community, the anti-abortion picketers are there. Steadfast.                

Drive any measurable distance around here and you’ll see pro-life billboards. We even have pro-life Democrats in State Rep. Dan Muhlbauer, D-Manilla, and State Senate candidate Mary Bruner (a cousin of Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal) who is running the massive District 6, which includes five counties.                

But does the single-issue, pro-life voter really have an option in the presidential race? We know President Barack Obama is pro-choice. He’s not equivocated.                

Meanwhile, the Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan ticket’s positioning on abortion results in what can fairly be described as honest confusion.                

Most fair-minded people will accept one conversion from a politician on abortion. After all, that is a major part of the mission of the pro-life cause, to change views. But when the movement scores a high-profile convert, a la Mitt Romney, they just won’t buy it.               

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It’s easy to see why.               

“There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda,” Romney said earlier this month in an interview with The Des Moines Register.               

Fair enough. Take it to the courts.                


Flash to the vice presidential debate and you get this from Ryan: “We don’t think that unelected judges should make this decision, [but] that people, through their elected representatives and reaching a consensus in society through the democratic process, should make this determination,” Ryan said.                

Just how do Romney and Ryan plan to outlaw abortion without legislation or the courts? Sounds effectively like the Obama Administration’s policy of seeking to make abortion “safe, legal and rare” — the prevailing Democratic position since the Clinton years.                

U.S. Sen. Grassley, R-Iowa, doesn’t see the same inconsistency with the Romney/Ryan positioning as Political Mercury.                

“I think that your interpretation of what Romney said is wrong from this standpoint — isn’t it more accurate to say that he said it would not be in his program. But he didn’t say that if Congress produced legislation that he wouldn’t sign it,” Grassley said in an interview. “In fact, he said he was pro-life and there are certain aspects of anti-abortion legislation he could sign.”                

Grassley said Romney’s program is lasered on the economy, and that it’s not surprising the GOP presidential candidate isn’t making abortion an actionable issue.               

“If he doesn’t have any suggestions on abortion being in the program, that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t sign legislation accordingly,” Grassley said.                

Accepting Grassley’s take leads one to this conclusion: As president, Mitt Romney would function as something of a bystander on abortion. He won’t fight for or against it.               

It’s fair to question whether he would subtly sabotage any legislative efforts so he doesn’t have to deal with it. Which is what Rick Santorum told us for more than a year.

• • •

Best one-line summation of the choice in the presidential election:                

“One of the profound decisions the American people have to make now is whether they want to be governed by a president or a boss — and I mean a boss,” James Lipton of “Inside The Actors Studio” said on MSNBC. Lipton, of course, sees Romney in the role of “boss.”

• • •

Earlier this year, the Des Moines-based Iowa Filmmakers earned an Official Honoree designation at the 16th Annual Webby Awards in the Viral category for “Iowa Nice.                

That two-minute video, released on Jan. 1, seeks to debunk certain coastal narratives about Iowa being a cultural monolith of prejudiced reactionaries. Drake University acting professor Scott Siepker and “Iowa Nice” director and his longtime theatrical collaborator, Paul D. Benedict, have seen their work go viral. The filmmakers recently released “Justice Nice,” which defends the Iowa Supreme Court’s independence and history of decisions protecting individual rights.                

“So here’s the thing about politics in the courtroom: It’s a shitty idea,” Siepker says in the video’s opening seconds.               

In the last few weeks, “Iowa Nice” soared from regional fame and YouTube popularity to the big time, an entertainment world-equivalent of skipping from sixth-grade to high school on a single test score.               

Iowa Filmmakers is scheduled to shoot two, two-minute videos each week for ESPNU, one picking college football games, the other recapping contests from the previous week. The videos will be broadcast on ESPNU’s “College Football Daily,” which airs from noon to 3 p.m. CST. Siepker, 29, the on-air talent for the troupe he helped found, expects his spots to air about 12:45 p.m. and 1:45 p.m. on Friday (for previews) and Wednesday (for reviews).

“Right now, the agreement is through the rest of the year,” Siepker said in an interview. “It’s open-ended. Maybe it will grow into basketball. Maybe it won’t.”              

ESPNU’s lead anchor Dari Nowkhah says in an email to Political Mercury that Iowa Filmmakers adds something very unique to “College Football Daily.”                

“We are a very opinion-driven show and Scott has an incredibly creative way of delivering witty opinion about college football, about which he happens to know a great deal,” Nowkhah said. “Every time we air one of their videos, we instantly get feedback from viewers who love it. I’m not sure how many Nebraskans enjoy their work (ha) but about everybody else does. Ours is a show where this works well. We are big, not only on opinion, but on humor and on trying different elements that other shows have not tried. This is perfect for us. It’s topical, fun, creative and generally hilarious.” CV

Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman who writes for The Carroll Daily Times Herald and offers columns for Cityview.

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