As I age, I lose my enthusiasm for having certain arguments. For example, as a pro-choice person the idea of seriously debating abortion with a pro-lifer sounds about as appealing as running my balls down a cheese grater. It redefines "futile." The issue breeds completely intractible and irreconcilable differences of opinion, none of which depend on logic in the slightest. Debating it only serves to go around in circles and piss people off. I hate taking part in something so pointless.
But there is a dilemma. I also hate avoiding such debates, because people of mediocre intelligence walk away from such refusals with the impression that they have achieved victory for their beliefs. So the ideal outcome for the situation, from my perspective, is something that can end the argument quickly and let the other person know that he or she is very, very wrong. It's somewhere between the Holy Grail and bulletproof vest of rhetoric. For instance, feminist bloggers have come up with a pretty terrific way to shut anti-choicers the hell up in a hurry: ask them how much prison time women who get abortions should do once it is illegalized. As you can see, it's amazingly effective.
Such a question offers no safe exit for the Dobson crowd. On one hand, they can stay consistent (if abortion = murder, then they should get somewhere between 25 years and the electric chair) with the understanding that support for their position will immediately plummet to zero. Once we start talking about the reality of criminalized abortion – thousands upon thousands of women going to jail – women suddenly become less enthusiastic about the sanctity of fetal life. On the other hand, they can claim that women shouldn't do any time or that it "depends" on XYZ, which obliterates the "abortion = murder" premise and chops the legs clean off of their argument. If it's murder then how can we rationalize not charging them with murder? Either way, it makes them sound like stammering idiots.
To that end, I heartily applaud David Shuster for showing us a similar tactic to stop Congressional Iraq War dead-enders in their tracks. Here's an exchange with Tennessee Rep (and certified moron) Martha Blackburn. As I have cut out some chatter to save space, you can see a full, unedited video here.
Shuster: "Let's talk about the public trust. You represent, of course, a district in western Tennessee. What was the name of the last solider from your district who was killed in Iraq?"
Blackburn: "The name of the last soldier killed in Iraq uh – from my district I – I do not know his name -"
Shuster: "Ok, his name was Jeremy Bohannon, he was killed August the 9th, 2007. How come you didn't know the name?"
Blackburn: "I – I, you know, I – I do not know why I did not know the name…" [Snip]
Shuster: "But you weren't appreciative enough to know the name of this young man, he was 18 years old who was killed, and yet you can say chapter and verse about what's going on with the New York Times and Move On.org." [Snip]
Shuster: "But don't you understand, the problems that a lot of people would have, that you're so focused on an ad — when was the last time a New York Times ad ever killed somebody? I mean, here we have a war that took the life of an 18 year old kid, Jeremy Bohannon from your district, and you didn't even know his name."
Nope, there aren't going to be many McCains and Liebermans in Congress who can answer that one. It's quick and it makes them look like bumbling fools (see video). And that, my friends, is an excellent weapon to have.