Not a Christmas 'Present'

What's most interesting about this endorsement from March of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, which the Clinton campaign is trotting out again this morning, is not so much that Bonnie Grabenhofer, president of the Illinois National Organization for Women Political Action Committee would support "our native sister."

It's that Grabenhofer underlines that during his 2004 Senate race against Alan Keyes,  Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, did not receive Illinois NOW PAC's endorsement.

Why?

"(B)ecause he refused to stand up for a woman's right to choose and repeatedly voted 'present' on important legislation. As a State Senator, Barack Obama voted 'present' on seven abortion bills, including a ban on 'partial birth abortion,' two parental notification laws and three 'born alive' bills. In each case, the right vote was clear, but Senator Obama chose political cover over standing and fighting for his convictions.

"When we needed someone to take a stand, Senator Obama took a pass," said Grabenhofer. "He wasn't there for us then and we don't expect him to be now."

Boy, you've got to really have your doubts about a Democrat if you're a liberal group and you won't even back him against Alan Keyes!

Although … oddly … Illinois NOW PAC endorsed him for state senate in 1998 and 2002 … and both those endorsements came after Obama made these "present" votes, including twice in 1997 on a proposed ban on so-called "partial birth abortion," and once in 2001 on a parental notification bill.

So why would Illinois NOW PAC endorse Obama after he made those votes … but express such outrage today?

Pam Sutherland, president and CEO of the Illinois Planned Parenthood Council, told the Chicago Sun-Times that "The poor guy is getting all this heat for a strategy we, the pro-choice community, did."

This issue is one Clinton has been making hay of in recent days. "A president can't vote 'present,'" she said. "A president can't pick and choose which challenges he or she will face."

Wrote the Chicago Tribune on this "voting present" controversy, Obama "said it was a strategy agreed to by abortion-rights advocates to insulate Democrats from political backlash in more conservative areas. But Obama's Hyde Park district was one of the state's most liberal …Obama said he sought compromise with abortion opponents, but they balked. As a fallback, he said he worked out an arrangement with abortion-rights advocates to encourage Democrats to vote present" 'on some bills if they feared a 'no' would look insensitive and endanger their re-election.

"But few of the other Democrats who voted 'present' on abortion bills recall such a strategy. And, like Obama, they weren't politically vulnerable. Obama's friend (Lake County Democratic Chairman Terry) Link offered another reason for the strategy: to protect those with plans for higher office. A 'present' vote helped 'if you have aspirations of doing something else in politics,' Link said, 'and I think [Obama] looked at it in that regard.'"

-- jpt

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