- The Washington Times - Monday, June 5, 2006



By Ramesh Ponnuru, Regnery, $35.95, 303 pages

Let’s get straight to the controversy about this book. Liberal journalist Kevin Drum, writing recently in the Washington Monthly blog, put it this way: “Why does everybody obsess about the title of the book?”

His answer: “Because in 100-point type it blares ‘The Party of Death,’ and the subtitle makes it clear who [Ramesh Ponnuru is] talking about: ‘The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life.’”

All true. Mr. Drum continues: “[I]f you decide to join the Ann Coulter school of book naming, you shouldn’t complain when people get [upset] at the title of your book.”

But “party of death” is not exactly a Ponnuru original. As he explains, the words are an adaptation of liberal (and pro-choice) philosopher Ronald Dworkin’s honest summation that “abortion…and euthanasia…are both choices for death.”

Nor is Mr. Ponnuru’s use of the phrase to describe in large measure the Democratic party unique. One Democratic operative warned Democrats gloating over the Republican failure to save Terri Schiavo’s life that “We can’t just be the party of death.” So for Mr. Drum and others to complain that the title is too biting for the fragile nature of their liberal constitutions is a shameless dodge.

Next question: “Why aren’t serious lefties giving it serious reviews?”

Answer: “[I]t looks to most of us like standard issue Regnery stuff, right down to the Ann Coulter quote on the cover.” (Again with Miss Coulter.) Mr. Drum concludes, “there’s just nothing new here.”

Not true, which Mr. Drum would know if he had read more than a chapter before making such a spectacularly false statement. Yet it’s the argument being made by many “serious lefties,” who — and one can’t help but smile — decline to engage Mr. Ponnuru on the merits.

Their obstinacy should indicate that there is indeed something in “The Party of Death” that is new and devastating to the pro-choice crowd. After all, liberal publications have given ample space to critics of — to draw a conservative at random — Miss Coulter’s books, proving that title or tone have nothing to do with it. But for Mr. Ponnuru, a senior editor at National Review, not a word. Could he have asked for a more ringing endorsement?

Alas, it does little to answer the remaining question: What would abortion advocates say about “The Party of Death,” if they bothered to read it? Could they, for instance, offer a detailed rebuttal of Mr. Ponnuru’s takedown of Justice Harry Blackmun’s opinion in Roe v. Wade, with all its “emanations” and “penumbras,” given that even liberal legal scholars admit it was a travesty of constitutional law?

We don’t know, but we can divine the responses from the more honest set, who, while conceding Roe was poorly reasoned, nevertheless argue for its continuation on the grounds offered by Sen. Arlen Specter — because it is a “super-duper precedent.” A more refined position holds that Roe reflects the opinion of an American public that is generally pro-Roe.

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