- The Washington Times - Friday, April 20, 2007

History unfolds with exquisite irony. The nation reels in bewildered disbelief at wholesale death on a placid university campus in bucolic Virginia, and hundreds of miles away the nation’s highest court hands down a stay of execution for a number of innocents.

Everyone affects a pose of grief and lamentation, though some of the politicians act as if the massacre at Virginia Tech was a godsend to jump-start the debate over whether to repeal the Second Amendment. Some of those grieving loudest over wholesale death at Blacksburg decry the loudest at upholding the ban of a particularly gruesome and grisly method of aborting a live, fully developed child.

Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton imagine that Cho Seung-hui is just what they need to write new laws taking guns away from the crooks and the law-abiding alike, and the Europeans, ever on the scout for occasions to hector Americans to become more like them, stand aghast. Even the Germans, who invented modern mass murder. The German cable-TV channel NTV flashed an image of Charlton Heston, once president of the National Rifle Association, across the screen to introduce a bulletin from Virginia Tech. The Americans were only getting what they asked for.

The French, who usually have trouble finding their guns even with national survival at stake, naturally see the tragedy at Virginia Tech as, in the description of Le Monde, “a new opportunity for American public opinion to interrogate itself about a society … very much responsible for what has happened.” The Rome daily Il Messaggero warns that America is in danger of becoming “more and more unloved in the world, especially in the poorest countries.” That’s why there’s so much chaos on the Rio Grande. The millions of prospective immigrants, legal and illegal, are coming here to tell us how unloved we are.

The frightened editors at the New York Times couldn’t decide whether to ride off in two directions, three, or all four.

They’re shocked, sad, heartbroken, and all that, but to get on with what’s really important, “no less pertinent is the question of how, after detailed tracking of the guns purchased for the ghastly spree, the lethal empowerment of such a troubled individual can somehow be pronounced entirely legal under the laws of a civilized nation.” America is never civilized enough for New York.

But hysteria has to be rationed on such a day, because the Supreme Court was dishonest, indecent, treacherous, infamous and, well, just not very nice. The majority opinion “gutted a host of thoughtful lower federal court rulings, not to mention past Supreme Court rulings.” Women are denied “the right to choose,” though you might think nine months is long enough to choose. Ruth Bader Ginsburg wondered why there wasn’t a doctor in the house.

The lack of respect for the past was the theme of the day. Hillary, Obama, John Edwards and the rest of the Democrats in pursuit of the nomination couldn’t elbow each other out of the way fast enough to get to the nearest microphone to point with peril and view with alarm. Precedent was suddenly Holy Scripture, as if no Supreme Court before this one had ever altered its view of constitutional imperatives. Plessy v. Ferguson, the 1896 decision that preserved racial segregation in the South for nearly 60 years, was never treated with such respect. In fact, the editors of the New York Times and the Democratic pols could profitably sample some of the Southern outrage over Brown v. Board of Education, which overturned Plessy, for tips on how to keep their dudgeon at boiling temperature. Those Dixie dandies never impeached Earl Warren, but they had a lot of fun trying.

But maybe the hysterics ought to hold their fire. The partial-birth abortion decision is drawn narrowly, and upholds a ban only on plunging a pair of surgical scissors into a newborn’s skull and vacuuming out its brains. The procedure is so grisly, in fact, that abortion proponents shrink from accurate descriptions of it. The New York Times yesterday described it delicately as “removing the fetus in an intact condition rather than dismembering it in the uterus.” Sort of like squeezing a wart or a pimple.

You don’t have to be a right-to-life zealot to see that this is hardly a chip off the mandated right to abortion. The Court just put in a nice word for simple decency.

Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Times.

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