I've written several times before about James Dobson's views on voting for pro-choice candidates. I've criticized his stance that he could never vote for Rudy Giuliani, on the grounds that such a stance is actually worse for the pro-life movement. I've pointed out an interesting irony: he is a pragmatist about seeking incremental change on abortion rather than insisting on complete change to his ideal state, but at the same time he won't rely on a similar pragmatism in terms of which candidate he'd support between a militant pro-choicer and a lukewarm and moderate pro-choicer with federalist and judicial conservative leanings. I've defended my view that a pro-lifer should be willing to vote for Giuliani if it comes down to a race between him and any of the leading Democratic candidates, insisting that such a view is not simply a matter of doing what leads to the best consequences, relying on the theoretical background of what I'm calling a moderate deontology in ethical theory.
Now I'm being puzzled by a strange new phenomenon. Evangelicals and religious right types who have said they could never vote for Giuliani seem to be flocking to Fred Thompson. Joe Carter is among them, and I suspect the Family Research Council in general is with this movement from Mitt to Fred. There's a suggestion that James Dobson and Focus on the Family are part of it. There seem to be others, many of whom, including Richard Land, who are not willing to endorse just yet but who are whispering about what a good candidate he is or telling people behind the scenes that they will eventually support him. Blogs for Fred was started by evangelicals who want to prevent a Giuliani nomination, run by some prominent evangelical bloggers (Joe Carter, Jared Bridges, Andrew Jackson, and Josh Claybourn).
Yet Fred Thompson is very clearly pro-choice. He's likely a bit more moderate than Giuliani, who in turn is more moderate than any of the Democratic candidates. But Thompson seems to support abortion in the first trimester, even if he thinks the federal government shouldn't be limiting states from passing laws against abortion. He thinks the right policy, as Giuliani does, is for states to allow it, although Thompson would limit later abortions, while Giuliani would not. Both are judicial conservatives of a sort, and both are federalists of a sort. Both would appoint justices similar to the ones Bush did. The only difference is one that would manifest itself only at the state level, which a president wouldn't have anything to do with, and since most abortions are in the first trimester even the state difference wouldn't make an overwhelming difference anyway. On this issue, I think pro-lifers might prefer Thompson to Giuliani. So what? If the reason to oppose Giuliani is that he's too pro-choice, I can't see how Thompson should be less pro-choice enough to support him over the many candidates who are solidly pro-choice, including recent converts who are honest about their conversion to the pro-life view, unlike Fred Thompson, who has been pretending all along that he's pro-life and always has been.
So this just mystifies me. I can see how someone would support either Giuliani or Thompson because they think other issues are more important the pro-life ones. But I can't see supporting Thompson while saying you can't support Giuliani if the only issue serving as the basis for that decision is abortion. Their views are nearly indistinguishable when it comes to the role of a president. So what's going on here? Is this just ignorance, perhaps willful ignorance, of Thompson's actual views? Is it wishful thinking? Or is there some sophisticated defense of condemning Giuliani for his views on one issue while supporting Thompson despite his nearly-identical views on the same issue?