Posted: Sept. 1, 2010


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

This appears to be the year to try to rejigger the American Revolution. There are tea partiers around, and the spirit of poor old Alexander Hamilton has been commandeered as the shill for a bank. Even Aaron Burr, his dueling antagonist, showed more respect.

There was also a political spot for an Alabama congressional candidate, who imagined himself venting in the company of George Washington, Ben Franklin and Sam Adams about the tyranny of the IRS, until Washington was aroused to order, "Gather your armies!"

It could only be a matter of time for Thomas Jefferson, and it was.

Jefferson has been exhumed for the Republican congressional primary here in Delaware between Michele Rollins, the Centreville business executive who has the party endorsement, and Glen Urquhart, the Sussex County developer running sharply to her right.

Primary Day is Sept. 14. John Carney, the former lieutenant governor, is waiting beyond it as the Democrats' congressional candidate.

Thomas Jefferson is Urquhart's idea of a founding member of the right-to-life movement. Why else would the Declaration of Independence spell out "life" as an unalienable right?

This is the way the world is now. If Leonardo da Vinci can be turned into a pop thriller, Jefferson's grandest words can come back as a bumper sticker. Choose life!

Chances are, Jefferson had something a little more immediate in mind as he wrote about the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There is a reason Ben Franklin observed at the signing of the Declaration, "We must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately."

Urquhart hauled Jefferson into a debate hosted Tuesday morning by WDEL 1150AM radio during a discussion of abortion rights.

Urquhart is loudly pro-life. The volume is a little curious. For one thing, people in statewide politics here generally would rather not talk about abortion. For another, the ones who get elected to the highest offices are pro-choice.

Tom Carper, the Democratic senator, and Mike Castle, the Republican congressman running for the Senate, are pro-choice, as are the governor, the lieutenant governor and the attorney general.

Ted Kaufman, the other Democratic senator, scrupulously has not said. He can get away with it because he was appointed. Anyway, he is out of there after Election Day.

Urquhart hectored Rollins about abortion during almost six minutes of their debate. It was such an astoundingly raw exchange, it deserves to stand on its own.

Urquhart: "Life begins at conception. Our founding document, the Declaration of Independence, says the right to life is inalienable, that it comes from our Creator, and we're endowed with it as an unalienable right. . . . .

"Ms. Rollins has been for pro-life, for pro-choice, and back and forth, and I think what the voters want is a very clear, consistent conservative position. I have always supported the right to life."

Rollins: "Glen, may I give you my very clear, consistent position? From Day One, I've said that I'm against abortion, and I'm a Catholic, and it would not be a choice personally. I'm against federal funding for abortion, I'm against third trimester abortion, and I'm against minors getting abortions without parental consent."

Urquhart: "Michele, what is more basic than life? The right to life is in our Declaration of Independence. It's at the core of life. Please just sign a pro-life pledge. Make it clear. You've been pro-choice in some venues and pro-life in others."

Rollins: "Glen, I have not waffled. From Day One, as a conservative, I have said that I am against abortion. I have not waffled on that. But I've also said I am consistently conservative in wanting the government out of my face, out of my business, out of my pocket, so tell me why we want them in our bedroom?

"Are you saying that the American woman does not have the conscience and the morals and the religion to make a decision that will determine what she does in that situation? I think she does.

"So I'm not for having the government make these decisions for us. I'm for making that decision myself. I'm perfectly capable of it. I have a God, a priest, a doctor, and I can do that. And so can the American women in this country."

Urquhart: "Abortions aren't done in bedrooms. Abortions are done in medical facilities. We have our government tell us we can't go over 65 miles an hour, and they tell us that we can't murder. Abortion is murder. . . .

"There's nothing more fundamental than life. If you aren't clear that killing an unborn child is wrong, then you're not clear about a lot."

Rollins: "I am not willing to play God and tell a rape victim or an incest victim that she should or shouldn't have that abortion. I know it wouldn't be my choice.

"I want to retain the right to have choice. Choice is what America is about. Choice is what conservatism is about. I think women have to make their own mind up in situations that may be intolerable or may be impossible, and I'm just not willing to do that for them. . . .

"They don't want the government in their business, and they don't want the government deciding when and where and what circumstances."

Urquhart: "Then you're making it clear that you're pro-choice and I'm pro-life.

"You know, I'm very sensitive to anyone who's assaulted, particularly a woman who is raped, but let's address the rape issue. As someone once said about alcohol, there is no problem that abortion can't make worse. I know good friends who are the product of rape. I'm not minimizing the cost. But life is life, and I am pro-life."

Rollins: "Are you suggesting like Sharron Angle, [a Republican Senate candidate] out in Nevada that if you're raped, you should make, that you get a lemon, you should make lemonade out of it?

"I have trouble with that, Glen."

Urquhart: "I understand that you're pro-choice. I'm making it clear to the voters that I am pro-life. I believe that life begins at conception, and our nation was based on the principle that we all have an unalienable, Creator-given right to life."

There is no telling what will be said in the name of life, liberty and the pursuit of political office.