The disgraceful NARAL ad

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The Annenberg Center's genuinely nonpartisan factcheck.org has produced the definitive debunking of NARAL-Pro-Choice America's ad attacking John Roberts for "supporting . . . a convicted clinic bomber" and having an ideology that "leads him to excuse violence against other Americans."

"The ad is false," factcheck.org concludes.

Or consider the comment of Walter Dellinger, who served as acting solicitor general during the Clinton administration. "It is not fair to characterize Judge Roberts's brief or argument in any way as a position that would excuse violence of any kind."

It is interesting to try to imagine the mindset of the people who produced this ad. Do they really believe that Roberts believes that people who bomb abortion clinics shouldn't be prosecuted? Or are they cynically trying to suggest that he believes that in order to inflame their constituency, create a rallying cry for senators already inclined to vote for Roberts, and put pressure on Republican senators to oppose him? It's possible that the first explanation is right. These people may simply be so stupid that they think that arguing that a federal law does not cover conduct that is criminal under the laws of every state amounts to a belief that the conduct should not be punished.

But I suspect the latter explanation is right. NARAL has reportedly run the ads on local stations in Rhode Island and Maine, home of pro-choice Republican Sens. Lincoln Chafee, Olympia Snowe, and Susan Collins. It hopes if not to defeat Judge Roberts then to put enough votes against him up on the board to deter George W. Bush from nominating a conservative with a longer paper trail, like 4th Circuit Judge Michael Luttig, to fill a future vacancy.

In my experience as a Democratic campaign consultant from 1974 to 1981, our clients were careful to put up ads that were factually correct and readily defensible. They did that because they thought it was the right thing to do and because a false ad could boomerang and end up costing them votes. If I'm right about the mindset of the NARAL people, they and their consultants don't share this view. Perhaps they believe that mainstream media will leave their ad unchallenged. But even the New York Times notes, in the 11th paragraph of a story on the subject, factcheck.org's conclusion.

Democratic senators do not like people to think that left-wing groups like NARAL lead them around like dogs on leashes. They have a chance to prove that by denouncing the NARAL ad.