What a pair those two first ladies make-the present and the former, that is. Each has her own special way of trying to stand on that quickly disappearing parcel of American terra firma, the middle ground.
• Laura Bush made tandem campaign appearances in the Philadelphia area, trying to boost the fortunes of one Senate candidate who stands at the extreme right of her party's spectrum, and a moderate Republican who by conservative GOP standards qualifies as a flaming "lib."
She spent Tuesday morning at a fundraiser for Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania helping him raise an estimated $400,000, and the afternoon with New Jersey Senate challenger and former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean.
While stumping for Santorum, Mrs. Bush said some awfully nice things about him, including the following: "He's known in this community as a devoted family man, but he's known in Washington for being devoted to the well-being of all Pennsylvania families." So well-known for being devoted to family, in fact, that the Washington Post reported that when his wife delivered their fourth child at 20 weeks (the infant lived for two hours and then died in the hospital), they "bundled him in a blanket and drove him to Karen's parents' home in Pittsburgh. There, they spent several hours kissing and cuddling Gabriel with his three siblings, ages 6, 4, and 1½. They took photos, sang lullabies in his ear, and said a private mass with the corpse."
Santorum is one of the leading Senate anti-abortion-rights advocates. Kean, on the other hand, supports the status quo and takes no firm stand for or against abortion rights.
• Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, aka former first lady, tried to the disappointment of everyone and the satisfaction of no one to persuade Americans to find a "middle ground" on abortion rights.
Senator Clinton told an audience of family-planning experts in Washington that America needs to find a middle ground in the divisive debate by boosting access to family-planning services, particularly for poor women. She said, "Let us unite around a common goal of reducing the amount of abortions, not by making them illegal as many are attempting to do or overturning Roe v. Wade and undermining the constitutional protections that decision provided but by preventing unintended pregnancies in the first place through education, contraception, accessible healthcare, and services, empowering women to make decisions."
I see no great inspiration in either woman's actions. Few Republicans who support Santorum would find solace in Kean's Senate success, and vice versa. And as a to middle ground on abortion? There is none. We're already there (abortion is legal but quite restricted in most states), and the far right isn't slowing down until abortion is banned nationwide.