Tim Kaine: An Explosion Waiting to Happen?

We have seen this script before: The Democrats, confirmed now as a radical, pro-abortion party, will fill out their presidential ticket with a Catholic candidate for Vice President. He will be down-to-earth, with all of the warmth associated with a certain ethnic style of Catholic life. He will be earnest in his professions of attachment to the Church, he will attend Mass regularly. But for the sake of fitting into that party in its current incarnation, he is willing to detach himself, discreetly, from the deepest moral teachings of his Church, most notably, on the taking of innocent life in abortion.

Thus it was with Joseph Robinette Biden, and thus it is with Timothy Michael Kaine now, as he joins the ticket headed by Hillary Clinton. Between the two, Kaine has had a wider experience in political life, and he seems to have had a deeper involvement in the life of the Church. His skills will become far more necessary now, for he has a harder task than Joe Biden had.

For Kaine is moving to the head of a party that is now willing to make war on religious institutions and private businesses that will not fund the “right to abortion” or respect same-sex marriage. Kaine’s own attempts to offer some modest gestures to the pro-life side will now become the source of an embarrassment that Joe Biden never presented – and a possible explosion in the campaign. The wonder of it all is that the Clinton campaign, with its formidable Engine of Vetting, seems not to have noticed.

Tim Kaine served as Mayor of Richmond, Virginia, before he was elected Governor in 2006, and then U.S. Senator in 2012. As a Democratic mayor in Richmond he cultivated the art of connecting with the black community. He has preserved that connection as a practicing member at St. Elizabeth, a predominantly black parish.

Fr. Jim Arsenault, his priest there, recalls that on this past Good Friday he asked Kaine to carry a “life-size” cross to the front of the church for veneration. “And Tim was there, as people with tears in their eyes would venerate the cross. . . .[H]e’d help them up after they were kneeling. . . .And they’d give Tim a nice hug. Everybody knows Tim Kaine.”

Timothy Michael Kaine
Timothy Michael Kaine

It might be said of Kaine, as H.L. Mencken said of Grover Cleveland, that he was “a good man in a bad trade.” But he made his life harder by deciding to rise politically in a party that was more and more pro-abortion without even minor restraints. When he ran for governor he favored a ban on the grisly surgery known as “partial-birth abortion.” He was also willing to support a scheme of “informed consent,” to give a woman information about the state of the child she was thinking of aborting. But he was also emphatically against “criminalizing abortion.”

Yet why seek an “alternative” if there was something rightful and legitimate about abortion?   If we were dealing with the taking of a human life, why shouldn’t this kind of homicide be punished?

The tip-off came when Kaine professed to have a “faith-based opposition to abortion.” There was the Kennedy-Biden formula: the moral case against abortion does not depend, as the Church has it, on the reasoning of natural law, weaving the facts of embryology with principled reasoning. It is merely a matter of “belief,” and therefore Kaine would decorously decline to impose on the public the “beliefs” he professes to hold.

Still, Kaine has said more than enough to put himself – and Hillary Clinton – in the most awkward situation now. Could it be that the Clinton people really hadn’t noticed that the House of Representatives, last September, passed the bill to restore penalties to the Born-Alive Infants’ Protection Act?

If Kaine was opposed to the killing of a child at the point of birth in partial-birth abortion, surely he would be opposed to killing the child, born alive, and surviving an abortion.

He surely must know that Mr. Obama threatened to veto that bill, and that 177 Democrats voted against this move to punish the surgeon who kills a child born alive, surviving an abortion. He must also know that the bill awaits action in the Senate, and he has a decision to make.

His party is now firmly committed to the notion that the right to abortion, established in Roe v. Wade does not end with the pregnancy; that it entails the right to kill a child born alive. That is the position that it falls now to Hillary Clinton and Kaine to defend in public.

The marvel is that the media, including the Catholic commentators at Fox News, have steadily declined to report this issue or to raise it as questions for the candidates. But Kaine’s presence on the ticket may surely draw attention to that issue now. And that is surely nothing that the Clinton people wanted to emerge suddenly in this campaign.

Did they fail to anticipate the issue? Or had they simply reached the point where they took it as a matter of course that their party would support the killing of a child born alive, if it were an accident of abortion?

For them, the prospect was no longer shocking. And so they had no reason to think it would shock anyone else or be, in the vast scheme of things, something worth noticing.

Hadley Arkes is the Ney Professor of Jurisprudence Emeritus at Amherst College and the Founder/Director of the James Wilson Institute on Natural Rights & the American Founding. He is the author of Constitutional Illusions & Anchoring Truths: The Touchstone of the Natural Law. Volume II of his audio lectures from The Modern Scholar, First Principles and Natural Law is available for download. His new book is Mere Natural Law: Originalism and the Anchoring Truths of the Constitution.