If I was Rick Santorum, this is the moment I would choose to endorse Mitt Romney for president. Why? Because Romney has just done something both highly presidential and deeply moral on the issue most associated with the former Pennsylvania senator’s run for the White House: life.
In response to last week’s news that the blind Chinese lawyer and human rights activist Chen Guangcheng had escaped house arrest and been taken in by U.S. diplomatic staff in Beijing, Romney issued this statement: “Any serious U.S. policy toward China must confront the facts of the Chinese government’s denial of political liberties, its one-child policy, and other violations of human rights. Our country must play a strong role in urging reform in China and supporting those fighting for the freedoms we enjoy.”
This is a welcome departure from the current administration’s stance toward China’s poorly named “one-child policy”—state-mandated population controls that include forced abortion, sterilization, infanticide, and torture. In August of 2011, Vice President Joe Biden told an audience of students at Sichuan University, “Your policy has been one which I fully understand—I’m not second-guessing—of one child per family.” Howls of outrage led Biden’s office to try to walk back the statement, but viewed alongside the administration’s 2009 decision to resume funding the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which President George W. Bush had defunded in 2002 for its support for Beijing’s forced-abortion policies, the clarification seemed like little more than political damage control.
Chen’s story is a dramatic one. In 2006, he organized a class-action lawsuit exposing the inhumanity of local municipal officials in the city of Linyi, where the “one-child policy” was applied with barbaric enthusiasm. For bringing international attention to the horrors of China’s population control program, he was given four years in the clink.
His escape into U.S. custody has put the Obama administration in a bind: grant him amnesty and run the risk of inflaming relations with China at a time of brewing international crises in Iran, Syria and elsewhere; or hand him over and suffer the fury of everyone from Amnesty International to the Population Research Institute.
So if I was Romney, I’d get my old nemesis Santorum on the horn and ask him to accelerate whatever endorsement plans are in the works. A swift and compelling validation of Romney’s pro-life bona fides would help along any religious or social conservatives who still harbor doubts about the former Massachusetts governor.
Here’s what Santorum could say:
Look, I didn’t always agree with Governor Romney during the primary campaign. You saw me hit him pretty hard during our debates. But I think it only fair to say that this episode has demonstrated why we need a president who is strong on the life issue.
Life is not just a “social issue” that divides Left and Right in our domestic politics. It’s a human rights issue with big implications for our nation’s foreign policy. When we look at China, and the century spreading out before us—what some are calling a Chinese century just as the last century was called an American one—we need to make some difficult decisions. Do we cooperate with the Chinese as they rise? Do we compete? But more importantly, do they share our values? When they murder the unborn, when they imprison the outspoken, when they abuse the vulnerable, and when they defend it in the name of the legitimate governance of a sovereign state, we need a president who will stand up to them and say “What you are doing is wrong—terribly wrong—and you need to stop it.”
We don’t need a president or an administration that says “We get it. You want to control your population. That’s understandable. You won’t have any issue with us. In fact, here’s $50 million in international aid to help you get it done.” We don’t need that. We need someone like Mitt Romney, who sees abortion for what it is.
A great many people have questioned the governor’s position on life, since he himself has admitted that in his younger days he wasn’t always on our side. Well, I can only tell you what I see with my own eyes, hear with my own ears, and feel with my own heart—that Mitt Romney supports life and he will work to end the killing of innocent babies, whether in Boston or in Beijing. I believe that, and that’s why I’m officially endorsing Governor Mitt Romney today for President of the United States.
It’s surely a message that Chen Guangcheng would want to hear.
Matthew Hennessey is a writer and editor who lives in New Canaan, CT. You can follow him on Twitter @MattHennessey.
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