Newsweek Hits McCain for Air Quotes in Debate, Cites Liberal Critics

October 17th, 2008 1:00 PM
Newsweek screencap | NewsBusters.orgIn an October 16 Web exclusive today, Newsweek's Sarah Kliff looked at the "chorus of disapproval" that met Sen. John McCain's use of air quotes when dismissing the "health of the mother" exception that swallows the rule in some late-term abortion bans. Of course Kliff hit her readers with complaints from such unbiased, neutral observers as Chris Matthews and NARAL Pro-Choice America, which endorsed Sen. Obama in May. She concluded by citing a pro-choice Biden backer insisting that pro-lifers would be turned off too.

Kliff then went on to dive into what the health exception is in federal case law and conceded that:

McCain is correct when he suggests that the law does not specify which conditions or complications should be included in the legal definition of what constitutes a threat to the mother's health. That decision is left up to the doctor.

In Doe v. Bolton -- another abortion case handed down the same day as Roe v. Wade -- the Supreme Court ruled that "medical judgment may be exercised in light of all factors--physical, emotional, psychological, familial and the woman's age--relevant to the wellbeing of the patient."

Although Kliff went on to quote a pro-life activist who argued that Doe's guidance is truly the exception that negates the rule, she concluded her story by insisting that pro-life voters may be turned off by the air quote gesture. In doing so, Kliff cited none other than pro-choice Democratic pollster Celinda Lake:

But McCain's unfortunate air quotes may take a bite out of his support among women. "People don't believe that doctors would use 'health' as some trumped-up excuse to perform an abortion," says Celinda Lake, a pollster with Lake Research Partners, which has done polling for pro-choice groups like EMILY's List and NARAL. She says that pro-life voters "take health seriously and want to see the health of women protected." has a list of Lake's donations over the past few years, including a $1,500 to Joe Biden in 2007:

LAKE SNELL PERRY & ASSOCIATES/POLLS2/12/07$1,000Biden, Joseph R Jr (D)
LAKE SNELL PERRY & ASSOCIATES/POLLS3/31/07$500Biden, Joseph R Jr (D)