In the wake of the recent supposed “government shutdown,” many of the frustrating disagreements between Democrat and Republican Senators centered around federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Not to say that abortion isn’t a controversial issue and shouldn’t be discussed by our nation’s leaders, but to risk government failure over a small issue such as funding a non-profit organization is unacceptable.
What is perhaps the most controversial aspect of this entire story isn’t the debate itself or the outcome of the budgetary issue, but one speech made during the debate about Planned Parenthood that was made by Sen. Jon Kyl (R–Ariz.). While on the floor of the Senate he said, “If you want an abortion, you go to Planned Parenthood…” Ok, fair enough. Many women may go to Planned Parenthood to make one of the most difficult decisions in their life and in fact have an abortion. But then Kyl goes on to say abortions are “…well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does.”
When I saw this statement, my first reaction was hysterical. Not hysterically funny, but absolutely outraged that a three-term United States Senator, who prides himself (according to his website) on knowledge of the nuances of policy, could say such a thing. I may be less critical of Kyl if his factual error was merely out of negligence or even stupidity.
However, his error wasn’t motivated by ignorance, but a complete unwillingness to be truthful. Ninety percent is far from the actual number — 3 percent. Was he rounding to the nearest 90 percent? What is he paying his staff for if he can’t get even a ballpark number? In light of his words, Kyl’s office issued a statement, “his remark was not intended to be a factual statement, but rather to illustrate that Planned Parenthood, an organization that receives millions of dollars in taxpayer funding, does subsidize abortions.”
Not intended to be factual! You got me! I should have known statements made on the Senate floor, that will be entered into the Congressional record, aren’t intended to be factual. So soldier deaths in Afghanistan — not factual. BP’s oil spill — not factual. Government debt, you guessed it — not factual. Whew! Thank god, because I was getting worried about those.
Senator, I understand that you oppose federally subsidized abortions, and I’m sure that Americans would agree with you. But why lie about the facts? Or, more specifically, why intend not to be factual? Can you not construct a compelling argument to support your position without making up facts? If your position is the best in your opinion, then there ought to be a legitimate reason — not a made up one — to support it, right?
It is this type of rhetoric in contemporary American politics that helps polarize and destruct our already deranged party system. Why do Republicans and Democrats hate each other so much? It’s not because they disagree on so many issues. In fact, they agree on most. But political lies, such as exaggerated statistics and name calling (Tea Party = Tea Baggers), only detract from the intended purpose of the true democratic process.
We need to create policy decisions based on the actual and not the made up world. I’m a firm believer that most people (and politicians) can make good decisions, but when facts are skewed and parties are demonized, any chance that reasonable decisions will be made is futile. Willingness to work with the other party, or even compromise on issues, becomes impossible and can (almost) lead to a government shutdown.
Maybe it’s just my radically Muslim agenda, but I think we can fix this problem. We need to elect representatives who are willing to cope with reality and have genuine discussions about policies. This is not to be confused with politicians who pointlessly debate and then whine filibuster when they don’t get their way. A senator can, and should, represent his state genuinely and honestly while being able to admit that a compromise is best for the country.
There is a long road ahead of us if we wish to correct this problem, but at least Kyl is voluntarily taking the first step and will retire from the Senate at the beginning of next year.
Max Levenstein is an LSA junior.