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May 27th, 2017

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Mark Uterus' overheated political rhetoric

George Will

By George Will

Published Oct. 18, 2014

Sen. Mark Udall (D.Colo.) ponders his actions

DENVER

One of the wonders of this political moment is feminist contentment about the infantilization of women in the name of progressive politics. Government, encouraging academic administrations to micromanage campus sexual interactions, now assumes that, absent a script, women cannot cope. And the Democrats' trope about the Republicans' "war on women" clearly assumes that women are civic illiterates.

Access to contraception has been a constitutional right for 49 years (Griswold v. Connecticut, 1965). The judiciary has controlled abortion policy for 41 years (Roe v. Wade, 1973). Yet the Democratic Party thinks women can be panicked into voting about mythical menaces to these things.

One Democrat whose gallantry toward women is monomaniacal, Sen. Mark Udall (Colo.), is now uncomfortably known here as "Mark Uterus." He is seeking a second term by running such a relentlessly gynecological campaign that the Denver Post, in endorsing his opponent, Rep. Cory Gardner, denounced the "shocking amount of energy and money" Udall has devoted to saying that Gardner favors banning birth control.

Actually, Gardner favors over-the-counter sales of oral contraceptives. In addition to being common sense, Gardner's proposal is his way of making amends for formerly advocating a state constitutional "personhood" amendment (it is again on the ballot this year and will be decisively rejected for a third time) and for endorsing similar federal legislation that has zero chance of passage. By defining personhood as beginning at conception, these measures might preclude birth control technologies that prevent implantation in the uterus of a fertilized egg. On this slender reed, Udall leans his overheated accusations that Gardner is bent on "trampling on women's rights," is on a "crusade" for "eliminating" reproductive freedoms and would "outlaw birth control."

Gardner, 40, cherubic and ebullient, is a human sunbeam whose unshakable cheerfulness is disconcertingly authentic as he exclaims to the waiter at breakfast, "Thank you for your work this morning!" A fifth-generation Coloradoan who lives in a prairie town in a house once owned by his great-grandparents, Gardner is amused by an anomaly: "Udall looks like the Republican in this race — dour and angry."

When Gardner ran an ad saying Udall is "a real nice guy" but too much a creature of Washington to change it (Udall's father, an Arizona congressman, ran for president; Udall's uncle was an Arizona congressman and interior secretary; Udall's cousin is a senator from New Mexico), Udall, in high synthetic dudgeon, called the ad a reprehensible attack on his family. Which elicited this puckish headline in the Washington Examiner: "Cory Gardner calls Mark Udall 'nice guy'; Democrats want ad pulled."

In losing Colorado's 2010 Senate race, the Republican candidate carried men by 14 points but lost women by 17. This 31-point gap will not be replicated this year. In a recent Fox News poll, Gardner trailed Udall among women by just 5 points while leading among men by 17. Independents favored Gardner by 15 points.

Barack Obama accepted the 2008 Democratic nomination here in a football stadium decorated with faux neoclassical columns made of plywood. He excoriated John McCain for having "voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time." Ask Gardner to pass the salt and he will say: "Udall has supported Obama 99 percent of the time." The world turns.

So does Gardner. Ross Kaminsky, a radio host here, writes:

"Gardner tells a personal story. 'I was visiting a high school in Kit Carson, Colorado, when a young woman came up to me asking about in-state tuition for non-citizens. "I'm graduating at the top of my high school class, but my parents brought me here illegally when I was 5 years old and without in-state tuition I can't afford college," she told me.' Gardner's answer — that for several reasons this really needed to be dealt with as part of broader immigration reform — left him feeling unsatisfied even though it accurately represented his view. He continues: 'Five years later, I went back to Kit Carson and sat down in a little restaurant for a quick bite. And who do you think ended up serving me? The same girl who five years earlier was the valedictorian of her high school.' Gardner's conclusion . . . is that this cannot be the best outcome for the girl, for her family, or for the state of Colorado."

In order to change your mind, you have to have one. The "war on women" incantation is mindless — a substitute for thought. This is surely obvious to thinking women, including one Gardner knows in Kit Carson.

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