October 31, 2000
JIM LEHRER: More politics now. Another last week one-on-one on who should be President of the United States and to Margaret Warner.
MARGARET WARNER: Tonight, we turn to two religious thinkers, the Reverend
Joan Brown Campbell, a Protestant minister, is director of the religion
department at the Chautauqua Institution, and former general secretary
of the National Council of Churches. She supports Al Gore. Father Richard
John Neuhaus, a Catholic priest, is President of the Institute on Religion
and Public Life. He also serves as editor-in- chief of the institute's
monthly journal, "First Things." Father Neuhaus supports George
Bush. Welcome to you both.
REV. JOAN BROWN CAMPBELL: Well, I've known al Gore for quite a long time, about 15 years, and I know him to be a man of integrity. And I believe that what he stands for, his value, his philosophy are consistent with what I believe should be the philosophy of a person of faith. I think he has a long record on civil rights for women and for minorities. He has a proven track record. We don't have to believe only his promises. But, in fact, we can look at his policies as they relate to the environment, which he often speaks of in mal terms, and most of all, for me personally, I'm committed to al Gore because his policies show that he has a priority for the children, for the vulnerable, for the aged, and for those who are poor. And in almost every reading of any book of faith, that is one of the major priorities. I think we've seen that in the support he has for health care, for welfare that has been carried out in a compassionate way. We have reduced the welfare rolls, but we have done it with compassion. So what I see in the Vice President and in the man that I've known when he was a Senator and have known him as a human being is a commitment to the common good. And that's why I support him.
MARGARET WARNER: Father Neuhaus, why have you chosen George W. Bush?
REV. RICHARD JOHN NEUHAUS: Well, because I have moral considerations, of course, and then as a citizen, you have to make specific judgments. There are three issues really; three overriding issues. One is the protection of the unborn and of other vulnerable, innocent human life. This is utterly crucial. Secondly is the right of parents to have the primary say in the education of their children. We're talking about parental choice through whatever means. And thirdly is precisely the concern for the poor and how human services and human health can best be given through people-sized institutions, the mediating institutions of society, churches, voluntary associations, et cetera, faith- based institution, and Governor Bush has really taken the leadership on that. But of these three, they are in descending order, there's no doubt about it. The first is the culture of life versus the culture of death, the realization that George Bush has very clearly said and repeatedly said that his goal is to move us-- as difficult as it may be-- toward a society in which every child-- born and unborn-- will be protected in law and welcomed in life. That's going to be very, very difficult.
Unfortunately, Mr. Gore has gotten himself into a corner, painted himself into a corner, has become the captive of forces; it's almost as though he put himself in that locked box, so to speak, where he is unapologetically, indeed, it seems enthusiastically in favor of maintaining the unlimited abortion license so that at no time at any point during the nine months of pregnancy is a child receiving any protection at all. And indeed, even in the very process of being born, which is infanticide, I'm afraid, we have the case of Vice President Gore supporting this. This is intolerable. We have to move toward a society... again, it will be difficult, and it has a lot to do not only with this election, but also subsequently with appointments to the Supreme Court, with the Congress and its initiatives, a society in h every child-- born and unborn-- is protected in law and welcomed in life.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Reverend Campbell, how do you answer the moral and religious and sort of value- based assessments that you just heard from Father Neuhaus?
REV. JOAN BROWN CAMPBELL: Well, I will try to remember them and respect the order in which he put them. I think Reverend Neuhaus knows me. I know him. And I think we would both say that we respect human life-- born and unborn. What I would say is, I don't think the debate is about abortion. I think the debate is about choice. And because I'm a woman and because I speak strongly on behalf of women, I think women have enormous capacity to make moral choices. And I think that we do not need to remove choices from women. We need to add choices. Women who choose to take a child to term need to be supported in this society with day care so that they can work-- quality day care. There needs to be opportunities for them to put children up for abortion (abortion). So I would say....
MARGARET WARNER: For adoption you mean?
REV. JOAN BROWN CAMPBELL: It isn't a matter of removing choice, it would be a matter of adding choices. I think women are enormously capable of making moral choices, and I think the fact that the crisis of abortion exists does not mean that women will automatically make that choice.
MARGARET WARNER: Let me ask you to comment on one other thing briefly, because I want to get back the Father Neuhaus. But you both brought up the obligation to care for the needy or the less advantaged. You each choose someone different. What about... Governor Bush has talked about bringing faith- based institutions into this field. He's described himself as a compassionate conservative.
REV. JOAN BROWN CAMPBELL: If I could speak to that, I think I've spent a great deal of my life working with churches, synagogues, and mosques, for that matter, that are very committed to helping the poor, but I think if you simply take the example of health care, where there's 45 million uninsured Americans, what we need are faith-based institutions in partnership with government. Faith-based institutions, no matter how hard they work, cannot provide health care for those who are uninsured. That's a matter of public policy. And maybe the crux of my difference between Bush and Gore is really rooted in my belief that there has to be a partnership between the people and their government, between houses of faith and their government. But I do think government has a role to play, and I've seen in Al Gore a proven policy record.
MARGARET WARNER: Warner: Father Neuhaus, how much of your choice is based on an assessment of the character or morality or values of these two candidates?
REV. RICHARD JOHN NEUHAUS: Well, as far as I know, and I know Governor
Bush better than I know... In fact, I do not know Vice President Gore
at all, but I've had opportunity in one-on- one and detailed discussions
with governor Bush. I think that the character issue is playing out
in a lot of ways. But let me come back to what Rev. Brown Campbell said
and that is that I don't think the question of choice - it is a matter
of what is choice. The people just say, well, I'm pro choice, well,
the question is: what are people choosing? And it's not a women's issue.
I mean, this would be terrible to say that back in slavery it was only
an issue for people who were living in the South or the Civil Rights
movement, only blacks had something to say about civil rights, or racial
justice. This just can't be right. We know that's not right. It's a
question of the most elementary human rights: Whether people have rights
when they are not capable of asserting their own rights. And it's not
simply the unborn children; it's the radically handicapped, and it's
the old people and
What we're dealing with here is not a woman's issue. The most pro abortion segment, and those of us who have been studying this for more than 30 years in terms of survey, research data, and such, this comes up again and again, the most pro abortion segment of the population are sexually active young males, and for obvious reasons. They want also in this respect to escape any responsibility for the relationship they have with women. It's an enormous slander against the female sex, it seems to me, to suggest that women don't care about innocent human life. That's simply not true. We need across the board, and this is what Governor Bush is saying -
MARGARET WARNER: Excuse me. Father Neuhaus, can you bring it back to this election, though, bring us back to this choice?
REV. RICHARD JOHN NEUHAUS: Well, in this election, people say... in fact, I just heard as we were waiting here in the studio, someone chattering on another channel and saying, "well, there is no great overriding issue in this election." I think there are a number of overriding issues, the ones that I've named, particularly the culture of life versus the culture of death and in which direction will we move as a society. That's the overriding issue. Parental choice: My goodness, we have a system now that ought to outrage our sense of injustice in which the poorest children in the society have to go to the worst schools. This is simply wrong. Other people have choices. Those who have means have choices. But we say to the poor, especially in our inner cities, "you can have no choice. You must go to what everybody knows is the worst schools." And while I agree with Reverend Brown Campbell that government has a role, government cannot have a monopoly, especially in education -- contrary to the teachers unions, to whom I'm afraid Vice President Gore is totally captive.
MARGARET WARNER: Father Neuhaus, and Reverend Brown Campbell, we'll have to leave it there. Thank you both.