A Dog in This Fight (Formerly: Womb Wars)

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Comments here and elsewhere have criticized our highlighting the exchange between Condi Rice and Barbara Boxer as either sexist or as a distraction from the “real debate,” i.e., the war itself (and its probable expansion). I’ll grant that “womb wars” was probably not the most accurate description of the issue that’s at stake here; namely, whether having a personal stake in a policy gives one more “moral authority” to make decisions about it. There was something vaguely creepy about seeing two powerful women compare their relative fecundity but fathers can play the game too — and it’s just as rigged. For every Jim Webb, there’s a John McCain. While one instinctively wants to give more weight to the words of someone who has a child in combat, that’s not rational argument, that’s propaganda.

What matters the most in decision makers is not whether they have relatives in combat, but they can imagine what that situation is like. The only real advantage bestowed to those who have an intimate investment in a policy is that we know they’re not simply having to imagine the consequences. People criticize Bush for putting other people’s children in harm’s way without having to risk his own, but the real problem isn’t that Jenna and Barb aren’t Marines, it’s that Bush seems so weirdly oblivious to the disaster he’s created in Iraq that the ONLY way he’d reconsider is if his children were there.

UPDATE: This post at Hullabaloo talks about Rep. Dan Burton’s “conversion” to w/r/t Medicare price negotiation after seeing his wife die of breast cancer, and makes the point that one shouldn’t have to go through that in order to see the wisdom of the policy. I don’t know if I agree that “conservatives” in general “have a stunted sense of empathy and an undeveloped ability to understand abstract concepts,” but I’m willing to posit that Dick Cheney might.