Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey Jr’s landing a prime time speaking slot at the Democratic convention is another step in the party’s campaign to burnish its image among pro-lifers. Casey’s dad, then-Pennsylvania Governor Robert Casey, was famously denied a speaking role at the 1992 Democratic convention because of his pro-life views. Casey Jr. called God-o-Meter to talk about his role at the convention and to give a little preview of tonight’s speech:
Many pro-life Democrats were pushing for the opportunity for you to speak at the convention because of what it would represent symbolically, since your father was famously denied a speaking role at the 1992 convention over his pro-life views. Were you pushing for a speaking slot for that same reason?
We were invited to speak by Senator Obama’s campaign and were grateful for the opportunity. But when you’re in your first 18 months in the Senate, you shouldn’t expect it. So I didn’t ask.
Did your father’s experience color your own reaction to learning that you’d been accorded a speaking role during prime time?
Everybody remembers 1992, but I also have memories of the 1988 convention, when [my father] did speak about the economic struggles our state had. So I think about more than one convention. What happened in 1992 is something people are talking about, the subject of a lot of discussion, but it’s important to look ahead and not just recollect about the past.
Does your inclusion on tonight’s speakers’ lineup send a message that the Democratic Party has changed on abortion?
The fact that I’m speaking is really a testament to Senator Obama’s willingness to reach out to people who disagree with him even on important issues. It’s emblematic of his ability to put coalitions together on an issue and to bring all sides together. He’s not just talking about that, but acting.
Do you see signs that pro-life voters are getting that message?
It’s hard to tell. A lot of what will come before voters between now and Election Day. Most of the hard work of a campaign like this and most of the weighing that voters do when they decide who to vote for will come after the convention. That’s the real decision period and the time for the really hard work.
How did you decide what you’re going to speak about in your limited time tonight?
I’m speaking with about ten other governors, about the economy and about what I know about Barack Obama personally and about his ideas and his personality. That’ll really be the focus of almost every speech at the convention. And also trying to bring people together. If Democrats are going to make the case that they can bring the country together, it’s important to bring our party together.
Will your speech address the life issue, which is what many in the party identify you with?
Yes, it will. But it’s mostly a night and an opportunity when we’ve been invited to focus on the economy and frankly what a lot of folks are struggling with in Pennsylvania. But certainly not only that. There’s been a lot of discussion about ’92, but there is an obvious disagreement I have with Senator Obama and we want to make sure that people understand that difference of opinion.
One of the things that’s missing in this important debate in American politics is candid and honest talk about disagreements and an honest effort to try to find common ground. It’s much easier to say you don’t agree with someone and to continue fighting and discontinue the dialogue. It’s much harder but it’s important to be honest and show respect for others that we disagree but to actually work to bring the sides together.
One way to do that, and neither party has done enough on this, is to be very supportive of pregnant women. And the Pregnant Women Support Act is the only vehicle and the best vehicle to do that. It’s a challenge to the left and a challenge to the right and helps not only bring the sides together but provides affirmative options for women. When a woman becomes pregnant, for most women that’s a time of happiness and joy and they look forward to bearing a child. But to some it’s a crisis because they don’t have the economic wherewithal and the support they need. And a lot of women feel all alone and we don’t do enough to show solidarity with them. As Pope John Paul II said, we should show radically solidarity with the woman facing these challenges. This piece of legislation is the one vehicle in American government for bringing the sides together and for providing women with options.
But is Senator Obama supporting it?
He’s spoken about it. I have gotten to know him on the campaign trail and he spoke about the concept when he was at Rick Warren’s church. So I believe he will be supportive. We have not talked directly about the bill but it’s something I will be discussing with people in both parties. It’s going to take a lot of work.
Also check out God-o-Meter’s interview with Senator Casey in the run-up to the Pennsylvania primaries in April.