Fellow pro-lifers, Catholic conservatives–and since the 2008 campaign political antagonists–Doug Kmiec and Robert George faced off in a “discussion” (not a debate) last night at the National Press Club in Washington.

The discussion was titled “The Obama Administration and the Sanctity of Human Life: Is there a common ground on life issues? What is the right response by ‘Pro-Life’ Citizens?” It was sponsored by the Catholic University Law School, and PoliticsDaily’s Melinda Hennberger was there and called it “The Catholic Thrilla in Manila.”

The crowd also buzzed over Kmiec’s argument that Obama was committed to reducing the number of abortions – and that “he’s already demonstrated he’s listening” to pro-lifers by supporting funding for adult stem-cell research and by affirming, in his Notre Dame speech, that he supports conscience-clause laws that protect the jobs of pro-life health care workers.

“It’s wrong to make the perfect the enemy of the good,” Kmiec said in summing up. “And wrong not to recognize the good heart” of a good man like Obama.
George was more forceful in his presentation, and he talks faster. “One does not treat an interlocutor with respect if one does not speak plainly,” he began, and by that measure, he proceeded quite respectfully. “I find myself at odds, deeply at odds, with the Obama administration” on life issues, he said. And for all who agree on those issues, “our goal must be to frustrate at every turn” the president’s efforts. If there is any common ground to be found, he added, it is the government who should “find common ground with us in this great struggle” for human rights.

But afterwards, many in the audience grumbled that the discussion had been unsatisfyingly polite: “I’m from New York, and I like a good argument,” said a priest who didn’t want his name used. “It’s no fun kicking somebody if they don’t know they’re bleeding.”

So maybe more vanilla than thrilla. Still, not such a bad thing in today’s public dquare.

Check it out. CSPAN has the video. The Witherspoon Institute has the text of George’s remarks.

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