Jesse Helms and Tom Ridge
Jude Wanniski
June 19, 2000

 

To: Sen. Jesse Helms [R-NC]
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: A Bush-Ridge Ticket

I happened to tear myself away from the Tiger Woods Show at Pebble Beach Saturday long enough to catch at least part of your interview on the CNN Evans&Novak show. When Bob Novak asked if Governor Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania would be acceptable to you as George W. Bush's running mate, given the fact that you are pro-life and he is pro-choice, I was somewhat surprised to see you most definitely reject the idea especially after Novak pointed out that the Rev. Jerry Falwell has said Ridge would be acceptable to him. I am a pro-life Catholic, Jesse, but I not only believe Ridge would make the best candidate, but also that his stated position on the abortion issue is exactly what mine would be if I were in his position. When you said you felt the way you do because Ridge is "out front" on the issue, I knew you were simply misinformed. If Ridge were "out front" in the way, say, New Jersey Gov. Christie Whitman is, I could never support him. When President Clinton indicated he would veto legislation prohibiting partial-birth abortion except when the life of the mother is endangered, Whitman held a press conference to announce her support of that view. It was an "in your face" position that many New Jersey Catholics thought uncalled for. Tom Ridge not only opposes partial birth abortions, he also has been silent on the abortion issue unless asked.

Ridge himself is a Catholic who supports the church's pro-life position within his faith, but who accepts the official position of the people of Pennsylvania on the issue. Remember, Jesse, when the U.S. Supreme Court a decade ago amended its original Roe v Wade decision to permit states leeway in managing the issue, there was a referendum in Pennsylvania a very Catholic state, by the way and the voters drew some limits around the abortion-on-demand practice that had previously existed. These included a requirement of parental notification by a minor and a prohibition against late term abortion except in certain circumstances. In a democracy, the governor really must accept the will of the people on a topic such as this one. If the issue involved Roe v. Wade, I think Ridge would take the position that the Supreme Court should not have legislated the legalization of abortion, but that having done so, it remains the law of the land.

Last Monday, the editor of The Wall Street Journal, Bob Bartley, devoted his new, personal weekly column to exactly this issue. He does not specifically say he is promoting Ridge as the GOP vice presidential candidate, only that his position on the abortion issue should not disqualify him. Bartley points out that if Ridge were a Protestant, not a Catholic, the issue would not even be raised in connection with the Republican ticket, precisely because Ridge's position is no different than that of any number of Protestants whose hats are in the ring. It is only because the Catholic bishops of Pennsylvania were more or less forced to take a firm position on his less than blanket opposition that he may have seemed to be "out front" to you. If I were you, I would read the Bartley column, which I append, and also call Jerry Falwell to discuss the fine points involved. I personally think Ridge would make the best candidate because I think he has been a great governor for Pennsylvanians and would make a wonderful vice president.