The notion that Pennsylvania Governor Bob Casey was denied a speaking spot at the 1992 convention because of his pro-life views is oddly topical again. Here is a post from Josh Patashnik of TNR, a response from The Corner, and the Bob Somerby post that seemed to have sparked this.
I puzzled over this back in 2005, when Atrios was fulminating about the fact that Peter Beinart, a noted member of the VRWC, was propagating that "myth". (Nat Hentoff, writing for the June 2000 TNR, is another propagater).
My quick response - the organizers of the 1992 Democratic Convention had a candidate with his back to the wall, and were looking for a unified, upbeat convention to get him back in the race. Having a Governor deliver a controversial pro-life speech would have been hopelessly off-message, so Casey was shut out. The alternative notion being peddled by Begala et al - that if Casey had endorsed Clinton he would have been granted a chance to get himself booed off the stage and create headlines such as "Dem Convention In Abortion Uproar" - is absurd.
The longer version is in my 2005 post:
So what do we make of this?
The Dem defense is offered by the always credible and engaging Paul Begala who, with James Carville, became geniuses by working with Gov. Casey in Pennsylvania to help elect Wofford Harris to the Senate in 1991. By 1992, they were both working for Bill Clinton, and were intent on having a "successful" convention.
But what is a "successful" convention? This seems to be the nub of the dispute. Prior to the convention, Clinton trailed both Bush and Perot in the polls and his campaign was on life support. The convention organizers, including Paul Begala, James Carville, and Ron Brown, wanted a unified, upbeat convention that could re-launch their candidate for the fall campaign.
Gov. Casey, on the other hand, was an ardent pro-lifer holding out against the national pro-choice direction of the Democratic Party.
Beyond that, Casey himself was in the news - a 1992 Supreme Court ruling (Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey) upheld legislative restrictions on abortion led by Casey in Pennsylvania. Casey had hoped to use the 1992 convention to urge the Democratic Party to support his position at the national level...
Well. Here we have the conflict of visions: Casey apparently believed that a national convention was an opportunity for different factions within the party to air their differences and attempt to influence the platform.
The slightly-ahead of their time organizers of the Democratic Convention, on the other hand, quite sensibly viewed the convention as a wonderful four day media extravaganza which should be used to promote the candidate. Having Casey give an ardent pro-life speech that might lead to headlines reading "Democrats Divided On Abortion; Governor Booed" apparently did not strike them as consistent with their media strategy.
Was Casey denied a speaking spot because of his pro-life views, or his failure to endorse Clinton? It's a trick question - he was not inclined to endorse Clinton, in part because of the abortion question.
If Casey had endorsed Clinton, would he have been allowed to deliver a plea for moderation on abortion rights, and risk causing an uproar at the convention? Ahh! Casey's spin on this is that dissent was not being tolerated; his reception by the platform committee supports this; the absence of other speakers advocating a pro-life position (as distinct from a pro-lifer talking about, e.g, education or taxes) also supports this; and the general media strategy in place supports this.
I am going to surprise everyone and come down on the side of Beinart and the AP. The Begala/Atrios spin amounts to saying "Casey was denied a spot because he was off-message"; well, that is what Beinart is saying as well.