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From Jeri's Womb To Fred's Heart

Fred's explanation of his evolving abortion views at today's Value Voters summit strikes me as both tiresomely convenient and sinisterly shrewd.

Some people will roll their eyes at the candidate's story of how the ultrasound of he and Jeri's daughter Hayden, born in 2003, helped him understand the life issue with his "heart" rather than just his "head." But this is exactly the sort of fuzzy, personal-experience talk that evangelical Christians love.

I remember thinking that George Bush's Jesus-is-my-favorite-philosopher line in 2000 was pathetic: Not because Bush cited Jesus, but because, when asked to elaborate on why, the only weak-ass answer W. could come up with was, "Because he changed my heart." Bush was asking us to believe that he was a serious Christian, and this vague nonsense was the best he had to offer?

But, of course! How could I have forgotten every endless Sunday sermon of my childhood? "Heart" and personal experience and one's direct communion with God go to the very core of evangelical Christianity. While Catholics may worry about doctrinal matters and what church leaders think about issue x, evangelicals are all about the feeling and what you--yes, you there in the blue shirt!--have personally experienced in your one-on-one walk with God.

So while I might think it's kind of pathetic that Thompson couldn't really get with the pro-life program until he saw pics of his daughter in the womb--and, more to the point, that he somehow thinks his personal parenting experience is important enough to be the basis for policy--my guess is that much of his evangelical audience had the exact opposite reaction.

Heart is indeed a key code word. Bush knew that. And while I, much like James Dobson, don't for one second believe that Fred is a committed Christian of the same sort as Bush, I am impressed that he was prepared enough today to fake it.

--Michelle Cottle