Keyes: Obama holds 'slaveholder's' view
Keyes: Obama holds 'slaveholder's' view
August 9, 2004
Republican Alan Keyes ripped into Democratic rival Barack Obama's views on abortion Monday, calling them "the slaveholder's position," as the U.S. Senate race roared back to life in Illinois.
Up at dawn for a whirlwind round of broadcast interviews, the conservative former diplomat started his first full day of campaigning as the GOP candidate by saying Obama, a state senator from Chicago, had violated the principle that all men are created equal by voting against a bill that would have outlawed a form of late-term abortion.
Keyes said legalizing abortion deprives the unborn of their equal rights.
"I would still be picking cotton if the country's moral principles had not been shaped by the Declaration of Independence," Keyes said. He said Obama "has broken and rejected those principles-- he has taken the slaveholder's position."
The remarks underscore the uniqueness of this Senate race in which both candidates, one an outspoken conservative and the other a favorite of party liberals, are black.
Obama, who has been basking in national celebrity since delivering the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention, suggested Keyes is outside the moderate mainstream of state Republicans.
He said he voted against the late-term abortion ban in Springfield because it contained no exception to protect the life of the mother. He noted that Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and federal appeals Judge Richard Posner, both appointed by President Ronald Reagan, had voted to strike down laws banning late-term abortions.
Asked specifically about the phrase "slaveholder's position," Obama said Keyes "should look to members of his own party to see if that's appropriate if he's going to use that kind of language."
Keyes, who is from Maryland and lost two Senate races in that state, on Sunday accepted the GOP nomination to replace primary winner Jack Ryan, who dropped out of the race in June over embarrassing sex club allegations.
Illinois conservatives, who have long taken a back seat to business-oriented party moderates, engineered the selection of Keyes as the replacement candidate.
Monday afternoon, he was officially listed by the State Board of Elections as the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate. The Keyes campaign confirmed that the Calumet City address listed, in Chicago's southern suburbs, is Keyes' new Illinois home.
Obama said he didn't question the sincerity of those who are deeply concerned about abortion, but he said he believed there are many other issues on the minds of voters.
"As I travel around this state, I don't get asked about gay marriage, I don't get asked about abortion," Obama said. "I get asked, 'How can I find a job that allows me to support my family.' I get asked, 'How can I pay those medical bills without going into bankruptcy."
He said that if Keyes uses the Senate campaign only as a platform "to espouse his socially conservative views, then I think the voters of Illinois are going to be disappointed and they will respond appropriately."
One issue of importance for Illinois right now is delays caused by congestion at O'Hare International Airport. Mayor Richard M. Daley has been pushing for expansion of O'Hare, backed by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., but opposed by Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, R-Ill., whose announced retirement launched the scramble for his seat.
Asked about O'Hare on WBEZ radio Monday, Keyes said he had not yet developed any position on the issue of expansion.
"The problem must be addressed," Keyes said. He promised to "try to reach a conclusion that is in the best interests of the economic future of the state and the quality of life" of those who live in the area. "The one thing I won't be bound by is any existing set of political obligations."
In the same interview, he defended his belief that gay marriage is wrong, brushing aside a suggestion from an interviewer that sexual preference might be biologically determined.
"We as human beings cannot assert that our sexual desires cannot be controlled," Keyes said. He said such a claim would "consign us to the real of instinctual animal nature-- and we are not there."
The race between Keyes and Obama sets up the first U.S. Senate election with two black candidates representing the major parties and almost assures Illinois will produce only the fifth black U.S. Senator in history.
Obama said Monday that there would be "a sufficient number of debates" between himself and Keyes-- both men are Harvard-educated, polished debaters-- but not the seven such clashes he had promised Ryan.
"That was the home-state special," Obama cracked. He declined to set a specific number, adding that staffers in the two campaigns would iron on the details later.