If she actually believed that millions of human lives were at stake, Ms. Dole surely wouldn't try to build a holy crusade around refusal to discuss the matter. Nor would she blame the media for an "inordinate focus" on the issue.
Lamar Alexander's way out is worth noting, though it doesn't rise to the level of illogic. Mr. Alexander says that we should "move state-by-state to change laws and culture so there will be fewer abortions."
Well, you see, Mr. Alexander, Roe vs. Wade held that state anti-abortion laws are unconstitutional. Maybe -- to give him the extreme benefit of the doubt -- he means that he favors overturning Roe vs. Wade by Supreme Court decision, not by constitutional amendment.
This is an unlikely occurrence and, combined with the state-by-state business, a rather leisurely approach if you honestly believe that the slaughter of innocents is going on daily.
Finally, since the subject is Republicans, logic, jurisprudence and advanced metaphysical speculation, you're probably wondering where Mr. Quayle comes down. Mr. Quayle agrees with everybody else that a constitutional amendment is not going to happen: "But that's not important. The important issue is where you stand on this important debate. I have always been pro-life."
In other words, as long as you profess to believe that human life begins at conception and that abortion is murder, it's not important whether you actually do anything about it.
This is, of course, a truer statement of the GOP position on abortion than any other candidate's. But it is more than that. Mr. Quayle may actually have produced a compromise in what seemed to be a war of moral absolutes.
Speaking, if I may, for the other side of the debate: Anti-abortion folks may profess any principles they care to, as long as they agree not to act on them. They can actually believe what they say, for all I care.
Though I doubt, in the case of most Republican presidential candidates, that this last concession will be necessary.
Michael Kinsley is editor of Slate, an online magazine, in which this first appeared.