INDIANAPOLIS—It’s time to take Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita seriously.
I don’t mean that in a good way.
I often have made fun of Rokita’s constant grasping for power and political advancement, his increasingly pathetic attempts to win the favor of the rabid alt-right base that he thinks will propel him up the next rung of the ladder. He was easy to poke fun at because his maneuverings and motivations were so obvious and his need for some—any—validation from any pocket of voters was so desperate. He was like the heavy in a comic strip.
So, I made jokes about what Rokita was doing.
I was wrong to do so.
That’s because our attorney general is dangerous.
Rokita seems to care no more about right and wrong than a natural disaster does.
He wreaks havoc across our civic and political landscape as untroubled by the damage he does as a tornado, hurricane or earthquake would be. The devastation he leaves in his wake—the lives he harms, the faith in law, justice and the very idea of self-government he undermines—seems not to touch his conscience at all.
The only thing that seems to matter is that he gets what he wants, so he does his best to lay waste to whatever stands in his path.
The most recent obstacle to Rokita’s compulsive quest to be elected to whatever office is available to him is Dr. Caitlin Bernard.
Bernard performed an abortion for a 10-year-old girl from Ohio who had been raped. The young girl and her parents had to come to Indiana for the medical procedure because the Buckeye state had rushed to impose draconian abortion laws after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
It was a sad situation. A little girl had been violated and, as a result, she and her parents were left with a desperate choice to make.
They turned to Bernard for help.
And she provided it.
Almost all feeling human beings would see that as a tragedy and Bernard as a kind soul who offered care and comfort to a family in great need of both.
But our attorney general seemed to see something else.
A path forward.
A chance to court the most fervent right-wing Hoosier voters.
Before it was possible for him to even know what happened, Rokita rushed onto Fox News to charge Bernard with assorted offenses against law and decency. His charges were so demonstrably untrue that even Fox began to back away from them almost immediately.
Bernard and her legal team demonstrated that she had met every requirement to report both the crime against the girl and procedure the law demands. She also honored her duty to her patient, a fact that the attorney general seemed never to consider.
The fact that he was clearly wrong didn’t even slow Rokita down, much less stop him. He continued a campaign of persecution against the doctor, conjuring up new ways to harass her that demeaned his office and any notion that a lawyer—in fact, the state’s lawyer—was an officer of the court and thus obligated to uphold the law.
His most recent assault against both legal norms and decency itself came in the form of a complaint Rokita filed with the medical licensing board asking for Bernard to be disciplined. He accompanied that complaint with a public statement that stacked one untruth on top of another on top of yet another.
The doctor and her lawyer are working to hold Rokita accountable with a civil suit. They argue that he has defamed her. There is considerable truth to Bernard’s argument.
If she wins, the doctor will be able to make Rokita answer for his offenses toward her.
But that’s not enough.
The wanton misbehavior by the attorney general isn’t just a wrong done to an individual. It’s an assault on the idea of law itself.
Indiana cannot continue to have as its top law-enforcement official a man who treats the U.S. and Indiana constitutions and the rule of law the way a dog treats a fire hydrant.
I’ve made jokes about Todd Rokita in the past.
I regret that now.
Because he must be taken seriously.
And, again, not in a good way.