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Jewish World Review July 17, 2000 /14 Tamuz, 5760

Don Feder

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Gore should reach out to the other side too -- WHY IS IT that only Republicans are expected to make goodwill gestures, reach out to the other side and try to find that mythical middle ground? Gov. George W. Bush spoke to the NAACP convention last week. But don't hold your breath waiting for Vice President Al Gore to address the Christian Coalition.

As the GOP presidential candidate in 1996, Bob Dole was mauled by the media for snubbing the quota crowd. Bush, who wasn't about to repeat that mistake, came courting, hat in hand. If he hadn't, the media would have accused him of arrogance, insensitivity and an unwillingness to engage in a dialogue.

Very well, if dialogue is the order of the day, why are there no demands that Gore extend his hand to religious conservatives, a sizable community (there are 50 million evangelicals in America) that frequently clashes with the Democratic Party?

We're told Republicans must allay the justifiable fears of black voters. Religious voters have even more reason to be wary of Democrats. The Clinton-Gore administration has waged a seven-year campaign against religious voters and their values.

Clinton's Supreme Court appointments -- Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg -- are dogmatically opposed to religious expression in the public sector. Ginsburg and Breyer were also part of the minority that would have forced the Boy Scouts to abandon its moral code by accepting homosexual leaders.

If he's elected, Gore intends to continue this tradition of putting partisans on the high court.

He recently told the American Federation of Teachers that he will only appoint justices who adhere to the union's self-serving view that school vouchers are unconstitutional. Since many evangelicals send their children to church schools, they have a stake in the outcome of this debate.

Clinton bureaucrats have rarely missed an opportunity to attack the faith community. In 1994, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission tried to expand the definition of religious harassment in the workplace to include being religious in the workplace. An employer could have been punished for allowing a worker to wear a cross or say "God bless you." After a congressional outcry, the regs were quietly scrapped.

A year latter, Roberta Achtenberg, then commissar of political correctness at the Department of Housing and Urban Affairs, went after nursing homes that used religious symbols in yellow-pages advertising.

In a 1998 fund-raising letter, Clinton strategist James Carville savaged the Christian Coalition as "a tightly organized and lavishly financed right-wing group" led by "ambitious preacher-politicians" who crave power. I can't recall a leading Republican calling the NAACP a bunch of power-hungry leftists.

Adhering to biblical morality, religious conservatives are appalled by a culture that treats the death of unborn children as a choice and homosexuality as a civil-rights issue.

Other than marching in a gay-pride parade arm-in-arm with the head of Planned Parenthood, Clinton and Gore could not be further from the Bible Belt on either of these issues.

The Monica Lewinsky affair may be the worst transgression of Judeo-Christian values by a sitting president, and not just Clinton's adultery, but his attempt to subvert justice. During the impeachment proceedings, Al Gore called his boss "one of our greatest presidents." In the words of Desi Arnaz, the vice president's got some 'splaining to do.

Like Republicans and the NAACP, Gore and religious conservatives will never see eye to eye. But Americans, we oft are told, want a healer in the White House.

The vice president could establish his credentials here by following his rival's example and presenting himself to an organization that, in terms of his popularity, does not resemble a Buddhist temple fund-raiser.

Christian Coalition head Pat Robertson told me, "We'd be delighted to invite Al Gore to speak to our Road to Victory conference in September," though he cautioned the vice president that attacking the coalition from its podium, as then Democratic Party Chairman David Wilhelm did in 1993, probably would not be interpreted as a move toward reconciliation.

It would also be advisable for Gore to refrain from claiming that he invented the King James Bible.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest books are Who is afraid of the Religious Right? ($15.95) and A Jewish conservative looks at pagan America ($9.95). To receive an autographed copy, send a check or money order to: Don Feder, The Boston Herald, 1 Herald Sq., Boston, Mass. 02106. Doing so will help fund JWR, if so noted. To comment on this column click here.


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© 2000, Creators Syndicate