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Jewish World Review Feb. 6, 2001 / 13 Shevat, 5761

James Lileks

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Can you say Ayatollah Bush? -- BUSH proposes federal grants to religious charities on the same day Madeline Murray O'Hare's bones are found. St. Anselm aside, this is probably the best proof that G-d not only exists, but has an exquisite sense of the ironic.

Of course, for some it's just proof that a long dark night of religious jackbootery has finally descended. Government grants to Unitarian food shelves is just the beginning, brother. Soon your daughters' chainmail chastity belts will clink melodically as they walk, heads down, from Shame School to their jobs in the Bible Bindery. Crosses will rise over the Post Office! In every government office, cackling Jesuits with whips will force civil servants to run the Constitution through the shredder! It's the age of unreason the left has long predicted. What else could we expect from a man whose campaign rhetoric clearly warned us all? Just listen to these fundamentalist pronouncements, and despair:

"Let us put the solutions that faith-based organizations are pioneering at the very heart of our national strategy for building a better, more just nation. Many people in the faith-based organizations want their role to be not exemplary, but strategic; not to be merely a shining anecdote in a pretty story told by a politician, but to have a seat at the national table when decisions get made."

Yipes. And here's the scary stuff that should have warned you all. "Today I give you this pledge: if you elect me President, the voices of faith-based organizations will be integral to the policies set forth in my administration."

Good thing he lost the race, eh?

That's right: the quote above was made by Al Gore in May 1999. We repeat: AL GORE. Back before he picked himself up by the short hairs on his neck and dragged himself to the left, Gore offered to give federal money to FBOs.

We pause while some people recalibrate their sense of outrage and begin to sputter rationales. While they're adjusting, some words from Honest Joe Lieberman in 1996, back when he still had a reputation to shred:

"The men and women who run faith-based missions for the homeless . . . recognize, as do the large majority of homeless people themselves, that missions inspired by religious conviction are able to do a better job providing for those who have no home. Government cannot solve the problem of homelessness on its own."

Heresy! Oh, but it gets even sweeter. Who's the leader of the club who loved those FBOs? Who first proposed the amendment to allow FBOs to bid for government service? Yes, it was the left's demon du jour, John "Pretty Dang Close toHitler" Ashcroft. Bradley voted for Ashcroft's proposal. Gore, Leiberman, Bradley, Ashcroft: all singing from the same page of the hymnal.

So why did Gore get a pass when he pressed the Bible to his chest and promised the very thing Bush is proposing? Well, Gore's flacks said FBOs wouldn't "deliver government services," thereby avoiding the entanglement issue. Since they can define "government services" however they like, it would render moot any true effort to use FBOs. Except when they produce the aformentioned "pretty anecdote."

But no liberal voter ever really believed Gore would push for FBO aid. Oh, he might have signed a watered-down version if it was offered to him, and had a few juicy riders that legalized baby clone-farms for fetal-tissue research. Politics is the art of the compromise, after all. But he wouldn't have brought it up in his first month on the job. He would have been huffing and puffing for something great and green and global, such as using the Marines to confiscate genetically-modified popcorn in Botswana.

Bush said it; Bush meant it. You have your choice: the brilliant Gore who lies to you, or the supposedly dim Bush who does what he says he'd do.

If Bush really wanted to put the knife in, he'd say that this was Gore's idea in the first place. He's merely doing what all the Dems insisted: he's adopting Gore's policies in the interests of unity, of healing. Why, Perhaps Gore would like to be the head of the commission?

Of course not. Gore has a job. He's going to be a journalism professor. Suggested first lesson: newspaper readers have computers and search engines. People may forget the stances your party once took. The Internet doesn't.

JWR contributor James Lileks is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


01/24/01: The new Executive Orders
01/22/01: Hey, Dubya: Wanna save Ashcroft? Teach him to rap!
01/09/01: Bubba gets his last licks
01/05/01: The low-down on the coming recession (What those snooty economists won't tell you)
12/23/00: Memo to Dubya: Wanna show who is boss? Nuke 'em!
12/06/00: The Count of Carthage
At the Sore/Loserman Transition HQ
12/01/00: The Count of Carthage
11/28/00: Clinton knows history isn't written by the victors anymore
11/17/00: Chad's the word
11/08/00: The strangest political night
11/07/00: Get ready to return to the Dark Ages

© 2000, James Lileks