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Jewish World Review Feb. 2, 2001/ 10 Teves, 5761

Wesley Pruden

Wes Pruden
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A few small surprises
and a large lesson

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- NO SURPRISES. Well, no big ones, but maybe one or two little ones.

Chris Dodd of Connecticut, who hangs out with Teddy Kennedy, nevertheless voted to confirm John Ashcroft as George W.'s attorney general, and Joe Lieberman, who walks to synagogue and rides whatever opportunity may be at hand, voted not to.

The margin of 58 to 42 was about what the Senate leaders, both Democrat and Republican, expected as the clerk began to call the roll.

Anyone who sifted through the roll call could tell, and quickly, that the vote was not really about John Ashcroft. The senators know him well, and know that the questions raised about his character, his decency and integrity are as authentic as Teddy Kennedy's ethics or Joe Lieberman's elaborate professions of religiosity.

Jean Carnahan, who hitched a ride on her husband's funeral hearse to Washington to succeed Mr. Ashcroft as the junior senator from Missouri, voted against him because he "was just too divisive for our country." Naturally, her vote was "an act of conscience."

Some conscience. Some gratitude. Nobody has yet elected Jean Carnahan to anything, and she would not be a senator if John Ashcroft had not as a gesture of respect for her waived an election contest in the courts that he very likely would have won. She was appointed to fill the seat after her husband, killed in a plane crash a fortnight before the election, defeated Mr. Ashcroft after he was dead. Missouri law specifies that an eligible candidate must be a "resident" of Missouri. Once dead, most people stay that way. Except in Missouri, where Mrs. Carnahan discovered opportunity in the wreckage of the plane.

Mr. Lieberman, who said he had known John Ashcroft for 40 years and had never questioned his decency, honesty and integrity, insisted, before anyone asked, that Mr. Ashcroft's devout Christian faith was not the reason he voted no. "It is Senator Ashcroft's record, not his religion, we should judge today." (Judging his religion, presumably, can wait until tomorrow.)

Mr. Lieberman no doubt thinks he should have been Mr. Ashcroft's model. Joe renounced himself, his Orthodox Jewish faith shrinking it from "Orthodox" to "observant" to assuage those offended by actual religious belief and even his political convictions when he was chosen to campaign as Al Gore's sidekick. When he returned to the Senate last month, Joe tweaked his convictions once more, as if tweaking software. He hasn't erased the memory of the high life of a presidential campaign and his colleagues see him now nurturing pretensions of running again. Hence his vote to ingratiate himself with the hard left that controls Democratic nominating conventions.

It was precisely Mr. Ashcroft's faith, however, that was too much for Chuck Schumer of New York, a man doomed to being Junior in the permanent shadow of Hillary Clinton. Mr. Schumer, no doubt struggling to get noticed, told Mr. Ashcroft during the contentious hearings that his Christian faith was of such intensity that it appeared to have affected his mind. Yesterday he had to vote no to keep crazy Christers out of the Cabinet.

The Ashcroft vote is further evidence that the party's bump-and-grind toward the center may be short-lived. Bill Clinton, a pragmatist for all his Priapean adventuring, is gone, and with him any impulse the party may have had toward the moderate middle.

Several Democrats from the South, where lately signs of life were detected in what had looked a lot like Democratic corpses, voted against the prevailing sentiment in their states. Fritz Hollings ignored a resolution by South Carolina's organized Baptists, casting his vote against Mr. Ashcroft, and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana similarly discounted the wishes of evangelical Christian constituencies ever more likely to drift to an emerging Republican majority.

Mr. Ashcroft was sworn in late Thursday by Justice Clarence Thomas, with whom he had shared an office in Jefferson City in the 1970s when they were assistant state attorneys general. President Bush pronounced himself "very pleased" to have his Cabinet in place, "ready to work for the American people." Said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer: "The votes have been bipartisan, and this vote by definition, too, is bipartisan."

But only by stretching the definition. Accusing an innocent man of racism, by mocking his religious faith for cheap advantage, and twisting arms to get senators to vote against a man they all knew had been grievously lied about, the Democratic leadership signaled that the party intends to fight very dirty, indeed.

JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

Up

01/31/01: Serving fried crow in the press mess
01/26/01: The gathering storm over Jesse Jackson
01/23/01: A graceless getaway, a graceful beginning
01/19/01: Once more to wave the bloody shirt
01/16/01: Bring on the lions, the clowns are ready
01/12/01: The dastardly plot to restore slavery
01/10/01: Mr. Lott's generosity to the Dems
01/05/01: Looking to the past for a bad example
01/03/01: A modest proposal for Arkansas folk
12/19/00: The reflexive sneer at George W. Bush
12/15/00: Taking inspiration from John Birch
12/12/00: It's time to raise high Florida's standards
12/08/00: A President Bush, and about time, too
12/05/00: Here come the judge --- and he's got a hook
11/28/00: Cry no tears for Al, lawyers are the losers
11/21/00: The useful loathing of America's sons
11/17/00: When this is all over, we spray for lawyers
11/14/00: Something murky in the twilight zone

11/10/00: Something sinister in Palm Beach

11/07/00: Low days in the life of the ruptured duck

11/06/00: A little race baiting in the final hours

11/01/00: Creator gets a hard time on the hustings

10/27/00: The sorcerer rides to rescue his apprentice

10/25/00: The founding father with a story to tell

10/23/00: A lonely passion for religious rights

10/16/00: Spending blood on the folly of fools

10/11/00: A big night for the embellisher-in-chief

10/06/00: AlGore's black problem

10/04/00: In headlong pursuit of the bigot vote

10/02/00: A modest proposal for Rick Lazio

09/27/00: When folks at home give up on a scamp

09/25/00: Gore plot exposed! The secret minutes

09/18/00: Playing politics with the blood supply

09/14/00: Al sets out to find his 'tolerance level'

09/12/00: When it's time for a thumb in the eye

09/07/00: Making a daughter a campaign asset

09/04/00: A footnote to the lie: How he beats the rap

08/30/00: Unbearable lightness of a cyberjournal

08/21/00: Clinton chickens on AlGore's roost

08/16/00: The long goodbye to California's cash

08/09/00: Innocence by proxy is a risky scheme

08/07/00: After insulin shock, an authentic rouser

08/02/00: When it gets hard not to get a little giddy

07/31/00: George W.'s legions of summer soldiers

07/26/00: He's set a surprise --- or a trap for himself

07/24/00: How do you serve a turkey in August?

07/19/00: Would Hillary sling a lie about a slur?

07/17/00: Process, not peace, at a Velveeta summit

07/12/00: The Texas two-step, a nudge and a wink

07/10/00: The Great Mentioner and his busy season

07/05/00: No Mexican standoff in these results

07/03/00: Denting a few egos in the U.S. Senate

06/28/00: Bureaucracy amok! Punctuation in peril!

06/26/00: The water torture of American resolve

06/21/00: The happy hangman is a busy hangman

06/19/00: Dick Gephardt finds a Dixie dreamboat

06/14/00: Taking a byte out of innovation

06/12/00: 'Go away, little boy, you're bothering us'

06/07/00: When a little envy is painful to watch

06/05/00: Fire and thunder, bubble and squeak

05/31/00: South of the border, politics is pepper

05/26/00: Running out of luck with home folks

05/24/00: The heart says no, but the head says yes

05/22/00: A fine opportunity to set an example

05/17/00: The Sunday school for Republicans

05/15/00: Hillary's surrogate for telling tall tales

05/10/00: Listening to the voice of an authentic man

05/08/00: First a lot of bluster, then the retreat

05/02/00: Good news for Rudy, bad news for Hillary

04/28/00: The long goodbye to Elian's boyhood

04/25/00: Spooked by Castro, Bubba blinks

04/14/00: One flag down and two memorials to go

04/11/00: Consistency finds a jewel in Janet Reno

04/07/00: Here's the good word (and it's in English)

04/04/00: When bureaucrats mock the courts

03/28/00: How Hollywood sets the virtual table

03/24/00: Dissing a president can ruin a whole day

03/20/00: When shame begets the painful insult

03/14/00: The risky business of making an apology

03/10/00: The pouters bugging a weary John McCain

03/07/00: When all good things (sob) come to an end

© 2000 Wes Pruden