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Jewish World Review Jan. 16, 2001/ 21 Teves, 5761

Wesley Pruden

Wes Pruden
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Bring on the lions, the clowns are ready -- THE U.S. SENATE opens its confirmation circus this morning, and some of the senators haven't had this much fun tormenting devout Christians since the Romans amused themselves throwing believers to the lions.

Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, one of the most partisan of the Democrats, suggested yesterday that John Ashcroft's faith might even have damaged his mind. Like, uh, anyone who really believes that Christ stuff must be a little nuts.

"It may be," says Mr. Schumer, "that his philosophical and ideological beliefs are so deep that even if he believes he is enforcing the law, he isn't."

Other Democrats, expecting to lose their fight to prevent Mr. Ashcroft from making it to the Bush Cabinet, warn darkly that even if he is confirmed he can expect further harassment. "If he says one thing at the hearings, and then does something else as attorney general," a Democratic aide hiding bravely behind the usual anonymity, told Reuters, "we'd call him back and ask him to explain why."

Mr. Ashcroft's tormentors continued yesterday to look for ringers to use against his candidacy. An "interfaith" group of somewhat vague ancestry, which appears to comprise the usual suspects accustomed to preaching to empty pews, urged the Senate Judiciary Committee, which opens hearings this morning, to ask Mr. Ashcroft the usual when-did-you-stop-beating-your-wife question: If confirmed, would he allow Christianity to be imposed on public institutions and sanction discrimination against other faiths.

"Religion in the public square must respect the rights of others to practice faith without imposing one ideology or belief," said the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, a Baptist preacher who is executive director of the Interfaith Alliance. As the attorney general, Mr. Ashcroft "would be charged with upholding and fully enforcing the constitutional rights and liberties of faith groups that he clearly judges to be wrong and in need of correction." Mr. Gaddy does not say which "faith groups" he thinks Mr. Ashcroft believes are "wrong" and "in need of correction." (Several bystanders were all but overcome by the stench of the sanctimony.)

Nor does Mr. Gaddy acknowledge that Mr. Ashcroft has, in the past, said emphatically that his own Pentecostal faith like Mr. Gaddy's professed Baptist faith teaches that it is wrong to impose his religious beliefs on others. Mr. Ashcroft's critics take care to pay tribute to his reputation as a man of conscience and character.

But religious divines like C. Welton Gaddy and his colleagues do not actually believe that Mr. Ashcroft intends to send federal agents armed with automatic rifles into private homes (that was Janet Reno's schtick) to make them sing "Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound" any more than the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton believe that Mr. Ashcroft will haul out the fire hoses and unleash the Dobermans to drive little black children back to the cotton fields.

Charles Evers, the brother of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, is right about John Ashcroft, and they know it. Mr. Evers, the former mayor of Fayette, Miss., sent letters yesterday on behalf of Mr. Ashcroft to two members of the Judiciary Committee, Teddy Kennedy of Massachusetts, who with Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts guards the pure blue flame of morality as Democrats understand it, and Orrin Hatch of Utah, the Republican chairman. "Senator Ashcroft is a man of tremendous experience and high integrity," Mr. Evers wrote. "The allegations of racism against him are not supported by facts. A look at Senator Ashcroft's record as governor of Missouri and as a United States senator shows that he voted to confirm 23 of 26 African American judicial appointments."

It's all in the game, and the game is to strangle the new administration in the cradle as the overture to '04. A key handful of the Democratic senators, including but not limited to the junior senator from New York, are already candidates, and the first opportunity to put down markers arrives this morning.

The Democrats not only understand knee-in-the-groin, thumb-in-the-eye politics, but relish it, like the cowboy who rides into town on Saturday night looking for a saloon to break up and goes home disappointed if neither eye has been blackened. It's John Ashcroft's luck, if he will pardon the metaphor, that the Democrats elected his saloon.

George W. knows this, and he must hope that all his men (and women) understand this, too. No matter how rough the fight gets, no matter how tempting it may be to retreat into Republican tradition and turn tail, they cannot even for a nanosecond entertain thoughts of pulling the plug. Not this time, or they're all dead.

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


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