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Jewish World Review Jan. 22, 2001 / 27 Teves, 5761

Michael Ledeen

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Ashcroft the Jew -- JOHN ASHCROFT now knows what it feels like to be a Jew, for his tormentors in the Senate have slimed him with the oldest and most disgusting anti-Semitic slander: the accusation of dual loyalty. One after another, the anti-Ashcroft Democrats have accused him of harboring beliefs that they do not share, and that they consider anti-American, and they have insinuated that these beliefs will prevent him from being a fair and just attorney general.

We should be ashamed of them (they are seemingly beneath shame), and we should unhesitatingly brand them as bigots, unworthy of high office.

Just a few months ago, these pious defenders of Americanism launched a preemptive strike against anyone who might insinuate that Joe Lieberman might find his core beliefs in conflict with his job-to-be as vice president. At that time, they denounced anyone with such a crazy idea as an anti-Semite, if not an outright Nazi, just as they have long condemned anyone who voiced the canard that no American Jew could defend American interests in the event of conflict or disagreement with the state of Israel.

But they have brazenly discarded these fine rules of decency and common sense in the case of a conservative Christian like Ashcroft, and this foul hypocrisy demands close examination. Their zealous persecution of Ashcroft for an imagined dual loyalty is not merely political opportunism, not just a way to frighten their own faithful with the specter of runaway right-wing fanaticism, not only the latest fund-raising scare tactic. It is certainly all that, but it is more. It is a primal scream from radical secularists who cringe at the sight of a person of faith, for they want all such persons — and their core beliefs — banned from the public square, driven from the schools, censored on the pages of the intellectual journals and the evening news broadcasts. They have convinced themselves, and a majority of the chatterers and scribblers, that the Constitution is an anti-religious tract, and that religious people are dangerous to the survival of the republic.

They are wrong. Indeed, their tirades against Ashcroft's religiosity are in direct violation of Article 6 of the Constitution, which says: "No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." Thus, Ashcroft's beliefs are not proper subjects for Senatorial inquiry in the matter of his confirmation, any more than critics of Lieberman were entitled to parse his Sabbath prayers for grounds to oppose his candidacy. "No religious test" means just that.

Moreover, Ashcroft's inquisitioners are at odds with the convictions of the American people, who have long been recognized as the most religious people in the world, and who violate one of the most cherished principles of radical secularism and contemporary sociology: the quaint conviction that societies become less religious as they become more "developed." America is at once the most religious and the most developed society on earth. The anti-religion crowd in the Senate, and their fellow provocateurs in the media and the academy are the real foes of Americanism.

We should be pleased to see men and women of strong religious conviction named to high office, for they are the most reliable guarantors of our democracy. As Alexis de Tocqueville, the most profound student of American democracy, wrote nearly two hundred years ago:

(Religion) is more needed in democratic republics than in any others. How is it possible that society should escape destruction if the moral tie is not strengthened in proportion as the political tie is relaxed? And what can be done with a people who are their own masters if they are not submissive to the Deity?

It is particularly painful to see Jews like Sen. Schumer, and Catholics like Sen. Kennedy denounce religious faith in others, after fighting so many battles for people of their own faiths. Does Kennedy not remember his late brother, the sainted John Fitzgerald, appearing before the Baptists to assure them that he would not be taking orders from Vatican City? How dare he apply to Ashcroft the properly discredited standard that was so foully hurled at his brother? And how dare Schumer permit accusations of dual loyalty to be leveled against a Christian, when he would rage at similar charges against a Jew?

The Constitution forbids it, common sense rejects it, and the Senate should denounce it. The Democrats on the Judiciary Committee will have to do a lot of penance to restore their virtue.

JWR contributor Michael Ledeen is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of Tocqueville on American Character . Comment by clicking here.


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© 2001, Michael Ledeen