My Republican friends have defended President-elect George W. Bush (even while admitting that he may not be the brightest bulb in the lamp) by insisting that he will compensate for his deficiencies by putting “good people” around him.
My Republican friends have defended President-elect George W. Bush (even while admitting that he may not be the brightest bulb in the lamp) by insisting that he will compensate for his deficiencies by putting “good people” around him. Despite his pre-election dependence on the likes of Marvin Olasky and Stephen Goldsmith, most folks in the party mainstream truly believed that “Dubya” would shake off the radical right and govern from the middle. No matter that affable Dick Cheney has a voting record that would embarrass Attila the Hun; no matter the public protestations of official Christianity; no matter the visit to Bob Jones University…all of these danger signals were dismissed as liberal spin.
So now Dubya has nominated soon-to-be ex-Senator John Ashcroft to be the nation’s chief law enforcement officer. John Ashcroft—who has proposed and sponsored a variety of constitutional amendments that, if passed, would fundamentally change the American legal system—is to be in charge of safeguarding that system. John Ashcroft—who has vigorously opposed women’s reproductive freedoms—is to enforce the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrance law. John Ashcroft—who is outspokenly homophobic and arguably racist—is to be the chief defender of American civil rights.
Pat Robertson, one of Ashcroft’s greatest boosters, will be so happy.
Here is just a random sampling of Ashcroft’s opinions about homosexuality, culled from a brief jaunt through cyberspace:
· “Homosexuality is clearly a choice—a choice that can be made and unmade.”
· Schools should be allowed to refuse to hire gays and lesbians.
· After voting against James Hormel’s ambassadorship nomination in committee, Ashcroft said he would also oppose him in a Senate vote. He explained that homosexuality is a sin; “People who are nominated to represent this country have to be evaluated for whether they represent the country well and fairly. His conduct and the way in which he would represent the United States is probably not up to the standard that I would expect. He has been a leader in promoting a lifestyle..And the kind of leadership he’s exhibited there is likely to be offensive to…individuals in the setting to which he will be assigned.”
· Ashcroft defended Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Reggie White, after the football player made widely publicized and highly offensive homophobic comments. “You are a credit to sports at a time when many ‘stars’ set the wrong example,” Ashcroft wrote White in a letter later made public.
While the African-American community will vigorously oppose the nomination, along with civil rights and civil liberties groups, I’m betting on confirmation. Senators dislike voting against former colleagues, and Ashcroft will serve in the Senate until his successor is sworn in to office in January. (Those of us who enjoyed watching his defeat by “a dead guy” had a relatively short period to gloat.)
President-elect Bush has been quoted on several occasions to the effect that his actions will speak louder than his words. “Watch what I do,” he has urged us. I’m watching. And what I see can be interpreted in either of two ways, neither of which is very comforting. Either Ashcroft represents the “real” George Bush, in which case my friends who believe Dubya will govern as a centrist are deluding themselves; or the nomination is a cynical pay-off to the Christian Right by a politician unconcerned with the consequences. Unfortunately, it is hard to imagine a more dangerous post for an ideologue who believes that his personal version of Christianity should trump the United States Constitution and the rule of law.
Not long after Gore conceded, Jon Stewart of the Daily Show ran a brief news clip of Dubya’s response. It ended with the just-anointed President-elect asking Americans to pray for the country. Steward paused, looked at the camera, shook his head and said “We’re way ahead of you, George.”
I don’t know about all of you, but I’m praying. Hard.