Slapping the Other Cheek

By MAUREEN DOWD

New York Times

November 14, 2004

You'd think the one good thing about merging church and state would be that politics would be suffused with glistening Christian sentiments like "love thy neighbor," "turn the other cheek," "good will toward men," "blessed be the peacemakers" and "judge not lest you be judged."

Yet somehow I'm not getting a peace, charity, tolerance and forgiveness vibe from the conservatives and evangelicals who claim to have put their prodigal son back in office.

I'm getting more the feel of a vengeful mob - revved up by rectitude - running around with torches and hatchets after heathens and pagans and infidels.

One fiery Southern senator actually accused a nice Catholic columnist of having horns coming up out of her head!

Bob Jones III, president of the fundamentalist college of the same name, has written a letter to the president telling him that "Christ has allowed you to be his servant" so he could "leave an imprint for righteousness," by appointing conservative judges and approving legislation "defined by biblical norm."

"In your re-election, God has graciously granted America - though she doesn't deserve it - a reprieve from the agenda of paganism," Mr. Jones wrote. "Put your agenda on the front burner and let it boil. You owe the liberals nothing. They despise you because they despise your Christ." Way harsh.

The Christian avengers and inquisitors, hearts hard as marble, are chasing poor 74-year-old Arlen Specter through the Capitol's marble halls, determined to flagellate him and deny him his cherished goal of taking over the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Not only are they irate at his fairly innocuous comment after the election that anti-Roe v. Wade judges would have a hard time getting through the Senate. They are also full of bloodthirsty feelings of revenge against the senator for championing stem cell research and for voting against Robert Bork - who denounces Mr. Specter as "a bit shifty" - 17 years ago.

"He is a problem, and he must be derailed," Dr. James Dobson, founder and chairman of Focus on the Family, told George Stephanopoulos.

Sounding more like the head of a mob family than a ministry, Dr. Dobson told Mr. Stephanopoulos about a warning he issued a White House staffer after the election that the president and Republicans had better deliver on issues like abortion, gay marriage and conservative judges or "I believe they'll pay a price in the next election."

Certainly Mr. Specter has done his part for the conservative cause. He accused Anita Hill of "flat-out perjury" for a minor inconsistency in her testimony against Clarence Thomas, that good Christian jurist who once had a taste for porn films.

Some in the White House thought of giving Mr. Specter the post and then keeping him on a short leash. But the power puritans have no mercy. They say he's a mealy-mouthed impediment to the crusade of evangelicals and conservative Catholic bishops - who delivered their vote with ruthless efficacy - to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Mr. Stephanopoulos asked Dr. Dobson about his comment to The Daily Oklahoman that "Patrick Leahy is a 'God's people-hater.' I don't know if he hates God, but he hates God's people," noting that it was not a particularly Christian thing to say about the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. (Especially after that vulgar un-Christian thing Dick Cheney spat at Mr. Leahy last summer.)

"George," Dr. Dobson haughtily snapped back, "do you think you ought to lecture me on what a Christian is all about?" Why not? The TV host is the son of a Greek Orthodox priest.

Acting as though Mr. Bush's decisions should be taken on faith, John Ashcroft lashed into judges for not giving Mr. Bush unbridled power in his war against terror.

Speaking Friday before an adulatory Federalist Society, a group of conservative lawyers, Mr. Ashcroft echoed remarks he made to the Senate soon after 9/11 arguing that objecting to the president's antiterror proposals could give "ammunition to America's enemies."

He asserted that judges who interfere in or second guess the president's constitutional authority to make decisions during war can jeopardize the "very security of our nation in a time of war."

And since the president has no end in sight to his war on terror, that makes him infallible ad infinitum?