Friday, November 12, 2004

Thank You, Mr. Attorney General

Jonah Goldberg tells us why he thinks John Ashcroft's departure is a big loss for America. Despite his despisers and those who gasped at the threat to civil liberties every time the Attorney General sneezed, this nation is deeply indebted to John Ashcroft for his service. Goldberg sums up why in this paragraph:

By conventional standards, Ashcroft was among the best attorney generals in American history. Violent crime dropped 27 percent on his watch, reaching a 30-year low. Federal gun crime prosecutions rose 75 percent, and gun crimes dropped - something that should please liberals. By unconventional standards his service was heroic. There hasn't been a single terrorist attack since 9/11, despite all predictions by experts and efforts by terrorists to the contrary. Ashcroft was willing to take gross abuse to do what was necessary. Indeed, even the 9/11 commission certified that the Patriot Act was absolutely necessary to fix many of the problems that led to that awful day.

Elsewhere in the column Jonah takes on the major criticisms that have been relentlessly levelled at Ashcroft over the last several years and shows them to be utterly without serious merit. He neglects to mention, however, that with all the foaming-at-the-mouth allegations of how Ashcroft was infringing on civil liberties, never once was there an episode during his tenure comparable to the immolation of dozens of women and children in Waco, Texas, or the shootings of other innocent women and children by federal agents in Idaho under Janet Reno. Nor was there anything nearly as shameful as the Elien Gonzalez episode in Florida.

He might have noted, too, that Ashcroft became Attorney General after losing a bid to retain his senate seat. He lost the election because he chose not to campaign after his opponent was killed in an airplane crash. His opponent's wife allowed her name to be placed on the ballot and, in an outpouring of sympathy, she won. Ashcroft's decision not to campaign against her was an act of graciousness that's hard to imagine his detractors duplicating.

Goldberg also declines to mention the real animus behind the vilification of this dedicated public servant. Ashcroft is seen as a threat by, and to, the secular left chiefly because of his strong Christian convictions. The left cannot abide the thought that someone in power would take Christianity seriously. Ashcroft does, and consequently nothing he could have done short of resigning would have mollified the attack dogs in the press and elsewhere.

The left, whether consciously or not, wishes to make it as difficult as possible for a man or woman of faith to serve in the upper reaches of government. They ultimately may be successful in making public service so personally unpleasant that many good people will simply avoid it, but, if so, our government will suffer grievously from the want of most of the virtues without which any government becomes corrupt and ineffective.

Men like John Ashcroft are the salt of the earth, his Justice Department was a breath of fresh air after the Janet Reno interlude, and he will be greatly missed by those who admire rectitude, integrity, and common sense in their leaders.

No Tears For Yasser

Viewpoint sheds no tears over the death of Yasser Arafat. More than any other single figure in the region he bears responsibility for the crisis between the Palestinian and Israeli people. He was a thug, a thief, and a mass murderer with the blood of hundreds of Israelis, dozens of Americans, and countless Palestinians on his hands. The Palestinian people languish in misery and poverty today largely because of this man's personal corruption and psychotic obsession with destroying Israel. Andrew McCarthy composes an excellent overview of his venal and blood-stained life at National Review Online. We decline to mourn.

If Democrats Went To Church

Morton Kondracke writes a lovely essay on what the Democrats need to learn about religion, specifically evangelical Christianity. We commend the entire piece to the reader but would like to highlight a couple of paragraphs which are particularly good and a couple of others which merit comment. Kondracke writes:

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, next to Charles Krauthammer the owner of the highest I.Q. on the nation's op-ed pages, wrote last week that "my problem with the Christian fundamentalists supporting Mr. Bush is not their spiritual energy or the fact that I am of a different faith. It is the way in which he and they have used that religious energy to promote division and intolerance at home and abroad."

Friedman's vaunted intelligence evidently abandons him when it comes to thinking about religion in the public arena. Why is it okay for Kerry to say that he's motivated by religious principles when it comes to fighting for equality and justice and for the environment, all of which involve imposing his values on other people, but it's not okay for Bush's positions on abortion, embryonic stem cell research, gay marriage, and the importance of freedom around the world to be informed by his religious principles? Why are Bush's positions on these issues divisive, when roughly half the country agrees with him, but Kerry's positions are not divisive even though half the country opposes him? For people like Friedman being divisive means proposing policy that Friedman doesn't like, being intolerant means not tolerating different things than Friedman doesn't tolerate.

Kondracke goes on to say that:

If fair-minded secular Democrats went to church - they are open to the public, by the way - here's some of what they'd learn: Lesson No. 1: Far more than abortion, evolution or homosexuality, Evangelical Christianity is about love, redemption, forgiveness, charity, humility, hope and self-sacrifice.

The best Evangelicals I know truly change lives - they turn around people who are addicted to drugs and pornography. They give the despairing and the guilt-ridden reason to persevere. They restore marriages. They transform criminals in prison.

They try to follow Jesus, who, if they studied him a little, no Democrat could possibly be scared of. I think this is what Bush's faith is all about - not arrogance or mindless certitude, but humility and a sense of duty.

Lesson No. 2: Evangelicals are scared, too. They are scared of the fruits of secularism and the deterioration of the culture in which they're trying to raise their children. Of hip-hop lyrics that encourage rape and murder. Of PG-13 movies and "family hour" sitcoms that tell children that if they're not having sex at 16, they're out of it. Of the scuzzy showbiz people who often surround Democrats.

I'd guess that most Evangelicals are "homophobic." Some are so in the bigoted sense, but many more in the sense that what they know of the "gay lifestyle" scares them. And they also are scared (I think, wrongly) that the already-battered institution of marriage will be demolished if committed gay couples are permitted to share in it.

This is a fine piece of writing and we're reluctant to quibble with it. Everything he says about Christians and Christianity would be plain to anyone who really tried to get past media stereotypes, but we have to disagree with Kondracke on his belief that gay marriage would not jeopardize traditional marriage.

As Viewpoint has noted on previous occasions, once the gender of the spouses is no longer a matter of law there will no longer remain any non-arbitrary basis for legal limits upon the number of wedded spouses. If legislatures no longer establish the gender, there will be no logical ground for establishing the number, and perhaps even biological relatationship, of the betrothed. Once society has set a tentative foot onto this slippery slope it will quickly find itself tobogganing downhill, unable to stop its plunge until marriage has been transformed into a union between any combination of people (and why limit it to people?) who desire to join together in wedlock for whatever purpose and for whatever length of time.

When this comes to pass marriage will cease to exist in any meaningful sense. The left has always seen the abolition of marriage, and thus of the family, as a progressive desideratum. Many Christians disagree, and in the minds of their critics that makes them bigots and homophobes. So be it.