Where is the new tone that was supposed to permeate the hallowed halls of Washington, D.C.? The sounds, which emanated from John Ashcroft's confirmation hearings, were more akin to battle cries than any sort of reasoned exchange.
Gone is the talk of bi-partisanship as special interest groups resume the practice of yanking the strings of chosen officials. The game plan is the same one that has worked for them in the past - keep heaving rumor, distortion and slander until the targeted individual topples from the blows.
In their attempt to bag another victim, Senator Ashcroft has been labeled "out of the mainstream." The reasons? He believes in the sanctity of human life. He holds the view that the traditional family is a precious treasure, which should be elevated. He is of the opinion that quotas and set asides are inequitable remedies for eliminating discrimination. And in what is considered most peculiar, he reads the words of the Constitution and accepts them for their plain, ordinary meaning.
At the hearings, Boxer, Kennedy and Schumer were the designated hit team for the attempted character assassination. The senators expressed their profound disdain for Ashcroft's "extreme" points of view. As would be expected, the conventional media lined up with the trio in their opposition and happily assisted their efforts.
These folks pretend to exemplify the thinking of middle America. They expect us to believe that the average person in our country now holds that it is perfectly acceptable to extinguish the life of a partially born baby, give explicit sexual instruction to young schoolchildren or deny honest citizens the opportunity to sufficiently defend themselves. Public reaction to these issues indicates otherwise.
Somehow the spectacle of the hearings does not square with the constitutional duty to determine whether or not an individual has the qualifications to serve. Rather, the scenario was reminiscent of the whole post-election ordeal. There is a continued effort to laden the Bush presidency with as much illegitimacy as possible right from the outset. The same incessant charges of racism that were hurled during the Florida recounts have now been resurrected for use against cabinet nominees. But something else seems to be at play on a deeper level.
This nemesis takes many different forms. It is often subtle and as such may go unnoticed. Those who are sensitive can sense its approach. It is bigotry and, in this instance, it has come under cloak of religion.
Repeatedly the case was made that somehow Senator Ashcroft could not be trusted with the office of Attorney General. Why? Because of his religious convictions. USA Today featured an article that asked, "Can a deeply religious person be Attorney General?" That such a question would be posed in a major newspaper is troubling and frightening.
There is a movement today that encourages adherence to a politically correct belief system. The crusade has been undertaken in the name of tolerance. Ever so slowly, the word has been redefined. No longer does the motto "live and let live" apply. No longer does tolerance involve putting up with opinions or practices with which one disagrees. No, tolerance now has a fresh definition along with updated requirements for speech and behavior.
The Church of Tolerance, under the direction of liberal interest groups, demands membership from all in society. A specific worldview, and its accompanying lifestyle, must be championed. One must never speak freely about any idea that might be in conflict with the sacred tenets. Never criticize, never object, never even hint that you might possess an opposing viewpoint. But the public smells a fraud.
The preachers of new tolerance may have stumbled into a pit. Bolstered with confidence from Newsweek polls, they believed they could push the defamatory envelope as far as they wished. They have miscalculated.
John Ashcroft has a proven record and an ample number of witnesses to show the bankruptcy of the accusations against him. He served two terms as Attorney General and two terms as Governor, demonstrating that he could uphold laws to which he did not personally subscribe.
After spending all of their political capital slinging mud,
the titans of this new brand of tolerance may find, in the end,
their dogma discredited and their own image badly soiled.