- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 1, 2001

Alan Dershowitz recently wrote an op-ed for the L.A. Times criticizing President George W. Bush for the invocation of Jesus' name at the inaugural ceremonies. We researched a bit and found that never before had Mr. Dershowitz criticized the use of Jesus' name or reference in previous inaugural invocations such as Bill Clinton's, Jimmy Carter's, John F. Kennedy's or Franklin Delano Roosevelt's.

The left used racial fear mongering and slander throughout the recent presidential election and now, it appears, religion will be the new front in the left's war against conservatives even though race-mongering did not end after Nov. 7.

For example, in the wake of the Supreme Court decision in Bush vs. Gore, the leadership in the African-American community stampeded to the cry of "fraud." Jesse Jackson said he accepted the Bush presidency as "legal" but not "legitimate."

For the sake of partisanship, Mr. Jackson had delegitimized his movement's entire history of success. The words "Dred Scott" were used more during the month of November than at any time in the past 10 years. Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, just prior to the Supreme Court's decision, said that if the Supreme Court took the case and held for Mr. Bush it would be "the most extreme example of judicial activism since Dred Scott, and I choose my words carefully." Note, the example of Roe vs. Wade was never used; we had to go back to 1857 Dred Scott when African-Americans were read out of the American polity.

While the African-American vote went 9-1 against Mr. Bush, one has to ask why. Racial fear-mongering is a key reason. To their discredit, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) sponsored a television advertisement comparing then-candidate Bush to the racists who dragged James Byrd to death. Al Gore also campaigned with Byrd's daughter. Yet, as William Raspberry pointed out, on almost every issue African-Americans have said is important to them, education reform ranking highest, Mr. Bush's plan was in greater comportment with those concerns than Mr. Gore's by margins as high as 60 percent. In this election, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and the NAACP played the worst race card in recent memory.

The results of a Bush presidency are already making themselves known though. Mr. Bush, a white Protestant educated at the nation's most prestigious schools, has proven himself exceedingly comfortable around people of color, minorities and those for whom English is a second language. Mr. Bush has chosen Colin Powell as his secretary of state and Condoleezza Rice as head of the National Security Council two of the most important posts in a presidential administration. Mr. Powell, the son of Jamaican immigrants, and Miss Rice, a sharecropper's granddaughter who well-recalls segregation, were selected not because of any claim to oppression. Far from it. They were nominated because of their supreme qualifications.

Nevertheless, when Mr. Bush appointed Missouri Sen. John Ashcroft to be his attorney general, the daggers of racial fear-mongering were unleashed again in spite of the facts that Mr. Ashcroft was the first Missouri governor to appoint an African-American to the appeals court of Missouri and that he signed into law the Martin Luther King Jr. state holiday.

But the left, along with the leadership in the African-American community, also tried to tarnish Mr. Ashcroft by subtle condemnation of his religious beliefs and then the chief complaint became that he voted against an African-American nominee to the federal court when he was in the Senate. The hypocrisy of the religious charge, if taken seriously, would have excluded Martin Luther King, Jr. from any public office were he to have run or been appointed, not to mention Jesse Jackson.

At the beginning of the campaign to scuttle Mr. Ashcroft, the NAACP put out a report card on him, a report card predetermined to give him a "failing" grade. The report card includes ersatz "civil rights" issues established a priori to attack Mr. Ashcroft his votes on the minimum wage and to convict Mr. Clinton for perjury are two examples. When the civil rights establishment can distort all they used to stand for, when it becomes an attack-dog for the political left, it not only undermines itself, it tarnishes every good cause it used to stand for.

Now Mr. Ashcroft has become attorney general and the race-mongering seems to have subsided. Mr. Ashcroft has appointed an African-American as his deputy and Mr. Bush has proposed an Office of Faith-Based Initiatives and Community Service which finds great support among black pastors. Neither of these things were done deliberately to appeal to the African-American community, but they will help reinforce that there is nothing to fear in this administration.

Still, political tactics die hard and, along with the undercurrent of racial fear-mongering, the left is now using religion as the next weapon in the liberal war of politics by other means. We may be in for a long and divisive four years.

Matthew Brooks is the executive director of the Jewish Policy Center, a think tank based in Washington. Seth Leibsohn is the Center's director of policy.

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