Though we may be a few weeks late to the party, it just wouldn’t feel right if we didn’t take a moment to reflect on the man who did more than any other single individual to make George W. Bush president: Virginia’s jowly, Jesus-lovin’ rabble-rouser Jerry Falwell.
Oh sure, laugh if you will—but the recent passing of the Lynchburg lion has highlighted, to a shocking degree, just how much the man’s faith-based, politically focused moralism has become our government’s guiding principal.
Former DOJ director of public affairs Monica Goodling’s goody-goodiness was undercut recently—an e-mail surfaced in which she directed a fellow DOJ official to give her unprecedented hiring and firing powers and then to send the memo “directly up to me, outside the system.”
If you have any doubt that the guy who created the Moral Majority and opined (way back in 1980) “I do not believe that God answers the prayer of any unredeemed gentile or Jew” is having the last laugh, you haven’t been paying attention.
No, Falwell never really got the pride of place in the conservative movement that he almost certainly coveted, but there’s little doubt that, without him, the religious right would never have ascended as high into the mysterious workings of government as it has.
All you had to do to see the man’s legacy in action was to watch the recent congressional hearings featuring Monica Goodling, former director of public affairs for the U.S. Department of Justice, and James Comey, the DOJ’s No. 2 under John Ashcroft.
The halting, earnest testimony of the perfectly named Goodling (unlike that other scandal-plagued Monica, who was just bad, bad, bad), provided a painful case study in what happens when an administration starts prizing loyalty and faith over competence. Accused of using blatantly political criteria to hire (and fire) Justice employees and U.S. Attorneys, Goodling (who got her B.A. from Messiah College, and her legal degree from Pat Robertson’s Regent University) seemed unable to grasp even the most fundamental tenets of U.S. law. When asked by Virginia Democrat Bobby Scott, “is it against the law to take those considerations into account?,” all she could do was look sheepish and stammer, “I don’t believe that I intended to commit a crime.”
Coming from one of the (thankfully former) top law-enforcement officials in America, that’s one hell of a mea culpa.
Comey’s testimony was even more incredible, if only because it showed just how extreme and unprecedented the Bush Administration’s law-flouting really has become. Describing a late-night 2004 hospital visit by then-White House Counsel (and current AG) Alberto Gonzales, Comey described how his ailing (and presumably highly medicated) boss, John Ashcroft, was still unwilling to approve the administration’s secret spying program. Think about it! Even John Ashcroft, the man so prudish and God-fearing that he hung a curtain in front of the DOJ’s bare-breasted Spirit of Justice statue, found Bush’s “higher law” argument to be a bit much.
But that’s how it goes with this White House crew: They’re so far to the right, they actually make John Ashcroft look like a dope-smoking peacenik.
And believe us, that’s just the way ol’ Jerry would have wanted it. In fact, almost everything that the Bush Administration has done—the faith-based charity slush fund, the push for (religious) school vouchers and abstinence-only sex ed, the tying of international aid to anti-abortion politics—is right out of Falwell’s playbook. Literally.
Don’t believe me? Just listen to what the man wrote in his 1979 statement-of-purpose “America Can Be Saved!”: “I hope to live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won’t have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!”
Amen, brother. Your day has come.