Proud birthplace of Juice Newton and The Neptunes. Home of famed psychic Edgar Cayce’s freaky Association for Research and Enlightenment. Fun-packed vacation paradise that houses both Ocean Breeze Fun Park and the Life-Saving Museum of Virginia. What more could Virginia Beach possibly want?
How about secret control of the U.S. government, starting with the Department of Justice?
Yes, that’s right—in case you missed it, one of the more intriguing subplots surrounding the ongoing Alberto Gonzales attorney-firing scandal is the fact that, unbeknownst to nearly everyone, the graduates of a tiny little Virginia Beach university have infiltrated the U.S. Department of Justice to an almost unprecedented degree.
Pat Robertson’s “tier four” Regent University boasts 150 graduates currently serving in the Bush Administration.
How this came to pass is a complicated story—the result of an improbable series of events that started with a divinely interrupted cantaloupe-and-cottage-cheese lunch and ended with the Republican political infiltration of the DOJ. The healthy snack, served to Virginia Beach native Pat Robertson way back in 1975, marks the exact moment when (as the famed televangelist tells it) God told him to “build a school for My glory.”
Thus was born Regent University, a 5,000-student “academic center for Christian thought and action” that, as the website’s mission statement explains, “exists to bring glory to God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit.” But whatever Regent’s higher calling may be, it has also produced a bumper crop of highly placed government figures here on Earth (including Virginia’s attorney general, Bob McDonnell) and boasts no fewer than 150 graduates currently serving in all levels of the Bush Administration. For an obscure “tier four” institution (the lowest possible US News & World Report ranking) that’s quite an accomplishment.
Regent owes much of its current political cachet to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ predecessor, John Ashcroft (now teaching at—you guessed it!—Regent University), who changed DOJ’s hiring practices in 2003, taking the responsibility of interviewing and vetting potential Justice employees away from veteran civil servants and giving it to Bush political appointees instead.
Almost overnight, the number of government lawyers hired from hoity-toity Ivy League schools plummeted, while law school graduates from conservative Southern schools (like Regent) began pouring into such traditionally liberal DOJ enclaves as the Civil Rights Division.
One of these early hires was a young go-getter from Regent named Monica Goodling who, after parlaying a lowly Bush campaign researching job into a Justice press position, quickly rose in the ranks to become senior counsel to Attorney General Gonzales. As such, she was right in the thick of things as Gonzales’ office plotted to remove eight U.S. attorneys for shady (and transparently political) reasons. Now, with her fingerprints (and e-mail keystrokes) all over the questionable testimony given by Gonzales and his underlings to Congress, Goodling has resigned—but not before becoming the most prominent federal official to invoke the Fifth Amendment since Ollie North (onetime Senate candidate from Virginia, lest you forget—our winning streak continues apace).
But really, in the grand scheme of things, Goodling’s resignation is just a drop in the bucket. After all, Regent has at least another 149 career employees floating around the halls of Justice, most of whom will stay put no matter which party captures the White House in 2008—a veritable sleeper cell of moralistic goodness! And with fellow evangelist Jerry Falwell now running a law school at his Lynchburg-based Liberty University, who knows how many more bible-based barristers will continue to swell the Bushian ranks. As Pat Robertson told a Baptist group in Chesapeake, Virginia, last year, “We’re not going to be content just doing a little bit. I want the whole world!”
So who cares if Virginia hasn’t produced a president in 85 years? We’ve got Justice on our side, and we’ll be damned (er…darned?) if we’re ever letting go.