DATE: 1/13/2005 10:26:00 AM
Sullivan Keeps Digging - For a few minutes, the guy started to make sense, then he just couldn't help himself. I decided to check Andrew Sullivan's site today, to see if he had clarified his earlier statement about the president and faith. He did, sort of. But first he has to continue digging the hole he started months ago:
BUSH AND THE LORD: Did I over-react? It's worth looking at the full quote as produced by the Washington Times:
"I fully understand that the job of the president is and must always be protecting the great right of people to worship or not worship as they see fit. That's what distinguishes us from the Taliban. The greatest freedom we have or one of the greatest freedoms is the right to worship the way you see fit. On the other hand, I don't see how you can be president at least from my perspective, how you can be president, without a relationship with the Lord." (My italics)
Now notice that Bush is explicitly qualifying his defense of religious freedom (or the freedom to have no religion at all) by saying that the presidency, in his view, should nevertheless be reserved for people with a relationship of a personal nature with "the Lord."Nonsense. He's saying "I don't see how you can be president" without a relationship with the Lord. Like many, many other presidents (FDR, Lincoln), Bush is simply acknowledging that this is a difficult job and hard to do without a relationship with God. There's nothing, NOTHING here about "reserving" the office for religious people.
He isn't simply saying that he doesn't see how he could have endured the presidency without faith; he is asserting that he cannot see how anyone could be president without a "relationship with the Lord." Now I can see how this might be simply a slip of the tongue: just a projection of his own experience with nothing more to be inferred from it.Where does Sullivan see that assertion? The man is not putting a litmus test on the presidency, he's simply giving his own perspective on faith and the presidency. Only someone with an extreme hostility to any religious talk by public officials could misread the president's statement. In the next few sentences, Sullivan proves he's that type of person:
But given how this administration has consciously eroded the distinction between church and state - fusing the two with federal funds, using religious groups as its political base, incorporating religious leaders into policy-making, and defending public policy decisions on purely religious grounds (calling civil marriage licenses "sacred," for example) - this is worrying. To put it bluntly, on the separation of church and state, I don't trust these guys.Sullivan is treading onto some seriously dangerous territory here. Look at what he gives as evidence for "eroding the distinction" between church and state:
"fusing the two with federal funds" - okay, this one is debatable. But the funds prohibit explicit proselytizing by those groups and Bush's policy actually ends the government-sponsored discrimination against people of faith. That having been said, I'm not a big supporter of churches taking federal funds.
"using religious groups as its political base" - So what? Religious people have the right to vote and get politically involved and speak out just like anyone else. If Bush chose to court these voters with particular focus this season, there's nothing wrong with that. Is Sullivan suggesting that religious faith removes my right to participate in the free exchange of ideas or to associate with others who may be of my same faith and advocate for particular policies? Has his hatred grown so strong that he's willing to advocate the removal of religious people from the public square? With his next objection to Bush, Sullivan answers these questions.
"incorporating religious leaders into policy-making" - So, in Sullivan's view, religious leaders should sit down, shut up and take what the government gives them. Let's play 'change the words,' shall we? "Incorporating African-American leaders into policy-making" "Incorporating gay and lesbian leaders into policy-making" "Incorporating Hispanic leaders into policy-making" Wow, say it any other way and it sounds the same - like simple bigotry.
"defending public policy decisions on purely religious grounds (calling civil marriage licenses "sacred," for example)" - I'm actually partially with Sullivan on this one. I don't think purely religious arguments are a compelling enough reason to make public policy decisions. However, I don't think the arguments from religious people should be entirely discounted, either. That's where he and I disagree.
Sullivan ends his rant by saying he doesn't "trust" the Bush administration. That's great, but at least they're honest about what they believe and don't try to hide behind tolerant words while espousing "gob-smackingly vile" anti-religious rhetoric.