Saturday, May 21, 2005

Watt’s Whine

Former Interior Secretary James Watt feels like he’s a martyr for his faith.

The religious left’s political operatives have mounted a shrill attack on a significant portion of the Christian community. Four out of five evangelical Christians supported President Bush in 2004 — a third of all ballots cast for him, according to the Pew Research Center. Factor in Catholics and members of other conservative religious communities and it’s clear that the religious right is the largest voting bloc in today’s Republican Party.

The religious left took note. Political opportunists in its ranks sought a wedge issue to weaken the GOP’s coalition of Jews, Catholics and evangelicals and shatter its electoral majority. They passed over obvious headliners and landed on a curious but cunning choice: the environment. Those leading the charge are effective advocates: LBJ alumnus Bill Moyers of PBS fame, members of the National Council of Churches USA and liberal theologians who claim a moral superiority to other people of faith.

Their tactics are familiar. I encountered them more than 20 years ago as President Reagan’s secretary of the interior, when I clashed with extreme environmental groups adept at taking out of context — or in some cases creating — statements that, once twisted, were attributed to me as if they were my religious views.

Now political activists of the religious left are refreshing those two-decades-old lies and applying them with a broad brush to whole segments of the Christian community: “people who believe the Bible,” members of Congress and “Rapture proponents.” If these merging groups — the extreme environmentalists and the religious left — are successful in their campaign, the Christian community will be marginalized, its conservative values maligned and its electoral clout diminished.

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Be alert. I learned this lesson two decades ago — the hard way. Never underestimate the political impact of the twisted charges by extreme environmentalists now advanced by the religious left to divide the people of faith.

Oh, set it to music, Mr. Watt. Perhaps you’re forgetting the religious right’s thirty-years war on gays and lesbians — a campaign to marginalize, disenfranchise, and ostracize an entire class of people based not on their beliefs in a faith or environmental concerns, but just on who they are, and that’s just one example of the wingnut agenda. The fact that you’re misquoted — and received an apology, by the way — doesn’t give you the standing to cry about being marginalized when you have followers running the majority political party in the House, the Senate, the White House, and the lobbyists on K Street, and you’re about to take over the judiciary by coup d’ etat in the Senate. Meanwhile, the people you’re most afraid of can’t even get their basic civil rights without having to override a veto in the Maryland legislature or a Supreme Court decision. Yeah, you’re such a victim. Let’s get you a crown of thorns.