Monday, April 3, 2006

Common Cause

Paul Krugman on John McCain’s making nice with Jerry Falwell:

Senator John McCain obviously believes that he can’t get the Republican presidential nomination without Mr. Falwell’s approval. During the 2000 campaign, Mr. McCain denounced Mr. Falwell and the Rev. Pat Robertson as “agents of intolerance.” But next month Mr. McCain will be a commencement speaker at Liberty University, which Mr. Falwell founded.

On “Meet the Press” yesterday, Mr. McCain was asked to explain his apparent flip-flop. “I believe,” he replied, “that the Christian right has a major role to play in the Republican Party. One reason is because they’re so active and their followers are. And I believe they have a right to be a part of our party.”

So what has happened since the 2000 campaign to convince Mr. McCain that Mr. Falwell is not, in fact, an agent of intolerance?

Maybe it was Mr. Falwell’s TV appearance with Mr. Robertson on Sept. 13, 2001, during which the two religious leaders agreed that the terrorist attack two days earlier was divine punishment for American immorality. “God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve,” said Mr. Falwell, who also declared, “I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the A.C.L.U., People for the American Way — all of them who have tried to secularize America — I point the finger in their face and say, ‘You helped this happen.’ “


Just to be clear: this is a free country, and Mr. Falwell has a right to say what he thinks, even if his views include the belief that other people, by saying what they think, brought down God’s wrath on America. By the same token, any political party has a right to include Mr. Falwell and his supporters, just as any politician has a right to make a political alliance with Mr. Falwell.

But if you choose to make common cause with religious extremists, you are accepting some responsibility for their extremism. By welcoming Mr. Falwell and people like him as members of their party, Republicans are saying that it’s O.K. — not necessarily correct, but O.K. — to declare that 9/11 was America’s punishment for its tolerance of abortion and homosexuality, that Islam is a terrorist religion, and that Jews can’t go to heaven. And voters should judge the Republican Party accordingly.

I have no problem whatsoever linking the Republican Party up with people like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. It’s not news; the Religious Reich bought and paid for the Republican Party years ago. It’s just fun to watch someone like the so-called “straight-talker” (no pun intended) John McCain genuflecting to the Prophet from Lynchburg.

The Republicans’ reply to that is “Well, you have Michael Moore.” Nice try, but the only thing that Michael Moore and Jerry Falwell have in common is that they are both a tad overweight. Other than that, I’m trying to recall the last time that Michael Moore went on television and called down the wrath of a supernatural being on an entire group of people based on their sexual orientation, or the last time that Mr. Moore advocated the assassination of the president of a foreign nation. Michael Moore’s weapon is humor and muckracking; Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson use fear, persecution, and exploitation of the foolish and the weak. It’s not exactly the same thing, and if Michael Moore occasionally embarrasses people on his side of the fence, at least he’s not doing it by advocating religious terrorism.

If John McCain thinks he can win the Republican nomination by sucking up to the American Taliban, let him be tarred with their intolerance and bigotry.