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As Long as We Remember...

May 18, 2007

Moral Majority's Medicine Man

Roy Meachum

Founder Jerry Falwell was found on the floor in his offices at Liberty University. Initial guesses about his death settled on a heart attack. His apologists would have a hard time blaming "liberals," but they could still try.

It should be noted that the chief medicine man of the Moral Majority died when his mesmerizing control of the nation's affairs was arguably at the lowest ebb. Having followed Mr. Falwell's example faithfully, George W. Bush's regime threatens now to crumble away. Resignations come fast and thick.

The discovery of his body this week took the headlines away from examples of how the administration has fallen short. He apparently believed that adhering to his standard of morality guarantees success.

The day before the news from Lynchburg, VA, Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty resigned over the Justice Department scandals. Immediately Mr. McNulty was out the door, his former boss, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, said the mess belonged entirely in McNulty's lap. The ex-deputy refused to comment on his former chief's finger-pointing.

While Washington freely tosses blame around, this one had its root in a rookie lawyer who was adamant about others following her version of fundamentalist Christianity, as did Mr. Falwell.

Monica Goodling resigned in an obvious attempt to avoid questioning by Congress. Among already published stories was the way she insisted on asking such questions as "Have you ever been unfaithful to your wife?"

Ms. Goodling was Justice Department liaison to the White House. She held the crucial post of vetting wannabe officials, seeking to ascertain their support and loyalty to the administration. She never explained what that had to do with adultery.

Not incidentally Ms. Goodling brought along into her office a young man new to the lawyer trade but loaded with fundamentalist credentials: Mr. Falwell would have approved. No one has reported the young man's leaving.

In any event, Ms. Goodling's resignation to duck inquiries was nullified by Congress' seeking and getting a waiver of partial immunity for her activities under Mr. Gonzales. You can't imagine she would lie under oath.

The day after the Moral Majority founder's death another story reflected further failure in his right-makes-might theory. Reports said the White House finally accepted the proposition that Paul Wolfowitz must leave the World Bank.

This was the man who was both an important architect of Iraq policy and its chief ideologue. As deputy Defense secretary, he mounted a vicious attack against an Army chief-of-staff for disagreeing with the Pentagon's assessment of military needs for the occupation.

Here's the story, summarized in the Global Policy Review:

Mr. Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, opened a two-front war of words on Capitol Hill, calling the recent estimate by Gen. Eric K. Shinseki of the Army that several hundred thousand troops would be needed in postwar Iraq, "wildly off the mark." Pentagon officials have put the figure closer to 100,000 troops. Mr. Wolfowitz then dismissed articles in several newspapers this week asserting that Pentagon budget specialists put the cost of war and reconstruction at $60 billion to $95 billion in this fiscal year. He said it was impossible to predict accurately a war's duration, its destruction and the extent of rebuilding afterward.

Of course, his rebuttals were dead wrong as thousands of casualties have proven. But for such dogged loyalty to the administration, Paul Wolfowitz received the plum appointment of World Bank president, where he practiced the reckless supremacy that Mr. Falwell taught. The preacher asserted that those who accepted his version of religious truth are themselves supreme to all others.

As the son of Polish immigrant Jews, Mr. Wolfowitz almost certainly never carried around Jerry Falwell's Bible. But he subscribed to the notion that the White House Falwell-induced morality earned an instant remission for any and all mistakes. His conscience alone can jibe that credo with the large favors showered on his long-time girlfriend.

Under fear of Mr. Falwell's strength, real or imagined, the former GOP Senate majority leader adhered to the Moral Majority's line: Teri Schiavo was very much alive although tests showed she was brain-dead. What made the senator's pronouncement so startling? After all the White House went along.

Bill Frist is a product of both Princeton College and Harvard medical school. He made his "diagnosis," however, solely off television images; he never saw the patient herself. He was a once-respected physician, but plainly intent on pacifying the Rev. Mr. Falwell and his allies.

These few examples do not begin to portray the grasp fundamentalists have maintained over this nation in recent years. They have wielded power over this world in a way not seen since the Puritans and the Calvinists. The Catholic Inquisition was quite different; its chief goal religious and ideological conformity. Women and men suffered horrible deaths and tortures under all religions.

In the event, the thought-police let loose by Mr. Falwell did not die with him. Individual rights and responsibility remain endangered from the off-shoots of his Moral Majority. As Thomas Jefferson wrote: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

Whatever his followers might think, the Rev. Jerry Falwell was a tyrant; given full rein he would have replaced the Constitution with a strict code of his own devising, diligently enforced.

No tears here for his departure.

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