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Jewish World Review Jan. 23, 2001 / 28 Teves, 5761

Jim Wooten

Wooten
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The language of opposition turns vicious


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- AMERICA got a close-up look at bipartisanship in Washington last week.

Holy cow! The C-SPAN viewer watching the kamikaze assault by the extreme left on former U.S. Sen. John Ashcroft's nomination to be President George W. Bush's attorney general most likely concluded that the true legacy of the fellow who departed in humiliation on Saturday is deep, bitter political animus and a liberal base lunging toward hysteria.

The shrillness of the Ashcroft opponents and the despicable efforts to paint him as racist should be the watershed event that causes America to recoil at the complete debasement of national political discourse. When those who disagree philosophically and by party identification are willing to smear a former Senate colleague with slightly veiled accusations of racism, as Sens. Joe Biden (D-Del.) and Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) did this week, America is in comity crisis.

There is a viciousness to the liberal assault that would provoke the urge to retaliate, or at least to fight back, in any mortal. Actually, it's a testament to Ashcroft's suitability for attorney general that he resisted the bait from Democrats, both those on the Senate Judiciary Committee and those called to oppose his nomination.

The nation should apply a predictability threshold to these opposition groups. If they support one party 90 percent of the time, and if they have most recently endorsed the losing candidate, a simple check in the "Yes, I oppose" box would spare the country substantial time and rancor.

Well, yes, of course, opposition is predictable and assumed if an organization worked actively to defeat the appointing authority. Duh.

After that, the only question is whether the language of opposition is in bounds or out.

Clearly, much of that directed at Ashcroft is out. Particularly disturbing is the trend now becoming obvious that exploits racial differences for political purposes. It's not universal yet. To his everlasting credit, U.S. Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.) opted out. "I would not vote to confirm someone who I thought was a bigot or would hamper the cause of African-Americans," said Miller in announcing his intention to vote for Ashcroft. "I also do not believe the progressive state of Missouri would elect an 'extremist' five different times or that the National Governors' Association would choose one as its chairman."

But although Miller demurs, his Democratic colleagues do not. A troubling pattern emerges. For more than 20 years, Democrats running for national office have baited the old folks, behaving every election cycle like the ex-husband who knows a former spouse's emotional and financial vulnerability and deliberately pricks it, triggering precisely the voting behavior that kept them in power.

This election cycle, however, the fear-mongering of the old folks failed. The elderly, after two decades, are largely inured to the emotional drumming. Not so African-Americans, who vote rigidly and responsively, as the elderly once did.

Having demagogued Social Security to the point of numbness, the Democratic left now directs its fear-mongering to its core constituency, to black America. The Clinton administration's favorite tactic has been to nominate liberal minorities and to represent opposition to them as race-based, as was the case with acting Assistant Attorney General Bill Lann Lee and with Missouri Supreme Court Judge Ronnie White. The result, of course, is to increase both the paranoia and the political loyalty of traditional Democratic constituencies, while driving the country into heightened group-identity enclaves.

The real problem with this political tactic is that, unlike the frights laid on the old folks, the Democratic-hyped paranoia becomes a generational plague on America, something passed without dispute from generation to generation.



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