Jewish World Review Jan. 18, 2001/ 23 Teves, 5761
Ashcroft can't dance (don't ask him)
THE EPITHETS thrown at John Ashcroft make up a demagogue's catalog. Racist, sexist and ideologue
for starters. The most sarcastic attacks are reserved for his Puritanism. He can't dance (don't ask
him.) It's against his religion.
No one believes that his inability to do the foxtrot, the soft shoe or the salsa would undercut his
ability to be good attorney general, but it's enough to attract aspersions on his attitude. "What kind
of man doesn't dance?'' asks Bill Maher of the politically correct television program "Politically
Incorrect.'' (Almost any wife could answer the question.)
The mere fact that he's a member of the Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal denomination that frowns
on dancing, turns John Ashcroft into a reincarnated Savonarola. He was taught that dancing was
sexually arousing. Who could argue with that?
"The fact that Ashcroft doesn't dance is the least of our worries,'' the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive
director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told the New York Times. The
bigger problem for Lynn, as odd as this may be for a man ordained as a teacher of religious
principle, is that Ashcroft allows his religious beliefs to be fundamental to his thinking about right and
wrong. This puts him beyond Barry Lynn's pale.
Few critics argue that there's anything wrong with taking "Thou Shalt Not Kill'' or "Thou Shalt Not
Steal'' from the Ten Commandments and codifying them into civil law. But John Ashcroft is accused
of going over the line when his faith guides him to oppose homosexuality, abortion, pornography,
needle exchanges, the National Endowment for the Arts and the United Nations.
These are in fact reasonable positions for intellectual debate regardless of religious faith. I know
atheists who agree with him. We may disagree with John Ashcroft on all, some or none of these, but
they're certainly reasonable moral and political points of inquiry in a free society. The question is not
whether John Ashcroft's personal opinions are faith-based or secular, but whether he will uphold the
law of the land as attorney general.
Few doctrines, even if commonly held, could escape the cold distortions of mean-spirited
interrogators. Most Americans applauded Al Gore's choice of Joe Lieberman as a man of faith, but
not even Joe could defend the letter of Jewish law and practice if it were maligned by the likes of
those distorting Ashcroft's fundamentalist faith.
Who but a sadist and a pervert, for example, would mutilate a little boy's genitals? Would a father
who allowed someone to slice off the end of his little son's penis be fit to administer juvenile justice?
Could a Jewish or Muslim man who regards ham and shrimp as unclean be a fair-minded secretary
What kind of crackpot would insist he could drink the blood and eat the flesh of a man slain 2,000
years ago? Would we let such a man oversee the department of Health and Human Services?
How could we turn the Army and the Navy over to someone who thinks his cheek is only for
turning? Wouldn't this invite mischief from evildoers in distant hostile lands?
A person of faith of necessity must show flexibility if put in a public position that conflicts with
personal faith. Jack Kennedy understood that obligation when he promised he wouldn't look to the
Vatican to tell him how to run the American government, and some of the people harassing John
Ashcroft today were perfectly satisfied with JFK's promise (as they should have been). An attorney
general who opposes abortion can be trusted not to interfere with the rights of women to choose if
we can trust an attorney general who opposes capital punishment not to interfere with a state's right
to exact that punishment.
If John Ashcroft's belief would lead him to counter the law, he should say so, and withdraw. There
has been no suggestion of such conflict in his 16 years of public service. In fact, it's difficult to
imagine that he could make as many disastrous decisions as Janet Reno if he tried, and no one cares
whether she dances or who she dances with, or how loud she prays.
The most important qualifications Sen. Ashcroft has exhibited are those dismissed by his critics as
cliches: Integrity, character, principle. He can be the wallflower at the inaugural ball or continue to
pray at his office, but unless he stops the rest of us from dancing or forces us to kneel in prayer, he
should be confirmed as attorney general. His critics should look somewhere else for dance
01/15/01: Clothes make the First Lady
01/11/01: Pity Jerusalem in the 'peace' process
01/08/01: Laying the political race card
01/04/01: 'What women want' in the new millennium
01/02/01: This year, looking ahead is sure sweeter than looking back
12/21/00: Black power with a Republican face
12/21/00: First impressions of two First Ladies
12/18/00: Challenge for the 'better angels of our nature'
12/14/00: What we've lost sight of
12/13/00: Hillary in the lion's den
12/08/00: Return of the 'second sex' on campus
12/04/00: Politics as entertainment today
11/30/00: Winner vs. whiner
11/27/00: Measuring against history
11/23/00: Memories of Thanksgiving past
11/17/00: In defense of the Electoral College
11/16/00: More than one way to win an election
11/13/00: Sexual politics squared
11/09/00: A Middle East legacy
11/06/00: Filling in the dots at campaign's end
11/02/00: His own man in full
10/30/00: The Oval Office, through a glass brightly
10/23/00: There'll always be an England. Maybe.
10/19/00: The celebrity candidate
10/16/00: 'Ladies night' at the second debate
10/12/00: Gore vs. Bush: Volvo vs. Maserati
10/10/00: We weep for Rami for he is dead
10/05/00: Looking at Lieberman from inside the 'ghetto'
10/02/00: Campaigns, candidates, and kissy-face
09/28/00: Laughing and crying over Joe Lieberman
09/21/00: Targeting teenagers for money
09/21/00: Sexual politics in New York
09/18/00: Surviving the stereotypes and debates
09/14/00: Gloria Steinem runs cheerfully into captivity
09/12/00: Sex in the eye of the partisan
09/07/00: 'Sex and death' on the college campus
09/05/00: Joe Lieberman as a 'Menorah Man'
08/31/00: Rising suns of the conventions
08/17/00: Changing icons: From Loretta Young to Hillary Clinton
08/14/00: The Creator returns to the public square
08/10/00: Bursting with pride, but caution too
08/07/00: Brains, beauty and beastly politics
08/03/00: A candidate with a superego
07/31/00: The sizzling Lynne Cheney
07/27/00: The party of the aging Playboys
07/24/00 Hillary drives the Jewish wagon into a ditch
07/20/00 Conservatives gone fishin'
07/17/00: Snoop Doggy Dogg was a founding father, wasn't he?
07/13/00: When a teenager doesn't need a prime minister
07/10/00: Abortion as cruel and unusual punishment
07/06/00: Surviving 'survivor' TV
07/03/00: Independence Day with Norman Rockwell
06/29/00: Here comes 'something old'
06/26/00: Waiting too long for the baby
06/22/00: Good teachers, curious students and oxymorons
06/19/00: Wanted: Some ants for Gore's pants
06/15/00: Like father, like daughter
06/12/00: Culture wars and conservative warriors
06/08/00: Return of the housewife
06/05/00: Hillary and Al -- playing against type
05/31/00: The sexual revolution confronts the SUV
05/25/00: Waiting for the movie
05/22/00: Pistol packin' mamas
05/18/00: Journalists and the 'new time' religion
05/15/00: There's nothing like a (military) dame
05/11/00: 'The Human Stain' on campus
05/09/00: We've come a long way, Betty Friedan
05/04/00: From George Washington to Mansa Masu
05/01/00: Gore's ruthless doublespeak
04/28/00: Doing it Castro's way
04/24/00: Women's studies beget narrow minds
04/17/00: The slippery slope of anti-Semitism
04/13/00: A villain larger than life
04/10/00: When mourning becomes an economic tragedy
04/03/00: The last permissible bigotry
03/30/00: Seeking the political Oscar
03/23/00: The gaying of America
03/20/00: Pointy-eared quadrupeds on campus
03/16/00: The shocking art of the establishment
03/13/00: Sawdust on the campaign trail
03/10/00: Campaign rhetoric of manhood
03/06/00: The Amphetamine of the People
03/02/00: Elegy for Amadou
02/29/00: With only a million, what's a poor girl to do?
02/24/00: The changing politics of change
02/16/00: Tip from Hillary: 'Let 'em eat eggs'
02/10/00: No seances with Eleanor
02/07/00: Campaigning like our founding fathers
02/03/00: When neo-Nazis have short memories
01/31/00: George W. -- 'Ladies man' and 'man's man'
01/27/00: Dead white males and live white politicians
01/25/00: Smarting over presidential smarts
01/21/00: A post-modern song for `The Sopranos'
01/19/00: When personality is a long-distance plus
01/13/00: French lessons in amour --- and marriage
01/10/00: Reaching for the Big Golden Apple
01/07/00: Liddy Dole as the face of feminism
01/04/00: Hillary: From victim to victor
12/30/99: 'Dream catchers' for the millennium
12/27/99: In search of a candidate with strength and eloquence
12/21/99: The president as First Lady
12/16/99: Columbine with blurred hindsight
12/09/99: Homeless deserve discriminating attention
12/07/99: Casual censors and deadly know-nothings
12/02/99: Why mom didn't make general: A reality tale
11/30/99: Potholes on the road to the Promised Land
11/25/99: A feast for the spirit and the stomach
11/23/99: Fathers need to say 'I (can) do'
11/18/99: Adventures of a conservative pundit
11/15/99: Traveling with Jefferson on the information highway
11/11/99: Wanted: 'Foliage of forbiddinness' for the oval office
11/09/99: Eggs, art and rotten commerce
11/05/99: Al Gore, 'Alpha Male'. Bow wow.
11/01/99: Gay love
10/28/99: Lose one Dole, lose two
10/26/99: Rebels with a violent cause
10/21/99: Reforming parents, reforming schools
10/19/99: The male mystique -- he shops
10/13/99:The campaign of the Teletubbies
10/08/99: Money is in the eye of the art dealer
10/01/99: Lincoln's 'Almost Chosen People'
09/29/99: Introducing Bill and Hillary Bickerson
09/27/99: Must we wait for the next massacre?
09/24/99: Miss America meets Miss'd America
09/21/99: Princeton's 'professor death'
09/16/99: The Cisneros lesson
09/13/99: No clemency for personal politics
09/08/99: M-M-M is for manhood
08/30/99: Blocking the schoolhouse door
08/27/99: No kick from cocaine
08/23/99: Movies don't kill people
08/19/99: A rude awakening
08/16/99: Dubyah and that 'language' thing
08/09/99: Chauvinist sows -- oink oink
©1999, Suzanne Fields. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate