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MAY 26, 2016
blow the whistle on
phrase > "Read my lips: no new taxes"
At the Republican convention in 1988,
during his speech to accept
the party's presidential nomination,
Mr. Bush said, "My opponent won't rule out
raising taxes, but I will.
And Congress will push me to raise taxes,
and I'll say no, and they'll push,
and I'll say no, and they'll push again.
And I'll say to them:
Read my lips. No
Theocracy and Its Discontents
The New York Times
By TIMOTHY EGAN
on American politics and life,
as seen from the West.
founders, those starch-collared English souls planting liberty in the
Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 17th century. For those who didn’t follow rules
handed down by God through man, these New World authorities could cut out your
tongue, slice off your ears or execute you. O.K., Puritans, wrong role-model
Then let’s look west, beyond the Wasatch Mountains in the 19th century, where
Brigham Young built a Mormon empire in which church rule and civil law were one
and the same — the press, a military brigade and the courts all controlled by
the Seer and Revelator of a homegrown religion. Oops, wrong founders again.
American political bedrock — God’s house and the people’s government guiding
separate worlds — wasn’t always in place. Reason ultimately won out. But
theocracy certainly had its colonies and its advocates; it might have prevailed
but for a few outstanding voices.
One of those voices was Roger Williams’s. Banished by the Puritans, he
established what became Rhode Island and created in 1636 “the first government
in the world which broke church and state apart,” as John M. Barry writes in
“Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul,” a new book on this
The idea that civil law and religious law are separate has coursed through
American society ever since. It was a radical thought in 1636. It’s written in
the Constitution now. And yet, with Rick Santorum riding high in the Republican
primaries, it looks as if this issue will get another go-round.
Santorum, who makes Mitt Romney look blandly secular by comparison, has a
well-known animus against accepted sexual practices that he believes defy “God’s
law” — his words, not mine. He opposes sex for reasons other than producing
babies, sex outside of marriage, homosexuality, prenatal testing, and on and on.
Contraception, he has said, gives people “a license to do things in a sexual
realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”
Erik S. Lesser/European Pressphoto AgencyRick Santorum and his family prayed
with a pastor at a campaign rally in a Cumming, Ga. church on Feb. 19.
Most Americans won’t begrudge him his beliefs; he’s free to practice them, and
imbue his children with them, as he did by home-schooling his family. But most
Americans also will part ways with him when he advocates that civil code should
adhere to his religious beliefs.
“God gave us laws that we must abide by,” he said early on the campaign.
Notably, Santorum, a far-right Catholic, has taken issue with President John F.
Kennedy, a moderate Catholic, for having said that his presidency would not be
dictated by his faith. This view, Santorum said in 2010, has caused “great harm
So, bring on the argument, once again, with history as the guide. Williams was a
Puritan convert who left Britain to escape religious persecution by a king who
was head of state and head of the Church of England. After initially being
welcomed into the Massachusetts Bay Colony, he was persecuted for his more
enlightened views and put on trial. He faced the possibility of torture, or
execution. Ultimately, he was banished.
In founding Providence as a place of religious tolerance, Williams drew Jews,
Quakers and nonbelievers to his new colony, and gave up trying to convert the
Indians. “Forced worship stinks in God’s nostrils,” he said.
In Barry’s book, Williams is charismatic and heroic, but also far ahead of his
time. “The Bay leaders, both lay and clergy, firmly believed that the state must
enforce all of God’s laws,” Barry writes. Williams “believed that humans, being
imperfect, would inevitably err in applying God’s laws.” And certainly, those
heretics who were hanged in New England paid the ultimate price for such errors.
The Mormons, for all the cheery optimism of their present state, were birthed in
brutal theocracy, first in Nauvoo, Ill., and later in the State of Deseret, as
their settlement in present-day Utah was called. The Constitution, separating
church from state, press from government, had no place in either stronghold. And
it took a threat to march the United States Army out to the rogue settlement
around the Great Salt Lake to persuade Mormon leaders that their control did not
extend beyond matters of the soul.
Santorum is itching to add another chapter to this book. Last weekend, he seemed
to question President Obama’s faith, alluding to a “phony theology” that
supposedly guides his presidency. Who knew there was a religious test through
the gates of the White House?
He also used his Biblical beliefs to deny climate change, saying, “We are put on
this earth as creatures of God to have dominion over the earth.” You may think
he’s running for chief deacon, and should swap his sweater vest for a clerical
But his followers know exactly what he’s talking about. In Wednesday night’s
debate in Arizona, Santorum defended his religious-themed campaign: “Just
because I talk about it doesn’t mean I want a government program to fix it.” But
in fact, he does. Santorum has long tried to get his Biblical principles taught
to children in public schools — insisting that “creationism” should be in every
American classroom, and trying to enforce that through riders to education bills
when he was a senator. Better yet, the kids should read about Roger Williams, a
man of faith, and of reason — the American model that will prevail long after
Santorum has left the pulpit.
Theocracy and Its Discontents,
Reviving Civil Rights
September 2, 2009
The New York Times
Few parts of the federal government veered more radically off course in the
Bush years than the Justice Department, including its vital civil rights
division. Attorney General Eric Holder has made clear that he intends to put the
division back on track. That will not be easy, but restoring the nation’s
commitment to fairness in voting, employment, housing and other areas is one of
the new administration’s most important challenges.
The Bush administration declared war on the whole idea of civil rights, in a way
that no administration of either party had since the passage of the nation’s
civil rights laws in the 1960s. It put a far-right ideologue in a top position
at the civil rights division and, as the department’s inspector general said in
a scathing report, he screened out job applicants with civil rights sympathies.
The division abandoned its “historic mission,” notes John Payton,
director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund — enforcing
civil rights laws, in areas from housing to employment. In some cases, like
voting rights, it aggressively fought on the anti-civil-rights side.
It is heartening that the Obama administration has proposed substantially
increasing the number of lawyers in the division. They will have plenty of work.
On voting, the division needs to drop the Bush-era obsession with the overblown
problem of vote fraud and put the emphasis back where it should be — making sure
protected groups are not denied the right to vote. It has to ensure that the
voter rolls are not being illegally purged, and that political operatives are
not engaging in dirty tricks to suppress the minority vote. It also needs to
make state and local governments comply with the “motor voter” law, which
requires registration to be available at motor vehicle bureaus and welfare
On employment discrimination, the division should once again start bringing the
sort of high-impact cases that the Bush administration abandoned.
On discrimination in education, it has to navigate the bad decisions the Supreme
Court has handed down recently and provide concrete guidance for school
districts on how to legally promote integration.
Perhaps no group was more abandoned for the last eight years than prisoners. The
division should challenge the dangerously crowded and inhumane conditions that
are increasingly becoming the norm in the nation’s prisons and jails. As Wade
Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights notes, a few strong
lawsuits of this kind could prod many institutions to reform voluntarily.
The division should also tackle predatory lending and other financial bias
against minorities. With millions of Americans facing foreclosure, this sort of
discrimination looms especially large.
The Justice Department has enormous power under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act
of 1964 to combat discrimination in any institution or program that receives
federal funds. This authority is more important than ever with federal stimulus
money flowing. The division should use it to ensure that public schools,
hospitals, transportation systems and other institutions do not discriminate.
Gay men and lesbians still largely stand outside the division’s protection. If a
hate crime law covering them is passed soon, as appears likely, the division
should use it aggressively. Mr. Holder should also press Congress to pass the
first federal law against job discrimination based on sexual orientation.
This agenda would be difficult in the best of circumstances, but the civil
rights division is working under the enormous handicap of being leaderless.
Senate Republicans have put a hold on the nomination of Thomas Perez to head it.
The reasons offered are spurious. Their real agenda seems to be impeding the
division from doing its work. When Congress returns, Majority Leader Harry Reid
should make sure Mr. Perez is quickly confirmed.
Reviving Civil Rights,
Sex scandals in U.S. politics
Mon Mar 10, 2008
(Reuters) - New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, the one-time "Sheriff" of Wall
Street who campaigned on a promise to clean up state politics, is embroiled in a
sex scandal that threatens to force his resignation.
Following are some other sex scandals involving politicians in the United
* IDAHO SEN. LARRY CRAIG was publicly admonished by the Senate Ethics Committee
for improper conduct after his arrest in a sex-sting operation in a men's toilet
in June 2007.
The Republican lawmaker pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct after he was caught
in an undercover investigation of lewd behaviour in a men's room at the
Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. He later tried to recant saying he agreed to a
misdemeanour charge without consulting a lawyer and in hopes of quickly
disposing of the case. He remains in the Senate.
* LOUISIANA SEN. DAVID VITTER, a Republican and social conservative, apologized
and admitted "a very serious sin" after he was linked last July to a Washington
escort service. Vitter said his misdeeds occurred several years previously and
he had dealt with them in confession and marriage counselling. He remains in the
* MARK FOLEY, a Florida Republican, resigned from the House of Representatives
in 2006 after it was disclosed he had sent sexually explicit text messages to
teenage boys who served as interns in the House. The revelations led to charges
that Republican leaders tried to cover up the matter.
* NEW JERSEY GOV. JAMES MCGREEVEY, a Democrat, stepped down in 2004 over a gay
affair with a man whom he hired in 2002 to head the state's Homeland Security
* PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON, a Democrat, had a sexual relationship with intern
Monica Lewinsky, then 21, which led to his impeachment after accusations he lied
about it under oath. He survived the impeachment process and was able to serve
out his term but his presidency, which ended in 2001, was badly damaged.
* FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER NEWT GINGRICH, a Republican, has admitted he was having
an extramarital affair while leading the impeachment charge in Congress against
* SEN. BOB PACKWOOD, a Republican from Oregon, resigned in 1995 after 26 years
in Congress. He had been accused of sexual misconduct with 17 women, among other
* REP. BARNEY FRANK, a Massachusetts Democrat who is homosexual, was reprimanded
in 1990 after it was learned that a lover had run a prostitution ring out of his
* SEN. GARY HART, a Colorado Democrat, saw his second presidential bid end in
1987 when it was learned he spent the night on a yacht, named the Monkey
Business, with a woman who was not his wife.
* REP. DAN CRANE, a Republican from Illinois, and REP. GERRY STUDDS, a Democrat
from Massachusetts, were censured in 1983 for illicit affairs with underage
pages. Crane, who had had sex with a teenage girl, was voted out of office but
Studds, who had had an affair with a boy, was returned to office many times.
* REP. WILBUR MILLS, a Democrat from Arkansas and chairman of the powerful Ways
and Means Committee, was caught in 1974 with stripper Fanne Foxe, who performed
as "the Argentine firecracker." Foxe leapt from Mills' limousine after it was
stopped by police and jumped into the Tidal Basin. Mills went into treatment for
alcohol and retired two years later.
(Compiled by Claudia Parsons)
FACTBOX - Sex scandals
in U.S. politics,
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