Commentary: UNDER WITHERING FIRE, CHARACTER COUNTS
by Mark Scheinbaum
American Reporter Correspondent
Lake Worth, Fla.
WASHINGTON -- The nominee was quiet, professional, and mostly respe= cted as both the attorney general of his state and lame duck member of the = United States Senate.
It's true enough that the deeply personal religious commitment of t= he nominee launched segments of a cynical nation into pros and cons of the = separation of church and state.
His avowed religious observance and orthodoxy caused some critics t= o worry about his secular performance. He and his friends responded that it= was the very adherence to his religious views which actually morally prohi= bited him from imposing his own religionon other people.
It was no secret that some of the more, well, mystical aspects of h= is religion involved revealing ancient Biblical passages, and cult-like rit= uals which outsiders might not understand. A woman's place was mostly at he= arth and home, and gays were the subjectedof an ongoing theological debate.
Yet the nominee said the law is the law, and his personal abhorrenc= e of racism, sexism, and discrimination would take precedence over the ultr= aconservatives of his faith. Yet, the very disciples of his faith who cheer= ed his nomination were quietly concerned that maybe he wouldn't be conserva= tive enough for their liking.
The nominee had a visceral dislike for foul language in songs, movi= es, and television. The dumbing down of America and the demeaning of the sp= irit in word and deed concerned him. He indeed sided in the Senate with col= leagues of both parties whoshared his concern.
But the nominee is also sensitive to the Constitution and the rule = of law. His own conservative, if not ancient, religious views had to be tem= pered by First Amendment rights and the vibrant free expression of a modern= democracy.
Ironically, the lobbying of AOL-Time Warner legally isn't any diff= erent from the lobbying of Boeing or Merck. The corporate concerns of ABC-D= isney, or Fox couldn't be given more or less weight that the environmental = considerations of International Paper or Exxon/Mobil.
When it comes to discrimination, both friends and foes admired the = nominee's longtime concern that affirmative action not be an excuse for quo= tas. He worried that the same quotas which he found abusive and oppressive,= had been reincarnated as "reverse" discrimination.
But when thrust into the national and international spotlight, he r= efined his public view, expressing concern that his nation was still a long= way from full equality of all citizens, and laws against bias must be str= ongly enforced.
On these and many other issues, the religious views and rituals of = his own household might come into conflict with "modern" society's views of= secular culture. The nominee sought out his own personal spiritual advisor= and returned to the podium of publicopinion with, to paraphrase:
"The certain knowledge that there is nothing in my religious observanc= e which would ever jeopardize the health, safety, or welfare of the America= n people, or keep me from performing duties which are critical to the safet= y of the nation."
The top leader of his party asked that we trust his judgment, and c= onsider the totality of the nominee's years of public service. The boss man= suggested that we celebrate the religiosity and morality of the nominee, w= hile believing his assurance that church and state would still be separated= under his guidance. Although in some ways the nominee could be named John Ashcroft, the = fact is the nominee I'm writing about is Joseph Lieberman.
Double standard anyone? Mark Scheinbaum taught political science at the University of Florida an= d the University of South Florida and is chief market columnist for Money.n= et, the world's most comprehensive financial news site.