Monday, March 17, 2008


At The American Prospect, Ezra Klein argues that it would be perfectly OK for a Republican presidential candidate to have had a long association with, say Jerry Falwell. Ross Douthat of The Atlantic, replies that that's nonsense -- you don't get much grief, he argues, if you merely have ties to extremists like Falwell, but if Falwell were your spiritual advisor, mentor, and pastor, you'd be answerable.

We don't really have a test case on that, so I think the jury is still out -- but I want to respond to a point Douthat makes at the end of his post:

It's also worth noting that two of the specific examples of white Christian extremism Ezra nods to - Falwell's 9/11 comments, and General William Boykin's "my God is bigger than your God" remarks - both provoked controversies that ended in public apologies, albeit of the mealy-mouthed, "I'm sorry if you were offended" variety.

Yes, and it's also worth noting that the White House did not feel the need to cut off ties to Falwell after that remark -- for instance, the White House sought Falwell's advice in 2005 on the subject of possible Supreme Court nominees:

...The Bush administration has also been consulting with its political allies outside the Congress.

"Someone from the White House called me yesterday, asking for any input I might have," said the Rev. Jerry Falwell, the founder of the Moral Majority and chancellor of Liberty University in Virginia.

Mr. Falwell said he declined to offer advice, telling the White House staff member that, because of Mr. Bush's track record appointing conservative judges, "I am willing to sit back and trust him and pray for him." ...

And while the highest officials kept Falwell at arm's length, a White House liaison stayed in touch with Falwell until a month or so before his death, and then attended his funeral.

And as for Boykin, he wasn't demoted or punished in any real way, and he quietly remained in his job for more than three years after the controversy broke.

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