Suddenly religion matters to the media

By Nicholas Sanchez
web posted August 14, 2000

In his initial bid for the presidency, William Howard Taft had to fend off charges that he was a . . . Roman Catholic. At that time in history, the early 20th Century, it seems that a great many people in the country could not fathom the thought that someone who was spiritually subject to the Bishop of Rome could be a good president.

Mr. Taft loudly denied that he was a Catholic and enlisted the help of the man that he hoped to succeed, Theodore Roosevelt, to help quell rumors that he was a papist. The soft speaker spoke up loudly in backing up Taft, but he also let it be known that, personally, he foresaw a day when a Catholic might indeed occupy the White House. In fact, he also did not consider it beyond reason that one day, in the far, far future, a person of the Jewish faith might also hold the highest governmental office in the land.

(As an interesting aside: while it was true that Taft himself was not a Catholic, there was a branch of his family tree that was Catholic. In fact, one of Taft's decedents, who is a namesake of the president's famous son, Senator Robert Taft, is a world renowned liturgist and a mitered Archimandrite in the Eastern Catholic Church--the Rt. Rev. Robert Taft, S.J.)

Of course, one-half of Teddy Roosevelt's prophecy has come true. In 1960, a Roman Catholic was elected as President. I speak, of course, about John F. Kennedy. However, both the Republicans and the Democrats have been much slower in selecting a Jew to head their ticket.
Barry M. Goldwater was nominated by the Republican Party in 1964. Goldwater is plainly a Jewish name--and the name itself is derived from the Russian Jewish name Goldwasser. However, Mr. Goldwater was raised as an Episcopalian, and so any kosher observance that he might have kept would have been purely on accident.

Al Gore and Joe LiebermanBut now America has taken one significant step forward towards having a Jewish president. As most of the free world now knows, Al Gore has selected Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) as his running mate. Mr. Lieberman is an Orthodox Jew. Television anchors, historians, talking heads, and political commentators have made sure to remind us about the historical importance of the selection of the junior Senator from Connecticut.

All of this hubbub is not without reason. This is truly a monumental selection. The gravity of this pick stems from that fact that Mr. Gore has chosen a serious (read: viable) person to run with him. The selection of Sen. Lieberman cannot in any way be compared to Walter Mondale picking Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate. Ferraro had barely served a few terms in the House of Representatives and was clearly unqualified to be Vice President, much less President, of the United States.

Unfortunately, in this current cloud of Politically Correct thought, this pick means that for the next few months, the American electorate is going to have to endure the endless hand-wringing of pundits as they scrutinize every utterance that is directed to the Gore-Lieberman ticket. Mark my words, if the Republicans attack Lieberman for any legitimate reason, Democrats are going to begin to whisper to the public that the only reason the GOP is making these attacks is because they are plaid-pants wearing, country-clubbing, WASPy anti-Semites.

Already, I can hear how the hordes of overpaid and overweight pundits might over analyze every jab that may be thrown Lieberman's way. "Was this attack made because Lieberman is a Jew?" "Would an Episcopalian have been treated to the same type of attack as Lieberman?" "By attacking Lieberman on this [fill in the blank] issue, isn't the Republican Party showing some strains of anti-Semitic behavior?"

Moreover, if the Gore-Lieberman ticket loses to Bush-Cheney, wait for the reaction from the so-called mainstream media. The American electorate will be dressed down in a painstaking examination over its motives and alleged prejudices. Analysts will dissect the voting patterns of each and every demographic group and report which side they came out on--in favor of the ticket with The Jew, or against it. Of course, such sloppy analysis can in no way reflect true motives of the voter who casts his ballot for Bush-Cheney.

There are enough serious issues on the table this election cycle--partial birth abortion, missile defense, Social Security, etc.--to be debated without having to get hung up on the worship habits of one of the nominees. Most people are concerned not about what the candidates are going to be doing on Sunday morning (or Saturday evening, as the case may be), but what they will do for the country. And so watch, any obsessive focus on Mr. Lieberman's religiosity will come not from Republicans, not from conservative think tanks, or religious columnists. Nope. It will come from members of the "enlightened" media.

Nicholas Sanchez is host of the Free Congress radio program "New Nation."

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