Marcia Goodling, a top aide to Attorney General Gonzales, has resigned. It turns out that Goodling is a graduate of an evangelical Christian college and of the Regent University Law School founded by Pat Robertson. Dahlia Lithwick of Slate wants to make something out of this in her Washington Post column but struggles to figure out what that something is.
Lithwick points out that many Regent graduates have served in the government during the Bush administration. But at the end of her piece she says she sees nothing wrong with this.
Lithwick states that in the past five years the Bush administration Justice Department has brought no voting rights cases and only one employment discrimination on behalf of African-Americans. At the same time, it has pursued voter fraud cases, and cases of discrimination against Christians and whites. From this Lithwick concludes that, in the Attorney General’s view, “the fight for a student’s right to read the Bible is as urgent as the right to vote.”
Here, Lithwick is not being intellectually honest. The Justice Department has pursued voting rights cases for decades. At this juncture, there’s little reason to believe (and Lithwick supples none) that there are any cases left to be brought, except under controversial theories that purport to find violations based on the outcome of voting, as opposed to what one would ordinarily think of as the right to vote.
As for employment cases, the Justice Department is not authorized to sue ordinary employers — these suits are brought by the EEOC which continues to be quite active. The Justice Department brings employment suits against governmental entities. But there is little reason to believe (and Lithwick supplies none) that such entities are discriminating against minorities on a scale that would justify a suit by the federal government. The government of a big city with a large African-American population, for example, is at least as likely to be awarding jobs to blacks due to race as to be favoring whites. Finally, Lithwick provides no evidence or analysis that would suggest that the Justice Department should not be bringing actions to curb voter fraud or discrimination against Christians, problems that (unlike traditional civil rights matters) have never received serious attention before.
Ultimately, Lithwick says her real grievance in the matter of Monica Goodling is that “she and her ilk somehow began to conflate God’s work with the President’s.” But here too Lithwick is unable to provide support for her claim. Goodling may well have been a foot soldier in the administration’s quest to increase the number and power of Justice Department employees who support the president’s policies, and to decrease the power and influence of career bureaucrats. But this struggle occurs in every administration, not just ones in which evangelicals hold important positions. As a native Washingtonian and the son of a government worker, I’ve heard the kind of complaints Lithwick chooses to air since the Kennedy adminsitration. I can even recall my mother talking about a friend and fellow Democrat who had voted for Eisenhower only to lose her government job — I think this was supposed to be an object lesson about the evils of voting for a Republican, even a heroic one.
Republicans tend to be a little more aggressive in dealing with the career bureaucrats because that group is far more supportive of a Democratic than a Republican agenda (just look at voting patterns in Washington and its suburbs). But there is no evidence of any relationship between strongly held Christian belief and loyalty (blind or otherwise) to the president. The most egregious defenders of executive misconduct — John Dean and Sidney Blumenthal come to mind — were not evangelical Christians.
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