Where’s the Outrage?

For those who believed President George W. Bush would chart a moderate course, the administration’s first two months must come as a rude awakening. Those who were lulled into believing that Bush was a compassionate conservative have now discovered that only the latter half of this otherwise vacuous campaign slogan is true.

A virtually giddy George Feulner, president of the conservative Heritage Foundation, recently described the Bush White House as “more Reaganite than the Reagan Administration.” And as Grover Norquist, a leading right-wing strategist, ungrammatically confessed: “There isn’t an us and them with this administration. They is us. We is them.”

Why is the far right rejoicing? Consider just a few examples:

The deeply divisive appointment of ultraconservative Attorney General John Ashcroft.

The reinstatement of an abortion gag order on international organizations providing family planning counseling.

The promulgation of so-called faith-based initiatives that are already stirring anti-Semitic rumblings, pitting service providers of various religious denominations against each other and calling into question the very definition and legitimacy of various faith communities.

The retraction of a campaign pledge to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, coupled with a refusal even to acknowledge — much less react to — the phenomenon of global warming.

The withdrawal of new regulations that would have substantially reduced the permissible level of arsenic, a known carcinogen, in drinking water.

The willingness to open the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling while simultaneously refusing to ask automobile manufacturers to improve fuel efficiency.

The refusal to impose any federal constraints upon hyper-profiteering electricity providers, as California citizens and businesses suffered through rolling blackouts and girded themselves for 50 percent-plus-aggregate utility-rate increases.

The repeal of workplace ergonomic safety rules designed to protect tens of millions of Americans.

The proposals to dramatically cut already modest funding of child care for low-income families, for programs designed to combat child abuse, and all trust-fund money earmarked for early learning.

The readiness to promote the interests of the ultra-rich by repealing the estate tax and providing them with the lion’s share of federal income-tax relief.

The passage of a bankruptcy-reform bill that will harm consumers while pandering to a credit-card industry that seduced those very consumers into amassing irresponsible levels of debt.

The ongoing push for a destabilizing, untested and unworkable Star Wars missile-defense shield.

The implementation of a sometimes schizophrenic foreign policy that seems destined to reignite Cold War-era hostilities.

The abandonment of a meaningful role (including the refusal to appoint a Middle East envoy with a specific portfolio) in helping to resolve the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The precipitous termination of the American Bar Association’s 47-year-old advisory role in the selection of federal judges, thus raising the specter of temperamentally and professionally unqualified candidates being nominated and appointed for federal court judgeships.

Though many of these actions may well be examples of the reward-your-friends-and-punish-your-enemies game of politics, there is something missing — outrage. Having crafted the first Judenrein Cabinet since the Eisenhower administration, Bush is sucker-punching the Jewish community. Amazingly, mainstream American Jewry has reacted only with profound silence to the White House’s wholesale sell-out to the religious right, to fanatic ideological conservatives, to big business, and to every imaginable segment of the energy industry.

Only with respect to the administration’s misguided faith-based initiative has the mainstream Jewish community spoken up in any serious way. And even then, the criticism proffered by traditional Jewish organizations has too often been divisively targeted toward contesting the bona fides of putative non-Jewish service providers. While battling Bush’s desire to dismantle the wall of church-state separation is obviously necessary, it cannot be the beginning and end of Jewish activism.

In an era when coalition politics has become increasingly important to a vibrant Jewish community, we must engage and activate ourselves on many more fronts than those where we have been traditionally heard.

Our tradition commands us to work for tikkun olam, the healing or repair of the world. We cannot remain silent in the face of this assault on our community’s values by a right-wing administration with no mandate to impose its agenda upon the rest of us.

Though the Bush inaugural (with its multiple invocations of Jesus Christ) occurred less than three months ago, it is long past time for American Jewry to heed a serious wake-up call to conscience.

Douglas Mirell,
president of the Progressive Jewish Alliance, can be reached at dmirell@pjalliance.org. Daniel Sokatch,
executive director of the Progressive Jewish Alliance, can be reached via e-mail
at dsokatch@pjalliance.org. The
organization’s Web site can be found at www.pjalliance.org.