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Nobody Expects The Spanish Inquisition, or Bill Keller

Thursday, August 25, 2011  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Former editor of the New York Times Bill Keller is out with a piece that encourages his colleagues in the Manhattan-Beltway media elite to do their best to stoke the fires of religious intolerance by turning this presidential campaign into the occasion for an inquisition into all of the Republican’s religious beliefs.

It apparently wasn’t enough that during his tenure the Times turned into the active opponent of American national security with front-page story after front-page story compromising the country’s hunt for terrorists.

Now Keller wants to know “whether a president respects serious science and verifiable history.” Cue the evil music:

I do care if religious doctrine becomes an excuse to exclude my fellow citizens from the rights and protections our country promises.

And I care a lot if a candidate is going to be a Trojan horse for a sect that believes it has divine instructions on how we should be governed.

The article goes on to tell you that either Mitt Romney or Rick Perry could be riding that Trojan horse.

At a time when most Americans care that President Obama has no clue about why his policies have brought about a near-depression in many parts of the economy, the numero uno Timesman emeritus wants a lot secular reporters to dig deep into the religious beliefs of Republicans.

I wrote that attacks like this one would be coming in my Monday Washington Examiner column, but I didn’t think the trumpet would be sounded so soon and from such a Custer-like figure of the left. Many tried for this very dynamic four years ago vis-a-vis Romney. Jacob Weisberg at Slate was the most visible of the chorus calling for a renaissance of religious bigotry in the country four years ago, though he was and remains very small potatoes next to Keller, despite the later’s record of dismal failure at his paper. Keller elbows Weisberg aside as secularism’s genteel Torquemada, but a bigot is just a bigot even when the circulation is significant.

Having just returned from Jerusalem where one thinks a lot about the consequences of religious intolerance, Keller’s naked appeal to prejudice is startling to me. Can he not know –really not know– how his lines of inquiry play out and how they have always preceded the worst sort of religious intolerance?

Keller says that “this season I’m paying closer attention to what the candidates say about their faith and what they have said in the past that they may have decided to play down in the quest for mainstream respectability.” Put aside that during the season Keller was in command of a legion of researchers and reporters at the Times in 2008 he didn’t care to investigate what President Obama said about his faith or his “relationship with the religious fringe” (which Keller asserts his “informed Texas friends” say Rick Perry has).

Just ask yourself why President Obama isn’t mentioned in this piece? Keller tells us he sent a list of questions to the candidates (one wonders if they were preceded by heralds) but doesn’t indicate that he sent any to President Obama.

The only thing surprising about this is that it is so bald a call, so unsophisticated an appeal to the worst in American politics. Bill Keller and Joe McCarthy –who’d have thought it was possible?

President Obama is in deep political trouble when his closest allies realize the only way he can win is via appeals to naked religious bigotry.

Over to my friends at Article Six blog (a portion of the Constitution the origins of which are quite obviously a mystery to Keller) for what I hope is a detailed response to Keller that puts his left-wing cliches in the context of all the other left-wing cliches that have gone before it. The only difference between Keller’s attacks and those on Romney in the 2008 cycle is that this time they have been broadened to include the evangelical candidates –an evolution predicted then and presented as a warning to the anti-Mormon evangelicals of what would occur if they sanctioned attacks on Romney not because of his policies but because of his faith.

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