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Conservative "Dismay" at the Times

The New York Times says religious conservatives are unhappy with John Ashcroft. Which is news to them.

5:00 PM, Jul 24, 2002 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
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Which leaves the conservative dismay on the shoulders of Weyrich and Norquist. Deciphering Weyrich's motives is nearly impossible. But Norquist is much easier to understand. For several years, Norquist has been trying to convince Republicans that Muslims are a natural GOP constituency (see Franklin Foer's informative New Republic piece on Norquist, Fevered Pitch). September 11 threw a spanner in the works of Norquist's project, especially as American Muslim groups reacted with ambivalence, if not hostility, to the fact that the war on terrorism, of necessity, would focus on Arabs. In the ongoing struggle between these groups and the Justice Department, Norquist has been a consistent critic of Ashcroft. This is also in keeping with Norquist's longstanding, anti-government brand of conservatism--his so-called "leave-us-alone coalition," which has been a harder sell since last September. Not that Norquist has relented. After the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, he kept his powder dry for less than a week. By September 17, he was denouncing Ashcroft's plans for the war on terror as "a real danger for civil liberties."

So Norquist has an Islamo-libertarian axe to grind. Bully for him. But that makes him doubly unreliable as a guide to the feelings of "religious conservatives"--unless by that phrase the Times means Norquist's American Muslim allies, who are, indeed, dismayed by Ashcroft's policies.

Gary Bauer, another religious conservative, says, "I think that Mr. Norquist needs to take a deep breath and realize that the danger to American liberties does not rest in the office of John Ashcroft, but rather in the radical Islamists who are trying to destroy America."

Jonathan V. Last is online editor of The Weekly Standard.