Dems Turn Up Heat on GOP Frontrunner

By E.J. Kessler

Published May 06, 2005, issue of May 06, 2005.
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Even as a noted political tip sheet identified Senator George Allen as the GOP presidential frontrunner for 2008, a Jewish group was taking a swipe at the Virginia Republican for agreeing to speak this weekend at the Rev. Pat Robertson’s Regent University in Virginia Beach.

The National Jewish Democratic Council called on Allen, who emerged as the frontrunner in The Hotline’s weekly “insider’s poll,” to distance himself from remarks made by Robertson on May 1 on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.” Robertson, a prominent Christian conservative who ran for president in 1988, told ABC he stood by his earlier claim that an “out-of-control judiciary” poses “the most serious threat” in the country’s history, greater than the one posed by Al Qaeda today or by Nazi Germany more than half a century ago.

Robertson’s remarks brought an immediate condemnation from Democrats, including NJDC Executive Director Ira Forman, who also attempted to turn up the heat on Allen.

Forman stated in a press release, “George Allen has got to decide before he delivers the keynote address at Pat Robertson’s college: Does he agree with Robertson’s offensive and ridiculous claim that America’s judges pose a greater threat than the terrorists who murdered thousands of Americans on American soil?” He added, “The time has finally come for top Republicans like Allen to stop beating a path to the doors of the radical conservatives like Robertson who engage in the most odious and dangerous rhetoric.”

Allen, a former Virginia governor who headed the National Republican Senatorial Committee from 2002 to 2004, is emerging as a tempting target for Democrats. The tall, handsome senator — son of the late, famed Washington Redskins football coach George Allen — lives in the town of Mount Vernon and cites Thomas Jefferson and Ronald Reagan as his heroes. Genial, staunchly conservative and partisan, Allen gained his seat in 2000 by beating Democratic incumbent Charles Robb 52% to 48%. In a November 2004 address to the Republican Jewish Coalition, Allen called himself a “common-sense Jeffersonian conservative,” touted a partnership he had created between Virginia and Israel for economic and cultural exchanges and described the 2004 senatorial playing field in nonstop football metaphors.

A spokesman for Allen, press secretary David Snepp, brushed off the Democratic scolding over the upcoming Virginia Beach appearance, saying the senator would not comment on “a partisan news release that takes Robertson’s remarks totally out of context.”

On the program, Stephanopoulos asked Robertson if he still thought, as he related in his book, “Courting Disaster,” that “an out-of-control judiciary… is the most serious threat America has faced in nearly 400 years of history, more serious than Al Qaeda, more serious than Nazi Germany and Japan, more serious than the Civil War.” Stephanopoulos pressed the point, asking, “How can you say that these judges are a more serious threat than Islamic terrorists who slammed into the World Trade Center?”

Robertson responded: “If you look over the course of 100 years, I think the gradual erosion of the consensus that’s held our country together is probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings. I think we’re going to control Al Qaeda. I think we’re going to get Osama bin Laden. We won in Afghanistan. We won in Iraq, and we can contain that. But if there’s an erosion at home, you know, Thomas Jefferson warned about a tyranny of an oligarchy and if we surrender our democracy to the tyranny of an oligarchy, we’ve made a terrible mistake.”

In a letter to Senator Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat, clarifying his remarks, Robertson wrote that his comments were “taken out of context and then blown out of proportion,” but that he “owed no one any apology.” Robertson then repeated himself: “It is my firm conviction that Supreme Court decisions, which have led to the wanton slaughter of 40 million unborn babies; the removal of cherished religious truths from the schoolroom and the public square; the usurpation of the constitutional power of our elected representatives…; the sanctioning of pornography and the potential destruction of marriage are all of themselves greater dangers in the decades to come than the terrorists which our great nation has defeated in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

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