Talk about getting in your adversaries' faces! On back-to-back days, George W. Bush hands John Bolton an interim appointment as U.N. ambassador and praises the moral character and public importance of the Boy Scouts of America. Our president is going out of his way to live dangerously.
Bush's encomium to 30,000 scouts at their national jamboree ("Through the generations, scouts have made America a stronger and better nation") could prove the more daring of the two gambits.
As tough a nut as he is, Bolton lacks the means of making the U.N. look good, whereas generous and laudatory words about the scouts are rarely these days poured out in high places, for reasons that boggle the mind. The left wing in American politics has been working to turn the Boy Scouts into an emblem of bigotry (a trait, you understand, that absolutely no one on the left ever displays).
For American Civil Liberties Union lawyers and gay rights activists, the scouts have become a surrogate target representing the old-time religion. Adversaries of scout ideals, by kicking the scouts around, deliver a swift kick to the backside of anyone brazen enough to support the scouts in public embrace of "God and my country."
Whatever status God and country formerly enjoyed in American society, God has become, to the left, an unwelcome intruder in public affairs. The left isn't really big on God Bless America patriotism either.
The ACLU busies itself in filing and prosecuting suits against all evidences of governmental backing for the scouts' "exclusivist" religious ideals -- i.e., no atheists. Last fall, the Defense Department agreed, in partial settlement of a five-year-old suit, to bar official military sponsorship of scout activities. The outrage was large enough to reach even Congress' ear. On July 26, the Senate voted 98-0 to allow the hosting of scout events, such as the jamboree, on military bases.
With religiousness goes commitment to religious norms. Here again the scouts fall short -- ideologically speaking. The scouts have fought for, and won in court, the right to exclude professed homosexuals from membership and leadership posts. Naturally, gay rights agitators have leaned hard on public schools and charitable organizations, especially United Way, to drop support of the scouts.
Sometimes it works, sometimes not. The real payoff is the chance to fill the air with denunciations of scout "homophobia" and thus injure the organization's community standing. It's a tactic that trial lawyers understand well: When you can't win with the facts, start slinging the mud.
Who once would have believed this kind of nuttiness could take root here: commitment to God and country and moral fiber assailed in federal court as un-American and subversive of democracy? Here comes Bush, at any rate, to do something welcome and valuable, namely, to throw the prestige of his office behind the cause of scouting -- and on government property yet, Fort A.P. Hill.
"It's a fantastic sight," the president says, "to look out on more than 30,000 young men wearing the uniform of the Boy Scouts." (Young men the ACLU would probably love to evict from the premises.)
"When you join a scout troop, and put on the Boy Scout uniform, you make a statement. Your uniform is a sign that you're a certain kind of citizen -- trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. These are the values of scouting, and they're important values for America …
"I'm standing in front of America's future leaders. When you follow your conscience, and the ideals you have sworn as a scout, there is no limit to what you can achieve for your country."
And so on. The presidential pulpit has no end of uses: not the least of which is hitting a lick for common sense when such a lick, or a barrage of licks, seems called for. Here was one of those moments, and Mr. Bush delivered -- loyally, helpfully, cheerfully and more than just a bit bravely.