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Editorials, Nov. 15

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Pandering to preachers

It's hard to believe now, but early in George W. Bush's first presidential campaign, some on the Religious Right suspected that he was not really one of them, though he claimed to be. They noted that he was an Ivy Leaguer, and the son of a man who'd once been a moderate and a member of the Eastern Establishment, possibly even an Episcopalian.

But when lesser right-wing clerics suggested voting for different candidates, the two biggest names of the Religious Right, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, stood firm for Bush, assuring their brethren that President Bush would be as intolerant and sanctimonious as anyone could hope for, and would take the side of fundamentalist Christians in every political fight — abortion, gay rights, prayer in the schools, faith-based transit, whatever. And so it came to pass.

Robertson and Falwell didn't endorse without knowing their man, and getting commitments from him. Robertson still doesn't. (Falwell is deceased.) When Robertson gives his blessing to Rudy Giuliani, heretofore regarded as the most liberal and most worldly of this year's Republican candidates, we have to assume Giuliani has made promises — most likely, that this supposed supporter of abortion rights will do nothing as president to actually protect those rights. Robertson's ministry is all about denying choices, not allowing them.

Mike Huckabee, who'd seem a more likely Robertson pick, got some consolation from his endorsement by Don Wildmon, another well-known figure in the Movement, though not as well-known as Robertson, of course. Wildmon is the fellow who selflessly watches one television program after another, looking for sin. When he finds it, as he often does, he tries to get the program removed from the air before the rest of us are exposed. Like Robertson, Wildmon doesn't believe in letting people decide things for themselves.

We don't recall that Huckabee, as governor, ever said much about dirty TV shows. Always seeking air time for himself, he may have feared alienating anybody in the business. But he now claims to be delighted with Wildmon's endorsement. In today's Republican politics, right-wing preachers must be pandered to. It is not your father's Republican Party, or Bush's father's either.

Let the market work

U.S. Rep. Marion Berry is once again sponsoring a bill that would allow the federal government to negotiate prescription-drug prices for Medicare recipients, rather than leaving the elderly ill to the mercy of rapacious private drug companies, as they are now. Berry's bill would let the government do what Wal-Mart does — use its buying power to get the best price for its customers. It's good business.

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