Friday, January 31, 2003

Actor Martin Sheen endorses Howard Dean for president
Associated Press Writer

January 30, 2003, 8:49 PM EST

MONTPELIER, Vt. -- The man who plays the president on television has endorsed a former governor who wants to be president.

Former Gov. Howard Dean dropped by a taping of NBC's "The West Wing" in Washington last week for a tour and picked up the backing of actor Martin Sheen.

The actor wanted to tell Dean, and an accompanying reporter for People Magazine, that he supported the Vermonter's run for the presidency.

"He invited the governor to the set," Sheen publicist Glennis Liberty said of the meeting.

Dean's staff welcomed the endorsement for the publicity value it carried.

Sheen plays President Josiah Bartlet in "The West Wing," a drama about the presidency. As Dean's staff and supporters are happy to point out, the fictional Bartlet is a lot like the real-life candidate.

The television president is a Democrat and a former governor of a small state in northern New England _ New Hampshire in the case of Bartlet. Both also are married to practicing physicians _ Dr. Judith Steinberg in Dean's case.

"People are familiar with the show: a New England governor whose wife is a doctor. That is our story line," said Dean campaign press secretary Susan Allen. "Not only does it boost name recognition, but it promotes the real life story line of Governor Dean."

Sheen was not available for comment Thursday, but Liberty said he'd told her Dean is "the best possible hope for the Democrats because he's not afraid to lose.

"He is determined to create a viable national debate on the real issues," said Liberty of Dean.

Dean also visited Sheen in Los Angeles last summer, and Liberty said the actor was impressed with "his background, his life, his aspirations."

But if former Vice President Al Gore were running for the Democratic nomination, Sheen would support Gore, she added.

Sheen has been an activist for a variety of peace causes. He was one of hundreds of people who got arrested while protesting outside Fort Benning, Ga. That's the home of the School of the Americas, which trains Latin American military officers.

Dean has carved out a position for himself as a leading critic of President Bush's policy on Iraq. Dean describes himself as the only candidate with government experience who would have voted against the congressional resolution giving Bush power to go to war in Iraq. Dean has said he doesn't oppose waging war against Iraq, but he does not believe the president has made a compelling case for it.

Copyright © 2003, The Associated Press


Web posted Wednesday, January 29, 2003
3:43 a.m. CT

By Erik V. Williams

The Trinity of Robertson, Falwell and Swaggart, the American Axis of Good, has been busy preaching to its flocks on the evils of the religion of Islam.

These scholars, who only a short time ago thought Muslim was a coarse weave fabric Jimmy encountered under his liaisons in the cheaper motels, are today world-renowned experts, with Falwell credited with inciting riots in India.

Falwell called Muhammad, the founder of Islam, "a terrorist ... a man of war," while another reverent man of God, noting that one of Muhammad's many wives was but 9 years old, labeled him a "demon-possessed pedophile."

That is hardly the worst that has been said, but it does highlight the Right's usual prurient preoccupation with sex and violence.

Any historian will explain how inappropriate it is to measure the behavior of the people of one age by the moral standards of another. Muhammad's conduct, occurring more than 1,300 years ago, when warfare was business as usual and females were married while still children, was consistent with his contemporaries, even Christians.

Of course, that is beside the point to Robertson, Falwell and Swaggart, men determined to judge the seventh century by their more modern 14th-century sensibilities.

If one is keeping score, it is just as easy to point out the evils of Christianity. Tens of thousands of men, women and children, both Christian and non-Christian, have been terrorized and sped into the arms of their Maker on the point of a sword, or toasted on church bonfires, all in the name of Christ. It is a subject that seems to rarely come up in Sunday school for some reason.

Of course, the gentle Lamb of God did not commit such violence, but that actually creates a problem for the American ayatollahs.

Throughout the Cold War, Vietnam, and the Gulf War, the Right has had nothing but scorn for doves. If Jesus was alive today, wouldn't he be considered just another naive, longhaired peacenik?

Haven't the ranks of the Right always celebrated the man who kills for his convictions and gets all the chicks? Haven't they found the guy who never married, never dated girls, and just threw wine-and-bread parties with the boys a little suspect? The American cultural icon is Rambo, not Mr. Rogers.

If the right-wingers really studied the matter, they'd find they have more in common with Muhammad than with Jesus. Muhammad was a merchant, a businessman and entrepreneur - a capitalist. Before Jesus walked off his job, he was a carpenter, a common laborer - and with his talk of brotherhood, no doubt would have been a union man.

He hung out with the dregs of society: the poor, prostitutes, tax collectors, and finally thieves. Not exactly the kind of person to whom you would entrust your most precious and eternal possession: your stock portfolio.

Jesus revealed his anti-business agenda as soon as he threw the money-changers out of the temple. To the orthodox for whom taxation is government organized theft, Jesus' clear advocacy of paying taxes by "rendering unto Caesar" is a complete abomination. Scholars are still divided over whether the raising of Lazarus was to escape the death tax or an intent to pay it twice.

In addition to depriving the mortuary services industry of business, Jesus had a bad habit of healing the blind, lame and sick without prior approval from health maintenance organizations. He also offered these treatments without regard to ability to pay, an early attempt at universal health care.

The Right is thankful that this has as much chance today as it did 2,000 years ago - barring another miracle.

Yet more subversive acts were the turning of water into wine and the multiplication of the loaves and fishes to feed the multitude. Supply-side economics and the careful management of scarcity would be utterly wrecked by cheap and plentiful goods on the market. Profits would collapse, CEOs would lose their jobs, and the specter of want would be lifted from the land.

What a capitalist nightmare. The unemployed rabble-rouser from Nazareth was obviously pushing for a welfare state.

Jesus mollycoddled the poor and went out of his way to condemn the rich. His warning that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a wealthy man to get into heaven was typical socialist blather. The affluent have had to devote themselves to breeding smaller camels and building larger needles ever since.

And in answer to that age-old question - what would Jesus drive? - he did not ride an elephant into Jerusalem but a donkey, clearly an endorsement of the Democratic Party and the liberal socioeconomic agenda, not the Republican.

Perhaps it is time the furious Pharisees quit barking up the wrong tree.

Erik V. Williams of Amarillo is a frequent contributor to the Other Opinion page.