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All the president's men 

click to enlarge TINA HAGER
  • Tina Hager

All the president's men

You've probably heard that last Wednesday, Nov. 5, President George W. Bush signed a law outlawing the rarely-performed medical procedure used to abort late-term fetuses.

But you probably aren't aware of the intimate role that Colorado Springs' own mega-church leader Pastor Ted Haggard played in the day's solemn events.

First, some background.

The controversial measure was twice vetoed by Bush's predecessor, and the stories of women who have testified before Congress, describing the agonizing decision to abort in the last trimester of their pregnancies have been tragic and well-publicized. But the religious right's zealous marketing campaign against this procedure has been so wildly successful that their term -- partial birth abortion -- is now a common media and household phrase. It is even the name of the actual bill that Bush signed into law -- the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003.

The federal courts will ultimately decide whether the law is constitutional.

Meanwhile, it is interesting to consider the men who made last week's momentous event a reality. Take a good long look at the photo below. It is the official White House-released photograph of the president signing the bill. The nine old white men flanking him include Attorney General John Ashcroft and Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson. The group also includes such congressional luminaries as Sen. Rick Santorum, who earlier this year was embroiled in controversy after he disparaged gays and lesbians, and Congressman Henry Hyde, whose past marital infidelities are the stuff of legend.

He's not in the picture, but for the grace of God and the Secret Service, Ted Haggard, the pastor of Colorado Springs' New Life Church, was cheering from the audience, at the personal request of the president himself.

Haggard, who is currently the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, described how he came to witness the event in a Nov. 7 mass e-mail sent to "New Lifers and Friends of New Life Church."

"On Monday, I was in the [Colorado Springs] World Prayer Center and my cell phone rang," Haggard wrote. "It was one of the special assistants to President Bush calling from the White House. It turns out that when the President was reviewing the list of those attending the signing of the partial birth abortion ban, he asked why I wasn't attending and asked that they call me. So the White House staff got onto the phones and were calling the [National Association of Evangelicals] Washington office, our church office and my cell phone at the same time trying to see if I could come to the signing.

"Of course I could. I rearranged my schedule... and flew to Washington on Tuesday to be at the signing on Wednesday. I sat with those from the Senate and House who voted for the bill, and afterward was escorted to the President's motorcade and taken to the White House. I and seven others were able to spend 55 minutes with the President in the Oval Office discussing any issue we liked. It was incredible. I'll tell you about the discussion in church."

In his e-mail, Haggard identified the seven others at the post-signing hobnobbing with the president. They include the Rev. Jerry Falwell, Frank Wright, the president of National Religious Broadcasters, and Southern Baptist Convention president and former president Jack Graham and Adrian Rogers. Rounding out the group were Jay Sekulow, the chief council for the American Center for Law and Justice, Richard Land, who is the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and -- how 'bout a drumroll for the woman of the day -- radio talk show host Janet Parshall.

For those who are familiar with the presidential kingmaking career of anti-abortion champion and Focus on the Family president James Dobson, we have but one observation: We feel sorry for the person who had to had to tell him there's a new sheriff in town.

-- degette@csindy.com

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