An ideological preoccupation with stem cells blocked President Bush from giving his full attention to an intelligence briefing warning of an attack by Bin Laden. This—more or less—is what Frank Rich, the New York Times op-ed columnist, suggests in “The Culture Warriors Get Laid Off” :

Someday we’ll learn the whole story of why George W. Bush brushed off that intelligence briefing of Aug. 6, 2001, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” But surely a big distraction was the major speech he was readying for delivery on Aug. 9, his first prime-time address to the nation. The subject-which Bush hyped as “one of the most profound of our time”-was stem cells. For a presidency in thrall to a thriving religious right (and a presidency incapable of multi-tasking), nothing, not even terrorism, could be more urgent.

And thank God, too, for the present financial crisis in America. It is sure to keep the “religious right” at bay, and maybe for the next forty years or so. Unemployment, frozen credit, and sinking stocks will force America to avert her eyes from the low spectacle of conservative ideologues, and upward to the beckoning vistas offered by President Obama’s left. In short, “Culture wars are a luxury the country . . . can no longer afford.” Oh, goody.

Besides, now that “Obama has far more moral authority than any religious leader in America . . . ” the nation can settle back to the happy business of celebrating the coming “forty-year exodus for these ayatollahs”—uh, that might include me. Anyway, that “can pass for an answer to America’s prayers.”

I like ideologues—left and right. May their tribe increase. I can’t think why Mr. Rich is so eager to do away completely with one set, but perhaps that is part of his ideology.  Ideas make the world go round, and ideology—even the sort Mr. Rich doesn’t like—serves the purpose of altering us to the location of the center. But I don’t think Mr. Rich would know the center if he saw it. Just a hunch.