Monday, January 9, 2006
Jan LaRue is not your usual Washington political commando or Ivy League-trained insider. She is not your power-suit-wearing, dinner-party-schmoozing, headline-grabbing Beltway operator.
What she is, though, is a street fighter -- a Christian one, armed with a law degree. Lately, LaRue has been battling over the future of the Supreme Court. That war returns to prime time today with the start of the Senate confirmation hearings for Samuel A. Alito.
In conservative circles, LaRue, chief counsel for Concerned Women for America, is known for her legal acumen, assertion of principles over politics, and debating style, which has been described as fierce, tough and even ruthless. LaRue likes to say she believes in being direct without being brutal.
CWA is a big supporter of Alito, though it rejected his predecessor, Harriet Miers. Remember her? CWA had incredible timing on that one, announcing its opposition to Miers the day before she quit, helping to hand President Bush a resounding defeat from his political base. LaRue was in the thick of all that.
But LaRue, who turns 67 tomorrow, took the long road to Washington, arriving by way of darkness and light. Her life story is a dramatic one that includes molestation, self-described heavy drinking and promiscuity, and dropping out of high school. And, she will tell you with great regret, she had an illegal abortion. She eventually ended up a divorcee and a single mom before she found another man to love and a God to save her.
She's an evangelical Christian now, a lawyer who has built a career as a fierce opponent of pornography. That work brought her to this town and led her into the ranks of those trying to push the court decidedly to the right.
"I think history put her in a unique role," says Manuel Miranda, a conservative judicial activist and Wall Street Journal columnist, of LaRue and the Miers episode. "She's evangelical, she's a woman, she's well spoken and she's a lawyer, a very careful lawyer. . . . I think she's very influential."
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Her desk could pass the white-glove test, easy. It's the kind of clean that inspires feelings of inadequacy. There are no papers out of place, no files scattered about. Not even a stray paper clip.
She has a gavel on her desk, front and center. She is a mother of two, a stepmother of three and a grandmother, so there is a picture of her kids and grandkids. There also is a picture of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. And tucked under the see-through desk pad are three small pieces of paper -- a copy of the Bill of Rights, a copy of the Ten Commandments, and verses from the Bible. Among them, this one: "Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the LORD understand it fully" (Proverbs 28:5). There it is, in black and white, the intersection of LaRue's faith and her politics -- and her life.
Sitting at her desk, LaRue is fresh from a panel on Alito where she says, with a playful smirk, she would like to see the Supreme Court put Roe v. Wade through a paper shredder and then set it afire with a blowtorch.
That passion -- and blistering bluntness, which she often likes to deliver with a biting wit -- is what distinguishes her, say friends and admirers. "She is not one of those activists whose primary agenda is herself," says Thomas Jipping, who works for Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and once worked with LaRue at CWA. "She is motivated by -- especially in the work she does on pornography -- the victims, those harmed by this. . . . There's lots of ways she could get all kinds of attention to herself and she doesn't do that. That's not Jan."