We get the leaders we deserve
ONLY TWO THINGS can account for the president's extraordinary rise in popularity since his State of the Union address -- stupidity or cynicism.
Given Clinton's character -- as disclosed by a stream of revelations over the past six years from former bodyguards, a former business partner and an ex-FBI agent assigned to the White House during his administration, among others -- it takes a staggering degree of credulity (to make Pollyanna seem like a New York City homicide detective) to believe our president is the victim of a "vast right-wing conspiracy."
About this conservative cabal, it is a conspiracy so formidable and far-reaching (not to mention prescient) that it enticed a border-state governor to secure fraudulent bank loans for his real-estate investments, persuaded foreign agents to raise funds for the president's re-election campaign, slipped Spanish fly into Clinton's Big Macs and recruited a White House intern to play Lolita. The daughters of Beverly Hills oncologists are among the favorite tools of right-wing conspirators.
To accept the president's innocence, one must also believe that the natural responses to allegations of wrongdoing are panicked denial followed by deceit and stonewalling.
In Clinton's case, these desperate measures include attempts to delay Paula Jones' lawsuit until after he leaves office, the two-year hiatus of Hillary's Whitewater files and denying the existence of tapes of White House coffees with contributors until after the election.
Of course, the people who voted for Clinton will presumably believe anything. But that's less than a majority of the electorate. What of the others who contributed to his 73-percent approval rating in a Friday CBS News poll? Stupidity isn't a moral failing, cynicism is.
Is it possible that the American people no longer care if the nation's highest elected official is a serial adulterer, a sexual predator and a chronic liar?
For years, the media have instructed us that it is wrong to make moral judgments on the private lives of political figures, that we must seperate personal conduct from public performance, that since we are all flawed (an axiomatic concept), what we do behind closed doors has no bearing on our public lives.
This is a facet of the doctrine that sexual behavior has nothing to do with morality, a concept the left embraced in the 1960s and which it has applied (with devastating consequences) to everything from pre-marital sex and out-of-wedlock births to homosexuality.
For liberals, consensual sex is an unqualified good that can never result in pain, degradation, exploitation, betrayal or psychic harm. What a married elected official does with a woman young enough to be his daughter is none of our business, we are told.
Apparently, a significant segment of the American people have embraced this doctrine. The attitude is justified with the oft-repeated phrase that "they all do it" (they being previous occupants of the White House).
Really? Did Andrew Jackson, who fought duels to defend his wife's honor, "do it"? Did Abraham Lincoln, who for years struggled to maintain a marriage with an emotionally unstable woman, "do it"? Did Theodore Roosevelt, who agonized over remarriage as a betrayal of his dead wife, "do it"? Did Harry Truman -- who practically threw a young officer out of a car for offering to arrange female companionship for the then-vice president (during an overseas trip) -- "do it"?
It is true that we do not elect a president to be a paragon of virtue. We do not expect presidents to lead moral crusades, walk five miles through the snow to return pennies or pick the dying off the streets of Calcutta.
What we should expect is a modicum of decency -- that a president will have enough respect for his office not to comport himself like a drunken frat boy during spring break.
Americans have every right to demand that a president honor traditional morality (including marital vows) and defer to the sensibilities of the majority of the population, so that parents won't have to explain to their adolescent children why the leader of the free world behaves like a barnyard animal during mating season.
People get the leaders they deserve, leaders who live up or down to our expectations. In 1980 -- when the World War II generation, and the virtues they exemplified, still held sway -- we deserved Ronald Reagan. By 1992, when the '60s generation came into its own -- we deserved William Jefferson Clinton.
This leads to appalling speculation: If the nation's current moral drift continues, what will we deserve by the year
2/2/98: Send a signal that could penetrate boardroom doors
1/27/98: State of the president: hollow rhetoric
1/25/98: For Monica's playmate, we have no one to blame but ourselves
1/22/98: At Yale, bet on yarmulke over gown
1/19/98: Commission tackles America's fastest-growing addiction, gambling
1/15/98: Capital punishment and the hard case: no exceptions for Karla Faye Tucker
1/12/98: Partial-birth abortion and the GOP's future: the "big tent" meets truth in advertising
1/8/98: IOLTA: the Left's latest scam to crawl into our pockets
1/5/98: Connect the dots to create a terrorist state
1/1/98: The Unacceptables of 1997: Long may they rave
12/28/97: Hypocrisy is a liberal survival mechanism
12/23/97: Chanukah is no laughing matter
12/22/97: No merry Christmas for persecuted Christians around the world
12/18/97: Bosnia, Haiti, and how not to conduct a foreign policy