Tuesday, July 7, 2009

There's More Than One Way to be Immoral

She's at it again. Star Parker I mean.

The columnist, conservative thinker and evangelical has grounds to be proud of her achievements in life and I can definitely applaud her support of Christian values which, she testifies, were key to her overcoming poverty and discovering self sufficiency.

That being said, she sometimes reminds me of the comedian on late night television who was discussing his recovering alcoholic friend's admonitions to stop drinking. 'You know', he said, 'There's nothing worse than a reformed anything!'

In a recent column, Ms. Parker is seeking to explain the 'fall' of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. Sanford's recent admission of an affair, one that had him MIA from the responsibilities of his elected office for days are well documented. To be honest, I haven't believed the incident has been worth commenting on. I think its a clear disappointment to his family, friends and the citizens of his state. But, beyond that, 'nuff said.

But to be honest it can be leveraged into several larger arguments, distinctions regarding public and private morality, the examples of public figures, faith, family, moral decline - you take it from there.

But I cannot get Ms. Parker's line of reasoning. Clearly she's disappointed that a rising star in the Republican Party has been found to have feet of clay.

"When I've been asked whom I thought could be the individual to lead the Republican Party out of the wilderness, my answer has always been Mark Sanford. His vision for his party and his country -- traditional values and limited government -- has always been clear, consistent, and, in my view, correct. And he has always pursued that vision, as a congressman and as a governor, with a boldness and courage rare among politicians.The Cato Institute publishes a bi-annual report card of the nation's governors, ranking them according to fiscal responsibility. In the most recent report, three governors out of fifty received an "A." Sanford was one of the three.So, like many others, I watched with disappointment his confession about his clandestine adulterous affair. Now what? No surprises that most predict the end of Sanford's political career. And, of course, we've got the usual, and gleeful, accusations of hypocrisy that another conservative Republican has been caught with his pants down."

Let's just chalk that last sentence to a poor choice of words shall we?
But then she takes this line of argument somewhere that's quite puzzling.
She says that those who seem to be most stridently criticizing Sanford are, "...those who want to de-legitimize and marginalize...traditional values. John F. Kennedy gave a famous speech during his 1960 presidential campaign to address the question of his Catholicism. Rather than argue that Catholic values are consistent with American values, he argued that religion and public policy have nothing to do with each other. Kennedy turned out to be one of the great sleazes to occupy the White House (not unlike his brother Senator Ted who, in his last hurrah, is now trying to socialize American health care).During the almost half century since Kennedy gave that speech, the moral, social, and legal fabric of our country has steadily unraveled."

What does any of this have to do with Kennedy and his trying to overcome a historical anti-Catholic bias in this country? Anyone whose studied the period knows that Kennedy had to fight the perception that he would be a tool of the Pope. His line of argument was appropriate for the time and the issue he had to address. And in trying to deal with one's disappointment with Mark Sanford, does it help to call President Kennedy 'one of the greatest sleazes to occupy the White House'? And why on earth the gratuitous mudslinging at Ted Kennedy?

She continues her polemic, "Since the Roe v Wade decision in 1973, 50 million unborn children have been destroyed. The United States now has among the most liberal abortion regimes in the world. In some of our states, a 12-year-old girl can get an abortion without informing her parents, be assisted by her school administrators, and have it paid for with taxpayer funds.We move step by definitive step to legalizing same sex marriage. By so doing, we will render our most sacred social institution, marriage, meaningless in the official eyes of government and as a nation will formalize the acceptability of behavior our Bible clearly calls sinful and abominable."

"We will soon have a generation of Americans the majority of whom will not have grown up in a traditional family."

What does any of this have to do with Sanford? Granted her argument is that there is a moral laxity in our country of which Sanford's actions are evidence. I get that. There are plenty of examples of that in both Democratic and Republican Party.
But by pounding the 'C' note of sexual morality, she not only goes far afield, she goes way off base.

After all, there is also the public morality of Mark Sanford abandoning, his public trust as governor of South Carolina. Is that not both a moral and ethical issue? Or are we so obsessed with the fact that he committed adultery, that even his one time supporters find themselves incapable of dealing with anything else?

Mark Sanford's handling of the public trust of his office, is also at issue. At least, if not more of an issue to many. Sanford, in his press conferences and recorded interview, comes off as a man in agony. Many may say 'good for him'. Certainly, his wife and children don't deserve any of this. I believe that is a given. But people are reacting to more than the issue of his sexual morality. Politicians (in this case) who abuse the privileges of their offices and ignore public accountability do more to damage trust in government and influence the country's concept of integrity than those who have had affairs.

Calling out the Kennedy administration is off base here. Nearly all of what I hear from people of his generation was how the late president inspired them to a life of public service. They knew nothing of his private dalliances.
No, we've had plenty of examples of 'immorality' that had nothing to do with sex by those who have held office.
We saw it in the Johnson administration and his dishonesty with the press and the American people about Viet Nam;

It continued with Nixon and Watergate, which, people tend to forget, included criminal activity, lies and unethical conduct on such a grand scale that it nearly threw this country into constitutional crisis;

Public distrust of leadership was arguable calcified with the Congressional check kiting scandals, Iran Contra, Willie Horton ads and the prevarications we are still trying to overcome with our current war and misleading statements about the strength of our economy, when the recession was obvious to all but those who were in charge.

"In a world in which there is sin, in which there is right and wrong, there is also repentance and redemption.Mark Sanford's world is that world. Let's pray that he can fix what is wrong inside of himself and that maybe we can still have a leader with the courage and vision that America needs."

Star Parker's conclusion leads where anyone whose basic concept of morality is confined, almost exclusively to human sexuality, tends to lead: if that is 'fixed' all will be right with the world.

It leaves out the fact that a man, or woman can be faithful to their marital vows, and be immoral in a number of ways that do damage to society.

And by the way, what type of patriotism and morality does it take to refer to a president as 'a sleaze'?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And speaking of sleazes, how could we possibly leave out slick Willie Clinton?