Topic: White Water

The worst sins go unconfessed

Chicago Sun Times
December 23, 1998 ARIANNA HUFFINGTON

Bob Livingston's decision to resign over disclosures of marital infidelities is tragic. It is tragic not because the country or the Republican Party will lose a great leader--it will not--but because it compounds the confusion that has dominated our political debate between the public and the private realms.

The floor of the Congress is not the appropriate venue for Livingston to tell his wife, as he did in the middle of an impeachment debate, that he loves her ``very much.''

Nor is his resignation a sign of political valor. Instead, it blurs irreparably the line between the president's serial infidelities and the president's serial lying under oath.

Livingston's resignation makes nonsense of the Republicans' endlessly repeated claim that this is about the law. ``There is no greater American in my mind, at least today, than Bob Livingston, because he understood what this debate was all about,'' said Tom DeLay on the floor of the House. So that's what the debate has been all about? Adultery?

Far from setting an example for the president and being a tool to expedite Clinton's resignation, Livingston's move has allowed the White House to change the subject. It has become exhibit ``B'' in the ``politics of personal destruction.''

The president must be overjoyed that his survival now has become a test of morality, not legality. And so must politico-sexual absolutists like Jerry Falwell. Already on Thursday night, Falwell declared that Livingston ``should have told the people involved that he was not qualified for [the speakership], and should have withdrawn himself.'' He went on to say that ``out of 226 Republicans in the House, there ought to be a man or woman who has been faithful to his or her spouse all the way, and who is, in fact, a role model.'' Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee, echoed the sentiment: ``A man who will break his oath to God, his wife and the assembled witness is likely to break his oath of office.''

Is the GOP going to officially become the party that takes its cues from Falwell and Land and declares fidelity to one's spouse a prerequisite to elective office? This confusion between what we render unto Caesar and what we render unto God has been growing more confusing with each passing month. Dan Quayle called adultery ``the question'' for anyone running in 2000, and he volunteered that in his case the answer is no. Bill Bennett advised prospective presidential candidates to ``forget it'' if adultery is part of their baggage. And Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) told the nation on Thursday night: ``The bottom line is Livingston still lied. He lied under a different oath and that is the oath to his wife. I am going to struggle through this.''

There were apparently enough members who were ``struggling'' that it became clear Livingston could lose the speakership in the January floor vote. So he decided to resign. It's too bad he didn't have the backbone to do it back in October after presiding over a half-trillion-dollar, pig-in-a-poke budget that broke his vow to the voters not to exceed the spending caps and not to raid the Social Security fund. But no, he had to go and resign over breaking his vow to his wife.

Livingston describes himself as ``a politician who understands that politics is the art of the possible.'' Unfortunately what this country needs is politicians who, in the words of Vaclav Havel, practice politics as ``the art of the impossible.'' By spotlighting our political leaders' private weaknesses we are in danger of being led by men and women who have no private weaknesses, or indeed, private vision, private thoughts or private ideas--in fact, by smiling, handshaking robots programmed with all the requisite poll-tested policies and fed with all the requisite focus-group tested sound bites.

``It is an unhappy country that needs heroes,'' says Brecht's Galileo. America today is an unhappy country in need of heroes, leaders, teachers, and great men and women who will move to the front of our public concerns the truly major moral issues of our time: the millions living in poverty, violence and despair in the midst of unprecedented prosperity. Some of these leaders will have spotless private lives, and some will not. Let's hope we grow up enough as a nation to reach a consensus that politically this is very much beside the point.

Posted by: Jolly () *
12/23/98 03:31:23 PST

To: Jolly
Greek speak, or, "that's why the lady is a tramp". Quoting the cynic cum Marxist, Brecht, to deny a historic reality! She ought to drop her last name and be known simply as Arianna. Like Madonna. Or Vampira.
From: Mopsos (emailname) *
12/23/98 04:11:58 PST

To: Mopsos

Liberal Alert! For your future reference, it's a dead giveway when someone calls a woman with enough courage to say what she believes a "tramp". Please crawl back to from where you came.

From: heyduke (someone@ksc.nasa.gov) *
12/23/98 04:51:30 PST

To: heyduke
Arianna is a practitioner of the world's oldest profession: castration.
From: Mopsos (emailname) *
12/23/98 05:18:13 PST

To: Jolly
Arianna misses the point here.

Sometimes our worst sins give us the opportunity to redeem ourselves. In Livingston's case, it came when he decided to publicly commit political hara kiri to preserve the Constitution.

I'm no fan of Mr. Livingston's. But in acting the way he did, he showed that -- in spite of his sins -- he is a moral Sequoia in comparison to the sphagnum moss currently occupying the Oval Office.
From: That Guy on Capitol Hill (ThatGuyOCH@aol.com) *
12/23/98 07:08:04 PST

To: Jolly
This is the same woman that was so perceptive she pushed for Republicans to drop impeachment for months. She has so much insight she was married to a closeted homosexual. As soon as Arianna is right about something I'll start listening to her advice and opinions.
From: garv (emailname) *
12/23/98 07:19:38 PST

To: garv
But she's easier on the eyes than Elanor Clift is !!!
From: REBELYELL (emailname) *
12/23/98 07:22:07 PST