Topic: White Water

Virtually Virtuous

News Max
2-10-99 Joseph Sobran


WASHINGTON -- Samuel Johnson once said of a certain man: "That fellow seems to me to have but one idea, and that is a wrong one." A single wrong idea has taken over the impeachment debate.

This is the idea that Bill Clinton shouldn't have been impeached, and shouldn't be convicted, because the Republicans are "hypocrites." After all, several of the House Republicans -- professed devotees of "family values" -- have committed adultery. Who are they to judge this president?

By this logic, if a man is being tried for perjury about an adulterous affair, and it transpires during his trial that the prosecutor himself has committed adultery at some point, the defendant should be acquitted of perjury. Is the prosecutor a hypocrite? Maybe, maybe not. That has nothing to do with the public's interest in punishing perjury.

It shouldn't be necessary to refute such an obvious fallacy, but it comes up obsessively on call-in radio talk shows. "Those Republicans are nothing but hypocrites!" It's futile to reason with people who think this way. They aren't interested in making the simplest distinctions. And there are millions of them.

Are they just stupid? Not always. It's more to the point that they are irrationally passionate. They are so horrified by a prosecution that has even a tenuous connection with sex, especially when the evidence has been gotten by underhanded means (like taped phone conversations), that they can't think beyond it.

Arguing with them is like trying to discuss Descartes with a man who is obsessed with the Playboy philosophy. You can't explain what Descartes is about in terms of the conceptual apparatus supplied by Hugh Hefner, but he still demands to know what Descartes thought about sexual freedom.

Such people, who usually take little interest in politics, are flooding the opinion polls. They are also giving Clinton his roaring, adoring rock-star-style welcomes as he travels around the country.

This obviously isn't about saving Social Security. Clinton has become a symbol of certain cultural values, chiefly the sexual revolution. He is less a politician than a celebrity -- one of the trash celebrities of the '90s, like Pamela Anderson, Dennis Rodman, Jerry Springer and Larry Flynt. It's a fascinating phenomenon -- a yearlong Bronco chase, with cheering crowds along the freeway.

What makes it especially interesting is that Clinton doesn't even acknowledge what he stands for in people's minds. Just the opposite. He continues to feign traditional pieties, quoting Scripture, professing devotion to his wife, and making those Sunday morning photo-ops on the church steps.

Clinton's posturing as a religious family man is more hypocritical than anything the Republicans have done, but his admirers don't mind at all. They don't really hate the Republicans for hypocrisy; they hate them for sincerity.

They also call the Republicans "bluenoses" and "Puritans." Such epithets imply that the Republicans are suspected of actually believing in the Christian morality Clinton only pretends to believe in.

It's precisely Clinton's hypocrisy that drives conservatives up the wall. He doesn't just lie; he poses. And (as when he shook that finger at us) he poses shamelessly. Not convincingly -- even his defenders don't contend he's an honest man -- but just well enough to allow his partisans to pretend they believe him, which is another form of hypocrisy. They pretended they believed his original denials, they pretended they believed his later expressions of contrition, they pretended he had admitted more than he was forced to admit. And now they pretend he has done nothing bad enough to warrant his removal from an office of public trust.

If Clinton says (through his lawyers) that he didn't think he was committing perjury when he uttered a series of falsehoods under oath, that's good enough. He's virtually virtuous. It's his enemies who have to justify themselves.

In La Rochefoucauld's famous aphorism, "Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue." But vice has gotten bolder than it used to be. As the apologetic tone of the Republicans shows, it's virtue that is on the defensive now. "For in the fatness of these pursy times," as Hamlet says, "virtue itself of vice must pardon beg."


Posted by: hope (emailname) *
02/10/99 07:06:55 PST

To: hope

Bill Klinton is not going to be removed, because his fellow Rapists will protect him.

From: The_Republican (the_republican@hotmail.com) *
02/10/99 07:08:20 PST