Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Palin, Scandal, and Moral Superiority

I don't get it. Republicans spent eight years dragging the U.S. through the mud, in the name of getting to the bottom of whatever Bill Clinton had done and whoever he had done it with. Parents were furious that they had to answer their little children's questions about what a blow job was, and all the other stuff they were seeing on TV. The president, and the presidency, took virtually the entire rap for that goofy binge of prurient curiosity. Nobody was excusing Clinton's marital infidelity. But the Republican Party spent years on that and on every other mud-dredging scandal they could find, in the Clintons' personal and professional matters, going back years before they came to Washington, or even before Bill became Arkansas governor. Has anyone forgotten the huge flap over whether Bill had smoked marijuana, and his bizarre claim that he had not inhaled? Throughout recent decades, a huge chunk of America has smoked dope. Who in the world cared about that, other than the moral police of the right wing? So now we have suddenly come into a new age in Washington politics. It did not arrive in time to prevent the right from harping on Obama's fist-bump or his choice of church or his alleged connections with student protesters in the 1960s, when he was eight years old. But suddenly, lo and behold, we have what could be a trashy woman on the right, in the form of Sarah Palin and family, and all at once people are thinking that it's really not right to invade the private life of a candidate for public office. And I agree with that, with a caveat. The caveat is, don't lecture other people about proper morality or the superiority of your religious faith. Don't cover up the bare-breasted statue of Justice, John Ashcroft, when meanwhile your party's future vice-presidential nominee is baring hers premaritally. Don't suddenly discover that it is OK and wonderful for a child to have her own child, after all these years of complaining about single black mothers. Yes, definitely, let us do focus on the real issues in American governance. Let us, indeed, go back and reconsider the 1990s, give Bill and Hillary Clinton a clean slate, and properly excoriate those who made such political hay out of their self-destructive failings, so that our nation will learn something at last, and will not repeat the same mistakes a few years hence. Let's all finally recognize, for God's sake, that those moralistic conceits gave us George W. Bush; let us have a national retrospective soul-searching for the silliness that brought him instead of Al Gore into the White House. Let us hear people on the right -- especially those of the religious right who have long flaunted a most un-Christlike pride in their godliness -- finally confess their sin and seek to make amends for the terrible wrongs they have perpetrated throughout this country and abroad, in the name of a morality that they, themselves, do not necessarily observe. Let us take, together, kindly but seriously, that step toward a new and long-overdue age of rational politics. Until that happens, I say it's smoke. It's the same political fraud in a new guise: morality as defense, rather than morality as offense -- still used, that is, in a fighting mode, not humbly and self-critically. Yes, let us look carefully at the issues. Let us take a running start at them, beginning with 1992. When we see that kind of soul-searching among the so-called godly folk, then I will believe that enough has been said about the contrasts between Sarah Palin's alleged faith and her actual circumstances.