Restoring the Sacred

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Bill Clinton's DNC Convention Appearance and Us

Political Scientist and Author Carson Holloway wrote a very insightful essay at ThePublicDiscourse.Com the other day about what even the appearance of Bill Clinton at the recent convention of the Democrats means about our society.   Our Founders considered it imperative that the president be a man of virtue, but somewhere along the way that prerequisite for the office was abandoned, as evidenced by the honor accorded to the man who brought dishonor on the office, on himself, and finally on our society.

"Neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt. He therefore is the truest friend to the liberty of his country who tries most to promote its virtue, and who, so far as his power and influence extend, will not suffer a man to be chosen into any office of power and trust who is not a wise and virtuous man. We must not conclude merely upon a man's haranguing upon liberty, and using the charming sound, that he is fit to be trusted with the liberties of his country.”
— Samuel Adams (1722–1803) Father of the American Revolution, Patriot and Statesman

Here are some clips from the Holloway essay:
There was a time in America, not too long ago, when someone exposed as such a man would not have been welcome at the national convention of either political party. His misdeeds would have gone unmentioned in our public discourse not because they were regarded as irrelevant, but because everyone on all sides would want to forget that such a character could have attained and then tainted the presidency.
Clinton’s misdeeds set off a partisan war over whether he should be permitted to continue in the presidency. A majority of Republicans thought he should be impeached and removed from office, while a majority of Democrats disagreed. The final outcome reflected a kind of compromise: Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives but not removed by the Senate.
This collective judgment, made through the collaboration of the relevant authoritative institutions, says something about our nation’s moral standards, about what things we take seriously and not so seriously. The presidency is not only a job but also an honor. We expect those who occupy the office to be not merely competent in the work but also of a certain character. The Clinton impeachment and non-removal, therefore, represents the nation’s judgment that a man guilty of predatory adultery and self-protective perjury is nevertheless worthy of the highest honor the republic can bestow. And, being worthy of this highest honor, he is obviously worthy of lesser honors, such as addressing a major political party’s nominating convention in the capacity of a kind of elder statesman.
Are we, then, to regard Clinton’s presidency, and his continued public respectability, as a serious defeat for the common good? I think so, but no doubt many of my fellow citizens on the left will disagree. A short article such as this cannot settle the question. Nevertheless, it is possible here to point out the very real costs of Clinton’s presidency, specifically the costs of the arguments that were used by his supporters in order to preserve him in office.
Clinton’s most ardent defenders held that his conduct was really not very serious. Some, in fact, openly contended that his illicit affair was the kind of behavior that one should expect from any powerful man. These defenders, therefore, did what was in their power to teach young American women—our daughters—that they should expect their husbands to be adulterers if they should become successful and powerful men, and at the same time, of course, taught young American men—our sons—that they could rightly be adulterers if they should achieve high status and influence in the community. This lesson was taught by supporters of that political party which, then as now, claims to be the special defender of the rights and dignity of women.
To read the whole essay, click on the link below:

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